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It is precisely the kind of work we analysts used to do. And, while it is still a bit jarring to be turning our analytical tools on the U.S. leadership, it is by no means entirely new. For, of necessity, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been doing that for almost six years now—ever since 9/11, when “everything changed.”
Of necessity? Yes, because, with very few exceptions, American journalists put their jobs at grave risk if they expose things like fraudulent wars.
The craft of CIA analysis was designed to be an all-source operation, meaning that we analysts were responsible—and held accountable—for assimilating information from all sources and coming to judgments on what it all meant. We used data of various kinds, from the most sophisticated technical collection platforms, to spies, to—not least—open media.
Here I must reveal a trade secret and risk puncturing the mystique of intelligence analysis. Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media. It helps to have been trained—as my contemporaries and I had the good fortune to be trained—by past masters of the discipline of media analysis, which began in a structured way in targeting Japanese and German media in the 1940s. But, truth be told, anyone with a high school education can do it. It is not rocket science.
Reporting From Informants
The above is in no way intended to minimize the value of intelligence collection by CIA case officers recruiting and running clandestine agents. For, though small in percentage of the whole nine yards available to be analyzed, information from such sources can often make a crucial contribution. Consider, for example, the daring recruitment in mid-2002 of Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who was successfully “turned” into working for the CIA and quickly established his credibility. Sabri told us there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
My former colleagues, perhaps a bit naively, were quite sure this would come as a welcome relief to President George W. Bush and his advisers. Instead, they were told that the White House had no further interest in reporting from Sabri; rather, that the issue was not really WMD, it was “regime change.” (Don’t feel embarrassed if you did not know this; although it is publicly available, our corporate- owned, war profiteering media has largely suppressed this key story.)
One former colleague, operations officer-par-excellence Robert Baer, now reports (in this week’s Time) that, according to his sources, the Bush/Cheney administration is winding up for a strike on Iran;” that the administration’s plan to put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list points in the direction of such a strike; and that the delusional “neo-conservative” thinking that still guides White House policy concludes that such an attack would lead to the fall of the clerics and the rise of a more friendly Iran.
Hold on, it gets even worse: Baer’s sources tell him that administration officials are thinking “as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Rove and Snow: Going Wobbly?
Our VIPS colleague Phil Geraldi, writing in The American Conservative, earlier noted that in the past Karl Rove has served as a counterweight to Vice President Dick Cheney, and may have tried to put the brakes on Cheney’s death wish to expand the Middle East quagmire to Iran. And former Pentagon officer, retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most devoted neo-cons just before the attack on Iraq, has put into words (on LewRockwell.com) speculation several of us have been indulging in with respect to Rove’s departure.
In short, it seems possible that Rove, who is no one’s dummy and would not want to be required to “spin” an unnecessary war on Iran, may have lost the battle with Cheney over the merits of a military strike on Iran, and only then decided—or was urged—to spend more time with his family. As for administration spokesperson Tony Snow, it seems equally possible that, before deciding he had to leave the White House to make more money, he concluded that his stomach could not withstand the challenge of conjuring up yet another Snow job to explain why Bush/Cheney needed to attack Iran. There is recent precedent for this kind of thing.
We now know that it was because former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld went wobbly on the Iraq war—as can be seen in his Nov. 6, 2006 memo to the president—that Rumsfeld was canned. (That was the day BEFORE the election.) In that memo, Rumsfeld called for a “major adjustment” in war policy. And so, Robert Gates, who had been waiting in the wings, was called to Crawford, given the test for malleability, hired, and dispatched by the president immediately to Iraq to weigh in heavily with the most senior U.S. generals (Abizaid and Casey). They had been saying, quite openly, Please, please; no more troops; a surge would simply give the Iraqis still more time and opportunity to diddle us while American troops continue to die. So much for the president always listening to his senior military commanders. And the bug of reality was infecting even Rumsfeld.
In his memo to the president, Rumsfeld suggested that U.S. generals “withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions—cities, patrolling, etc.,” and move troops to Kuwait to serve as a Quick Reaction Force. Bush, of course, chose to do just the opposite.
Our domesticated press has not yet been able to put two and two together on this story, so it has been left to investigative reporters like Robert Parry to do so. In his Aug. 17 essay, “Rumsfeld’s Mysterious Resignation,” Parry closes with this:
“The touchy secret about Rumsfeld’s departure seems to have been that Bush didn’t want the American people to know that one of the chief Iraq War architects had turned against the idea of an open-ended military commitment – and that Bush had found himself with no choice but to oust Rumsfeld for his loss of faith in the neoconservative cause.”
Granted, it is speculative that similar factors, this time with respect to war planning for Iran, were at work in the decisions on the departure of Rove and Snow. Someone ought to ask them.