January 31, 2005

A Kernel Of Truth...

It was strangely heartening to see Iraqis coming out to vote yesterday, even if I myself would not have voted in their place, even if many of their hopes are likely to be dashed as the election "results" become more obvious in the months ahead, and even if their reasons for voting are largely being ignored, or re-packaged as a victory for Bush & Co's "Freedom on the march" propaganda.

Democracy does not belong to the USA alone, nor to the warbloggers excitedly claiming this election as some kind of victory. There is no reason why those of us who opposed the US invasion cannot applaud any movement towards a better Iraq, even one as exaggerated and prone to misinterpretation as this election.

Juan Cole says he is appalled by "the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections."
I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.
Cole reminds readers that these elections were nothing like what Bush & Co originally had in mind, and only happened because of sustained pressure from the Shi'ites and the UN.
Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.
AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: The Inquisition Strikes Back:

"Under Military Order No. 1, which the president issued without congressional authority on November 13, 2001, George W. Bush has ordered people captured or detained from all over the world, flown to Guantanamo and tortured in a lawless zone where, the White House asserts, prisoners have no rights of any kind at all and can be kept forever at his pleasure. Despite the at-best marginal intervention of the American courts so far, there is no civilian judicial review, no due process of any kind.

While any military force will routinely violate the civil rights of anyone who gets in its way, Ratner's descriptions of how victims wound up in Guantanamo reveal wanton cruelty and callousness that will nauseate any sane human being...."
Iraqi Sovereignty: The Farce Continues

GlobalSecurity.org, which tracks Pentagon contracts and military movements, claims there are about 12 massive US military bases under construction in Iraq.
"They are suggestive that the American presence is going to dominate for years not months," said John Pike, the head of the organisation. He added that the bases were not the only evidence that US troops planned a long stay.

"How many fighter jets does the new Iraqi army have? None. How many tanks? None. What do you call a country with no jets and no fighter planes? It's called a protectorate."
Robert Fisk sums up the situation today:
"Yes, I know how it's all going to be played out. Iraqis bravely vote despite the bloodcurdling threats of the enemies of democracy. At last, the American and British policies have reached fruition - a real and functioning democracy will be in place so we can leave soon. Or next year. Or in a decade or so. Merely to hold these elections - an act of folly in the eyes of so many Iraqis - will be a 'success'.

The Shias will vote en masse, the Sunnis will largely abstain. Shia Muslim power will be enshrined for the first time in an Arab country. And then the manipulation will begin and the claims of fraud and the admissions that the elections might be 'flawed' in some areas.

But we'll go on saying 'democracy' and 'freedom' over and over again, the insurgency will continue and grow even more violent, and the Iraqis will go on dying."
Meanwhile a US military officer in Iraq says US forces will be needed for a decade to come:
The insurgency in Iraq will last at least a decade and American troops alone will not be able to defeat it, a senior US military officer in Baghdad has predicted.

Speaking on the eve of Iraq's first free election for 51 years, the officer conceded: "Iraqis are the ones who will have to defeat the insurgency, not multinational forces.

"It is not necessarily a growing insurgency but it is a resilient one," he said. "We're looking at a long-term insurgency, probably at a lower level of violence than now. Historically, you look at a decade - and this is no different."

January 29, 2005

Bush Says US Will Leave If Asked, But Wont Be Asked

Following excepts are for the record. On whether the United States will pull its forces out of Iraq if the government being elected Sunday requests it:
I would be surprised if that were the case, because I've, you know, heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in a position of responsibility after these elections, although, you never know.

But it seems like most of the leadership there understands that there will be a need for coalition troops, at least until Iraqis are able to fight. And that most of the people there in Baghdad understand that the Iraqis need not only more training and equipment, but also they need a command structure - the spine of any military capacity. And they don't have that now.

The prime minister has been - you know, hasn't picked and filled all the slots necessary for there to be command generals in place, division leaders in place. And so we've got some work to do, and I think most Iraqis understand that. But this is a sovereign government.
On whether the United States would then feel compelled to pull out if asked to do so by the sovereign government:
Yeah, absolutely. This is a sovereign government. They're on their feet. We anticipated that, by the way, on the passing of sovereignty. And had the Allawi government said, "out," we would have been required to leave.

On the other hand, again, I think there's - obviously, it's very speculative.
Seems to me we heard all this seven months ago, when the world was being told Allawi was not just a puppet (no one is defending that line any more, are they?).

Iraqi voters have finally been told who will be on the ballot. But the results may not be known for some time. The Christian Science Monitor has some good background info on the elections, including this:
The national election will establish a 275-member transitional national assembly that will select a cabinet, a prime minister, and a president. The national assembly will work much like a parliamentary system, though its principal job will be to write a constitution and have it ratified by Iraqis before the end of 2005. If it fails to do this, it can extend the process for another six months. If a constitution is not ratified by then, its mandate will expire, and fresh elections will be held for a new assembly that will start the process again.
In other words, plenty of horse-trading ahead.

Also interesting that the pro-Bush bloggers at Iraq The Model have still not indicated which ticket their little Pro-Democracy Party will be running on. Why not? Anyone know?

I'll leave the last word today to SMH reporter Paul McGeogh, who has a lengthy article explaining why ex-CIA man Allawi will be hard to beat here:
There will be no miracle on Sunday. Even if the insurgency were to hold its fire, some of the hoariest old chestnuts of Iraqi politics must be addressed in the coming months. Few of the mostly anonymous party lists that have been cobbled together for the poll are expected to hold together and the insurgency - and the US-led forces - will not be packing up any time soon.

January 28, 2005

Sick Stuff...

