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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The CIA 

There are articles all over the blogosphere regarding the Mary McCarthy leak affair that will do the circumstances far greater justice than I can do. The summary facts will suffice: 1) she was busted leaking classified info after failing a polygraph test. 2) There is crosstalk as to whether she admitted she leaked or not. 3) There is a clear connection between McCarthy and Dana Priest of the Washington Post. 4) McCarthy gave $7,500 to Democratic campaign causes in 2004.

There are other intriguing facts in the case: she was a colleague of Richard Clarke's on Clinton's NSC. She ultimately supported bombing the Al Shifa chemical plant in the Sudan as an agreed nexus between Iraq and Al Qaeda chemical weapons development and training, but only after initially opposing it. Lots of good stuff.

Still -- why is the CIA, or at least a part of it, trying to topple an American Presidential administration? This isn't about partisanship. That's too simple. Between Michael Scheuer (the "Anonymous" author of Imperial Hubris, and the CIA agent formerly responsible for the Bin Laden hunt), and the Plame/Wilson fraud and now the McCarthy leakage, it seems to be the case that the CIA bureaucracy is consistently trying to bring down the government. Why?

Let's see. The CIA was the bureaucracy that is my estimation was most responsible for the astounding intelligence failure which allowed 9/11 to happen. Scheuer was an abject failure. Not only did he fail to reel in Bin Laden, but Bin Laden rose to a level of capability which completely outstripped the CIA's ability to manage his threat. Scheuer is invariably credentialized by the MSM when he seeks to undermine the Presidency as the "agent formerly in charge of the Bin Laden team." They conveniently omit the obvious criticism -- his results stunk. He failed. Why should we trust him and his judgment?

Ok, one step more. The CIA was consistently wrong about Saddam. They underestimated his weapons development program before 1991. They were in the dark after 1998. They were utterly without a clue. They sent Wilson to Niger to "investigate" whether Iraq sought yellowcake there. As it turns out, Wilson said no in the New York Times, but Iraq sent its former nuclear intelligence chief, and former yellowcake buyer, to Niger in 1999. So either Wilson incompetently failed in his mission, drew erroneous conclusions or merely lied about it. Take your pick, CIA fails again.

So - most analysts across the political spectrum ought to be able to agree -- the CIA FAILED IN ITS MISSION WITH RESPECT TO AL QAEDA AND IRAQ. This bit is not speculation, merely opinion. The next bit is pure speculation.

What if Bin Laden and Saddam were both CIA "assets"? Creations developed by the US intelligence community to fight another war? It's not really a huge leap to draw this conclusion. Is there such as thing as a "former asset?" Or just a dead one? Osama certainly played his part helping to undermine the USSR in Afghanistan. The US certainly armed the jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan of which Osama became a key leader. Similarly, Saddam was aided by the US in his war with Iran. He was supported overtly by France during the height of the Cold War, to the extent that his run for the nuclear roses was humorously called O-chirac (rather than Osirak).

That might help further explain a certain bureaucratic tenacity against the current administration. I mean, let's face it. The CIA owns the 9/11 failure. Nobody has really rubbed their noses in it, but they should. You could argue that the administration, the press and other government bureaucracies might have been well served to drag the CIA through the mud on it. They didn't, and as a consequence the owners of this failure lived to wage a bureaucratic jihad against the administration, aided and abetted by (of all things) the liberal press. Think about it, every one of these so-called experts -- Scheuer, Clarke, Wilson, Plame, McCarthy -- these are the clowns on the watch as Osama grew in power, grew his network, and ultimately wreaked havoc on the US. They are losers, failures, jokers -- each one. But further -- did they have an allegiance, a stake in preserving the status quo in Iraq, in the Middle East more broadly, in keeping alive the Islamic jihad? If so, why? Can Porter Goss clean this mess up, or will the bureaucratic losers try to consume him in the same way the military bureaucrats are going after Rumsfeld? And with the MSM's help to boot.

Story of the year, missed by your local and national paper.

