When the history of these times is written 100 years from now – that is, if the west is vouchsafed such a luxury as surviving that long – historians will view the role of the free press in the western world with a combination of confusion and awe. Confusion because they will look in vain for evidence that many in the media were actually working for the enemies of freedom, so often it seemed they played directly into their hands or seemed to do their bidding. And a feeling of awe that those professing to be so intelligent could act with such towering idiocy and irresponsibility:
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.
Of course, the press is not disloyal – at least not according to their lights. But I can’t think of anything that ABC could have published that helps Iran more. Especially since it now appears that, as I have predicted many times (and despite what the hysterical left has been saying for two years about an “imminent” attack on Iran) the Administration has apparently abandoned the military option in favor of turning up the heat on the Iranian regime politically and financially.
Or, at least that was the plan. Enter ABC News and their feelings of entitlement to undermine US policy and all of a sudden, the military option may be back on the table. This begs the question of who or what faction in our intelligence agencies leaked this time? Pro-war advocates? Anti-intervention advocates? Some stray partisans who hate Bush? Some stray partisans doing the President’s bidding? Perhaps those involved in a turf war of some kind in our intelligence agencies?
Take your pick. One is as good as the other. It wouldn’t be the first time for any of those factions in the last 6 years to leak classified information. It’s just that this time, the leaking has arguably made the world a more dangerous place.
If there is one foreign policy issue that enjoys bi-partisan agreement in Washington it is that Iran must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons. Disagreements abound about how to prevent them from doing so. But liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between recognizes the threat posed to world peace by the fanatics in Iran and that it would be an unmitigated disaster for our interests in the region if they were successful in building a bomb.
I think that this CIA covert plan would have enjoyed broad support among the leadership of both parties on the Hill. It is reasonable in that it attacks Iran economically not to hurt the population but to hit the mullahs where it counts; in their secret bank accounts they are using to fund their weapons program:
Riedel says economic pressure on Iran may be the most effective tool available to the CIA, particularly in going after secret accounts used to fund the nuclear program.
“The kind of dealings that the Iranian Revolution Guards are going to do, in terms of purchasing nuclear and missile components, are likely to be extremely secret, and you’re going to have to work very, very hard to find them, and that’s exactly the kind of thing the CIA’s nonproliferation center and others would be expert at trying to look into,” Riedel said.
Are there risks that go with such a policy? Of course there are. There are risks with any policy we pursue against Iran including doing nothing. Or trying to strengthen regional actors like Saudi Arabia to counterbalance Iranian influence. Or bombing the holy hell out of them. If it is a risk free policy you seek, you won’t find it.
Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations explains the downside to the CIA’s leaked plan:
Still, some fear that even a nonlethal covert CIA program carries great risks.
“I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran,” said Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow,” Nasr said.
Nasr posits the absolute worst case scenario including the “cycle of escalation” canard that is usually trotted out by opponents to any strong action taken by the US against a putative enemy. The advantage the professor has in this case is that we’ll never know because most of the plan is for all intents and purposes is dead. If we thought it was hard to ferret out the secret funding mechanisms for the Iranian bomb program before, how impossible do you think it’s going to be now that the Iranians are aware of what we intend to do?
ABC’s excuse will be that if they didn’t publish, someone else would have done so. Of this I have no doubt, although what that says about the press in general in this country is not flattering. The fault lies with the leakers in this case. And the fact that the Administration has done so little over the last 6 years to investigate and punish those who reveal some of the most important secrets in government only encourages further transgressions. When unelected bureaucrats take it upon themselves to destroy policies they disagree with either for political purposes or, as may be possible in this case, in order for another policy option to move to the top of the pile, trust between those elected to make policy and those charged with giving our leaders accurate information and intelligent options to implement that policy breaks down.
Anyone can see the dysfunction in our intelligence agencies, the pettiness, the partisanship, the casual disregard for the rule of law. Is there any plan or program that would never be leaked under these conditions?
Not unless the perpetrators are identified and either drummed out of the service or arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for violating their oaths of secrecy and the law.