[Paleopsych] New Yorker: Seymour M. Hersch: The Coming Wars

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New Yorker: Seymour M. Hersch: The Coming Wars
What the Pentagon can now do in secret.
January 19, 2005
Issue of 2005-01-24 and 31
Posted 2005-01-17

    George W. Bush's reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The
    President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control
    over the military and intelligence communities' strategic analyses and
    covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the
    post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive
    and ambitious agenda for using that control--against the mullahs in
    Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism--during his
    second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency
    will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties
    to the Pentagon put it, as "facilitators" of policy emanating from
    President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well
    under way.

    Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush
    Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal
    in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the
    region. Bush's reëlection is regarded within the Administration as
    evidence of America's support for his decision to go to war. It has
    reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon's
    civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul
    Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the
    Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level
    intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with
    the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in
    essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did
    not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to
    staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

    "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The
    Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former
    high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have
    the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever
    they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah--we've got four
    years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on

    Bush and Cheney may have set the policy, but it is Rumsfeld who has
    directed its implementation and has absorbed much of the public
    criticism when things went wrong--whether it was prisoner abuse in Abu
    Ghraib or lack of sufficient armor plating for G.I.s' vehicles in
    Iraq. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called for
    Rumsfeld's dismissal, and he is not widely admired inside the
    military. Nonetheless, his reappointment as Defense Secretary was
    never in doubt.

    Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In
    interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials,
    I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential
    election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld's responsibility. The war
    on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the
    Pentagon's control. The President has signed a series of findings and
    executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special
    Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist
    targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

    The President's decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off
    the books--free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under
    current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized
    by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House
    intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of
    scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying
    and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) "The Pentagon
    doesn't feel obligated to report any of this to Congress," the former
    high-level intelligence official said. "They don't even call it
    `covert ops'--it's too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it's
    `black reconnaissance.' They're not even going to tell the cincs"--the
    regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense
    Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment
    on this story.)

    In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target
    was Iran. "Everyone is saying, `You can't be serious about targeting
    Iran. Look at Iraq,'" the former intelligence official told me. "But
    they say, `We've got some lessons learned--not militarily, but how we
    did it politically. We're not going to rely on agency pissants.' No
    loose ends, and that's why the C.I.A. is out of there."

    For more than a year, France, Germany, Britain, and other countries in
    the European Union have seen preventing Iran from getting a nuclear
    weapon as a race against time--and against the Bush Administration.
    They have been negotiating with the Iranian leadership to give up its
    nuclear-weapons ambitions in exchange for economic aid and trade
    benefits. Iran has agreed to temporarily halt its enrichment programs,
    which generate fuel for nuclear power plants but also could produce
    weapons-grade fissile material. (Iran claims that such facilities are
    legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or N.P.T., to which
    it is a signator, and that it has no intention of building a bomb.)
    But the goal of the current round of talks, which began in December in
    Brussels, is to persuade Tehran to go further, and dismantle its
    machinery. Iran insists, in return, that it needs to see some concrete
    benefits from the Europeans--oil-production technology,
    heavy-industrial equipment, and perhaps even permission to purchase a
    fleet of Airbuses. (Iran has been denied access to technology and many
    goods owing to sanctions.)

    The Europeans have been urging the Bush Administration to join in
    these negotiations. The Administration has refused to do so. The
    civilian leadership in the Pentagon has argued that no diplomatic
    progress on the Iranian nuclear threat will take place unless there is
    a credible threat of military action. "The neocons say negotiations
    are a bad deal," a senior official of the International Atomic Energy
    Agency (I.A.E.A.) told me. "And the only thing the Iranians understand
    is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked."

    The core problem is that Iran has successfully hidden the extent of
    its nuclear program, and its progress. Many Western intelligence
    agencies, including those of the United States, believe that Iran is
    at least three to five years away from a capability to independently
    produce nuclear warheads--although its work on a missile-delivery
    system is far more advanced. Iran is also widely believed by Western
    intelligence agencies and the I.A.E.A. to have serious technical
    problems with its weapons system, most notably in the production of
    the hexafluoride gas needed to fabricate nuclear warheads.

    A retired senior C.I.A. official, one of many who left the agency
    recently, told me that he was familiar with the assessments, and
    confirmed that Iran is known to be having major difficulties in its
    weapons work. He also acknowledged that the agency's timetable for a
    nuclear Iran matches the European estimates--assuming that Iran gets
    no outside help. "The big wild card for us is that you don't know who
    is capable of filling in the missing parts for them," the recently
    retired official said. "North Korea? Pakistan? We don't know what
    parts are missing."

