Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Office of Strategic Influence

"The neoconservatives who have taken us down this path are actually very few in number. It is a small pack of zealots whose dedication has spanned decades, and that through years of selective recruitment has become a government cult with cells in most of the national security system. Among those cells are the secretive Office of Special Plans in the Department of Defense (reportedly now disbanded) and a similar operation in the State Department that is managed in the office of Under Secretary for Disarmament John Bolton. ….

"….They are clustered at the National Security Council (NSC), in the Defense and State Departments, and within Vice President Cheney’s own parallel national security office. That particular little-known organization – not accountable to Congress and virtually unknown to the American people – should be completely dismantled. Never in the history of our democracy has there been established such an influential and pervasive center of power with the ability to circumvent long-standing and accepted reporting structures and to skew decision-making practices. It has been described to me chillingly by a former senior government official as a coup d’etat …." – The Politics of Truth; Joseph Wilson; pages 432 & 434.

As the Scooter Libby criminal trial unfolds, it is important to keep in mind that the operation to damage Joseph and Valerie Wilson took place on four distinct levels. There is, of course, a certain amount of over-lapping among these four layers. Thus, the recent media focus on the activities of Douglas Feith may provide an opportunity to promote a greater understanding of the relationship between the Plame scandal and the purposeful lying about "intelligence" that brought this nation to war in Iraq.

The first level that is involved is the Office of the Vice President (OVP). For our discussion, this generally refers to Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby. The vice president also had linkages with other high-ranking officials, of course; the most important may have been the relationship he enjoyed with Donald Rumsfeld. At this time, I assume that readers are familiar with the history between Rumsfeld and Cheney. Their relationship allowed for the dangerous linkages found at the second level.

The second level is the intelligence operations created by the "cells" that Wilson spoke of. "They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal – a small cluster of policy advisors and analysts who were based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans," Seymour Hersch noted in "Chain of Command." (page 207) The OSP was set up to "find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true" – evidence to convince the American public that Iraq posed a threat to our national security.

Douglas Feith, who played a leadership role in the OSP, has a curious history. He was "fired from a job in the National Security Council early in the Reagan years for leaking classified information" to a foreign country. (A Pretext for War; James Bamford; 2005 edition; page 404) Feith, who is tied to the current neoconservative/AIPAC espionage scandal, would get in touch with his associate David Wurmser, who at the time was in the State Department, and ask him "to set up a small and very secret intelligence unit in his office." (Bamford; page 288) Wurmser’s unit, called the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, focused its efforts on discrediting the CIA analysis that indicated that Iraq posed no threat to the USA. In time, Wurmser would transfer to the OVP, and the OSP would absorb the PCEG.

Feith also created "the Orwellian-sounding Office of Strategic Influence" (Bamford; page 296), which was to coordinate "a massive disinformation factory" with the Rendon Group. This type of disinformation campaign attempts to convince people that their friends are really their foes, and their foes are actually their allies. For example, the Feith group would attempt to discredit MSNBC’s Hardball, which exposed the OVP’s purposeful lies on WMD, among progressive democrats.

Feith & Friends are mentioned in Thomas Ricks’ "Fiasco." He quotes the Marine General who served as operations director for the Joint Staff as saying they "were essentially an extra-governmental organization … (operating) in the shadows" (page 55) Also, on page 167, he quotes an administration official as saying, "Feith ought to be drawn, quartered, and hung."

The third level was the secretive White House Irag Group, which included high-ranking officials from the Office of the President and the OVP. Bamford writes that "its job was to sell the war to the general public, largely through televised addresses and by selectively leaking the intelligence to the media." (page 318) The WHIG was focused on presenting the "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" propaganda.

The fourth level is found embedded in the corporate news media. It includes a wide range of journalists. In the Libby trial, we are seeing that a significant amount of the Washington press corps is dependant upon the table scraps from groups like the WHIG for leads for their stories. This is one of the major factors that influenced what was presented as "news" to the public in the build-up to the war.

Even after Joseph Wilson exposed the OVP for purposefully lying to this country about Saddam and WMDs, few journalists dared to tell the truth On page 440 of his book, Wilson describes his attempts to "piece together the truth about the attacks on myself and the disclosure of Valerie’s employment by carefully studying all the coverage and by speaking confidentially with members of the press who have been following the story. A number of them have been candid with me in our private conversations but unwilling to speak publicly with the same candor. When I asked why the reporting on the story has not been more aggressive, I have received responses that are very disturbing. A reporter told me that one of the six newspeople who had received the leak stated flatly that the pressure he had come under from the administration in the past several months to remain silent made him fear that if he did his job and reported on the leak story, he would ‘end up in Guantanamo’ – a dark metaphor for the career isolation he would suffer …" Journalists felt threatened, pure and simple. Again, Rove’s call to Chris Matthews was a threat that was intended to convey the message that the administration would go after their enemies’ families.

The weak and pathetic nature of many of the "leading" journalists has been put on display during the Libby trial. Yet, this alone does not explain all that went on. For example, Libby clearly was tasked by Cheney to leak the "declassified" NIE to specific journalists, but not to others. The reason is that a minority of the journalists are used by the forces found within the second level , as opposed to the third level. In other words, some journalists coordinate with the shadowy sources in the OSP-type groups, rather than simply the WHIG. These are those few "journalists" who enjoyed the greatest access to classified information.

Scooter Libby inhabited the top three levels. His defense strategy is centered on making the Plame scandal appear to be a simple misunderstanding between people in the White House, attempting to "correct" the "false stories" that Joseph Wilson was spreading about the vice president. The truth about the scandal, however, is found between the OVP, the OSP, and those "few" journalists.


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