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12/04/2004

Goss Managing CIA Personnel with Neutron Bomb

Jason Vest has a must read article on the CIA catastrophe in the Boston Phoenix. He provides background, analyzes President Bush's new proposal for increasing CIA operative manpower by 50%, and breaks all sorts of new info. on "Dusty." Vest's scoop:

In lieu of Kostiw, Goss has chosen as the next ExDir one K. Dusty Foggo. The good news is that unlike Goss’s staff cronies — most of whose CIA experience was brief and long ago — Foggo has been a DA officer for the past 22 years, and belonged to the late MG service. But while many old hands consider this an improvement over Kostiw, they’re somewhat underwhelmed with the choice of Foggo.

"Dusty came into the agency through the Presidential Management Intern program, and he was one of four interns brought into the MG service, and turned out to be the weakest of the four — his contemporaries did better than him," says an intelligence officer knowledgeable about Foggo’s career. "He’s never gotten the big jobs, like chief of administration in an area division of the DO or up in the DA hierarchy, even after Buzzy ‘reorganized.’ He’s only served in a variety of small and midlevel stations and as the number-two or -three man on some administrative staffs, and hasn’t had enough experience managing large staffs or interacting with people outside the agency to prepare him to be ExDir. And while he’s smart enough to get some things, his personality is going to be what undermines him."

According to the officer and others with both CIA and State Department experience, Foggo — who until recently was running the agency’s approximately 200-strong Middle East support base in Frankfurt, Germany — does not have a history of getting on easily with others. In one tour as station executive officer, his relationship with the station’s top case officer was so hostile that Langley "had to send a senior officer out to sit Dusty down and read him the riot act"; in another post he so antagonized a US embassy administrative counselor that no small amount of inter-agency diplomacy was required to preserve the CIA station’s ability to operate.

While Foggo reportedly had been discussing putting the DA back together along traditional lines but with never-implemented innovations recommended by in-house studies, many are skeptical that he can pull it off. "He’s something of a loose cannon who thinks he can do everything on his own, and you just can’t do that as ExDir," the veteran officer says. Some speculate that Foggo’s "loose cannon" quality could be a force for good if he puts institutional concerns before Goss’s political ones, but that’s a dubious notion, given that Foggo owes his elevation to Goss. Unfortunately for the nation, Goss’s unflinching support for his Hill imports, and their own two-fisted partisan backgrounds, augurs little good for the CIA.
Update, 12/04/04, 4:13 PM EST: Alexander Cockburn has published in Counterpunch (also in the Nation) a rejoinder of sorts to a previous column by Mr. Vest:
I wrote this column for The Nation print edition that went to press last Wednesday. The previous week the Nation ran an odd piece by Jason Vest claiming that the previously politically neutral post of the DCI was now being disfigured by an "unparalleled" political appointment. Vest appeared to claiming that the evictions of the chief and assistant chief of the CIA's clandestine wing, Sulick and Kappes, were somehow a blow to the forces of decency. It's surely no function of left commentary to start supporting any faction on the covert side of an agency that has carried out assassination, terrorism and torture as a matter of routine policy for the past 55 years.

CounterPunch's editorial position is that the more overt the political reconfiguring of the Agency by each new director, the better off we are. Let's suppose that one day a leftist president settles in behind his desk in the Oval Office, sticks a portrait of W.E.B. DuBois on the wall and then reaches for the phone, fires the heads of the CIA's covert side, appoints no successors ande shifts the entire complement of covert officers into monitoring soil erosion in the Great Plains, a real national security threat. Wouldn't that be a step forward?
Cockburn is correct to the degree that we should be wary of assuming that Goss is tainting something otherwise pure. But by saying Goss' behavior is just more of the same, he is missing two major considerations: Goss is being more overtly partisan than anyone since Schlesinger, and the CIA is more central to post 9-11 security strategy than at any point in its history. We actually need the CIA, yet Goss is nonetheless blowing it up.

More Pletka

Via Pandagon, Abu Aardvark relates an international press rumor, that State would suffer mass resignations with a Pletka appointment:

Oh, and the best story of all, which I've not seen reported in the US (which could just mean that it isn't true): Al Hayat reports that the Near East section in the State Department is threatening to resign en masse if Danielle Pletka is appointed Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. State Department critics, who have little use for "Arabists" who have highly suspicious Arabic-language skills and actual expertise in the region, might see this threat as an unexpected bonus and make them all the more eager to see Pletka appointed.
Pletka also gets into a little intramural tussle with fellow AEInik, Norm Ornstein, over the circumstances surrounding the Danforth resignation. Ornstein thinks something fishy's going on, Pletka claims there's nothing to see.

