Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Saturday, July 31, 2004

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich: "Laurie Mylroie: It's inconceivable that the events of September 11 were carried out by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda alone. There was a state involved in terrorism on that scale -- that state seems to be Iraq.

(commercial break)

Gingrich: Welcome back to our report on America and the Axis of Evil: Not If, But When. As you heard in the first half-hour, there is some debate over which countries to add to the list, but there's no debate over the three countries currently on the axis of evil. North Korea, Iran and Iraq, all are major supporters and funders of terrorism worldwide, all three dabble in weapons of mass destruction, each regime is a dictatorship brutal to its own people and fiercely anti-American. But, of the three, one regime, one despotic leader stands out.

Mylroie: There has been continuing Iraqi involvement in terrorism.

Gingrich: Laurie Mylroie is considered to be one of the world's leading experts on Saddam Hussein and his terrorist ties, ties which she says links Saddam directly to September 11th.

Mylroie: It's inconceivable that the events of September 11 were carried out by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda alone. There was a state involved in terrorism on that scale, and that state seems to be Iraq. The Czechs are saying, until this day, that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers in the United States, met at least once in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent. There was a training camp for terrorists just south of Baghdad where terrorists were trained to take over -- hijack airplanes using knives and things like that. And there are even satellite photos of that airplane sitting in the terrorist training camp in the middle of nowhere. An airplane has to be in an airport because it needs some runway to take off and land. But that airplane is just sitting there, there's no airport anywhere around it.

Gingrich: So, you see a major investment by Saddam and the Iraqis in developing a relationship with terrorists, and training them and supporting them?

Mylroie: Since the Gulf War, Saddam has lived for revenge against the United States. And he's been taking out that revenge by acts of terrorism. He's been working with Islamic militants, including Osama bin Laden. They are up-front, they provide the cover, the foot soldiers, the ideology. Iraqi intelligence provides the training, direction and expertise.

Gingrich: And, as Saddam continues to fund and train terrorists, his stock among Arab leaders seems to be rising.

Mylroie: I think, in large part, they are afraid of him. They recognize that Saddam is capable of doing terrible things to them. If he did that to the United States, what might he do to them. I think that's part of it. I think another part of it is that the Saudis really aren't the best of allies. It's not clear that they want a democratic regime in Iraq. They might -- they do see it as a threat to their own quasi-authoritarian, if not authoritarian rule, and it may be their judgment that they would prefer to live with Saddam Hussein under sanctions with weapons inspections than to see an effort at democracy in an Arab country.

Gingrich: Some people argue that the road to Iraq lies through Palestine, and others argue that the road to Palestinian-Israeli peace lies through replacing the regime in Iraq. How do you weigh that? I mean, what should the U.S. priorities be?

Mylroie: It has to be removing Saddam Hussein. After all, you know, it was the Gulf War and the apparent victory in 1991 that paved the way for the Madrid conference, and the peace negotiations that followed. Of course, those peace negotiations led to nothing. But it is by removing radical regimes in the Middle East that one will create a climate in which it is easier for Israel and the Palestinians to talk to one another.

Gingrich: If you were advising the president and his choice was to make a higher priority of finishing up al Qaeda or going after the Hussein regime in Baghdad, which would you place as the higher priority for American safety?

Mylroie: I would think we'd be able to do both of them, because the longer we wait -- we want to wrap up al Qaeda as much as possible, but at the same time the longer we wait to go to war with Iraq, the longer Saddam Hussein has time to produce more biological/chemical weapons, even nuclear weapons. He's working on a bomb right now as we speak."

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich

DoD News: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Newt Gingrich: "Ledeen: So we have to get back to the basic mission, which is bringing down the various tyrannies.

Gingrich: Michael Ledeen is a former White House national security advisor, he would add Syria and more to the evil axis list.

Ledeen: The common denominator of our enemies in the Middle East is tyranny. The terror masters are all tyrants. So Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq are all tyrannies. And I believe until these tyrannies are brought down we will continue to have terrorism.

Gingrich: So you would include Syria and Saudi Arabia with Iran and Iraq?

Ledeen: Yes, I think those four countries. You can't any longer -- maybe it was possible once upon a time to pick them off one at a time. Right now Iran, Iraq, and Syria are bundled. They've all been talking to one another, they've all been making contingency plans, each has made promises to the other two, if you're attacked we'll do this. So they're all ready to go. So wherever we start now, we're going to get all three at once.

Gingrich: But, why Saudi Arabia, America's chief Arab ally in the Gulf War, and sponsor of the most recent Middle East peace plan?

Ledeen: The Saudis finance all the terror. The Iranians design it, the Iraqis support it, and the Saudis finance it. And the Saudis are the producers of the basic non-Shiite doctrine. There are two schools of Islam, so there are two kinds of terrorism, there's Shiite terrorism and Sunni terrorism. Wahabi terrorism, Wahabi terrorism is Saudi, it's a Saudi invention, it's a Saudi product, it's preached in Saudi mosques, it's spread around the world in Saudi textbooks, even in the United States. We know, for example, that, what's it's called, the Saudi Islamic Academy of Fairfax, Virginia, uses textbooks printed in Saudi Arabia, and they teach the same kind of hate that we read every day in the newspapers about what the Saudi newspapers are printing. Kill the Jews, kill the Christians, be a martyr, go to heaven, 72 virgins, the usual.

Gingrich: But, whether it's Saudi Arabia or Syria, Iran, or Iraq, the consensus among all the analysts we spoke to seem to be, those states that support terrorism in the Middle East threaten America as well.

Ledeen: Once you move beyond Iraq you're going to have to look at Iran, you're going to have to look at the Hezbollah and Syria, because when we talk about terrorism in general what we're really talking about is Islamic radicalism. And that the terrorist threats that come elsewhere are really quite small compared to that which issues forth from the Middle East.

Gingrich: So you mentioned Syria, which was not on the president's axis of evil list, how would you compare Syria with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea?

Ledeen: Syria is more of a host. Once upon a time Syria was more of an engine of terror, I don't think that's the case now. Syria has got very real political concerns, the primary concern is maintaining control of Lebanon. Now, one of the factors in that control is the relationship with the Hezbollah, which is the militant Shiite group, which is in the southern part of the country, actually it goes all the way to Beirut. I think the Hezbollah are now what you might call the preeminent holy warriors of the Middle East, with the possible exception being Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. The Syrians, if they wanted to, could clamp down on Hezbollah, but I don't think they want to because it would cause them a great deal of domestic unrest inside of Lebanon. And also, I think the Syrians fundamentally agree with the Hezbollah, and that is they'd rather not have Israel exist. And Hezbollah churns up, keeps the temperature up, and works to Syria's advantage.

