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July 09, 2006



That's some goddamned awful reporting.

I suspect there is a great deal of "context" that needs to be laid here to get close to understanding what is going down.

For starters -- the leak this week that last December Porter Goss closed the bin Laden CIA component down, and scattered the members into various new positions. Bush, as we saw this week, cannot explain the decision. The upshot is that Bush has little to show for searching out al-Qaeda leadership.

Another major problem -- supplying context questions -- has to do with the abu-Zubaydha matter. We have two totally contradictory stories out there. We have Ron Suskind's recent book saying the FBI read of Zubaydha's diaries diagnosed him as a very minor bit player, a man handicapped by a profoundly split personality, and that virtually none of the intelligence gathered via torture from him proved to be true. We have Suskind describing Tenet telling Bush these facts, and Bush reacting that he doesn't want this out because it would undercut Bush's claim that they had really caught #3.

But then a few years back we have another book, "Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11" by Gerald Posner, (2003) which provides a highly detailed narrative about the captivity of Zubaydha -- complete with building a hospital room in Afghanistan that matched in all details a Saudi hospital room, employing a Saudi dialect speaking male nurse so as to trick Zubaydha into talking, thinking he was safe in Saudi Arabia. Posner claims that three high ranking Saudi princes committed suicide (?) as a result of Zubaydha's drove of information.

Was the Posner book a piece of disinformation created to support Bush's claim that Zubaydha was a dangerous high ranking leader in al-Qaeda? Posner could not have written a narrative of the questioning of Zubaydha without CIA insider help -- and I would guess that Suskind had similar sources, though obviously with a quite different story to tall. Most likely, Suskind talked to FBI Psychologists.

Put these otherwise disconnected stories together as contemporary backdrop, (the closing of Station Alex and the Suskind Zubaydha story contrasted with the Posner narrative of three years ago) -- and what I think you are seeing are the outlines of the Bush/Cheney corruption of intelligence services, corruption in service to comprehending intelligence as something in service to Public Relations interests as opposed to (hopefully) a hard fact based analysis of reality.


Thanks for reminding me of the Posner story. Btw, I think only one of the Saudis is alleged to have committed suicide. One died in a car accident, I think, and another got lost in the dessert with no water. Or somethign like that.

But there is also a third, which doesn't conflict with Suskind, but might with Posner, of Zubaydah shopped out to Thailand to be tortured, in Risen's book. They all could be true (even if he was an effective valet, he would know who the Saudi sponsors were).

I think the key problem is that we've got two terrible options, the Death Squads Negroponte option (in which he relies on Hayden and Kappes to counter Rummy) and the Rummy option. The Rummy side was definitely one source of jimmied intell during the war (OSP and Judy), but CIA played a part as well (even after CIA beat out DIA for the right to interrogate Obeidi, CIA lied about what he said). Used to be, the sides cooperated reasonably well in their lies. But the Goss ouster (and, I suspect strongly, the investigation into the Wilkes gravy train) has made the corrupt side of the CIA/House balk on the Rummy side.

The best we can hope for institionally (until we take Congress back) is for Kappes to have some success.

You're gonna love JOM/TM's take on the Hoekstra story.

Kappes seems like a very capable and complex individual, judging by the Times article which Tom Maguire linked to and Suskind's book.

Kappes was in the thick of discovering and then exploiting AQ Khan's dealings and negotiating Libya's renunciation of nukes and return to US favor. Suskind (p. 223) says Bush liked Kappes. Per Suskind, the deal with Libya was very closely held, and Kappes briefed Bush directly several times. Bush got to trumpet Libya's entry into the International Community as a victorious consequence of the Iraq War, at least for awhile. So maybe as things fell apart at CIA that counted in Kappes' favor.

One interesting thing in Suskind's book is how the conflict with terrorists and our effort to stop them is intensely personal, depending on a web of relationships bewteen people. Tenet had a great many such relationships with foreign heads of state and honchos. Goss had none. He also observes at the end of the book how intertwined Bush and bin Laden are. The CIA commenting on how the 10/29/04 bin Laden tape did Bush a favor has been widely quoted, but not what followed--that bin Laden probably liked Bush in power for the same reason that the Soviets liked Nixon--consistency and predictability. But, he comments, no oen wants to discuss what that actually means for our efforts, or what it means that Bush's popularity at home tracks bin Laden's in the Arab world--they rise and fall together.

