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4/22/2006
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: GOOD LEAKS OR BAD?

The Nixon White House was in an uproar. Plastered all over the front page of the New York Times were some of the most extraordinary examples of “sources and methods” used by our intelligence agencies to spy on our enemies. The revelations were absolutely devastating:

* Information from “Gamma Gupy,” a top secret NSA program that intercepted signals from radiotelephones in Soviet limousines done by the Army Security Agency unit USM-2 in the American embassy.

* Some of the most sensitive documents relating to how the Defense Intelligence Agency was working to uncover a Soviet spy ring operating out of the UN.

* Information on CIA networks in Southeast Asia that gave foreign governments clues on how to roll up those networks.

There was much more, of course. These were the Pentagon Papers. And contained within those papers was incontrovertible proof that the United States government had been lying to the American people about the War in Viet Nam. They also contained some of the most closely guarded secrets in government which is the reason the bulk of them are still classified to this day.

There is absolutely no doubt that publication of the Pentagon Papers grievously hurt American national security. But they also exposed a generation of lies from Administrations of both parties on Viet Nam and led to our eventual disengagement and defeat, at a cost of 55,000 American lives.

Were the Pentagon Papers a good leak or a bad leak? At the risk of exposing my ex-liberal credentials. I would say that the issue is a close call but one would have to say that taken in its totality, Ellsberg provided a service to the American people. He was also a troubled man both by Viet Nam and a personal life that was falling apart largely because of what he knew about the war and his own role in it.

But in the end, Ellsberg’s defiant act was probably necessary to get our troops out of Viet Nam and keep them from suffering and dying in a war the government had no intention of winning. And asking soldiers to fight and die for anything less than victory I still see as immoral today.

There is probably never a purely “good” leak when we are talking about our nation’s national security. There are always trade-offs between the public’s right to know and damage to intelligence operations and sources and methods of gathering that intelligence. But what has been going on since at least the late summer of 2003 with regards to intelligence leaks from Iraq have very little with the public’s “right to know” and most everything to do with trying to discredit the President of the United States by leaking analyses and information that at the very least showed an overweening hubris on the part of the leaker and at worst may have been a partisan attempt by unelected bureaucrats to influence the 2004 Presidential election.

That said, leaks are part of the game in Washington. Nixon was so angered by the Pentagon Papers leak (and another leak that probably originated within his own National Security Council that gave away our “fallback position” on the Salt I negotiations with the Soviets) that he set up the Plumbers - a keystone cops group of loyalists whose criminal activities would eventually lead to his downfall. Other Presidents have dealt with leaks by carrying out internal investigations and trying to cut off offending reporters from access to White House aides.

Despite the fact that our national news media was shocked, simply shocked that President Bush would authorize the release of classified material both to buttress his case for war with the American people and discredit the insufferable Mr. Wilson, such leaking is done all the time, by Presidents of both parties, by partisans of both parties in our intelligence and non-intelligence bureaucracies, and for a wide variety of reasons. And the fact that our media benefits by this cascade of leaks makes them hypocrites of the most crass and disgusting kind. Their caterwauling about the President’s leak overlooks one very important fact; he is elected by the people, they are not. In their overarching hubris, believing themselves to be the gatekeepers of information to the American public as well as the watchdogs of the republic, they constantly forget that they are first, last, and always citizens of the United States and that when the President takes the country to war, it should be he that decides war policy not them.

The flood of leaks from our intelligence community since the Iraq war has been unprecedented. The leaks have not aided the war effort for the most part (although some military bloggers have pointed out that some leaks about inadequate equipment has spurred the Pentagon to do a better job of supplying body armor and armoring up transport vehicles) rather they have been designed to show that one side in the debate on the war is correct and the other side is incorrect. This is partisanship, pure and simple. As I pointed out last night, for every leaked analysis that shows the Administration had differing intelligence from that which they acted upon, there are other analysis showing exactly the opposite. In short, the leaks were nothing more than second guessing, designed to make the Bush Administration look like they “missed” key pieces of the puzzle when in actuality, they were usually acting on what they believed were the summary beliefs of our intelligence community, not the cherry picked analyses of the leakers.

Yes there are times when leaking may be not especially “good” but could be considered “necessary.” So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of this with leaks about what the Administration knew about WMD, or other pre-war intelligence regarding military planning. A case might be made that the Administration engaged in much wishful thinking regarding post-war planning for which the Secretary of Defense should have been held accountable long ago. But given that some of those leaks occurred within the context of the election campaign, it would have required extraordinary care by the news media - care not taken or even contemplated - to explain that context to the American people so that they could make up their own minds about how much weight to give the information in making their decision on who to elect the next President of the United States.

In the end, that’s what the war between the White House and the CIA is all about; the belief by some at the CIA that the wrong man is President of the United States. If we ever get to the bottom of this cesspool of partisan leakers at our intelligence agencies, we may be very surprised where their perfidy leads.

By: Rick Moran at 7:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

4/21/2006
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: THE LEAKER AND THE SQUEALER

The war between the CIA and the White House took an interesting turn today as one CIA source for the press was rolled up and another came out of the closet.

First, the Agency announced the firing of an employee who has admitted speaking to the press:

A CIA officer has been relieved of his duty after being caught leaking classified information to the media.

Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not provide any details about the officer’s identity or assignments. It was not immediately clear if the person would face prosecution. The firing is a highly unusual move, although there has been an ongoing investigation into leaks in the CIA.

“The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information,” said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano. “That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA.”

Interestingly, the leak was about the “Secret Prisons” being run by the CIA overseas. You remember the “secret prisons” don’t you? You know, the ones no one seems to be able to find:

BRUSSELS — Investigations into reports that US agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centers have produced no evidence of illegal CIA activities, the European Union’s antiterrorism coordinator said yesterday.

The investigations also have not turned up any proof of secret renditions of terror suspects on EU territory, Gijs de Vries told a European Parliament committee investigating the allegations.

The European Parliament’s probe and a similar one by the continent’s leading human rights watchdog are looking into whether US intelligence agents interrogated Al Qaeda suspects at secret prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights through Europe.

But so far investigators have not identified any human rights violations, despite more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights activists and individuals who said they were abducted by US intelligence agents, de Vries said.

Can you say “sting?”

It is very, very tempting to connect those two dots. They are begging to be connected. One dot is going so far as to do a belly dance to entice the other. Alas, we have absolutely no evidence at this point so it is pure speculation to say that the entire “secret CIA prison” story was a plant and part of an internal agency leak investigation.

If true, what wailing and gnashing of teeth we will hear from the newsrooms and TV sets of America. There will be outrage that the press was used in this manner. There will be howls for an investigation into a disinformation campaign by the Agency whose purpose was to mislead the American people.

What they’ll really be pissed at is losing a prime source of juicy, anonymous leaks from an agency that in the last 5 years had begun to resemble a rusted out radiator from a 1952 Nash Rambler rather than a top secret branch of the United States government.

Meanwhile, another CIA officer (retired) goes on TV to tell us more of what we already know; that there were some intelligence reports prior to the war that said Saddam didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction - just like there were many, many more that said he did:

A CIA official who had a top role during the run-up to the Iraqi war charges the White House with ignoring intelligence that said there were no weapons of mass destruction or an active nuclear program in Iraq.

