I’ve been reluctant to embrace suggestions that torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame were all going to coalesce into one linked story. After all, it would be too easy for me, of all people, to argue these stories were linked. But I increasingly suspect they are.
First, let me pull together some data points.
Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are linking the non-briefings on torture with the Iraq NIE
Now that they are explicitly stating that CIA lied in its September briefings on torture, Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are also both linking those lies with the lies they were telling–at precisely the same time–in the Iraq NIE. Here’s Pelosi:
Of all the briefings that I have received at this same time, earlier, they were misinforming the American people there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it was an imminent threat to the United States. I, to the limit of what I could say to my caucus, told them, the intelligence does not support the imminent threat that this Administration is contending. Whether it’s on the subject of what’s happening in Iraq, whether it’s on the subject of techniques used by the intelligence community on those they are interrogating, every step of the way, the Administration was misleading the Congress.
And that is the issue. And that is why we need a truth commission.
And here’s Graham:
Yes, they’re obligated to tell the full Intelligence Committee, not just the leadership. This was the same time within the same week, in fact, that the CIA was submitting its National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which proves so erroneous that we went to war, have had thousands of persons killed and injured as a result of misinformation.
Now, it’s quite possible Graham and Pelosi are tying these two lies together just to remind reporters how unreliable the CIA is. Perhaps they’re doing it to remind reporters of how they got burned leading into the Iraq War, trusting the spin of the Administration.
But perhaps they’re trying to say there’s a direct connection, an explicit one, between the NIE and torture. We know Ibn Sheikh al-Libi’s claims appeared in there. Did anything that came out of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation? Or Ramzi bin al-Shibh?
Did CIA not reveal they were torturing detainees to dodge any question about the accuracy of claims about Iraq intelligence?
The proposal to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi
The SSCI report on the Rome meeting has a really funny footnote.
Mr. Franklin is currently awaiting direction from the Department of Justice to report to prison on matters unrelated to those discussed in this report. He was indicted in August 2005 along with two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for conspiring with each other to unlawfully disclose classified national defense information. Mr. Franklin subsequently pled guilty, and was sentenced in January 2006 on three felony counts: conspiracy to communicate national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it; conspiracy to communicate classified information to an agent of a foreign government; and the unlawful retention of national defense information.
The footnote is funny (in addition to the fact that it misstates when Franklin was first indicted) because Franklin pled guilty to dealing information about Iran to AIPAC. The reason Franklin did so was not because of money or blackmail, but because he disagreed with US policy on Iran, and was happy to work with AIPAC to pressure the government into a more hawkish policy on Iran. Which is pretty much what was happening with the Ghorbanifar information. As DOD’s own Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) report suggested,
Ghorbanifar or his associates are being used as agents of a foreign intelligence service to leverage his continuing contact with Michael Ledeen and others to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. Government.
Along with a lot of other crappy "intelligence," Ghorbanifar was floating plans to overthrow the regime in Iran, so the end goal of both the AIPAC effort and Ledeen and Ghorbanifar’s efforts was regime change in Iran.
The suggestion that Franklin’s indictment is unrelated to the Ghorbanifar meetings is also funny because, while Franklin claimed he did not know Ledeen in 2001 when Ledeen selected him to attend the Rome meeting, by fall 2004, Ledeen was intervening to get Plato Cacheris to represent Franklin in the AIPAC scandal. Thus, while there’s no reason to believe the Israelis were involved in the Rome meeting, the same group of Neocons were involved in parallel efforts to undercut US efforts to establish closer relations with Iran.
Now, as Laura Rozen revealed, it appears that this thing is not over–she reports that Harold Rhode has lawyered up. Rhode refused to cooperate with the SSCI’s most recent efforts to investigate this meeting last fall, which suggests he has gotten much more reluctant to talk about what happened (and DOD says he has forgotten what he said in 2004, displaying the forgetfulness all Bush Administration criminals seem to share). But if you think about it, there are only two logical explanations for why–two and a half years after Larry Franklin pled guilty to sharing defense information–he is still "awaiting direction from DOJ to report to prison." Either someone high up in the Administration intervened to keep Franklin out of the pokey (OVP is named in the SSCI report, and we know Dick Cheney has prevented allies from going to prison before), or Franklin has been cooperating with investigators for two and a half years. (His docket just shows a "delayed reporting date."
With all that said, I decided to look more closely at the timeline involved. What follows combines several timelines: the timeline of both the meetings and the investigations into those meetings from the SSCI report, key details from Franklin’s indictment, and details of attempts to foster closer relations with Iran detailed in this Flynt Leverett op-ed. I’ll say more about what this timeline shows in follow-up posts.