Back on Dec. 1st, Eli Lake of the NY Sun assembled an update on Is-Pal. Pletka surfaced again, this time to offer soothing words to those unsettled by the administration's failure to seize the opportunity for progress offered by Arafat's death. Natan Sharansky is another name to keep in mind.
Instead of looking like a warmed-over version of President Clinton's Near East diplomacy, the president's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict looks to be following the tone and substance of the ideas of Mr. Sharansky, whom he met on November 11 before a critical meeting with Prime Minister Blair of Britain as Arafat was dying in a Paris hospital. Mr. Bush is said to have read Mr. Sharansky's latest book in which the former Soviet dissident said the road map process undermined the substance of Mr. Bush's June 24, 2002, speech envisioning new and different Palestinian leaders.

Mr. Sharansky has served as a key channel between Prime Minister Sharon and the Bush administration since December 2000, when he met with Vice President Cheney soon after the Supreme Court decision that handed Mr. Bush the presidency. Mr. Sharansky went on Israeli television after his meeting with Mr. Cheney, whom he has known since his release from a Soviet gulag, and said the new administration would not pressure Israel to negotiate with Arafat. Since that meeting, Mr. Sharansky has slowly but surely made his case to Ms. Rice, the vice president, and other key administration officials that no peace with the Palestinian Arabs would be possible for Israel until a Palestinian leadership became committed to building the institutions of a free state.

"The peace process has always been characterized by form over substance, process over peace. President Bush made clear that he is uninterested in summits for the sake of cocktails and conferences to trade accusations," the vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Danielle Pletka, said yesterday. "I imagine if the process for achieving genuine results on the ground is real, the White House will do all that it takes and more."
Conservative columnist Clifford May touted Sharansky's book in his Dec. 2 column. Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy, has been read by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Sen. Lieberman, and Jim Woolsey, according to May.

12/02/2004

Python Bulge

US troop levels will be increased by 12,000 in the run up to the election, from 138,000 to 150,000. There were 148,000 in country on May 1, 2003 when George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."

According to Army Brig Gen David Rodriguez, "the purpose [of the troop increase] is mainly to provide security for the elections. But it's also to keep up the pressure on the insurgency after the Falluja operation."

Robert Burns of the AP notes that the need for more American troops "underscores the fact that, despite enormous effort and cost, American commanders have yet to train and equip enough Iraqis for security duty." "Insurgents have managed to intimidate many Iraqis into not cooperating with the Americans,"according Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of Central Command.

The increased troop levels will persist until mid-March 2005. The increase is achieved by extending tours, including a second extension for the First Cavalry Division's Second Brigade. The normal 7 and 12 month deployments have been turned into 9 and 14 month terms. The NYT has details on the extensions.

Iran Military Nuclear Programs

On the Iran front, William J. Broad, David E. Sanger and Elaine Sciolino report in the New York Times that IAEA inspectors have asked Iran for access to two secret military locations. Based on "a mix of satellite photographs indicating the testing of high explosives and procurement records showing the purchase" of dual use equipment, the IAEA is concerned that Iranians have a military enrichment program parallel to their recently stoppered civilian program. The two sites are "a relatively new facility, called Lavisan II, built in northeastern Tehran," and "a huge, decades-old facility southeast of Tehran, the Parchin military complex."

The requests coincide with an uptick in exile agitating about Iran's military nuclear program, with the MEK promising to "release what it called new information that Iran was secretly developing a nuclear-capable missile whose range is significantly greater than what the Iranians have publicly acknowledged to date," and providing the intel on Lavisan II. These allegations likely either derive from, or are the basis for, Colin Powell's recent statements regarding Iran's missile program.

Even if the allegations about Iran's military program are true, it is not a breach of the letter of the recent agreement between Iran and the EU, which was limited to Iran's civilian program. Iran is under no legal obligation to open up its military facilities, but there is hope that it will comply voluntarily, as it has on occasion in the past. European diplomats, the Institute for Science and International Security, and others that haven't suffered trust-setbacks in the recent past are also concerned about the sites. Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, who sounds suspiciously French, has much more on the labyrinthine fetters on IAEA inspectors:

"The IAEA simply has no authority to go to sites that are not declared nuclear sites," a diplomat close to the IAEA inspection process told Reuters.

