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9/04/2004

GOP Convention Coverage Round-Up

The best coverage of the GOP Convention was ironically produced by two confused Republicans and one confused leftist. First is Mr. Andrew Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan is a confused bird, fiercely hostile to the GOP domestic agenda, critical of the incompetence on display in every Bush-Cheney foreign policy initiative, yet strongly supportive of a Bush's neo-Wilsonian interventionism (I am uncomfortable calling it neo-Wilsonian - I don't think "neo" means "wretched, farcical mockery of").

Mr. Sullivan on Bush's speech. Sen. Miller as a liar and as a bigot (and here. Similarities between Cheney and Kerry on DoD appropriations. More coverage here: hopes, Sheri Dew, McCain and Giuliani, Bill Frist et al, the Bush girls, Laura Bush, and "diversity," Mitt Romney & Dick Cheney.

Will Saletan (aka Lord Saletan) is a Republican, apparently because he believes what they say. Such naivete is unbecoming in a journalist, but Mr. Saletan showed signs of a breakthrough during the course of the convention.

In order of quality: democracy, rubble rousing, soft bigotry of low expectations, General Franks, miscellany, McCain and Giuliani, Schwarzenegger

Michael Berube is a wishy washy leftist lit crit twit that was seduced by the pomp and circumstance, briefly becoming a mouth foaming Republican. He was eventually slapped down by none other than Grover Norquist for refusing to entirely discard his rational faculties.

His conversion takes place here. Tales of his journey are here, here, here, and here. His comeuppance is here. Prof. Berube, you were missed.

9/03/2004

John Bolton and Arms Control

John Bolton's irrational hostility to verification of arms-control treaties continues unabated. The US is in the midst of negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that would halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, opposes verification measures in the treaty. According to the AP, experts in the field (from the Arms Control Association, CSIS, and ISIS) characterize this position as a "poison pill" that will kill the entire treaty.

More: here, here, here, and here.

According to Daniel Sneider of Knight Ridder, Bolton is a chief advocate of a hard line toward Iran:

But the administration is also fractured. The leak of secret documents on Iran by Pentagon officials to Israel reflects those battles. Hardliners, led by John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, argue that Iran must be isolated, not engaged. Bolton calls for the Bushehr reactor to be halted and is pressing to move now to the U.N.

Those circles advocate giving money and guns to Iranian opposition groups. Most Iranian experts believe such an attempt to impose regime change from the outside will fail. And any Iranian government, for reasons of national pride and aspirations for great power status, may want to possess nuclear weapons.
Bolton's hostility to arms control is long running and well known. Here's some background on Bolton's submarining the Biological Weapons convention.

Some conservatives want Bolton to replace Powell as Secretary of State in a second Bush administration.

Iran Contra II Update IV

Laura Rozen and Jason Vest get top honors today, with their piece in the American Prospect. Rozen and Vest flesh out some of the contours of the investigation by reporting on an FBI interview with Stephen Green, an expert on Israeli intelligence operations within the US. It gives significant insight into the scope of the various investigations.

Honorable mention goes to three pieces, all helpful in determining the scope of the investigation. First, Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder provides an expansive look at the Iran policy dispute that precipitated Franklin's alleged leak. The central investigation appears to revolve around DoD efforts to support the MEK over opposition by the State Department, CIA, and NSA. But the tentacles of the investigation reach deep:

FBI agents have briefed top White House, Pentagon and State Department officials on the probe in recent days. Based on those briefings, officials said, the bureau appears to be looking into other controversies that have roiled the Bush administration, some of which also touch Feith's office.

They include how the Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group backed by the Pentagon, allegedly received highly classified U.S. intelligence on Iran; the leaking of the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters; and the production of bogus documents suggesting that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger. Bush repeated the Niger claim in making the case for war against Iraq.

"The whole ball of wax" was how one U.S. official privy to the briefings described the inquiry.
The NYT article mentioned in the last update deserved more attention than I gave it. The author, Eric Schmitt, also focuses on the connection between the Franklin investigation and Iran policy.

Second, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post expand on the relationship between the Franklin investigation and Chalabi:
There appears to be at least two common threads in the multi-faceted investigation. First, the FBI is investigating whether the same people passed highly classified information to two disparate allies -- Chalabi and a pro-Israel lobbying group. Second, at least some of the intelligence in both instances included sensitive information about Iran.

The broader investigation is also looking into the movement of classified materials on U.S. intentions in Iraq and on the Arab-Israeli peace process, sources added.
Third, Eric Alterman and Paul McLeary, writing for the Center for American Progress, clarify who is actually doing the investigating, noting that the FBI, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee are looking into different aspects of the matter, all focusing on Doug Feith's operations within the DoD.

Bob Drogin and Greg Miller in the LA Times provide background on Israeli Intelligence operations in the United States. Reuters notes that the investigation into the original leaks to Israel (into which Franklin stumbled) have been going on for more than two years, and that senior government officials have been aware of it. David Johnston and David Sanger have more on this investigation in the NYT.

Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post calls the investigation "more of a smear campaign than an espionage investigation" by the "press-crazed" FBI. She centers the whole scandal around continuing US uncertainty on Iran policy, blaming the investigations and leaks on a duplicitous effort to undermine a hardline policy against Iran:
It may be that given the damage now wrought on the reputations of apparently the only forces in Washington who may be willing to admit that the US non-policy towards Iran, in all its permutations, is a colossal failure, means that the US will not take any action against Iran's nuclear installations. If this is the case, Israel may quite simply be forced into a position of having to ignore America for now and do what needs to be done.

If, as a result of the prominence of the appeasers in US policy circles and their fast and dirty tactics, the US is no longer able to take military action against threats to its national security that happen to constitute even larger threats to Israel's national security, then going it alone, and as quickly as possible, may be Israel's only option. Israel can simply not afford to be paralyzed by American policies on Iran that have already failed or by spy scandals that make no sense.
In another article, Janine Zackaria of the Jerusalem Post claims that AIPAC is "defiant."

Meanwhile, the AP reports that the US is taking a hard-line toward Syria by enforcing term limits (and thereby an election) in Lebanon and that Israeli-Syrian tensions are rising in the wake of recent Hamas suicide bombings.

Question About Alan Keyes

Alan Keyes was a college roommate of Bill Kristol at Harvard. Kristol managed Keyes' 1988 Maryland campaign for US Senate. They are by all indications still friends. Maybe someone should ask Kristol, every liberal's favorite Straussian, why Alan Keyes is so fucking nutty.

George W. Bush on Responsibility

1994: George W. Bush Named Campaign Plane Accountability 1.