Gingrich: In your mind you would not see Syria as being the same kind of active threat that you would see, say, Iraq being?

Ledeen: No, Syria does not have the resources to be. Only Iraq and Iran, those are the two preeminent countries of the Middle East, Turkey excepted. And those are the ones who really drive terrorism, they drive it internationally, and certainly vis-a-vis the peace process, with the Israelis and Palestinians.

Gingrich: But, are Iran and Iraq the same kind of terrorist state?

Ledeen: Well, Iran is a different case, because I think Iran is, in many ways, it's the most politically advanced of all countries in the Muslim Middle East. There is really a democratic movement in Iran. The clergy is very much aware of it, to some extent the clergy is a product of it. And there is no doubt -- I mean, every time, for example, the United States -- U.S. soldiers get near the Iranian border, in the case of Afghanistan, before that in the case of the Gulf War, the domestic temperature in Iran starts to rise. It almost starts to boil. We start seeing pro-American demonstrations. I think that if the United States were to go into Iraq, and to work to establish a democratic system inside of Iraq, the repercussions inside of Iran would be enormous, and I suspect they would even be immediate.

Gingrich: And you expect them to be Iranian, that is, that it's the local people, not an American intervention, or an American involvement, but actually that the younger population is just dramatically pro-democracy, and anti-dictatorship?

Ledeen: Absolutely. I think the clerical regime has been a wonderful antidote for the Iranian infatuation with Islamic radicalism, with Islamic militancy, with clerical dictatorship. I mean, they have lived it now since 1979 and they don't like it. And I would suspect that if, in fact, the United States could ratchet up the pressure outside of the country, certainly in Iraq, that you would see tremendous pressure develop inside of Iran, for more significant change, and you would see the reform movement which I think people then correct identified with President Khatami, which is in fact more a product of that reform, of that movement, he is by no means the cutting edge of it, you would see that reform movement gain tremendous speed. And it would not be unlikely that you would see what I would call productive turmoil inside that country in the movement for a greater democratic system.

Gingrich: You know, there are reports that there are riots on a regular basis in Tehran and other major cities, are those primarily just in reaction to soccer matches, or do they have an underlying political/cultural significance?

Ledeen: No, they're not. I mean, soccer matches are interesting, because whenever you have a soccer match what you have, essentially, is a large group of young men to get together. And that's what the regime fears most, because up until the death of Ayatollah Khomeini they could largely depend upon the young men as being the base of their regime, they can no longer. They fear soccer matches because you get a group of young men together, and in fact their emotions come forward. And it is representative, I think, of the country as a whole. And certainly if they cannot maintain the support of young men, then they know very well they may not be able to control the support of these same type of young men who serve in the army, who serve in the Revolutionary Guard corps, and the other organizations that allow the clergy to rule the country.

Gingrich: In the case of Iran, you really see us more in a diplomatic, psychological, political offensive, trying to ally ourselves with younger Iranians, rather than in the kind of military operation that we might need, say, in Baghdad.

Ledeen: Absolutely, I think the only justification for a military strike against Iran, and even then I think it would be a limited one, if you were to catch the Iranians, again, in some type of terrorist act against the United States. In that circumstance I think you should respond, the United States should respond, and respond forcefully, because if you don't you'll send the wrong signal to the Iranians.

Gingrich: But, like Gerecht, Ledeen feels it would take little more than a taste of democracy to fuel a regime change in Iran, even if it came from across the border in Iraq.

You think if the United States moves to replace Saddam we would actually face a confrontation with Iran?

Ledeen: Yes, automatically. Don't believe for a second that the Iranian people would permit the Iraqi people to be free and not be free themselves. They couldn't put up with that.

Gingrich: So what would the Iranians do?

Ledeen: They would rise. They're probably going to rise anyway. Right now Iranian leaders are talking about insurrection. And the editor of a newspaper recently shut down in Tehran gave a speech a couple of days ago in which she said the scenario of the Soviet Union is about to be now repeated in Iran.

Gingrich: But the rising would be against the ayatollahs, not against the United States?

Ledeen: No, it's against the ayatollahs.

Gingrich: So would you expect the ayatollahs to attempt to confront the United States if we started to take out Saddam?

Ledeen: Yes, they have to, because the first sign of success of the United States in Iraq would generate exactly their death scenario in their own country. So they have to.

Gingrich: So our military preparations have to take into account the potential of both a Syrian and an Iranian coalition with Iraq.

Ledeen: Yes, I think that's automatic. I think there's no escape from that. If we had continued right away, after Afghanistan, when they were all uncertain and living in dread in Baghdad, and Damascus, and Tehran, I think probably we could have chosen one of the three and done it. But, not any longer, we've waited too long."

Michael LeDeen, Ghorbanifar, and Mossad

: "Manucher Ghorbanifar
by: Jane Hunter
October - November 1987
The Link - Volume 20, Issue 4
Page 1

Ghorbanifar is an Iranian who now runs a rug business in Europe.1 Albert Hakim said he met Ghorbanifar in the early 70s right after the formation of “his new company,” Star Line Shipping (a company headed by the deputy prime minister and run by about 15 Israelis). When asked by the Congressional Iran-contra panel counsel whether Ghorbanifar “was a Savak agent who had worked for the Israelis,” Hakim said that was so. He also acknowledged seeing information connecting Ghorbanifar to the “intelligence services of Israel.”2

Some CIA officials as well suspected Ghorbanifar had ties to Israeli intelligence,3 a point testified to several times by Oliver North before the Iran-contra committees: “[Ghorbanitar] was widely suspected to be, within the people I dealt with at the Central Intelligence Agency, an agent of the Israeli government or at least one of, if not more, of their security services.”4

And an unconfirmed report from both U.S. intelligence and Iranian sources say that Ghorbanifar ingratiated himself with the Khomeini Government by betraying a 1980 coup d’etat mounted by military officers loyal to the Shah. Seventy of those involved were said to have been executed.5

Ghorbanifar is credited with the 1981 disinformation that Libyan “hit squads” were about to infiltrate the U.S. and kill President Reagan. The CIA thought his motive in this case was “to cause problems for one of Israel’s enemies.”6

Michael Ledeen recently denied claims that Ghorbanifar was an Israeli agent. Had they been true, said Ledeen, he would have been further encouraged as to the go-between’s reliability.7

1. Alison Mitchell, “CIA Warned Against Dealing With Ghorbanifar,” Newsday, February 4, 1987.
2. Iran-contra hearings, June 4 and June 5, 1987; Ronald Koven, “Allegiances of Iranian arms deal intermediary unclear,” Boston Sunday Globe, December 14, 1986 contains details of Star Shipping.
3. Mitchell, “CIA Warned Against Dealing With Ghorbanifar.”
4. Taking the Stand, testimony of Oliver North before the Iran-contra committees, Pocket books, New York, 1987, p. 307 and passim.
5. Miguel Acoca and Knut Royce, “High-roller arms dealers key to deals with Iran,” San Francisco Examiner, February 19, 1987.
6. Washington Post story in San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 1987.
7. Larry Cohler: “Michael Ledeen’s Story,” Washington Jewish Week, June 18, 1987."