15 Comments:

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Apr 25, 11:28:00 AM:

Whether or not bin Laden and/or Saddam were CIA assets, it does seem clear that the Bush administration's policy of democratic disruption in the region is hugely threatening to thousands of people in the State Department and the CIA. Why? Because these career professionals are valuable because of their contacts with the people in power throughout the region. If Iraqi and Syrian Ba'athists, Mubarak's guys in Egypt, the Hashemites in Jordan and the Saudi royals are swept from power over the next decade by democratic upheavels, a lot of people in the CIA and State will see a lifetime of intellectual "capital" -- their contacts in those governments -- swept away as well. Also, you have to figure that there are friendships at stake. If you are a mid-level diplomat in the Arab world, you've made a lot of friends in these governments. Who wants to see his friends lose power?

There is also a deep truth in what you say -- whether or not we think the Bush team screwed up, the do-nothing Clinton crowd is hardly credible in its criticisms of the Bushies. One is tempted to quote TR:

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Tue Apr 25, 01:57:00 PM:

Great job, CP. It is impossible to underestimate the incompetence of the CIA and the State Department in the Clinton years, but that incompetence started with their leader. I suspect that even now W does not have a critical mass of his people in their ranks, but one can only hope that by the time he leaves office he'll leave a great legacy for the next administration. Let's hope the next administration has a clear-eyed view of the world.  

By Anonymous Agricola, at Tue Apr 25, 02:22:00 PM:

No friend of the Clintonistas here, but I think counter trey mis-states the start of the era of incompetence on the part of the CIA. Let's start with Watergate, the Church (?) investigations that effectively neutered the CIA, followed by the insanity of Stansfield Turner, DCI appointed by the great President, now Peace Activist a la Ramsey Clark, Jimmy Carter. Here's a link that I found that lays the blame for the politicization of the CIA at the feet of Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan: http://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/story43.html (I hope the link works), written of course by folks asking Clinton to fix the problem. No, the problem started a long time ago, and has many broken parts, among them liberal/conservative views of the world, a unreasonable reliance on non-human intelligence, and general incompetence fed by political influence from Congress and the Administration. Heck, one might even go back to the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. Dispassionate analysis, delivered without fear of consequence, by intelligence professionals, is what we need. It's going to take a very long time to fix our intelligence organs.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Tue Apr 25, 03:04:00 PM:

Agricola,
The statement wasn't that the incompetence first arose during the Clinton years; it was that that the person most responsible for the incompetence during those years was Clinton himself.  

By Anonymous Agricola, at Tue Apr 25, 05:22:00 PM:

Counter Trey,

Thanks for the clarification. My bad. But, I'll stick by my point that each administration, starting long ago, has been faced with incompetence from the CIA, and nobody has done nothing. To your point that Clinton was the worst, I'll second that motion. Wasn't it Deutch who lost his laptop? Jeez....  

By Anonymous larwyn, at Tue Apr 25, 08:33:00 PM:

Not at all an illogical speculation, actually more logical than people risking their
jobs due to BDS. They are trying to protect their jobs and reputations that would
be at very high risk if this is true.

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today
This also ties into the except from the Taranto email today:


"Reader Scott Wright points out this intriguing passage in the Washington Post's Saturday story about Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer fired over alleged press leaks:"

A former intelligence official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said he knew of CIA officials who had refused to attend meetings related to the rendition--or capture and transfer--of suspected terrorists, because of opposition or anxiety about the legality of the practice. "****They believe that if one chamber of Congress goes to the other party, there will be investigations, and those involved could be impoverished by legal fees***."

HERE'S TARANTO:

"This suggests that the interests of Bush foes within the CIA might have diverged, at least for this election cycle, from those of Democrats more broadly. The former, of course, would have loved to see John Kerry* in the White House, for his policies would have been similar to those of the reactionary CIA officers.

But do the CIA reactionaries want a Democratic Congress for the last two years of the administration? Do they want their own agency to become the focus of an Iran-contra-style fight between scandal-hungry, subpoena-wielding Dems and an administration that will be out in less than two years anyway?".....Taranto

****What if that is just "CIA Smoke and Mirrors" and they are really worried
about jobs/legal fees based on Tigerhawks speculation?  

By Blogger Merv, at Tue Apr 25, 09:32:00 PM:

Jim Angle of Fox News interviewed a CIA public affairs officer who flatly contradicts McCarthy's lawyer and states that the person who was fired did admit to leading classified information. You can see the vido of the interview at the Fox News site. You can find it by going to their Politics section. Unless the person fired was someone else the contradiction could not be clearer.  