George Bush's 1994 gubernatorial campaign plane was called Accountability 1. See Sam Howe Verhovek, The Bushes: Two Brothers Share a Quest but Not a Style, The New York Times, 11/5/94

1994: Accountability Necessary for “Peaceful World.”

''I don't think cultures go backwards,'' [George W. Bush] said, ''and I never would even suggest that the Ozzie and Harriet days of our youth will return. But there must be a new culture, a new attitude, a new mindset holding people accountable for their behavior if we expect to have a peaceful world. The governor of Texas can help that change, and I want to be a party to that.''
Ellen Debenport, Brothers Not Close, but Rhetoric Is, Scripps-Howard NS, Rocky Mountain News, 10/31/94.

1994: “Individuals Should Be Responsible and Accountable for Their Actions.”
""Texas is considered the third most dangerous state in the nation. No wonder, because in the last three years 7,700 criminals have been released early from prison. ""I will end early release of criminals and end parole altogether for rapists and child molesters. Violent juveniles and gang members will be tried and punished as adults. ""In welfare, the able-bodied will get work or more education or lose their benefits. ""I'm running for governor to change this state. We can right the wrongs in Texas if guided by one basic principle: Individuals should be responsible and accountable for their actions. '' Announcer: ""Bush, a successful business man with deep roots in Texas. Raised in Midland where he built and ran an oil business. No managing partner of the Texas Rangers. A family man, active in civic and church programs to help the disadvantaged. He's deeply dedicated to the Texas tradition of individual initiative and responsibility. '' Bush: ""I do not want Texas to look like New York, California or anywhere else. I want Texas to be Texas. '' Announcer: “Take a stand for Texas values. Bush for Governor.”
Preamble, an advertisement run by candidate Bush in his 1994 gubernatorial race, Houston Chronicle, 8/16/94

1998: Accountability and Responsibility for Government.
"Whether for government or individuals, I believe in accountability and responsibility. "For too long we've encouraged a culture that says, 'If it feels good do it, and blame somebody else if you've got a problem.' "We've got to change our culture to one based upon responsibility -- one that clearly says Texans are responsible for their actions, for their families and for their decisions in life. "As governor, I'm pushing policies that promote responsibility. Students, parents and teachers should all be accountable for results. If someone commits a crime in Texas, they should be held accountable. "And government has to be accountable to the taxpayers. I believe we've got to limit government to basic services. After that, government tries to do too much, it fails and people become cynical. "As Texans accept responsibility for their choices, we'll begin to see some real changes. "I'm an optimist. I know we'll succeed and usher in an era of responsibility and opportunity for all of Texas."
Vision, an advertisement run by Governor Bush in his 1998 gubernatorial race, Houston Chronicle, 8/15/98

1998: Challenges in Our Hearts, Not Outside Our Borders.
In his own words, George W. Bush ran for governor in 1994 to be "a catalyst for cultural change." He aimed to change state government so that individuals were more responsible for their behavior. To this day, a centerpiece of his standard political speech is that "the main threat to America today is moral decay" and that "today's challenges lie not so much outside our borders but in our hearts."
Alan Bernstein, Gov. Bush's positions on morals illustrate the Republican conflict, The Houston Chronicle, 6/21/98

1998: Ushering in the “Responsibility Era.”

Mr. Bush said he was sure that he would know how to lead the nation -- though his concept of a national vision seemed a bit unformed. "The reasons to do it are reasons you've heard me talk about some," he said. "Ushering in the responsibility era. Or the best education system in the country. And, of course, other national issues I would be confronted with."
Richard Berke, Gov. Bush Speaks Volumes in Hints on Presidency, New York Times, 7/15/98

1998: Blaming Somebody Else Worries Bush.
"I'm worried about a culture that says if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else," Bush likes to tell audiences.
Jill Lawrence, Out of Texas, a familiar but singular brand, USA Today, 9/8/98

1998: Responsible People Learn from Their Mistakes.
"Once you put your hand on the Bible and swear in [to public office], you must set a high standard and be responsible for your own actions. I have said that I was irresponsible at times. No question about it. And the question that baby boomers must be asked and must answer is, 'Have you learned from your mistakes?' -- not whether we have made mistakes. It's whether we have learned from the mistakes."
Lois Romano, Son on the Horizon; Gov. George Walker Bush Is Running Hard. But Is He Heading in His Father's Direction?, The Washington Post 9/24/98

2004: Ditto
Let me conclude by also talking about a contribution that rural America makes that's important for the future of our country, as well. It's the spirit of rural America. I oftentimes talk about the need to change this culture of ours in America from one that has said, if it feels good, why don't you just go ahead and do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. And it's changing. The culture is changing in America. A lot of it has to do with the culture of rural America, a culture based upon faith and family.

When I say, "responsibility era," here's what I mean: I mean if you're a mother or a father, you're a responsible for loving your child with all your heart. That's your responsibility. I think people in rural America understand that well. I think it's -- I think it's a part of the culture of rural America. If you're in rural America, or anywhere in America, and you're worried about the quality of the education in which you live, you're responsible for doing something about it, see? Don't hope the faraway government in Washington solves your problem. Do something about it. Work with your teachers and thank your teachers, and get involved so that the quality of the education is what you want it to be.

Of course, you know I'm going to say this, but if you're a CEO in corporate America, you're responsible for telling the truth. That's part of what I mean by ushering in a responsibility era. You're responsible for telling the truth to your shareholder, you're responsible for telling the truth to your employees. You know, you oftentimes hear talk about neighborliness in rural America -- neighbors caring for neighbors. Part of a responsibility era is a neighbor loving your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. That's part of the responsibility era, as well.
George W. Bush, 4/15/04

9/02/2004

Iran Contra II Update III

There are two must reads today. First is the New York Daily News report on the Office of Special Plans, that it is the target of a broad investigation:

The secretive Office of Special Plans and a related project are being investigated over how they obtained top-secret intelligence and whom they shared it with, according to four federal sources.

"It involves the improper transfer of information," said one source briefed on the case. "A lot more is going to come out."
Second is this Washington Post article reporting that the investigation involves much more than just the draft policy toward Iran:
The counterintelligence probe, which is different from a criminal investigation, focuses on a possible transfer of intelligence more extensive than whether Franklin passed on a draft presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran, the sources said. The FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic intercepts of communications, was also forwarded to Israel, they said.
Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley were informed of a possible leak to Israel more than two years ago, according to the Post. The Franklin investigation is "coincidental" to this broader probe.

MSNBC has a new report on Naor Gilon, the ambassador implicated in the case: "Gilon is also identified as a specialist on Iran's nuclear program." If he is implicated in espionage, he may be declared PNG. It also reports that the copy of the AIPAC hard drive was authorized by a search warrant.

