This article originally appears in The American Thinker
Admiral Bobby Inman is known as one of the most brilliant men who ever worked in the intelligence game. His service as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence under William Casey as well as his stint as Director of the National Security Administration was legendary for the breadth of intellect and experience he brought to the job. Here’s how one writer put it:
One doesn’t have to be around Bob Inman long to realize that one is dealing with a different type of brain, a type not shared by many. He is the intersection of micro and macro, at once displaying an insane head for details, and in the next sentence, an awe-inspiring grasp of the big picture, seeming to see the dominoes and dynamics of world events at a glance. Omni called him “simply one of the smartest people ever to come out of Washington or anywhere,” and Newsweek dubbed him “a superstar in the intelligence community [and] a tough-minded administrator.”
He is also a recipient of the DIA’s Defense Superior Service Medal for “achievements unparalleled in the history of intelligence.”
Kinda makes Valerie Plame’s #1 defender Larry Johnson look like a fool. Of course, Johnson doesn’t need to be compared to Inman for that to happen. Admiral Inman didn’t say that ” terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way,” 60 days before 9/11. Johnson did.
Also unlike Larry Johnson, Admiral Inman is truly non-partisan. He was named to replace that fumbling bumble of a Defense Secretary under President Clinton Les Aspin in January of 1994. But then less than a week before his confirmation hearings started, he withdrew his name. At the time, Inman claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by Bill Safire of the New York Times and Senator Robert Dole. That charge was widely derided in the mainstream press as a fantasy. This didn’t stop many of those same pundits and reporters from starting a whispering campaign about his sexuality. Inman said enough is enough and left Washington for good.
And while the conspiracy charges against Safire and Dole were never proven, Safire did in fact have a long standing grudge against Inman:
In early 1981, Israel suddenly bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Puzzled, Inman, then deputy head of the CIA, realized that Israel could only have known where the nuclear reactor was located by having gotten access to U.S. satellite photographs. But Israel’s access was supposed to be limited to photographs of direct threats to Israel, which would not include Baghdad. On looking into the matter, furthermore, Inman found that Israel was habitually obtaining unwarranted access to photographs of regions even farther removed, including Libya and Pakistan. In the absence of Reagan’s head of the CIA, Bill Casey, Inman ordered Israel’s access to U.S. satellite photographs limited to 250 miles of its border. When Casey returned from a South Pacific trip, his favorite journalist and former campaign manager, Bill Safire, urged Casey to reverse the decision, a pressure that coincided with complaints from Israeli Defense Minister General Ariel Sharon, who had rushed to Washington to try to change the new policy.
Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger, however held firm, supported Inman, and overruled Casey, and from then on Safire pursued a vendetta against Bobby Ray Inman.
I bring all this up only to shine a light on the difference between an honorable, non-partisan intelligence professional like Inman and the partisan hacks and leakers who have crawled out of the woodwork not so much to support Valerie Wilson but rather to attempt to politically harm the President of the United States.
In an interview with Stephen Spruiell of the Media Blog at NRO, Inman had this to say about the Rove-Plame-Wilson Affair:
I was utterly appalled during the 2004 election cycle at the number of clearly politically motivated leaks from intelligence organizations â€” mostly if not all from CIA â€” that appeared to me to be the most crass thing I had ever seen to influence the outcome of an election. I never saw it quite as harsh as it was. And clearing books to be published anonymously â€” there was no precedent for it. I started getting telephone calls from CIA retirees when Bush appointed Negroponte, talking about how vindictive the administration was in trying to punish CIA, and I was again sort of dismayed by the effort to play politics including with information that was classified. What is the impact on younger workers who see the higher-ups engaged in this kind of leaking?(HT: The New Editor)
Inman was not saying that revealing Valerie Wilson’s name was right:
[The leaking of Plame’s identity] is still one I would rather not see, but she was working in an analytical organization, and thereâ€™s nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careersâ€¦ there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesnâ€™t mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldnâ€™t deploy back off to Africa, but nothing Iâ€™ve seen indicated that was possible in the first place.
Spruiell asks an excellent question: “Where was all the liberal outrage over the leaking of classfied information when the leaks were designed to hurt the Bush administration?”
This is where the scandal’s focus should be; the deliberate and selective leaking of classified information by unelected bureaucrats in the months leading up to the election for the purpose of swinging the contest against the President. And this is the context in which the White House had begun to “push back” as Tom Maguire puts it against this cabal of CIA officials both in and out of government who for a wide variety of reasons were trying to sabotage the Administration. The push back by the White House may have included Rove and Libby having a role in writing Director Tenet’s statement of July 11 in which the CIA took responsibility for the questionable use of the Iraq-Niger yellow cake story in the President’s state of the union address as well as the attempt to discredit Wilson’s trip by trying to highlight his wife’s role in getting the Counter Proliferation Department at CIA to send him to Africa in the first place.
