Can we win the war against terrorism?

Conference on Intelligence Requirements for the 21st Century

October 29, 2002  |  SPEECHES & LECTURES

Jim Hoagland, a Washington Post columnist, got our attention when he wrote, "Imagine that Saddam Hussein has been offering terrorist training and other lethal support to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda for years. You can't imagine that? Sign up over there. You can be a Middle East analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency."

There are "upstarts" who actually want to examine the evidence, but the foreign policy "experts" are more interested in being politically correct than in acknowledging facts. According to Hoagland, "This is how war is waged inside the CIA: The upstarts who are challenging the agency's long-standing and deeply flawed analysis of Iraq are being accused of "politicizing intelligence," a label that is a reputation-killer in the intelligence world. It is also a protective shield for analysts who do not want, any more than the rest of us, to acknowledge that they have been profoundly and damagingly mistaken. The "politicization" accusation suggests that those who find Iraqi links to al Qaeda are primarily interested in currying favor with the Bush White House. It comes primarily from those who won favor in the Clinton years with an analysis based on the proposition that an Arab nationalist such as Saddam Hussein would never cooperate with the Islamic fanatics of al Qaeda."[i]

"Cooking intelligence" for the purpose of political correctness is not new. For years the CIA argued that the KGB would not support terrorism and particularly not terrorist groups that did not espouse a communist ideology. They were wrong. The KGB supported Moslem fundamentalists and even Trotskyites as long as they could be handled through a surrogate. In 1981, when Director of Central Intelligence Bill Casey asked the agency analysts to examine the question of whether the Soviet Union was providing support to international terrorism, Casey was aware of not only the classified reporting but also the ample public record of such Soviet activity. The analysts changed the question to - Is there sufficient evidence (and there is never sufficient evidence for anything that they don't agree with) to conclude that the Soviet Union is directly supporting international terrorist activities? In reality, the KGB provided direct support, but there was also indirect support supplied through Cuba, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The analysts not only concluded that the answer was no, but leaked to the Washington Post the false story that Director Casey was trying to "politicize intelligence" to blame the Soviet Union for international terrorism.

I was at a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee when the CIA analysts argued their case with intelligence officers from another agency. When the intelligence officers pointed to an example of Soviet support, the CIA analyst argued that she did not believe the foreign source of the information. When it was pointed out that the information did not come from that source, but from a highly reliable CIA source, she had no answer. When a committee staffer raised the question of PLO training of Iranian terrorists, she responded that this was "single source reporting." She seemed surprised when confronted with public information on the training from both the PLO and the Iranian groups, the People's Mojahedin of Iran and the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaee Guerrillas. After much internal debate the CIA produced a Special National Intelligence Estimate, Soviet Support for International Terrorism and Revolutionary Violence on May 27, 1981. When the classified SNIE was issued, the Democratic controlled House Committee concluded that the result was a "very high quality product" and a Committee Democratic staff study publicly acknowledged that the CIA "succeeded in being direct and clear in its conclusions that the Soviets are deeply engaged in support of revolutionary violence and directly or indirectly support terrorism...."[ii]After the collapse of the Soviet Union, documents were found in KGB files relating to support for Palestinian terrorism. In 1974, Wadia Haddad, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, requested special weapons from KGB to carry out attacks on American and Israeli personnel. The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party official authorized the activity.[iii]

Casey was proved right and the "politically correct" analysts were proved wrong. Interestingly, many of the terrorist groups, supported by the KGB in the past are still active. The two Iranian groups, which work together, are now being supported by the government of Iraq. An American based branch of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaee Guerrillas was a sponsor of the October 26, 2002 demonstration in Washington which brought together a variety of "bash America" groups, and heard speakers like Ramsey Clark, Jessie Jackson, and Lynne Stewart, the attorney under indictment for helping her client, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who was convicted in the first World Trade Center bombing, illegally communicate with his followers.

The Washington DC rally was organized by a group calling itself ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism). It sometimes calls itself, the International Action Center. The group is in fact the Workers World Party, a group closely allied with North Korea. Interestingly its leaders, who express such concern for Moslems, presently serve on an International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, who actually did murder Moslems.

