The Corner

New Secret CIA Estimate on Iranian Ducks

This is one of the very best treatments of the recent humor from the Intelligence Community. Bill Katz, writing over at Powerline, gets it just right, as he does so often and so well:

Dear Mr. President,

We are honored to present you with the latest National Intelligence Estimate, dealing with the satellite sighting referred to in our previous Intelligence Memo (IM) #3267.




This NIE reflects the consensus of 16 intelligence agencies, although we can’t remember the names of all of them.

Please note the following definitions used in this report:

SLAM-DUNK CONFIDENCE – We have at least two facts to back up the opinions we already had.

SO-SO CONFIDENCE – We have only one fact, or an almost-fact, to back up our opinions, but if we’re wrong we can say we had only so-so confidence, so it’s good cover.

ITSY BITSY CONFIDENCE – We don’t know anything about it, but we know what we want to push you to do.


On 1 April, 2007, 1541 hours local time, an animate object was observed by satellite as it moved slowly through an area near the Iranian nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. It looked like a duck, walked like a duck, ate like a duck, and, as revealed by enhanced sound surveillance (ESS), quacked like a duck.


We judge with SLAM-DUNK CONFIDENCE that it’s not a duck.

We assess with SLAM-DUNK CONFIDENCE that Iran suspended the breeding of ducks in 2003, in response to a complaint by a grandma that ducks were mussing her flowers.

We judge that this demonstrates that Iran is pragmatic, and sensitive to pressure from national and international interests. We assess with SO-SO CONFIDENCE that Iran did a cost-benefit analysis before suspending duck breeding, and determined that the presence and utility of ducks did not outweigh the concerns of grandmas.


We assess with ITSY BITSY CONFIDENCE that one mullah tried to stop the breeding suspension because he’d bought a duck for his nephew and named it Donald, and was afraid it wouldn’t have relatives. We assess with ITSY BITSY confidence that he agreed to accept the suspension when another mullah got him a bootlegged DVD of “Snow White.”

We judge with oh, about SO-SO to a little bit higher CONFIDENCE that Iran continues its suspension of duck breeding. The intelligence community (IC) previously noted that Iran continues to import duck feed and can therefore restart its duck-breeding program at any time.

We report, as a matter of fairness, that Norm, who fixes the computer monitors at CIA, is sure he saw a duck in that satellite picture. But Norm was caught with the Jerusalem Post in his tool kit, so you know the kind…

Open-source intelligence reveals that there is, within two kilometers of Natanz, a breeder of Cairn Terriers. These are cute little critters, the kind of pup Dorothy had in “The Wizard of Oz.” We judge with SLAM-DUNK CONFIDENCE that this breeding facility is dual-use, and can quickly be converted into a facility for the breeding of ducks. Dual-use breeding (DUB) remains a concern of the IC, and a candidate for invasive inspection, possibly by 4-H clubs.

We assess with SO-SO CONFIDENCE that, if restarted, the Iranian duck-breeding program could produce one duck by 2009 at the earliest, but that really good ducks – the juicy American kind – couldn’t be produced until 2010 to 2013, and maybe not even then, depending on the unpredictable mood of the ducks.

We judge with SLAM-DUNK CONFIDENCE that it will be very difficult to stop the mullahs if they decide to restart their duck-breeding program. They have the means, the duck feed, and a devotion to ducks that may reflect the place of ducks in their religious thinking. We also note, with SO-SO CONFIDENCE, that Iran is aware that the word “duck” in our usage implies fear, or avoiding something coming at you. Some mullahs feel it’s a sign of our decadence, and this may encourage them to restart the program.

We judge with slightly less than ITSY BITSY CONFIDENCE that this report was written by rational people.

That completes our assessment.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


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