John Hannah Allegedly Focus of Plame Probe
Richard Sale, respected intelligence reporter for UPI, has given credibility to a story that had been rumored for several weeks . It is that the FBI investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame is increasingly focusing on two officials in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and John Hannah. Sale assures me that the information is solid.
Last summer, former ambassador Joseph Wilson went public about his 2002 report refuting the allegation that Saddam tried to buy Niger uranium. Someone in the Bush administration attempted to punish him by identifying his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative involved in trying to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The information was given to the press, but only one reporter, CNN commentator Robert Novak, was sleazy enough to publish it. (Outraged readers should please email CNN demanding that they fire Novak for having wilfully damaged US national security). Novak did not commit a crime. But whatever Bush administration official leaked the information to him did.
Libby and Hannah form part of a 13-man vice presidential advisory team, sort of a veep NSC, which helps underpin Cheney’s dominance in the US foreign policy area. Hannah is a neoconservative and old cold warrior who is really more of a Soviet expert than a Middle East expert. But in the 90s he for a while headed up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank that represents the interests of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Hannah is said to have been behind Cheney’s and consequently Bush’s support for refusing to deal with Yasser Arafat. But he was also deeply involved in getting up the Iraq war.
If Hannah and Libby initiated the outing of Valerie Plame, why? Of course, both their involvement and their motives can only be speculated about at this point. But on December 9, Newsweek reported that:
“a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two ‘U.S. governmental recipients’ for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, ‘defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed’; the info was then reported to, among others, ‘appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.’ The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a ‘principal point of contact’ for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number. The only other U.S. official named as directly receiving the INC intel is William Luti, a former military adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, after working on Cheney’s staff early in the Bush administration, shifted to the Pentagon, where he oversaw a secretive Iraq war-planning unit called the Office of Special Plans.”
It is possible that Wilson posed a special danger to Hannah, since Hannah was at the center of the “cherry-picking bad intelligence” effort that led Cheney to maintain that Saddam and Bin Laden were Siamese twins and that Iraq was floating in biological and chemical weapons and within 3-5 years of having an atomic bomb. (All of these positions, which Cheney has repeatedly alleged, are completely false and were known to be in 2002 by anyone not wearing ideological blinders). Hannah had fingers in all three rotten pies from which the worst intel came–Sharon’s office in Israel, the Pentagon Office of Special Plans (for which Hannah served as a liaison to Cheney), and fraudster Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. Hannah had probably been the one who fed Cheney the Niger uranium story, triggering a Cheney request to the CIA to verify it and thence Joe Wilson’s trip to Niamey in spring of 2002, where he found the story to be an absurd falsehood on the face of it.
The WINEP pro-Likud network, which includes Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith in the Pentagon as well as Libby and Hannah at Cheney’s office, has virtually dictated Bush administration Middle East policy. Wilson’s debunking of one of its central claims might well have led Cheney to fire Hannah or to disregard his opinion. The WINEP crowd takes no prisoners and is very determined, over decades, to get its way. (Josh Marshall notes that they are already trying to protect Hannah with denials he could possibly have been involved, presumably meaning that they would be willing to throw Libby to the dogs.) Wilson had to be punished, from their point of view, and if possible marginalized, to protect Hannah’s position. Being male chauvinist pigs, they appear to have hoped to show that Wilson’s trip was the result of nepotism or of female influence, and that Plame had recommended her husband for the job (an unfounded charge). Somehow they seemed to think that this allegation would help discredit Wilson, but to this day I haven’t figured out their weird reasoning on the matter.
It is also possible that they were worried that Wilson’s opinion piece might encourage more whistle blowers to step forward. Hannah and the Iraqi National Congress are being accused of peddling patently false “intelligence.” This is a criminal enterprise, and there was always the danger that others in Plame’s department at the agency, which specializes in preventing weapons proliferation, might be tempted to find ways of revealing the extent of Hannah’s bad faith. Hannah may have wanted to send a clear signal that whistleblowers would have their careers ruined, as Valerie Plame’s was, as a way of ensuring that the details of his operation did not become public.
Sale is digging. Stay tuned.