The New York Times speculates as to why Franklin might have given information to AIPAC.

Forward has two interesting articles on the case. First is a look at the implications of the Larry Franklin scandal on the prospects for a policy of "regime change" toward Iran. I think it is far too early to even speculate on such matters. Larry Johnson, the former CIA analyst referred to below, continues to link the investigation to Plame/Niger:
Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and a forceful critic of what he maintains was the administration's manipulation of intelligence on Iraq, offered an alternative view.

He claimed that the Franklin affair derived from the investigation into which administration officials unlawfully "outed" CIA operative Valerie Plame by disclosing her identity to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak. The leak allegedly was orchestrated to retaliate against Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he undermined a key administration argument about Iraq's efforts to buy enriched uranium in Africa.

"I think there are several grand jury investigations going on in the Plame investigation, and one of them is focusing on the activities of the neocons at the Pentagon and in the vice president's office," Johnson said. Investigators, he added, were exploring the possibility that forged documents showing Iraqi nuclear procurement activities in Africa could have originated in Israel.
Second, Forward reports the reaction of some of the leaders of the Jewish community to the charges, most of whom seem quite concerned about possible damages to US-Israeli relations. I thing wagon-circling would be premature; there is a possibility that the revelations could fuel anti-Semitic fires, but the real story here seems to be the backchannels between Franklin-Rhode-Gerecht-Ledeen and Ghorbanifar-Michael Aoun. If AIPAC is guilty of anything, it is probably improvidently throwing its lot in with a bunch of blinkered cowboys. The story also reports on some comments by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt's press secretary:
Blunt's press secretary said that "should the allegations prove to warrant" such a probe, there was talk about a possible "congressional investigation" or "an informal fact-finding" look into suspicions of wrongdoing by Aipac employees and Israeli officials. But other congressional leaders said they were unaware of the possibility of such a probe, adding that one would be unlikely as long as the FBI investigation has not produced conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the two AIPAC officials involved in the investigation, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have hired a lawyer, Abbe Lowell; AIPAC itself has hired a lawyer, Nathan Levin. The AP has put out a story identifying Rosen and Weissman; despite its ubiquity, it is basically old news.

A broader version of the AP story above has a bit of new information. This may be an explanation for the naive/incompetent meme:
Several friends and colleagues of Franklin said they doubted he would be involved in true espionage, suggesting that the case could involve a simple mistake or mixup.

"I think he was probably lured into thinking that it was OK or at least you could get away with doing something like this by the general atmosphere of very full cooperation with the Israelis in the (Pentagon policy) shop," said Patrick Lang, who formerly worked with Franklin at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
It also notes Conyers' letter requesting an investigation, first reported at Laura Rozen's War and Piece.

Bill Geertz of the Washington Times gave a little background information on Franklin. Nothing new, but, once again, a defense of Franklin by Ledeen. To offer unsolicited legal advice, Mr. Ledeen should really shut up.

The Dallas Morning News had an editorial yesterday supporting an investigation: "Truth, even between friends, must out."

The LA Times has an editorial prudently urging caution in addressing the issues, recalling the unfortunate cases of Richard Jewell and Wen Ho Lee. Noting the closeness of many prominent neoconservatives (Luti, Feith and Wolfowitz) to Franklin, it claims: "this web of connections has sent conspiracy theorists who think U.S. foreign policy is being controlled by Israel into a frenzy." Maybe I'm just not reading enough on this, but I really haven't seen the frenzy. Caution is advisable here, but I have yet to see anyone alleging a Jewish conspiracy. Otherwise, the editorial is an effort at whitewashing, offering only the facile defense of Franklin as "incompetent." There is no acknowledgement of his role in the backchannels. [OK, maybe this antisemitic rant counts as frenzy.]

9/01/2004

Conventional Dissembling

"It's an aggressive campaign to kick up dust from Ground Zero into the eyes of voters."

"'Bush has to defend the Iraq war. It's central to his presidency. It would be political suicide to admit he made a mistake,' said Robert Art, an international relations professor at Brandeis University."

Or as Fox News might say, political homicide.

Iran Contra II Update II

NPR has an interview with Fred Kaplan on Larry Franklin. Kaplan says the FBI probably wouldn't be involved in the matter if Franklin had only given AIPAC a DoD draft of policy toward Iran. Otherwise, nothing particularly interesting.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Steve Rosen has had his hard drive confiscated.

An AP report includes this nugget:

Yet Raymond Tanter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he believes the next president will have little choice but to support the main Iranian opposition group, the MEK.

That group, however, is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations and few politicians openly support it.

And Tanter says support for either military action or for using the MEK could be undermined by the investigation into whether Larry Franklin, a Middle East analyst at the Pentagon, provided classified information on Iran to Israel.

"Those people who would say unleash the MEK could be accused now of following a Zionist agenda," Tanter said. "The Franklin flap is quite damaging. It plays into Iran's hand."
Jim Lobe of Inter-Press Service on the second/third investigation. Not sure about Lobe's credibility, but a data point nonetheless.

Haaretz published a bio of Franklin; apparently everyone thinks he's naive. Memo to DoD: 1. Don't hire naive people. 2. Don't involve naive people in unauthorized covert ops. Franklin teaches at Shepherd University in WV.

ABK

George Bush is the incumbent, with a four year record in the White House. Many people think his accomplishments suck, and want "ABB," or anybody but Bush to win. Conservatives insinuate that this sentiment is the only force motivating Kerry supporters - that he "has no record," despite the impressiveness of his investigative accomplishments.

Yet the DNC convention didn't criticize Bush. John Kerry does not campaign on an ABB platform - he campaigns as the best candidate for President. In contrast, the GOP convention has truly been an ABK - anybody but Kerry - cesspool of negative attacks and divisiveness. There has been no defense of any of Bush's "accomplishments," merely glowing testimony to his (duplicitous) character and hostility to Kerry.

Four years. Not even enough goodness for a four day convention. Embarassing. "ABK," "ABK," "ABK!"

8/31/2004

New York Sun Article

The Village Voice adds some significant new information to the Larry Franklin picture:

The New York Sun reported Monday that the Franklin inquiry has its origins in a search for the person who leaked top secret war plans for Iraq published in The New York Times in early July 2002. At the time, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was highly irritated by the leak and declared at a July 21, 2002, press conference, "It's inexcusable, and they ought to be in jail." Later, in a memo to Pentagon staff, Rumsfeld wrote, "I have spoken publicly and privately countless times about the danger of leaking classified information. It is wrong. It is against the law." According to the Sun, it's unlikely Franklin will be charged with espionage. "This is not a matter of U.S. security being damaged," a senior law enforcement official told the paper. "And the material wasn't of a top secret nature—it was draft policy papers and position papers and stuff like that. The Israelis could have gotten the same stuff from conversations with their counterparts at State or the White House."
I'm not sure that this is correct. Franklin specialized in Iran at the DoD, and by all means was much more an anti-Iran hawk than anti-Iraq. The article points to a New York Sun article that I would really like to see. It requires a subscription, though, and the Sun isn't available on Lexis past 8/20. Update, 6:13: via Rozen, the article is here. She explains that the leak of the Iraq war plan may have triggered the initial monitoring of AIPAC, into which Franklin stumbled.