Revealed: sex and torture inside the wire - a report which helps explain why Muslim opinions are turning against the USA in record numbers...
Naomi Klein Gets It

Coming from a business background, Naomi Klein has a better understanding than most about what Bush & Co are about. She is not just angry but also extremely eloquent. Oh, and good looking... Hmmn, sounds like a political career ahead?

AlterNet has a great interview. For example:
The Democrats didn't fully understand that the success of Karl Rove's party is really a success in branding. Identity branding is something that the corporate world has understood for some time now. They're not selling a product; they're selling a desired identity, an aspirational identity of the people who consume their product...

So what the Republican Party has done is that it has co-branded with other powerful brands — like country music, and NASCAR, and church going, and this larger proud-to-be-a-redneck identity. Policy is pretty low on the agenda, in terms of why people identify as Republicans. They identify with these packets of attributes.

This means a couple of things. One, it means people are not swayed by policy debates. But more importantly, when George Bush's policies are attacked, rather than being dissuaded from being Republicans, Republicans feel attacked personally — because it's your politics. Republicanism has merged with their identity. That has happened because of the successful application of the principles of identity branding.
Explains a lot of the crap on the blogosphere, doesn't it?

What I like about Klein is her passionate idealism. It's trendy to scoff at idealism as tantamount to utopianism and therefore unrealistic, but this world needs a very heavy dose of idealism these days.

Klein's anger is also pretty good. For example:
I believe that Kerry's campaign was utterly morally bankrupt and I blame the Kerry campaign for the total impunity that the Bush administration is now enjoying.
Read the full interview here.
Don't Get Over It

From Arlene Ash at Truthout:
"On the evening of November 2, Election Day ('exit') poll data showed comfortable margins for Kerry. These figures disappeared shortly after midnight, replaced by numbers very close to the final tallies. In Ohio, for example, as late as midnight the Bush/Kerry split was 47.9%/52.1%. Later, it was 50.9%/48.6%. The official vote tally is 51.0/48.5. The press has published speculation about how the early numbers might have come to be wrong, yet, two months after the election, there is still no convincing explanation of the discrepancy...

Voting machines are less secure than slot machines; voter registration lists, less reliable than many other government and commercial lists. Why have we - democracy's customers - not demanded better? Sadly, our media chooses to deride the doubts rather than report the problems...

When will Americans demand elections that truly deserve our trust?"
Madness In The Blood?

The Guardian has new details of the Bush family's shameful ancestors:
Local historians in Wexford have discovered that George Bush is a descendant of Strongbow, the power-hungry warlord who led the Norman invasion of Ireland thus heralding 800 years of mutual misery...

The US president's now apparent ancestor, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke - known as Strongbow for his arrow skills - is remembered as a desperate, land-grabbing warlord whose calamitous foreign adventure led to the suffering of generations. Shunned by Henry II, he offered his services as a mercenary in the 12th-century invasion of Wexford in exchange for power and land. When he eventually died of a festering ulcer in his foot, his enemies said it was the revenge of Irish saints whose shrines he had violated...

The genetic line can also be traced to Dermot MacMurrough, the Gaelic king of Leinster reviled in history books as the man who sold Ireland for personal gain.

Even before MacMurrough earned the title of Ireland's worst traitor by inviting Strongbow's invasion to save himself from a local feud, the Irish chieftain had a reputation for gore. One English chronicler told how MacMurrough, recognising the features of a personal enemy poking from a pile of severed heads after a battle, snatched up the rotting flesh and tore it with his teeth in a "hideous frenzy".
"Iraqis! Come Out With Your Votes In The Air!"

Steve Bell lampoons Bush's efforts to encourage anything like a respectable turnout in Sunday's vote.

The Jan 30 vote was supposed to be the exit strategy, remember? Now we are told that US forces (120,000 or more) will stay in Iraq for at least 2 more years. How can US officials say that when the new Iraqi government has not even been elected? Don't ask.

Given the extreme likelihood that the vote will be severely criticized next week (hard to criticize now coz nobody knows what's going on) and that Iraqis will be left with an unrepresentative, unbalanced government that cannot solve their problems, I'd like to re-print something I wrote here a yeah and a half ago:
How about ongoing military and administrative support? Well, that won't be necessary once the Iraqis regain control of their country and set up a stable, model democracy, right?

Hands up anyone who thinks the instability in Iraq will be resolved anytime soon.
If the Iraqis could get the government they wanted, the first thing it would do is ask the US to pull out. Perhaps immediately, perhaps over a set period of time, but a complete US withdrawal is the one thing that polls consistently show the vast majority of Iraqi people want. It's also the surest way to quell the violence ravaging the country.

It wont happen, of course. Not while Bush & Co are in power in Washington.

So what is all the talk about bringing "Democracy" to Iraq? Smoke and mirrors, folks... Smoke and mirrors.

January 27, 2005

Supreme Hypocrite

Here's Bush's response to revelations that several influential media personalities have been caught out taking bribes to promote Bush administration policies
'Mr. Armstrong Williams admitted he made a mistake.

And we didn't know about this in the White House.

And there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press.'

... All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying, you know, commentators to advance our agenda.

Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.' "
Now compare that with this report: GOP Seeks Donations to Get Bush Plans 'Past the Liberal Media'

A great day for real Democracy. From KR Washington Bureau:
"The Pentagon's third-ranking policy-maker has decided to leave his post this summer, the Pentagon said Wednesday, announcing the first resignation of a senior civilian architect of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith cited personal and family reasons for his decision, said a brief Department of Defense announcement.

The announcement came on the deadliest day for U.S. troops since the Iraq war began 22 months ago, with 37 American troops killed, and four days before elections for an interim Iraqi assembly.