Still Dreaming of Tehran

Still Dreaming of Tehran: "Still Dreaming of Tehran

[from the April 12, 2004 issue]

The Bush Administration's hawks and their neoconservative allies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and The Weekly Standard are engaged in a high-risk and high-stakes effort to restore their fading power in Washington by pressing for a confrontation with Iran. It's no secret that the neocons' star has fallen since the war with Iraq. The intelligence scandal plaguing the White House and the ongoing crisis in Iraq itself can both be laid at their doorstep, and it's widely believed that President Bush's re-election team would dearly like to extricate the President from the Iraqi tar baby.

But the neocons aren't giving up, and they are trying to pull the White House in even deeper. Not only are they undeterred by the chaos in Iraq, but they are pressing ahead to advance their regional strategy, one that calls for regime change in Iran, then Syria and Saudi Arabia. Says Chas Freeman, who served as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and a leading foe of the neocons, "It shows that they possess a level of fanaticism, or depth of conviction, that is truly awesome. There is no cognitive dissonance there."

What makes the neocon strategy on Iran especially risky is that with Iraq teetering on the brink of civil war, neighboring Iran has significant clout inside Iraq, including ties to various Iraqi Shiite factions and a growing paramilitary and intelligence presence. If Iran chooses, it can help ease the daunting task that the United States faces in trying to put together a sovereign Iraqi government. But if it seeks confrontation, it can help spark an anti-US revolt in southern Iraq, home to most of Iraq's Shiite majority. In that case, nearly all analysts agree, the American occupation could be overwhelmed.

Leading the charge against Iran is AEI's Michael Ledeen, perhaps best known for setting in motion the US-Israeli arms deal with Iran in the mid-1980s that became known as Iran/contra. Supporting Ledeen's position are two other AEI fellows: Richard Perle, the ringleader of the neocons and a former member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, and David Frum, a Weekly Standard contributing editor and the former White House speechwriter who coined the phrase "axis of evil." In their new book, An End to Evil, Perle and Frum call for a covert operation to "overthrow the terrorist mullahs of Iran." Speaking to retired US intelligence officers in McLean, Virginia, in January, Ledeen called Iran the "throbbing heart of terrorism" and urged the Bush Administration to support revolutionary change. "Tehran," he said, "is a city just waiting for us."

Ledeen is viewed skeptically by many experts, including at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. "Ledeen doesn't know anything about Iran," says Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan who is an expert on the Shiites of Iran and Iraq. "He doesn't speak Persian, and I believe he has never been there." But Ledeen does have connections in the Iranian exile community. For the past two years, he has maintained a relationship with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian wheeler-dealer who worked closely with him in Iran/contra. Ledeen introduced Ghorbanifar to a key neoconservative official, Harold Rhode, a longtime Pentagon staffer who speaks Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Hebrew and who until recently served in Iraq as a liaison between the Defense Department and Ahmad Chalabi. Rhode and another Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, have been talking to Ghorbanifar about options for regime change in Tehran. "They were looking at getting introduced to alleged sources inside Iran, who could give them some inside information on the struggles in Iran," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. Ghorbanifar, he said, was spinning tall tales about alleged (but unsubstantiated) transfers of Iraqi uranium to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Rhode and Franklin were critical players in the campaign for war against Iraq. In 2002 they helped organize the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, the Iraq war-planning unit whose intelligence staffers are now under investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for allegedly manipulating evidence about Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism. Both the OSP and the Rhode-Franklin effort on Iran were run out of the office of Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and a key neocon ally. Their initiative on Iran reportedly drew a sharp protest from the State Department. Newsday quoted a US official who said that the entire effort was designed to "antagonize Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden US policy against them."

There is widespread disagreement about both Iran's intentions in Iraq and the extent of its capability to cause mischief there. But there is a consensus that Iran can exercise significant power. It has close ties to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose Badr Brigade paramilitary force of about 10,000 was trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and to the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr, a 30-year-old Shiite firebrand. "There are thousands of Iranian intelligence agents and operational agents inside Iraq today, and the border is completely open," says Amatzia Baram, an Israeli expert on Iraq.

So far, analysts say, Iran has chosen to play a waiting game. Ken Katzman of the Congressional Research Service says that Iran "views its interest to play it low-key, to keep a low profile and continue to promote a cohesive Shiite bloc in Iraq in order to be in a position to become dominant once the United States leaves."

The "realists" inside the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer in Iraq, are well aware that Iran could deal a fatal blow to the already faltering US efforts. Partly as a result, they've engaged in a quiet dialogue with Tehran. According to the Financial Times, last May Iran offered a "road map" for normalizing US-Iranian relations. Since then, Powell and his allies have sent assistance after the devastating earthquake in southeast Iran, and offered to send a delegation led by Senator Elizabeth Dole. They've also supported efforts by Germany, France and Britain to work a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. (Germany's intelligence service also brokered a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah, which is close to Iran.) But of late, some of those conciliatory efforts have stalled. A planned Congressional staff delegation to Tehran, the first since the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini's regime in 1979, was canceled by the Iranians, according to the office of Senator Arlen Specter, whose staff was to participate. And after the initial harmony, signs are emerging of a serious split between Washington and Europe over Iran's nuclear program, with echoes of the US-Europe split over Iraqi WMD.

How the differing approaches--the neocons' war cries and the realists' more conciliatory strategy--are viewed by Iran's leadership is anybody's guess. But there are at least several factors that might push the Iranian ruling elite in the direction of the confrontation the neocons want. First, the hard-line clergy are in the midst of a crisis with the so-called reformists. In the past, the mullahs have used anti-US rhetoric, and even militant actions, to trump liberal and reformist rivals. Second, while Iran welcomes the rise of Shiite power in Iraq, it is at the same time uneasy about losing influence to the mullahs in Najaf and Karbala. According to several experts on Shiism, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is now the leading Shiite cleric in the world, which could make him a rival to Iran's less prestigious clerics. Though Sistani has foiled US policy in Iraq by insisting on direct elections, he has refused to denounce the US occupation and may cooperate with a UN-brokered compromise for creating an Iraqi government. "Sistani is a double-edged sword for Iran," says Juan Cole. And third, there is the Bush factor. Some neoconservative strategists argue that Iran will act decisively in order to prevent Bush from being re-elected. Raymond Tanter, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank, predicts, "They are going to launch a political-military campaign in an effort to defeat President Bush, because they believe that if Bush is re-elected, he will do to them what he did to Iraq."