He said the agency needed Iran's permission to inspect undeclared sites. The IAEA had not asked to inspect Lavizan II, although it would like to.

12/01/2004

Bush in Canada

President George W. Bush stopped for a day of neighbourly diplomacy in Canada yesterday. He thanked those "Canadian people who came out to wave - with all five fingers" along his route into Ottawa. Then he delivered the verbal equivalent of a single-fingered rebuff to his many critics north of the border.

"I haven't seen the polls you look at," Mr Bush said, when asked about his unpopularity among Canadians. "We just had a poll in our country," Mr Bush continued with a faint smile, "where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to be - stay in place for four more years."

Mr Bush's comments reflect both the convivial tone of yesterday's joint press conference with Paul Martin, Canada's prime minister, and the self-assured "victory lap" quality of Mr Bush's international outreach since re-election. [Financial Times]
Is it too much to ask that our President not be a dick? Dan Froomkin rounds up a lot of the coverage of Bush's visit in his White House Briefing, and the Canadian Press and NYT provide some meta-analysis.

White House Press Corp

Mike Allen has a fascinating insider look at the struggles the White House press corp faces in getting answers from Bush. Old story, but nice update.

Update, 12/04/04, 3:59 AM EST: Dan Froomkin, author of the Washington Post's invaluable White House Briefing column, has a similar story at Salon. It's nice to see the press corp thinking about these issues, and Froomkin has managed to collect some sage advice. My addendum: consistently use Bush's lack of answers as news stories. If a reporter asks Bush "what do you think about recent events in Mosul" and Bush answers with his pablum about bringing peace and security to the Middle East, the story for tomorrow's paper should lead:

When asked yesterday about recent events in Mosul, President George W. Bush gave no indication that he was aware of recent events unfolding there. Mosul has been the scene of spectacular violence, much of it narrowly directed toward destabilizing Iraqi security forces. By all evidence, those attacks are working, and the Iraqi forces in the region have been rendered unable to assume the responsibilities the US strategic plan requires of them. Foreign policy experts are concerned that President Bush is unaware of how critical these developments are...
If Bush doesn't answer a simple question, the media must assume it's because he can't. That is the only way to get an actual answer out of him.

More "Plame Waivers"

Just not in the Valerie Plame case. Isikoff and Hosenball report in Newsweek that the tactic, pioneered in the Plame investigation, of requiring government employees to waive reporter-confidentiality agreements is being considered for "as many as 100 FBI agents, federal prosecutors and other [Justice] department employees" potentially involved in the case of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who was publicly (wrongly) implicated in the 2001 anthrax attacks on Washington.

The waivers are meaningless, as they are rightfully not recognized as valid by reporters. They are also bizarre, as there should be many alternative methods of identifying government leakers. Nonetheless, they provide insight into how the administration thinks:

Just how much pressure the government has used can be gleaned from the experience of one former White House official who, after the leaving the government, was still pushed repeatedly by the FBI to sign the waiver form. The former official, who asked not to be identified, said he refused to do so because "I didn’t think it was fair to the reporters. It struck me as a backdoor way to use pressure." An arrangement between a reporter and a source "has to be all or nothing. It can’t be changed after the fact."

At that point, the FBI agents called up the former official’s lawyer and stepped up the pressure, saying that other witnesses at the White House had signed the statements. “If he’s got nothing to hide, why won’t he sign,” one of the agents asked, according to the former official’s lawyer.
Two important comments. First, the expansion of this tactic is not a good development. While it is currently being used in investigations of leaks that are either obviously or ambiguously contrary to the public interest, there can be no doubt that they will be used against genuine whistleblowers in the future. As I type, the administration is destroying the CIA in a fit of pique over leaks, and their secrecy fetish is well known. Tactics developed in gray areas quickly expand to white.

Second, Isikoff and Hosenball's piece was given the title "Whistle-Blower Crackdown Spreads." Whoever leaked information on Hatfill may have had the public interest at heart, but could just has easily been running interference for the administration's profound incompetence on the anthrax investigation. It's not clear that they deserve the "whistleblower" title; the leakers in Plame obviously do not. George Gavalla, Dr. David Graham, Michael Kelly, Teresa Chambers, Richard Foster - a small sample of real whistleblowers.