    One Western diplomat told me that the Europeans believed they were in
    what he called a "lose-lose position" as long as the United States
    refuses to get involved. "France, Germany, and the U.K. cannot succeed
    alone, and everybody knows it," the diplomat said. "If the U.S. stays
    outside, we don't have enough leverage, and our effort will collapse."
    The alternative would be to go to the Security Council, but any
    resolution imposing sanctions would likely be vetoed by China or
    Russia, and then "the United Nations will be blamed and the Americans
    will say, `The only solution is to bomb.'"

    A European Ambassador noted that President Bush is scheduled to visit
    Europe in February, and that there has been public talk from the White
    House about improving the President's relationship with America's E.U.
    allies. In that context, the Ambassador told me, "I'm puzzled by the
    fact that the United States is not helping us in our program. How can
    Washington maintain its stance without seriously taking into account
    the weapons issue?"

    The Israeli government is, not surprisingly, skeptical of the European
    approach. Silvan Shalom, the Foreign Minister, said in an interview
    last week in Jerusalem,with another New Yorker journalist, "I don't
    like what's happening. We were encouraged at first when the Europeans
    got involved. For a long time, they thought it was just Israel's
    problem. But then they saw that the [Iranian] missiles themselves were
    longer range and could reach all of Europe, and they became very
    concerned. Their attitude has been to use the carrot and the
    stick--but all we see so far is the carrot." He added, "If they can't
    comply, Israel cannot live with Iran having a nuclear bomb."

    In a recent essay, Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is the deputy
    director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (and a
    supporter of the Administration), articulated the view that force, or
    the threat of it, was a vital bargaining tool with Iran. Clawson wrote
    that if Europe wanted coöperation with the Bush Administration it
    "would do well to remind Iran that the military option remains on the
    table." He added that the argument that the European negotiations
    hinged on Washington looked like "a preëmptive excuse for the likely
    breakdown of the E.U.-Iranian talks." In a subsequent conversation
    with me, Clawson suggested that, if some kind of military action was
    inevitable, "it would be much more in Israel's interest--and
    Washington's--to take covert action. The style of this Administration
    is to use overwhelming force--`shock and awe.' But we get only one
    bite of the apple."

    There are many military and diplomatic experts who dispute the notion
    that military action, on whatever scale, is the right approach.
    Shahram Chubin, an Iranian scholar who is the director of research at
    the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told me, "It's a fantasy to
    think that there's a good American or Israeli military option in
    Iran." He went on, "The Israeli view is that this is an international
    problem. `You do it,' they say to the West. `Otherwise, our Air Force
    will take care of it.'" In 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed
    Iraq's Osirak reactor, setting its nuclear program back several years.
    But the situation now is both more complex and more dangerous, Chubin
    said. The Osirak bombing "drove the Iranian nuclear-weapons program
    underground, to hardened, dispersed sites," he said. "You can't be
    sure after an attack that you'll get away with it. The U.S. and Israel
    would not be certain whether all the sites had been hit, or how
    quickly they'd be rebuilt. Meanwhile, they'd be waiting for an Iranian
    counter-attack that could be military or terrorist or diplomatic. Iran
    has long-range missiles and ties to Hezbollah, which has drones--you
    can't begin to think of what they'd do in response."

    Chubin added that Iran could also renounce the Nuclear
    Non-Proliferation Treaty. "It's better to have them cheating within
    the system," he said. "Otherwise, as victims, Iran will walk away from
    the treaty and inspections while the rest of the world watches the
    N.P.T. unravel before their eyes."

    The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions
    inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the
    accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian
    nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The
    goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such
    targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term
    commando raids. "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran
    and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible," the
    government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me.

    Some of the missions involve extraordinary coöperation. For example,
    the former high-level intelligence official told me that an American
    commando task force has been set up in South Asia and is now working
    closely with a group of Pakistani scientists and technicians who had
    dealt with Iranian counterparts. (In 2003, the I.A.E.A. disclosed that
    Iran had been secretly receiving nuclear technology from Pakistan for
    more than a decade, and had withheld that information from
    inspectors.) The American task force, aided by the information from
    Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt
    for underground installations. The task-force members, or their
    locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices--known as
    sniffers--capable of sampling the atmosphere for radioactive emissions
    and other evidence of nuclear-enrichment programs.