It's unclear that Iran would risk a confrontation with the United States in Iraq even if the mullahs do believe that they are next on Bush's invasion list. But the mullahs are famous for misunderstanding US politics, just as Americans have failed repeatedly to understand Iran's.

In a way, the neocons' Iran project is very similar to the early phase of their Iraq one. It includes a steady drumbeat of threats and warnings, Washington lobbying, a media offensive and support for exile groups--in Iran's case a mishmash that combines supporters of Khomeini's grandson; Reza Pahlavi, the son of the fallen Shah, and the Iranian monarchists; and the Mujaheddin e-Khalq (MEK), a 3,800-strong exile force based in Iraq. In one of the strangest events ever to occur at a Washington think tank, last September Khomeini's grandson--dressed in rough-hewn black and brown robes and crowned by a turban, with dark brooding eyes like his grandfather's--took the podium at AEI, introduced by Michael Ledeen, to call for US assistance to overthrow the Iranian government. He even welcomed an alliance with the Pahlavi monarchists.

Many analysts view the prospects of a Pahlavi-Khomeini-MEK alliance with exceeding skepticism. And they note that the neocons, having bungled Iraq, don't have a lot of credibility left on Middle East policy. But it would be wrong to count them out. A former CIA officer who took part in the debate over Iraq policy in the 1990s recalls how the neocons ultimately prevailed. "The neocons had this idea of working with the Iraqi opposition to arm and train them and to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and people like me said, 'That is really stupid,'" he says. "But you get people to think about it, you get the President engaged, then options expand and then when opportunities come along, you seize them. That's what they did. They got people to buy in. Before September 11, people told them, 'It's never going to happen.' Come September 12, the rules changed." An explosion in Iraq, and some Iranian mischief there, and the rules could change again."

MSNBC - Ghorbanifar and Harold Rhode/Pentagon in Secret Deals

MSNBC - Exclusive: Regime Change in Iran? One Man's Secret Plan.: "Exclusive: Regime Change in Iran? One Man's Secret Plan.
Iran's Chalabi? Manucher Ghorbanifar says he talked secretly with Pentagon officials about plans for regime change in Iran
By Mark Hosenball Dec. 22 issue - What was international man of mystery Manucher Ghorbanifar up to when he met with top Pentagon experts on Iran? In a NEWSWEEK interview in Paris last month, Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian spy who helped launch the Iran-contra affair, says one of the things he discussed with Defense officials Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin at meetings in Rome in December 2001 (and in Paris last June with only Rhode) was regime change in Iran. Ghorbanifar says there are Iranians capable of organizing a peaceful revolution against the ruling theocracy. He says his contacts know where Saddam Hussein hid $340 million in cash. With American help, he says, this money could be retrieved and half used to overthrow the ayatollahs. (The other half would be turned over to the United States.) Ghorbanifar says he told his U.S. interlocutors that ousting the mullahs would be a breakthrough in the war on terror because top Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are in Iran. ("You won't be surprised if you find that Saddam Hussein is on one of the Iranian islands.") Among other intel Ghorbanifar says he and associates gave the Pentagon: a warning that terrorists in Iraq would attack hotels. He also says he had advance info about Iranian nukes and a terrorist plot in Canada. Financial gain was never his objective, he says: "We wanted to give them the money, not to take the money."

The Pentagon cut off contact with Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA years ago labeled as a fabricator, after news about the talks broke last summer. But controversy about the Iranian still reverberates in Washington. Administration sources say that when White House officials OK'd what they believed was a Pentagon effort to gather info about Iranian terrorist activity in Afghanistan, they didn't know Ghorbanifar was involved. When senior officials learned in 2002 about Ghorbanifar—and that regime change was on his agenda—they decided further contacts were "not worth pursuing." But Ghorbanifar says he continued to communicate with Rhode, and sometimes Franklin, by phone and fax five or six times a week until shortly after the Paris meeting last summer. (The Pentagon says any such contacts were sporadic and not authorized by top officials.) In Congress, investigations into the Ghorbanifar story have sparked partisan tensions. Democrats want to know if the Ghorbanifar contacts are evidence of "rogue" espionage by a secretive Pentagon unit that allegedly dealt with controversial Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi; Republicans want to know whether the CIA refused to meet with potential informants merely because the middleman—Ghorbanifar—was someone the agency distrusted. A Defense official says any discussion that Ghorbanifar had with Pentagon experts about regime change was a "one-way conversation.""

Maloof loses Clearances over “rogue operations”

: "

GEORGE HERBERT BUSH’S RATIONALE FOR STOPPING SHORT OF BAGHDAD. George Herbert Bush explained in his memoirs why he decided not to go to Baghdad and try to take out Hussein: “Trying to eliminate Saddam ...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq ...there was no viable “exit strategy” we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

IRAQ’S ATTEMPT TO AVOID WAR. Just days before Bush launched the invasion, Iraqi officials made a desperate attempt to avert war. A Lebanese-American businessman, Imad El-Hage, told the Associated Press that a high-level Pentagon official received a secret message. El-Hage owned a Beirut-based insurance conglomerate, American Underwriters Group, which did extensive business in Africa. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

El-Hage said he had six meetings -- five in Beirut and one in Baghdad -- with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in the three months before the March 20 invasion. He said he believed the Iraqis he spoke to were desperate to avoid war. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

In late 2002, the CIA was approached by Syrian intermediaries with an unusual offer that reportedly came from General Tahir Jalil Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s chief of intelligence. The Iraqis allegedly wanted to avert war and were willing to go to great lengths to appease the Bush administration, which eventually might have included permitting the deployment of United States troops in Iraq and free elections. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

The chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and other Iraqi officials told El-Hage that they wanted the Bush administration to know that Iraq no longer had WMD. He offered to let American troops and experts do an independent search. Iraqi officials also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was being held in Baghdad. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

Michael Maloof, a veteran Defense Department intelligence and export-control official. He cofounded a secret Pentagon intelligence unit that was assigned the job of investigating links between Al Qaeda operatives and secular Arab governments that conservatives have long suspected of having links to international terrorism, including the Saudis and the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

On January 28, 2003, Maloof set up a meeting for El-Hage with Jaymie Durnan, a senior Pentagon aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Durnan confirmed he met with El-Hage and Maloof in Washington D.C. for 30 minutes. Durnan said, El-Hage claimed he could arrange for Hizbollah and the Syrian Intelligence services to “help us with Iraq.” (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

