by Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
The Axis of Deceit, those neocon warmongers/empire builders who managed to convince George Bush to launch a U.S. attack on Iraq to destroy what now appears to be nonexistent weapons of mass destruction (WMD), have now turned their sites to getting the U.S. to foster regime change in Iran for the same purpose. Bringing up the specter of a likely Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, the Axis is beating the war drums to get the U.S. to help topple, via a revolution, the current government of Iran.
But unlike the situation prior to the war on Iraq, where the Axis was able to rig intelligence products to suggest that Iraq had WMD and was going to use them to harm the U.S., this time they have not yet concocted such reports nor have they been able to twist the CIA's arm into either giving intelligence reports on the Iranian situation, should such reports even exist, nor into making such a conclusion in a formal intelligence assessment. But that will not stop the Axis, as they will utilize their pipeline to the U.S. intelligence community and a variety of pressure tactics, at appropriate points, to try to get what they want, especially now that Iran has not caved in to additional inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Pipeline and the Line on Iran
A good example of one of the users – and abusers – of U.S. intelligence products is that master of mendacity, Michael Ledeen. Formally listed as a "Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair" at the American Enterprise Institute (that this statist is labeled a scholar in freedom makes the AEI sound like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984) and a contributing editor of National Review Online (NRO), Ledeen has built a career on milking classified information from the U.S. government and using it for whatever project or goals are currently in vogue with the neocon warmongering/empire building crowd (more on that below).
Ledeen and other Axis members are using a pipeline they have built into U.S. intelligence with the aid of cronies inside the Bush Administration. This pipeline runs into the Pentagon and the National Security Council as well as to the Vice President. In the past, such avenues, including the Defense Policy Advisory Board, have been used to get classified information, some of which likely wound up in the hands of a foreign country and some of which may have been used to assist clients.
Richard Perle – still on the Defense Policy Advisory Board – is one of the most notorious practitioners of this technique, but Michael Ledeen is no slouch. Unlike past schemes for getting their hands on classified information and passing it along to friends or clients, this time the Axis of Deceit had a two-way street, through the Pentagon, the NSC, and the Vice President to the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community so as to be able to pass off their conclusions – a self-serving agenda for war, empire, and political favoritism – as being the unbiased assessments of the U.S. intelligence community.
In any case, this technique still appears to be actively used. In a June 16 article that appears in NRO, Ledeen's – and the Axis's – current line is that Iran is on the brink of a revolution against the current Islamic fundamentalist clergy leadership, and that all that is needed to help start a revolution would be a formal U.S. policy statement – from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage (Dubya has already babbled about his support for true democracy in Iran) in support of a revolution against Iran's ruling mullahs.
Ledeen stated that the U.S. intelligence community – specifically the CIA – has had no human intelligence reports on what is going on in Iran since well before the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Having said that, Ledeen, whose past activities have included trashing the CIA, appeared to be trying to suck up to the current CIA Director, George Tenet, by not blaming the lack of such sources on him and by describing him as "…personable…" Maybe Tenet's recent denial of having cooked the results of a major U.S. intelligence assessment that supported the notion that Iraq had WMD was a factor in getting this on-line kudo from Ledeen. But this is still odd given the penchant for Ledeen and other members of the Axis of Deceit for trashing those who will not cooperate with them or do their exact bidding.
Let me engage in some plausible speculation regarding Ledeen's attempt to curry favor with George Tenet. Does Ledeen think he can get some useful information on Iran from Tenet so as to push for the U.S. to foment a revolution in Iran? Could it be that Tenet, for reasons not given publicly, has not been sharing intelligence reports on Iran outside the confines of CIA headquarters? This might be the case if CIA was getting some useful reports from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6. Such reports, when shared, are subject to extremely strict controls, meaning that they could not be distributed outside Langley and could only be used in a finished intelligence analysis under the most dire circumstances and with the approval of MI6 and its organizational supervisor, Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). And that is because disclosure of the information could result in the loss of the source, possibly including the source's death. (Exx-Gman comment: seems ironic, doesn't it – you get intelligence then don't use it – only in government does this happen).
And this view of the situation – with MI6 and the JIC not wanting their report or reports disseminated throughout the U.S. intelligence community – would be especially true given the heavy leakage of intelligence – including the cooked intelligence on the phantom Iraqi WMD's – through Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and their conduits on the Defense Policy Board such as Richard Perle, R. James Woolsey, Newt Gingrich, etc., to folks like Ledeen and others at the AEI. Note further that AEI has been holding frequent breakfast briefings for Axis of Deceit members – both within and outside of the Bush Administration. While disclosure of raw intelligence information at such breakfast meetings is unlikely, big names like Gingrich, Perle, and Woolsey can talk about such issues and give their thoughts – which have certainly been shaped by their access to highly classified information given to Defense Policy Board members – in such a way as to divulge just the essential conclusions.