    Getting such evidence is a pressing concern for the Bush
    Administration. The former high-level intelligence official told me,
    "They don't want to make any W.M.D. intelligence mistakes, as in Iraq.
    The Republicans can't have two of those. There's no education in the
    second kick of a mule." The official added that the government of
    Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, has won a high price for
    its coöperation--American assurance that Pakistan will not have to
    hand over A. Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb,
    to the I.A.E.A. or to any other international authorities for
    questioning. For two decades, Khan has been linked to a vast
    consortium of nuclear-black-market activities. Last year, Musharraf
    professed to be shocked when Khan, in the face of overwhelming
    evidence, "confessed" to his activities. A few days later, Musharraf
    pardoned him, and so far he has refused to allow the I.A.E.A. or
    American intelligence to interview him. Khan is now said to be living
    under house arrest in a villa in Islamabad. "It's a deal--a
    trade-off," the former high-level intelligence official explained.
    "`Tell us what you know about Iran and we will let your A. Q. Khan
    guys go.' It's the neoconservatives' version of short-term gain at
    long-term cost. They want to prove that Bush is the anti-terrorism guy
    who can handle Iran and the nuclear threat, against the long-term goal
    of eliminating the black market for nuclear proliferation."

    The agreement comes at a time when Musharraf, according to a former
    high-level Pakistani diplomat, has authorized the expansion of
    Pakistan's nuclear-weapons arsenal. "Pakistan still needs parts and
    supplies, and needs to buy them in the clandestine market," the former
    diplomat said. "The U.S. has done nothing to stop it."

    There has also been close, and largely unacknowledged, coöperation
    with Israel. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon said
    that the Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas
    Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to
    develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile
    targets inside Iran. (After Osirak, Iran situated many of its nuclear
    sites in remote areas of the east, in an attempt to keep them out of
    striking range of other countries, especially Israel. Distance no
    longer lends such protection, however: Israel has acquired three
    submarines capable of launching cruise missiles and has equipped some
    of its aircraft with additional fuel tanks, putting Israeli F-16I
    fighters within the range of most Iranian targets.)

    "They believe that about three-quarters of the potential targets can
    be destroyed from the air, and a quarter are too close to population
    centers, or buried too deep, to be targeted," the consultant said.
    Inevitably, he added, some suspicious sites need to be checked out by
    American or Israeli commando teams--in on-the-ground
    surveillance--before being targeted.

    The Pentagon's contingency plans for a broader invasion of Iran are
    also being updated. Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S.
    Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the
    military's war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion
    of Iran. Updating the plan makes sense, whether or not the
    Administration intends to act, because the geopolitics of the region
    have changed dramatically in the last three years. Previously, an
    American invasion force would have had to enter Iran by sea, by way of
    the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman; now troops could move in on the
    ground, from Afghanistan or Iraq. Commando units and other assets
    could be introduced through new bases in the Central Asian republics.

    It is possible that some of the American officials who talk about the
    need to eliminate Iran's nuclear infrastructure are doing so as part
    of a propaganda campaign aimed at pressuring Iran to give up its
    weapons planning. If so, the signals are not always clear. President
    Bush, who after 9/11 famously depicted Iran as a member of the "axis
    of evil," is now publicly emphasizing the need for diplomacy to run
    its course. "We don't have much leverage with the Iranians right now,"
    the President said at a news conference late last year. "Diplomacy
    must be the first choice, and always the first choice of an
    administration trying to solve an issue of . . . nuclear armament. And
    we'll continue to press on diplomacy."

    In my interviews over the past two months, I was given a much harsher
    view. The hawks in the Administration believe that it will soon become
    clear that the Europeans' negotiated approach cannot succeed, and that
    at that time the Administration will act. "We're not dealing with a
    set of National Security Council option papers here," the former
    high-level intelligence official told me. "They've already passed that
    wicket. It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're
    doing it."

    The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least
    temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear. But there are other,
    equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me
    that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been
    urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to
    a toppling of the religious leadership. "Within the soul of Iran there
    is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one
    hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,"
    the consultant told me. "The minute the aura of invincibility which
    the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink
    the West, the Iranian regime will collapse"--like the former Communist
    regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and
    Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.