One more piece of background to this, if Hoekstra really is representing the interests of Rummy and Cheney. Bolton liked to take credit for the Libya thaw. But the credit really belongs to Kappes and Robert Joseph. Given Judy's article in the WSJ, I wonder whether the cabal puts Kappes in the "appeaser" camp because of that.

As an aside to your comment about conflicts with Rummy, there is a part towards the end of Suskind's book where Bush gets impatient with Chalabi, and tells Rummy to sever our relationship with him. Rummy says he'll get right on it. But nothing happens. Same thing happens in meetings over the next two months. Rummy is bordering on insubordination. So an exasperated Bush tells Condi, "Will you handle this?"

Also somne withering criticism of him in the early parts of the book from people he skewered.

Y'know, I read the NYTimes story this morning with my coffee and Frosted Mini Wheats, and I smiled at the thought of Hoekstra abandoning the spying program debacle. Then I came here...and wondered why I bother subscribing at all. (It's because there isn't anything to replace it, and I can't--and won't--sit at the breakfast table and read a computer screen).

This is a potent post, deserving of much linkage. It's the WHY, not just the WHAT.

Okay, suppose this is primarily Hoekstra carrying a message from the Neocons to the Boy Prince not to get too independent, rather than Hoekstra's own irritation at the newly installed grownups who are crimping his faction's style. Are you also suggesting that the leak itself was at the behest of the Neocons or maybe even Hoekstra himself? It certainly seems that the Boy Prince is the target of some pretty pointed "messages" about his own vulnerability lately (I'm including the revelation of Alex Station being shut down). But it doesn't seem like it's in the best interest of either the House Republicans or the Neocons to allow a letter like this to go public 4 months before the election.

OTOH it's not hard to imagine that the Boy Prince is really so oblivious that people might feel like they need to resort to desperate measures. Maybe someone is trying to get Bolton and/or Rove to pay attention?

If this is Cheney/Rummy sending a signal to Junior to behave....how does that square with Steve Clemons' claim that Bush's "I'm the decider" remark was a public rebuttal to his father's pushing for a replacement for Rummy?

I mean, Bush couldn't be stupid enough to rule out an opportunity to chuck Rummy out of sheer pique and hubris.

Oh, wait....

To clarify a disagreement that became a little more clear in the comments posted while I wrote that epic, I'm suggesting that Hoekstra isn't making his threat on behalf of Cheney-Rumsfeld, but rather that he's making it on behalf of himself, in order to bulk up his own rapidly diminishing influence.

It would be a bizarro Cheney that threatened to get the president in trouble for having failed to inform Congress. Not that he wouldn't do it, but Cheney threatening Bush for having been secretive would be a little bit against his grain.

On the topic of this documents dump, Powerline and others are touting a new post there because it includes the words "Relocate all [Iraqi Intelligence Service] chemical materials and equipment" in anticipation of inspection by the "International Inspection Committee."

Now, putting aside the difference between "chemical materials and equipment" and a weapons program . . . this supposed memo is dated 1999. Wasn't 1999 the year of no inspections, or even inspectors, after withdrawal in 1998? Is there something I'm missing here?

Oh, wait, I see it now: "The US Government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available."

Is it awful reporting (re: Kagro's comment)?

If the original letter isn't made available, then yes. The article leaves even well-informed observers guessing about all kinds of material that the article doesn't care to explain. On the other hand, when the letter is available, it becomes a matter of Lichtblau choosing to highlight the part of the letter that is actually interesting, or at least "news." Hoekstra's objection to Kappes, and his anger at the end of Project Goss, must be well known to Lichtblau's buddies. But the fact that he threatened the president in this particular way, by mentioning the heretofore unknown fact that there are more programs that are still secret even from Hoekstra, that is very interesting to Lichtblau and his buddies. In a complaint-complaint-threat letter, I can see why only the threat would be news. However, there's also a good case to be made that the article could have included all this info and still made its point, so, I guess Lichtblau isn't off Kagro's hook. And everyone who read the print edition, like landreau, didn't have access to the original letter either, so they're in the dark too.


On the factions:

Hayden is in the Negroponte/Hadley/Rice camp, right? And Kappes is halfway between the Rice camp and the Jane Harman camp, and was there partly as a peace offering to Democrats, and even more significantly as a peace offering to the Agency professionals.

