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Jerry Doe “Proved Fucking Right”

[That’s a Judy Miller quote, btw, not me actually, um, swearing.]

Joby Warrick reports that Jerry Doe, a former CIA operative who warned that Iraq had no active nuclear program but was told to bury that warning, also warned that Iran had set aside its own program.

A former CIA operative who says he tried to warn the agency about faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs now contends that CIA officials also ignored evidence that Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb.

Now, he’s trying to get key paragraphs from his complaint against the CIA for wrongful dismissal unredacted so he can prove that the intelligence he was directed to bury turned out to be correct.

There are a few interesting details about this revelation. As Warrick notes, we have known for years that Doe claimed to have warned the CIA that Iraq had stopped its nuclear program. Doe reported, among other things, that there were Iraqi centrifuge parts available in the arms market. But Doe is now claiming that some of the intelligence he provided pertained to Iran, as well. (He refers to one more country in his complaint: Doe is a fluent Arabic and Farsi speaker, so I invite you to place your bets on whether the third country is Syria, Libya, or Pakistan, accordingly. I’m putting $5 on Syria, with a side bet of $2 on Pakistan.)

But there’s another interesting bit, if you put together Warrick’s story and the motion to have key paragraphs from his complaint unredacted.

Warrick quotes Doe’s lawyer, Roy Krieger, as saying that key paragraphs in Doe’s complaint should no longer remain sealed because what those paragraphs reveal was declassified in last year’s Iran NIE.

The consensus view on Iran’s nuclear program shifted dramatically last December with the release of a landmark intelligence report that concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran undermined the CIA’s rationale for censoring the former officer’s lawsuit, said his attorney, Roy Krieger. [my emphasis]

And Friday’s motion lists the actual paragraphs that–extrapolating from Krieger’s claim–may pertain to Iran. Read more

The Barnacle Branch Still Evading Oversight

I’ll have several things to say about Sy Hersh’s latest. For the moment, though, I just wanted to lay out his central argument: that Dick Cheney is abusing the structure of command and Congressional oversight to launch a covert campaign against Iran.

Hersh reports that President Bush signed a Finding authorizing broad actions against Iran. Here’s how Andrew Cockburn described the finding, in a piece cited by Hersh:

Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."

Bush’s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.

Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or "army of god," the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan – just across the Afghan border — whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother in law’s throat.

Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran. Further afield, operations against Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.

The fans of regime change have managed to implement such a plan while evading oversight in a couple of ways. First, the hawks pushed out Admiral William Fallon on March 11 rather than reading him in on some of the stuff they were doing with Specials Ops forces in the Middle East.

Fallon’s early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility.

[snip]

“He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O.”—area of operations. “That was not happening,” [Marine General Jack] Sheehan said. Read more

Are We Giving Saudi Arabia Nukes?

No no, not the bomb. Strictly a peaceful civil program, you understand, just like the Iranians say they’re developing.

As Bush flew into Riyadh, the White House said the United States, the world’s largest energy consumer, had agreed to help protect the resources of the world’s top oil exporter and help it in developing peaceful nuclear energy.

"The United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed to cooperate in safeguarding the kingdom’s energy resources by protecting key infrastructure, enhancing Saudi border security, and meeting (its) expanding energy needs," a White House statement said.

"The U.S. and Saudi Arabia will sign a memorandum of understanding in the area of peaceful civil nuclear energy cooperation."

The announcement came as Bush ended a three-day trip to Israel where he vowed to oppose Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Tehran says its program is peaceful but Bush said it would be "unforgivable" if Iran were allowed to get the bomb.

So we’re giving Saudi Arabia nukes while still refusing to allow Iran nukes.

And for all that, Saudi Arabia isn’t even willing (though I question whether, at this point, they are able) to lower gas prices?

While Bush is likely to find common ground on Iran when he meets King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch is expected to rebuff for the second time this year Bush’s face-to-face call to get OPEC pumping more oil to world markets.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Bush was decrying negotiations with evil dictators? Does giving them nuclear technology while getting nothing in exchange count as "appeasement"?

Hillary’s Iran Comments

There’s a lot of outrage over Hillary’s comments on nukes and Iran yesterday (some of which will be broadcast today on the Today show). Some of that is not surprising, given the way the comments make her sound like Dick Cheney without his meds.

But there’s a kernel of sense in her comments that is being missed–and we’d be much better off pointing out that kernel and understanding it and its limits–than magnifying the sound bites that make her look so bad.

Here’s the transcript that Ab2kgj put together.

Well what we were talking about was the potential for a nuclear attack by Iran, if Iran does achieve what appears to be it’s continuing goal of obtaining nuclear weapons, and I think deterrence has not been effectively used in recent times, we used it very well during the Cold War when we had a bipolar world, and what I think the president should do and what our policy should be is to make it very clear to the Iranians that they would be risking massive retaliation were they to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.

