Intelligence Matters by Bob Graham In The News

Recent Examples of Intelligence Matters in the News

Intelligence Matters was written in the debris of 9/11 and the heat of the run-up to the War in Iraq. For today's reader it also is a context for many of the headline stories of this morning. Recent examples of the currency of Intelligence Matters:

Headlines are presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent incidents described first.

June 24, 2009: Saudis continue to be treated with kid gloves.  The US Department of Justice is supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its effort to have the courts dismiss a lawsuit filed by families of 9-11 alleging that the Kingdom was complicate in financing the attacks. An article on this subject appeared in the International Herald Tribune June 24, 2009. 

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May, 2009: Enhanced interrogation (e.g., torture) represents another chapter in deteriorating relations among the White House, the intelligence community and the congress.  Read pages in the paperback on this subject and the Washington Post  op ed which was published in May of 2009 discussed the current state of the relationship.

Somalia:  General Tommy Franks states in Intelligence Matters that, after Afghanistan, Somalia is the most serious site of Al Qaeda terrorist.  The rash of Somalian piracy could be an indication that the General was right and that Somalia has become a new source of Al Qaeda financing.

January 31, 2006: In his State of the Union message, the President defended the warrantless intercepts program by claiming that had it been in place before 9/11 we might have discovered two of the hijackers.

Intelligence Matters: (3-100, 159-169) details the activities of the two hijackers referred to by the President, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar while they were in the United States.  Immediately after the State of the Union, drawing on this information, I prepared an opinion editorial for the Boston Globe which was printed on February 5, 2006.

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On January 25, 2006: The New York Times reported that the administration was withholding from Congress information on Hurricane Katrina.

Intelligence Matters: (200-203 and 214-216)  While the Inquiry of the Joint Intelligence Committees of the Congress had commenced with administration commitments of full support, as the Inquiry probed closer to sensitive areas,  particularly the role of Saudi Arabia in assisting the hijackers, we faced a stone wall of resistance.  A classified version of the final report was submitted to the administration in December of 2002.  When the declassified version was released in July of 2003, there were redactions throughout the report, but only one section of 27 pages was completely withheld from the public – the section detailing the role of foreign governments in assisting the hijackers.  The citizens 9/11 commission experienced similar administration unwillingness to be forthcoming.

On January 25, 2006: Hamas won a majority of the Parliamentary seats in the Palestinian territory.  To date Hamas has not, as President Bush demands, renounced its position that the state of Israel must be destroyed.

Intelligence Matters: (123) On January 31, 2002, then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated the “The United States has made clear to leaders on every continent that there is no such thing as a good terrorist and a bad terrorist.  You cannot condemn al Qaeda and hug Hamas.” (194) On October 9, 2002, during the debate on the resolution to authorize war against Iraq, I introduced an amendment to expand the Presidents war authorization to include other terrorist organizations which were supported by a state which possessed weapons of mass destruction, had  a history of hating and killing Americans and the ability to strike within the United States.  Hamas was on that list of six.  The President opposed this expanded grant of authority. (231) I cited this as one of eleven reasons why the President should be removed from office. (257) The final recommendations of the Joint Inquiry, submitted to the administration in December 10, 2002, directed the Intelligence Community to develop specific plans, programs and budget allocations to address the threat of Hamas to the United States.  I am unaware that any such efforts were undertaken.

On January 14, 2006: A predator missile struck a Pakistani village and killed 14 persons.  The target of the attack, a highly al Qaeda official, apparently was not present at the time of the attack.

Intelligence Matters: (120-121) The development of the predator, whether to do and if so by what agency, was the subject of a protracted bureaucratic clash between the Air force and the CIA.  Once in operation over Afghanistan, it was seen as so effective at it reconnaissance mission, that it was armed with a hellfire missile to extend its capabilities to attack, specifically to kill Osama bin Laden. (125-126)  At least as early as February, 2002, a signal that the decision had been made to shift attention from  Afghanistan to Iraq was the redeployment of Predators, and a resulting diminution in US capability to locate and dispatch Osama bin Laden.

December 16, 2005: The New York Times reported that the President had authorized intercepts of telephone, e-mail and other messages by the National Security Agency without securing a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  The President admitted that he had done so, claiming authority under the constitution and the September 2001 resolution authorizing war against the perpetrators of 9/11 as his legal basis.

Intelligence Matters: (104-105) the President had sent to the Congress a sweeping expansion of his powers in the days after 9/11.  Congressional leaders wisely concluded that it was too sweeping and denied the President the authority upon which he now justifies warrant less searches of US citizens.  The Joint Inquiry directed the Congressional oversight committees and the National Security Agency to review practices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in the era of terror and recommend any legislation which was considered necessary. 

November 1 – 20, 2005: Senate goes into rare closed session to review how the President and his advisors used the intelligence presented to them by the agencies in making the decision to go to war in Iraq.  In subsequent days the administration claims that Democrats are hypocritical in their criticism of his decisions because they knew as much as he did and voted to support the war.