That means Cheney and Rumsfeld lost something significant when they lost Goss at CIA, and that the House Rs lost even more. I'm gonna guess that Cheney-Rumsfeld view the House Rs -- Goss himself as well as Hoekstra, Duncan Hunter, Lewis, Weldon, Cunningham et al -- as useful idiots. Well-meaning, motivated by the same force-and-power-obsessed conservatism, but still idiots and amateurs. Cheney-Rumsfeld think almost everyone are idiots and amateurs, and it's not hard to see why they might think that of some appropriators and "oversight" figures engaged in juvenile earmark corruption. Especially if they're in that pathetic, worthless Article I branch.

I'm not sure how or why Goss got put in, but when (IF!) the pros at CIA took him and the House Rs down with the corruption leaks, Cheney-Rumsfeld probably just decided that that's what they get for sending boys to do a man's work, and to continue their head-on fight with Negroponte on other battlefields. They were probably bummed to lose their stooge at CIA, but they were still free to continue their larger struggle, and once the Goss/Wilkes/Foggo stuff became obvious, there wasn't much they could do to save their pawn or their direct control of the DCI slot.

The House Rs, on the other hand, lost almost everything when they lost Goss. This is the rankest of uninformed conjecture, but I'm gonna guess they weren't really players to start with, they only became players when Goss got promoted, and once they lost him they lost, in terms of the big foreign policy game, everything. So Hoekstra and Hastert and co were pissed. Not to mention that the manner in which Goss was ousted -- the exposure of Wilkes -- put several of their members directly in the cross-hairs of federal prosecutors.

Seen in that light, Hoekstra's letter is the complaint of a relatively weak faction that has just done itself in and been to some extent discarded by Cheney-Rumsfeld. He whines "but we were cooperating so well! and it was exciting! and now we're being ignored completely!" In fact, going back to the letter, the second and third paragraphs support this assumption of context very very well. Several sentences point to the notion that Hoekstra is completely disempowered, and that he'd been enjoying the heady days of relevance and can see they're over.

Then he weighs in on the Rumsfeld-Negroponte fight by sucking up to Rumsfeld, and then he makes his threat. Emptywheel said in the body of this post that it was empty, by which I think she meant that Hoekstra would never really follow through on it. I'm sure there is some kind of program or activity that Hoekstra hadn't been informed of, but given that Hoekstra is desperately reaching for relevance, it's not clear that it's a really big one. There's got to be something, cause you don't threaten the president if you're not really holding a card. But I wonder how big of a card it is; if it's a King of Spades program that's being held secret, or more of a Nine of Diamonds. If I'm getting the context right (big if!), then Hoekstra is going to be grasping onto anything he can get. Which doesn't mean he doesn't have something big; he might. But he would have to write that same paragraph even if he didn't have a really big program in his back pocket.


On the other hand, the letter just got leaked, two months later, and presumably (?!?) by Hoekstra. OR, by someone in the Negroponte/Hayden/Rice/Hadley wing. Hm. I have no idea what that means. Does it say anything about the gravity of the unbriefed program that Hoekstra was referring to? Does it mean he still hasn't been briefed? Who wants the public to know that the Admin is withholding stuff from Congress?

Also, emptywheel put my name in bold in one of her posts. I'm starstruck. : )

To clarify a disagreement that became a little more clear in the comments posted while I wrote that epic, I'm suggesting that Hoekstra isn't making his threat on behalf of Cheney-Rumsfeld, but rather that he's making it on behalf of himself, in order to bulk up his own rapidly diminishing influence.

It would be a bizarro Cheney that threatened to get the president in trouble for having failed to inform Congress. Not that he wouldn't do it, but Cheney threatening Bush for having been secretive would be a little bit against his grain.

I would just like to emphasize one part of Hoekstra's letter:

a violation of law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me

He really wrote that. He's saying that breaking the law is just as trivial as insulting him. In fact, the letter implies that he's just fine with Bush breaking the law, but don't insult him or he might just give Bush a hard time.

Oh, and did anybody else notice that he misspelled Bolten's name (in the cc list)?

Why didn't Pete copy Hayden on his sulk? He copied Negroponte.


LOL, I thought I had checked that. Maybe he's more familiar with the other spelling, having hung with John a lot?