    "The idea that an American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would
    produce a popular uprising is extremely illinformed," said Flynt
    Leverett, a Middle East scholar who worked on the National Security
    Council in the Bush Administration. "You have to understand that the
    nuclear ambition in Iran is supported across the political spectrum,
    and Iranians will perceive attacks on these sites as attacks on their
    ambitions to be a major regional player and a modern nation that's
    technologically sophisticated." Leverett, who is now a senior fellow
    at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings
    Institution, warned that an American attack, if it takes place, "will
    produce an Iranian backlash against the United States and a rallying
    around the regime."

    Rumsfeld planned and lobbied for more than two years before getting
    Presidential authority, in a series of findings and executive orders,
    to use military commandos for covert operations. One of his first
    steps was bureaucratic: to shift control of an undercover unit, known
    then as the Gray Fox (it has recently been given a new code name),
    from the Army to the Special Operations Command (socom), in Tampa.
    Gray Fox was formally assigned to socom in July, 2002, at the
    instigation of Rumsfeld's office, which meant that the undercover unit
    would have a single commander for administration and operational
    deployment. Then, last fall, Rumsfeld's ability to deploy the
    commandos expanded. According to a Pentagon consultant, an Execute
    Order on the Global War on Terrorism (referred to throughout the
    government as gwot) was issued at Rumsfeld's direction. The order
    specifically authorized the military "to find and finish" terrorist
    targets, the consultant said. It included a target list that cited Al
    Qaeda network members, Al Qaeda senior leadership, and other
    high-value targets. The consultant said that the order had been
    cleared throughout the national-security bureaucracy in Washington.

    In late November, 2004, the Times reported that Bush had set up an
    interagency group to study whether it "would best serve the nation" to
    give the Pentagon complete control over the C.I.A.'s own élite
    paramilitary unit, which has operated covertly in trouble spots around
    the world for decades. The panel's conclusions, due in February, are
    foregone, in the view of many former C.I.A. officers. "It seems like
    it's going to happen," Howard Hart, who was chief of the C.I.A.'s
    Paramilitary Operations Division before retiring in 1991, told me.

    There was other evidence of Pentagon encroachment. Two former C.I.A.
    clandestine officers, Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, who
    publish Intelligence Brief, a newsletter for their business clients,
    reported last month on the existence of a broad counter-terrorism
    Presidential finding that permitted the Pentagon "to operate
    unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a
    clear and evident terrorist threat. . . . A number of the countries
    are friendly to the U.S. and are major trading partners. Most have
    been cooperating in the war on terrorism." The two former officers
    listed some of the countries--Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and
    Malaysia. (I was subsequently told by the former high-level
    intelligence official that Tunisia is also on the list.)

    Giraldi, who served three years in military intelligence before
    joining the C.I.A., said that he was troubled by the military's
    expanded covert assignment. "I don't think they can handle the cover,"
    he told me. "They've got to have a different mind-set. They've got to
    handle new roles and get into foreign cultures and learn how other
    people think. If you're going into a village and shooting people, it
    doesn't matter," Giraldi added. "But if you're running operations that
    involve finesse and sensitivity, the military can't do it. Which is
    why these kind of operations were always run out of the agency." I was
    told that many Special Operations officers also have serious

    Rumsfeld and two of his key deputies, Stephen Cambone, the
    Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Army Lieutenant
    General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, will be part of the chain of
    command for the new commando operations. Relevant members of the House
    and Senate intelligence committees have been briefed on the Defense
    Department's expanded role in covert affairs, a Pentagon adviser
    assured me, but he did not know how extensive the briefings had been.

    "I'm conflicted about the idea of operating without congressional
    oversight," the Pentagon adviser said. "But I've been told that there
    will be oversight down to the specific operation." A second Pentagon
    adviser agreed, with a significant caveat. "There are reporting
    requirements," he said. "But to execute the finding we don't have to
    go back and say, `We're going here and there.' No nitty-gritty detail
    and no micromanagement."

    The legal questions about the Pentagon's right to conduct covert
    operations without informing Congress have not been resolved. "It's a
    very, very gray area," said Jeffrey H. Smith, a West Point graduate
    who served as the C.I.A.'s general counsel in the
    mid-nineteen-nineties. "Congress believes it voted to include all such
    covert activities carried out by the armed forces. The military says,
    `No, the things we're doing are not intelligence actions under the
    statute but necessary military steps authorized by the President, as
    Commander-in-Chief, to "prepare the battlefield."'" Referring to his
    days at the C.I.A., Smith added, "We were always careful not to use
    the armed forces in a covert action without a Presidential finding.
    The Bush Administration has taken a much more aggressive stance."

