Is this the Bush regime's Watergate? It's a long post and it's far from complete but it suggests a pattern of duplicity, corruption and even treachery that led to the American invasion of Iraq and the deaths of tens, perhaps thousands of innocents. A look at the villains and miscreants involved reads like a spy novel, only worse. This post is assembled from various sources. It's long but I believe well worth the read.
McClatchey Newspapers has broken a story that suggests the "neo-cons" either naively duped or recklessly conned the Bush administration on behalf of the Iranian government to invade Iraq.
The cast of characters is fascinating - Rumsfeld, Cheney, Douglas Feith, Peter Cambone, Michael Ledeen and a supposed Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar.
Rumsfeld and Cheney you know. Douglas Feith headed Rumsfeld's private intelligence agency within the Pentagon (the Office of Special Plans) that somehow always seemed to produce supposed intelligence far more provocative than what was coming out of America's established intelligence agencies such as the CIA.
Michael Ledeen. This character is a "scholar" at the American Enterprise Institute, the neo-cons own bat cave where folks like John Bolton, David Frum, Fred Kagan, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz hide from the sunlight. Born in Los Angeles, Ledeen moved to Rome in 1974 to study - why, of course, Italian fascism. A founding member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Ledeen worked for the Italian military intelligence service in 1980 as a risk analyst and later served as a Special Advisor to Secretary of State Al Haig during the Reagan administration.
Then there's Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar, the supposed Iranian exile. Here's part of his Wikipedia bio:
Manucher Ghorbanifar (nickname Gorba) is an expatriate Iranian arms dealer. He is best known as a middleman in the Iran-Contra Affair during the Ronald Reagan presidency. He is suspected to be a double agent for Mossad. He re-emerged in American politics during the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq during the first term of President George W. Bush as a back-channel intelligence source to certain Pentagon officials who desired regime change in Iran.
In the 1980s Ghorbanifar's principal American contacts were National Security Council agents Oliver North and Michael Ledeen. Ghorbanifar also tried to get the US to support the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) opposition to the Khomeini government of Iran. Ledeen vouched for Ghorbanifar to National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. Oliver North later claimed that Ghorbanifar had given him the idea for diverting profits from TOW and HAWK missile sales to Iran to the Nicaraguan Contras.
Ghorbanifar's suspected duplicity during the Iran-Contra deal led CIA Director William Casey to order three separate lie-detector tests, all of which he failed. Iranian officials also suspected Ghorbanifar of passing them forged American documents. The CIA issued a burn notice (or "Fabricator Notice") on Ghorbanifar in 1984, meaning he was regarded as an unreliable source of intelligence, and a 1987 congressional report on Iran-Contra cites the CIA warning that Ghorbanifar "should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance".
His own cohorts in the arms trading affair were also non-plussed. “I knew him to be a liar,” North eventually acknowledged. Robert McFarlane, the national-security adviser who approved the Iran-Contra arms trades, once described Ghorbanifar as “one of the most despicable characters I have ever met."
In December 2001, Michael Ledeen organized a three-day meeting in Rome, Italy between Manucher Ghorbanifar and Defense Intelligence Agency officials Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode. Also present were two officials from Italy's SISMI. In addition to a position at the American Enterprise Institute, Ledeen was working as a consultant to then U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who oversaw the Office of Special Plans.
The 2001 meeting took place with the approval of then-Deputy National Security Advisory Stephen Hadley. The meeting concerned a secret offer from reportedly dissident Iranian officials to provide information relevant to the War on Terror and Iran's relationship with terrorists in Afghanistan.
In June 2002, officials of the Department of Defense met with Ghorbanifar and Iranian officials in Paris, France, without approval from the White House or other relevant Executive agencies. It is unclear if the other Iranians were actually MEK members.
Summer 2003 news reports of the meetings prompted an internal review, as well as an investigation by the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the meetings as, "There wasn't anything there that was of substance or of value that needed to be pursued further."
Now, back to the McClatchey story.
Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that Iranian exiles who provided dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran to a small group of Pentagon officials might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.
A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the Pentagon officials' activities after only a month, and the Defense Department's top brass never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.
The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.
Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces.
The aborted counterintelligence investigation probed some Pentagon officials' contacts with Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA had labeled a "fabricator" in 1984. Those contacts were brokered by an American civilian, Michael Ledeen, a former Pentagon and National Security Council consultant and a leading advocate of invading Iraq and overthrowing Iran's Islamic regime.
Stephen Cambone, then the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, shut down the counterintelligence investigation after only a month, the Senate report said.
The Senate report said that Pentagon officials never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a comprehensive analysis of whether Ghorbanifar or his associates tried "to directly or indirectly influence or access U.S. government officials."
The counterintelligence investigators recommended that U.S. officials attempt "to map Ghorbanifar's relationship within Iranian elite social networks and, if possible, his contacts with other governments and/or intelligence organizations," but that effort was never undertaken.
The Senate committee also found that Pentagon officials concealed the contacts with Ghorbanifar from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department. Pentagon officials also provided Senate investigators with an inaccurate account of events and, with support from two unnamed officials in Cheney's office, continued meeting with Ghorbanifar after contact with him was officially ordered to stop.
The first meetings with Ghorbanifar, which were disclosed in August 2003 by the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper Newsday, took place in Rome in December 2001. They were attended by two Pentagon Iran experts, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin; by an Italian military intelligence official, and by Ledeen.