Additionally, Mitch2k2's Kos diary links to a UPI article: Washington Times/UPI, 8/30:
Other sources briefed on the case, however, said another meeting occurred in Paris in June 2002 when Rhode "accidentally" bumped into Ghorbanifar, a meeting attended by Franklin, Rhode and Ruel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, now a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, and an assistant to Richard Perle, a former senior Defense Department official during the Reagan administration.
Ruel Marc Gerecht, aka Edward Shirley, is a former CIA case officer that has been harshly critical of the Agency since the mid-nineties. He is associated with PNAC and AEI, and is frequently published in the Weekly Standard.

F. Michael Maloof

The Boston Globe article discussed below mentions F. Michael Maloof as allegedly involved in a back-door effort to subvert the Syrian regime. This Knight Ridder article has necessary background information on Maloof:

WASHINGTON - A veteran Pentagon employee who was a key player in the effort to find links between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida has been stripped of his security clearance, according to senior U.S. officials.

The employee, F. Michael Maloof, is associated with a Lebanese-American businessman who is under federal investigation for possible involvement in a gun-running scheme to Liberia, the West African nation embroiled in civil war. The businessman, Imad El Haje, approached Maloof on behalf of Syria to seek help in arranging a communications channel between Syria and the Defense Department.
Also according to Knight Ridder, Maloof and Imad El Haje were involved in the backchannel efforts of Iraq to avoid the U.S. invasion.
Early this year, a Lebanese-American businessman, Imad El Haje, relayed word that Saddam would allow U.S. experts and troops into Iraq to verify that he had no weapons of mass destruction, said the officials, who requested anonymity.

El Haje sent his message through a Department of Defense official, F. Michael Maloof, who was involved in a Pentagon effort to find links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, and Richard Perle, the head of a Pentagon advisory panel who was a leading advocate of invading Iraq.

U.S. officials said none of the approaches went anywhere. They were deemed either fraudulent or attempts by Saddam to stall for time to allow international opposition to a U.S.-led attack to build, they said.

Iran Contra II Update

The Boston Globe is about the only major media that has "gotten it," emphasizing in this morning's editorial the "light [the scandal] casts on the incoherence of policy-making in the Bush administration rather than any conspiracy to pilfer American secrets for Israel." The Franklin investigation is much more about the use of a back-channel to Iran, "surreptitiously" used by a faction in the DoD to undermine other factions in our national security apparatus. The Axis of Incompetence (AoI), Wolfowitz, Feith, and Luti, are seemingly attempting to instigate a war with Iran, perhaps replicating their astonishing success with Iraq. Its article, which focuses on the "second investigation," reports:

The broader probe is trying to determine whether Defense Department officials went outside normal channels to gather intelligence on Iraq or overstepped their legal mandate by meeting with dissidents to plot against Iran and Syria, according to Bush administration and congressional officials.

Senate Intelligence and House Judiciary Committee staff members say inquiries into the Near East and South Asia Affairs division have found preliminary evidence that some officials gathered questionable information on weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi without proper authorization, which helped build President Bush's case for an invasion last year.

The investigators are also looking into a more serious concern: whether the office engaged in illegal activity by holding unauthorized meetings with foreign nationals to destablize Syria and Iran without the presidential approval required for covert operations, said one senior congressional investigator who has longtime experience in intelligence oversight.
It also features a scathing denunciation by Perle, a sure sign that the investigation is on the right track. Feith and his staff are cooperating with the investigation, "after months of delay." Money may have changed hands, to both Ghorbanifar and the MEK:
But one congressional investigator said staffers are looking into whether there was an exchange of money between US officials and Ghorbanifar or other Iranians, and whether any proposals for cooperation included seeking assistance from the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a group in Iraq that is seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime but is labeled a terrorist group by the US State Department.
F. Michael Maloof, another Pentagon official, may have been involved with attempts to use Lebanese general Michel Aoun to overthrow Syria. Wow.
"People are concerned about covert action being conducted by a policy office with no legal mandate to do so," said one Democratic official involved in the Judiciary Committee inquiry. "If the Senate and House intelligence committees in their review only look at the Chalabi relationship but don't look at the office's role in what was in effect covert action to explore regime change in the entire arc of the Middle East, then their inquiry will be a joke."
The LA Times has an article and an op-ed, but both address the issue as an Israeli spy case. The op-ed dicusses the ineptitude of the AoI, but mostly on broad policy issues (there's a stovepipe and a Chalabi reference). The article discusses the investigation's interactions with two AIPAC employees, Steve Rosen, the group's director of foreign policy issues and "a senior Middle East analyst for AIPAC, Keith Weissman." Israeli officials said that Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy, met with Larry Franklin, but claims his "hands are clean." The revelation of the investigation may be hampering it. The Pentagon's characterization of Franklin "as a "desk officer" with no significant influence on U.S. policy" is not accurate.

The Washington Post has an article discussing the investigation's interviews (which took place Sunday and Monday) with other high level DoD officials, including Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for policy, and Peter Rodman, assistant secretary for international security affairs. Powell and others in the White House were briefed on the matter. Federal prosecutors are close to filing charges, though it is not clear against who - Franklin's cooperation in the investigation may result in reduced charges, but only if there is a bigger fish to fry. The progress, breadth, and subject of the second investigation, which was underway prior to Franklin's leaking information to AIPAC, is unknown. Update, 8/31, 10:44am EST: JMM comments on the Washington Post article.

The New York Times has an article reporting that the investigation's meeting with Wolfowitz and Feith were "briefings, rather than interviews." Paul McNulty, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is heading the investigation. "[T]wo unidentified officials of Aipac suspected of passing information to the Israelis are also under investigation," presumably Rosen and Weissman identified in the LA Times article.

Update, 11:01 am: For background info, see here. For info on Ghorbanifar, see here and here.

Update, 11:37 am: Laura Rozen comments on Maloof. For background on Maloof, see above.

Feedback welcome.

Saletan on a Roll

Will Saletan has some great blog posts on the Convention over at Slate. His reactions to Giuliani and McCain are spot on.