By Blogger geoffgo, at Tue Apr 25, 09:53:00 PM:

I wouldn't give the whole AQ magilla to the CIA; the FBI under Clinton was equally at fault.

Check out what the FBI biggies (including Freeh and his deputy did to Special Agent in Charge of CT in NY, John O'Neil. Covered, in probably their best piece of work ever, by Nightline in 2002.
"The Man Who Knoew.

O'Neil had AQ nailed, captured Ramsi Yusef in Pakistan, and was about to get the Cole bombers, when his visa was cancelled by the US Amb. to Yemen.

All of this besides Ruby Ridge and Waco.  

By Blogger geoffgo, at Tue Apr 25, 09:56:00 PM:

Sorry,

"The Man Who Knew"  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Wed Apr 26, 11:35:00 AM:

Good post CP. The CIA has plenty of bad "former assets" including:

Saddam Hussien: torturing dictator/Iranian bulwark
Osama bin Laden: terroist chief / freedom-fighter
Luis Posada: terrorist / Political refugee
Take your pick of Nicaragua or Bay of Pigs candidates.

I try not to cast too much blame, because the it's the nature of the CIA to work with bad people. If they didn't, they probably wouldn't be doing the job we expect of them. Moreover I bet there are a dozen we never hear about for every one we do. The CIA knows bad people who do bad things, and sometimes they lose control. Pitting bad guys against each other is fair play. Disturbingly, sometimes the CIA does bad things itself and still loses control. (Running Black Ops prison sites qualifies as bad and a leak is a loss of control.)

To the commenters though, I think it's hilarious how everything is always Clinton's fault. I mean, when Donald Rumsfled met with Saddam Hussien to provide tactical support against the Iranians, when G H Bush's met with OBL to provide weapons and training, when you have the entire Reagan contra-affair... you still come to the conclusion that Clinton's incompetence is the root of all evil in the CIA. It's amazing.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Apr 26, 07:33:00 PM:

It's more like Clinton is responsible for current weaknesses. The national security agencies, including the military, of the US took big hits during his administration because they just kind of assumed they weren't really needed anymore. After all, History(tm) had Ended and if anyone bothered us we could throw cruise missiles and indictments at them.

The OSS generation of CIA employees, who fought and bled in World War II, took risks, and won are gone. The current crop of upper and mid level bureaucrats came in during the relatively tame late 80s and 90s, after the CIA had been neutered. They're corporate managers, concerned with getting to the next pay grade and covering their own asses, not with waging secret wars against foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations. Is it any wonder that the CIA has become terrified of taking risks? Afraid of doing anything dirty because they *know*(!) it'll get leaked to the press? There are reasons that the military has had to build up it's own covert intelligence and action capabilities in the last 20 years. Good reasons. Ref: The Secret Warriors, Covert Military Actions of the Reagan Era, or something like that.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Thu Apr 27, 12:17:00 AM:

Lanky,
Maybe someday you can enlighten me on the connection between Iran-contra and Clinton's intelligence failures.

The only connection I can see: Clinton was a pitiful failure, as were the Democrats who tied Reagan's hands when he tried to support freedom fighters.

As for the need to have the CIA work with bad people, the Democrats--led by Torricelli--made that illegal. Another one of the many lead-ins to 9/11...Church, Torricelli, Gorelick, the list goes on and on. But, the spirit of bipartisanship--which for conservative Republicans means turn the other cheek--assures them of places on the commissions that rewrite history so that people like you can feel good about your party.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Apr 27, 02:35:00 PM:

No offense, but as far as we know the intel budgets grew slowly but steadily in the 90's. (Two years were accidentally released, and current estimates are not massively higher than in those years.) This budget goes through Congress, and any criticism of intel results must include the oversight of Congress, which was of course controlled by the Republicans from 1994. So Clinton did not eviscerate the intel agencies.

As for the cruise missiles and indictments bit, when Clinton did propose various attacks, even an invasion of Iraq, he was rapidly accused of "wagging the dog". When he cut back and decided to try smaller actions, he was accused of not doing enough (as you seem to think). This is a no-win sucker's analysis, and his inaction is traceable to the influence of the false Whitewater claims and the Lewinsky affair - trumped up foolishness that was the actual source of the crippling indecision at the top during the Clinton years.