The former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, also says that while the intelligence community did give the White House some bad intelligence, it also gave the White House good intelligence — which the administration chose to ignore.

The above would be laughable in just about any other context. The difference between “bad” intelligence and “good” intelligence cannot be determined until after the fact! Perhaps the gentlemen would like to explain which psychic the White House should have used to tell the difference before the Iraq War.

You might recall the war between the CIA and the Pentagon over the curious and corrupt Ahmed Chalabi and the role that gentleman played in pre-war intel. The Pentagon insisted that Chalabi was a good source. The CIA believed him to be a charlatan. The White House, in the lead up to the war and eager for regime change, chose to believe the hawks at the Department of Defense. The fact that Chalabi’s “intelligence” (largely from a now discredited source known as “curveball”) turned out to be as reliable as Harry Reid’s word of honor became apparent only after we were in Iraq.

Could the Administration have ferreted out the truth on Chalabi before the war? On WMD’s? On all the other Iraq intelligence that turned out to be false, exaggerated, or misleading?

This, of course, is the bone of contention between the President’s enemies and his dwindling number of supporters. From my point of view, with the White House drive for regime change in Iraq picking up a full head of steam, they began to realize that the CIA was a house of smoke and mirrors.

There is plenty of evidence that a kind of bureaucratic paralysis descended on the agency - and following their spectacular failure on 9/11 who could blame them - which frustrated the White House enormously. For every report that has leaked out since the invasion showing the Administration “missed” something or “failed to act” on intelligence, there is plenty of evidence in the Senate Select Committee Report (SSCR) and especially in the Robb-Silberman Report that shows not only that there were countervailing reports showing the opposite of what was leaked but also the overwhelming problems faced by policymakers and elected leaders in the lead-up to the War in trying to find out what exactly Saddam Hussein had in the way of WMD and how much a danger he was to American interests.

Not that it would have mattered that much. I think most honest observers now understand that Bush had made a decision to invade Iraq , probably as early as September of 2002 and no later than February of 2003. Did this lead to a “fixing” or “twisting” of intelligence? Appearances in this case may very well be deceiving. What the record shows is an Administration being careful with intelligence in some areas - WMD - and careless in others - Iraq’s nuclear program. Saddam could try and purchase all the yellow cake he could get his hands on, the fact is his nuclear program would have needed at least 5 years and perhaps a decade to get started again (The Dulfer Report). At the same time, there was overwhelming evidence (despite what Mr. Drumheller says about his one, lone government source) that Saddam had WMD and was going to use it on American soldiers during the invasion.

The President’s enemies will jump on Drumheller’s interview as more evidence that the Administration lied its way to war. I think it shows more evidence of a culture in the CIA that is arrogantly corrupt and still believes that they are the ones who make national policy, not our elected leaders.

UPDATE

The leaker’s name is Mary McCarthy, former NSC staffer under both Clinton and Bush #41.

Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA’s inspector general’s office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and and George W. Bush administrations.

The leak pertained to stories on the CIA’s rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.

Interesting that she worked in the IG’s office. Federal whistelblower law requires that intelligence whistelblowers must go through the IG’s office to file their complaint. None of the leakers so far as has been revealed have gone through the IG’s office before spilling national security secrets to the press.

And poor Ms. Priest. What happens if it turns out her Pulitzer was for a story that never was?

UPDATE II

Here’s a round up of sorts on both the CIA Leak story and the Drumheller interview:

Bluto posting at Jawa Report:

NBC News has identified Mary O. McCarthy as the CIA officer fired. Interestingly, Fundrace.org identifies a Mary O. McCarthy, with occupation listed as “Analyst” for the U.S. Government as having donated $2000 to John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential campaign.

File that under “The Most Unsurprising Information Ever.”

Kim at Wizbang covers the react from big blogs.

Dan Riehl:

Certainly the inside leakers are the primary concern as Goss tries to instill a new sense of mission and a loyalty which transcends politics within the CIA. But if you want to address the entire problem, then perhaps the MSM would benefit from some of its members being inconvenienced with pesky items like Grand Juries and subpoenas to produce their notes.

This isn’t simply a little graft over a political boondoggle, these are issues of great consequence they’ve been gleefully headlining on their front pages in an almost treasonous way.

Man, I can’t wait for that Libby trial. Seeing Russert sweating on the witness stand may rank right up there with seeing Star Wars for the first time as far as entertainment value is concerned.

Goldstein makes the correct civil liberties argument:

To be clear: I think it is dangerous to stifle a free press; but at the same time, press freedom needs to be tied to responsibility. And printing leaked state security secrets for partisan reasons is not journalism, nor is it particularly brave: instead, it is ideological manipulation using the fourth estate as a way to influence public opinion.

And it undermines the democratic process by ill-serving readers under the guise of neutrality and objectivity.

And when a partisan media is aided and abetted by partisan leakers in our intelligence services, where are we?

Chad Evans is wondering about the “secret prison” story also and covers it from a different angle than I do above.

Ace nails it:

Goldstein calls them tinpot Machiavellianists; I call them Machiavellian Marxists. They’re the worst sort of villain — the villain who thinks his villainy is justified because he’s actually the Hero of the story. At least a mobster knows, in his heart of hearts, what he’s doing is actually evil.

But there is no internal moral restraint in such people. Anything and everything can be done, no matter how underhanded, dishonest, or borderline treasonous, because they serve a greater good than mere law or ethics.

Jay at Stop the ACLU hopes that this is the start of a crackdown on those who leaked the NSA intercept program.

UPDATE III

Michelle Malkin links to some more fascinating information about McCarthy:

The report of the 9/11 Commission notes that the National Security staff reviewed the intelligence in April 2000 and concluded that the CIA’s assessment of its intelligence on bin Laden and al-Shifa had been valid; the memo to Clinton on this was cosigned by Richard Clarke and Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director for intelligence programs, who opposed the bombing of al-Shifa in 1998.

Al-Shifa was the chemical weapons precursor factory in the Sudan that Clinton ordered hit. No evidence has come to light in the aftermath of that bombing that the plant was anything more than a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.

And Flopping Aces has a terrific round-up with all sorts of little interesting fact flakes on Ms. McCarthy.

UPDATE IV: 4/22

For some additional thoughts on the theory that the firing of McCarthy may have been a sting by the Agency to trap a leaker, see this post where I take a few steps back from that premise.

By: Rick Moran at 5:25 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (54)

4/10/2006
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: MISSING THE “BIG STORY”

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Did the lead editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post that defended the President’s authorizing the declassification of a secret NIE report on Iraq WMD misstate the facts surrounding the Administration’s handling of pre-war intelligence?

The entire left wing of the blogosphere believes so. Jay Rosen believes so. Even Tom McGuire, still doggedly carrying his lantern in daylight looking for one honest man in the Fitzgerald prosecution, believes so.

Certainly the figure at the center of the firestorms believes so. Three years ago, Joe Wilson was a nobody, an ex-Ambassador just trying to start a new business venture using his extensive contacts in Africa in order to facilitate the usual introductions and business deals, oiling the machinery of international trade as only someone with Mr. Wilson’s credentials is able to do. Then a request from the CIA; we understand from talking to your wife that you’re planning a trip to Africa. As long as you’re going to be there to establish your business contacts, why not visit some old friends in Niger and look into this cockamamie story about Saddam trying to purchase yellowcake uranium in order to reconstitute his nuclear program?