An official working under Feith has been under investigation for allegedly passing classified information to Israel, and the Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into Feith's role in developing the faulty intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorism that the Bush administration used to build its case for invading Iraq. "
The resignation could well be a prelude to further revelations from the FBI investigation...
FT.com: How the U.S. Became the World's Dispensable Nation
A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited.
FT.com: Coalition pull-out from Iraq gathers pace
Gutless Politicians

Can anyone please explain this sort of thing to me:
"Sen. Reid criticizes GOPs, then votes to confirm Rice"
Ted Rall on Bush's phony torts crisis:
"I'll gladly smash one of your legs with a sledgehammer for half a million bucks, but I get the TV rights. Operators are standing by."
Stop calling Bush a chimp - it's an insult to chimps!
Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall has details of George W. Bush's push to privatize Social Security... back in 1978!!!

Bush was already predicting back then that US Social Security would be broke in ten years. Sounds like that same old song...

January 25, 2005

Iraq The Model: The Full Story

[latest update here]

I was busy burying my father last week, so I was unable to fully participate in the flurry of debate that greeted Sarah Boxer's Jan 18 New York Times article discussing the authenticity (or otherwise) of the Fadhil brothers' pro-US blogs at Iraq The Model (ITM) and Free Iraqi. The NYT article only skimmed the surface of my allegations against the Fadhil brothers, gently suggesting they might be working with the CIA but quickly concluding that they probably are not. So here is the full story, from my point of view, for anyone who is interested...

[UPDATE, Oct 2006: Since I first wrote this post, I have learned a lot more about how the US works. Looking back, it was naive of me to call ITM a "CIA front" - they are actually a propaganda front for the US neo-conservatives. Whether the CIA is involved or not, and whether or not the Fadhil brothers actually believe their own propaganda, is immaterial.]

It's no secret that the Iraqi blog "Iraq The Model" - run by brothers Omar, Mohammed and (till recently) Ali Fadhil - provides US neo-conservatives with a magnificent piece of public relations. The Fadhil brothers say they want to tell the world about all the good things that have been happening in Iraq since the US invasion, and they do so even while ignoring the endless violence, the growing anarchy and the horrific scandals which grab the attention of most other Iraqi bloggers. While the world was being shocked by photos from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, for example, the Fadhil brothers were earnestly discussing the merits of the new Iraqi flag. Arch neocon Paul Wolfowitz has frequently cited the blog while urging the global media to take a more positive line on events in Iraq. In the lead-up to the 2004 US elections, two of the Fadhil brothers even met with Wolfowitz and George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

Rampantly pro-war websites regularly link to the blog as proof that ordinary Iraqis love what America is doing in Iraq, despite any number of polls showing that the Fadhil brother's views are totally out of touch with popular Iraqi thought. "Iraq The Model" is not quite the PR equivalent of the rose-petal-strewn streets that neocons once predicted would greet US troops, but it's about as good as it gets for these militant ideologues. Even the name fits snuggly with the neocon mantra that Iraq will soon become a model for other countries in the region.

If you try posting an anti-Bush or otherwise critical comment on "Iraq The Model", you will immediately be flamed by an aggressive posse of regular visitors. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, these people - many of whom claim to have relatives serving with US forces in Iraq - still believe that Saddam had WMDs and was connected with Al-Quaeda and 9/11. Try proving their fallacies wrong and you will quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a barrage of personal abuse. Try suggesting that "Iraq The Model" could be a CIA front and you will probably be banned within minutes - as I was. Your comments may also be removed, as mine often have been.

In short, "Iraq The Model" provides an online oasis for people who would rather ignore the harsh facts of daily life in Iraq under US occupation. It's the perfect information cocoon for those who - like neocon leader Douglas Feith - would rather dwell outside the "reality-based community". And it goes a long way to explaining how George W. Bush achieved four more years in office.


I originally started posting comments at Iraq The Model in early 2004, hoping to convince pro-Bush voters to change their minds and vote against him. It wasn't long before I became suspicious of the motives of the Fadhil brothers, who had already begun receiving donations via PayPal from their US visitors.

I can accept that many Iraqis, keen to be rid of Saddam Husseins' brutal tyranny, welcomed the US invasion with open arms. And I can understand that people overwhelmed with bad news might want to set up a blog for good news stories, if only to cheer themselves up. But the Fadhil brothers' unquestioning support of all things US, coupled with their seeming disinterest in the suffering of their fellow Iraqis, was more that a little strange.

If these guys really are Iraqi dentists, I thought, why aren't they talking about the decaying state of Iraq's hospitals, or the appalling lack of medical supplies? And why do they tolerate the outrageously militant, rude, racist and otherwise abusive comments by some visitors to their blog, while banning pacifists like me who seek to engage in honest debate?

In my opinion, there was only one rational explanation. The "Iraq The Model" blog exists not for the sake of its authors or their fellow Iraqis, but for the sake of its many pro-war US visitors, who have already donated over US$10,000 to the Fadhil brothers, plus another US$14,000 for the brothers’ off-shoot political party, the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party.

So are the Fadhil brothers just a bunch of opportunistic Iraqis making money from dumb Americans, I wondered, or are more sinister forces at work? I started digging through the links at Iraq The Model to find out what was really going on…


The first stop in my investigations was Spirit of America (S0A), the US organization that sponsored the Fadhil brothers’ trip to Washington. Spirit of America’s avowed aim is to raise money for “good news” projects in countries the USA has recently invaded. According to the Spirit of America website:
"We have no hidden agenda. Our intention is do all we can with the support of the American people so that freedom and peace prevail in places like Iraq and Afghanistan."
In 2004, Spirit of America received more than $6 million in “cash and measurable donated goods” from over 11,000 donors. This included over $17,000 from Iraq The Model, which won an online fund-raising competition run by Spirit of America, called the “Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge”. Close runners up were the notoriously right wing websites Little Green Footballs and Roger L. Simon. The Challenge raised a total of $90,177 for new Spirit of America projects.