    In his conversation with me, Smith emphasized that he was unaware of
    the military's current plans for expanding covert action. But he said,
    "Congress has always worried that the Pentagon is going to get us
    involved in some military misadventure that nobody knows about."

    Under Rumsfeld's new approach, I was told, U.S. military operatives
    would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen
    seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons
    systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local
    citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or
    terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out
    combat operations, or even terrorist activities. Some operations will
    likely take place in nations in which there is an American diplomatic
    mission, with an Ambassador and a C.I.A. station chief, the Pentagon
    consultant said. The Ambassador and the station chief would not
    necessarily have a need to know, under the Pentagon's current
    interpretation of its reporting requirement.

    The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what
    it calls "action teams" in the target countries overseas which can be
    used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. "Do you remember
    the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?" the former high-level
    intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs
    that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. "We founded
    them and we financed them," he said. "The objective now is to recruit
    locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about
    it." A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon's
    commando capabilities, said, "We're going to be riding with the bad

    One of the rationales for such tactics was spelled out in a series of
    articles by John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the
    Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, California, and a consultant
    on terrorism for the rand corporation. "It takes a network to fight a
    network," Arquilla wrote in a recent article in the San Francisco

    When conventional military operations and bombing failed to defeat the
    Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya in the 1950s, the British formed teams of
    friendly Kikuyu tribesmen who went about pretending to be terrorists.
    These "pseudo gangs," as they were called, swiftly threw the Mau Mau
    on the defensive, either by befriending and then ambushing bands of
    fighters or by guiding bombers to the terrorists' camps. What worked
    in Kenya a half-century ago has a wonderful chance of undermining
    trust and recruitment among today's terror networks. Forming new
    pseudo gangs should not be difficult.

    "If a confused young man from Marin County can join up with Al Qaeda,"
    Arquilla wrote, referring to John Walker Lindh, the twenty-year-old
    Californian who was seized in Afghanistan, "think what professional
    operatives might do."

    A few pilot covert operations were conducted last year, one Pentagon
    adviser told me, and a terrorist cell in Algeria was "rolled up" with
    American help. The adviser was referring, apparently, to the capture
    of Ammari Saifi, known as Abderrezak le Para, the head of a North
    African terrorist network affiliated with Al Qaeda. But at the end of
    the year there was no agreement within the Defense Department about
    the rules of engagement. "The issue is approval for the final
    authority," the former high-level intelligence official said. "Who
    gets to say `Get this' or `Do this'?"

    A retired four-star general said, "The basic concept has always been
    solid, but how do you insure that the people doing it operate within
    the concept of the law? This is pushing the edge of the envelope." The
    general added, "It's the oversight. And you're not going to get
    Warner"--John Warner, of Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Armed
    Services Committee--"and those guys to exercise oversight. This whole
    thing goes to the Fourth Deck." He was referring to the floor in the
    Pentagon where Rumsfeld and Cambone have their offices.

    "It's a finesse to give power to Rumsfeld--giving him the right to act
    swiftly, decisively, and lethally," the first Pentagon adviser told
    me. "It's a global free-fire zone."

    The Pentagon has tried to work around the limits on covert activities
    before. In the early nineteen-eighties, a covert Army unit was set up
    and authorized to operate overseas with minimal oversight. The results
    were disastrous. The Special Operations program was initially known as
    Intelligence Support Activity, or I.S.A., and was administered from a
    base near Washington (as was, later, Gray Fox). It was established
    soon after the failed rescue, in April, 1980, of the American hostages
    in Iran, who were being held by revolutionary students after the
    Islamic overthrow of the Shah's regime. At first, the unit was kept
    secret from many of the senior generals and civilian leaders in the
    Pentagon, as well as from many members of Congress. It was eventually
    deployed in the Reagan Administration's war against the Sandinista
    government, in Nicaragua. It was heavily committed to supporting the
    Contras. By the mid-eighties, however, the I.S.A.'s operations had
    been curtailed, and several of its senior officers were
    courtmartialled following a series of financial scandals, some
    involving arms deals. The affair was known as "the Yellow Fruit
    scandal," after the code name given to one of the I.S.A.'s cover
    organizations--and in many ways the group's procedures laid the
    groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal.