Great analysis, EW. I was trying to get my head around why Hoekstra, of all people, would be the one complaining about a lack of oversight. I'm curious as to whether this suggests that a Bolton-Negroponte faction is developing the White House which is starting to effectively challenge Rumsfeld- Cheney, and, if so, what that means for the ship of state going forward. Negroponte, while quite willing to engage in morally indefensible covert operations (see Central America), does at least appear to be a member of the reality based community, which is perhaps why he kicked Goss to the curb and brought Kappes in (you know, someone who can actually do the job). Should we grab the popcorn and watch the turf war unfold, or could Rumsfeld and Cheney start lashing out liked wounded, cornered animals?

texas dem

I need to come back to your post tomorrow, after I haven't just watched the world cup. But I think you're right on on the politics of this. Hoekstra is trying to retain his value. Though I do think it was at the bidding of Cheney/Rummy, not least because Hoekstra shows signs to loving the worst of the Neocons (Ledeen). That is, they know they can play this card, and Hoekstra will do it to retain influence.

Built into the Intelligence Reform is a "set-up" turf fight between Rummy and Cheney, and Negroponte. As designed, Negroponte should take over budget authority from DOD on intelligence functions not in service to branches of the service, and traditional DIA efforts. This probably shifts ultimate management of about 30% of the total intelligence budget from DOD to Negroponte's new outfit. Rummy and Cheney do not like this -- and they are both famous as world champion turf fighters, and the conflict has been there since the new Intelligence organization bill was passed in December 2004. Remember Duncan Hunter tried to screw the bill at the last minute. Since then, Rumsfeld has been super busy inventing his own Human Intelligence operations worldwide in direct competition with CIA, and not subject to the rules of reporting to the Congressional Committies that apply to CIA, NSA, etc. This has been playing out now over a year -- we really need reporters embedded in the "Wars over Turf" -- And we need to understand the alliance of Negroponte and Hadden, and now Kappes as one of resistance against a DOD take over of intelligence, which is hardly what the 911 Commission and the supporters of reform actually had in mind.

Which leads me to suggest that many more players probably will get into this, not on one side or the other as a turf matter -- but as a matter of fidelity to the work of the 911 commission as well as the intent authors of legislation.

I sense you all agree Hoekstra is saying he is a contender but nonleaker, yet.
I noticed that today, Sunday, the president's order for the solicitor general to keep the W.Jefferson papers sealed expired, though Jefferson's sole committee was House Budget; but the issue surrounding the forcible confiscation of his files affects other investigations past current and future. Perhaps Hoekstra's ostensible bombshell revelation will become more clearly predictable during negotiations over an interbranch agrement to set forth a protocol for the next searches. Judge Hogan is the one on Jefferson's case, so to speak.

i'm not sure if this is related, by the AP ran an odd 'breaking news' story on Thursday:

The name of San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes has surfaced in several ongoing ethics probes. Among them:
and then it basically just lists the Foggo, Doolittle, DeLay and Lewis/Lowery investigations.
was that a shot across a the bow as per the other speculation here?

So... anybody seen or heard from Jane Harman lately?

texas dem, thanks for your contribution.
emptywheel, as always, great, lucid post and thread, thanks.

Now wait just a damn minute. Hoekstra was all over TV this (Sunday) morning publicizing what went down. Saying there was a pretty significant program that the Admin hadn't briefed him on, that whistleblowers alerted him to back in May, that he referred to in his now-public letter, and that he has now been briefed on.

Why the hell is he throwing egg on the Administration's face now?

I wish I'd seen him on TV; it'd be a little more obvious if he was confirming this cause he had to or confirming it cause he wanted it out there. If he went on the Sunday shows, I'm gonna guess the second.

Who knows what's going down now, that would cause Hoekstra to play his cards this way.

And is Russ Feingold gonna make hay out of the fact that the Administration has now, for sure, violated the National Security Act of 1947 or whatever?

Heck, if properly confirmed, does this play into Kagro's project at all?

Hoekstra data dumped at TMP Cafe

The media has failed to acknowledge that in Columbia South Carolina, capital of the state and home to Fort Jackson, largest training base for the Army in the US, that all Columbia SC citizens are under aerial observation 24/7.

This has been going on now for about a year. Started last June.