The People's Mojahedin of Iran, which calls itself "Islamic Marxist," and also uses the name National Council of Resistance, has been extremely active in the United States. According to the State Department report on why they are listed as a terrorist organization, they originally collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. They supported the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran and opposed release of the hostages. They later broke with the Iranian government and since 1987 have had a headquarters in Iraq, and according to the State Department, "the only government in the world that supports the Mojahedin politically and financially is the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein."[iv]

The People's Mojahedin is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. But, in June 2002, US District Judge Robert M. Takasugi in Los Angeles, challenged the listing and threw out a case where the group had been indicted for raising money by showing photographs of starving children when in fact the money went for weapons and terrorist activities. According to the indictment the group collected more than a million dollars "for starving children" which was then sent to the military training camps in Iraq where the group receives its terrorist training.[v] Judge Takasugi was one of the liberal Democrats appointed to the bench by Republican President Gerry Ford.

While the "politically correct" analysts argued in the past that the KGB would not support the terrorist activities of Moslem fundamentalist extremists, in reality, not only were these groups trained by the PLO on behalf of the KGB, but during the hostage crisis the Iranian Communist radio, the National Voice of Iran, broadcast support for the terrorist take over. They did their broadcast from the then-Soviet city of Baku. NVOI told the terrorists that "The United States and Zionism are the number one enemy of the Iranian nation." As late as January 21, 1981, shortly before the release of the hostages, the radio urged that they not be released and said, "Our Muslim nation has observed through experience that its No 1 enemy is U.S. imperialism, this arch-Satan. This nation has also observed through experience that all the world's progressive forces, progressive mankind and the socialist countries are the sincere supporters and backers of the Iranian revolution."[vi] This Soviet radio, broadcasting in Farsi, used Khomeini's rhetoric to inflame the terrorists against the United States.

When liberal democrats are unhappy with an intelligence conclusion, the bureaucrats rush to accommodate them. In 1978, the CIA produced an unclassified report on the highly effective Soviet campaign against the neutron weapon, a weapon that was designed to protect Western Europe from a Soviet tank blitz krieg. Communist organized protests in Western Europe succeeded in forcing President Carter to cancel the deployment of the weapon. Congressman Les Aspin, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight wrote to DCI Stansfield Turner complaining, "Anyone reading the CIA paper would conclude that but for the KGB there would be no conflict on the neutron bomb. What I am saying is that there would have been some kind of conflict on the neutron bomb with or without the KGB. In a word, the CIA statement can be interpreted as a gross exaggeration regarding the effectiveness of Soviet propaganda. Furthermore, some will view it as a thinly veiled and disdainful attack on the intelligence and integrity of those who opposed the neutron bomb for what they saw as highly rational and carefully considered reasons. Does the Agency really wish to advance the proposition that U.S. policymakers - including the numerous opponents of the bomb in congress - were taken in, not to say duped, by Soviet propaganda?" He told Turner "The record will remain open for another fortnight..." for additional language to be added. Turner responded with an additional paragraph that softened the conclusion.[vii]

We are going through the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. The conventional wisdom is that we were eyeball to eyeball - and the Soviets blinked. Little attention is being paid to the mistakes of "politically correct" intelligence analysis and the attempt of the Kennedy Administration to "cook the intelligence." The CIA issued a SNIE on September 19, 1962, concluding that although the Soviet Union would "derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba ..." the Soviets would not do this, as this "would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it." This conclusion was consistent with the view of Walt W. Rostow, the chairman of Policy Planning Council, State Department who wrote to President Kennedy in a September 3, 1962 memorandum "On the basis of existing intelligence the Soviet military deliveries to Cuba do not constitute a substantial threat to U.S. security."[viii]

Information had been coming to CIA through agent and refugee reports that something was going on in an area west of Havana that might involve medium range ballistic missiles. DCI John McCone was concerned despite the "politically correct" conclusions of the CIA analysts. In a meeting with McGeorge Bundy, President Kennedy's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, on October 5, 1962, "McCone stated he felt it most probable that Soviet-Castro operations would end up with an established offensive capability in Cuba including MRBMs. McCone stated he thought this a probability rather than a mere possibility. Bundy took issue stating that he felt the Soviets would not go that far, that he was satisfied that no offensive capability would be installed in Cuba because of its world-wide effects and therefore seemed relaxed over the fact that the Intelligence Community cannot produce hard information on this important subject. McCone said that Bundy's viewpoint was reflected by many in the Intelligence community, perhaps a majority, but he just did not agree and furthermore did not think the United States could afford to take such a risk. Bundy then philosophized on Cuba stating that he felt that our policy was not clear, our objectives not determined and therefore our efforts were not productive."

