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December 15, 2005


It looks like that old saw about criminals leaving clues to prove how smart they are, only to be tripped up by them.

EW, you do such wonderful work, and it's so important. Thanks.

Careful now, venturing into the mind of Ledeen is a dangerous pastime. Seriously, trying to differentiate between Ledeen the propagandist and Ledeen the right-wing kook is a fool's errand. The only useful lesson one can draw from Ledeen's writing is how easy it is for an ideologue to be tricked into helping out his sworn enemies. For a man dedicated to taking a hard-line against the Iranians it is beyond ironic that his great policy "successes" (Iran-Contra and the Iraq War) have redounded so emphatically to the benefit of the Iranian hard-liners.

Excellent analysis EW.

I think you're really on to something. It's almost as if his JJA columns are his "diabolical confessions" you might say, just like the James Bond villian always lays out the whole convoluted plot right before he thinks Bond's about to be offed. Maybe he knows an indictment is right around the corner (or some other intervention that will "save" him).

And, if there's ever anything I've learned with this bunch, if you take the opposite of what they say as true, it's invariably pretty close to reality.

Also, JJA and Leeden (his protege, maybe?) probably have rights to be paranoid. The "good-guys" were probably on to them, hence JJA's need to have a domestic spying ring to know what the heck his "enemies" knew about his potentially treasonous activities. Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover were like that too. O what a wicked web indeed...

Someday, I hope either you or someone like you (with that amazing analytical style you have) writes a book about these folks and exposes this whole paranoid conspiracy crap they peddle for what it is. I'd love to see insights into how these guys think and what makes them tick.

Ledeen's goals are so insane and patently destructive of American interests that I am beginning to suspect that he is an IRANIAN agent under deep cover. That would explain the close ties to Gorbhanifar and the obsession with Chalabi/Christ. I think that he is functioning as a sort of Iranian version of a "Manchurian pundit," while at the same time engaging in secret contretemps. There is a wilderness of connections between the Mossad and the Iranians that will, hopefully, some day be traced and described.

james jesus angleton

what a name.

what a dewstructive old crackpot.

that he rose so high in the cia and damaged the agency for so long says a lot about why the cia was and remains substantially disfunctional.

but angleton and ledeen?

good god.

i had no idea.

my first impression reading this essay is of ledeen's egotism.

does this guy really care about the ideology he espouses? or is the ideology just the framework that he happened to "grow up" in?

put another way

some people love to kill for the pleasure and thrill of killing

i wonder if ledeen loves his "espionage" tricks in the same way for the thrill they offer him. ideology is just the clothing he wears.

thanks for a truely remarkable synthasis.

i do hope there is another shoe to drop re niger.

Have you seen the post on AfterDowningStreet "Rummy, Saddam & the Secret History of the Aqaba Pipeline"? Certainly gives a deeper perspective of the history and motivation of the Iraq war.

RE: Ledeen and Iran. Someone (I think it was Ledeen, but not in the articles I worked on here) made the point that it is a mistake for the US to mistake political moderation in Iran with cooperation with our goals. While that makes sense for a realpolitik policy, it contradicts the very notion of Neocons' stated goals. Which doesn't mean they don't believe it.

In other words, it may be that part of Ledeen's strategy of tension (I'm sure both he and Angleton believed in a strategy of tension) to call for support for moderates in Iran while at the same time dealing with the hardliners. Don't know how that keeps Israel safe, but I'm trying to figure out what they hell he's thinking.

There are, of course, rumors that Ledeen/P2 were involved in whatever October Surprise Reagan/Bush pulled off in 1980. And all narratives of the October surprise argue Israel brokered the deal in an attempt to keep its alliance with the periphery (the non-Arab periphery of its sphere of influence) strong.

Former umzu here. Thanks for this classic piece of literary forensic work. Like the Judy series, it gives those of us who don't do detailed leak logic at the speed of light a stable interpretive framework for understanding these guys. Ledeen seems to be using a literary device to document complex narratives and counternarratives. He didn't foresee the emergence of sophisticated, collaborative, public problem solving when he started this project in the Levy piece with the words "when things are so complicated that no living person can unravel them..."

umzu...I mean peanut gallery. Why the name change?