Only hours after his meeting with Durnan, as El-Hage was attempting to board an overseas flight at Dulles Airport, he was stopped for questioning by United States customs investigators after screeners discovered the semiautomatic pistol and stun guns in his luggage. El-Hage had failed to obtain an export license for the pistol and also had failed to declare it to the airline, according to sources. Since El-Hague possessed diplomatic papers, FBI and Customs agents allowed him to return home to Lebanon. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

In February, internal Pentagon e-mails indicated that Durnan had sent messages to other Pentagon officials inquiring about what intelligence agencies knew about the Beirut businessman. Maloof received a message on February 19 from El-Hage saying he had just returned from meetings in Iraq with Saddam Hussein’s aides Habbush, Tariq Aziz, Amer Saadi and Naji Sabri. This message was forwarded to the Pentagon. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

These Iraqi officials wanted a confidential meeting with a top U.S. representative to discuss Iraqi concessions including support for any Bush administration proposals for an Arab/Israel peace plan, cooperation with the United States against terrorists, and giving the United States “1st priority” (sic) for Iraqi oil rights. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003) In March – weeks before the war broke out -- Maloof arranged for El-Hage to meet in London with Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Perle later admitted that he had met with El-Hage in 2002. Perle said that El-Hage proposed a plan to avert war. (New York Times, November 6, 2003; Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

Defense Department officials said the CIA authorized Perle’s meeting with the Iraqis, but eventually told him they did not want to pursue El-Hage’s overture for peace. However, a senior United States intelligence official said CIA officials were unaware of any conversations with Perle on this subject and were unaware of any such authorization. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say whether the reported Iraqi effort to avert the war was brought to Bush’s attention. He said, “The United States exhausted every legitimate and credible opportunity to resolve this peacefully.” (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

In mid-April – weeks after the war broke out -- a Defense Intelligence Agency panel revoked Maloof’s high-level security clearances. The defense official had originally lost his clearances in December 2001, allegedly for failing to properly report his second marriage to a citizen of a former Soviet republic. The clearances later were restored after intervention by senior Pentagon civilians. However, Maloof had his clearances revoked for the second time, because allegedly both the CIA and DIA were angry with him for playing down Al Qaeda and for conducting “rogue operations” behind the backs of the CIA and DIA. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)"

Global Exchange : The Lie Factory

Global Exchange : The Lie Factory: "The Lie Factory

Mother Jones
January 26, 2004
Mother Jones, January/February 2004

Only weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration set up a secret Pentagon unit to create the case for invading Iraq. Here is the inside story for how they pushed disinformation and bogus intelligence and led the nation to war.
IT'S A CRISP FALL DAY IN WESTERN VIRGINIA, a hundred miles from Washington, D.C., and a breeze is rustling the red and gold leaves of the Shenandoah hills. On the weather-beaten wood porch of a ramshackle 90-year-old farmhouse, at the end of a winding dirt-and-gravel road, Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski is perched on a plastic chair, wearing shorts, a purple sweatshirt, and muddy sneakers. Two scrawny dogs and a lone cat are on the prowl, and tne air is filled with swarms

So far, she says, no investigators have come knocking. Not from the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducted an internal inquiry into intelligence on Iraq, not from the congressional intelligence committees, not from the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. All of those bodies are ostensibly looking into the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence, amid charges that the White House and the Pentagon exaggerated, distorted, or just plain lied about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda terrorists and its possession of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In her hands, Kwiatkowski holds several pieces of the puzzle. Yet she, along with a score of other career officers recently retired or shuffled off to other jobs, has not been approached by anyone.

Kwiatkowski, 43, a now-retired Air Force officer who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit in the year before the invasion of Iraq, observed how the Pentagon's Iraq war-planning unit manufactured scare stories about Iraq's weapons and ties to terrorists. "It wasn't intelligence-it was propaganda," she says. "They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together." It was by turning such bogus intelligence into talking points for U.S. officials-including ominous lines in speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony at the U.N. Security Council last February-that the administration pushed American public opinion into supporting an unnecessary war.

Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews-some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity-exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion.

SIX MONTHS AFTER THE END of major combat in Iraq, the United States had spent $300 million trying to find banned weapons in Iraq, and President Bush was seeking $600 million more to extend the search. Not found were Iraq's Scuds and other long-range missiles, thousands of barrels and tons of anthrax and botulism stock, sarin and VX nerve agents, mustard gas, biological and chemical munitions, mobile labs for producing biological weapons, and any and all evidence of a reconstituted nuclear-arms program, all of which had been repeatedly cited as justification for the war. Also missing was evidence of Iraqi collaboration with Al Qaeda.

The reports, virtually all false, of Iraqi weapons and terrorism ties emanated from an apparatus that began to gestate almost as soon as the Bush administration took power. In the very first meeting of the Bush national-security team, one day after President Bush took the oath of office in January 2001, the issue of invading Iraq was raised, according to one of the participants in the meeting-and officials all the way down the line started to get the message, long before 9/11. Indeed, the Bush team at the Pentagon hadn't even been formally installed before Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, began putting together what would become the vanguard for regime change in Iraq.

Both Wolfowitz and Feith have deep roots in the neoconservative movement. One of the most influential Washington neoconservatives in the foreign-policy establishment during the Republicans' wilderness years of the 1990s, Wolfowitz has long held that not taking Baghdad in 1991 was a grievous mistake. He and others now prominent in the administration said so repeatedly over the past decade in a slew of letters and policy papers from neoconservative groups like the Project for the New American Century and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Feith, a former aide to Richard Perle at the Pentagon in the 1980s and an activist in far-right Zionist circles, held the view that there was no difference between U.S. and Israeli security policy and that the best way to secure both countries' future was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem not by serving as a broker, but with the United States as a force for "regime change" in the region.

Called in to help organize the Iraq war-planning team was a longtime Pentagon official, Harold Rhode, a specialist on Islam who speaks Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi. Though Feith would not be officially confirmed until July 2001, career military and civilian officials in NESA began to watch his office with concern after Rhode set up shop in Feith's office in early January. Rhode, seen by many veteran staffers as an ideological gadfly, was officially assigned to the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, an in-house Pentagon think tank headed by fellow neocon Andrew Marshall. Rhode helped Feith lay down the law about the department's new anti-Iraq, and broadly anti-Arab, orientation. In one telling incident, Rhode accosted and harangued a visiting senior Arab diplomat, telling him that there would be no "bartering in the bazaar anymore.... You're going to have to sit up and pay attention when we say so."

Rhode refused to be interviewed for this story, saying cryptically, "Those who speak, pay."