McCone met with President Kennedy on October 11th and showed him photographs of crates on Soviet ships that were believed to be carrying Soviet medium bombers. According to McCone's memo, "The President requested that such information be withheld at least until after elections as if the information got into the press, a new and more violent Cuban issue would be injected into the campaign and this would seriously affect his independence of action." McCone responded that too many copies of the photograph had been disseminated in the government and that the information could not be suppressed. McCone said in his memo of the conversation "The President then requested that the report be worded to indicate a probability rather than an actuality because in the final analysis we only saw crates, not the bombers themselves. DCI agreed. The President further requested that all future information be suppressed. DCI stated that this was extremely dangerous."

McCone was also pushing for a U2 flight over Cuba to determine what was happening west of Havana. In the CIA and State Department there was strong opposition to such a flight. The arguments ranged from the danger of having the plane shot down to political opposition from "public figures" to such over flights to gather intelligence. McCone continued to press for the U2 flight. On October 9, it was agreed to make the flight. October 10, 11 and 12 the weather was too bad to fly. It continued to be bad on October 13th but responsibility for the flight had been given to the Strategic Air Command of the US Air Force. On October 14th the flight was made and discovered the presence in Cuba of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles.[ix]

In 1980 President Jimmy Carter was hampered in his effort to provide seventy-five million dollars to the Communist dictatorship in Nicaragua because Congress had voted 392 to 3 to require that to provide the funds, the President must certify that the Nicaraguan government was not "aiding, abetting or supporting acts of violence or terrorism in other countries." Carter signed the false certification and the ample information that the intelligence committee received from the CIA about this activity by the Sandinistas suddenly ceased. The House Intelligence Committee staff was informed by CIA that there was a "Presidential embargo" on the information. Congressman Edward Boland (D-MA), Chairman of the Committee, sent a letter of protest to CIA. Congressman C. W. Bill Young (R-FL), who had introduced the amendment in the House, testified before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Without revealing classified information, he pointed out the substantial assistance that the Nicaraguan government, on behalf of the Cuban Communist government, was providing terrorist groups in other Latin American countries.

A State Department bureaucrat J. Brian Atwood, then Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, then testified that Congressman Young's charge were "outrageous." He went on to claim that a CIA official in the room had told him that there was no Presidential embargo.[x] Congressman Young instructed the present writer to bring the CIA official to him. The official told Congressman Young that he had advised Atwood that it was not a "Presidential embargo," but a "White House hold." It was clear that intelligence information concealed was even better than "cooking the intelligence."

In the 1980s the Soviet Union was particularly concerned that President Reagan had a policy of confronting them and rolling back their conquests. They referred to this as Reagan's policy of "Neoglobalism." The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issued orders that every element of their apparatus be mobilized to undermine Reagan. They ordered the KGB to "coordinate our work with that of those political circles in the West (including those in the same United States)" who could be used to undermine President Reagan.[xi]

If the present Russian government wants to help in the war against terrorism, they should make available to us the KGB files on the international terrorist groups that they supported in the past. Some of those groups are still in existence and working with the Soviet Union's former client states. The Russians could also make available the KGB information on those politicians and foreign policy "experts" that collaborated with them against President Reagan.

 

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[i]Washington Post, October 2002,

[ii]U.S. Intelligence Performance on Central America: Achievements and Selected Instances of Concern, Staff Report SubCommittee on Oversight and Evaluation Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, September 22, 1982, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1982, p 7.

[iii]Moscow News, June 21-28, 1992.

[iv]State Department Report to Lee Hamilton, Chairman, Committee on ForeignAffairs, House of Representative, pp ii, 4, 5, and 23.

[v]Miami Herald, June 24, 2002

[vi]Foreign Broadcast Information Service, December 31, 1980, p I 39 and January 22, 1981, p I 20.

[vii]Aspin to Turner, June 22, 1978, Turner to Aspen, July 3, 1978. Congressman Aspin, usually wrong on the issues, was always fair and friendly. He made the exchange of letters available to Congressman John Ashbrook (R-OH) who had requested the original release of the CIA study. The study may be found in The CIA and The Media, Hearings before the SubCommittee on Oversight of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of Representatives, December 1977 to April 1978, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1978, p 531ff.

[viii]Declassified and published in The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, National Security Archives, The New Press, New York, 1998, pp 71ff and 77.

[ix]CIA Documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, Central Intelligence Agency, October 1992, pp 115, 123, 127, and 137.

[x]Review of the Presidential Certification of Nicaragua's Connection to Terrorism, Hearing Before the SubCommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, September 30, 1980, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1980, pp 13, 14, 25, 40 and 41.

11Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union "Measures to Strengthen our Opposition to the American Policy of ‘Neoglobalism'," July 31, 1986. Provided by the Russian Archives to the US Library of Congress.