Wilson denies to this day that his wife had anything to do with his being selected by the CIA for this routine assignment, despite sworn testimony and memos to the contrary. At best, he may be engaging in a little wishful thinking, ashamed in a macho sort of way that his wife was assisting him in furthering his career.

At worst, he’s a baldfaced liar.

Regardless of who pushed his name forward or even what he discovered while in Niger (which to this day is a matter of fierce dispute), it is the aftermath of Wilson’s trip that has brought us to where we are today. And the fact is that Wilson, the lefty blogs, and especially Jay Rosen have missed the biggest story of the young century in their efforts to uncover the minutia, the nuggets of selected, disjointed information that writers have leapt upon like ravenous beasts, devouring, regurgitating as “proof” of their conspiracy theories, the evil machinations of evil men who “fabricated” intelligence on our way to war.

Perhaps the biggest purveyor of these fact flakes that make up the rickety structure of conspiracy is Murray Waas, writing for the National Journal among other publications. Jay Rosen, a godfather of New Media journalism, calls Waas “our Bob Woodward” as if one more self-important, insufferably arrogant practitioner of “gotchya” journalism was necessary in Washington. Waas has become a hero to left for his uncanny ability to leap to the most outrageous conclusions when uncovering the tiniest of “facts” regarding everything from the Fitzgerald investigation to the latest illegal leak from the intelligence community. Waas has built a house of cards about White House conspiracies based on the careful accumulation of “evidence” which may or may not indicate a pattern of deceit depending just how much one wishes to see when looking into the shadows and fog surrounding most of his information.

But in concentrating on the mote in the other fellow’s eye, Waas has missed the knife sticking out of the back of the Bush Administration; a knife planted by a group of leakers - organized or not - at the CIA who, unelected though they were, took it upon themselves to first try and prevent the execution of United States policy they were sworn to carry out and failing that, trying to destroy in the most blatantly partisan manner an Administration with which they had a policy disagreement.

How can anyone possibly understand the motivations, the actions, or the thinking in the White House during this crucial time without taking into account the war being conducted against them by the CIA?

In truth, those predisposed to believe the worst about Bush chalk up all the maneuvering on the part of the White House to “covering up” their supposed misrepresentations and exaggerations of pre-war intelligence in the lead up to the war. But what if there is a different explanation? What if prior to the invasion, the Bush Administration was roiled in a policy dispute between elements at the CIA and national security hawks in the White House and Department of Defense? What if this policy dispute got so contentious that the White House lost faith in what the intelligence community was telling it about Iraq? And what if following the revelations about Saddam’s lack of WMD, elements at the CIA worked to exact revenge on the Administration by illegally leaking cherry-picked analyses at odds with what the Administration had been telling the American people?

This is the “big story” not being reported by the press, the blogs, or even Jay Rosen’s golden boy Murray Waas. It is a familiar story in Washington, a mix of arcanity and idiocy, of the high affairs of state with the lowliest of backstabbing bureaucracies. And it is a story that while not absolving the Bush Administration of some of its actions, certainly gives background and context that is so sorely lacking in this obsession with minutia that passes for serious analysis in both the new and old media.

Prior to the Iraq War, there were two schools of thought about Saddam; a realpolitik view which held that Saddam was a monster but was a useful counterweight to Islamic radicalism opposed by what has become known as the neo-conservative view that Saddam was a sponsor of terror and that regime change could transform the Middle East. The “we can use Saddam” clique at the CIA had opposed the toppling of the monster since the 1991 Gulf War when a similar debate roiled the Administration of George H.W. Bush. Amazingly, the players back then were some of the same names that are at odds today.

Howard Fineman of Newsweek lays out some of this history:

The “we-can-use Saddam” faction held the upper hand right up to the moment he invaded Kuwait a decade ago. Until then, the administration of Bush One (with its close CIA ties) had been hoping to talk sense with Saddam. Indeed, the last American to speak to Saddam before the war was none other than Joe Wilson, who was the State Department charge’ d’affaires in Baghdad. Fluent in French, with years of experience in Africa, he remained behind in Iraq after the United States withdrew its ambassador, and won high marks for bravery and steadfastness, supervising the protection of Americans there at the start of the first Gulf War. But, as a diplomat, he didn’t want the Americans to “march all the way to Baghdad.” Cheney, always a careful bureaucrat, publicly supported the decision. Wilson was for repelling a tyrant who grabbed land, but not for regime change by force.

That history is one reason why, in the eyes of the anti-Saddam crowd, Wilson was a bad choice to investigate the question of whether Iraq had been trying to buy uranium in Africa.

(emphasis mine)

Do you think it would have been helpful if in all the millions of words written about the Wilson/Plame affair, a few paragraphs had been devoted to this singular, important fact? Does this color Mr. Wilson’s motivations in any way? At the very least, the consumer of news should be given the opportunity to assess this information for themselves and make their own judgment about whether there was any ax to grind on Mr. Wilson’s or Mr. Cheney’s part when push came to shove over Wilson’s self-aggrandizing editorial in the New York Times.

Then there was the anger and resentment at the CIA over the Bush Administration’s efforts to make the agency more accountable for the pre-war intelligence it was sending its way. In the best of times, the process of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence is fraught with uncertainty. But these were not the best of times. The realpolitik clique at the CIA was suspected - rightly or wrongly - of doing a little intelligence twisting of its own especially with regard to Saddam’s links to al Qaeda. A secret group at the Pentagon called the Office of Special Plans was set up specifically to examine (or re-examine) Iraq intelligence relating to its WMD programs and possible links to terror groups. The reason for the formation of this group according to the CIA was to shape and manipulate intelligence to give the Administration a false justification for going to war against Saddam.

Is that the real story? Or had the Administration become so frustrated and distrustful of the Iraq group at CIA who was feeding policymakers intelligence reports at odds with what they were hearing elsewhere? The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq which, it was revealed this past weekend, was declassified by the President and disseminated to reporters in the aftermath of the war indicated that Saddam did indeed have weapons of mass destruction, may have been trying to re-initialize his nuclear program, had possible links to al Qaeda, and was a threat to his neighbors.

Other documents recently translated from the millions of captured archives of the Saddam regime are beginning to paint a picture also at odds with the CIA assessment that Iraq had no ties to al Qaeda. This is a developing story and certainly bears watching - not that this information is being reported on or given much shrift by many in the media.

This was after all, not some arcane debate over trifles. What the Administration was dealing with in the aftermath of 9/11 was nothing less than the safety and security of the United States. The Office of Special Plans may have been bitterly opposed by the CIA, seeing as they apparently did an intrusion on their bureaucratic turf. But the elected leaders of the country, charged with defending the United States against threats (not to mention radically altering policy to include preventive war as a measure to insure that defense) at the very least thought itself in a bind on Iraq largely because they believed the CIA was not doing its job.

Right or wrong, isn’t this part of the story too? When talking about “twisting” and even “fabricating” intelligence (a term that is used willy nilly by Bush critics despite the fact that there is not one shred of proof that any such thing occurred), don’t you think it important to give that story a little context by informing people about the extraordinary level of mistrust and resentment between both the White House and the CIA? One can argue who was at fault. But when the big picture is being subsumed by trivial revelations about the tiniest of details regarding what the White House was doing with Iraq War intel, a distorted view of what really happened is bound to emerge.