In return for their winning efforts, the Fadhil brothers got a free “Spirit of America” baseball cap and a T-shirt. You can just imagine how popular such clothing is in downtown Baghdad these days. (Incidentally, Iraq The Model also won Best Non-American Blog at Right Wing News' "Annual Warblogger Awards").

So where does the money go? Registered as a US charity, Spirit of America does provide Iraqis with some helpful items such as tradesmen’s tools and sewing machines. But most of their efforts are what could be called “information-based”. Their most ambitious project to date is the creation of a network of “pro-democracy student groups and community organizations” called “Friends of Democracy.” Spirit of America provides these select individuals with things like “Internet access, blog hosting, copiers and paper” – everything they need to tell the world all the good news from Bush’s Iraq.

The most intriguing project under the “Friends of Democracy” umbrella is an Arabic blogging tool, which has been deployed just in time to provide international viewers with some positive coverage of the Iraqi elections. Both English- and Arab-speaking bloggers in Iraq can get free hosting in return for some surreptitious US marketing. As the Spirit of America website explains it:
“Every blog developed using the Arabic blogging tool will include space that is under the control of organizations that we work with, such as Friends of Democracy. This space or “real estate” will be a portion of the blog header (top of the page) and the left column. The organizations will use the space to promote groups, individuals and news that, in the big picture, advance freedom, democracy and peace in the region…”
What’s more, the blogging service is hosted on servers controlled by Spirit of America, and both CEO Jim Hake and the Fadhil brothers have already made it clear that all material posted on the blogs will be monitored and censored.


Interestingly, Spirit of America is a client of a "grassroots marketing" organization called Direct Impact. Grassroots marketing involves creating a "buzz" by getting seemingly ordinary people (or better yet, influential people) to promote a product by word-of-mouth. It is often criticized because the targeted people do not realize that what they are hearing is advertising, not genuine opinion.

Now why would a US charity working in Iraq want to sign up for such a US-based marketing campaign? And do the Fadhil brothers, or any of the regular commentors to their site, receive any money from Direct Impact marketing? The Fadhil brothers have refused to answer that question.

As I said before, it seems that Spirit of America, like the Iraq The Model blog, exists primarily for the sake of the US voters who support it, rather than for the ordinary Iraqis it purports to assist. In other words, to use CIA-speak, these projects appear to be covert US PsyOps.

When Omar and Mohammed Fadhil went to the White House to meet Bush, they were accompanied by Jim Hake, chairman and founder of Spirit Of America, plus another SoA executive, Kerry Dupont. Paul Wolfowitz was also present. Here's a first-hand account of that meeting from Spirit of America head Jim Hake himself:
About half way into the meeting the President said to Omar and Mohammed, "I want you two to know that we are going to stay until the job is done. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world says. It doesn't matter what the UN says. We are going to stay until the job is done. It's important that your country knows that." It was a powerful and moving moment.

After talking about Spirit of America, Pres. Bush turned to Omar and Mohammed and said, "You see gentlemen, that is the beauty of America. I never met this man before but he's out there helping to win this war on terror just as much as Wolfie here. That's what I believe in." He went on to talk about the importance of private-sector, grass roots initiatives like SoA.
Yeah, you gotta love your private sector when it comes to making things happen for George W. Bush and the GOP…

How you feel about such Spirit of America projects in Iraq will most likely depend on how you feel about Bush’s militant adventurism in the first place. Those who support the war tend to see such work as enlightened altruism, while anti-war cynics (like me) are more likely to see it as covert fund-raising and public relations on behalf of the Bush war machine and Paul Wolfowitz's influential neo-conservative coterie.


On with the show. Spirit of America was originally set up and supported by Cyber Century Forum (CCF), a group dedicated to spreading US influence worldwide, with a particular emphasis on covert cyber-intelligence measures. Sounds a lot like Spirit of America’s mission statement, doesn’t it?

As Jim Hake explains the relationship between Spirit of America and Cyber Century Forum:
” Cyber Century Forum, a nonprofit organization, provided the nonprofit, 501c3 status we needed to get Spirit of America off the ground. This allowed us to immediately begin operations without the expense and delay of forming a new, independent nonprofit…”
The question is, why and how? What is Hake’s relationship with the people at Cyber Century Forum? What is their interest in Spirit of America?

Cyber Century Forum’s three ageing members are old guard warhorses from the Cold War days, people who were probably hiding under the desk with Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush Snr. when the post-Nixon Church Commission started exposing the dark side of US foreign policy.

Diana Lady Dougan, who served as Assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, is the public face of CCF, flittering from one top-level international chat-fest to another. Dougan is also on the board of directors at Qualcomm, a US company which just happens to have won the contract to deliver Iraq's lucrative new mobile phone network (despite a very questionable bidding process and Qualcomm's unpopular CDMA technology).

Dougan is currently a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). According to Disinfopedia, CSIS is "one of those ephemeral constellations into which the luminaries of the American political establishment frequently arrange themselves in order to encourage policy to navigate by their lights". For example, a May 2003 Declaration proposes that
"the states of the European Union, which are among the richest and most powerful states in the world, should invite US government officials to attend their highest-level legislative and policy-making meetings, in order that these officials can ensure that the Europeans do not pursue policies which are independent of, or disapproved by, the American government."
The CCF heavily promotes an apparently self-published book, Arab & Muslim Countries: Profiles in Contrast, which is a pastiche of information from "20 major data banks including those of the UN, World Bank, and CIA". The book is strongly endorsed by both Henry Kissenger and William H. Webster, former head of both the CIA and the FBI.