That said, he buys into two particularly pernicious GOP frames. First, he claims Democrats "bribe" special interest groups. How? Which special interest groups? There are two possible references: teachers unions and other unions. To call support for teachers unions "bribes" is to ignore the fact that their prescriptions for educational reform are strictly superior to anything offered by the GOP. To call support for collective bargaining and labor rights a "bribe" is to ignore the fact that they are, you know, rights. That is a pretty core part of our ideology, not a bribe. When I think of "bribes," my thoughts turn immediately to Bush's support for faith based initiatives, otherwise known as federally funded GOP party building, deregulation, otherwise known as Enron income support, and no-bid contracts, otherwise known as a wise investment by Halliburton.

Democratic constituencies are not special interests merely because Republicans identify them as such. Look at the GOP's assault on NIOSH:

"I can't fathom it because almost everyone works, so you'd think that healthy work would be important," said Dana Loomis, an epidemiologist and environmental health scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "But the unfortunate reality nowadays is that worker welfare, including worker health, is perceived by many as special interest," not worthy of federal protection.
Second, Saletan claims Republicans are stronger supporters of accountability:
Republicans had a better operating theory of human nature: People behave more virtuously and wisely when they bear the consequences of their actions.
Liberals value accountability more than conservatives. That's why we oppose Bush.

8/30/2004

McCain's Speech

4/10. It was decidedly mediocre. I never realized what a weak speaker McCain is. Only febrility was a denunciation of Michael Moore, which prompted "Bullshit" and "Four More [Moore?] Years" chants.

Substantively, a lot of dissembling, Bush challenged, resolve, 9/11, stood on pile of rubble, resolve, 9/11.

Had his heart been in it, he could have done a vicious "Brutus is an honorable man" on John Kerry. The GOP already uses "honorable" as a virtual slur. I guess we dodged a bullet.

I hope he heard about the purple heart bandaids - convention delegates are mocking purple heart recipients with emblazoned bandaids. Par for the course. McAuliffe wants a denunciation, Bob Dole rationalized it - "Party has no control" over the official delegates, "Democrats did the same stuff." Bastards.

Update: Purple Heart Bandaids. I reiterate: bastards.

Bush's Management Style

Mike Allen and David Broder of the The Washington Post undertake an effort to tease out George W. Bush's managerial style. They must tease it out because people like Karen Hughes obviously lie about it, people like Dick Cheney fight to the death to prevent internal documents from becoming public, and people like Bob Woodward are so beholden to access that nary a discouraging word is heard.

Bush is invariably paralyzed when it comes to making hard decisions - what to do about Iran or North Korea - anything that requires weighing costs and benefits. He is willing to believe anyone who can give him a cost free solution to a difficult problem. The willingness of his advisers to offer ludicrous solutions to intractable problems is directly proportional to their ideological fervor. The cost free solutions can be as complex as they need to be to evade imposing any cost on a potential electoral demographic. Bush will stand by those cost-free solutions unless he perceives an electoral advantage to changing his position.

I would have liked to see a discussion with Paul O'Neill, but the piece is on the whole quite good. Particularly the last 1/3. My favorite quote:

Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, Bush's best friend, said the president forces people to boil things down "to discipline the system so that people don't abuse the taxpayers' time of the president."
George W. Bush has spent almost a third of his presidency on vacation.

Disagreeing with Lakoff

I am nowhere near as smart as George Lakoff, but that's not going to stop me from saying he's completely wrong. His classic book Moral Politics models progressivism and conservativism (discussed here). Progressives are "nurturant parents," who assume "that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that," governing through empathy. Conservatives are "strict fathers," who assume "that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good," governing through painful discipline. People use frames to interpret the world in accordance with these models.

Lakoff's examination of particular frames is always fascinating, whether he's talking about "tax relief" or "death tax." But his prescriptions are always weak, because his models are more harmful than helpful. There is sufficient indeterminacy in progressive and conservative worldviews that both can be justified through either model. What's more, characterizing progressivism as the product of a "nurturant parent" worldview buys into a conservative frame that diminishes progressivism as soft, while characterizing conservatism as stern buys into the delusional conservative mythology of toughness.

There is nothing "tough" about looking out solely for number one. There is nothing tough about exploiting people. There is nothing tough about claiming people are oppressed by taxation. There is nothing tough about using fear as a political tool. Conservatives are not tough.

What's more, they aren't disciplined. They can't discuss policy details. They can't acknowledge that they have made mistakes. They won't punish rich people who break the law, whether its polluters or tax frauds, CEOs or leakers of classified information. They can't make hard decisions, always opting for the easy out, even when it's delusional. They are as close to reality as I am to Bill Clinton (not very). For Christ's sake, they cut taxes during a war!

Progressives, on the other hand, are tough. If someone can't cut it because the highest marginal tax bracket if 38%, well fuck 'em. If people can't cut it paying employees 7$ an hour, well fuck 'em. If people can't function in their daily life because Mr. Arab is on a plane with them, or Mr. & Mrs. Black moved into their neighborhood or their school, that's life. If Mr. Andro can't compete with Ms. Gyno, he's screwed.

Progressives are disciplined. A parent should have the right to family leave to take care of a sick family member or newborn babe, because it's right. People should have a right to health care because it's right. People should accept that they are where they are because of our countries human, social and institutional capital - and that they have an obligation to give something back. That is what discipline means - playing by the rules, and making sure that the rules are fair.

Conservatism says "I am where I am because of me" when I succeed and "I am where I am because of the government" (or minorities, or immigrants, or women, or whatever) when I fail.

So what's the right answer? I think every conservative argument has to be met in two ways. First is reframing, the approach embraced by Lakoff, defending issues on "nurturing parent" grounds. Second, though, is counter-framing. Taking their "stern father" frame, and showing how it applies better to progressivism.

It's what conservatives have done. Clint Bolick took social justice and "civil rights" and turned them into anti-tax and anti-regulation frames. Grover Norquist counseled College Republicans to meet every human rights issue with an anti-Communist issue (divestment from Apartheid v. support for Solidarity), to argue, in effect, that progressive empathy wasn't actual empathy, just crypto-Communism.

They're bastards, but we should learn from them.

MEK

Laura Rozen, over at War and Piece, is hinting that the Larry Franklin story is related to MEK, the anti-Iranian terrorist group operating out of Iraq. Juan Cole has two posts discussing a Jerusalem Post article which alleges that:

The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaida operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Last month, the US extended official Geneva Convention protection to the MEK. Looks like Franklin's AIPAC gambit paid dividends.

Cole notes that Abu Musab Zarqawi was one of the operatives Iran offered to hand over. That is the second time the administration passed on a chance to nab Zarqawi.