    Despite the controversy surrounding Yellow Fruit, the I.S.A. was kept
    intact as an undercover unit by the Army. "But we put so many
    restrictions on it," the second Pentagon adviser said. "In I.S.A., if
    you wanted to travel fifty miles you had to get a special order. And
    there were certain areas, such as Lebanon, where they could not go."
    The adviser acknowledged that the current operations are similar to
    those two decades earlier, with similar risks--and, as he saw it,
    similar reasons for taking the risks. "What drove them then, in terms
    of Yellow Fruit, was that they had no intelligence on Iran," the
    adviser told me. "They had no knowledge of Tehran and no people on the
    ground who could prepare the battle space."

    Rumsfeld's decision to revive this approach stemmed, once again, from
    a failure of intelligence in the Middle East, the adviser said. The
    Administration believed that the C.I.A. was unable, or unwilling, to
    provide the military with the information it needed to effectively
    challenge stateless terrorism. "One of the big challenges was that we
    didn't have Humint"--human intelligence--"collection capabilities in
    areas where terrorists existed," the adviser told me. "Because the
    C.I.A. claimed to have such a hold on Humint, the way to get around
    them, rather than take them on, was to claim that the agency didn't do
    Humint to support Special Forces operations overseas. The C.I.A.
    fought it." Referring to Rumsfeld's new authority for covert
    operations, the first Pentagon adviser told me, "It's not empowering
    military intelligence. It's emasculating the C.I.A."

    A former senior C.I.A. officer depicted the agency's eclipse as
    predictable. "For years, the agency bent over backward to integrate
    and coördinate with the Pentagon," the former officer said. "We just
    caved and caved and got what we deserved. It is a fact of life today
    that the Pentagon is a five-hundred-pound gorilla and the C.I.A.
    director is a chimpanzee."

    There was pressure from the White House, too. A former C.I.A.
    clandestine-services officer told me that, in the months after the
    resignation of the agency's director George Tenet, in June, 2004, the
    White House began "coming down critically" on analysts in the C.I.A.'s
    Directorate of Intelligence (D.I.) and demanded "to see more support
    for the Administration's political position." Porter Goss, Tenet's
    successor, engaged in what the recently retired C.I.A. official
    described as a "political purge" in the D.I. Among the targets were a
    few senior analysts who were known to write dissenting papers that had
    been forwarded to the White House. The recently retired C.I.A.
    official said, "The White House carefully reviewed the political
    analyses of the D.I. so they could sort out the apostates from the
    true believers." Some senior analysts in the D.I. have turned in their
    resignations--quietly, and without revealing the extent of the

    The White House solidified its control over intelligence last month,
    when it forced last-minute changes in the intelligence-reform bill.
    The legislation, based substantially on recommendations of the 9/11
    Commission, originally gave broad powers, including authority over
    intelligence spending, to a new national-intelligence director. (The
    Pentagon controls roughly eighty per cent of the intelligence budget.)
    A reform bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 96-2. Before the House
    voted, however, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld balked. The White House
    publicly supported the legislation, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert
    refused to bring a House version of the bill to the floor for a
    vote--ostensibly in defiance of the President, though it was widely
    understood in Congress that Hastert had been delegated to stall the
    bill. After intense White House and Pentagon lobbying, the legislation
    was rewritten. The bill that Congress approved sharply reduced the new
    director's power, in the name of permitting the Secretary of Defense
    to maintain his "statutory responsibilities." Fred Kaplan, in the
    online magazine Slate, described the real issues behind Hastert's
    action, quoting a congressional aide who expressed amazement as White
    House lobbyists bashed the Senate bill and came up "with all sorts of
    ludicrous reasons why it was unacceptable."

    "Rummy's plan was to get a compromise in the bill in which the
    Pentagon keeps its marbles and the C.I.A. loses theirs," the former
    high-level intelligence official told me. "Then all the pieces of the
    puzzle fall in place. He gets authority for covert action that is not
    attributable, the ability to directly task national-intelligence
    assets"--including the many intelligence satellites that constantly
    orbit the world.

    "Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the
    government's intelligence wringer," the former official went on. "The
    intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in
    competition. What's missing will be the dynamic tension that insures
    everyone's priorities--in the C.I.A., the D.O.D., the F.B.I., and even
    the Department of Homeland Security--are discussed. The most insidious
    implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell
    people what he's doing so they can ask, `Why are you doing this?' or
    `What are your priorities?' Now he can keep all of the mattress mice
    out of it."

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