And this is especially true when, during the months leading up to the 2004 election, we witnessed what can only be termed an attempted coup by the very same faction at the CIA who had been fighting the Administration in the lead up to the war. This partisan campaign by unelected bureaucrats to defeat a sitting president was called “unprecedented” and characterized as having a “viciousness and vindictiveness” not witnessed on the Washington scene in many years. The Daily Telegraph commented on the CIA campaign to unseat the President in October of 2004:

A powerful “old guard” faction in the Central Intelligence Agency has launched an unprecedented campaign to undermine the Bush administration with a battery of damaging leaks and briefings about Iraq.

The White House is incensed by the increasingly public sniping from some senior intelligence officers who, it believes, are conducting a partisan operation to swing the election on November 2 in favour of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, and against George W Bush.

Jim Pavitt, a 31-year CIA veteran who retired as a departmental chief in August, said that he cannot recall a time of such “viciousness and vindictiveness” in a battle between the White House and the agency

The Wall Street Journal went even further, publishing this editorial following the confirmation of new DCIA Porter Goss:

Congratulations to Porter Goss for being confirmed last week as the new Director of Central Intelligence. We hope he appreciates that he now has two insurgencies to defeat: the one that the CIA is struggling to help put down in Iraq, and the other inside Langley against the Bush Administration.

We wish we were exaggerating. It’s become obvious over the past couple of years that large swaths of the CIA oppose U.S. anti-terror policy, especially toward Iraq. But rather than keep this dispute in-house, the dissenters have taken their objections to the public, albeit usually through calculated and anonymous leaks that are always spun to make the agency look good and the Bush Administration look bad.

Their latest improvised explosive political device blew up yesterday on the front page of the New York Times, in a story proclaiming that the agency had warned back in January 2003 of a possible insurgency in Iraq. This highly selective leak (more on that below) was conveniently timed for two days before the first Presidential debate.

The leaks were condemned by one of the most brilliant men ever to serve the United States in any capacity, Admiral Bobby Inman, who worked in the intelligence community for more than 30 years:

I was utterly appalled during the 2004 election cycle at the number of clearly politically motivated leaks from intelligence organizations — mostly if not all from CIA — 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 — 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?

Inman is speaking about the book Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer (published under the author’s nom de plum “Anonymous” when it came out weeks before the election) that skewered the Administration over everything from the war against Bin Laden to Iraq.

This, of course, is the context of the entire Wilson/Plame affair. And the question arises what should the White House have done? Clearly, the effort to counteract Wilson’s charges had both political and policy overtones. But Wilson had been shopping his “story” for months prior to the publication of his Niger adventure in the Times. What appeared to be more of the same effort to “get” the President by the CIA couldn’t go unanswered. Scooter Libby is paying for the White House trying to do something about the leaking and sniping done by the Administration’s partisan opponents and others may as well. But to posit the notion that the Wilson/Plame imbroglio took place in a vacuum and was a matter of sheer “revenge” is lunacy. The facts do not support such a claim. But you’d never know it because of the curious reluctance on the part of both the mainstream press and the New Media to face up to the consequences of CIA perfidy in the lead up to the election.

I honestly don’t know how much of the millions of words written about pre-war intelligence are true and how much is fantasy, a construct of thousands of unrelated parts that are shaped and shaded to fit into a conspiracy of monstrous proportions. But by failing to illuminate this story by placing all the revelations in the context of the continuing war by the CIA against the Bush Administration, an enormous disservice is done to the American people. Because in the end, in order to find the truth of the matter, you have to understand the motivating factors of both sides. And the way writers are approaching the story now, that just isn’t happening.

By: Rick Moran at 8:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

12/5/2005
THE CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: THE SPOOKS BLOW IT AGAIN

How many times can one agency be so wrong about so many things while at the same time selectively leaking classified data in order to put themselves in the best possible light and engage in partisan back stabbing?

The list of events and trends that the CIA has failed to either alert the government to or analyzed incorrectly in their capacity as the nation’s foreign watch dogs is astonishing. Over the past quarter century, they have proven themselves to be not just inept but also foolish, arrogant, corrupt, and incompetent as the forces of history and the machinations of evil men escaped their myopic gaze resulting in the injury and death to thousands of United States citizens. Their mistakes have also cost the US in the arena of diplomacy as faulty - sometimes ludicrous - analysis regarding both our friends and enemies has placed our diplomats and negotiators on unsound footing.

We are not talking about some Mickey Mouse third world assassination squad. We are talking about an agency with a classified budget that some have estimated to be as high as $70 billion dollars. It is an agency that is supposed to be staffed by our best and brightest minds. They have at their disposal some of the most mind-blowing gadgetry ever dreamed up - euphemistically referred to as “National Technical Means - that can see and even hear what our enemies may be up to.

What they cannot do is peer into the minds and hearts of people who would do us harm. For that, our leaders depend on the judgment of an army of analysts. With access to intelligence from thousands of sources both overt and covert, these career employees are supposed to leave their own ideological biases at home in order to give the most intelligent and thoughtful analysis based on the facts available that they can.

Instead, the safety and security of our country has been held hostage by a group of ideologues - of both the left and right - who seek to advance their partisan and ideological agendas while the crazies of the world plot to destroy us.

A short list of “missing the big picture”:

* An analysis by the newly minted agency in 1949 assured President Truman that the Soviets were a decade away from building an atomic weapon. Before the end of that summer, the Soviets had tested their first nuclear device.

* The CIA failed to anticipate the invasion of South Korea by North Korea despite a massive buildup of NoKo forces. They also failed to anticipate the entry of China into the war 6 months later.

* The CIA was wildly off target in their estimate of China’s nuclear potential, believing that the Reds were 5 years away from having the bomb the same year - 1964 - that China exploded its first nuclear device.

* An analysis in 1989 found the collapsing Soviet Union was planning a “manned mission to Mars” sometime after 2000.

* The agency missed the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, calling Saddam’s massive build-up on the border “saber rattling.”

* The CIA consistently failed in the 1990’s to penetrate the #1 enemy of the United States - al Qaeda. The results of which were catastrophic.

* Despite warnings, the CIA failed to anticipate the 9/11 attack.

And now we can add to this list the fact that the CIA was wildly off target in its estimate of when the mad mullahs in Iran would have their hands on a nuclear weapon.

Last summer in a leak designed to undermine the Administration’s case for sanctions against Iran, cherry-picked facts from a National Intelligence Estimate showed that the consensus in the government was that Iran was more than a decade away from being able to build a nuclear weapon:

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that “all options are on the table.”

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran’s military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bomb making.

Even at the time I thought that was a ridiculous statement. So did the Israelis:

Israeli intelligence officials estimate that Iran could be capable of producing enriched uranium within six months and have nuclear weapons within two years. Earlier this month, head of Israeli military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi said that while Iran was not currently capable of enriching uranium to build a nuclear bomb, “it is only half a year away from achieving such independent capability – if it is not stopped by the West.”

Guess who was closer to being right - Mossad or CIA? It turns out that according to the UN nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) and the IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei, Iran is 6 months away from having their hands on the bomb:

IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel’s assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.

If Tehran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only “a few months” to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.

As it turns out, the CIA’s “analysis” of Iranian nuclear capability was ludicrously wrong.