Some of Ledeen's Past Attempts to Milk the Intelligence Cow
And this is even more true if a character like Ledeen might get his hands on such extremely sensitive information. A report from the November 14,1988 issue of The Nation by Jefferson Morley provided details of Ledeen's operating style, including some references to his alleged involvement and lies over the Iran-Contra affair. Ledeen wrote a book about the Iran-Contra affair, entitled "Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair." According to Morley, the book combined "…Ledeen's two most salient features, a whining, turgid prose style and a chronic inability to tell the truth. It even contradicts the shifty testimony he gave during the Congressional Investigation."
In this report – verified to me as an accurate account by a source I know and trust – Morley also described how Ledeen had been recommended by senior Reaganites for a job as a consultant on terrorism to Noel Koch, who served in various senior appointed positions at the Pentagon from 1981–1986 in the Reagan Administration. According to Morley, who quoted from a letter Koch sent to the Congressional committee that oversaw the Justice Department and the FBI, Koch went on to describe how Ledeen would criticize the CIA and its then-Deputy Director of Operations. Finally, Ledeen tried to get Koch to get him copies of two specific reports from the CIA. Ledeen claimed that he could not go directly to CIA and ask for access.
Well, Koch was suspicious, particularly because of Ledeen's obnoxious persistence in seeking access to the two reports and because Ledeen, despite being paid by the Defense Department, provided no useful product to Koch (Exx-Gman comment: but then, that is what politically-connected government consultants do – they generally get paid and give little, if nothing, in return). According to Morley's quote of Koch, regarding Ledeen's terrorism expertise, "In a collegial environment, it seemed cavalier to challenge what becomes transparent crap at a distance…. when I had requested Ledeen's help, he had demonstrated no capacity to contribute anything of value."
In the letter to the Congressional committee quoted by Morley, Koch would not get the two CIA reports for Ledeen, and he subsequently cut off Ledeen from any further access to classified information. "The titles of those reports were (and are) very precise, and stylized in such a way that they could not have been guessed at, or hit upon accidentally under any conceivable circumstances. Moreover, given compartmentation procedures, it seemed strange that anyone could be in a position to know those titles and yet not be in a position to have access to them. As pure information, the titles would have been as sensitive and inaccessible as the reports themselves."
After several repeated, but polite, rebuffs from Koch, Ledeen stopped trying to gain access to classified information through Koch and picked up a consultancy with the National Security Council. According to Koch, as described in the Morley article, Ledeen continued to get consulting jobs in various parts of the government, all the time getting access to highly classified information.
Ledeen also tried to gain access to classified information through other government agencies.
According to Koch's letter to the Congressional committee, as quoted by Morley, "Ledeen roved thought a number of sensitive U.S. government agencies, jumping from one consultancy to the next (each time just as he was being ousted from the preceding one) and availing himself of material bearing on some of the most sensitive matters facing the government in the past eight years; was directly instrumental in causing the Iran arms for hostages mess, an act of mischief doubly astonishing in that he had no authority to represent U.S. interest in any fashion whatsoever and his role, in spite of his connections within the Administration, was that of an outsider; lied about efforts to acquire by ruse classified information for which he had no legitimate claim; and while he lived in Italy, was carried by the CIA station chief in Rome as an agent of influence of a foreign government, according to a current ranking official of the CIA who was associated with the activities of the Rome station in that period."
The bottom line is that Ledeen is a slippery operator who has managed to wangle access to highly classified information and has used it for his own purposes, including the manufacturing of propaganda to advance the goals of the neocon Axis of Deceit, which include expanding the U.S. empire and possibly providing aid and comfort to a foreign country at the expense of U.S. security.
The Need to Reduce U.S. Intelligence Activities
As I have argued a number of times before, the size and breadth of U.S. intelligence activities goes way beyond what is needed for true U.S. national security. The size and coverage attract the Michael Ledeen's of this world who want to gain access to classified intelligence for their own selfish ends and not for keeping the U.S. safe. But, as is well-argued in Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed, that is what you get when you have a government with a territorial monopoly and the power to tax its inhabitants to pay for "security services": a government-run protection racket that charges a higher price for a lower quality service.
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government, writes to “un-spin” the federal government’s attempt to con the public. He teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides economic consulting services to the private sector.