Cyber Century Forum VP and General Counsel, Tedson J. Meyers was a neo-conservative before they even invented the term. Meyers was Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the days when the FCC wielded considerable power and influence. He was appointed to the non-elected Washington D.C. City Council by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972. (Hello! Nixon, Kissenger, Reagan.... is there a pattern here?)

Snippets from ancient press clippings on Meyer's personal website boast of a "controversial memo" to JFK while Meyers was in the FCC:
...overseas telecasts should be guided along "lines most beneficial to the foreign policy of the US"
Another snippet reveals Meyers' capacity for subterfuge and his early inclinations towards the neocon vision of US Empire:
"Working unofficially, Meyers prepared a plan for a Government Office of International Broadcasting to exploit the potential power of international TV and radio broadcasting in our national interest. Among his suggestions: American assistance in developing foreign broadcasting systems and introduction of US programming therein, development of low-cost transmitters and receivers for use overseas, encouragement of private American investment in overseas TV, stimulating programs which could serve our foreign policy objectives and "resolving whether it is desireable [sic] to establish criteria for the content of American programming displayed overseas - and if so, how such criteria should be determined and applied."
There's also a four-page article called "The Unknown Influentials":
"these men not only implement policy, but frequently shape it..."
There is only one other member of the Cyber Century Forum (according to their website) and that is G. Russell Pipe. Like Dougan, he is a member of the CSIS. He is also is deputy director of the Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC), "a nongovernmental initiative to provide a framework to bridge gaps between the private and public sector for the development of information infrastructure". He is author or co-author of at least four books, including "Assessing Data Privacy in the 1990's and Beyond."

So now ask yourself: why are people like these providing financial support for a supposedly 100% humanitarian charity like Spirit of America? What's in it for them?

Oh, and why does their Forum have over $100K invested in the oil industry? That’s right, folks, oil.

Cyber Century Forum's tax return for 2003 shows that it holds $109,440 in corporate stocks from Schlumberger Ltd, "the leading oilfield services technology company supplying technology, project management and information solutions to the oil and gas industries". It also holds a further US$9,292 in stocks from Transocean Sedco Forex, the world's largest offshore drilling company. Now isn't that a big surprise? "Freedom and Democracy for Iraq", sponsored by the US oil and gas industry.

Again, the question is why? Where did these stocks come from? What is their purpose? Are corporate oil industry interests behind the motives of Cyber Century Forum? Does that explain their interest in Spirit of America, and hence Iraq The Model?

Those involved have been going to great lengths to protest that this as all pure Conspiracy Theory. Jim Hake created a new Financials page on his website to show that Spirit of America no longer has any connection to Cyber Century Forum, without ever explaining the original relationship. And his disclaimer about oil industry backing is also ambiguous:
Some have noted this and asked if the oil industry (or any other industry) exerts some special influence over our operations. The short answer is no…
Short answer, Jim? Did Hake know about CCF’s investments when SoA was set up? If not, why not? When I started checking over SoA and CCF, it took me only an hour to find it. Has SoA received oil money or not? Has Hake met with oil execs? What does he know about CCF's relationship to the oil industry? Why is CCF investing money in US oil anyway? Just a bloody coincidence? Who ARE these people?

Similarly, Ali Fadhil has made strange denouncements about people who "made me feel I'm on the wrong side here” yet his response to allegations also leaves considerable room for ambiguity:
“Are the brothers now or have they ever been in any kind of American pay (beyond the largesse of their rightwing PayPal contributors)?"

“Yes and no…”
In dealing with questions of their authenticity, the Fadhil brothers have consistently failed to properly address the central (fact-based) questions. Here’s Omar Fadhil's one-and-only response to my allegations:
Ghandi, everything you mentioned is true.

now, could you please leave us alone.
we're the bad guys and you're an angel from heaven, does this satisfy your
beautiful sick mind?
get the fuck out of this CIA blog or I will have your brain taken out and
tested in our secret laboratories.

Omar. | Email | Homepage | 12.28.04 - 4:00 pm | #
When asked what three things Iraqis would most like from the US, Omar once said, "Support, love, and encouragement." Compare that with a Christmas wish list from Riverbend, another Iraqi blogger, which included gasoline, kerosene, landmine detectors and diesel generators. Who do YOU think is more in touch with real Iraqis?

And how about this dismissal of security fears from Mohammed Fadhil:
"People outside Iraq are more worried than the Iraqis themselves."
Really? I guess that might depend on which side of the tracks you are living on in Baghdad these days. Or, if you are a Westerner, whether you choose to live inside or outside what Paul Wolfowitz and his friends call the “reality-based community.”
Quote of the day from WorkingForChange:
"Although a member of the Bush family has been part of the ruling Presidential ticket 5 out of the last 7 contests, both 41 and 43 went out of their way to say they don't appreciate the term 'dynasty.' "
Old Buddies: Gonzales and Bush

Could this be the reason why Alberto Gonzales rose to be a Bush White House adviser and now, presumably, the next US Attorney General? Not because he is so competent, but because he helped Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. From Newsweek:
Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine—an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign. (Bush, who had publicly declared his willingness to serve, had left blank on his jury questionnaire whether he had ever been "accused" in a criminal case.)
Gonzales claims he merely accompanied Bush to court and watched as lawyers agreed to dismiss Bush from serving on the jury. But the judge at the time says it was Gonzales who asked for the dismissal, on the bizarre grounds that Bush could one day be in a position of political power where he would be asked to pardon the accused.
Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."
Asked about the case in his recent confirmation hearings, Gonzales said he could not remember details.

January 24, 2005

A different view of Iraq from a different Ali Fadhil.
US enlists robo-soldiers

A glimpse into the future of war, and the nightmare world into which Bush is taking us. From ABC News Online:
The American military is planning to deploy robots armed with machine guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.

