Category Archives: Intelligence

Israel’s Show and Tell on Iran–Could be as wrong as Colin Powell’s claims on Iraq

Ten years after Colin Powell sold a war to Americans and the world on a fake premise — that Iraq was on the verge of having nuclear weapons, it just could be that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the same market. The linkage ten years apart is a campaign to wage preemptive wars — perpetrated by the same alliance of neoconservatives.

Netanyahu appeared before the UN General Assembly in late September and, armed with a cartoon-like bomb diagram, said that Iran is within months of the point of no return–having nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu at the UN

Is that true? Or are the purveyors of agitprop at work again.

A dispatch from Reuters quotes intelligence analysts and nuclear specialists as saying Iran could be years, not months from being able to produce and deliver a nuclear bomb.

(Reuters) – Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for several atomic bombs if refined to a high degree but it may still be a few years away from being able to build a nuclear-armed missile if it decided to go down that path.

Israel’s warning last week that Iran will be on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon by mid-2013 seemed to refer to when it could have a sufficient stock of higher-grade uranium to make a quick dash to produce a bomb’s worth of weapon-grade material.

But, analysts say, Tehran would need time also for the technologically complicated task of fashioning highly refined uranium gas into a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile – if it opts for such weapons of mass destruction.

What if the same people who brought us the war in Iraq — some of whom actually still cling to the empty notion that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction — now are at their dangerous hi-jinks once again?

Propaganda is powerful business and so is manipulation of popular opinion. A large percentage of Americans still believe that:

–Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon;
–Iraq was close to building a nuclear weapon in 2002;
–The United States acted in Iraq “based on the best available intelligence at the time.”

These are all lies.

Now, because Iran appears to be the enemy du jour, a sales campaign is underway to push public opinion toward the need for quick action against Iran. When will we learn? And will a new Obama administration follow through on diplomacy and neutralize the purveyors of lies?

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Obama Spanks GoP Chickenhawks on War With Iran: Jeff Stein at Spytalk

from Jeff Stein:

It’s ironic isn’t it, that President Obama, who’s never gotten closer to a military uniform than a handshake, is so much more cautious about sending men and women into harm’s way than his predecessor, a onetime Air Force pilot?

The conventional wisdom, after all, is that civilians who’ve never seen a bullet fired in anger are far more cavalier about sounding the trumpets to war than a soldier who’s been there. read more: spytalk

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Noriega in Chains: The George H.W. Bush Connection

 
  Who is this shuffling old man returning to Panama today some 22 years after being hauled off to a U.S. prison as a generalissimo in shackles?

       Manuel Antonio Noriega, the 77-year-old former Panama strongman, was deposed by invading U.S. forces dispatched by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Subsequently Noriega was also convicted in a U.S. court of cocaine dealing and conspiracy; and back home, a Panamanian court charged him in absentia with killing a political opponent.

       The rest of his story is shrouded in political double-dealings,
boilerplate and lies. Long-time bed-fellows figure into the story—among them Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.

      Don’t expect Noriega to make any new revelations or shift the ground in Panama – much less the hemisphere. After interviewing the general extensively and investigating the U.S. invasion and the problematic politics surrounding the U.S. drug war, I’ve concluded that General Noriega all along was but a minor chess piece in a global game and was thrown off the board when he stopped cooperating with his former U.S. masters—he was a CIA asset for years.

       I covered Panama before and after the U.S. invasion and worked at counting the bodies of Panamanians – mostly civilians – who died that
Christmas season. I also sat through Noreiga’s nine-month, 1991-1992 drug conspiracy trial and watched some two-dozen felons–who never actually met the man—earn their get-out- of- jail cards by implicating the strongman in a conspiracy.

And I was eager to interview the imprisoned Noriega with the notion that he would tell secrets out of school about his former employers at the CIA – including George Herbert Walker Bush.

       Noriega was a flop in global gamesmanship – He didn’t know much about the United States. They were willing to come after him.