Update 8/31/04, 5:56 pm EST: So Iran has arrested a dozen or so spies, apparently all connected to the MEK. Laura Rozen links to a Jerusalem Post article; Mitch Cohen provides details.

Underachiever

Bob Novak's son, Alex Novak, works for Regnery, the publishing house behind the Republican SBVfT smear campaign (and just about every other GOP smear as well):

Unmentioned in Mr. Novak's columns and television appearances, however, is a personal connection he has to the book: his son, Alex Novak, is the director of marketing for its publisher, the conservative publishing house Regnery.
George H.W. Bush's son stole the Presidency, Antonin Scalia's son helped him, and Michael Ledeen's daughter was running post-war Iraq. Shouldn't little Alex be a little more ambitious?

Josh Marshall recently highlighted Bob Novak's dishonesty on the Ben Barnes revelations re Bush's National Guard service. My favorite example of Novak's dishonesty relates to the Bush administration's failure to take out Abu Musab Zarqawi prior to the Iraq war. Novak had a rebuttal to the argument, which consisted entirely of blaming leftist mastermind Hillary Clinton and distorting a Stephanopolous interview.

Cult of Personality

AP: Convention Confetti Covered in Bush Images 8/29/04: President Bush will literally rain down on Republican National Convention delegates Thursday night after he accepts their nomination for a second term.

The president's picture, along with those of his wife Laura, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, adorns hundreds of pounds of confetti that will be dropped along with 120,000 balloons and streamers during the convention's closing minutes.

"It's something fun for delegates to sneak home in pockets and tell the kids about," said convention press secretary Leonardo Alcivar, who calls it the first time picture confetti has been used at a political convention.
Creepy. Can you imagine John Kerry doing this? We want a Presidential election, not a popularity contest.

A Legacy of Failure

Conservatives identify as one of Bush's great strengths his absence of self awareness, his lack of concern for how he is perceived by history or the world ("History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."). But isn't just a little bit of concern for history's judgment (one's legacy) a nice check on bad governance?

As Sebastian Mallaby notes in an aside, "Could he not be bothered to cross-examine the officials who were drawing up plans that would determine his standing in history?"

Grown-Up Republican Foreign Policy

NewDonkey, the unofficial DLC house organ, is almost exactly right in its analysis of David Brooks:

But when it comes to specifics, Brooks proposes that Republicans embrace ideas that have long been identified with New Democrats, and that the Kerry-Edwards campaign has largely appropriated. They range from waging a wider, non-military war against Islamic extremism and rebuilding multilateral institutions and alliances, to advocating a stronger national role in education reform, energy and environmental policy; reforming entitlement programs; attacking corporate subsidies; lifting working families above the poverty line; and expanding national service opportunities.
My only quibble is that this continues the DLC's noxious habit of taking exclusive credit for various aspects of the Democratic agenda.

I recently read Sen. Chuck Hagel's A Republican Foreign Policy, in the July/August Foreign Affairs. Hagel's principles for his GOP foreign policy look like they were cribbed from John Kerry's web page:
  1. "First, the United States must remain committed to leadership in the global economy. The rule of law, property rights, advances in science and technology, and large increases in worker productivity all have contributed to the United States' leading edge in global markets."
  2. Second, U.S. foreign policy cannot ignore global energy security. Discussions of U.S. energy policy are often detached from economic and foreign policy. The United States has an interest in assuring stable and secure supplies of oil and natural gas.
  3. Third, the United States' long-term security interests are connected to alliances, coalitions, and international institutions.
  4. The fourth principle of a Republican policy should be that the United States must continue to support democratic and economic reform, especially in the greater Middle East. We cannot lose the war of ideas.
  5. Fifth, the western hemisphere must be moved to the front burner of U.S. foreign policy.
  6. Sixth, the United States must work with its allies to combat poverty and the spread of disease worldwide.
  7. The seventh and final principle of a Republican foreign policy is the importance of strong and imaginative public diplomacy. The coin of the realm for leadership is trust and confidence, and popular discontent and questioning of U.S. foreign policy intentions will undercut our efforts in the war on terrorism and initiatives in the greater Middle East.
#s 3, 4, 6, and 7, Hagel's article is a left-handed endorsement of Kerry.

Other random criticisms of David Brooks' long article in the NYT Magazine:
  • Brooks' list of things 2000 Republicans had "no idea they were getting" in Bush is incomplete. He could have included secrecy, deception, hostile to civil liberties, neo-Crusader, etc. Unless, of course the GOP knew they were getting this and preferred it.
  • "The foreign-policy realists will battle the democracy-promoting Reaganites." "Democracy promoting Reaganites" is bullshit. Mr. Brooks should read here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I particularly like the last piece, a Sept. 2004 William Robinson article in New Political Science:
    The type of political system Washington will attempt to establish in Iraq has little to do with democracy and should not be referred to as such, as the terminology itself is ideological and intended to give an aura of legitimacy to US intervention. It does not involve power (cratos) of the people (demos), much less an end to class and foreign domination or to substantive inequality. This political system is more accurately termed polyarchy (a term I have borrowed from Robert Dahl and modified)—a system in which a small group actually rules on behalf of (transnational) capital and mass participation in decision-making is limited to choosing among competing elites in tightly controlled electoral processes.

    US policymakers began to promote polyarchy in the 1980s and 1990s around the world through novel mechanisms of political intervention, abandoning the dictatorships and authoritarian regimes that they had relied on for much of the post WWII period to assure social control and political influence in the former colonial world. This shift in policy took place in the context of globalization and in response to the crisis of elite rule that had developed in much of the Third World in the 1970s. Behind the new policy was an effort to hijack and redirect mass democratization struggles, to undercut popular demands for more fundamental change in the social order, to help emerging transnationally-oriented elites secure state power through highly-contested transitions, and to use that power to integrate (or reintegrate) their countries into the new global capitalism.
    Republicans can not take credit for "democracy promotion."
  • Brooks imagines a bygone era of Republican unanimity against "big government." This never existed. Bill Kristol and Bill Bennett, for instance, have never joined Norquist on the "small government" train. They have always been willing to grow government for political advantage.
  • Hamilton wasn't the man Brooks believes him to be. Please see Tyranny of the Printers.
  • The contractarian myth of free labor has a complex lineage. Please see Robert Steinfeld, The Invention of Free Labor (I haven't yet read Steinfeld's 2001 book, but Invention was top notch.)

Update 8/30 9:21am EST: Jack Balkin beat NewDonkey to the punch. Also Jacob Heilbrunn in the LA Times.

8/29/2004

BCCI and Iran Contra

John Kerry's record as a top investigator continues to pay dividends. Kerry was involved in unmasking corruption in BCCI. BCCI was used to fund Iran-Contra, and laundered money for Mr. Ghorbanifar.