How can we continue to put up with this incompetence? Anyone who believes that a nuclear Iran is not a threat to the very existence of the United States is massively fooling themselves. While the mullahs wouldn’t give a nuclear weapon to al Qaeda (we think - that analysis also comes from the CIA) there are any number of fanatics who would be glad to set off a couple of nukes on US soil. And if Iran believed that whoever was President wouldn’t retaliate massively, they would be more than willing to take the chance in order to have the US descend into an economic and social chaos we would be a decade or more recovering from.

In order to imagine a nuclear device going off and destroying a major American city, think New Orleans then multiply by ten. The economic shock alone would throw millions out of work. And the social cost of millions of refugees fleeing both the blast and fallout would throw American society into chaos. The demand for safety and security would put pressure on lawmakers to enact restrictions on our freedoms that would make the Patriot Act look like a walk in the park by comparison.

And suppose we did retaliate against Iran? Have you noticed who is cozying up to the radicals in Tehran recently?

The statement appeared timed to head off the heated reaction expected from the United States after Russian media reported Friday that officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.

The Interfax news agency said the Tor-M1 system could identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet.

Putin has also offered to enrich Iran’s uranium as part of a deal involving the EU. The problem with this “deal” is that once the Iranians get their hands on even partially enriched uranium, it is not a big deal to further enrich the nuclear material to make weapons grade uranium.

Suppose we were to retaliate against an Iranian sponsored terrorist nuclear attack by leveling Tehran and a few other Iranian cities? The outcry against us would make criticism of our Iraq policies seem tame. And that fallout cloud could very well drift into Russian territory - something that Mr. Putin would frown on and may feel compelled to respond to.

There is no getting around it. Iran must be stopped and soon. We know it. The Israelis know it. The Europeans know it. The UN knows it.

The question that must be asked is anyone going to do anything about it? Iran is betting that the world will fiddle while they build. They have indicated that they will not stop enriching uranium regardless of what the Europeans or Americans think.

And given the recent track record of the CIA’s analysis on Iran, the frightening prospect of agency blunders leading us toward a nuclear precipice is a real possibility.

By: Rick Moran at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

10/17/2005
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: IT WAS THE ELECTION, STUPID

As Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald readies his indictments against probable targets Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby and Karl Rove, the unfortunate truth is that any criminal proceedings against these or other current and former White House officials will validate the partisan political tactics used by the CIA to undermine the Bush Administration’s case for war.

This was not a case of a faction at the CIA resisting White House blame shifting. It was not a case of “setting the record straight” or “protecting the integrity” of the CIA. It was a case of naked, power politics played out at the highest levels of government as a small, partisan group of CIA analysts and operatives sought, through the use of selected leaking of cherry-picked information to friendly reporters, to influence the Presidential election of 2004.

As this Daily Telegraph article points out, the succession of leaks by CIA officials (or surrogates like Joe Wilson) had one goal in mind; to bring down the Bush Administration:

A powerful “old guard” faction in the Central Intelligence Agency has launched an unprecedented campaign to undermine the Bush administration with a battery of damaging leaks and briefings about Iraq.

The White House is incensed by the increasingly public sniping from some senior intelligence officers who, it believes, are conducting a partisan operation to swing the election on November 2 in favour of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, and against George W Bush.

Jim Pavitt, a 31-year CIA veteran who retired as a departmental chief in August, said that he cannot recall a time of such “viciousness and vindictiveness” in a battle between the White House and the agency.

Whether Valerie Plame was an “analyst” or an “operative” in the CIA may be relevant to any criminal indictments regarding the leaking of her name. But in the CIA’s war against the Bush Administration, the fact that she worked for a division of the Agency that was doing most of the leaking of cherry-picked reports and analyses showing Saddam not to be a threat should be the focus of the “why” in the scandal.

Joe Wilson was sent by his wife’s superiors to Niger supposedly at the behest of Vice President Cheney, to discover whether or not the Iraqis were trying to buy yellowcake uranium in order to reconstitute their nuclear program. It was the most curious “fact-finding” trip in history. Wilson sat in a hotel while a succession of current and former Niger government officials were paraded before him each solemnly telling him that the charges were false, that the Iraqis had never asked the Niger government to circumvent international restrictions and sell them the uranium.

It was never explained why a group of Iraqi “businessmen” had met with former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki in 1999:

The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.” [page 43]

Maybe the Iraqis were interested in importing cowpeas.?

The Wilson trip stinks to high heaven of a set up. Talk about predetermining the outcome of intelligence! It seems incontestable that the group in the Agency working for the ouster of President Bush knew full well what the result of Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger would be. One pertinent question might be to ask why did they choose to send a retired, minor diplomat to do a job that could have been done by any number of other current State Department or even Agency people whose contacts were as good or better than Mr. Wilson’s?

The answer is that the cabal would have been unable to control someone else’s reporting on the matter of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium. Wilson was the perfect errand boy. He was also to prove over the next several months to be something of a loose cannon and a self-aggrandizing, vainglorious blabbermouth. In this interview with LA Weekly, Wilson admits he was shopping the story of his trip long before either the Nicholas Kristoff piece of May 6, 2003 where the Niger trip is first mentioned in print or Wilson’s own OpEd in the New York Times that led to the outing of his wife:

So I spoke to a number of reporters over the ensuing months. Each time they asked the White House or the State Department about it, they would feign ignorance. I became even more convinced that I was going to have to tell the story myself.

That was probably part of the set-up all along. As we know now, no one at the White House or State Department knew of Mr. Wilson’s trip to Niger or what he found out there.

There are numerous questions associated with the entire Niger caper that will probably never be answered satisfactorily: Who forged the documents used by the British and passed along to the US that indicated Saddam was attempting to purchase the yellowcake in the first place? Why wasn’t Wilson’s report passed on to the Vice President, the man who Wilson ostensibly went to Niger for in the first place? Did Wilson use his contacts with the media to pass along other classified information given to him by his wife that were damaging to the President’s campaign?

When it comes to the CIA and its numerous leakers, it appears that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has a blind spot. And because of that, the cabal that worked to defeat the President last November will probably be toasting their success later this week when indictments are handed down.

By: Rick Moran at 9:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

8/2/2005
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: THE LEAKS GO ON

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Reading today’s story in the Washington Post by Dafna Linzer about a National Intelligence Estimate for Iran detailing the mad Mullah’s progress toward achieving a nuclear weapon, one could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve been down this road before. The leaking of classified information is, after all, a felony. That doesn’t seem to stop some employees at the CIA from assuming the job of policy makers by leaking information that buttresses their opinion that Iran is not an immediate threat to the United States and that the Administration is once again lying about a potential adversary’s intentions.

The problem is that, as the article points out, only selected portions of the NIE were relayed to the reporter, Ms. Linzer. Is it an accident that those portions that were leaked are at odds with the Administration’s oft stated claims that Iran, if left to its own devices, would be nuclear capable in a matter of a year or two?

In fact, the report predicts that Iran would be unable to build a weapon for ten years, something that would come as a huge surprise to the state of Israel. In an article written by Peter Hirschberg for Ha’aretz, the author quotes an Israeli military official giving a quite different analysis of the threat from Iran:

Israeli intelligence officials estimate that Iran could be capable of producing enriched uranium within six months and have nuclear weapons within two years. Earlier this month, head of Israeli military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi said that while Iran was not currently capable of enriching uranium to build a nuclear bomb, “it is only half a year away from achieving such independent capability – if it is not stopped by the West.”

