February 12, 2005

CIA Bin Laden Unit Head Believes in Conspiracy Theories

The WSJ's Best of the Web reports on a public forum in which Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bid Laden who wrote the anonymous book called "Imperial Hubris", says that Israel is carrying on a massive, covert operation that has suppressed open discussion of Israel in the United States. But he doesn't actually have any evidence, except that the U.S. is pro-Israel, a policy he's happy enough with ("I've tried to be very clear in saying we have an alliance with the Israelis. We have a moral obligation to try to work through this issue, if we can.") He says:

I always have thought that there's nothing too dangerous to talk about in America, that there shouldn't be anything. And it happens that Israel is the one thing that seems to be too dangerous to talk about. And I wrote in my book that I congratulate them. It's probably the most successful covert action program in the history of man to control--the important political debate in a country of 270 million people is an extraordinary accomplishment. I wish our clandestine service could do as well.

. . .

Questioner: I'm curious--Gary Rosen from Commentary magazine. If you could just elaborate a little bit on the clandestine ways in which Israel and presumably Jews have managed to so control debate over this fundamental foreign policy question.

. . .

Scheuer: Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress--that's a clandestine activity, a covert activity. . . .

It is not unreasonable to say that America is very pro- Israel and that any politician, at least, who says we should be anti-Israel will get heavy criticism and lose votes. But it is a big step further to conclude that this is due to covert action by a foreign government, especially for someone, like Scheuer, who can't think of any actual examples. The pro-Israel atmosphere is easily explained by the pro-Israel position of American Jews, Evangelicals, neoconservatives, and assorted people who like democracy and Western civilization but dislike corruption, poverty, and blowing up children. Even if you're prefer conspiracy theories, that leaves you with 3 that are more realistic than the Israeli government theory--- pin it on the Jews, the Evangelicals, or the neoconservatives instead.

What is shocking is that it is the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit that is saying these things. Another sign that Mr. Goss needs to fire a lot of people in the CIA!

P.S. Scheuer has also been criticized for saying last November that Osama bin Laden is "in many ways . . . an admirable man." I don't mind it when people say true things, and that is a true thing. Someone doesn't rise to be a prominent figure without having some admirable qualities. Hitler, Stalin, Clinton, and Michael Jackson all are in some ways admirable. The problem is the whole package is despicable. Bin Laden, in fact, seems to have more integrity than any of the four other figures I mentioned, even if he is wrong in his beliefs and methods, and deserves to die for them.

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November 20, 2004

Reforms at the CIA; Tenet's Political Partisanship against Bush

I've commented before on the CIA's hostility to President Bush, here and on this good National Review article and in relation to the Plame-Wilson affair.. The Weekly Standard has a couple of good articles on what is happening now that Bush has replaced Director Tenet with Goss, who is already driving officials from the agency. From ""Anonymous" Names Names: Former CIA counterterrorism expert Michael Scheuer reveals who it was at the agency who gave him "carte blanche" to criticize President Bush":


Scheuer told reporters on Friday that, traditionally, he would have to arrange interviews through the CIA public affairs office. Each interview would have to be cleared before Scheuer was allowed to talk. With Imperial Hubris, however, that wasn't the case. The book's advance publicity had hyped the fact that a CIA officer was anonymously breaking with the administration's anti-terror strategy. Interview requests flooded in. But Scheuer said that Harlow told him, "We're giving you carte blanche." Harlow's condition? Scheuer was supposed to let the public affairs office know who he talked to--after the interview(s) had taken place.

"The book was misunderstood," Scheuer said on Friday. "It's a book about the failure of senior intelligence officers," not an ad hominem attack on the president. During his first round of publicity interviews, he tried to set the record straight. "Once I turned it around," however, "and talked about leadership in the intelligence community," Scheuer said, "well, that was the end of the day." Since Bush was no longer his target, Scheuer had been gagged.

Of course, one reporter asked, Harlow couldn't have made the decision to promote Scheuer's book alone. Scheuer nodded. He said that Harlow would've needed authorization from his superiors for such a move. Harlow's superior at the time? Former CIA director George Tenet.