Tom Morganthau, Douglas Waller, Rich Thomas, and Steven Waldman, The CIA and BCCI, Newsweek, 8/12/91

Press accounts also speculated about the possibility of a BCCI connection to the Iran-contra affair. Richard Secord, the retired Air Force major general who was Oliver North's principal associate in Iran-contra, flatly denied that he or North used BCCI -- although it was true, Secord told NEWSWEEK, that the "enterprise" got one or two checks drawn on a BCCI account from Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer who played middleman during the Reagan administration's covert attempts to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon with the Iranian government.
Daniel at Crooked Timber puts it best: "The fact that George W Bush borrowed money from BCCI in 1987 but John Kerry launched the investigation in 1988 that eventually brought them down really says about all you need to know about the character of the two men."

How Many Wars has Ghorbanifar Started?

Newsweek, 'Reagan Was the Target', October 5, 1987

The Reagan war on Libya's Muammar Kaddafi began long before U.S. bombers struck Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986, and Casey kept stoking the furnace with provocative intelligence.

***

Reagan is shot in early 1981, making Casey even more sensitive to terrorism.

A major review got under way on Libya that summer, and Casey knew that intelligence reporting fuelded the policy fires. The more [about Kaddafi] the CIA threw at the White House, the more impulses for action were stirred -- particularly in Reagan and Haig.

Three days after U.S. Navy F-14 fighters shot down two Libyan jets over territorial waters claimed by Kaddafi, the Libyan was in Ethiopia's ancient capital, Addis Ababa, meeting with the country's leader, Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, a young, fiery Marxist. In the room at the time was a senior Ethiopian official, a secret CIA source rated "generally reliable" to "excellent." At the meeting, Kaddafi declared he was going to have President Reagan killed. When the report reached Washington, it carried this evaluation: : "Mengistu was convinced . . . that the threat should be taken seriously." Shortly afterward, the NSA intercepted a conversation in which Kaddafi said essentially the same thing: Reagan was the target.

Casey realized that this was about as good as intelligence ever got -- an intercept and a human-source report that his own Operation Directorate said should be taken "seriously." Other than a military attack, the warning was perhaps the most serious matter he might ever address, a threat to the life of the president. Casey discussed the matter with everyone, with anyone who would listen. Something had to be done. But what? They couldn't go shoot Kaddafi. After a week passed without an attempt on the president's life, everyone seemed to cool off. Not Casey. He ordered all the intelligence agencies to report any whisper to him directly. But the White House still wouldn't take direct action.

In the fall of 1981, concern about Iranian hit teams mounted again at the White House. There were reports from a CIA European source, a high-level Palestinian, the relative of a Libyan diplomat in New Delhi, "a casual informant with excellent access to senior Libyan military officers," several European intelligence services, "an informant with demonstrated access to senior Libyan intelligence personnel": and one who walked into a CIA station abroad. He claimed he had left one of Kaddafi's training camps and gave details of the exercises -- including how to hit a U.S. limousine caravan.

The threat was somewhat self-generated, it turns out.

On Dec. 18, the CIA Intelligence Directorate issued a "SECRET" report noting that first word of a Kaddafi threat to Reagan -- at the Mengistu meeting -- was from an "excellent source." Then came the cold water. "Subsequent reports on actual plans to carry out attacks against senior U.S. government officials, however, have come from sources with only indirect access, whose credibility is open to question. It is possible that some . . . reporting may have been generated because informants are aware that we are seeking this information.

Much of that information was traced to a shadowy figure with ties to Iranian and Israeli intelligence -- Manucher Ghorbanifar, a wealthy Iranian arms salesman who had been a secret CIA source. He saw the initial hit-squad reports as an opportunity to make trouble for the Libyans and single-handedly kept the issue alive for several months. Soon the CIA officially and secretly declared Ghorbanifar a "fabricator."
Update, 9/8/04: Thanks to Steve for the link. The more conspiracy minded might also want to look at this post; Ghorbanifar may have been involved in the nebulous "October Surprise."

Silberman - Ghorbanifar

When I first heard about the spy case, it had already developed to the point that Manucher Ghorbanifar's name was being thrown around. His name was familiar, but not for his involvement in Iran Contra, his most impressive foray into American policy making. Instead, I remembered him from Reagan's "October Surprise" story, brought back into the public eye by Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty.

The October Surprise is shrouded in mystery, and likely always will be. The allegations are:

  • The Reagan-Bush campaign was afraid that its electoral hopes in the 80 campaign would be dashed if Carter managed to secure release of American hostages from Iran prior to the election.
  • Carter had overseen a dramatic reduction in CIA resources, and there was significant support for Reagan in the intelligence agencies.
  • Reagan-Bush used these resources to open up a backchannel between the campaign and the Iranian government, securing a promise that Iran wouldn't release the hostages until after the election (and ultimately until Reagan's inauguration).
  • The negotiations took place in two meetings, one at L'Enfant Plaza in D.C., and one in a Paris hotel.
  • Reagan offered arms sales to Iran in exchange for the delayed release of the hostages.
These are all incredibly serious allegations, and many of them are based on unreliable testimony. There is at least one admitted fact, though: three Reagan-Bush staffers met with a representative of the Iranian government at L'Enfant Plaza. One of these officials was Judge Laurence Silberman. The second meeting is not admitted; that it took place is based on statements from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr. At the second meeting was none other than one Manucher Ghorbanifar.

Judge Silberman is now heading the official investigation our disastrous Iraq intelligence failures. If Manucher Ghorbanifar is the source of some of the flawed intelligence, there may be a small conflict of interest.

Oh yeah, Silberman exonerated a few Iran Contra criminals, stage-managed anti-Clinton smears, and is a total hack.

Some Sources

Robert Parry, The Looking-Glass 'Surprise'; In the Culture of Conspiracy, Real Questions Linger, The Washington Post, 12/6/1992
Though little noticed at the time, the October Surprise scenario was first aired in 1980 when Iran's acting foreign minister, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh, alleged Republican interference to reporters in France. Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean was told by a Republican source in Washington about a supposed mid-October trip by vice presidential candidate George Bush to Paris for the purpose of hostage negotiations. GOP campaign spokesmen promptly denied the charge and Maclean never wrote the story.

In 1983, a congressional investigation into the theft of Carter's debate briefing book during the 1980 presidential campaign revealed that the Reagan campaign had an elaborate 24-hour-a-day operation, overseen by Casey, to monitor Carter's efforts to free the hostages. Ex-CIA and military officers were on the alert for any sign that Carter had cut a deal. But it was unclear if this political intelligence operation had gone any further.