And yet, the Washington Post story says that the consensus estimate of our intelligence community is that Iran would not be capable of producing a bomb for a decade:

The new estimate extends the timeline, judging that Iran will be unlikely to produce a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient for an atomic weapon, before “early to mid-next decade,” according to four sources familiar with that finding. The sources said the shift, based on a better understanding of Iran’s technical limitations, puts the timeline closer to 2015 and in line with recently revised British and Israeli figures.

The estimate is for acquisition of fissile material, but there is no firm view expressed on whether Iran would be ready by then with an implosion device, sources said.

The problem with Iran’s “technical limitations” is that the production of Highly Enriched (HE) uranium is not a huge technical problem to overcome. Hiding the process from prying eyes is the real dilemma. The two practical ways to separate U-235 (bomb material) from U-238 (uranium hexafluoride or “hex”) are gaseous diffusion and centrifuges. A gaseous diffusion plant would be impossible to hide given how big the works would have to be to efficiently separate the uranium. The centrifuge method is much easier to conceal but a bigger technical challenge given the engineering tolerances necessary to spin the centrifuge at the enormous speeds in order to separate the isotopes.

There is a third way and would in fact be a shortcut to a nuclear weapon; acquire the material from a third party. The article doesn’t say whether or not the NIE deals with that possibility.

As for constructing an “implosion” device, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was constructed using the so called “gun design” where a sphere of U-235 sits at one end of a barrel and a smaller pellet of the material is fired into it thus achieving critical mass and detonating the bomb. This is less efficient than an implosion device but still packs a huge wallop.

The point I’m trying to make is that given the piecemeal release of parts of the NIE, the leaker has succeeded in spinning the Iran nuclear story toward a conclusion at odds with what the Administration has been saying since at least 2002 - that Iran must be prevented from enriching uranium because of how close they are to constructing a nuclear device.

Evidently, part of the Administration’s concern was that the Iranian military had its own nuclear program separate from the civilian government:

Sources said the new timeline also reflects a fading of suspicions that Iran’s military has been running its own separate and covert enrichment effort. But there is evidence of clandestine military work on missiles and centrifuge research and development that could be linked to a nuclear program, four sources said.

Suspicions are “fading” but there is “evidence” of clandestine military work on centrifuges? It appears that either we have someone wanting to cover all bases at the same time or we have no consensus in our intelligence community on the issue. If this is the case, how can the estimate of Iranian capabilities be taken seriously? Is there another estimate at odds with the conclusion leaked in the article?

We don’t know which is why the leaking of this NIE should be seen in the context of the continuing war being waged by a faction at the CIA on the White House. Is it an accident that much of the information leaked confirms what one former CIA agent has been saying about Iran since at least March?

Ray McGovern is on the steering committee for the radical group of ex-CIA agents at war with the White House known as Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Here’s what Mr. McGovern had to say in an article for Tom Paine, an on-line leftist magazine:

Let’s look briefly at the scariest rationale-If Iran is allowed to produce fissile material, it may transfer it to terrorists bent on exploding a nuclear device in an American city.

This seems to be the main boogeyman, whether real or contrived, in U.S. policymaking councils. Its unexamined premise-the flimsily supported but strongly held view that Iran’s leaders would give terrorists a nuclear device or the wherewithal to make one-is being promoted as revealed truth. Serious analysts who voice skepticism about this and who list the strong disincentives to such a step by Iran are regarded as apostates.

For those of you with a sense of deja vu, we have indeed been here before-just a few years ago. And the experience should have been instructive. In the case of Iraq, CIA and other analysts strongly resisted the notion that Saddam Hussein would risk providing nuclear, chemical, or biological materials to al-Qaeda or other terrorists-except as a desperate gesture if and when he had his back to the wall. Similarly, it strains credulity beyond the breaking point to posit that the Iranian leaders would give up control of such material to terrorists.

Since Mr. McGovern wrote that article in March, Iran’s ruling Guardian Council has by most accounts rigged an election so that a hard line militarist with close ties to terrorist groups was elected President. Even before President elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken office, a crackdown on dissidents as well as an ideological purge of key government and civil institutions has been underway in Iran. And President elect Ahmadinejad has made it clear that he sees the Islamic revolution as a worldwide phenomena that will conquer “every mountaintop.”

Now, we can choose to believe what we read and what we see or we can listen to the very same people were saying in July of 2001 that al Qaeda was not a threat. And let’s not forget most of these same analysts concurred in the estimates regarding Iraqi WMD.

The point is that regardless of recent steps to reform our intelligence capability, it appears that we’re still working with a dysfunctional system where agency personnel feel perfectly comfortable with leaking classified information in a bid to influence both Administration policy and the political process. No one expects everybody to agree on everything. But the American people have a right to expect that the unelected bureaucrats who work at the CIA allow policy making to reside with those we have entrusted for the task - the elected representatives of the people.

UPDATE

Wizbang has a “Shut your Piehole” edition of the 10 Spot. I can’t think of any better candidate than the idiots at the CIA who keep blabbing our national security secrets.

By: Rick Moran at 7:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

7/29/2005
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: INMAN SPEAKS (UPDATE)

I received a comment on the originial post from someone purporting to be Larry Johnson:

Hey boneheads,
I actually spoke with Admiral Inman. He said he was misquoted (Gee, what a surprise, the NRO can’t get its story straight). He’s disgusted by the attacks on Valerie Plame. You guys only got one thing right, Admiral Inman is a class act.

After quickly looking behind me to make sure that I was still the only person blogging on this site, I accessed a technorati search on “Larry Johnson” that referenced both my post below and a post on Josh Marshall’s TCMP Cafe from guest blogger Larry Johnson that does indeed talk about a phonecon between Johnson and Inman:

Admiral Inman was quoted out of context. I spoke with him this afternoon after alerting him to the National Review online quote. He takes very seriously the compromise of Valerie’s cover. He was telling Mr. Spruiell that anyone in the intel community would not be in a position to intuitively know whether Valerie was or was not undercover at first glance. However, since they are in the intel community they have clearances and should not be out and about talking about people they do not know.

Um…no, that’s not what Admiral Inman was saying. Inman was specifically taking the CIA leakers to task for their dirty work during the campaign last fall.

For the record, Valerie Plame was not working as a CIA analyst, she was undercover, per press reports, as an Energy Analyst for Brewster Jennings. Inman did not misstate her position, and told me he has no firsthand knowledge of her cover status. This speaks very poorly about the journalistic standards of the NRO.

Is it bad journalism to print exactly what Admiral Inman said? Inman said he didn’t know Mrs. Wilson’s status. NRO had no comment on that. Where are journalistic standards violated?

Hey Larry! Can’t you take it when someone agrees with you?

Here, however is the meat of Mr. Johnson’s response to NRO and frankly, scares the wholly living beejeebees out of me.

To show how pathetically ignorant the National Review is on this matter, there have been CIA officers who started off as an analyst, who like me were undercover. They later switched-over to an operations officer career track and are now serving overseas in undercover positions.

