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CIA, Pentagon At War

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    Reports critical of CIA activities fuel speculation about major reform. http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0615/dailyUpdate.html =========== A Temporary Coup By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 8, 2004
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      Reports critical of CIA activities fuel speculation about major


      A Temporary Coup

      By Mark Follman

      Monday 14 June 2004 :Salon.com" -- Author Thomas Powers says the
      White House's corruption of intelligence has caused the greatest
      foreign policy catastrophe in modern U.S. history - and sparked a
      civil war with the nation's intel agencies.

      The U.S. is now waging three wars, says intelligence expert Thomas
      Powers. One is in Iraq. The second is in Afghanistan. And the third
      is in Washington - an all-out war between the White House and the
      nation's own intelligence agencies.

      Powers, the author of "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History
      From Hitler to Al Qaeda," charges that the Bush administration is
      responsible for what is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history
      of U.S. intelligence. From failing to anticipate 9/11 to pressuring
      the CIA to produce bogus justifications for war, from abusing Iraqi
      prisoners to misrepresenting the nature of Iraqi insurgents, the Bush
      White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies they
      corrupted, coerced or ignored have made extraordinarily grave errors
      which could threaten our national security for years. By manipulating
      intelligence and punishing dissent while pursuing an extreme foreign-
      policy agenda, Bush leaders have set spy against U.S. spy and deeply
      damaged America's intelligence capabilities.

      "It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was
      inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything
      since then has been a horrible mistake," Powers says. "The CIA is
      politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House.
      Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -
      what really amounts to a constitutional crisis."

      The bitterest dispute, though not the only one, is between the CIA
      and the Pentagon, whose own secret intelligence unit, the Office of
      Special Plans, aggressively promoted the war on Iraq. While departing
      CIA Director George Tenet played along with the Bush administration -
      a fact which Powers says reveals the urgent need for a truly
      independent intelligence chief - much of the agency is enraged at the
      Pentagon, which put intense pressure on it to produce reports
      tailored to the policy goals of the Bush White House. The simmering
      tensions between the Pentagon, with its troika of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz
      and Feith, and rank and file CIA personnel boiled over in July 2003,
      when the White House trashed the career of veteran CIA operative
      Valerie Plame by leaking her identity. The move was a crude
      retaliation against Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph
      Wilson, who had exposed the Bush administration's specious claim that
      Saddam had sought "yellowcake" from Africa to build a nuclear bomb.

      The struggle between the CIA and the Defense Department reached a
      bizarre climax a few weeks ago when Ahmed Chalabi's office was very
      publicly ransacked by officers working under the command of the CIA;
      the Iraqi exile leader was later accused of leaking vital information
      to Iran, among other allegations. The abrupt fall from grace of the
      man hand-picked by neoconservative policymakers to lead post-Saddam
      Iraq, says Powers, lays bare the brutal turf war between the two

      "It reveals an extraordinary level of bitter combat between the CIA
      and the Pentagon. It's astonishing that the CIA actually oversaw a
      team of people who broke into Chalabi's headquarters - which was paid
      for by the Pentagon - and ransacked the place. The CIA single-
      handedly destroyed him."

      The collapse of U.S. intelligence and the arrogance and extremism at
      the top of the Bush administration are also at the root of the
      torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, Powers says. With U.S. troops
      facing a mounting insurgency from an enemy they couldn't find, Powers
      believes Bush officials signed off on a systematic policy of hardcore
      interrogation in a frantic attempt to deal with the problem. He says
      that while it's unlikely Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave specific
      orders as to what type of abuse should be meted out to the Iraqi
      prisoners, there is strong reason to believe Rumsfeld "issued blanket
      permission for them to turn up the heat."

      In an explosive conjecture, Powers also speculates that the
      Israelis, "who've had the most experience," cooperated with the U.S.
      on the techniques used to humiliate and break Arabs, including sexual

      As for the dubiously timed Tenet resignation - with its fairy-tale
      like cover story of "I'll be spending more time with my family" -
      Powers thinks one possibility is that the CIA director may have been
      forced out after Pentagon officials, enraged by the Chalabi debacle,
      pressured Bush to get rid of him.