       The old general’s return to Panama provides finally a proper coda. Whatever crimes Noriega did or did not commit in Panama should be judged by Panamanians. They will now have that chance. My interest was
rooted in the U.S. dimension. I haven’t met anyone who can explain exactly how Panama represented a national security threat to the United States in 1989 sufficient to order an invasion. Twenty five Americans and hundreds, perhaps more than one thousand, Panamanians were killed.

       My analysis of the Noriega case is partly contained in my
interviews of Noriega in the 1994 book, America’s Prisoner. I was
hired by Random House to interview Noriega after he was convicted. Noriega was given the chance to speak in the book – and I was afforded the opportunity to analyze what he had to say. I wrote a separate introduction and afterward to the book that Noriega was not allowed to review or change.

      In all my dealings with Noriega, he lobbed only one bombshell at George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. As CIA director, Bush had secretly encouraged a covert operation to simulate a nascent guerrilla movement in Panama. The U.S. intelligence agency trained Panamanian military operatives in explosives and demolition tactics, and then dispatched them back to Panama, where they set off some bombs in the Canal Zone. At the time, Gerald Ford was U.S. president. A young fellow named Dick Cheney was his chief of staff, having replaced his mentor Donald Rumsfeld when Rumsfeld became secretary of defense in November 1975.

        The idea was to convince conservatives in Congress that it was
better to sign the Panama Canal Treaties than to face possible
guerrilla warfare and a Panamanian liberation movement. The little
fake bombing mission may have contributed to passage of the Panama
Canal treaties, signed by Noriega’s mentor, General Omar Torrijos, and President Jimmy Carter in September 1977. Noriega at the time was a colonel in the Panamanian Defense Forces in charge of G2 – intelligence.

        Noriega told me that he met with Bush at the Panamanian embassy
in Washington D.C. one month after Carter had defeated Ford in the 1976
presidential election. Ford’s defeat meant that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld were on their way out of office.

        Noriega said: “I was struck immediately by the fact that Bush came alone to
the embassy; no driver, if he had one, aides and interpreter were not
there. He carried no papers, not so much as a pen and a pad of paper.
Ahd I thought. No witnesses…  “So,” he said, “have you done a report on the bombings?” What he meant, I am sure, was I hope you haven’t written a real report about what we did.

“Yes, I wrote a report and sent it to General McAuliffe [the head of
the US. Southern Command, based in Panama],” I told him. I understood
this to mean: Don’t worry, we’re not talking.”

         After Noriega told me this in 1993, I wrote a letter to Bush.
I asked the former president if this was true –five questions
detailing the charge of planning the bombings, CIA training for
Noriega’s men, and the subsequent meeting with Noriega. I expected
Bush to deny everything and to disparage the word of Noriega as a liar
and convicted felon. Instead I received a phone call from Bush’s
spokesman who said: “According to his recollection, the answer is ‘no’
to all five questions. But to make sure, he sent your letter to John
Deutsch [then the Director of Central Intelligence].” The spokesman
would go no further than that.

A few days later, Bush’s spokesman called back, reading a statement:
“The CIA has nothing to add to what President Bush already said.”
I asked the spokesman what that meant, since Bush hadn’t said
anything. As many questions as I asked, the spokesman repeated the
same words. “The CIA has nothing to add to what President Bush already
said.”

      I spoke to dozens of people, including CIA, U.S. military and
diplomatic officials on the record. The reporting is worthy of a
separate book, but it can be encapsulated for the moment in the words of
retired General Fred Woerner, who had been head of the U.S. Southern
Command in Panama until mid-1989. He refused an order from the Bush
administration to proceed with an invasion of Panama. He was succeeded
by Gen. Max Thurman. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Admiral William Crowe, resigned at the same time and he was replaced by Gen. Colin Powell. Thurman and Powell followed orders.

    At the time, Noriega was no longer the CIA asset who had helped
the United States deal with Fidel Castro and had allowed the United
States to stage operations – sometimes illegally – from Panama to
Nicaragua and El Salvador during the Central American wars. Noriega
was defying Bush, and the president, charged with being weak,
was getting angry. People were referring to him as a “wimp.”

This is what Woerner told me when I asked why the
United States had invaded Panama: “The invasion was a response to U.S.
domestic considerations,” he said. “It was the wimp factor.”

Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison, reduced to 30 years when a former CIA station chief, U.S. military adviser and a U.S. ambassador to Panama argued before the judge that he should not have been imprisoned in the United States at all. After a while, Noriega started coming up for parole hearings – every time, the United States argued that he posed a threat to the Bush and to the United States.

As he limps back home today, crippled by age and illnesses, the only threat he represents is that the news of the moment might provoke us to re-examine the evidence and question why the United States invaded Panama in the first place.

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Panama, Noriega and the US: The Story Behind the Story.

Manuel Antonio Noriega is about to return to Panama 22 years after he was taken in shackles to the United States. Here’s a reprise of a magazine story I wrote about him. Was Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega really a drug trafficker? Or is it possible he was set up by the U.S. government? Try asking a few dozen people who should know.
FROM NEW TIMES: UNCERTAIN JUSTICE

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Nothing Like the Real Thing (As opposed to Dick Cheney’s Version of History)

Dick Cheney is on the circuit talking about events surrounding his possible departure from the vice presidential re-election campaign in 2004.

Here’s a piece of a chat I had with John Roberts in April 2008 on CNN about Cheney discussing The Italian Letter, the book I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce:

PETER EISNER, CO-AUTHOR, “THE ITALIAN LETTER”: We found out that, as a result of Cheney’s role in developing the march toward war in Iraq, Rove started to question, has he gone too far; is he a little bit too much out there for us for running again in 2004?

So, Rove started to talk to people, particularly Grover Norquist, and, in turn, to conservative financial backers, just gently, to say, do we really want him on the ticket? It’s an outrageous thing to say. And it really upset Cheney, when he found out about it. And it was squelched quickly. But the bad blood between Rove and Cheney, as a result, exists to this day.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The Rove-Cheney drama is just the latest revelation in a complicated story that began more than four years ago and continues to this day. But how did we get here?

One of many key players in the run-up to the war, the White House Iraq Group — its mission, claims Eisner, to sell the war in Iraq to the American public by whipping up fear about Iraq’s nuclear program. In 2003, what looked like the perfect smoking gun emerged, a letter now known as the “Italian letter,” supposedly documenting Niger’s intentions to sell uranium to Saddam Hussein.

The only problem, the letter was a fake.

Truth is, even Cheney’s conservative buddies in the Bush administration thought he was off the deep end. Former aides to Cheney thought that by the time he reached the presidency, his personality and actions had changed, and they questioned his rationality for pushing the Iraq War. After my comments on CNN, Cheney and the White House issued a denial. Now, struggling to find news in Cheney’s tell-little memoir, they drag out the resignation passage, revealing little, if anything.

Cheney and his cohorts manufactured the cause for war in Iraq, and it wasn’t just cherry-picking. They promoted a story that the US intelligence community agreed had never existed — Saddam purchasing yellowcake in Niger. To this hour, he and Bush and their cohorts say they “acted on the best intelligence available at the time.” That is a lie.

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Catching the Bad Guys — The Pursuits of bin Laden and Pablo Escobar Show Similarities

The killing 18 years ago of Pablo Escobar, the feared leader of the Medellin Cocaine Cartel, and the tracking and Osama bin Laden bear strong similarities — so much so, Steve Coll notes, that CIA operatives studied the Escobar case in the methodical, eventually successful discovery of bin Laden’s hideout.

“As they reset their work, the analysts studied other long-term international fugitive hunts that had ended successfully, such as the operations that led to the death of the Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, in 1993. The analysts asked, Where did the breakthroughs in these other hunts come from? What were the clues that made the difference and how were the clues discovered? They tried to identify “signatures” of Osama bin Laden’s life style that might lead to such a clue: prescription medications that he might purchase, hobbies or other habits of shopping or movement that might give him away.”

Covering the pursuit of Escobar in the early 1990s, it became evident that Colombia’s security forces were sometimes in conflict with elements of the military, and sometimes it appeared that Escobar was slip-sliding through the dragnet with official complicity. Escobar was fabulously wealthy, as was bin Laden, and neither hesitated at using bribery or violence to buy safety and time. Escobar ultimately was tracked down by making a mistake and using a telephone. Officials used electronic tracking equipment to pinpoint his location. He died in a firefight with security forces. We don’t know how or whether bin Laden tripped up after all these years.

