Weekly Intelligence Notes #23-02
WIN #23-02 dated 10 June 2002
Weekly Intelligence Notes (WINs) contain intelligence-related notes and commentaries produced, written or edited by Roy Jonkers for non-profit educational uses by AFIO members and WIN subscribers. The reports contain copyright material and may not be disseminated without permission of the producer/editor. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) cited and/or the producer. The perspectives taken are one based on the US national security interests and a long professional view with roots in the WWII period.
CONTENTS of this WIN
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JOINT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REPORTED STALLED -- The joint SSCI/HPSCI committee empowered to investigate the lack of warning or preventive action prior to the September 11 attacks has canceled a planned session after two weeks of meetings and hearing only one witness. Several anonymous sources have the joint panel disintegrating amid differences among members over the panel's direction, schedule and access to classified information. Conversely, several lawmakers see no dissention and view the progress as going well. Other reports have the newly-hired 30-person joint staff, which is separate from the SSCI and HPSCI staffs, struggling with inadequate security clearances, a newly-appointed staff director, and inundated by a sea of documents forwarded by the major intelligence agencies. The documents total hundreds of thousands of pages.
The one witness heard by the committee thus far was Richard A. Clarke, former anti-terrorism White House coordinator and now President Bush's cyberspace security adviser. All of the meetings have been closed thus although the first open hearing has been scheduled for late June. Despite the talk of disagreements and problems, the investigation will all most surely continue to make reasonable progress even the road may be a bit bumpy at times. While the committee work has slowed, the plethora of suggestions, demands and ideas for alternate approaches to examining the 9/11 failure (now widely considered by mature observers as considerably broader than an "intelligence failure") or the reorganization of intelligence proliferate. Congressmen and commentators who never displayed anything but distaste for intelligence activities or funding seem especially eager to share their inspirations with the press. An independent commission to investigate the 9/11 intelligence failure is one popular concept with liberals but is strongly opposed by the White House. The chairmen of the joint committee, Senator Graham and Representative Goss, should receive a national award if they succeed in achieving reasonable and balanced judgments at the conclusion of this exercise.
(D. Harvey) Source: Washington Post 14 Jun '02, pg. 10, by Dana Priest and Juliet Eilperin
UAV IMAGES JUDGED NOT CLASSIFIED -- UAV video images taken by US UAVs patrolling for NATO over former Yugoslavia are relayed by a commercial satellite to American intelligence and NATO forces. According to a British newspaper, a British satellite enthusiast has been able since last November to receive the images of the UAV surveillance. Concerned at the apparent security breach, he tried repeatedly with no success to relay his concern on the handling of sensitive information. The images from Hunter UAV publicly available recently included footage of US Army troops on alert near their Kosovo headquarters and on patrol with armored personnel carriers near the Macedonia-Kosovo border.
A DOD spokeswoman has said none of the images were considered restricted information or classified and that commercial satellites would continue to be used for surveillance videos. She said, "The information seen from the satellite is not accompanied by any detail or analysis. Basically, it's raw information. But information does not equal intelligence." She discounted concerns that the images could help forces hostile to the US or NATO by revealing what American intelligence deems worthy of monitoring. While one can applaud the distinction between information and intelligence, there remains a lingering suspicion that, in light of the recently published reports of shortages of available communication satellite bandwidth, the decision to consider the transmissions unclassified was driven primarily by necessity. [D. Harvey] Source: New York Times 14 Jun '02, from Reuters
U.S. PROPAGANDA AND PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT -- The US Government, including the CIA, are heavily involved in propaganda operations, usually well concealed, but flushed up into the limelight in the aftermath of the internecine warfare within the Pentagon about the Office of Strategic Influence, now canceled by the president -- although the work presumably continues out-of-sight. One of the big players in this arena reportedly is John Rendon, with his public-relations firm, The Rendon Group.
John Rendon is to use his own words, "an information warrior and a perception manager." Rendon makes images, manipulates scenes and manages news. He advises politicians and spreads propaganda. The State Department, the CIA, DoD, and foreign governments also have turned to Rendon in recent years for help in relaying and shaping messages for the mainstream, according to government officials and federal records. Rendon has beamed radio broadcasts into hostile countries, helped design leaflets for distribution in war-torn areas, and designed Web sites and run PR campaigns to give the U.S. spin on world events.