Great point about that first line of the Levy column. When setting out on an attempt to obfuscate his own conspiracies, Ledeen makes the claim that everything's too tough for people to figure out.

just experimenting...trying to find the right number/type of personas for maximum productivity. Like Ledeen, ha ha. :)

Fascinating, EW.

...I'm trying to figure out what they hell he's thinking.

I know you're a professional, but don't hurt yourself!

I thought JJC was fascinating, in my early 20s, and spy novels are still my fictional favorite. Happy to know that I've (mostly) moved on, but a neo-con Master of the Universe seems not to have.

Sorry, make that JJA! I also haven't developed an excessive interest in orchids either, BTW, fortunately, but for the grace of God....

That is just full-on four-flushing insane.

i've heard a lot about wikipedia but never used it. this evening i entered google and then wikipedia. at wikipedia i entered "michael leeden".

while there is a lot at that site one could exclaim about, the thing that stood out for me were citations involving ledeen's concern for the failure of modern leaders to "implement" machiavelli's "advise".

my understanding of machiavelli was that he was more an observer and recorder of current practices than an adviser on how a prince should proceed.

one of us has misconstrued machiavelli.

but more important is ledeen's interest in machiavelli. it suggests to me an in-the-mind idealization of governing virtually independent of reality, and, especially, the american reality of give-and-take, dicker and argue, and then settle things and go home.

off the cuff, ledeen sounds to me like the typical "romantic" political fanatic, operating from the certainty inside his head rather than from the messy, unstable reality of american democracy.

and that brings me, dont ask how, to a larger question which bothers me:

we in the united states seem suddenly to have become overwhelmed by conservative european philosophy and religion in a way we had managed to escape for centuries.

Thanks Jane. I'll guess you haven't a generous sense of humor, or mine isn't much to your liking. C'est la vie.

Bravo, EW, bravo. Great to see such intelligent deconstruction of Ledeen. Hope to see more of these, hereabouts.

BTW, one thing you might add, Ledeen happens to be an execrably bad writer. Nothing but tin-eared cliches and that trademark phony bogus juvenile mysteriousness. It's beyond tiresome.

With apologies, if I may, below are a few contributory notes on Angleton. A glance at these items (from authors as cited) makes it more obvious why Ledeen would seem to admire to Angleton so -- shared cravings for compartmentalized illegality:


1) From "Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services" by Ian Black and Benny Morris:

p. 132: "Another unwitting and complementary conduit for the Mossad deception appears to have been James Angleton, the CIA counter-intelligence chief, who maintained close and sympathetic liason with the Israelis. According to Robert Amory, the CIA's deputy director of intelligence, Washington learned of the imminent Israeli attack when a US military atache in Tel Aviv reported that his driver, a disabled Israeli reservist, had been called up. Amory concluded that a full-scale mobilization was under way. Angleton disagreed strongly. His Israeli contacts had told him emphatically that there would be no attack. An angry Amory called Angleton 'this co-opted Israeli agent,' but years later Amory would argue that Angleton was 'duped and not duplicitous.'"


2) From "Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby" by John Prados:

p. 271: "Previous orders to remove Angleton from the chain of command for CIA activities in Israel also had never been implemented. Only a month after Colby took his oath as DCI, the Middle East erupted in the fierce October War of 1973. Israeli intelligence failed to predict the Arab attacks that launched the conflict. Angleton, with his cozy contacts with the Israelis, had followed their cue. Moreover, since Angleton handled this Israeli account as a tightly compartmentalized operation, some of the relevant intelligence never reached the CIA's own analysts. Angleton had used every argument already to dissuade Colby from taking him off the Israeli liason mission, but the October War made it clear that existing arrangements could not be continued."

p.297: "In a piece on Angleton he published in 1978, Seymour Hersh wrote that both the counterspy and the DCI were aware of his work on the CIA domestic story by the second week of December 1974. Colby had specific notice of a forthcoming Times story by the following Monday. Previously Colby had left Angleton in place as a token of stability at Langley, but with revelations in store about illegal operations for which Angleton had had responsibility, and which 'Mother,' as he was nicknamed, had fought to preserve, the old approach no longer appeared tenable. On Thursday, December 17, Colby had Angleton up to the seventh floor for a showdown. The director announced his irrevocable decision taking Angleton out of the Middle East chain of command, and then dropped the bombshell -- Colby had decided to appoint a new chief of counterintelligence."