The point is that the leak that outed Valerie Wilson did not take place in a vacuum. The White House was under attack by our own CIA.
Inman points to disatisfied former agents who were accusing the Administration of “punishing” the agency by the selection of John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence. The DNI was created in response to recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission and was vigorously opposed by the CIA. And if the appointment of Negroponte wasn’t bad enough, the President then chose Porter Goss to succeed George Tenet as DCIA and within weeks Goss had begun to clean house. He quickly forced out the Chief of Operations as well as his Deputy and sent out a memo (leaked to the New York Times the next day) informing agency personnel that further leaks would not be tolerated. Both the press and agents whined that this would destroy their “independence.” What Goss was trying to do was get a handle on what Senator McCain had called a “rougue agency.”
All of the events I’ve described overlap to form something of a confused muddle. Christopher Hitchens clears things up a bit with regard to the intentions of the leakers:
The CIA in general is institutionally committed against the policy of regime change in Iraq. It has also catastrophically failed the country in respect of defense against suicidal attack. (“I wonder,” Tenet told former Sen. David Boren on the very first news of 9/11, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.” Wow, what a good guess, if a touch late. The CIA had failed entirely to act after the FBI detained Zacarias Moussaoui in Minnesota in August.)
Could it be that there is an element of politicization in all this? That there is more to Mr. Wilson’s perfunctory “no problem” report from Niger than first appears? I would describe this as a fit, if not indeed urgent, subject for public debate. But the CIA has a reserve strength. It can and does leak against the Defense Department. But if anyone leaks back at it, there is a nutty little law, passed back in 1982, that can criminalize the leaker. Karl Rove is of course obliged to observe this law and every other one. And it appears that he did, in that he did not, and did not intend to, expose Valerie Plame in any way.
But who is endangering national security here? The man who calls attention to a covert CIA hand in the argument, or the man who blithely says that uranium deals with psychopathic regimes are not in train when they probably are? And we cannot even debate this without the risk that those who are seeking the true story will end up before a grand jury, or behind bars!
Despite all the speculation, no one really knows what Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating at this point. But one thing is clear; the least understood aspect of this scandal – the war between the White House and the CIA - is also the least covered by the press. Whether the reason is it’s too complicated or whether it’s because the issues between the Administration and the CIA are too arcane to pique the interest of news consumers, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same; ignorance.
It may be up to those of us in the new media to push this aspect of the story to the front so that it gets the recognition it deserves.
Baseball Crank links to the NRO piece and has this to say:
It’s actually amazing – at least if you’re not familiar with how politics works – how much heat has been expended on the issues of who can be prosecuted and what regulations require and what the president said he should or should not do, as opposed to the central question of what is bad enough conduct to justify firing someone in the first place. And to me, if somebody was just negligent with the identity of a non-covert agent and accidentally revealed that she’d been covert in the past, that’s a blunder, but it’s not something you organize a lynch mob over.
Crank, of course, is correct. The problem is the lynch mob has had a rope in its hands for 5 years just waiting to use it.
The Post, in trying to hold journalists to be above the law, has systematically ignored facts, reprinted lies, drawn false dichotomies, sought to deny others due process, and misunderstood the intelligence world to a degree even they should find embarassing.
Yep…I think that just about covers all the bases.
Tom Maguire makes an interesting point. If the CIA knew that Novak was going to print Mrs. Wilson’s name in connection with the agency, why didn’t they try to stop him?
I know some fans of spy fiction are under the impression that if the CIA press flack had told Novak not to publish because Ms. Plame was covert, the CIA would then have been obliged to send a hit squad into the night, tires squealing, to silence Novak.
However, I have read on other occasions that, when the hit squad is not available, the CIA settles for a phone call to the publisher to squelch publication. Why that did not happen here remains a puzzle. [Or see the NY Times discussion of its own controversial article about CIA Air.]
So, as of July 8, Wilson knew that Novak was telling strangers on street corners that his wife was covert, news that would, per Wilson, endanger her networks, her life, her friendships, her kids – and he figured the CIA would handle it? Do tell. Did he tell his wife? Did she notify her superiors? Presumably Fitzgerald knows.
We can only hope Fitzgerald knows. Or that he’s even concentrating on that end of the investigation; what did the CIA know and when did they know it regarding Novak’s column?