Rendon has garnered contracts worth millions of dollars, a good bit of it allegedly from classified work. For example, in May 1991, then-President George Bush (Senior) signed a "finding" that gave the CIA authority to conduct covert operations to undermine Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. There was a lot of money to spend, and a good bit of it went to The Rendon Group, which was hired by the CIA in 1991, according to former CIA officials and Iraqi opposition groups. One of Rendon's chief contacts at the CIA then was Linda Flohr, then a CIA covert operations veteran and now a top anti-terrorism official at the White House's National Security Council. At one point, Flohr actually left the CIA and took a contract job with Rendon before returning to the government.
The Rendon Group quickly ramped up its covert effort to vilify Hussein. Its propaganda included a regular anti-Hussein radio program beamed into Iraq, an exhibit of photos displayed throughout Europe that depicted victims of Iraq's military regime, and video feeds for newscasts that included burning oil wells. Several front organizations were formed, including one called the Coalition for Justice in Iraq.
Rendon worked other projects. Panama in 1989 for the brief US invasion that toppled strongman Manuel Noriega. He was in Kuwait when US forces took it back from Saddam Hussein in 1991, making sure that citizens had little American flags to wave for the conquering troops and television cameras. He has worked in Haiti, and in the wars against the Serbs in the Balkans, and is now fully engaged in the war against terrorism.
The Rendon Group's current Pentagon work is just one part of a multifront, multimedia assault the Bush administration is waging against terrorism. While propaganda, war and presidents have always gone together, the Bush White House is especially attuned to the public-relations side of military conflict. Last fall, the White House named advertising executive Charlotte Beers undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, and she is developing a full-fledged campaign to sway minds abroad. And the administration has been quick to send top officials to appear on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television station. Rendon does media monitoring, getting an image of how the U.S. is perceived in the Muslim world. And they're big into video news releases." It's all cloak-and-dagger stuff. . . .Our own government propagandizing its position--it's not like it didn't happen before," said John R. MacArthur, author of "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War." "But this is a sophisticated, mass-market approach to it."
Welcome to the black world of information manipulation where the Emperor is always transformed as clothed for the multitudes, where Joseph Stalin can be made into good Uncle Joe (WWII), and today's opponents become images of devils ready for killing. Can a bit of cynicism be far behind? (Jonkers) (Chicago Tribune 12 May 02 /S. Hedges) <http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-0205120237may12.story> )
AN ANALYSIS OF MISSED CUES -- Last summer the White House suspected that a terrorist attack was coming. But four key mistakes kept the U.S. from knowing what to do.
(1) The CIA Aug. 6 PDB briefing. The President had told the DCI "Give me a sense of what al-Qaeda can do inside the U.S." The PDB brief he received concentrated on the history and methods of al-Qaeda. Since much of the material in it was a rehash of intelligence dating to 1997 and '98, it is doubtful that it was much use in answering Bush's question. According to Condoleezza Rice, there was just a sentence or two on hijacking ‹ and the passage did not address the possibility that a hijacked plane would ever be flown into a building. Administration officials have insisted that turning a plane into a suicide bomb was something that nobody had contemplated. But that just isn't so. In 1995, authorities in the Philippines scuppered a plan ‹ masterminded by Ramzi Yousef, who had also plotted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing ‹ for mass hijackings of American planes over the Pacific. Evidence developed during the investigation of Yousef and his partner, Abdul Hakim Murad, uncovered a plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. And as long ago as 1994, in an incident that is well known among terrorism experts, French authorities foiled a plot by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group to fly an airliner into the Eiffel Tower. "Since 1994," says a French investigator into al-Qaeda cases, "we should all have been viewing kamikaze acts as a possibility for all terrorist hijackings." But if Rice's account is accurate, nobody significant in the Bush Administration did. That was the first of four crucial mistakes made last summer.
(2) The Phoenix Memo -- Agent Williams wrote the memo on July 5, detailing his suspicions about some Arabs he had been watching, who he thought were Islamic radicals. Several of the men had enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. Williams posited that bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil-aviation system as pilots, security guards or other personnel, and he recommended a national program to track suspicious flight-school students. The memo was sent to the counter-terrorism division at FBI headquarters in Washington and to two field offices, including the counter-terrorism section in New York, which has had long experience in al-Qaeda investigations. That experience counted for nothing. In all three offices, the memo was pretty much ignored, disappearing into the "black hole of bureaucratic hell that is the FBI." The memo was never forwarded ‹ not even to the level of Mike Rolince, chief of the international-terrorism section. That was the second key mistake. "The thing fell into the laps of people who were grossly overtaxed," says a senior FBI official. The G-men claim to have been swamped by tips about coming al-Qaeda operations and were afraid of being accused of racial profiling - - - one of the politically incorrect dictates that can kill careers.