In the wake of the Iran-contra scandal in 1986, more allegations about Republican hanky-panky in 1980 surfaced. Iran's ex-president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr offered the New York Times a sketchy account of a meeting between Republicans and Iranians in Paris in October 1980. Senior Reagan-Bush campaign advisers acknowledged to a Miami Herald reporter that they had held a private meeting at Washington's L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in September or October 1980 with a mysterious Iranian emissary. The Republicans -- Richard Allen, Laurence Silberman and Robert McFarlane -- said they rebuffed a proposal to deliver the hostages to Ronald Reagan.

***

The L'Enfant Plaza meeting: The most baffling new information developed by the Senate investigators concerns the meeting of GOP campaign aides and an Iranian emissary at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Prior to the congressional investigation, the three Republicans -- Allen, Silberman and McFarlane -- said they rejected a proposal by a Middle Easterner to release the hostages to candidate Reagan. But they all blanked on the man's name and position, thus leaving the possibility of more conspiratorial explanations. An Iranian arms broker, Houshang Lavi, then stepped forward claiming to be the emissary.
Mark Hosenball, If It's October...Then It's Time for an Iranian Conspiracy Theory, The Washington Post, 10/9/89:
Also present at that 1980 meeting were Richard Allen, who later became national security adviser, and Laurence H. Silberman, now a federal appeals court judge. Silberman summarized what happened in a letter sent last year to The Miami Herald. The meeting took place in September 1980, according to Silberman, with an emissary whose name Silberman can't remember. The emissary "suggested the prospect of gaining release of the hostages if they could be released to representatives of candidate Ronald Reagan rather than President Jimmy Carter." Silberman continued: "As soon as what he had in mind became apparent, Dick Allen and I completely and decisively cut off the discussion." Silberman said he told the emissary "that we Americans have only one president at a time and that any dealings concerning the hostages would have to be with the administration."
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
Among Iranians named as participants in the Paris meetings by Americans claiming to be witnesses were Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iran-born Mossad agent and arms dealer who later played a central role in the Iranscam arms-for-hostages scandal. Former Iranian President Bani Sadr seemed to confirm this when he told the writer that the Iranian participant in the Washington meeting with Allen, McFarlane and Silberman was either Ghorbanifar, Parvis Sabati, or both. Bani Sadr also named four Iranians who backstopped the operation. They included his successor as president of Iran, Mohammad Ali Rajai I and the then-speaker of Parliament and now principal Iranian leader, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Update 8/30/04, 10:47 pm EST: Thanks to PDB for the link. It's a great resource.

The Spy Case

There are two stories here.

The first is a controversy surrounding a DoD official, Larry Franklin, who leaked a classified provisional plan on US policy toward Iran to AIPAC. Based on Laura Rozen's reporting, Franklin wanted the Israeli lobby to use some pull to affect the still-developing administration policy - Franklin didn't think it was tough enough, and wanted AIPAC's help sharpening some of the edges. This is not necessarily a "spy case" - it could easily just be a window into the dysfunctional Bush administration policy process, where outside groups are given more influence over policy than professional administration officials (not that Franklin really counts as a professional - see Juan Cole). It is important, but not earth shattering.

The second story is bigger. Apparently the FBI is trying to "turn" Franklin, to get him to talk about how US policy-makers cooperated with shady Iranian arms dealer - Manucher Ghorbanifar - to manipulate American policy both toward Iraq and Iran. The forged Niger documents that originated with Italian intelligence (SISMI) may have had a connection to Ghorbanifar. Cooperation between senior Republicans and Ghorbanifar could indicate an actual conspiracy to manipulate global public opinion and American policy.

Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris are the must read.

CBS broke the story and provided details on the investigation of the initially unnamed Walker. The Washington Post fingered Larry Franklin and notes that he recently spent some time in Israel. The New York Times reported on the connection to Feith's office and noted that the FBI was trying to 'turn' Franklin, without speculating as to why, and reported an Israeli denial of spying. Knight Ridder reported that the story was broader than it first looked, and noted that the investigation is more than two years old. The LA Times reported on the role of Iran (sort of - it's has more self-preservation from Ledeen than anything), and provided some background on Israeli spies. The AP gave some background on the investigation, reported Israel's denial, and analyzed the impact on Rumsfeld. An older MSNBC look at Ghorbanifar.

Laura Rozen provides a first look (her site is down right now - "bandwidth exceeded"). Steve Clemons has two looks at Larry Franklin, here and here. Mark Kleiman has a couple of analytical posts, here and here. Kos provides some context. Josh Marshall provides a first look (see the must read above). Matt Yglesias talks about cognitive dissonance here. Atrios has a round up. Swopa has an exchange with Ledeen. Juan Cole seems a bit angry:

Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a rightwing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the Neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the US government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.
Update, 8/30/04, 12:01 pm EST: Apologize for the long quote from MSNBC, but so be it:
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA AGENT

JOHNSON: What I‘ve been told is that there‘s a strong belief that the forgery was carried out by Israel in an effort to help build up the evidence to allow the United States to justify going to war. So, this whole thing that started with the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA officer, started growing and expanding when they saw that there‘s this forged memo and then people linked to the office of—in the office of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Fife at the Department of Defense were seen as having some very close contacts and sharing information with the Israeli intelligence sources.

WITT: Larry, I want to go back to what you just said. You‘ve been hearing about this investigation for some months now?

JOHNSON: Correct.

WITT: So my question to you, the timing of this release, it is Friday night. We‘re heading into the weekend, leading into the Republican National Convention. Anything to be tied to that?

JOHNSON: Potentially, yes. You know, this would be a political black eye for the Bush administration if it turns out to be true. Well and again, it is—I know that the FBI has been very reluctant to talk about it. I‘ve been hearing about it through people who have had access to people who have been involved with the investigation. And they‘ve been trying to run down these various leads.

But, a key component of this goes back to who forged the memo that that letter—that document that was used to insinuate that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger? And so this, and look, we shouldn‘t be surprised that Israel is spying us on. There‘s no such thing as a friendly intelligence service. And from the standpoint of Israel, I understand why they‘re spying on us, but you know we‘re not Israel. We‘re the United States and from our standpoint, we‘ve got to protect our national security assets. And no matter how good a friend Israel is, they don‘t get to come inside and get a hold of the family jewels.

WITT: Now Larry, from your perspective, how big might this be?

JOHNSON: Well I think it‘ll be huge. I mean I‘ve heard some of the other names that are being looked at and you know one of the concerns is it goes over to the National Security Council as well. So this could expand beyond the Department of Defense and go into the National Security Council. I mean I know that there were targets that are being looked at. Now whether they‘ve collected enough evidence to be able to prosecute, that‘s a whole other issue.

 

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