      But what troubles Powers the most, he says, is that the Bush
      administration completely subverted American democracy, browbeating
      Congress and the national security agencies to launch a war. "They
      correctly read how the various institutions of our government could
      be used to stage a kind of temporary coup on a single issue: Whether
      or not to go to war with Iraq."

      Salon reached Powers by phone at his office in Vermont.

      Let's start with the problems inside Iraq itself. We know there was a
      dearth of intelligence assets on the ground for years before the war.
      What's your assessment of the situation now?

      This is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the agency, and I
      don't know anybody outside of it who really has a sense of the assets
      they had inside the country then, or what they have there now. But I
      don't think that was the biggest problem.

      The biggest problem has to do with the decision at very high levels
      to look at things in a certain way. There was no shortage of warnings
      in the U.S. government from various branches and offices that the
      postwar period was going to be complicated and difficult. In that
      respect there was no failure of intelligence. But for institutional
      reasons - political reasons - the White House and the Defense
      Department didn't want to hear it. The Defense Department was very
      explicit that they weren't going to pay attention to those studies,
      that they wouldn't seriously consider increasing their estimate of
      how much money and troops would be required - because once that went
      down on a piece of paper Congress would want to see it.

      There is already ample evidence that the abusive treatment of Iraqi
      prisoners proceeded from systematic policy at some level. With U.S.
      forces facing a rising insurgency and a severe lack of intelligence
      infrastructure there, do you think Bush policymakers decided that the
      situation required a kind of dragnet interrogation system? That in
      order to deal with the problem they had to round up anybody remotely
      suspicious and "take the gloves off" - as Rumsfeld ordered done with
      American Taliban John Walker Lindh - in order to figure out who and
      where the enemy was?

      Well, we know Gen. [Geoffrey D.] Miller went from Guantanamo to Iraq
      [last August] in order to beef up the whole intelligence gathering
      apparatus so that we could try to begin to understand who we were
      fighting there. For a long time the administration had been claiming
      we were fighting Baathists and dead-enders, or foreign terrorists
      pouring in across Iraq's borders. Part of the reason for those claims
      was that politically that's what was needed to explain the continuing
      resistance. It was also clear that we didn't really know who we were

      Fallujah is a good example: The administration has never given a
      clear answer as to who we've been fighting there. Our behavior
      suggests that when we finally decided to back off, we had concluded
      that whoever it was didn't pose a direct threat to us. It was a
      resistance to us - but we were perfectly prepared to live with it. We
      turned it over to an Iraqi officer and said, "Hey, you deal with
      this." They didn't have to shoot all the Iraqi insurgents, they
      reached an agreement and the fighting appeared suddenly to just stop.

      How would you connect that to the administration's broader
      interrogation policy?

      I think the attempts at Abu Ghraib - and in many other places, I'm
      sure - to extract information about what was happening on the ground
      were based on a real need. But the military had at least one success
      that suggested how they might do it correctly: tracking down Saddam
      Hussein. As far as I understand it, that was essentially a
      bookkeeping success. They really paid attention to detail, kept very
      good files and eventually identified and located everybody who was
      connected to Saddam, to 10 degrees of separation. They realized that
      somebody would tell somebody else in that network where he was. So
      that kind of complete encompassing of the subject appears to have
      been effective.

      But the notion that Abu Ghraib prison was chaotic and out of control,
      that's what people say who don't want to take responsibility for it.
      I don't believe that for a second. Rumsfeld wouldn't sit down and
      say, "The best way is to photograph these guys pretending to
      masturbate," but I think he did create the circumstances and the
      pressure for that kind of thing - in effect issued blanket permission
      for them to turn up the heat.

      Then you have to ask who actually instructed U.S. interrogators in
      Arab psychology and suggested this would be a good way to get Arabs
      to feel powerless and vulnerable and tell you what you want to know.
      My guess is the people who've had the most experience in that, namely
      the Israelis, who've been at war with Arabs for decades, must've
      cooperated with us on a method. Of course, that's pure speculation on
      my part.

      Clearly this kind of treatment shatters the U.S. relationship to the
      Geneva Accords, not to mention the professed morality of our mission.
      What do you make of the latest Pentagon memo to come to light, which
      said the president could ignore the anti-torture laws?