(3) The foreign attack mind-set. Last July, FBI headquarters wasn't concentrating on an attack within the U.S. "Nobody was looking domestically," says a recently retired FBI official. "We didn't think they had the people to mount an operation here." That was the third huge mistake ‹ and a somewhat baffling conclusion to draw, given the evidence at hand. In spring of 2001, Ahmed Ressam, the "millennium bomber," was on trial in Los Angeles, charged with being part of a plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport and other locations at the end of 1999. In her press conference last week, Rice conceded that in 2001 the FBI "was involved in a number of investigations of potential al-Qaeda personnel operating in the United States." But there were good reasons for being preoccupied with attacks and threats outside the U.S. Al-Qaeda's most notorious blows against American interests had taken place in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the sites of the 1998 embassy bombings, and in Yemen, where the U.S.S. Cole was bombed in October 2000. And in the first half of last year, the CSG monitored information suggesting the likelihood of another attack overseas. In June 2001, the State Department issued a worldwide caution warning American citizens of possible attacks. That month, says a recently retired senior FBI official, "we were constantly worried that something was going to happen. Our best guesstimate was something in Southeast Asia." A French investigator involved in al-Qaeda cases confirms the thought. "The prevailing logic from around 1998," he says, "was that al-Qaeda and bin Laden had very openly designated America as its prime target ‹ but it was a target that it preferred to attack outside the U.S." At least in France, investigators now acknowledge that al-Qaeda may have been involved in a massive feint to Europe while the real attack was always planned for the U.S. "People were convinced that Europe remained the theater for Islamic terrorists," says Jacquard. "It's anyone's guess whether that was a deception to get people looking in the wrong place. But that's what happened."
(4) By the beginning of August, the President had made his request for a briefing on domestic threats. One of them was about to be uncovered. And therein lay the fourth mistake. On Aug. 16, Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota for an immigration violation, just a day after the staff at the flight school where he was training told the FBI of their suspicions about him. The Minnesotans weren't alone. When American officials checked with their French counterparts, they discovered that Moussaoui had long been suspected of mixing in extremist circles. The FBI started urgently investigating Moussaoui's past; agents in Minneapolis sought a national-security warrant to search his computer files but were turned down by lawyers at FBI headquarters who said they didn't have sufficient evidence that he belonged to a terrorist group, and that legal criteria could not be met. Immediately after Moussaoui's arrest, agents twice visited the Airman Flight School in Norman, Okla., where he had studied before heading to Minnesota; two of the Sept. 11 hijackers had visited Norman in July 2000. The FBI did inform the CIA of Moussaoui's arrest, and the CIA ran checks on him while asking foreign intelligence services for information. But neither the FBI nor the CIA ever informed the counter-terrorism group in the White House. "Do you think," said a White House antiterrorism official, "that if Dick Clarke had known that the FBI had in custody a foreigner who couldn't speak English, who was trying to fly a plane in midair, he wouldn't have done something?"
Since at least two of the four failures (those involving Moussaoui and the Phoenix memo) can be laid at the door of the FBI, the bureau is feeling the heat. Congressional voices advocate FBI reform. Washington itself, at its worst is engaged in 9/11 politics. At its best it appreciates that the most important question isn't what President Bush (or anyone else) knew before Sept. 11; it is what the Administration and Congress have and have not done, and what must be done, to change and adapt a security system that responds to our current threat. (Jonkers) (TIME 18 May 2002 //‹ M. Calabresi, J. Carney, M.Duffy, E. Shannon, D. Waller and M. Weisskopf/Washington, D. Schwartz/ Phoenix, B. Crumley/Paris and J.F.O. McAllister/London)
THE BUREAU: The Secret History of the FBI, by Ronald Kessler, St. Martin's. 2002. Kessler received much criticism from the rank and file for his previous book on the FBI, and he bends over backward throughout this one to distinguish the thousands of dedicated, hardworking, honest agents from his criticism of the misguided (relatively) few who have given the bureau repeated black eyes in high-profile scandals, from the badly botched investigation of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee to the failure to apprehend FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen. His fury is directed at former director Louis J. Freeh. The author's sobering report on former FBI director Louis J. Freeh will come as a surprise to most readers -- and possibly even to Washington insiders -- because so little criticism leaked while he was there. Kessler finds that Freeh "almost destroyed the bureau through colossal mismanagement, borne of sheer donkey-like stubbornness and arrogance." Indeed, Kessler could have titled his book 'Get Louis', since he interviews a great number of former FBI officials who vent their spleens on their former boss's managerial track record, most especially his penchant for promoting sycophants, scape-goating underlings, and ignoring the need to introduce long-overdue upgrades in the bureau's creaky computer system.
