Water Man Spouts

Monday, September 25, 2006

544 Camp Street

{1} "The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to a new class of 'self-generating' cells inspired by Al Qaeda's leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lietenants."
-- Mark Mazzetti; Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat; NY Times; 9-24-06

The reports about the increased threats caused by the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq expose the lies of the administration in significant ways. The National Intelligence Estimate that Mazzetti and others are reporting on "represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services" of the federal government. This NIE, titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," notes that the war in Iraq is serving as a training ground for militants who may return to their countries of origin, thus "exacerbating domestic conflicts or formenting radical ideologies."

Mazzetti also reports that in recent months, a number of senior intelligence officers are using information from the NIE in public speeches. There are, of course, some who will demand that this report indicates that the country needs to follow the administration's policies in order to be safe. But there is a growing trend in which military and other intelligence officers are attempting to communicate a very different message to the American public.

An interesting example of this can be found in the book "Enemies," by Bill Gertz. The Washington Monthly has called Gertz "legendary among national security reporters" because of his unique access to US intelligence agencies. The book "Enemies" includes a number of previously unpublished classified documents, as well as interviews with senior intelligence officials, that examine the issue of espionage.

"Spying" isn't new in the United States. It has been an issue since the Revolutionary War. It isn't an issue that can be blamed entirely on the Bush-Cheney administration. But it is important to consider it in relationship to the NIE, and to consider how "self-generating" intelligence cells within the administration have put the nation at risk.

{2} "One U.S. official said the FBI had unconfirmed information that Mr. Feith supplied information to Israel in the 1980s. However, the officials declined to provide further information citing the ongoing investigation. It could not be learned whether arrests are expected in the case."
-- Bill Gertz; Pentagon aide draws scrutiny from FBI; The Washington Times; 8-28-04

In this 8-28-04 article, Bill Gertz was reporting on what has become known as the "neocon/AIPAC espionage scandal." The FBI was investigating a senior Pentagon official who was suspected of passing a draft presidential directive that concerned US policy towards Iran, to a couple people who were employed by a private group, who then passed it on to a foreign intelligence officer. Gertz noted that "the suspected mole works in the office of Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy who is considered one of the top three officials in the Pentagon." The two men from AIPAC are presently waiting to go on trial for their role in coordinating the effort to pass highly classified information to the foreign intelligence agent.

On 8-31-04, The Boston Globe's Bryan Bender reported that there was a second probe of the Pentagon, relating to the "self-generating" intelligence cells that Feith oversaw. Bender noted that the "Senate Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee staff members say inquiries into the Near East and South Asia Affairs division have found preliminary evidence that some officials gathered questionable information on weapons of mass destruction from exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi without proper authorization, which helped build President Bush's case for an invasion last year. The investigators are also looking into a more serious concern: whether the office engaged in illegal activity by holding unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals to destabilize Syria and Iran....said one senior congressional investigator who has longtime experience in intelligence oversight."

The offices being investigated were run by William Luti, the former Navy captain who served as an adviser to Newt Gingrich when he was the Speaker of the House, and Douglas Feith. Luti, of course, was identified by Seymour Hersch in his classic 2003 New Yorker article as running "a separate intelligence unit .... in the Pentagon's policy office," which "stovepiped" intelligence to the Office of the Vice President. Luti's Office of Special Plans, as Joseph Wilson noted, short-circuited the established intelligence community. When we consider that Newt Gingrich himself has been identified as being one of the heads of the OVP/WHIG meetings that were aimed at doing a "work up" on Ambassador Wilson, the overlapping operations of these self-generating intelligence cells becomes apparent.

Bender identifies another intell-cell, the "now defunct Policy Counterterrorism Coordination Group," which was set up to identify the links between al Qaeda and state sponsors including, of course, Iraq. The neoconservatives claimed that the OSP and PCCG never gathered intelligence, but rather limited their efforts to reevaluating previous findings. But this was exposed as untrue when it was found that several Pentagon officials had held meetings with foreign intelligence agents, including Ahmed Chalabi, Manucher Ghorbanifar, and Imad el Hage.