Intelligence Matters: Based on information first presented in Intelligence Matters (123-126 and 178-189) I prepared an article which appeared in the Washington Post on November 20, 2005, on what these members of Congress, including myself, knew about Iraq before the war started.  I described the President’s attempt to disparage those members of both parties who had relied on his assertions to vote to authorize a war in Iraq as “outrageous”.

October 28, 2005: Walter Maas, reporter for the National Journal, details the role of Vice President Richard Cheney in suppressing the investigations of 9/11.

Intelligence Matters: (139-141)  In an early morning call on June 20, 2002, the Vice President chastised the Joint Inquiry Committee as the source of leaks.  Subsequent actions indicated a pattern of the administration using leaks to achieve political ends.  For Valerie Plame Wilson, it was to punish her husband for telling the truth on a key element of the administration claim that Iraq was being provided enriched uranium from Africa.  In ours, it could have been to slow and divert our inquiry as we were getting closer to untangling the Saudi role in 9/11. 

October 21, 2005: Maureen Dowd writes in her New York Times’ column on the dangers of group think and (incorrectly) quotes myself as the source of the phrase “incestuous amplification.”

Intelligence Matters: In the build up to the war in Iraq, key advisors and policymakers enthusiastically reinforced the orthodoxy that there were weapons and mass destruction being produced or stored in Iraq.  On page 185, Intelligence Matters describes what the CIA director George Tenet should have said rather than the reassuring, and woefully wrong statement,  that it was a “slam dunk” that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

October 6, 2005:   Two and one half years after being directed by the Congress to do so, the inspector general of the CIA in a classified document reported to the CIA agency head, Porter Goss, on the result his accountability review of pre 9/11 shortfalls and successes.  Director Goss announces he will decline to impose   any of the sanctions recommend by the inspector general.

Intelligence Matters: The Joint Inquiry Committee strongly urged that all of the intelligence agencies which were sources of incompetence or worse prior to 9/11, should be reviewed by the appropriate inspector general, and based on that investigation the agency heads should take appropriate action to sanction inadequate or recognize superior behavior. (Recommendation 16 - 266-267)

August 24-27, 2005: FEMA proves to be a dysfunctional agency in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

Intelligence Matters:  For almost a year the Presidents resisted any reform of domestic homeland security agencies and rejected the advice of Americans and foreign governments which had the most experience in protecting the homeland from terrorism, natural disasters, and other threats.  I was also concerned that placing so many disparate agencies with their own histories and cultures would for the months and in some cases years after reorganization make the US more vulnerable.  The White House appeared more interested in using the discussion on homeland security as a political sword than as an American protective shield.  Katrina laid bare the consequences of this course of action. (108-110 and 173-177). 

Week of August 15, 2005: In completing one of the most important tasks assigned to the newly created office of National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte will be recommending the intelligence community's budget for the next year. A central issue in that budget will be the trade off of satellite intelligence gathering and Human intelligence. It is expected that director Negroponte will emphasize an expansion and diversification of human intelligence while the Department of Defense and its allies in the Congress will advocate a new satellite system. Ultimately the President would have to resolve such a standoff.

Intelligence Matters: The necessity to prioritize satellite, and other forms of technical (machine based) intelligence gathering with human intelligence has been coming since the end of the cold war. As the danger of operating behind the iron curtain increased and satellites became more reliable, there was a shift in intelligence gathering in the 1970s. Gradually satellites came to dominate both the mission of intelligence procurement but also the budget of the intelligence community. As most of the satellite activity was under the aegis of the Department of Defense, it became very supportive of expanded satellite systems. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, satellites have been less effective and the need to revitalize and expand the humans on the ground form of intelligence gathering more important. (15-17 and 247-249)

Week of July 18, 2005: The second attack in two weeks directed at the London subway and bus system is frustrated by effective intelligence and law enforcement. In the subsequent round up of those potentially responsible for the planning and execution of this failed plot, the predominate number of those taken into custody are from the nation of Somolia.

Intelligence Matters: On February 19, 2002, after a briefing at the headquarters of Central Command in Tampa, Florida, General Tommy Franks outlined the strategy he would pursue in the war on terror: "We can finish this job in Afghanistan if we are allowed to do so. And there is a set of terrorist targets after Afghanistan. My first priority would be Somalia - there is no effective government to control the large number of terrorist cells." The distraction of Iraq had prevented the General's strategy being implemented. (125-127)

Week of July 11, 2005: 14 Marines are killed in Iraq when their amphibious vehicle was hit by a massive and technically sophisticated road side bomb. In the follow up investigation it was found that the mechanics of the bomb and its deployment were similar to the weapons developed by Hezbollah.