In addition, if Iran were to become a nuclear power, it could set off an arms race that would be incredibly dangerous and destabilizing because the countries in the region are not going to want Iran to be the only nuclear power. So I can imagine that they would be rushing to obtain nuclear weapons themselves. In order to forestall that, creating some kind of a security agreement where we said, ‘No, you do not need to acquire nuclear weapons if you were the subject of an unprovoked nuclear attack by Iran the United States and hopefully our NATO allies would respond to that as well.’ It is a theory that some people have been looking at because there is a fear that if Iran, which I hope we can prevent, becoming a nuclear power, but if they were to become one, some people worry that they are not deterrable, that they somehow have a different mindset and a worldview that might very well lead the leadership to be willing to become martyrs. I don’t buy that, but I think we have to test it. Read more

Off the Record on Filipino Monkey

By now you’ve read the explanation of why the press, like PascalPavlov’s dogs, went nuclear with the story about Borat Filipino Monkey threatening our Navy. After contemplating the event for a day, the Pentagon decided to manufacture it into a press event. So they seeded the story using an off the record briefing.

The encounter between five small and apparently unarmed speedboats, each carrying a crew of two to four men, and the three U.S. warships occurred very early on Saturday Jan. 6, Washington time. But no information was released to the public about the incident for more than 24 hours, indicating that it was not viewed initially as being very urgent.

The reason for that absence of public information on the incident for more than a full day is that it was not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade.

[snip]

With the reports from 5th Fleet commander Vice-Adm. Kevin Cosgriff in hand early that morning, top Pentagon officials had all day Sunday, Jan. 6, to discuss what to do about the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz. The result was a decision to play it up as a major incident.

[snip]

That decision in Washington was followed by a news release by the commander of the 5th Fleet on the incident at about 4:00 a.m. Washington time Jan. 7. It was the first time the 5th Fleet had ever issued a news release on an incident with small Iranian boats.

The release reported that the Iranian "small boats" had "maneuvered aggressively in close proximity of [sic] the Hopper [the lead ship of the three-ship convoy]." But it did not suggest that the Iranian boats had threatened the boats or that it had nearly resulted in firing on the Iranian boats.

On the contrary, the release made the U.S. warships handling of the incident sound almost routine.

[snip]

That press release was ignored by the news media, however, because later that Monday morning, the Pentagon provided correspondents with a very different account of the episode.

At 9 a.m., Barbara Starr of CNN reported that "military officials" had told her that the Iranian boats had not only carried out "threatening maneuvers", but had transmitted a message by radio that "I am coming at you" and "you will explode". She reported the dramatic news that the commander of one boat was "in the process of giving the order to shoot when they moved away".

CBS News broadcast a similar story, adding the detail that the Iranian boats "dropped boxes that could have been filled with explosives into the water". Other news outlets carried almost identical accounts of the incident.

The source of this spate of stories can now be identified as Bryan Whitman, the top Pentagon official in charge of media relations, who gave a press briefing for Pentagon correspondents that morning. Although Whitman did offer a few remarks on the record, most of the Whitman briefing was off the record, meaning that he could not be cited as the source.

The result, as we’ve tracked closely, was so pathetic that even Fox was embarrassed.

I just wanted to add one detail to this. We now know the Pentagon very deliberately seeded this story, but did so in a manner that couldn’t be traced back to them. Which is why I wanted to bring back this denial from the Pentagon. Read more

Fox Discovers Filipino Monkey

Think Progress watches Fox so I don’t have to–and so bmaz can have some fun.

Today, a week after his call for war with Iran, Brian Kilmeade was forced to concede that the verbal threats made against the U.S. ships are “a possible hoax from a man called the ‘Filipino Monkey.’” Kilmeade’s co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that she knew it all along. “I remember sitting in my office thinking, you gotta be kidding me? That voice does not sound to me like an Iranian accent.” She didn’t say that on-air, however, prior to this morning.

Kilmeade’s other co-host, Steve Doocy, piped in with this comment:

DOOCY: But can you imagine, had we blown those little boats out of the water to find out, you know, that they didn’t have bombs and in fact it was the Filipino Monkey who was somewhere on shore pulling a prank?

[snip]

Carlson wrapped up the segment by stating, “Let’s hope it’s not the Filipino Monkey, for our sake. Because I think it’s a humongous embarrassment.” 

Um, Gretchen? The simple fact that neither you–nor the Navy, nor the goofballs in the Administration who tried to turn this into World War III–know whether this is Filipino Monkey or not makes it a humongous embarrassment.

Nice to know that the rest of the world is joining us DFHs laughing and crying that Fox and the Administration had this propaganda blow up in their face. 

Bush’s Empire: Making His Own Reality, NIE Edition

I’m interested in Michael Hirsh’s report that Bush trashed the key judgments of the NIE while in Israel for two reasons. First, WTF was the SAO who leaked the story trying to accomplish?

That NIE, made public Dec. 3, embarrassed the administration by concluding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003, which seemed to undermine years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush and other senior officials about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views" about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity. [my emphasis]

The same article quotes Stephen Hadley, one of a limited number of Senior Administration Officials accompanying Bush on the trip, as saying that Bush said only that Iran remains a threat, regardless of what the NIE says.