{3} " 'People are concerned about covert action being conducted by a policy office with no legal mandate to do so,' said one Democratic official involved in the Judiciary Committee inquiry. 'If the Senate and House intelligence committees in their review only look at the Chalabi relationship but don't look at the office's role in what was in effect covert action to explore regime change in the entire arc of the Middle East, then their inquiry will be a joke'."
-- Bryan Bender; 2nd probe at Pentagon examines actions in Iraq; Boston Globe; 8-31-04

Larry Franklin, the Pentagon official who passed the intelligence reports to the AIPAC officials, who passed the information on to a foreign intelligence agent, was also involved in other illegal activities. Franklin and Harold Rhode met secretly with Ghorbanifar, the arms dealer from the Iran-Contra scandals, in Italy and France. Ghorbanifar has said the meetings were held to discuss efforts to destabilize Iran.

The second meeting was not authorized by the Pentagon. It reportedly involved discussions about an exchange of money between the US officials and Iranians, including Mujahedin-e Khalq. This group, which was advocating regime change in Iran, is recognized by the US State Department as a terrorist organization.

Bender reported that another Near East official, F. Michael Maloof, was being investigated for having engaged in back-channel efforts to destabilize Syria. Maloof was suspected of coordinating efforts with Lebanese-American weapons runner Imad el Hage, and with hard-line former Lebanese general Michel Aoun. Maloof's security clearance was reportedly stripped in 2003, when a handgun registered in his name was found in Hage's possession.

Two fascinating reports on "War and Piece: International News & Commentary" were posted by Laura Rozen on August 27 and 31, 2004. In the second one, she wrote, "What's at issue here? Two things: Whether these alleged Feith office back channels were authorized or not by the administration; and secondly, whether they were not just about intelligence gathering [which would be problematic in and of itself], but if they had aspirations to be operational."

Rozen makes reference to a 10-14-03 Knight Ridder article by Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel that documented that Feith's office had requested that money be paid to Ghorbanifar. They quote a classified message from Harold Rhode, a Farsi-speaking official from the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessments, who wrote that he had "made contact with Iranian intelligence officers who anticipate possible regime change in Iran and want to establish contact with the United States government. ... A sizable financial interest is required ..."

Reportedly, when Colin Powell and George Tenet found out about this, they immediately complained to Donald Rumsfeld. Powell was told that deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley had been informed, and had prohibited further contacts between the Pentagon cells and the Iranians. Still, Franklin and Rhode met secretly with the Iranian intelligence agent in Paris a few months later.

{4} "So far, the commentariat and blogosphere (both left and right sides) have been curiously quiet about the news that Pentagon official Larry Franklin was arrested for improperly passing classified information to AIPAC. Last summer, you may recall, there was quite a bit of analysis -- from colleagues I respect and admire -- downplaying this. Despite the arrest and gravity of the charges, the NY Sun is continuing to pooh-pooh Franklin's alleged actions. 'To us this sounds more like sandy Berger or John Deutch than it does, say, Jonathan Pollard,' The Sun says. Uh, really Both Berger and Deutch mishandled classified information -- but neither was accused of passing on that information to others, as Franklin allegedy did. There is, as they saw, a war going on. Franklin's alleged actions are scandalous. The apologists and apathetic are troubling."
-- Michelle Malkin; The National Security Scandal No One's Talking About; 5-5-05

It seems strange that the corporate media does not seem willing to cover the Franklin/AIPAC espionage scandal. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball had covered it briefly in a Newsweek article "And Now a Mole?" But Isikoff and co-author David Corn make no mention of the scandal in their new book "Hubris." As I noted in a recent essay, the connections between the Plame and the Franklin/AIPAC pionage scandals are numerous, and include characters such as Elliot Abrams and David Wurmser.

On August 9, 2006, Judge Ellis ruled against the AIPAC defendants effort to have the case against them thrown out. Among the issues they raised was that the case posed a threat to a free press. I think it does, though in exactly the opposite reason than the one they cite. In an up-coming essay, I will focus on the significance of Ellis's recent ruling. But, for today, I think we could agree that the Bush administration has made the world a more dangerous place in two ways: first, by the invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in an increase of the self-generating extremists cells that threaten to disrupt countries beyond the Middle East; and second, by allowing the spread of self-generating intelligence cells within the executive branch, that threaten the very groups that are most capable of providing the intelligence analysis and operations that protect our country.


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