Intelligence Matters: On July 3, 2002 with other members of the Intelligence Committee, I was briefed by a high US governmental official about the suspected activities of Hezbollah. "We have compelling evidence that Hezbollah has made a pact with Palestinian terrorists organizations. ... Specifically, Hezbollah is working with Palestinians to increase the lethality of Palestinian attacks... Hezbollah is instructing the Palestinians on the use of car and truck bombs so that rather than destroying a single restaurant and its customers, the devastation can be spread more widely. "

Week of June 20, 2005: FBI concedes that agents selected for the FBI's anti-terrorism unit frequently have little or no background in terrorism or the languages, history or cultures of the middle East of Central Asia, the regions from which terrorist are most likely to threaten the United States.

Intelligence Matters: From the FBI's central headquarters dismissal of the July 2001 Phoenix memo, warning of an unusually large number of Arab students studying aviation in Arizona (42-49) to the Moussaoui case wherein the FBI gave more consideration to the internal concerns of its bureaucracy than to the clear threat his case represented (49-57). The FBI has a long record of treating intelligence investigation like law enforcement: focusing on the evidence necessary to successfully prosecute alleged criminals. Intelligence requires a different mind-set: anticipate events before they occur, connect the dots and provide the analysis of the information necessary to interdict acts before they become lethal tragedies. The FBI has an equally long record of submerging intelligence investigation to a secondary position behind traditional law enforcement and resisting reform. (260-262).

Week of June 6, 2005: The Inspector General of the Department of Justice releases his report on the role of the FBI in 9/11. In this report the IG indicated that a former FBI informant was terminated from the agency in July of 2003 and paid a severance bonus of $100,000.

Intelligence Matters: The IG report was the result of a directive contained in the Join Inquiry's final report. (267) The IG's report had been completed almost a year prior to June, 2005. Only then would the FBI allow public distribution of the report and then only in a heavily redacted form.

The former FBI informant was identified in Intelligence Matters as Abdussattar Shaik, a retired university professor who lived in San Diego. Shaik had two sources of outside income. The FBI and tenants to who he would rent rooms in his home. Two of the hijackers, Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al Hazmi, were his tenants for one and six months respectively in 2000. The FBI withheld informing the Joint Inquiry of Shaik's existence, and after he was discovered through a staff investigation, would not allow the informant to be interviewed and refused to serve a subpoena which the Joint Inquiry has issued. The informant refused to testify voluntarily unless he was granted immunity from possible criminal prosecution. (159-166).

Thus the information which might have been available from the informant on the two hijackers, who were living under Shaik's roof, and the role of the Saudi government in assisting the hijackers while they were in San Diego, remain unknowns. In the face of this conduct by the informant and the FBI, the payment of a substantial severance bonus in the same month that the Joint Inquiry submitted its public report and terminated its investigation, is highly suspicious.

Week of June 6, 2005: The director of the FBI announced that the effort to create an enhanced agency communications system, intended to avoid the numerous instances in which FBI communications gaps had contributed to 9/11, had crashed. In the rubble was the $170 million the FBI had expended on this latest failure. The director stated that the FBI would commence again on yet another newly designed system, one which would not be operational until 2007.

Intelligence Matters: The Predecessor to the latest failure, the Trilogy system, was reported in Intelligence Matters to have also failed, at a cost of $458 million. In large part this was due to the FBI's arrogant unwillingness to utilize the well regarded CIA communication system as the basis for its own. (35).

Week of May, 2005: The Times of London released the content of the Downing Street Memo which indicated the British intelligence service felt that as early as the summer of 2002, the Bush administration had determined to go to war in Iraq and was prepared to fix the intelligence to justify doing so. The Downing Street Memo contradicted the administration's assertion that the decision to go to war was not made until the spring of 2003 and was based on "slam dunk" information that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction available for imminent use.

Intelligence Matters: I describe a meeting with General Tommy Franks in February of 2002, four months prior to the writing of the Downing Street Memo. (122-127) In a private conversation, General Franks stated that the war in Afghanistan was being reduced to a man hunt to prepared for a war in Iraq: important materials such as the predator reconnaissance drone, and personnel, including the special operations units with Arabic language capabilities were being moved from Afghanistan to Iraq. Thus, Intelligence Matters substantiates that the decision to go to war was made months before the Downing Street Memo was written.

February to June of 2005: Lebanon became the centerpiece of a series of events commencing with the assassination of a former prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, leading most recently to a national election through which Hand's son became the putative prime minister. During this period, the role of the Syrian government and its handmaiden terrorist organization Hezbollah, were disclosed.

Intelligence Matters: I describe the historic and current situation in Lebanon; the reticence of the new President of Syria, Bashar Assad, to accept responsibility for the conditions in Lebanon; and Assad's denial of the terrorist activities of Hezbollah, for which the Syrian government has provided a sanctuary and training facilities. (147-156) Until the Iraq war and the evidence that Syria and Hezbollah were involved with cross border assistance to the insurgents in Iraq, the Bush administration had taken a passive and disinterested position relative to Hezbollah and its Syrian protector.