Eighteen of the one-metre-high robots, which are equipped with cameras and operated by remote control, will be sent to Iraq in the next few weeks.

The machines are based on the Talon robot that has been developed by the Foster-Miller company.
Iraq The Model: Fraud Rumours Persist

Tex at Antiwar.com has a good look at the blame game being used by those criticising reports that the Fadhil brothers at Iraq The Model are not all they claim to be:
In the time-honored method of cowards and low-lifes everywhere, you were looking for someone on whom to pin the blame when these guys get killed, just like you'll do and have done with every other miserable, predictable consequence in this murderous war.

If any of you had any decency, you'd arrange for these guys to take refuge in the Green Zone, at least. I really hope you already did that and arranged for a phalanx of bodyguards to follow them everywhere, but I doubt you did. Because you're all too busy pretending your fantasy Iraq really exists.
Tex suggests this blame game could be a prelude to excuses from Bush & Co. if the USA is forced to pull out of Iraq.

Martini Republic also takes another dip into the waters of the Iraq The Model debate, quoting the antiwar.com piece.

I am working on a full exposure of Iraq The Model's ties to Spirit of America and Cyber Century Forum. More soon...
Things Get Steadily Worse In Iraq

Riverbend complains that her family in Baghdad has not had any water for six days and wonders if this could be part of a campaign to drive Iraqis to the voting stations.
I’m sure people outside of the country are shaking their heads at the words ‘collective punishment’. “No, Riverbend,” they are saying, “That’s impossible.” But anything is possible these days. People in many areas are being told that if they don’t vote- Sunnis and Shia alike- the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off... What sort of democracy is it when you FORCE people to go vote for someone or another they don’t want?

... We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water.
Meanwhile, a Knight-Ridder analysis of events in Iraq concludes that there is now way for the US forces to "win" in any meaningful way:

-- U.S. military fatalities from hostile acts rose from an average of about 17 per month in May 2003 to a current average of 82 per month;

-- The average number of U.S. soldiers wounded by hostile acts per month has spiraled from 142 to 808 during the same period;

-- Attacks on the U.S.-led coalition since November 2003 rose from 735 a month to 2,400 in October;

-- The average number of mass-casualty bombings has grown from zero in the first few months of the U.S.-led occupation to an average of 13 per month; and

-- Electricity production has been below prewar levels since October.
Rumsfeld: Beyond Accountability

Rumsfeld has set up a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting US law to give the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, broad authority over clandestine operations abroad.
The previously undisclosed organisation, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Mr Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on [the] CIA" for what is known as human intelligence.

Designed to operate without detection and under Mr Rumsfeld's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists plus newly empowered special operations forces.

Military and civilian participants said the new unit has been operating in secret for two years - in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name.

An early planning memorandum to Mr Rumsfeld from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, says the focus of the intelligence initiative is on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia".

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Mr Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations", an internal account says.... A recent Pentagon memo says recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the US Government would be embarrassing if disclosed.

Perhaps the most significant shift is the Pentagon's attempt to conduct surreptitious missions, in friendly and unfriendly states, when conventional war is a distant or unlikely prospect - activities that have traditionally been the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

January 21, 2005

Fadhil Brothers' Credibility On The Line

The NYT and BBC articles about the Iraq The Model blog have spawned further debate on the credibility of the Fadhil brothers, with articles now appearing at Antiwar.com, the Houston Chronicle, Big News Network and further comments from Juan Cole. Let me know of any others you see.

Here's what Cole said today about Iraq The Model:
I became suspicious of the original site when they mysteriously attacked Rashid Khalidi and me for simply pointing out that Fallujah had had a long history of anti-British political agitation during the 1920s and the monarchy, something which is well known in Iraqi history and about which there is famous nationalist poetry. They depended on a secondary source by a sociologist to question something that shows up in numerous historical sources. Being dentists, of course, they don't know their way around the British archives and don't realize that secondary works aren't exhaustive. So it was strange that they were questioning something that every informed Iraqi knows, and which is attested in British sources. And it was strange that they went after Khalidi, a Palestinian- American and an eminent historian who opposed the Iraq war.

What really seems to bother the Right bloggers is that the defection of Ali Fadhil introduced doubt and ambiguity into their closed little world in which American Iraq is a virtual paradise and real Iraqis are all tickled pink to have been occupied by a Western army. There has been excellent professional opinion polling in Iraq by Gallup and the State Department that demonstrates that the original IraqTheModel site's views were far out of the Iraqi mainstream.

For American observers concerned with Iraq not to realize how truly awful the situation is, and to fail to understand that the US faces a grave crisis if key policies are not changed, makes them poor Americans. The United States is a democracy and a democracy only works if the citizens are informed and exercise their faculties of critical reason. Looking for token pro-American Iraqis to say nice things while ignoring all the evidence of US failure is pitiful...
I am still banned from Iraq The Model, so I have asked Ali to respond to my allegations, which have never been properly addressed ("you suck, gandhi" is not a proper response).


Here are my questions for ali, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil:

1. Were the Fahdil brothers aware that Spirit of America was set up and supported by Cyber Century Forum, a group dedicated to spreading US influence worldwide, particularly covert cyber-intelligence measures?

2. Were you aware that Cyber Century Forum holds 100K stocks in oil companies Schlumberger Ltd and Transocean Sedco? As Iraqis, (supposedly) - do you have a problem with that?

3. Did you know that 2 of the 3 members of Cyber Century Forum are also members of a top-level think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is also dedidicated to spreading US influence? Do you have a problem with that?

