The Intelligence Propaganda Complex

Matt Apuzzo has a remarkable story about the efforts DOJ is making to protect the records of United Against Nuclear Iran, a purported NGO that shames entities potentially doing business with Iran.

Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis is suing the group for defamation, claiming they falsely accused him of being an Iranian front.

The group said it had uncovered a letter proving there was a plan to do business in Iran. It also accused Mr. Restis of using his ships in support of Iran’s oil industry.

Mr. Restis said the letter was fraudulent, the illicit Iranian deal never existed, and his ships made only authorized humanitarian shipments. He accused the group of shaking down companies for donations; the group in turn accused him of being a “master criminal.”

The group said it based its accusations on “valid research, credible documents, distinguished relationships, and pre-eminent sourcing.” In court, Mr. Restis demanded that the group disclose those documents and its relationships.

Soon after that demand, Mr. Restis said he was approached by an Israeli businessman, Rami Ungar, with no direct connection to United Against Nuclear Iran.

According to court documents filed by Mr. Restis’s lawyers, Mr. Ungar knew details about the case and said he was “authorized to try to resolve the issues” on behalf of the group’s supporters.

It was not clear who those supporters were. Like many nonprofit groups, its donor list is secret. Mr. Restis’s lawyers said in a letter to the judge in April that they had uncovered information that United Against Nuclear Iran “is being funded by foreign interests.”

DOJ suggested they might claim a law enforcement exception to protect the files, though it has not yet formally claimed such a privilege. That might suggest the files are Treasury files that may soon be used to impose sanctions on Restis. Or perhaps it means they have files that don’t meet Treasury’s standards for imposing sanctions, and UANI exists to shame people where sanctions are unavailable. In any case, Restis wants to know how Ungar got them; I’d like to know precisely what UANI is getting from whom.

Apuzzo lists some of the characters who are behind the group: former Mideast Peace Envoy Dennis Ross, Fran Townsend, and Joe Lieberman. Otto Reich, whose role in Iran-Contra (as opposed to his role in trying to overthrow Hugo Chavez in the 2002 coup) involved illegally funneling taxpayer dollars for the purposes of lobbying, is of particular note. Restis is particularly interested in interviewing UANI advisor Meir Dagan, the long-time head of Mossad; Restis believes Dagan provided the documents to Ungar. In addition, Richard Dearlove, who was in charge of sexing up the British case for war in 2003 when he was MI6, also advises the group.

in other words, it’s a classic case of a quasi-governmental group, one that apparently plays an extra-legal purpose in the campaign to isolate Iran (to be fair, most, though not all, of its advisors have worked hard to stave off war). And Restis’ efforts to get some kind of justice against it may be stymied by US claims they’ve got privileged interests in the case.

The entire episode raises some very good questions about what goes into isolating our adversaries.

The Downside of Losing Blabby Brennan as Homeland Security Czar

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 4.03.26 PMAs I’ve noted in passing, the Boston Marathon will be the first major homeland security episode that John Brennan’s replacement, Lisa Monaco, will coordinate at the White House. As NJ describes in this profile, Monaco has worked for years at FBI and DOJ in national security, so it’s not like the Administration loses expertise with Monaco in the Homeland Security Czar.

But it does mean the Administration doesn’t have John Brennan, who has been known to give briefing on crises to his predecessors with TV contracts, as when he leaked that UndieBomb 2.0 was an Saudi sting to Fran Townsend and Richard Clarke.

About an hour or two ago, the media was buzzing, with CNN in the lead. The FBI had identified a suspect, they reported. The FBI had arrested someone, and would be bringing the suspect to the Court House, they reported. Along the way John King suggested, video evidence to the contrary, the suspect was a “dark skinned male.”

A key source in those report was Fran Townsend, working from tips from people inside government.

Ultimately, FBI actually released a press release making clear there hadn’t been an arrest.

Meanwhile, in response to CNN and other outlets’ reporting, a big crowd had formed at the courthouse. Predictably, a bomb threat came into the courthouse, so then the police had to evacuate the courthouse.

As CNN’s reporters were standing around trying to avoid apologizing for possibly tipping of the suspect of the attack, they started blaming their sources, suggesting they had been “used” to flush out the suspect, even while warning that saying “too much” might lead the suspect to do some undesirable things.

It was a thorough clusterfuck.

Mind you, I have every reason to believe that Monaco is doing a great job, and I actually don’t think it’s the job of the Homeland Security Advisor to hand feed the cable news channels.

But I guess blabby Brennan would have at least ensured that Townsend got her story correct.

Update: This chart of the clusterfuck is pretty funny.