The other article is about Goss's housecleaning, "Porter's House: CIA Director Porter Goss takes charge". Whether Goss was firing the right people or the wrong ones, we'd expect what we see-- charges that he was firing good people and criticism of him for being partisan. These things do, however, rule out the possibility that he is failing by doing nothing, so I take them as a good sign.

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July 25, 2004

Joe Wilson, Novak, State, CIA, Clinton

Here are some more tidbits from Joe Wilson's book, The Politics of Truth. These pertain to the Plame-Wilson scandal more directly than my earlier excerpts on Joe Wilson's background.

First, on the question of who leaked Plame's name to Novak we hear on page 345 (I deleted the page number by accident--it is 3 hundred something):

[Of Novak] "He cited not a CIA source, as he had indicated on the phone four days earlier, but rather two senior administration officials."

I wonder if Novak's source really was someone in the CIA. If I were working on such a story, I'd call up my CIA contacts before my White House contacts. But I wouldn't use attribute the leak to the CIA in my story-- I'd say (truthfully) that it was a government official. Maybe "senior administration official" is a term of art among Washington journalists, and it isn't suppose to refer to senior CIA officials. But maybe Novak was just telling a white lie to protect his real source.

I have commented before on how strange it is that the CIA would commission Wilson for the Niger mission, when he would obviously sabotage Administration policy. From what Wilson says, it seems the State Department-- another bureaucracy unhappy with Vice-President Cheney and the hardline crowd-- was in on the mission. On page 17, Wilson says he went and told Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner about his Niger trip before he left, and Kansteiner approved it and gave him a little help.

There are some interesting bits on Wilson and Plame that I hadn't heard about before. Page 240 says that the reception at which he met Valerie Plame at the Turkish Embassy was where he and a general were accepting an award from the "American Turkish Council" on behalf of the European Command. His adultery is confirmed (he was still married to wife number two, though she gets very little mention in the book. On page 242 he reports of Valerie Plame," 'Ladies don't date married men,' she announced firmly as I tried to hold her hand," but her qualms didn't seem to last even a few months. "Soon after our return to Washington, we decided to move in together." I guess that doesn't count as dating. Something very surprising was, we learn on page 278, that Valerie "suffered a bout of postpartum depression". That is very serious stuff-- often more accurately termed "psychosis" than "depression". Sometimes such mothers even kill their children, or never recover. What are the implications of a psychotic CIA employee specializing in weapons of mass destruction?

Finally, on page 240 Wilson relates a weird story about how President Clinton worked a crossword puzzle while Wilson briefed him before a meeting with the President of Mali, "But when his African guest arrived, Clinton was brilliant. He demonstrated an understanding of Mali and a keen interest in his visitor and the issues being raised; it was virtuoso performance." It's not the doing something else while fatuous bureaucrat briefs you that surprises me, but that Clinton was doing a crossword puzzle rather than reading other papers or watching a computer screen. He wouldn't have been intending to insult Wilson; it is hard to imagine that a crossword puzzle is relaxing if you're doing it while being briefed on Mali; he wasn't doing it under a deadline. So why was he doing it? I guess Wilson was lucky Clinton only had a newspaper present instead of an intern.

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Wilson-PLame:Evidence from His Book on His WASPiness and Career

I've been hobbling around with two canes the past day as a result of a backache, and so missed blogging yesterday. But I got some reading done.

I decided if I was going to abuse Joe Wilson IV, I ought to buy his book, humorously titled, The Politics of Truth. I was happy to find evidence confirming my predictions about him. It must be kept in mind that he has no qualms about lying, but even liars slip up and let a lot of truth through. That is one reason why I think the lying-to-the-FBI law that caught Martha Stewart is a very bad law. That law says you need not talk to the FBI, but if you do, and lie, you go to jail. A beter law wouldsay that you *do* need to talk the FBI or you go to jail, but you are free to lie if it's just the police and not a court. That way,the police, experts in detecting lying, would get a lot more information.