According to insiders, Rhode worked with Feith to purge career Defense officials who weren't sufficiently enthusiastic about the muscular anti-Iraq crusade that Wolfowitz and Feith wanted. Rhode appeared to be "pulling people out of nooks and crannies of the Defense Intelligence Agency and other places to replace us with," says a former analyst. "They wanted nothing to do with the professional staff. And they wanted us the fuck out of there."

The unofficial, off-site recruitment office for Feith and Rhode was the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank whose 12th-floor conference room in Washington is named for the dean of neoconservative defense strategists, the late Albert Wohlstetter, an influential RAND analyst and University of Chicago mathematician. Headquartered at AEI is Richard Perle, Wohlstetter's prize protege, the godfather of the AEI-Defense Department nexus of neoconservatives who was chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board. Rhode, along with Michael Rubin, a former AEI staffer who is also now at the Pentagon, was a ubiquitous presence at AEI conferences on Iraq over the past two years, and the two Pentagon officials seemed almost to be serving as stage managers for the AEI events, often sitting in the front row and speaking in stage whispers to panelists and AEI officials. Just after September 11, 2001, Feith and Rhode recruited David Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for AEI, to serve as a Pentagon consultant.

Wurmser would be the founding participant of the unnamed, secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon, set up in Feith's office, which would be the nucleus of the Defense Department's Iraq disinformation campaign that was established within weeks of the attacks in New York and Washington. While the CIA and other intelligence agencies concentrated on Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda as the culprit in the 9/11 attacks, Wolfowitz and Feith obsessively focused on Iraq. It was a theory that was discredited, even ridiculed, among intelligence professionals. Daniel Benjamin, co-author of The Age of Sacred Terror, was director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the late 1990s. "In 1998, we went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq," he says. "We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact." Indeed, that was the consensus among virtually all anti-terrorism specialists.

In short, Wurmser, backed by Feith and Rhode, set out to prove what didn't exist.

IN AN ADMINISTRATION devoted to the notion of "Feith-based intelligence," Wurmser was ideal. For years, he'd been a shrill ideologue, part of the minority crusade during the 1990s that was beating the drums for war against Iraq. Along with Perle and Feith, in 1996 Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav, wrote a provocative strategy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called on Israel to work with Jordan and Turkey to "contain, destabilize and roll back" various states in the region, overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, press Jordan to restore a scion of the Hashemite dynasty to the Iraqi throne, and, above all, launch military assaults against Lebanon and Syria as a "prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity."

In 1997, Wurmser wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal called "Iraq Needs a Revolution" and the next year co-signed a letter with Perle calling for all-out U.S. support of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group led by Ahmad Chalabi, in promoting an insurgency in Iraq. At AEI, Wurmser wrote Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, essentially a book-length version of "A Clean Break" that proposed an alliance between Jordan and the INC to redraw the map of the Middle East. Among the mentors cited by Wurmser in the book: Chalabi, Perle, and Feith.

The purpose of the unnamed intelligence unit, often described as a Pentagon "cell," was to scour reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies to find nuggets of information linking Iraq, Al Qaeda, terrorism, and the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In a controversial press briefing in October 2002, a year after Wurmser's unit was established, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that a primary purpose of the unit was to cull factoids, which were then used to disparage, undermine, and contradict the CIA's reporting, which was far more cautious and nuanced than Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith wanted. Rumsfeld particularly enjoyed harassing the CIA staffer who briefed him every morning, using the type of data produced by the intelligence unit. "What I could do is say, 'Gee, what about this?'" Rumsfeld noted. "'Or what about that? Has somebody thought of this?'" Last June, when Feith was questioned on the same topic at a briefing, he acknowledged that the secret unit in fact looked at the connection between Iraq and terrorism, saying, "You can't rely on deterrence to deal with the problem of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of state sponsors of terrorism because [of] the possibility that those state sponsors might employ chemical weapons or biological weapons by means of a terrorist organization proxy...."

Though Feith, in that briefing, described Wurmser's unit as an innocent project, "a global exercise" that was not meant to put pressure on other intelligence agencies or create skewed intelligence to fit preconceived policy notions, many other sources assert that it did exactly that. That the White House and the Pentagon put enormous pressure on the CIA to go along with its version of events has been widely reported, highlighted by visits to CIA headquarters by Vice President Cheney and Lewis Libby, his chief of staff. Led by Perle, the neocons seethed with contempt for the CIA. The CIA'S analysis, said Perle, "isn't worth the paper it's printed on." Standing in a crowded hallway during an AEI event, Perle added, "The CIA is status quo oriented. They don't want to take risks."

That became the mantra of the shadow agency within an agency.

Putting Wurmser in charge of the unit meant that it was being run by a pro-Iraq-war ideologue who'd spent years calling for a pre-emptive invasion of Baghdad and who was clearly predisposed to find what he wanted to see. Adding another layer of dubious quality to the endeavor was the man partnered with Wurmser, F. Michael Maloof. Maloof, a former aide to Perle in the 1980s Pentagon, was twice stripped of his high-level security clearances-once in late 2001 and again last spring, for various infractions. Maloof was also reportedly involved in a bizarre scheme to broker contacts between Iraqi officials and the Pentagon, channeled through Perle, in what one report called a "rogue [intelligence] operation" outside officiai CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency channels.

As the momentum for war began to build in early 2002, Wolfowitz and Feith beefed up the intelligence unit and created an Iraq war-planning unit in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia Affairs section, run by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense William Luti, under the rubric "Office of Special Plans," or OSP; the new unit's director was Abram N. Shulsky. By then, Wurmser had moved on to a post as senior adviser to Undersecretary of State John Bolton, yet another neocon, who was in charge of the State Department's disarmament, proliferation, and WMD office and was promoting the Iraq war strategy there. Shulsky's OSP, which incorporated the secret intelligence unit, took control, banishing veteran experts-including Joseph McMillan, James Russell, Larry Hanauer, and Marybeth McDevitt-who, despite years of service to NESA, either were shuffled off to other positions or retired. For the next year, Luti and Shulsky not only would oversee war plans but would act aggressively to shape the intelligence product received by the White House.

Both Luti and Shulsky were neoconservatives who were ideological soulmates of Wolfowitz and Feith. But Luti was more than that. He'd come to the Pentagon directly from the office of Vice President Cheney. That gave Luti, a recently retired, decorated Navy captain whose career ran from combat aviation to command of a helicopter assault ship, extra clout. Along with his colleague Colonel William Bruner, Luti had done a stint as an aide to Newt Gingrich in 1996 and, like Perle and Wolfowitz, was an acolyte of Wohlstetter's. "He makes Ollie North look like a moderate," says a NESA veteran.