At first the official version in Escobar’s case was that Colombian authorities maintained operational security and conducted the raid. But the chief of Colombian security forces, Gen. Miguel Maza, squirmed when I asked him whether U.S. officials accompanied Colombians when Escobar was gunned down in a roof-top firefight. It became clear that a phantom U.S. helicopter was airbrushed out of the official government account in that case.

Similarly, Pakistani officials were uneasy about describing their knowledge and role in the final pursuit of bin Laden. In both cases, U.S. officials were rather pragmatic on two accounts — they got the job done, no matter the details or whether either foreign government needed to save face. And in both cases, they overlooked the circumstantial evidence: either for corruption or looking the other way, it seemed incredible that either Escobar or bin Laden would not have been detected — both living in plain sight in the middle of a well-patrolled city.

There was another striking parallel between the cases of Escobar and bin Laden — both had become symbols of the violence they engendered, but neither was able to operate his respective terror network by the time they were tracked down.

By that time, smaller, lesser known cells were doing the dirty work, and devising means of pursuing their criminal enterprises. In Escobar’s case, no drug dealer became as well-known nor as powerful after him, but narcotics dealing became almost institutionalized at a low level. U.S. officials never won their War on Drugs, but were able to turn down the volume after Escobar’s death.

It remains to be seen whether bin Laden will have as mighty and newsworthy a successor, but U.S. officials have said many times that pursuing terrorism is a long term effort. Nevertheless, both of these central actors, bin Laden, and Escobar a generation earlier, have gone to early graves.

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Libya: The Reality you won’t hear–yet.

It is possible to parse and figure out President Obama’s plan on Libya – as long as you’re not playing politics while analyzing the evidence.

Don’t expect an open explanation of the strategy. What good is a public announcement from the battlements? Or a nationally broadcast speech? Make no mistake – the endgame is that someone – maybe not foreigners on the ground – ousts Gaddafi.

One week after the U.S.-organized attack on Gaddafi, rebels are no longer holed up and surrounded in Benghazi. No accident, and the reverse in fortune is not just the result of the no-fly zone. You can bet that American, British, French, even Italian intelligence operatives are the covert alliance in this story—providing support, training, tactical help – maybe even covert operatives – to rally the opposition to Gaddafi on the ground.

Here’s Pat Lang, a retired former senior officer with U.S. military intelligence:

“Someone has gotten the rebels up off their haunches and headed back to the west.  Who that someone might be is, at this point, a bit of a mystery.  The passage of time will undoubtedly clarify that point.”

“Qathafi’s ‘forces’ are extremely brittle. They have already begun to run from air attacks or even the sound of aircraft, abandoning their equipment and supplies as they flee in civilian vehicles. It is not necessary to arm or supply the rebels. Qathafi’s disintegrating forces will provide the needed materiel as they withdraw.
“As the rebels approach Tripoli the populace will rise again. How long will all this take? As I have written elsewhere, an outside estimate of six months is reasonable. The actuality may be a considerably shorter departure date for Qathafi.”

It’s obvious. How does an amateur, amorphous, largely unknown Libyan rebel force suddenly start capturing territory and move into the oil-rich heartland of the country? With a little well-placed “encouragement.”

It wouldn’t also be surprising that Obama’s ardent detractors have gotten the word.

Listen to John McCain, who early on lashed out at the president when he held fire until a U.N.-backed coalition was in place. McCain would be happy to appeal to the tea-bagging set, but instead his message on Fox News over the weekend was effusive support:

“The fact is that Gadaffi said he’d go house to house and kill people, and thankfully at the 11th hour with the quote-unquote ‘no fly zone,’ we prevented that,” McCain said. “This is a moment of historic proportions, and this will give us a moment of opportunity to help with the spread of democracy.”

No doubt McCain, Boehner and others will have received the secret briefing: Western intelligence is engaged, helping the rebels, driving Gaddafi from office, sooner or later.

You may not hear about it on the talk shows, not yet. But stay tuned.

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