4. Who are the Americans trying to use ITM for partisan political or other purposes, whom Ali said "made me feel I'm on the wrong side here"? Why did Ali not go to the USA? What happened over there? (Note that Ali's comments came BEFORE his brothers met with Bush and Wolfowitz, so the NYT explanation is not valid.)

5. How do you expect to garner support from ordinary Iraqis during the election process if you do not even try to refute these very serious allegations? Why don't you just come right out and admit that you are working hand-in-glove with the CIA?

6. Are you aware that Spirit of America is a client of Direct Impact, a "grassroots marketing" organisation, whose marketing involves creating a "Buzz" by getting seemingly ordinary people (or better yet, influential people) to promote a product by word-of-mouth. Do you receive any money from Direct Marketing?

7. Did you know that Lady Diana Dougan, one of three members of Cyber Century forum, is also on the board of directors at Qualcomm, a US company which won the contract to deliver Iraq's lucrative new mobile phone network (despite the questionable bidding process and Qualcomm's unpopular CDMA technology).

January 19, 2005

Iraq The Model: Questions Exposed by the BBC and NYT

Both the BBC and New York Times yesterday published articles examining the controversy surrounding whether or not the Iraq The Model blog is a CIA front or a more subtle form of US PsyOps.

The NYT article actually mentions me by name and repeats some of my claims, although the writer does not provide a link to my blog and glosses over the subtance of my accusations against the Fadhil brothers. Furthermore, she accepts Ali's explanation that his strange comments were prompted by his brothers' meeting with Bush and Wolfowitz, when in fact he made those comments before the meeting even occured.

Still, it's good to see the story getting some attention, however superficial. Given that both articles reference my claims without trying to contact me for further comment (or providing a link to this blog), I am taking the liberty of republishing both articles in full below.

Here's the Jan 18 New York Times article by Sarah Boxer, "Pro-American Iraqi Blog Provokes Intrigue and Vitriol":
When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet.

The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit. Out of a list of 28 Iraqi blogs in English at a site called Iraqi Bloggers Central, I clicked on Iraq the Model because it promised three blogging brothers in one, Omar, Mohammed and Ali.

It delivered more than that. The blog, which is quite upbeat about the American presence in Iraq, had provoked a deluge of intrigue and vitriol. People posting messages on an American Web site called Martini Republic accused the three bloggers of working for the C.I.A., of being American puppets, of not being Iraqis and even of not existing at all.

Then abruptly, at the end of last month, Ali quit the blog without telling his brothers while they were in the United States attending a blogging conference at Harvard and taking part in a tour sponsored by Spirit of America, a nongovernmental group founded after 9/11 that describes itself as "advancing freedom, democracy and peace abroad."

Ali's last post sounded ominous, a kind of blogger's "Dear John" note:

"I just can't keep doing this anymore. My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it's the act of some Americans that made me feel I'm on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon, and I won't lack the means to do this."

What happened?

Ali seemed to have gone through a radical transformation when he found out that his brothers, both described as dentists on their Web site, had met President Bush. Odd. I scrolled down a bit into the past and found that in mid-December a conspiracy theory had emerged about Iraq the Model on Martini Republic.

One of the principal bloggers there, Joseph Mailander, had some questions for the Iraqi brothers. He wanted to know whether someone in the United States government or close to it had set up the blog. (The Web host, based in Abilene, Tex., is called CIATech Solutions.) And what about the two brothers' tour of the United States? Did the American government "have a shadow role in promoting it?"

The questions boiled down to whether Iraq the Model had been "astroturfed." Astroturfing occurs when a supposedly grass-roots operation actually is getting help from a powerful think tank, governmental agency or any outside source with an agenda. Why else, Martini Republic asked, would the brothers have been feted in Washington?

Ali, while he was still at Iraq the Model, tried to quell some of the doubts: "Hi, I would be happy to answer your questions, as you do raise some valid questions." To the question of the Web host in Abilene, he responded, "All I remember is that we started our blog through the free blogger.com!"

Ali explained the name of the Web host, CIATech Solutions, by pasting in an e-mail message he got from an employee of the company explaining that the C.I.A. in the name is short for Complex Internet Applications and that the company "has nothing to do with the U.S. government."

As for financing, Ali said that Iraq the Model had received private donations from Americans, Australians, French, British and Iraqi citizens. In addition, the brothers were promised money from Spirit of America. But, he added, "We haven't got it yet."

That did not quiet the suspicions on Martini Republic. A man posting as Gandhi reported that his "polite antiwar comments were always met with barrages of crude abuse" from Iraq the Model's readers. His conclusion? The blog "is a refuge for people who do not want to know the truth about Iraq, and the brothers take care to provide them with a comfortable information cocoon." He added, "I hope some serious attention will be brought to bear on these Fadhil brothers and reveal them as frauds."

What kind of frauds? One reader suggested that the brothers were real Iraqis but were being coached on what to write. Another, in support of that theory, noted the brothers' suspiciously fluent English. A third person observed that coaching wasn't necessary. All the C.I.A. would need to do to influence American opinion was find one pro-war blog and get a paper like USA Today to write about it.

Martini Republic pointed out that the pro-war blog was getting lots of attention from papers like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today while antiwar bloggers like Riverbend, who writes Baghdad Burning, had gone unsung. Surely Iraq the Model did not represent the mainstream of Iraqi thinking?

Ali finally got exasperated: "The thing that upset me the most is that if there are some powers that are trying to use us and our writings as a propaganda tool, you and other bloggers as well as some of the media outlets are doing the same with anti-American Iraqi bloggers."

But his "if" seemed to signal that Ali, too, was indeed worried about being used.

That was on Dec. 12. Ali's "Dear John" letter followed on Dec. 19. Then he quietly resurfaced on the Internet as a blogger called Iraqi Liberal and, when that name generated too much online debate about what "liberal" meant, Free Iraqi.