Shulsky had been on the Washington scene since the mid-1970s. As a Senate intelligence committee staffer for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he began to work with early neoconservatives like Perle, who was then an aide to Senator Henry Jackson. Later, in the Reagan years, Shulsky followed Perle to the Pentagon as Perle's arms-control adviser. In the '90s, Shulsky co-authored a book on intelligence called Silent Warfare, with Gary Schmitt. Shulsky had served with Schmitt on Moynihan's staff and they had remained friends. Asked about the Pentagon's Iraq intelligence "cell," Schmitt-who is currently the executive director of the Project for the New American Century-says that he can't say much about it "because one of my best friends is running it."

According to Lt. Colonel Kwiatkowski, Luti and Shulsky ran NESA and the Office of Special Plans with brutal efficiency, purging people they disagreed with and enforcing the party line. "It was organized like a machine," she says. "The people working on the neocon agenda had a narrow, well-defined political agenda. They had a sense of mission." At NESA, Shulsky, she says, began "hot-desking," or taking an office wherever he could find one, working with Feith and Luti, before formally taking the reins of the newly created OSP. Together, she says, Luti and Shulsky turned cherry-picked pieces of uncorroborated, anti-Iraq intelligence into talking points, on issues like Iraq's WMD and its links to Al Qaeda. Shulsky constantly updated these papers, drawing on the intelligence unit, and circulated them to Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld, and to Vice President Cheney. "Of course, we never thought they'd go directly to the White House," she adds.

Kwiatkowski recalls one meeting in which Luti, pressed to finish a report, told the staff, "I've got to get this over to 'Scooter' right away." She later found out that "Scooter" was none other than Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. According to Kwiatkowski, Cheney had direct ties through Luti into NESA/OSP, a connection that was highly unorthodox.

"Never, ever, ever would a deputy undersecretary of Defense work directly on a project for the vice president," she says. "It was a little clue that we had an informal network into Vice President Cheney's office."

Although Feith insists that the OSP did not seek to gather its own intelligence, Kwiatkowski and others sharply disagree. Staff working for Luti and Shulsky in NESA/OSP churned out propaganda-style intelligence, she says. As an example, she cited the work of a U.S. intelligence officer and Arabic specialist, Navy Lt. Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, who was a special assistant to Luti. "His job was to peruse the Arabic-language media to find articles that would incriminate Saddam Hussein about terrorism, and he translated these." Such raw intelligence is usually subject to a thorough vetting process, tracked, verified, and checked by intelligence professionals. But not at OSP-the material that it produced found its way directly into speeches by Bush, Cheney, and other officials.

According to Melvin Goodman, a former CIA official and an intelligence specialist at the National War College, the OSP officials routinely pushed lower-ranking staff around on intelligence matters. "People were being pulled aside [and being told], 'We saw your last piece and it's not what we're looking for,'" he says. "It was pretty blatant." Two State Department intelligence officials, Greg Thielmann and Christian Westermann, have both charged that pressure was being put on them to shape intelligence to fit policy, in particular from Bolton's office. "The Al Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons issue were the only two ways that you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S.," Thielmann told the New York Times. "And the administration was grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."

BESIDES CHENEY, key members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, including Perle and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all Iraq hawks, had direct input into NESA/OSP. The offices of NESA were located on the Pentagon's fourth floor, seventh corridor of D Ring, and the Policy Board's offices were directly below, on the third floor. During the run-up to the Iraq war, Gingrich often came up for closed-door meetings with Luti, who in 1996 had served as a congressional fellow in Speaker of the House Gingrich's office.

As OSP got rolling, Luti brought in Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich, and, together, Luti and Bruner opened the door to a vast flow of bogus intelligence fed to the Pentagon by Iraqi defectors associated with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress group of exiles. Chalabi founded the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, with the help of a shadowy CIA-connected public-relations firm called the Rendon Group, one of whose former employees, Francis Brooke, has been a top aide to Chalabi ever since. A scion of an aristocratic Iraqi family, Chalabi fled Baghdad at the age of 13, in 1958, when the corrupt Iraqi Hashemite monarchy was overthrown by a coalition of communists and the Iraqi military. In the late 1960s, Chalabi studied mathematics at the University of Chicago with Wohlstetter, who introduced him to Richard Perle more than a decade later. Long associated with the heart of the neoconservative movement, Chalabi founded Petra Bank in Jordan, which grew to be Jordan's third-largest bank by the 1980s. But Chalabi was accused of bank fraud, embezzlement, and currency manipulation, and he barely escaped before Jordanian authorities could arrest him; in 1992, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia to more than 20 years of hard labor. After founding the INC, Chalabi's bungling, unreliability, and penchant for mismanaging funds caused the CIA to sour on him, but he never lost the support of Perle, Feith, Gingrich, and their allies; once, soon after 9/11, Perle invited Chalabi to address the Defense Policy Board.

According to multiple sources, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress sent a steady stream of misleading and often faked intelligence reports into U.S. intelligence channels. That information would flow sometimes into NESA/OSP directly, sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service, and sometimes through the INC's own U.S.-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon. The INC's intelligence "isn't reliable at all," according to Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of counterterrorism.

"Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defense Department what they want to hear, using alleged informants and defectors who say what Chalabi wants them to say, [creating] cooked information that goes right into presidential and vice presidential speeches."

Bruner, the aide to Luti and Gingrich's former staffer, "was Chalabi's handler," says Kwiatkowski. "He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi's folks," she says, adding that the INC leader often brought people into the NESA/OSP offices for debriefings. Chalabi claims to have introduced only three actual defectors to the Pentagon, a figure Thielmann considers "awfully low." However, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, the three defectors provided by Chalabi turned up exactly zero useful intelligence. The first, an Iraqi engineer, claimed to have specific information about biological weapons, but his information didn't pan out; the second claimed to know about mobile labs, but that information, too, was worthless; and the third, who claimed to have data about Iraq's nuclear program, proved to be a fraud. Chalabi also claimed to have given the Pentagon information about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda. "We gave the names of people who were doing the links," he told an interviewer from PBS'S Frontline. Those links, of course, have not been discovered. Thielmann told the same Frontline interviewer that the Office of Special Plans didn't apply strict intelligence-verification standards to "some of the information coming out of Chalabi and the INC that OSP and the Pentagon ran with."

In the war's aftermath, the Defense Intelligence Agency-which is not beholden to the neoconservative civilians at the Pentagon-leaked a report it prepared, concluding that few, if any, of the INC's informants provided worthwhile intelligence.

SO FAR, DESPITE ALL of the investigations underway, there is little sign that any of them are going to delve into the operations of the Luti-Shulsky Office of Special Plans and its secret intelligence unit. Because it operates in the Pentagon's policy shop, it is not officially part of the intelligence community, and so it is seemingly immune to congressional oversight.