What is so despicable about all of this is that the conservative movement, which was born in part from the efforts of Whittaker Chambers to expose communist treachery, is now serving as apologists for political operatives who have destroyed an intelligence network and at least one case officer’s distinguished career. The new standard for the Republican National Committee–Karl Rove didn’t commit a crime. Boy, there’s a slogan to run on, “At Least I Wasn’t Indicted”

Speaking of “pathetically ignorant,” it would come as pretty much a shock to most conservatives to learn that “the conservative movement… was born in part from the efforts of Whittaker Chambers to expose communist treachery…” I guess philosophers like F.A. Hayek, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, Clinton Rossiter, and Leo Strauss not to mention Norman Podhoretz, Ben Wattenberg, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and other Neo Conservatives (you know, the real “neocons,” not everybody that falls under the rubric of the left’s lazy habit of calling anyone who disagrees with them a “necon”) don’t carry as much influence as the nearly 60 year old case involving Whittaker Chambers.

What the heck was this guy doing working for the CIA? My 16 year old cousin knows more about the history of conservatism than Larry Johnson. And this was someone who served as Deputy Director in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism as well as working in the Operations Directorate at the CIA.

That statement - so ignorant of history and blatantly partisan in its intent - along with Mr. Johnson’s pre-9/11 statement about terrorism not being a big problem, causes me to question the sanity of whoever is doing the hiring and promoting at our intelligence services.

Chambers you may recall, was a former Communist who outed Alger Hiss as a communist spy working for the state department. The Congressional hearings on the matter as well as Hiss’ trial became left wing shorthand for the dangers of modern conservatism. The liberals held the Hiss case against Richard Nixon till the day he died and to this day (as Ann Coulter has noted in her book Treason) the left insists that Hiss was an innocent victim of a smear campaign by Chambers and Nixon.

The only problem with that is that Hiss was guilty as sin.

Revelations contained in the Venona Files prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hiss was not loyal to the United States government, was a member of the Communist Party USA, and that he gave Stalin a preview of our negotiating position at the Yalta Conference that ended up dividing Europe into “spheres of influence” between the west and the Soviet Union, thus condemning millions of people to living lives under a barbarous tyranny.

To replay the entire Chambers-Hiss-Nixon drama would take up more bandwidth than Mr. Johnson is worth . For the barebones facts of the case, Wikpedia has a good summary. Hiss was only convicted of perjury even though the US government was aware of his perfidy. Not wanting to take a chance on losing their ability to intercept Soviet cables, (the Venona files) an ability that would have been revealed if the government put on the table everything it had on him, Hiss got away with his treason. He was even re-admitted to the bar in 1975 after it was revealed that there was a considerable amount of government misconduct in his perjury trial. Of course, the misconduct did not obviate the perjury itself nor did it negate the fact that Hiss was a traitor to his country.

Hiss was considered a martyr until the Venona files became public. Even then, many liberals refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes and prefer to think Alger Hiss is innocent. After all, they’re part of the “Reality Based Community” which these days actually means “Never let reality stand in the way of obfuscating the truth.”

The fact that Mr. Johnson attempts to raise the specter of Chambers is revealing in that this “registered Republican” is more of a partisan hack and less the heroic defender of Maiden Wilson’s honor than he lets on.

UPDATE

NRO’s Stephen Spruiell responds to Larry Johnson’s inaccurate post at TCMP Cafe referenced above. The happless Mr. Johnson is gonna need some rectal surgery to repair the damage done by Mr. Spruiell’s scathing comeback:

So let’s review: I removed an inaccurate statement that reflected well on Rove and the administration, and Larry Johnson accuses me of taking Inman out of context in order to make his statements reflect well on Rove and the administration. It’s this kind of analytical prowess that led Larry Johnson to get the pre-9/11 terrorist threat so unbelievably wrong.

More importantly, I have no idea what Inman told Johnson, but when he was speaking to me his feelings on the Plame leak were crystal clear. Inman felt that CIA officers with a political axe to grind posed far more of a threat to intelligence-gathering sources and methods than any administration officials who may have leaked the name of a woman who shuttled back and forth to Langley every day.

It sucks that I have to interrupt my wedding to rebut this clueless publicity hound, but I’m not going to let him get away with claiming a monopoly on the capital-T Truth. For someone who has publicly demonstrated such faulty perception regarding the greatest threat of our time, I’m surprised Johnson is so arrogant.

The only surprise is that Johnson can walk and chew gum at the same time. He’s not arrogant…he’s blissfully ignorant.

By: Rick Moran at 5:37 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

7/28/2005
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: INMAN SPEAKS

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 — mostly if not all from CIA — 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 — 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 there’s nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careers… there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesn’t mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldn’t deploy back off to Africa, but nothing I’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.

UPDATE

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.

Joshua Sharf:

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?

By: Rick Moran at 6:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

7/13/2005
THE CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE POLITICS OF WAR

In an ideal world, the decision to go to war would be taken only with the agreement of the entire national security community. The CIA, the Department of Defense, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and all the bureaucracies that make up the complex world of national defense in a country that spends nearly one half a trillion dollars to protect itself - all would recognize a threat and agree that military action was necessary.

We don’t live in a perfect world. The fact is, as the military and national security state have grown over the last 50 years, the probability that a consensus can be achieved for action except in the most extraordinary circumstances has disappeared. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times the United States miliary has gone into action since the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis with the entire national security apparatus on the same page.

I use the Cuban Missile Crisis as a benchmark because of the herculean effort it took for the so-called “Ex-Com” or executive committee of the National Security Council to reach agreement on the blockade that eventually resolved the crisis. We know from declassified documents as well as the memoirs of particpants that there were heated disagreements on both the nature of the threat and what our response should be. Eventually, there was a recognition that the chances of a nuclear exchange with Russia were so great that something short of air strikes and invasion should at least be tried before the military options were used. The resulting blockade along with a secret deal for the US to remove medium range Jupiter missiles from Turkey defused the crisis.

The debates that raged during in the Viet Nam war in the defense establishment hindered the war effort and placed agencies at odds with both each other and at times the White House. To bomb or not to bomb? How many troops? What will China do? There were disagreements on all of these items and many more. And the way to have your position prevail was to try and discredit competing positions by leaking damaging information that undercuts the rationale for taking a particular action. The leaking wars got so bad in 1971 that Nixon sowed the seeds of his own destruction by organizing an anti-leaking squad known as the Plumbers. Their notorious activities with respect to not only leakers of classified information but also the President’s enemies have been well documented.

In the years following Viet Nam, military actions were taken in response to provocations like the hostage crisis or the disco bombing in Germany. And even here, consensus was difficult to achieve. For example, there was opposition from the CIA to the bombing of Libya in April of 1986 fearing it would make a hero of Gadhafi in the arab world and increase his influence. The reason we know this is because the information was leaked within 48 hours of the bombing. In this case, the objective was not to affect policy but rather give ammunition to the political opposition.