So if you want to blame someone, better call the GOP. Clinton's foreign policy was largely their creation. They wanted him to look bad, and that's an area that Congress can influence. Simple as that.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Apr 27, 07:48:00 PM:

Note: Budget does not equal capability.

I found an article here from the NY Times at FAS that does not agree with you. According to this (published 1993) Clinton wanted a small budget increase as a prelude to large cuts and had to fight with his Democratic allies (with Republican support) to do that because the Democrats wanted to slash the intel budgets immediately.

http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1993_cr/s930421-budget.htm

A second article here (http://houston.indymedia.org/print.php?id=17491) says that the intelligence budget in 1995 was 20% less than it was in 1987 (looks like those cuts alluded to in the other article went through) with, again, the Republicans arguing for an increase but settling for a halt in cuts.

I did a search for "Clinton did propose various attacks, even an invasion of Iraq," and "Clinton attacks Iraq" and didn't come up with anything that even remotely claimed that Clinton proposed an invasion; rather, it all says that he timed bombardments of Iraq to coincide with his impeachment and ended it the same day he was acquited. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Desert_Fox)

Also, it is a long established Contitutional truism that the President is supreme in foreign policy. The two things that Congress can affect with regard to foreign policy are 1) ratifying treaties (which in many cases can be sidestepped via executive agreements anyway) and 2) ratification of ambassadors, and in both cases, only by the Senate. (which was still Democrat majority at the time, right? I forget) And since the ambassador follows the orders of the president anyway, it's not terribly important who gets the position.

No offense, but it looks like you're flat wrong.

Second, and this is only my opinion, a president who would pass on doing what he thinks is best for the country because of a distracting political scandal doesn't have the balls to hold the office.

Lastly, implying that a Congress would intentionally sabotage US foreign policy (if they could) to make a sitting President look bad is simplistic cynicism bordering on delusion.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Apr 28, 10:11:00 AM:

Thanks for the budget information. However, as you note, Clinton was unable to cut the intel budget in a large way. Going back to 87 is a bit disingenuous, since that was about the height of the Reagan buildup - everything military and intel was cut between 87 and 93 due to the recession; that's not Clinton's fault, which I why I looked at the mid-90's. Remember, the assertion was that Clinton eviscerated the intel community, and that's not true, even by your evidence. (If we are not going by budgets, then subjectively, you can think what you like about capabilities, but that's not really evidence. Even people who were there disagree on this topic, judging by the interviews.)

Bush explained shortly after 9/11 that he had inherited a policy of "regime change" in Iraq from Clinton. I believe some of Clinton's advisors have stated that this was actually on the table in discussions that led up to the bombings - actions that he'd been long urged to take by Republicans, but as I noted were then attacked as wagging the dog. So yes, Clinton did actively consider invading Iraq, as did Bush before 9/11, but was advised to settle for a more symbolic attack for political reasons. That's my understanding.

All presidents at times pass on doing what they think is right for political reasons. Or are you arguing that the multi-hundred million dollars spent by Republicans and taxpayers vilifying Clinton was ineffective? On the contrary, Ralph Reed and Gingrich and Norquist and others put together one of the finest political character assassination campaigns in history. Bush himself has given up several of his large initiatives because of scandals in the White House and ongoing issues in Iraq. I don't think that makes him gormless, it just shows that politics affects the Presidency.

As for Congress intentionally sabotaging foreign policy, Cheney and others have asserted this many times about Democrats and centrist Republicans, and certainly Congress exercised it's right to squawk in the 90's too. Far from being delusional, it's rational to recognize that Congress can and does try to affect the Executive in it's courses on foreign policy, and it's often done for political reasons. Heck, even the "wag the dog" statements show this principle at work. Clinton's experience with the Republican-controlled Congress was no exception.

Look, my main point here is that Clinton is not the Source Of All Incompetence. It's been five years with Bush, and still people reach back to Clinton to answer any problem. I myself wonder why we still have many of the problems we saw before 9/11, and obviously, that's Bush's to fix, and he hasn't. Clinton was not perfect - I voted for Bush I - but neither is he solely to blame for the CIA problems and other issues, and Bush deserves criticism for not acting decisively and objectively to solve these problems. He's had motivation, opportunity and time, and so far, we are walking into the same mistakes we made with Iraq.  

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