With each passing day, it is becoming excruciatingly clearer just how wrong U.S. intelligence was in regard to Iraqi weapons and support for terrorism. The American teams of inspectors in the Iraq Survey Group, which has employed up to 1,400 people to scour the country and analyze the findings, have not been able to find a shred of evidence of anything other than dusty old plans and records of weapons apparently destroyed more than a decade ago. Countless examples of fruitless searches have been reported in the media. To cite one example: U.S. soldiers followed an intelligence report claiming that a complex built for Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, hid a weapons warehouse with poison-gas storage tanks. "Well," U.S. Army Major Ronald Hann Jr. told the Los Angeles Times, "the warehouse was a carport. It still had two cars inside. And the tanks had propane for the kitchen."

Countless other errors and exaggerations have become evident. The thousands of aluminum tubes supposedly imported by Iraq for uranium enrichment were fairly conclusively found to be designed to build noncontroversial rockets. The long-range unmanned aerial vehicles, allegedly built to deliver bioweapons, were small, rickety, experimental planes with wood frames. The mobile bioweapon labs turned out to have had other, civilian purposes. And the granddaddy of all falsehoods, the charge that Iraq sought uranium in the West African country of Niger, was based on forged documents-documents that the CIA, the State Department, and other agencies knew were fake nearly a year before President Bush highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address in January 2003.

"Either the system broke down," former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was sent by the CIA to visit Niger and whose findings helped show that the documents were forged, told Mother Jones, "or there was selective use of bits of information to justify a decision to go to war that had already been taken."

Edward Luttwak, a neoconservative scholar and author, says flatly that the Bush administration lied about the intelligence it had because it was afraid to go to the American people and say that the war was simply about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Instead, says Luttwak, the White House was groping for a rationale to satisfy the United Nations' criteria for war. "Cheney was forced into this fake posture of worrying about weapons of mass destruction," he says. "The ties to Al Qaeda? That's complete nonsense."

In the Senate, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is pressing for the Intelligence Committee to extend its investigation to look into the specific role of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, but there is strong Republican resistance to the idea.

In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation calling for a commission to investigate the intelligence mess and has collected more than a hundred Democrats-but no Republicans-in support of it. "I think they need to be looked at pretty carefully," Waxman told Mother Jones when asked about the Office of Special Plans. "I'd like to know whether the political people pushed the intelligence people to slant their conclusions."

Congressman Waxman, meet Lt. Colonel Kwiatkowski."

Exclusive: DIA targets DOD unit

Exclusive: DIA targets DOD unit - (United Press International): "Exclusive: DIA targets DOD unit

By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent

The Defense Intelligence Agency is accelerating its investigation of a two-man Pentagon intelligence team -- the Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group -- which was tasked to establish links between then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, according to current and former senior Pentagon officials.

The investigation is trying to determine if the two-man unit leaked sensitive CIA and Pentagon intercepts to the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress, which passed them on to the government of Iran, Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a recent "Meet the Press" broadcast that the Senate Select Committee was looking into possible "illegal intelligence operations" conducted by the unit without congressional oversight, which is against the law, according to a well-placed congressional staffer.

Former DIA chief of Mideast operations, Pat Lang, agreed: "That unit had meetings with senior White House officials without the CIA or the Senate being aware of them. That is not legal. There has to be oversight."

Lang and another U.S. intelligence official told United Press International that the two men had gone to the White House several times to brief officials without notifying CIA analysts because the agency analysts differed in their conclusions.

The officials briefed included White House staffers Stephen Hadley, deputy national security adviser, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney, according to congressional staffers.

"It's inaccurate DIA is conducting an investigation," said Don Black, chief of public affairs for the DIA. However, White House and other Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment on the allegations.

The smaller DIA investigation is sharing information with an ongoing

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation, these sources said.

The Pentagon team, established just after Sept. 11, 2001, by undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, consisted of two men: Michael Maloof, a former journalist, who during the Reagan administration, worked closely as an investigator with then Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle on matters of Western-technology transfers to the Soviet Eastern bloc, and David Wurmser, a former Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute and former State Department official, according to several Pentagon sources.

While in the new unit, Wurmser's colleague, Maloof, retained close ties with Perle, then chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory group, these sources said.

Wurmser also was connected with Perle, they said.

Neither Wurmser nor Maloof were intelligence professionals, according to Lang.

Several Pentagon officials said that the Maloof-Wurmser investigation is expected to widen to include scrutiny of "senior people" in the Pentagon's Near East South Asia office, which housed its own intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, according to one former senior Pentagon source.

The OSP office was headed by former Navy Capt. Bill Luti, according to this official.

Congressional documents noted that Luti switched to the Pentagon from Cheney's staff.

According to these sources, Luti was made deputy undersecretary and reported directly to Feith.

Another prominent official of the NESA office was Harold Rhode who often dealt directly with Iraqi exile and former Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi. U.S. intelligence officials have alleged Chalabi passed "extremely critical U.S. intelligence" to the government of Iran.

Chalabi has strongly denied the charge in several public statements.

The NESA-OSP office was located on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, D ring,

7th corridor, according to retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was a staffer in the office from June 2002 through March 2003.

Kwiatkowski said Luti was a "name-dropper," who often referred to deadlines and assignments coming from "Scooter," a nickname for Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff.

Federal law enforcement officials told UPI that Libby was a suspect in the FBI investigation attempting to determine who leaked the name of a serving CIA agent, Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the Washington press corps.

When intelligence preparations for a coming war with Iraq were speeded up in

August 2002, the office of NESA was greatly expanded and the Office of

Special Plans, renamed the "Iraq desk," relocated to a new Pentagon office on the fifth floor, A ring, 6th corridor, Kwiatkowski said.

In September or October 2002, Luti's title was changed so that he would report to Feith, bypassing Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman who was in charge of international security affairs, according to several sources.

Congressional sources commented that Rodman, a Kissinger protégé, was regarded as "not a true believer" by the hard-liners headed by Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Another figure of interest to DIA investigators is reported be Lt. Col. William Bruner, an active-duty colonel, who was liaison of OSP to Chalabi, Pentagon officials said.

Congressional staffers added that Bruner, a former staffer for then Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, had been hired by Luti.

One of these sources said, Bruner "arranged OSP meetings in D.C., outside the Pentagon, with Iraqi 'defectors' and expatriates whom Chalabi produced as intelligence sources."

According to a congressional document, "It is possible that such off-campus debriefings were simply designed to keep the sources closely held within DOD, and that DIA was aware of them, but (we) understand the procedure was designed to exclude DIA, as well as CIA from these sessions."

None of the individuals named here has yet been charged with any wrongdoing, Pentagon officials emphasized."