This factionalism at the CIA may be at the bottom of the entire Rove-Wilson-Plame affair. Flashback to 2003 and this interesting article by Howard Fineman of Newsweek. Fineman explains the historical context of the debate over Iraq going back to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. On the one hand, you had the realpolitik group who believed that we could use Saddam as a counterweight against Islamic radicalism. On the other hand you had then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and the “Neocons” agitating for regime change to start a democratic revolution in the middle east:

The “we-can-use Saddam” faction held the upper hand right up to the moment he invaded Kuwait a decade ago. Until then, the administration of Bush One (with its close CIA ties) had been hoping to talk sense with Saddam. Indeed, the last American to speak to Saddam before the war was none other than Joe Wilson, who was the State Department charge’ d’affaires in Baghdad. Fluent in French, with years of experience in Africa, he remained behind in Iraq after the United States withdrew its ambassador, and won high marks for bravery and steadfastness, supervising the protection of Americans there at the start of the first Gulf War. But, as a diplomat, he didn’t want the Americans to “march all the way to Baghdad.” Cheney, always a careful bureaucrat, publicly supported the decision. Wilson was for repelling a tyrant who grabbed land, but not for regime change by force.

That history is one reason why, in the eyes of the anti-Saddam crowd, Wilson was a bad choice to investigate the question of whether Iraq had been trying to buy uranium in Africa.

It appears then, that Cheney and Wilson had a “history” long before the Iraq war even started.

Flash forward to February, 2002 when Ambassador Joe Wilson arrives in Niger seeking answers to the questions about Saddam’s efforts to purchase yellow cake uranium. In his New York Times Op-Ed of July 6, 2003 Wilson claims that he made the trip at the behest of…who? Here are his words:

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.

“Agency officials” asked him to make the trip so they could provide a response to Cheney’s office on the question of a “report” regarding yellow cake sales to Iraq. Wilson says that he never saw the “16″ word” document that some say is a forgery and some say otherwise, but that he believed it to be a forgery based on the names of government officials who were not even in the government at the time.

Fair enough. But here’s where things get very strange, indeed. In an interview with LA Weekly, Wilson admitted he had been talking to reporters for months about this story:

I was determined that the story was going to have to get out. I did not particularly want the story to have my name on it. I wanted the U.S. government to say what they said on July 7, that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the Union address. So I began responding to reporters’ inquiries, but always on background. I didn’t want the publicity, but more to the point, there is a nasty habit in Washington of attempting to destroy or discredit the message by discrediting the messenger, and it was important to me that the message have legs before those who would want to discredit the messenger found out who the messenger was. So I spoke to a number of reporters over the ensuing months. Each time they asked the White House or the State Department about it, they would feign ignorance. I became even more convinced that I was going to have to tell the story myself.

Did you anticipate retaliation?

Nobody that I knew thought this was going to be any more than a two-day story. The day after, when the White House said the 16 words do not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address, I personally stopped accepting invitations to talk about this issue. I did those interviews I had previously agreed to do before the White House spoke, and then I didn’t speak again until the week after Mr. Novak’s article came out in which he leaked the name of my wife as a CIA operative.

In other words, between the President’s State of the Union speech on January 20th, 2003 and July 6th when he wrote the Op-Ed piece in the Times, Wilson was talking to reporters all over town, telling them that the President was using false information as a justification for war.

Now why would he do that? Is it possible he was doing at the behest of his wife? Tom Maguire asks that question and links to the Walter Pincus Washington Post article that quotes a “senior CIA analyst” about WMD intelligence and how it was handled by the Administration:

So, a CIA analyst is criticizing the President anonymously in June for mishandling intelligence. In July, a former ambassador comes forward, also criticizing the Administration’s handling of intelligence. Is the Ambassador simply a professional, detached, objective careerist from the State Department offering his own point of view?

Or is it at all relevant in assessing his credibility to know that he is in bed with a CIA professional? Does knowing that give a hint as to what side he might be on in this discussion?

What Maguire and others are speculating about is that Plame was using her husband to augment the CIA’s own leaking on the Administration’s handling of intelligence. And that given Wilson’s chattiness with the press, is it possible that Plame’s relationship with Wislon was not only “common knowledge” as Andrea Mitchell of NBC said, but got to be known as a result of Wilson’s own efforts to discredit the President?

Did Wilson “out” his own wife?

The fact that Wilson suspected Rove as the leaker as far back as July of 2003 opens up another interesting line of questions. Since Wilson had been talking to the press for months, could Wilson have gotten that information from a journalist who actually talked to Rove?

I think it’s fair to say that the CIA is an executive-branch agency that reports to the president of the United States. The act of outing the name of a national-security asset was a political act. There is a political office attached to the office of the president of the United States, and that political office is headed by Karl Rove. It seems to me a good place to start.

I would have thought a good place to start would have been the Vice President’s office, given the history between the two. We’ll probably have to wait until all the principals - Rove, Judith Miller, Cooper, Scooter Libby, and Novak - lay it all out for us. At that point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wilson-Plame-press connection was the axis of a faction in the CIA that for both political and policy reasons, opposed the war in Iraq.

This is the dirty business of government being exposed to the light of day. On the one hand, you have the White House with a President duly elected that has made the tough decision to go to war. On the other side, you have a political faction at the CIA who can justify their opposition to the Administration by chalking it up as differences in policy. The amazing number of selective leaks prior to the election that constantly put the administration on the defensive with regards to what they knew about WMD before the war was another manifestation of the partisanship of this faction. Given the mountains of intelligence analyses prior to the Iraq war on WMD, to cherry pick opposing views and then leak them to the press was an outrageously partisan attempt to discredit the President.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph that describes this “old guard” faction being in opposition to the President’s re-election, a retired CIA veteran explains the rift:

Bill Harlow, the former CIA spokesman who left with the former director George Tenet in July, acknowledged that there had been leaks from within the agency. “The intelligence community has been made the scapegoat for all the failings over Iraq,” he said. “It deserves some of the blame, but not all of it. People are chafing at that, and that’s the background to these leaks.”

Fighting to defend their patch ahead of the future review, anti-Bush CIA operatives have ensured that Iraq remains high on the election campaign agenda long after Republican strategists such as Karl Rove, the President’s closest adviser, had hoped that it would fade from the front pages.

Other recent leaks have included the contents of classified reports drawn up by CIA analysts before the invasion of Iraq, warning the White House about the dangers of post-war instability. Specifically, the reports said that rogue Ba’athist elements might team up with terrorist groups to wage a guerrilla war.

And this quote from another retired veteran illustrates the spin this faction was directing toward the press:

These have been an extraordinary four years for the CIA and the political pressure to come up with the right results has been enormous, particularly from Vice-President Cheney.

“I’m afraid that the agency is guilty of bending over backwards to please the administration. George Tenet was desperate to give them what they wanted and that was a complete disaster.”

With the simmering rows breaking out in public, the Wall Street Journal declared in an editorial that the administration was now fighting two insurgencies: one in Iraq and one at the CIA.

Having lived there for many years, I know that Washington is an insanely political town. Politics colors everything, from where you eat to what parties you attend. It’s a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week obsession. It should come as no surprise that even war takes a back seat to the jostling for power.

It’s doubtful that Rove will survive. If the President digs in his heels about letting him go, it will only make matters worse. The Special Prosecutor’s investigation will have it’s own leak factory going and every little tidbit that refects badly on Rove will be trumpeted to the skies by both lefty blogs and the MSM. The only thing that could possibly save Rove’s job is a revelation so shocking that it blows both the MSM and lefty blogs out of the water and proves them wrong. If Judith Miller is in jail because she’s protecting herself or some other source (Joe Wilson?) from prosecution, then Rove may be able to weather the storm.

If not, expect Rove’s resignation by the end of the month.

By: Rick Moran at 5:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)