21st March 01:15
Israeli Spies Entered Pentagon Spy Office On Feith's Authority ( IraqWar.Ru )
ISRAELI SPIES ENTERED PENTAGON SPY OFFICE
ON FEITH'S AUTHORITY
"'None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through
normal channels,' said one source familiar with the visits. Instead,
they were waved in on Mr. Feith's authority without having to fill in
the usual forms. "
Israeli Spies Entered Pentagon Spy Office On Feith's Authority
Thursday July 17, 2003
Julian Borger reports on the shadow rightwing intelligence network set
up in Washington to second-guess the CIA and deliver a justification
for toppling Saddam Hussein by force
As the CIA director, George Tenet, arrived at the Senate yesterday to
give secret testimony on the Niger uranium affair, it was becoming
increasingly clear in Washington that the scandal was only a small,
well-do***ented symptom of a complete breakdown in US intelligence
that helped steer America into war.
It represents the Bush administration's second catastrophic
intelligence failure. But the CIA and FBI's inability to prevent the
September 11 attacks was largely due to internal institutional
This time the implications are far more damaging for the White House,
which stands accused of politicising and contaminating its own source
According to former Bush officials, all defence and intelligence
sources, senior administration figures created a shadow agency of
Pentagon ****ysts staffed mainly by ideological amateurs to compete
with the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defence Intelligence
The agency, called the Office of Special Plans (OSP), was set up by
the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to second-guess CIA
information and operated under the patronage of hardline conservatives
in the top rungs of the administration, the Pentagon and at the White
House, including Vice-President **** Cheney.
The ideologically driven network functioned like a shadow government,
much of it off the official payroll and beyond congressional
oversight. But it proved powerful enough to prevail in a struggle with
the State Department and the CIA by establishing a justification for war.
Mr Tenet has officially taken responsibility for the president's
unsubstantiated claim in January that Saddam Hussein's regime had been
trying to buy uranium in Africa, but he also said his agency was under
pressure to justify a war that the administration had already decided on.
How much Mr Tenet reveals of where that pressure was coming from could
have lasting political fallout for Mr Bush and his re-election
prospects, which only a few weeks ago seemed impregnable. As more
Americans die in Iraq and the reasons for the war are revealed, his
victory in 2004 no longer looks like a foregone conclusion.
The White House counter-attacked yesterday when new chief spokesman,
Scott McClellan, accused critics of "politicising the war" and trying
to "rewrite history". But the Democratic leadership kept up its
questions over the White House role.
The president's most trusted adviser, Mr Cheney, was at the shadow
network's sharp end. He made several trips to the CIA in Langley,
Virginia, to demand a more "forward-leaning" interpretation of the
threat posed by Saddam. When he was not there to make his influence
felt, his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was. Such hands-on
involvement in the processing of intelligence data was unprecedented
for a vice-president in recent times, and it put pressure on CIA
officials to come up with the appropriate results.
Another frequent visitor was Newt Gingrich, the former Republican
party leader who resurfaced after September 11 as a Pentagon
"consultant" and a member of its unpaid defence advisory board, with
influence far beyond his official title.
An intelligence official confirmed Mr Gingrich made "a couple of
visits" but said there was nothing unusual about that.
Rick Tyler, Mr Gingrich's spokesman, said: "If he was at the CIA he
was there to listen and learn, not to persuade or influence."
Mr Gingrich visited Langley three times before the war, and according
to accounts, the political veteran sought to browbeat ****ysts into
toughening up their assessments of Saddam's menace.
Mr Gingrich gained access to the CIA headquarters and was listened to
because he was seen as a personal emissary of the Pentagon and, in
particular, of the OSP.
In the days after September 11, Mr Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul
Wolfowitz, mounted an attempt to include Iraq in the war against
terror. When the established agencies came up with nothing concrete to
link Iraq and al-Qaida, the OSP was given the task of looking more
William Luti, a former navy officer and ex-aide to Mr Cheney, runs the
day-to-day operations, answering to Douglas Feith, a defence
undersecretary and a former Reagan official.