      The answer seems pretty clear to me. The U.S. government has people
      who specialize in interrogation, and they have a long list of things
      they can't do. But when you're feeling desperate, you simply take
      some of the things from list B, what you're not allowed to do, and
      you move them over to list A, the things you are allowed to do.

      What do you make of the Byzantine twists of the Ahmed Chalabi story?
      By the time photos of his ransacked Baghdad compound filled the
      newspapers, the tale of his rise and fall seemed almost unbelievable,
      the stuff of a spy novel.

      I think it reveals an extraordinary level of bitter combat between
      the CIA and the Pentagon. It's astonishing that things would get to
      such a level, where the CIA actually oversaw a team of people who
      broke into Chalabi's headquarters - which was paid for by the
      Pentagon - and ransacked the place and carried away his computers.
      Who do you think bought those computers? Those are your American tax
      dollars at work.

      That level of internal animosity is amazing. Look at the chronology:
      First you have a moment when the Pentagon announces that it's cutting
      off the funds to Chalabi's intelligence operation. A few days later
      this raid takes place. Well, it looks pretty clear that somebody
      warned the Pentagon this was going to happen, so that they could at
      least cut off his funding and not be caught with their pants down.
      Chalabi was the Pentagon's candidate to run Iraq. Richard Perle [the
      influential neoconservative advisor to the Pentagon] still says that
      the single greatest mistake we've made so far was not putting Chalabi
      in power as soon we got there.

      And who has actually gone into power now? The CIA's man: Iyad Allawi
      [the interim Iraqi prime minister]. That's a dramatic shift. As it
      was, Chalabi didn't appear to be the candidate that [U.N. envoy]
      Lakhdar Brahimi was going to choose, but that invasion of Chalabi's
      office made it an impossibility. The CIA single-handedly destroyed
      him by doing that.

      Chalabi is clearly a shady figure, but given the timing and
      chronology here, do you find the recent charges that he could be
      working for the Iranians believable? Or is it ultimately a smear
      campaign? What's at the center of all this?

      Who knows! [Laughs]. We can only try to follow the logic of where the
      information about the leaked Iranian code would've come from. The
      conversation between Chalabi and the Iranian intelligence office was
      likely collected by the National Security Agency, which is normally
      in charge of that kind of data, who would've then passed it on to
      counterintelligence in the CIA. Or, the CIA might have actually sent
      a team into Chalabi's office to plant bugs or broadcasting devices,
      they might have conducted that type of black-bag operation in order
      to get access to that communication traffic. It's also conceivable
      the [Pentagon's] Defense Intelligence Agency was involved.

      The information about Chalabi could certainly be real, but meanwhile,
      the CIA's guy Allawi apparently benefits by the removal from the
      scene of a principle rival - right before Brahimi gets to choose the
      new government.

      So this is ultimately the CIA fighting back against the Pentagon?

      I think so - can it really be a coincidence that this happens right
      before Brahimi announces the new government? U.S. intelligence knew
      about the compromised Iranian code about six weeks before the raid.
      So why wait till just before Brahimi's announcement? And why the
      large team of people and the very public display of trashing Chalabi
      headquarters and carting everything away? Regardless of the truth,
      when something like this happens, Brahimi is incapable of sorting it
      out. He just has to step away. It's one of those things you can't
      touch with a 10-foot pole.

      I don't know exactly what it all represents, but I'm certain that it
      involves bad blood between the CIA and the Pentagon. It puzzled me at
      first why Tenet would be resigning after this apparent CIA triumph. I
      did wonder if the Pentagon had mustered enough high-level fury to
      reach the president.

      How else do you view Tenet's resignation? The innocuous framing of it
      accompanies perhaps the biggest series of intelligence disasters in
      U.S. history.

      There is no question that over the last couple of years it's become
      clear that the various U.S. intelligence agencies have numerous
      weaknesses and institutional deficiencies. But the biggest problem is
      really the politicization of intelligence under Bush. It's happened
      in two ways. First, because of the politics surrounding 9/11, the
      intelligence agencies have not been able to speak about it honestly
      and directly. Iraq is the other big issue: The intelligence agencies
      have not been able to speak about that honestly and directly either,
      because they've been pressured by the White House, especially before
      the war, to take a certain view.

