Sunday, August 29, 2004

Spies Like Them?

First, bwahahahahahahaha. Choke on it, Doug Feith. If all of this is really true, then you truly are, as General Franks said, the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.

The FBI is probing a spy case at the Pentagon in which

...the FBI believes it has "solid" evidence that the suspected mole supplied Israel with classified materials that include secret White House policy deliberations on Iran.

Israel of course denies the allegation, as do the Likudistas at AIPAC. The BBC adds that this sort of thing isn't exactly new:

However, he adds that Israel has been accused of spying on the US before.

A former Jewish-American US Navy intelligence analyst, Jonathan Pollard, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The AP says the investigation has been going for a year.
The target of the probe was identified by the two officials as Larry Franklin, a senior analyst in a Pentagon office dealing with Middle East affairs. Franklin, who did not respond to a telephone message left at his office Saturday, formerly worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Franklin works in an office overseen by Douglas J. Feith, the defense undersecretary for policy. Feith is an influential aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whose previous work included prewar intelligence on Iraq (news - web sites), including purported ties between Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime and al-Qaida terrorism network.

In August 2003, Franklin and a Pentagon colleague were in the news after it was disclosed they had met two years earlier with Manuchar Ghorbanifar, who was among the Iranians who suggested to the Reagan administration in the 1980s that profits from arms-for-hostages deals be funneled into covert arms shipments to U.S.-backed Contra rebels battling the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Ahh, they always come back. Ghorbanifar, of whom I blogged last year, is a totally discredited snitch from Iran-Contra days, and whatever intelligence he provided Franklin should be considered laughable at best by anyone in the business. But like some sort of Piltdown Man of Spies, Ghrobanifar was pulled from the storage bin marked "fraud" and given a new label of "genuine" by Likudistas/Neocons to give credence to their bizarre theories of the Descent of Iran. This, of course, should be no surprise since several of these Neocons themselves are, shall we say, sneakily recycled.

See also the full NYT coverage here. This will be something to watch; the charges look relatively tame, yet they in turn might expose enough of the Pentagon creeps to light that the effect will be a monkey-wrench in the Feithful-est Scheme of all: the Invasion of Iran.

Background? This post by Dr. Cole is perhaps the best outline of the whole Neocon issue vis-a-vis the Middle East that I have read. If you click on any link I have here, make it this one.

This story is moving fast, and is tied to several of the other scandals that only seemed to have petered-out in the last few weeks. Juan Cole's follow-up is here. Josh Marshall weighs in here, and with Laura Rozen, nicely ties things up at the Washington Monthly.

Meanwhile, Neosporin's comrade at Jumping To Conclusions is apparently just as much master of accidentally perfect comic timing as Neosporin himself. Witness, the snicker elicited by this report which posits Israeli Intelligence involvement in the McGreevey scandal. Why the affected disbelief? Well, because, don't you know, Israel never plays dirty pool, except with Arabs who are so subhuman that they deserve anything they get. As soon as Neosporin weighs in, I'm sure he'll stay in character by calling the FBI anti-semites.

Now that I've delivered the obligatory kick to the teeth, on with more coverage.

The BBC rounds up Israeli Press coverage of the spy scandal here. In which, the Jerusalem Post seems suprisingly moderate:
The Jerusalem Post notes "damaging comparisons" with the case of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jewish naval analyst who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel in the 1980s.

Yediot Aharonot says it hopes that when the facts become clear, the publicity about the case will be seen to be excessive because, it says, "the US and Israel cannot allow themselves another Pollard affair."

The paper suggests that the disclosure would not have been given such media prominence "unless the Americans had an interest in sending Israel a signal that it is beginning 'to get on their nerves', in the hope that we take the hint".

Washington "has behaved in this way in the past", the paper concludes, "and it is worth reading the signals, and using the inner channels to check and question what has provoked its wrath, examine our government's actions, and try to put things right if possible."

Maariv, on the other hand, prints some wishful thinking:
The “Franklingate” espionage scandal is beginning to look like a surfeit of hype forced into bed with a paucity of fact.

A senior administration official has told the press that this does not look like a case of spying. “From what we know, Larry Franklin looks more like an incompetent fool way out of his depth than a spy. He apparently passed on some papers to Israel without realizing the ramifications of his actions”.

So Feith called Tel Aviv and told them to push the line that Franklin is a boob: "go on, nothing to see here."

Here's AIPAC's statement, which is essentially what you'd expect: denial and self-aggrandising spin.

I can't wait until The Pod weighs in; and I'm sure the humourless dorks at Oxblog with have something disingenuous to say if they can tear themselves away from condemning The Onion long enough to do so.

What do I think about the spying itself? Throw the book at him, like they would at anyone else. Israel is an ally and I don't have a problem with that, but spying by Israel is more problematic than, say, if the Brits (or Australians) got caught spying on US, for the excellent reason that Britain, to my knowledge, doesn't have a history of stealing our technological secrets and flipping them over to less-than-friendly regimes like that of the Chinese. Also remember the U.S.S. Liberty incident as well as the Pollard scandal. As De Gaulle said, "nations have interests", which may or may not coincide with its allies'; this is the peril involved in assuming a too-cosy relationship with an ally that has a mulititude of enemies which may or may not be just as belligerent to US interests.

*edited to correct General Franks's quote

** Update: Ha'aretz's take on the matter; it's the CIA's fault.

Israeli sources knowledgable about the CIA say that unlike other American intelligence organizations, the CIA has political differences of opinion with Israel about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The CIA sees Israel as disruptive in American efforts to improve its relations with the Arabs. The CIA also argues that Israel is a bad influence on improving relations between Washington and Damascus. It's not surprising the CIA was the first to charge that Israel has an agent in the Pentagon - an accusation Israel says is entirely baseless.

*** Another Update: A guy named swopa is our mole among the crazies. His reporting can be read here, with a follow-up here. A mole where, you ask? At "novelist" and neocon-loving hack Roger L. Simon's blog. Now the point isnt that the cretins that inhabit Simon's blog are crazies (so crazy that they profess admiration for the insane basement-dwelling Adam "I possess a certain affinity for the occasional use of totalitarian methods" Yoshida), but that a few of them are notable crazies: specifically neocon hack/Iran-Contra Figure/administation gadfly Michael Ledeen, who is notable, which is to say notorious for, among other things, justifying the Iraq War by saying that "The American people are a war-like people who love war" and by being a lifelong, admiring student of Italian Fascism.

It is a minor coup that swopa got Ledeen to open up. Of course it's not like Ledeen spilled any important beans, but that he opened up at all.

We're all in swopa's debt for at least this: by illuminating what can possibly be done by smart thinking in comments sections in notable wingnut blogs. A far more productive vocation than bothering to troll a la freepers. Also, it always helps to know what the other side is thinking when they have their guard down, and in this case, it's worse than I expected. Witness, the master race fantasies of M. Simon in the same thread.

Meanwhile, Laura Rozen is all over the spy story.

The Asia Times's Jim Lobe is good on this sort of thing too, and gives more background here.

At the National Security Council (NSC), [the Feith Gang] communicated mainly with Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, until Elliott Abrams, a dyed-in-the-wool neo-con with close ties to Feith and Perle, was appointed last December as the NSC's top Middle East aide.

''They worked really hard for Abrams; he was a necessary link'', Kwiatkowski told IPS Wednesday. ''The day he got (the appointment), they were whooping and hollering, 'We got him in, we got him in'''.