In fact, what is most chilling about Kessler's secret history is how the Bureau is said to have failed to master the basic canons of computer-assisted intelligence gathering. Kessler portrays an FBI that has been ill-equipped to pursue many recent terrorist threats, let alone to prevent terrorist actions such as the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The FBI's creaky computers, most the equivalent of 10-year-old 386s, quickly collapsed under the weight of investigative traffic relating to the terrorist attacks; this forced agents to turn to telephones and faxes to share leads. Sometimes three teams of agents showed up at one suspect's house while other leads went untended altogether.
Much of Kessler's "secret history" is well known to students of the FBI, though the author sprinkles his pages with colorful and fascinating new details on episodes from Waco to Watergate, including an account of famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward making a curious visit in the summer of 1999 to former top FBI official Mark Felt, long a prime candidate for the role of Deep Throat. .
Kessler concludes that "with George W. Bush's appointment of Robert Mueller as the FBI's eleventh director, the bureau appeared to be in good hands." Mueller, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, has a chance to make a difference. Everybody wishes him well. We'll hope for the best, as 9/11 storm clouds continue to gather over the Bureau. (Jonkers) (Not read; based on a review by Jeff Stein) (Wash Post Book World, 5 May02, p. BW 08) (Author <www.RonaldKessler.com>)
CONFLICTING MISSIONS, HAVANA, WASHINGTON AND AFRICA (1959-1976), by D. Gleijeses, Chapel Hill, 2002 -- In the summer of 1975, with the cold war raging and the memory of Saigon's fall terribly fresh, the United States sponsored a covert CIA operation to prevent another Communist takeover, this time across the world, in Angola. The effort failed to keep a Marxist government from taking power but ushered in a long and chaotic civil war, involving American, Chinese and Russian interests, and Cuban and South African soldiers. Now, coinciding with the death last month of Washington's longtime rebel ally in Angola, Jonas Savimbi, a trove of recently declassified American documents seem to overturn conventional explanations of the war's origins.
Historians and former diplomats who have studied the documents say they show conclusively that the United States intervened in Angola weeks before the arrival of any Cubans, not afterward as Washington claimed. The work draws heavily on White House, State Department and National Security Council memorandums, as well as extensive interviews and archival research in Cuba, Angola, Germany and elsewhere. After reviewing Dr. Gleijeses's work, several former senior United States diplomats who were involved in making policy toward Angola broadly endorsed its conclusions. (Jonkers) (NYT 31 March02 /H. French)
IN MEMORIAM - Tom Smith, a former FBI Special Agent and police officer, and co-founder of AFIO's New Mexico Chapter, passed away April 21st, 2002, in Albuquerque, NM at the age of 81. Known to his old friends as Jimmy, he joined the National Guard in 1939. After several WWII active duty assignments, he became a police officer with the Fort Worth, Texas, police department in 1944. In 1950, he entered the FBI as a Special Agent. His fellow agents called him "Tom" and that was how he was known the rest of his career. In June 1960, he received an assignment to the Army Language School in Monterrey, California to study Albanian. Following his graduation from that school in 1961, he was assigned to the Espionage Division of the New York City FBI office and served there three years. In 1964, he was transferred to FBI Headquarters and was assigned to the Intelligence Division, rising to the rank of Deputy Assistant Director. He appeared before various Congressional Hearings related to FBI Operations. In 1974, he was the U.S. Delegate to the NATO Special Committee in Brussels, Belgium. He retired from the FBI in October 1974 and he and his wife moved back to Albuquerque in 1975, where he helped to found the local chapter of AFIO and served two years as the Chapter President. He also was an active member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He is survived by his wife, Ruby Ellen, whom he married in 1938, and their children and grand-children. The family requests in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Alzheimer's Association of New Mexico, or a charity of your choice. We salute and mourn an old colleague. (Jonkers) (courtesy Roger Foulkes, Chapter VP firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday, 29 July 2002
CIA officer (Ret), author
[SEE NO EVIL The True Story of a Ground Soldier
in the CIA's War on Terrorism].
and Ronald Kessler
winner of sixteen journalism awards
[THE BUREAU: The Secret History of the FBI]
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