      That's where all this internal trouble with the intelligence system
      comes from. It's not as if they're all Keystone Kops who can't figure
      out where their left shoes are. It's all about the politics of it.

      And that's only further complicated by the long history of turf wars
      between the agencies, between the FBI and CIA, and now apparently
      between the State Department and the Pentagon intelligence

      Exactly, and now they're all fighting over a policy which represents
      perhaps the single most aggressive and resolute endeavor in the
      history of U.S. foreign relations. It's astonishing, not just that
      President Bush got a bee in his bonnet that he had to invade another
      country and establish a major new American military presence in the
      Middle East, but that he would do it in this way.

      Do you think Tenet essentially was pushed out by the White House?

      Tenet was pushed out by the accumulating circumstances, not because
      he failed to do what Bush wanted him to do, which was essentially two
      things: The first was to not speak too clearly about the warnings
      that he'd given the White House before 9/11. You can be certain that
      it was not easy for Tenet to do that. Tenet has never spoken out
      clearly and said, "I told the president everything he needed to know
      to at least start responding to the threat."

      Secondly, Tenet hasn't spoken clearly on the reason why they got
      Iraqi WMD wrong. And it's not because people in the bowels of the
      agency had it all balled up, it's because in the process of writing
      finished intelligence - which was required to extract a vote for war
      from congress - it got turned on its head at the upper levels of the
      CIA. They found certainty where there wasn't any; the evidence for
      WMD stockpiles and programs was extremely thin. Who else could have
      created this situation besides the policymakers themselves?

      What about the timing of Tenet's departure? It comes in tandem with
      more alerts about terrorist attacks this summer, and right around the
      June 30 transition of power in Iraq. Do you think Tenet was
      explicitly asked to leave?

      I think he was definitely asked to leave. He showed every sign of
      extreme distress.

      And there's been plenty of speculation that has to do with the
      forthcoming congressional reports on 9/11 and Iraq intelligence,
      which won't look good for him.

      The obvious answer is probably the correct one. Tenet would spend all
      his time defending himself against the reports. Everybody knows that
      another guy could run the agency just as well and could run it the
      same way. Bush has even made sure it'll be run the same way by
      keeping the same leadership, with [Deputy Director] John McLaughlin
      taking over. Bush would end up spending a lot of political capital
      fighting for Tenet; it's much simpler just to get him off the stage -
      just like they did with Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in Iraq. Once somebody
      made clear that Sanchez knew about Abu Ghraib, they didn't argue
      about it. They got rid of him.

      What does Tenet's departure say about the state of the agency at a
      critical time for U.S. national security operations?

      The agency is politicized to an extreme. It is under the control of
      the Bush White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved
      political crisis - what really amounts to a constitutional crisis.
      It's somewhat like Iran-Contra, though on a totally different scale.
      The president wanted to go to war. He's supposed to have the support
      of the Congress. How did he get it? Well, his administration made up
      a scary story about imminent dangers.

      Doesn't Tenet's departure make him the fall guy implicitly, even if
      President Bush delivered him cordially?

      Of course the implicit blame is there, and that's one of the reasons
      why he looked and sounded so distressed. He had plenty reason to be;
      there was a cumulative insistence that the CIA had to be at fault. He
      could change that picture dramatically by standing up and
      saying, "Look, you want to know what I really told the president
      before 9/11? Here it is." Obviously that would be quite a bombshell
      and you can be sure the president would never speak to him again.

      I think the truth about what happened at the policy level will
      eventually come out. We know, because it was on paper, that on Aug.
      6, 2001 the CIA gave the president a very explicit warning. When 9/11
      actually occurred, you would expect to look back and see, once the
      distress light was on, various U.S. intelligence and police
      organizations scurrying around frantically responding to the warning.
      But what do you find? Nothing.

      While Tenet appears to have equivocated about Iraqi WMD in some
      instances, we also know that the CIA expressed significant doubt
      about specific intelligence on Iraq long before the war - the bogus
      Niger-uranium report, for example - that the Bush administration
      still used to make its case. How can the administration possibly
      continue to promote the idea that the CIA got it all wrong?