Franklin, who, in an unrelated matter, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison in 2006 for providing classified information on Iran policy to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, passed the information about the alleged Iranian hit squads to a U.S. Special Forces commander in Afghanistan. Although a DIA analyst told the Senate committee that he couldn't speculate on whether the information had been "truly useful," Ledeen and Pentagon officials claimed it saved American lives, the committee said.
During the Rome meetings, Ghorbanifar also laid out a scheme to overthrow the Iranian regime on a napkin during a late night meeting in a bar. "The plan," said the Senate committee, "involved the simultaneous disruption of traffic at key intersections leading to Tehran that would create anxiety, work stoppages and other disruptive measures" in a capital city famous for its traffic congestion.
Ghorbanifar asked for $5 million in seed money, Franklin told the committee, and indicated that if the traffic jam plan succeeded, he'd need additional money.
After Franklin and Rhode returned from the Rome meetings, the Senate report said, two series of events began to unfold in Washington that were typical of the gamesmanship that plagued the Bush administration's national security team.
"First," the report said, "State Department and CIA officials attempted to determine what Mr. Ledeen and the DOD representatives had done in Rome, and second, DOD officials debated the next course of action."
When the CIA and the State Department discovered that Ledeen and Ghorbanifar were involved, they opposed any further contact with the two. Ledeen's contacts, the Defense Human Intelligence Service concluded, were "nefarious and unreliable," the Senate committee reported.
According to the report, Ledeen, however, persisted, presenting then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith with a new 100-day plan to provide, among other things, evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that supposedly had been moved to Iran — Saddam Hussein's archenemy. This time, the report said, Ledeen solicited support from former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and from three then-GOP senators, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Rhode and Ghorbanifar met again in Paris in June 2003 with at least the tacit approval of an official in Cheney's office, the Senate report said.
Now for a quick look at Peter Cambone- the guy who shut down the investigation. From Wikipedia:
"In January of 2001, as George W. Bush prepared to take office, Cambone served on a panel for nuclear weapons issues sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. Other members of the panel included Stephen Hadley, William Schneider, and Robert Joseph. This panel advocated using tactical nuclear weapons as a standard part of the United States defense arsenal.
According to Peter Ogden, of the Center for American Progress, Cambone's nomination as undersecretary of defense for intelligence was "the culmination of [Donald] Rumsfeld's efforts to politicize intelligence gathering and analysis... Cambone is despised by many within the Pentagon for his attempts to steamroll all opposition to Rumsfeld's military transformation projects and is widely perceived as a pompous ideologue who cannot be trusted to bring the requisite objectivity to intelligence matters."
Cambone was known in the Pentagon as Donald Rumsfeld's "chief henchman". The orders to soften up Iraqi prisoners for intelligence interrogators (both military and private contractors) are said to have come directly from Cambone's office. In a 2006 Counterpunch article, Jeffrey St. Clair reported that Cambone is responsible for intelligence operations like Gray Fox, a kind of sabotage and assassination squad. Several sources report that Cambone has become so hated and feared inside the Pentagon as Rumsfeld's hatchetman that one general told the Army Times: 'If I had one round left in my revolver, I would take out Stephen Cambone.' " In early December 2006 it was announced that Dr. Cambone would step down at the end of that year, becoming the first key department member to leave in the wake of Rumsfeld's resignation.
War crimes prosecution
On 10 November, 2006, the German Federal Government announced that it had decided, within the legal framework of universal jurisdiction, to permit the war crimes prosecution of Stephen A. Cambone for his alleged role in condoning the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison during his tenure from 2001 to 2003 as U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence."
What conclusions can be drawn from this? Just one - that there's an urgent need to investigate what was really going on within the vice-president's office, Rumsfeld's Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans and the American Enterprise Institute itself. There's just too much smoke here to avoid the conclusion there's fire to be found underneath all this.
Above all, this investigation needs to be purused urgently before these very same reprobates manage to push the United States into war on Iran. There have been too many crimes and too much death to let these punks, thugs and fixers continue to operate with impunity.
More on Michael Ledeen.
Former CIA head of counterterrorism operations and intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, Vincent Cannistaro, believed Ledeen was also directly tied to the Niger yellowcake story used by Bush and Cheney to claim that Saddam was pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.
"When the former CIA head of counter-terrorism was asked if a Michael Ledeen had been the one who produced the Iraq documents he said "You'd be very close."
This is consistent with the theory that the documents are the work of Iraqi dissidents associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.
The documents would have flowed from Chalabi to Ledeen to SISME, and thus would have been laundered to make them appear as legitimate products discovered by a legitimate intelligence agency.
This sophistication in the use of foreign intelligence agencies appears to be part of the modus operandi of the neocons, and may derive from the particular expertise of Ledeen and Richard Perle, developed in various shenanigans going back to the 1970's in particular the Iran-Contra affair.
Intelligence agencies in Britain, France, and Germany were also used in the same campaigns of lies which led to the attack on Iraq. One of the strategies was to feed some nonsense to one intelligence agency, and then have that nonsense distributed to other intelligence agencies. Then the claim would be that the information must be true, as it came from multiple sources."
And, as intended from the outset, Bush & Company are still falling back on the "everybody believed it" line to bury the reality of how they lied their asses off in order to invade Iraq.