Update, 12/02/04, 2:06 PM EST: Eugene Volokh has an op-ed in today's NYT on the topic. He is concerned about the interaction of Plame waivers and non-traditional media (i.e., bloggers). His brainstormed remedy is something that I could support, though it could be done through judicial rule reform, rather than legislation:
Lawmakers could pass legislation that protects leakers who lawfully reveal information, like those who blow the whistle on governmental or corporate misconduct. But if a leaker tries to use a journalist as part of an illegal act - for example, by disclosing a tax return or the name of a C.I.A. agent so that it can be published - then the journalist may be ordered to testify.
The problem, as usual, is that some information rests on both sides of the line. The leak of the CIA appointee's 20 something year old arrest for shoplifting, for instance: it is a petulant violation of the guy's privacy, but if the CIA won't respect him, there is a serious public interest at stake.

11/30/2004

Hitler Youth

When arguing that Goss' purge has targeted the wrong people, Stephen Kappes is exhibit one. As US News and World Report's Kevin Whitelaw and David Kaplan note:

To those who worked with him, Stephen Kappes seemed the perfect choice to lead the covert side of the CIA in the midst of the war on terrorism. Appointed in June, Kappes, a former marine, is a veteran CIA case officer who served in dangerous and difficult postings in Moscow and Pakistan. More recently, he reported directly to President Bush as the CIA's point man in secret high-stakes negotiations with Libya that ended the rogue state's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. [USNWR, Kicking Over the Hornet's Nest, 11/29/04 p.22]
Whitelaw and Kaplan report that Goss' four transplanted House Intelligence Committee aides quickly became "notorious at the CIA, where many viewed them as arrogant, partisan, and caught up in micromanaging marginal programs. At CIA headquarters, the Goss aides soon acquired a nickname: 'the Hitler youth.'"
A certain amount of friction was probably inevitable, given the conflicting cultures that were thrown together in the CIA's seventh-floor executive suites. Many at the CIA resented having to take orders from a group of former Hill staffers whom they regard as inexperienced. Three of Goss's aides spent time working at the CIA, but all left early in their careers. (One of them, Jay Jakub, earned four commendations for his work there.) The fourth, Murray, Goss's chief of staff, spent most of his career at the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill.

Making matters worse was a political environment in which Republicans have blamed CIA officials for a series of pre-election leaks. Goss's key staffers also came in with something close to scorn for many of the CIA's current leaders. Rumors that they had assembled a "hit list" of officials slated for ouster swept through the CIA. One aide, Jakub, had penned a section of a bill earlier this year blasting the CIA for failing to reform: "After years of trying to convince, suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reaching changes to the way it conducts its [human intelligence] mission, however, CIA, in the committee's view, continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff."

CIA veterans are particularly puzzled by reports from their former colleagues that Goss, a savvy politician, has seemed so aloof from much of the CIA staff, leaving key decisions to aides. They also worry that Goss's awkward opening weeks could endanger his reform agenda. "This is the worst moment in history to have this kind of fight," says a former senior CIA manager, "and this is the worst fight I've seen inside the agency."

And it could get worse. A dozen of the CIA's most experienced spies may be plotting their exit, insiders say. One CIA veteran described "a terrible atmosphere, with everybody running around nervous and averting eye contact." Adds a visitor to the CIA's seventh floor last week, "I have never seen so much emotion in that place."

Richer Promotion Unusual Good News on CIA Front?

I won't hold my breath, but it appears that the appointment of Robert Richer, the former chief of the CIA's Near East Division to the associate deputy director for operations position is a good move. I couldn't find any references to him on-line or in various electronic databases, which by comparison is good news - he hasn't been out flacking for the GOP.

11/29/2004

Pletkawatch

Eli Lake in the NY Sun:

The suicide commandos story, reported by the Associated Press yesterday in Tehran, puts into sharp relief the stakes of the latest round of nuclear brinkmanship between Iran's ruling mullahs and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran reversed its position yesterday and said it would agree temporarily to halt enrichment of uranium.

If the Iranian regime were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it could make it harder for its targets to respond to terrorism from Tehran.

"There is no question the Iranian regime looks at the second Gulf War and says this would never have happened to Saddam if he already had nuclear weapons. This is like a license for Iranian adventurism because it immediately raises the cost to any party that chooses to object," the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Danielle Pletka, said in an interview yesterday.
Lake refers to this harrowing AP story, which details some mechanics of the recruitment of Shiite terrorists, apparently with at least tacit Iranian support.