Bush’s national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told reporters in Jerusalem that Bush had only said to Olmert privately what he’s already said publicly, which is that he believes Iran remains "a threat" no matter what the NIE says.

Was Hadley’s on the record quote a continuation of the earlier anonymous comment to Hirsh or, more likely, a response to the earlier leak, an alternate view of what the anonymous SAO was spinning to Hirsh? That is, did some SAO spin Bush’s fairly innocuous comment (at least as Hadley interpreted it) as a repudiation of the NIE, contrary to the official stance of the Administration? And if so, to what end? To support Dick Cheney’s campaign for war (Stephen Hadley is often considered a Cheney operative, though he was stuck playing the interlocutor between Cheney and the CIA leading up to the Plame leak)?

But I’m also struck by the timing of this quote. If I were one of the analysts who worked on this NIE–or even, say, one of the senior intelligence officers who threatened to go public with the key judgments of the NIE–I’d be pretty peeved to know that Bush was bad-mouthing my handiwork to allies, particularly after the apparent confrontation to get it declassified in the first place. Read more

Back to War Against Eastasia…

It seems like just ten days ago that I was reporting that we weren’t at war with Eastasia the Pentagon had announced that Iran had stopped providing Iraq with EFPs (though click through to read the Shachtman update). But ten days is a long time when you’re already two weeks into "Legacy Year," and so it’s time to announce that we are, once again, at war with Eastasia.

Attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq with bombs believed linked to Iran — known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) — have risen sharply in January after several months of decline, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. officials indicated just a month ago that Iran was using its influence to improve security in Iraq by restraining cross-border weapons flow and militia activity. The U.S. military had said in recent months that the number of EFP attacks had gone down.

Gen. David Petraeus disclosed the reversal to reporters after a meeting with President Bush who was visiting troops in Kuwait.

"In this year, EFPs have gone up, actually, over the last 10 days by a factor of two or three, and frankly we’re trying to determine why that might be," Petraeus said. [my emphasis]

Two things to note in this story. First, General Petraeus can count as well as I can: ten days. I wonder if Petraeus is at all embarrassed by his sudden reversal?  Particularly when you look at the timing: General Petraeus makes this announcement directly after meeting with George Bush, just after Bush has visited Israel, and not before. You think maybe Bush ordered Petraeus to ratchet up the propaganda?

Because, after all, there’s no other sign they’re ratcheting up the propaganda. Hammered copper ashtrays and Filipino Monkey, that’s what this great country has  stooped to.

Filipino Monkey … Borat … Same Difference

Kudos to LS, who labeled the crazy voice on the US version of the confrontation between the US and Iran "Borat." A pretty close guess, as it turns out. The Navy Times is now reporting that the voice may well have come from a local jokester referred to as "Filipino Monkey" (h/t TPMM).

In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by the ethnically insulting handle of “Filipino Monkey,” likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video.

Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”

And the Monkey has stamina.

“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said. “But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”

So when asked if this (or these) jokesters might be responsible for the threats, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead offered a really lame response.

When asked if U.S. officials considered whether the threats came from someone besides the Iranians when releasing the video and audio, Roughead said: “The reason there is audio superimposed over the video is it gives you a better idea of what is happening.”

What is likely happening, you goofball, is that some guy sitting in the Persian Gulf is laughing his ass off that his pranks almost started World War III. And that no one in the US military (to say nothing of the Administration) is now willing to admit how stoopid they look for releasing transparently ridiculous audio along with the video.

We almost just started a war on the basis of the functional equivalent to a prank phone Read more

Because You’d All Be Sad without a “Borat Visits the Straits of Hormuz” Update

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered the following explanation to defend the Pentagon’s escalation of the incident between five Iranian motorboats and the US ships that took place earlier this week:

Quoting former defense secretary William S. Cohen, Gates said: " ‘Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?’ I think that aptly characterizes and appropriately characterizes the Iranian claim."

I see. Gates just wanted to offer visual proof to the rest of the world that Iranian acted aggressively, so the Pentagon kluged its video evidence together with audio, um, what? elaboration? to bolster that video evidence. He ought to be asking, "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes and justifiably dubious ears?" Though speaking of lying eyes, I have yet to see those boxes the Iranians allegedly threw into the water, though the Pentagon renews that claim in this story, while offering no visual evidence.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has backed further away from the strong implication it originally gave that those Borat threats came from the Iranians.

Pentagon officials insist that they never claimed Iran made the threat. "No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats. But when they hear it simultaneously to the behavior of those boats, it only adds to the tension," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Uh huh. You just kluged together the two, but really, that wasn’t meant to imply that Borat was on the blue speedboat.

Iran has released what it claims is a video of the incident, though Fred Kaplan thinks that’s fake.

Meanwhile, the Iranians’ footage shows an American vessel in the distance. An Iranian, speaking through a radio, says, "Coalition warship 73. This is Iranian patrol boat." We hear the American say, "I read you loud and clear." A bit later, the American says, "We are in international waters." In short, nothing momentous is going on at all. It is, as the Iranian foreign ministry shrugged afterward, "ordinary."

The likely explanation for the differences is this: The two videos are of two different incidents. Read more