Indian Nuclear Tests

From June 1998

Materials presented chronologically.

Pincus, Walter. "Spy Agencies Faulted for Missing Indian Tests." Washington Post, 3 Jun. 1998, A18.

U.S. "intelligence agencies and policymakers failed to forecast India's nuclear explosions last month in large part because of a 'mind-set' that led officials to conclude that a new government in Delhi would not risk the consequences of fulfilling a campaign promise to conduct tests, the head of a CIA inquiry said [on 2 June 1998].

"Retired Adm. David E. Jeremiah told a news conference at CIA headquarters that the country's spy agencies should have ordered 'increased coverage' of India after the hard-line Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in March. Instead, he said, both intelligence officials and policymakers 'acted as if the BJP would behave as we behave' and would avoid provoking a confrontation....

"In closed-door sessions on Capitol Hill [on 2 June 1998], Jeremiah criticized in greater detail intelligence failures and weaknesses illustrated by the India failure, according to one congressional source. The source quoted Jeremiah as saying that the agencies' central management is 'not effective,' its analytic resources are 'stretched too thin,' technical collection by satellites is 'limited or poorly suited . . . and vulnerable to simple deception,' and human intelligence capacity 'is seriously limited'....

"Jeremiah told reporters ... that managers representing Tenet should be given greater control of the various collection operations that now are mostly run by Pentagon agencies. To provide better coordination, Jeremiah called on Tenet to unify collection operations. The various agencies cooperate, Jeremiah said, but they do not coordinate well."

See also, Carla Anne Robbins, "Failure to Predict India's Tests Is Tied to Systemwide Intelligence Breakdown," Wall Street Journal, 3 Jun. 1998, A8; and Tim Weiner, "C.I.A. Study Details Failures; Scouring of System Is Urged," New York Times, 3 Jun. 1998, A1.

Campbell, Duncan. "Hiding from the Spies in the Sky." The Guardian, 4 Jun. 1998. [http://www.guardian.co.uk]

Over five years ago, retired CIA analyst Allen Thomson "wrote a detailed study showing how the US strategy of depending on a few, expensive satellites for reconnaissance was flawed.... Thomson warned that 'the presumption that reconnaissance satellites can operate covertly is obsolete'.... 'Tracking US reconnaissance satellites can provide valuable support to a hostile country's concealment and deception programmes,' says Thomson, echoing his words of five years ago." The Indian nuclear tests have "spectacularly vindicated" his warning.

Pincus, Walter. "Tenet Aides to Oversee Data Collection, Analysis." Washington Post, 5 Jun. 1998, A34. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Quoting congressional and intelligence sources, Pincus reports that DCI George Tenet has appointed "Charles Allen ... to be assistant director of central intelligence (ADCI) for collection in charge of coordinating all the community spy systems and John Gannon ... to be ADCI for analysis and production where he will supervise analyses and reports done in all agencies." Both appointments stem from Adm. David E. Jeremiah's recommendations following his inquiry into the intelligence community's failure to warn of the Indian nuclear tests.

Pomper, Miles A. "U.S. Intelligence Takes the Heat for Dim Insight on Nuclear Proliferation." Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 6 Jun. 1998, 1543-1544.

The focus here is on the Jeremiah report and on Congressional and administration reaction to it.

Washington Post. "[Editorial:] Jeremiah's Jeremiad." 15 Jun. 1998, A22.

[Excerpt] "Since the Cold War ended -- even before -- the CIA and associated agencies have been hit by one revelation after another of the intelligence community's breakdowns. This time the loss may have been modest, if you figure that, regardless of whether they were caught in the act, the Indians were going to test. But the potential gain, in terms of reform of intelligence practices and perceptions, could be considerable. Adm. Jeremiah also set a good example in conducting a quick but penetrating inquiry that goes to the heart of a vital intelligence matter."

Isenberg, David. "The Real Intelligence Failure." IntellectualCapital.com,18 Jun. 1998. [http://www.intellectualcapital.com]

This is a judicious look at the problems involved in the Intelligence Community's failure to predict the Indian nuclear tests. Among other points made by the author is the argument that: "If there was a failure, it was one of mirror imaging on the part of the administration. It committed the classic mistake that Machiavelli warned against -- assuming the other guy will never do something you would never do. " The content of the article is marred by Isenberg's reference to Adm. David Jeremiah as "former CIA head."

Goodman, Melvin A. "Starting Over at the CIA." IntellectualCapital.com, 18 Jun. 1998. [http://www.intellectualcapital.com]

See Goodman's Christian Science Monitor article of 18 May 1998 (the words are different, but the thrust is the same).

Boston Globe. "[Editorial:] A CIA Warning." 6 Jul. 1998, A14. [http://www.boston.com]

"Last month a chagrined CIA admitted that it had no spies in India able to tip off the agency that the new government was planning to explode a nuclear device. Now comes news that the CIA is beginning the biggest recruitment drive in its history to beef up its clandestine operations, which fell into neglect in the post-Cold War rush to cut the agency's budget. In addition, the CIA plans to reopen some of its overseas bureaus that were cut when the Soviet Union went out of business.

"This is a good thing.... The failure of US intelligence to detect the Indian bomb comes as a direct result of the overzealous cuts made in the mistaken and naive belief that with the Soviet Union gone, the need for intelligence was reduced.... The need for the United States to keep informed in the fractured and multipolar world of today argues in favor of enhancing this country's intelligence capabilities."

Best, Richard A., Jr. U.S. Intelligence and India's Nuclear Tests: Lessons Learned. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 1998.

Sibley, George N. "The Indian Nuclear Test: A Case Study in Political Hindsight Bias." WWS Case Study 3/02. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson School, 7 Aug. 2002.

Return to CIA 1998 Table of Contents

Return to Strategic Warning Table of Contents