I hadn’t spoken with my favorite spook, the late James Jesus Angleton, for some time, in part because my ouija board had been in the shop for repairs, and in part because I assumed he was busy, what with Halloween and the Day of the Dead coming in rapid succession in late October and early November. But the torrent of recent articles about intelligence regarding Iraq obviously required investigation, and I was delighted when the ouija board hummed smoothly into gear, and within a minute or two his gravely voice was chuckling away, interrupted by the occasional cough.
ML: Are you still smoking? Haven’t they banned it yet?
JJA: HERE? You must be kidding.
ML: Sorry, I forgot. Fire and brimstone in every home, right?
JJA: Hah! They don’t call it paradise for nothing…
ML: Good news. Any good cigars?
JJA: I had a wonderful pre-Colombus Dominican a couple of days ago. Great stuff. But surely you didn’t wake me up to talk about tobacco.
ML: No, indeed I didn’t. I wanted to ask you what you made of the recent New York Times story about the government website that had to be shut down because some people thought there was sensitive information about, uh, how to make nukes.
JJA: Haha, the New York Times is suddenly concerned about keeping secrets. How droll. This from the crowd that wrote about the CIA giving nuclear blueprints directly to the Iranians? This from the people who wrote about the intercept program on terrorist financing? Anyway, I think you’ve left out some important details about what you call the website story.
ML: Yeah, well, you can’t put everything into one question, can you? The Times reported that there was sensitive material in some of the newly declassified Iraqi documents that had been posted…
JJA: Posted over the objections of the Intelligence Community (Negroponte in first person), in large part because the IC said it was all old news anyway, and they needed their translators and analysts to work on current intelligence.
ML: Yes, and posted only after three Republicans insisted on it: Senators Roberts and Santorum, and Representative Hoekstra.
JJA: Precisely. That’s two Intelligence Committee chairmen — Roberts and Hoekstra — and the third-ranking member of Senate leadership. They obviously thought that the IC was sitting on information that might be pertinent to the debate over Iraq, and there was lot of material — 48,000 boxes of the stuff — and obviously at the rate the IC was moving, it would be the fourth millenium before the information came out.
ML: So you think Negroponte was happy to shut down the site?
JJA: Has anyone asked why the whole site was blacked out? Couldn’t they have simply removed the document and left up the rest?
ML: Good question. And, as you say, there’s quite a political spin on the story, isn’t there? In essence “the conservatives” are blamed for the release of sensitive information that could help the Iranian nuclear program.
JJA: Well, it’s convenient for many reasons. First of all, it’s convenient for the IC if it turns out the Iranians are closer to the bomb than the official estimates say, which is roughly ten years out. And it’s good cover for the IC, which as always wants to control the information.
ML: Speaking of Iran, do you think Gates is really the long nose of Jim Baker’s camel reaching into the Pentagon?
JJA: Actually he was a hell of an analyst at CIA. Bill Casey loved him, and his work on Soviet matters was so good that the moonbats from the Agency lined up to attack him when he was nominated to succeed Casey. And as for wanting to negotiate with the Iranians, I thought we’d been doing that for 27 years, or have I missed something?
ML: No, that’s certainly right. Do you think he’d be any good on the Iraqi documents mess?
JJA: Look, you keep asking about Gates changing policies, but that misses the point. Policy isn’t going to change just because there’s a new SecDef. Rice, Hadley, and Bush make the policy, and Gates is a team player, he’s always been loyal to the White House, he never took on State, and he’s good at working with Congress. He’s a professional bureaucrat, not a firebrand, not an ideologue, as they love to say.
ML: Couldn’t agree more, he’s an establishment figure, a talented one at that, and if anyone really wants to look for the Baker/Scowcroft “takeover” of the administration, they need to go back to the original lineup: Rice, Hadley, Powell, Armitage. All had worked for Bush 43, all were “realists,” all professional managers. So we’ve probably seen the last of even the few documents that were put out for the world to see, don’t you think?
JJA: The president had to be pounded by three leading members of Congress to get him to order Negroponte to start posting the documents, and as soon as the New York Times story came out, his former chief of staff, Andy Card, was chanting “I told you so” to any journalist who would listen. If the White House won’t ride herd on the IC, it isn’t going to happen. The IC had sold the administration on the theory — which I still think is false — that they had gotten the WMDs story all wrong, and that Saddam really had nothing to do with terrorism. Even the handful of documents that were posted had many indications that there were indeed WMDs, including a very active deception operation to prevent us from finding them, and some pretty convincing evidence of ties to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. That was bad for them, and they were very happy to shut down the whole website.
ML: Yeah, that’s really the main point, isn’t it? They blanked the screen, it wasn’t just a question of the nuclear stuff.
JJA: Just so. Their whole post-invasion narrative was in danger of being discredited, and they couldn’t have that.
ML: And the Dems?
JJA: You think Alcee Hastings wants those documents public? Hahahahahaha……
ML: Reid? Pelosi?
JJA: There you go again. They ran on the “Bush Lied, People Died” mantra. They have no interest at all in having people looking at the actual facts. Quite the opposite, in fact. And Bush, Rice, and Hadley are on the run now, and it would actually make them very nervous if it turned out there’s convincing evidence Saddam had WMDs, and was in cahoots with Osama.
Meanwhile, everyone’s missed one of the most interesting aspects of the shakeup, if you look at the “old” CIA guys now in high positions…
At which point there was a funny humming sound from the ouija board.
ML: Can you still hear me?
JJA: You bet…somebody ought to take a look at Bill Casey’s Return from the Dead…now there’s a story…
And I’d lost him. Casey returning from the dead? What’s the deal with that?