3) From "A Spy For All Seasons" by Duane Clarridge, p.404:

"Over the years the Clandestine Services has not handled counterintelligence well for a number of reasons. First, there was a lack of what I would call 'adult supervision.' James Angleton was the first egregious example of those who were allowed by senior management to isolate themselves from the mainstream of the Clandestine Services in the name of security and carry on unfocused and often paranoid investigations that had little relevance to the Agency's ongoing operations and were often mindlessly destructive of positive efforts. Richard Helms should go to his grave deploring his lack of courage or misplaced loyalty in his failure to remove Angleton; at least William Colby rose to the occasion."


Thanks much for the additions. Those are valuable. And yes, Ledeen seems to have found a fellow traveler in JJA.


your comments and citations were most instructive

thanks for taking the time to make them available to

it's amazing what the web log world makes available to folks like me.

what an education.

Once again, I request that the meaning of acronyms be spelled out when they are first used, for the benefit of readers who do not actually work in Washington DC. I'm sure there must be a few of us. Today the problem was PDB. Wikipedia tells me it could mean:

-- the President's Daily Briefing
-- the Protein Data Bank
-- the trio Pastorius, Dennard, and Bullock, and a jazz album by that trio
-- a file format, Palm database, generally used to store data for an application
-- a (proprietary) Microsoft file format, Program Database, used to store debug information about a computer program
-- the Poco Di Buono crew, the most big National Italian writerz crew, recently inquired by police for the big quantity of damaged trains.
-- potato dextrose broth, a microbiological medium commonly used for culturing yeast and mold, but not bacteria.
-- the phpDataBase, a SQL understanding database- server completely written in PHP

Given this list, I have to assume you were probably freferring to the first. But I imagine there could also be other meanings not even listed here. It would be much easier to follow the discussion without having to overcome this kind of obscurity.


I was amazed that you did this because I was thinking of doing something similar, albeit in a comic dialogue, like my recent Hitchens-Bush conversation.

But I have many old articles of Ledeen's to read, that are more interesting than his later stuff.

One of the ironies of Ledeen is that the real reasons he uses Angleton as a dramatic device, is not only to appeal to the reactionary imagination, but also to create a seperate conceptual framework,like the left wing dramatist Pinter.

As a creative excercise, EW ought to think of the "deep game," when it comes to Iran. Think of Iran, not as Iran, but as Persia with some added states and tribes, some less loyal to Tehran than others.

Why did the Bush admin. seem to obstruct earlier efforts to prevent the Khan network from supplying material banned by the IAEA to Iran? That been alleged at least. Was this to give some real substance to a threat, Iran, that was only theoretical?


If you are looking for some domestic analogues for the theory of stress, look to the border/immigration policy, which is designed via paradox and left hand/right hand differentiation to supply cheap labor that is vulnerable because it is illegal, but to do so in a way that sluices blue collar blame away from the designers of policy to the Mexicans.

Think - the border is designed to be breeched. Yet, the victims of the downward drift in wages don't blame those who built the bad border and lured workers accross.

Iranian policy, is a bit like that. If you squint.

EW, thanks for this survey of the Testament of Dr. Ledeen. His name, and the inevitable juxtaposition of Manucher Ghorbanifar's have long defined the boundaries of the roccoco for me. Somehow though, I had forgotten about Mother Angleton--a Psycho reference, surely--who I'm old enough to have been terrified by when I read about him during the tender years of my youth, probably in one of those Hersh articles.

Unfortunately, some intrepid souls are going to have to risk all by parsing this crowd before we're finally rid of them, cause it looks like they hold a lot of the loose ends.

Uh, Cymro, I'll let Ledeen know that you think he should spell out PDB, next time I see him.


Yeah, I would agree about that AQ Khan lapse in general, and it works for Iran specifically.

And thinking of Persia more generally? Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if these guys were going back to Herodotous and Thucydides for their very twisted notion of Iran.

EW, you just have an amazingly nimble mind.

Gotham, I think that perceptive description of the Admin's tactical construction of its border/immigration policy is broadly applicable to the Admin's political MO writ large.

It is evident there is too little accountability in American public life. The name Ledeen should have been forgotten long ago.

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