The idea, though, that the acquisition of nuclear weapons will allow Iran to increase its support for terrorists is probably not accurate. There is no deterrent right now to such an increase - Iran doesn't appear to be significantly interested such a course of action. Moreover, the lesson of Iraq is that we will invade you regardless of your support for global terrorism - it really doesn't matter if you do or don't support terrorism, you are a target. Unfortunately, we are the irrational actor in this situation.

Update, 11/30/04, 6:52 PM EST: The Jerusalem Post gives us a Kremlinology update:
When Rice arrives at the State Department, she will have to form a new team of Middle East advisers to assist her. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns has been tapped to be the new US ambassador to Russia. And his deputy, David Satterfield, while originally chosen to be ambassador to Jordan – a position that has been vacant for roughly four months – is slated to go, at least temporarily, to Baghdad to be the number two official at the US embassy there. He may not take up the posting in Baghdad, however, until the summer.

The Bush administration has not yet selected replacements for the outgoing NEA team. Some names mentioned in Washington as possible replacements for Burns are David Welch, currently the US ambassador to Egypt, and Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

The administration could be tempted to choose someone like Pletka, from outside the bureaucracy, since she has been a strong advocate of the US-led invasion in Iraq and of democracy promotion in the Middle East.

"Welch is a logical choice if they were going to stay inside the [State Department] building," said one Washington observer of the appointments game. "The message [coming out of the White House] is that they are definitely thinking about going outside the building. And that's much more likely for NEA jobs." The White House, the observer added, would like someone who will play out of the "same playbook."

CPAC giving award to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

The Conservative Political Action Committee is giving its 2004 "Courage Under Fire" award to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Me, I think turning a boat back into fire to rescue a fallen soldier represents "courage under fire."

Chicken Egg

Did China learn from the GOP or vice versa?

CSM: In a move intended to muffle the voices of some of China's most prominent and independent scholars and activists, hard-line elements in the new Hu Jintao government are seeking to eradicate the concept of "public intellectuals" in China.

A new "gray list" has been created, sources say, of historians, economists, writers, environmentalists, and other Chinese who have offered a critical voice or been influential in recent years in Chinese society outside official circles, and who have started to be referred to as "public intellectuals." The term until now has connoted dignity and worth.

Public intellectuals in China are known for opposing brutal police practices; for promoting greater citizen participation, AIDS awareness, freer speech; and for advocating environmentally friendly policies.

Propaganda ministry officials are now seeking to eliminate the concept of public intellectuals, and to stop Chinese media from creating lists of such persons as a commercial enticement to buy their publications. In recent weeks, official warnings have gone out to state-run newspapers, magazines, and TV urging limits on the use of those who have been heard under the "public intellectual" moniker, and who often voice thought differing from China's party line.

"The attack is on the idea of independent thinking," says a Western scholar of China based in Beijing, who said the language of attack is "pretty hard."
See mediamatters.org for links to a rebuttal of Will's retreaded argument.

11/28/2004

AP on Goss Purges

Yesterday the AP published a look at the recent Goss-driven resignations from the CIA. It adopts the "balanced" line, noting that "there are those who view Goss' early moves as a purge" but "others see the transition as welcome change for an agency criticized for major intelligence failures, including missing clues before Sept. 11 and botching the prewar analysis on Iraq's weapons." Without making any attempt to verify the truthfulness of the competing positions, the report goes on to quote a bunch of knowledgeable people who are uniformly concerned about the direction Goss is taking the CIA.

This is not objective or professional reporting - it is a charade, primarily because the chief reasons for a skeptical interpretation of Goss' actions are missing. The reasons:

  1. Goss has an obscenely partisan record.

  2. Goss has brought over people that share his partisan proclivities.

  3. Goss has caused the resignation of people that weren't responsible for the recent failures.

  4. The administration has refused to support a fair assessment of who was to blame for the intelligence failures leading to Iraq.

  5. No fair assessment of the CIA's failures on Iraq WMD can leave out administration pressure or Feith's DoD reinterpretations of CIA reports.

  6. Goss' appointment did not take place in a vacuum, and the "partisan" interpretation of his elevation has been confirmed by the nomination of Rice for State and Gonzales for AG.
We have a good idea of why Goss is doing what he's doing. Concern for the integrity of the agency has never played in Goss' decision making, and there's no reason to believe it is now.

 

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