      Well, who else is the administration going to blame? If they don't
      say that, then they would have to ask, "Why did the CIA write a
      report that went in certitude beyond the evidence?" The answer is
      very likely to be, "Because that's what the president wanted, and he
      made sure that was understood."

      Is the war inside the U.S. intelligence system completely off the
      charts historically? Is there any precedent for this?

      I can't think of any. It's not uncommon for the various secret
      branches of the U.S. government to be at odds with each other. The
      CIA quarreled with the Defense Department for years over Soviet
      missiles, but I don't remember anything like this. The CIA was
      present when that team of Iraqi police went in and ransacked
      Chalabi's compound. I mean, that's amazing. The only thing that
      would've made it more amazing was if it had happened in Washington.

      In a way it reminds me of the "Night of the long knives" in 1934, the
      night when Hitler got rid of the Brown Shirts, the street fighting
      organization that had helped the Nazi Party come to power. It was a
      highly organized institution bitterly hated by the army. It was run
      by a bunch of people who were politically ambitious and were direct
      rivals of the group that came into power with Hitler. Literally in
      one night the offices and headquarters of this group were raided and
      many of them were killed in their beds. Immediately all kinds of
      propaganda came out about their low behavior and betrayal. It was an
      internal government bloodletting where one faction just simply swept
      the other off the scene.

      What the CIA did to Chalabi isn't exactly the same, but it makes me
      worry even more about the level of covert fighting inside our own

      Just last week the New York Times reported that the CIA is still
      struggling with a "major flaw" in its operations. A senior agency
      official, Jami Miscik, described conditions still ripe for the
      distortion of information, and similar problems reportedly plague the
      Defense Intelligence Agency. What's your view of the rising chorus
      within Congress to overhaul the intelligence system?

      I think it's a good idea, and I never thought that before. It ought
      to be set up with a devoted Cabinet post, a secretary of intelligence
      who would have a wide range of powers and authority to oversee the
      whole system. But that person can't run everything; each of the
      agencies is distinct for good reasons, and each one has to be run by
      its own chief.

      Separating intelligence and police operations is absolutely
      essential. If you put it all under a single authority it would
      represent the greatest threat by far to American democracy. Other
      countries have proven that. A single intelligence organization will
      abuse the power of secrecy to protect itself - all intelligence
      organizations routinely abuse the power of secrecy to protect

      Just look back at the way we got into this war: There was nobody in
      the public who had the capacity to seriously question the CIA's
      evidence and arguments. We just had to take it on trust.

      And that's a dangerous prospect when you have a White House with an
      inflexible agenda that's in control of the system.

      I think so. I don't know how else to explain getting it completely
      wrong. If you go back and look at Powell's speech at the U.N., he
      makes dozens of claims and not one of them was ever robustly
      confirmed - in fact, almost all of them were completely false. I
      mean, how could he get it that wrong?

      The most important thing to do now is to alter the chain of command.
      I think it makes sense to have the secretary of intelligence serve
      for a four-year term that overlaps presidential terms, an appointment
      that begins at the end of the first year of every presidential term.
      In other words, each president coming into office inherits the
      previous intelligence leader for at least a year. That provides
      continuity and avoids election year politics.

      How do you view the Bush administration in terms of dealing with this
      whole series of intelligence problems that have come to light?

      It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was
      inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything
      since then has been a horrible mistake, one that has made it more
      difficult to fight the war on terror, has driven away allies and
      diminished the degree of cooperation from a number of intelligence
      services and governments in the Arab world. And it promises to get
      worse. This was a completely unnecessary, distracting, expensive war
      that has isolated the United States.

      It seems like there has almost never been direct acknowledgement by
      the White House of any policy problems.

      Yes, but they've done something else which troubles me more than
      anything. They correctly read how the various institutions of our
      government could be used to stage a kind of temporary coup on a
      single issue: Whether or not to go to war with Iraq.

      President Bush used the intelligence system as a blunt instrument,
      and they forced Congress to go along - the Congress was in an almost
      impossible position. When the president uses the maximum power of his
      own office and says, "I am soberly telling you that this is necessary
      for the safety of the country," you gotta listen to the guy. At least



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