Using an e-mail address listed on Iraq the Model, I got in touch with Ali to see what in the world was going on. And last week I finally got to talk on the telephone to Ali Fadhil, a 34-year-old doctor who was born to Sunni Muslims but said, "I don't look at myself as one now."

Why did he quit Iraq the Model? When was he going to expose the Americans who made him feel he was on the wrong side?

He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began, he said, "People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us." But as time passed, he said, "I felt that this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven't accomplished anything, really."

His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president. There wasn't supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But The Washington Post wrote about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger.

Anyway, he said, he didn't see any sense in his brothers' meeting with President Bush. "My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned." But why, he asked, take such an "unnecessary risk"? He explained his worries: "Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American."

Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong side, and in fact conceded that he couldn't. As he confided on the phone, "I didn't know who the people were." Instead, he started his own blog. He said he had always wanted to do that anyway.

"Me and my brothers," he said, "we generally agree on Iraq and the future." (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: "My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions."

Now that seems genuine.
And here's the even more superficial BBC article, "Iraq blog spat leads to web chaos":
A pro-US weblog by three Iraqi brothers has become the unlikely setting for a huge web spat after conspiracy theorists alleged it was a fake.

Iraq the Model, a weblog detailing the more positive aspects of the US-led occupation of the country, is one of the most popular Iraq sites on the web.

But some anti-war activists said it was a CIA-sponsored propaganda tool.

The brothers strongly denied the claims, but the row has led to severe ructions in the online Iraq community.

'Positive message'

The blog, written by Baghdad-based brothers Mohammed and Omar, who are dentists, and doctor Ali, first surfaced in November 2003, a few months after the war in Iraq ended.

My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions
Former Iraq The Model blogger Ali
Ali told the BBC News website in a phone call last year that he and his brothers had developed the blog because they wanted to send out a more positive message about events in their home country.

"More than 90% of major media outlets have a rather negative agenda, and what's the benefit of us doing the same?" he said.

"They [the media] ignore pictures of good relations between the Iraqis and the coalition, and the good interaction between both sides."

Its popularity spread to such an extent that two of the brothers, Omar and Mohammed, attended a blogging conference at Harvard University in the US and even met President George W Bush.

'Stupid' theories

But soon detractors began posting on the site, accusing the brothers of being frauds and of disseminating false propaganda about the situation in the country.

Some even claimed the brothers had been coached by US intelligence officials to put a positive spin on events in Iraq.

These "stupid conspiracy theories", coupled with his brothers' US visit, proved the final straw for Ali, who posted a message on the site announcing he was leaving the blog and hinted darkly that he intended to "expose" those Americans who had made him feel "on the wrong side".

He later explained in posts on his new blog he had been angered by his brothers' trip to the US, because he felt that by speaking to the American media they had endangered their family and allowed themselves to be used.

The fight has raised the issue of identity and misrepresentation in weblogs, where often it is nearly impossible to verify if the person "blogging" really is who they claim to be.

And as for Ali, he has since told the New York Times newspaper that he has reconciled with his brothers, although they still do not quite see eye-to-eye.

"My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions," he told the paper.
Finally, in case you missed it, let's just remember Omar's response to my allegations:
Ghandi, everything you mentioned is true.

now, could you please leave us alone.
we're the bad guys and you're an angel from heaven, does this satisfy your
beautiful sick mind?
get the fuck out of this CIA blog or I will have your brain taken out and
tested in our secret laboratories.

Omar. | Email | Homepage | 12.28.04 - 4:00 pm | #
I'm in the process of digging up more info on those behind Iraq The Model. For instance, Lady Diana Dougan, a member of the 3-person Cyber Century forum (which helped create ITM's Us sponsors Spirit of America) is also on the board of directors at Qualcomm. Qualcomm won a very controversial contract to supply Iraq's CDMA mobile phone network... Coincidence?

More to come on this.
The Case Against Douglas Feith

Juan Cole says Bush is deluded if he really thinks his election "victory" (remember Ohio) is a mandate for continued military adventurism. Polls showed most voters did not want further attacks on countries like Syria and Iran. Cole says that based on this "mandate", Bush should have sacked Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. His views on Feith are worth repeating:
Feith is so much of a security risk because of his long ties to the Likud Party in Israel that for a while the Pentagon brass was refusing to share classified documents with his office. One of his subordinates is under investigation by the FBI for turning confidential Pentagon policy documents over to an official in the Israeli embassy via the pro-Israeli lobbying group, AIPAC. Feith had signed on to a 1996 policy paper for Likud party politician Benyamin Netanyahu that called for a war against Iraq for Israeli security purposes and openly opposed the Oslo peace process, which could have resolved the festering Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Feith's Office of Special Plans, its personnel drawn in part from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, cherry-picked intelligence on Saddam's Iraq to make an exaggerated and unfounded case for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction programs and an operational link to al-Qaeda.

January 18, 2005

Seymour Hersh: Iran Is Next

Acclaimed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who uncovered abuses against prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail last year, says that despite the Iraq quagmire, the Bush Administration still intends to extend US military operations to other Middle East countries, starting with Iran. Hersh says US special forces have already been on the ground inside Iran scouting for suspected nuclear weapons sites that could be destroyed with air strikes.

Hersh says the neo-cons maintain control of White House strategy, while Rumsfeld has become totally un-accountable for the covert actions he supervises, which are not disclosed to anybody. This is a longish article but I am reprinting it in full because it will be a cornerstone reference point for future debate and analysis:
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 terrorism.”

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 misgivings.

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 boys.”

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 Chronicle:

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 disarray.

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.”
Reprinted in full from the original story at The New Yorker.


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