The OSP had access to a huge amount of raw intelligence. It came in
part from "report officers" in the CIA's directorate of operations
whose job is to sift through reports from agents around the world,
filtering out the unsubstantiated and the incredible. Under pressure
from the hawks such as Mr Cheney and Mr Gingrich, those officers
became reluctant to discard anything, no matter how far-fetched. The
OSP also ****ed in countless tips from the Iraqi National Congress and
other opposition groups, which were viewed with far more scepticism by
the CIA and the state department.
There was a mountain of do***entation to look through and not much
time. The administration wanted to use the momentum gained in
Afghanistan to deal with Iraq once and for all. The OSP itself had
less than 10 full-time staff, so to help deal with the load, the
office hired scores of temporary "consultants". They included lawyers,
congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous rightwing
thinktanks in Washington. Few had experience in intelligence.
"Most of the people they had in that office were off the books, on
personal services contracts. At one time, there were over 100 of
them," said an intelligence source. The contracts allow a department
to hire individuals, without specifying a job description.
As John Pike, a defence ****yst at the thinktank GlobalSecurity.org,
put it, the contracts "are basically a way they could pack the room
with their little friends".
"They surveyed data and picked out what they liked," said Gregory
Thielmann, a senior official in the state department's intelligence
bureau until his retirement in September. "The whole thing was
bizarre. The secretary of defence had this huge defence intelligence
agency, and he went around it."
In fact, the OSP's activities were a com plete mystery to the DIA and
"The iceberg ****ogy is a good one," said a senior officer who left
the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war. "No one from the
military staff heard, saw or discussed anything with them."
The civilian agencies had the same impression of the OSP sleuths.
"They were a pretty shadowy presence," Mr Thielmann said. "Normally
when you compile an intelligence do***ent, all the agencies get
together to discuss it. The OSP was never present at any of the
meetings I attended."
Democratic congressman David Obey, who is investigating the OSP, said:
"That office was charged with collecting, vetting and disseminating
intelligence completely outside of the normal intelligence apparatus.
In fact, it appears that information collected by this office was in
some instances not even shared with established intelligence agencies
and in numerous instances was passed on to the national security
council and the president without having been vetted with anyone other
than political appointees."
The OSP was an open and largely unfiltered conduit to the White House
not only for the Iraqi opposition. It also forged close ties to a
parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office
in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush
administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam's Iraq than Mossad
was prepared to authorise.
"None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through
normal channels," said one source familiar with the visits. Instead,
they were waved in on Mr Feith's authority without having to fill in
the usual forms.
The exchange of information continued a long-standing relationship Mr
Feith and other Washington neo-conservatives had with Israel's Likud
In 1996, he and Richard Perle - now an influential Pentagon figure -
served as advisers to the then Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. In a
destroyed, and Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have to be
overthrown or destabilised, for Israel to be truly safe.
The Israeli influence was revealed most clearly by a story floated by
unnamed senior US officials in the American press, suggesting the
reason that no banned weapons had been found in Iraq was that they had
been smuggled into Syria. Intelligence sources say that the story came
from the office of the Israeli prime minister.
The OSP absorbed this heady brew of raw intelligence, rumour and plain
disinformation and made it a "product", a prodigious stream of reports
with a guaranteed readership in the White House. The primary customers
were Mr Cheney, Mr Libby and their closest ideological ally on the
national security council, Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice's deputy.
In turn, they leaked some of the claims to the press, and used others
as a stick with which to beat the CIA and the state department
****ysts, demanding they investigate the OSP leads.
The big question looming over Congress as Mr Tenet walked into his
closed-door session yesterday was whether this shadow intelligence
operation would survive national scrutiny and who would pay the price
for allowing it to help steer the country into war.
A former senior CIA official insisted yesterday that Mr Feith, at
least, was "finished" - but that may be wishful thinking by a rival
As he prepares for re-election, Mr Bush may opt to tough it out,
rather than acknowledge the severity of the problem by firing
loyalists. But in that case, it will inevitably be harder to
re-establish confidence in the intelligence on which the White House
is basing its decisions, and the world's sole superpower risks
stumbling onwards half-blind, unable to distinguish real threats from