Anyway, here is noteworthy information from the Wilson book. If anyone thinks Wilson's has any credibility left to destroy, the book is good for that too, but I focussed on what we might learn about his career, about his motivations, and about the CIA.

In this post: Wilson and his career:

Page 31: Wilson's uncle was mayor of San Francisco from 1912 to 1931 and then governor of California 1931-1934. Another uncle was a U.S. Representative.

Page 33: His family was Episcopalian, though his first wife was Jewish.

Page 34: He spent his high school years in Europe--Nice, Mallorca, Montreuz, and Biarritz. Page 35: "My only experience with the public sector up to that point had been collecting unemployment insurance during the winters at Lake Tahoe,..."

The prediction of my earlier post is confirmed: Wilson is a classic example of the Limousine Liberal-- Northern California subspecies. Keep in mind that the traditional habitat of this type has been the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, and the traditional enemy is the rest of the Republican Party-- The Old Guard, Southerners, Taftites, Reaganites, Goldwaterites, Southern Californians, traitors to their class such as the Bushes, ethnics of the Slavic, Irish, or southern European varieties, anyone religious, and anyone who shops at K-Mart.

We also learn about his politics:

Page 32: "When in 1967 Muhammed Ali declared he had nothing against the Vietcong, it made sense to me and my friends even as it sent chills down the spines of our parents."

Page 63: When he worked for Al Gore as Foreign Service Fellow, "I saw myself, then as now, as center-left in my outlook on social issues and as a realist in foreign policy."

Page 239: " While I generally voted for the Democratic candidate for president, President Bush had received my vote in the 1992 election that brought Clinton into office. Not surprisingly, my votes generally reflected the political agenda most important to me: foreign policy and national security."

p. 282. Vitriolic comments about Florida 2000: "I had railed against such conduct in flawed elections in Africa , and disliked it just as much in my own country." He claims that the "gutter tactics" of "an out-of-state rabble" stopped the recount in Dade County.

Page 321: ."The Christian Right, with its literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, had become increasingly strident in promoting war in the Middle East as necessary for the return of Jesus and the subsequent "rapture" promised on Judgement Day."

Page 439: "By uncritically favoring Likud, President Bush has done our Israeli friends and allies no favors." Again, as on page 321, he says that the rapture is the goal of American evangelicals.

Again, we have the Liberal Republican, even down to being willing to vote for a preppie Bush against an Arkansas Democrat. Note how he admits to not having anything against the Vietcong. And, of course his knowledge of evangelical Christianity is embarassingly wrong. For those readers of mine who also know little of this (but are, I hope, less willing to show their ignorance in print), the idea of the rapture is unique to "Dispensationalism", a 20th Century school of exegesis that is common but not the mainstream of Evangelicalism. Also, it isn't clear to me what the rapture has to do with support for Israel even for Dispensationalists. More simply, evangelicals support Israel so strongly (more strongly than American Jews) because Israel is an outpost of Western civilization, which evangelicals support, because they feel kinship with Jews, and because Islam is far more hostile to Christianity than religious Judaism (secular Judaism is another matter!).

And we learn about his career:

Page 209:"I had no intention of remaining in the Foreign Service any longer than necessary to qualify for my retirement, which was just a few years off." This, about 1995.

Page 275: "I had risen about as high as I could in the Foreign Service and decided it was time to retire and try something else in life while I was till young enough to make the transition.

Page 275: "My list of clients was small, as I did not want to overextend myself while learning the ropes,but my geographical reach extended into Africa, Western Europe, and Turkey. The breadth of companies and sectors was already fascinating for me. I had become involved in gold mining in West Africa-- including in Niger, which was just opening up some fields-- as well as telecommunications and the petroleum sector."

Page 341: After his New York Times article attacking the Administration on July 6, 2003, "All that week after the article appeared and the one following, I played as much golf as I possibly could."

My earlier post had sources suggesting that he left the Foreign Service before he qualified for retirement, and involuntarily. I also wondered whether his "consulting" was actually a real job, or whether he just played a lot of golf. Apparently, he didn't have many clients and he did play golf. Another prediction confirmed? Maybe tomorrow I'll report more from this book.

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