Cheney’s “Hard, Hard Power” and Syria

Apparently, the Poodle’s memoir (the tour for which got a little messy in Dublin) confirms something that was blatantly obvious: Dick Cheney wanted to conquer the entire Middle East, country by country.

Describing the former US vice president as an advocate of “hard, hard power”, Mr Blair said Damascus was next on Mr Cheney’s hit list.

“He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hizbollah, Hamas, etc,” Mr Blair wrote in his autobiography, A Journey. “In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency.”

As this report notes, Cheney’s transparent desire to take out Syria led that country to do things–like offer a haven for Iraqi insurgents–that hurt our overall war effort in Iraq. More importantly, Sy Hersh wrote extensively about how targeting Syria deprived the US of one of its best sources of information on al Qaeda.

State Department officials have told me that by early 2002 Syria had emerged as one of the C.I.A.’s most effective intelligence allies in the fight against Al Qaeda, providing an outpouring of information that came to an end only with the invasion of Iraq.


… after September 11th the Syrian leader, Bashar Assad, initiated the delivery of Syrian intelligence to the United States. The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on Al Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated Al Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe. That data began flowing to C.I.A. and F.B.I. operatives.


Syria also provided the United States with intelligence about future Al Qaeda plans. In one instance, the Syrians learned that Al Qaeda had penetrated the security services of Bahrain and had arranged for a glider loaded with explosives to be flown into a building at the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters there. Flynt Leverett, a former C.I.A. analyst who served until early this year on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, told me that Syria’s help “let us thwart an operation that, if carried out, would have killed a lot of Americans.” The Syrians also helped the United States avert a suspected plot against an American target in Ottawa.


“Up through January of 2003, the coöperation was topnotch,” a former State Department official said. “Then we were going to do Iraq, and some people in the Administration got heavy- handed. They wanted Syria to get involved in operational stuff having nothing to do with Al Qaeda and everything to do with Iraq. It was something Washington wanted from the Syrians, and they didn’t want to do it.”

But what I’m most interested in, particularly given the way that–as David Corn shows–Blair selectively edited out the parts of history that show the US was prepared to provoke an excuse to go to war against Iraq, is what it says about the intelligence we were trumping up about Syria. You know? Claims made by the now Director of National Intelligence that Iraq had moved its WMD program into Syria? Or the A1 cutout leak of John Bolton’s bogus testimony to Judy Miller to pre-empt intelligence community disagreements with it?

Granted, we really have known this all along: the Cheney government was inventing intelligence to justify a war not only against Iraq, but against much of the Middle East.

But as we piece together the evidence as new sources become available, this serves as a reminder that it’s not just about Iraq and Iran.

A Blowjob for Liz “BabyDick” Cheney

Joe Hagan has an epic softball in the New York Magazine describing PapaDick Cheney’s plan to salvage his legacy. Or rather, Liz “BabyDick” Cheney’s plan to salvage Daddy’s legacy, and with it, launch her own career. (At several points, the piece comes close to suggesting PapaDick’s mental acuity is finally going the way of his heart.) It relies on such hard-hitting sources as Rush Limbaugh, Elliott Abrams, former Cheney press aide Pete Williams, and Michael Goldfarb saying, “You have a little crush on her … It’s hard not to.”

Since I’ve mentioned Pete Williams, this description of how much NBC loves the Cheneys is one of the best parts of the article.

Fox is a regular pulpit, of course, but Liz is also all over NBC, where she happens to be social friends with Meet the Press host David Gregory (whose wife worked with Liz ’s husband at the law firm Latham & Watkins), family friends with Justice Department reporter Pete Williams (Dick Cheney’s press aide when he was secretary of Defense), and neighborhood friends with Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, daughter of Carter-administration national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Mika criticized Dick Cheney on her show last year, the former vice-president sent her a box of chocolate cupcakes.

Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC pundit who engaged in a particularly testy shouting match on Good Morning America with Liz Cheney over waterboarding, says the networks have allowed her a high degree of control over her appearances. “She had up to that point been completely accustomed to having interviews go her way and ceded on her terms,” he observes. “She has been careful to make sure that the interviews worked that way.”

Though somehow Hagan missed the detail from the Libby trial, Cheney’s Press Secretary explaining that Cheney got to set the agenda when he appeared on Meet the Press. Under David Gregory’s watch, I guess that has only gotten to be more true.

In the whole 8-page article, there’s just this hint that BabyDick’s constant press assault might be about legal liability for war crimes rather than political legacy Read more

Russ Feingold: We Need to Protect Americans from John Bolton

Thanks to Selise for making this YouTube. 

When introducing his amendment requiring the government to segregate any information known to be from a US person in a separate database, Russ Feingold used the example of John Bolton to demonstrate the need for protections beyond the weak minimization procedures currently in the Intelligence Bill.

…the supporters of the Intelligence Committee bill claim that minimization procedures are enough to protect Americans’ privacy.

In fact, the minimization requirements in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are quite weak. They permit the widespread dissemination throughout the United States Government of information about US persons if it is deemed foreign intelligence information which again, is very broadly defined. And they permit dissemination of the identities of these US persons if it is, quote, necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance, unquote. Also, also a very loose standard.

Now we know, we know, Mr. President, from our experience in the nomination hearing of John Bolton to be United Nations Ambassador how easy it is for government officials to obtain access to those identities.

And when the FBI receives reports referring to a US person according to a recently declassified government document, it will, quote, likely request that person’s identity, unquote, and will likely meet the requirements for obtaining it. There are other minimization requirements in government regulations, the details of which are classified, but we know in any event that those can be changed at any time. Mr. President, minimization is simply inadequate in the context of these broad new authorities.

You’ll recall that the Senate Dems held up John Bolton’s appointment to the UN because the Administration refused to turn over the NSA intercepts for which Bolton requested the identity of the US person recorded on the intercept.

Read more

John Bolton Time Warp

John Bolton, July 21, 2004

Finally, the world is safer today than one year ago because of an event
unprecedented in modern history: after years of isolation and being caught up
in a web of sanctions, the leader of a regime made a simple, but profound
strategic choice he came to the conclusion that his pursuit of weapons of mass
destruction made his country and his regime not more, but less secure. It is
not just the outside world that has benefited.


Colonel Qhadadfi has made a strategic choice to put his people before his unjustified fears of a U.S. invasion.

John Bolton, December 5, 2007

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point.

Not to mention the fact that Bolton claims to be ignorant of the pas de deux that the Iranians, at least, attempted in 2003. Read more

John Bolton and the IC’s New Sourcing Rules

John Bolton–and crazy nutters like him–are complaining that the NIE must be wrong because it was written by people who used to be at State.

Well, I think it’s potentially wrong, but I would also say, many of the people who wrote this are former State Dept employees who during their career at the State Dept never gave much attention to the threat of the Iranian program. Now they are writing as (fingers quote) ‘members of the intelligence community’ the same opinions that they’ve had four and five years ago.

Bolton’s talking about Thomas Fingar, who held one of the top two positions at INR through the period when Bolton was fighting with INR at State. And he’s talking about Christian Westermann, whom Bolton tried to have fired because Westermann wouldn’t approve a Bolton speech on Cuba that made completely undocumented claims.

That in and of itself should warn you that Bolton is rehashing old State Department fights. But when you look at the nature of Bolton’s previous dispute with Westermann, it gets more interesting. Read more