By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency counter-terrorist center and FBI National Security Branch, has been on CNN maintaining that there was a big difference between how the intelligence agencies were treated by the Bush administration and how the PEOTUS is treating them. He said that he was grilled on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction by the Republican congress, but that he was treated with respect. He complains that Donald J. Trump is being disrespectful to intelligence professionals.
With all due respect to Mr. Mudd (and I sincerely mean that), what he is saying makes no sense. Everyone knows that the Bush cabinet hated the CIA for not going along with its phony allegations of Iraqi biological and nuclear weapons. (The one lapse was a hastily assembled NIE produced under pressure from then vice president and unindicted felon Richard Bruce Cheney). Iraq didn’t have such weapons and in 2002 when the press for war was made, did not even have programs.
The main point is that while Bush and his cohort had a rule that they did not trash talk people in public, they displayed the utmost disrespect for intelligence professionals who would not turn weasel and tell them (and the public) what they wanted to hear. How could you disrespect intelligence professionals more than to set aside their analysis in favor of the talking points of Neoconservative hacks or to out them, putting their lives and those of their contacts in danger? And what more dangerous course than to go to war against the grain of the analysis of the trained professionals? The difference between Trump and Bush is only a matter of rhetorical style, and Trump hasn’t had the opportunity yet to endanger America the way Bush and the Neoconservatives did.
Here are four egregious examples of the Bush-Cheney (and especially Cheney) attack on CIA professionals:
A fraudulent document was circulated by former Italian and French intelligence officer with a businessman cover, Rocco Martino, purporting to be a purchase statement by the Niger government regarding an alleged buy of uranium by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. It was apparently taken seriously by British intelligence, but it was an obvious fraud, since the officials who allegedly signed it were not any longer in office on the date of the document. The whole thing may have been a project of Italian military intelligence, which has strong connections to surviving fascist circles in Italy, and is also connected to Michael Ledeen, Washington poobah who is now close to the Trumpies. (H/t to Josh Marshall who researched all this). My guess is that US Neoconservatives used Ledeen as a conduit to the Italian intelligence Neofascists, and put in an order for such a hoax.
American CIA analysts looked at the document and quickly concluded that it was a fraud. Despite enormous pressure from Bush-Cheney officials, the Neoconservatives, the State Department and the CIA refused to go along with Bush’s desire to include a reference to the forgery in his 2003 State of the Union Address. Bush (or David Frum?) therefore put it this way: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
This way of lying while seeming to tell the truth. What Bush really did was to disregard the State Department’s Intelligence and Research department and the CIA analysts and to find any alternative to this homegrown Washington expertise. In other words, Bush appealed to MI6 in just the way that Trump is appealing to Julian Assange. Both over-ruled their own intelligence professions.
2. In late 2005, Bush closed the Alec Station, the unit within the CIA that was tasked with finding Bin Laden. Bush directed intelligence resources instead toward Iraq, which he had illegally invaded and occupied under false pretenses. The CIA was not happy. The former head of the unit reacted, “This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda . . . These days at the agency, bin Laden and Al Qaeda appear to be treated merely as first among equals.” And of course al-Qaeda did experience a resurgence. Indeed, the Iraq al-Qaeda affiliate morphed into Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).
3. In late 2005, someone on the Bush National Security Agency attempted to enlist the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA in violating the Agency’s charter by having them investigate and smear a US citizen on American soil (me). A group of analysts who objected to the whole episode later blew the whistle on it, including Glenn L. Carle, the bravest man in Washington. They went public because they knew that what had been done, having the agency tasked to operate on US soil with regard to an innocent American, could have deeply damaged it. The irony is that in those days I was trying to help destroy al-Qaeda and frequently gave briefings and presentations to inter-agency audiences that included CIA analysts (and no, I was never an agent), attempting to help get them up to speed on the particulars of the challenge. And the Bushies stabbed us all in the back the same way they did Valerie Plame (see #4).
4. Bush-Cheney even went so far as to deliberately out a serving CIA field officer with a non-official cover (a NOC, who would be disavowed if captured by the enemy; unfortunately she was captured by Bush-Cheney). Younger readers may not know the Valerie Plame story, so here is a reprint edition from February 10, 2006, of it. [Valerie’s later thrillers are well worth reading.]
Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents
Once upon a time, a former agent of Italian military intelligence named
Rocco Martino, who had had some experience in the African country of Niger, came into possession of some forged, fraudulent documents.
These alleged Iraqi purchases of yellowcake uranium in 1999. In fact, the signatures were of Nigerien officials who had been in power a decade earlier, in the late 1980s.
So they were clumsy forgeries. Martino passed them on to the Italian magazine Panorama, which passed them to the US embassy.
Tantalizingly, President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, has an indirect connection to Italian intelligence.
Rove’s chief adviser on Iran policy is Neoconservative wildman and notorious warmonger Michael Ledeen,
who has a longstanding connection to the darker corners of Italian intelligence.
Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney heard of the alleged uranium purchase.
Cheney asked George Tenet to look into the allegation.
The issue went to the Directorate of Operations secret unit on counter-proliferation. Among the field officers there was Valerie Plame Wilson, who had spent her life fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under cover of a dummy corporation.
Valerie Plame Wilson was married to former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had served bravely as acting ambassador in Iraq in 1990, and when threatened by Saddam he showed up to a press conference wearing a hanging noose instead of a necktie. President George H. W. Bush highly praised him.
Joe Wilson had not only served in Iraq, he also had been ambassador to the West African countries of Gabon and Sao Tome, and spoke fluent French. When Plame Wilson’s superiors brought up the possibility of sending him as a private citizen to look into the plausibility of the report that Saddam had bought Nigerien uranium, she was consulted and agreed (she was not part of the decision loop).
He went, and soon saw that the uranium industry in Niger was actually under the control of French companies and was strictly monitored.
There was no possibility of corrupt Nigerien officials selling it off under the table.
Fulford quickly came to the same conclusion as Wilson, that it was implausible that al-Qaeda or anyone else could secretly buy uranium from Niger.
Wilson came back and was orally debriefed by people who wrote a report for Tenet, expecting that Tenet would pass it on to the high officials of the Bush administration.
Wilson was amazed when the Niger uranium story was put into Bush’s State of the Union address.
wanted Secretary of State Colin Powell to make allegations about Saddam and al-Qaeda before the United Nations Security Council. Powell was also pressed by someone to bring up the Niger uranium story.
Powell is said to have exclaimed, “I’m not reading this bullshit!”
Libby appears to have been a big influence on the speech Powell gave, almost every detail of which was inaccurate, and at which United Nations officials who heard it openly laughed.
After the war, Wilson wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he revealed his mission and again called into question the Bush administration assertion that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program.
Cheney was extremely upset by Wilson’s op-ed. He saw it as an allegation that he had personally sent Wilson and then ignored Wilson’s report. Or at least that was the spin. But Wilson had said no such thing in the article. He simply said that Cheney had asked Tenet to look into the story, which Cheney probably did.
Cheney was afraid that if the American public became convinced that there had been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war effort would collapse, along with all those billions of no-bid uncompetitive contracts for Halliburton.
Cheney, it has now come out, then authorized Libby to leak the classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to the press.
The NIE, which may have been produced under pressure from Cheney himself, had incorrectly suggested that Iraq was only a few years from having a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iraq did not have an active weapons program at all after the early 1990s when it was dismantled by the UN inspectors. The pre-war NIE in any case was just old bad intelligence, which was contradicted by David Kay’s team on the ground in post-war Iraq, which just wasn’t finding much.
Libby now began telling reporters that Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative, itself classified information, since she was an undercover operative.
Karl Rove engaged in the same routine. Apparently Cheney, Rove and Libby (and Bush?) believed that Wilson’s credibility would be undermined if the Washington press corps could have it intimated to them that his story was a CIA plant.
Robert Novak used the information given him by the White House staff to out Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover operative. Her career was ruined. All her contacts in the global South were burned, and their lives put in danger. The CIA’s careful project combating weapons of mass destruction collapsed.
The same administration that alleges it should be able to listen to our phone calls at will for national security purposes deliberately undermined US security for petty political purposes, making us all much less safe.
The likelihood is that the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove so far revealed are only the tip of the iceberg.
*The iceberg artwork, signed “Monk,” is mirrored on several sites on the internet; I can’t find any that seems the original but am glad to give credit if it is sought. It easily comes up on a google.images search. See Inflatable Dartboard.