White airplanes without any letters or logos or numbers fly our skies... and close to our homes too. Like 200 to 300 feet off the ground almost touching our tall pine trees in downtown neighborhoods...... We have had circling cessnas that cruise neighborhoods for six hours at a clip, three weeks in a row, last summer. The FAA denies knowing who this plane was !!!!!! POST 9/11!!!!!!!!!!! Give me a break
Owens Field our local airport, cannot contact unmarked planes!!!!!!!! OK> so who is it?The manager of Owens confirmed to me that this is the "feds" and what they are doing is "secret" last summer. THEY ARE STILL DOING IT TODAY!!

The plane last summer called my attention to our skies where small jets , large jets, ospreys, white unmarked helicopters, black helicopters with refueling booms, military helicopters and dual prop planes cruise our neighborhoods every single day since. Yep we see the blimp and a few months ago, we had a large old propellor airplane like a DC 10 painted black circling the city for fourteen hours!!!!!!! Two days in a row........ That particular plane appeared to be a traditional spy plane..... but they are loud enough to call attention to themselves if Americans would look up and pay attention.

I have drawn alot of attention to this governmental spying in Columbia. I have probably done more to encourage people to go outside and look up than anyone in town. However, everyone in Columbia SC is very concerned since this has been allowed and never questioned by the media for a year. Are they complicit in allowing it? YOU BETCHA> that is how the citizens see it anyway. Despite call after call, no stories were allowed. WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW who is monitoring us from the sky as this is a 24/7 program in the downtown city of Columbia SC neighborhoods. I can only guess since our media allowed it and never bothered to question it that it may come to a city near you soon too.....

I do not think this is right, appropriate or legal. Who flies unmarked airplanes around our country and who are they working for and what is on their agenda????? I think this is the program that has Hoesktra up in arms.

Btw, I did not see Hoekstra on TV either. But as I understand it, Fox included an intro that reviewed these issues, then he went on and complained about programs that hadn't had oversight. Note, I think he's implying they now do. Also, Scott Shane has been an outlet for Hoekstra before, so I assume Hoekstra himself leaked this. Though he did say he didn't mean for it to become public.

I half wondered whether he was using something like Tice's warnings (which he had previously ignored of his own accord) as the source of his complaint.

He did say this was a case of whistleblowing workign properly.

Great piece, thanks. The idea of Bolton taking any credit for Libya is simply amazing. If I recall, Bolton was pulled after he almost sabotaged efforts by Straw & Armitage. This seems t be a pattern with Bolton, we can follow his footprints of failure wherever he's gone. Unfortunately, the blueprint for what much of what this admin. does is based on the footprints of failure. Gary Berntsen states that the Agency has been 85% Republican all along and if you've read Jawbreaker, you know Mr. Berntsen is a far cry from a liberal.

Does anyone have some info to fill in the blanks about Curt Weldon? I don't understand why people think his investigation into Able Danger is considered "nuts." Didn't the Pentagon prevent the testimonies of the military men who wanted to talk about Able Danger? This, in itself, always makes me sit up and take notice.

Why the hell is he throwing egg on the Administration's face now?

It's just a reminder not to ignore him in the future, plus he's still pissed off at John Negroponte for refusing to back him and Santorum up on the chemical munitions in Iraq hoo-hah.

TLV: Weldon has changed his story on Able Danger several times. Initially he said he had seen the chart with Atta's name on it; then he said he had given his copy to Stephen Hadley and could no longer recall whether he'd seen Mohammed Atta's name on it; then he said the chart he'd been showing people was a reconstruction from memory by someone who had seen the original; then one of the people who helped reconstruct the chart said he couldn't recall whether Atta's name was on it or not.

Weldon also accused, at least by implication, the Pentagon of destroying the Able Danger database from nefarious intentions, when the officer who actually deleted it has said publicly that he did so because an Army lawyer familiar with the operation told him he was required by law to delete data on US citizens within a certain amount of time, and the team couldn't find a way to delete just the info on US citizens.

Weldon is a conspiracy buff. He took information garnered second hand from Manucher Ghorbanifar, the go-between in Iran-Contra, and wrote an entire book about Iran's intentions to incinerate the world based almost entirely on what his secret source, who turned out to be Ghorbanifar's sales rep and who was thoroughly investigated and dismissed by exasperated CIA officials, told him.

In other words, people think he's nuts because he's nuts.

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