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Monday, August 30, 2004


If 2002 was the year of the neocon in Washington, 2004 (well, maybe 2005) may yet prove to be the year of the neo-convict.

The neocons and their associates are apparently the subject of three investigations by various parts of the Justice Department and have the attention of several key Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well. All these inquiries seem to overlap, as all involve key national security figures and topics.

Here are the investigations. I'll try to highlight a few points of overlap.

1. Most recently, a former Defense Intelligence Agency expert on Iran is apparently under investigation by the FBI for allegedly leaking to Israel information about US policy toward Iran. The Washington Post reported on August 29, 2004:
FBI officials have been quietly investigating for months whether [Lawrence] Franklin gave classified information -- which officials said included a draft of a presidential directive on U.S. policies toward Iran -- to two Israeli lobbyists here who are alleged to have passed it on to the Israeli government.
Franklin works in the Bush Pentagon in the office of William Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. Luti's office is under the purview of Douglas Feith, the #3 man in Secretary's Rumsfeld's civilian chain-of-command.

Franklin last appeared in this blog as part of a travel story, as he and some prominent neocons had an interesting adventure in Rome during December 2001 and June 2002.

More on that below.

2. Earlier this summer (the first week of June), various media sources reported that Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi leaked to Iran highly classified US intelligence information. The fear is that Chalabi told Iran that the US had broken its codes -- and could therefore easily monitor Tehran's secret communications. From Newsweek:
"This is an enormous loss to the U.S. intelligence community," one former U.S. intelligence official said today about the reported leak of the secret code system. "Obviously, the Iranians are not going to use that code anymore. We're going from having a complete window into what their intelligence service was doing to having no window at all."
That's very bad, whether you think Iran is evil, or not.

Where did Chalabi receive top US secrets? That is the $100,000 question:
[There are a] spate of media reports alleging that Chalabi or one of his associates told the Iranians that U.S. intelligence had cracked a secret code system used by the Iranian intelligence service. U.S. political activists close to Chalabi have told reporters in recent days that Chalabi learned about the codebreaking in Baghdad from a drunken U.S. official....

But, given that Chalabi is not a U.S. citizen and does not have a U.S. security clearance, the more critical issue for investigators will be to find out who in the U.S. government might have leaked such highly sensitive information to Chalabi and the INC, some officials say. Law-enforcement sources indicated that the American investigation will likely focus on whether sensitive information might have been leaked to Chalabi by officials in either the Pentagon or the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
Some sources say the investigation is centering upon US authorities based in Baghdad.

The New York Times more specifically said that investigators were taking aim at Chalabi's neocon supporters, but didn't name any names:
The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.

Some of the people the F.B.I. expects to interview are civilians at the Pentagon who were among Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters and served as his main point of contact with the government, the officials said.
After a little digging on the internet, I discovered two guys who are often named as suspects by bloggers.

First, consider Harold Rhode, who met with Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Larry Franklin, and the head of Italian Intelligence (SISMI) in Rome in December 2001, possibly to talk about Iraq's alleged uranium trade:
Rhode got another big break when Pentagon hawks sent him to Baghdad this spring as their chief liaison (read: handler) to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmed Chalabi, the hawks' favorite exile.

But problems cropped up then, too, when, during his stay at the occupation headquarters in Baghdad, Rhode quickly alienated most of the American military and civilian pros in the country...Later he holed himself up with Chalabi at the latter's hunt-club headquarters...
So after working with Feith in the DoD, Rhode was Chalabi's handler in Iraq and lived in his compound. Interesting, eh?

Anyone else a viable possibility? Well, I always shop for neocons at Benador Associates. From the agency's webpage:
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, having recently served 18 months in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as an Iraq and Iran advisor, during which time he was also seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] governance team. The only CPA official to live outside the American security bubble, Rubin was free to travel Iraq and without restriction to a single region, and so was able to maintain extensive contacts with ordinary Iraqis, be they Arab Sunnis or Shi'a, or Kurds.
Both Rubin and Rhode are neocons who were living in Iraq, had ready access to Chalabi, and served in the Pentagon during the buildup to the war.

Motive, means and opportunity?

3. As I've occasionally discussed, someone leaked Valerie Plame's name in an attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson in June 2003. At the time, Wilson was publicly challenging the administration's claim that it had not known that the uranium from Africa story was based on fabricated documents at the time of the President's 2003 State of the Union Address.

While some fingers were first pointed at Karl Rove, the Justice Department investigation has apparently centered upon the neocons in the Vice President's office: Lewis "Scooter" Libby's name has appeared prominently, as has John Hannah's , in numerous news stories.

Libby is a neocon who signed the Project for a New American Century's "Statement of Principles," dated June 3, 1997. Other notable Bush administration signatories include Elliott Abrams, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

I'm not sure why Feith was not part of PNAC, but he did work for Richard Perle in DoD earlier in his career.

4. In an attachment to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Iraq, US Senators Jay Rockefeller (WV), Richard Durbin (IL) and Carl Levin (MI) criticize Doug Feith's office for running a private intelligence failure that was "non lawful" during the runup to the war in Iraq. Here's what they say:
The Intelligence Community’s findings did not support the link between Iraq and the 9/11 plot Administration policy officials wanted to help galvanize public support for military action in Iraq. As a result, officials under the direction of Under Secretary Feith took it upon themselves to push for a change in the intelligence analysis so that it bolstered Administration policy statements and goals.
After Feith and crew failed to convince the intelligence agencies to change their assessment, they took their case directly to the White House in a September 16, 2002, briefing. CIA Director George Tenet learned of this briefing in March 2004.
Following the publication of the Intelligence Community’s terrorism and weapons of mass destruction analytical estimates and the subsequent congressional vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq, Administration public statements leading up to the war became increasingly hyperbolic and urgent.

The qualifications the Intelligence Community placed on what it assessed about Iraq’s links to terrorism and alleged weapons of mass destruction programs were spurned by top Bush Administration officials, early casualties in the war with Iraq....

By the time American troops had been deployed overseas and were poised to attack Iraq, the Administration had skillfully manipulated and cowed the Intelligence Community into approving public statements that conveyed a level of conviction and certainty that was not supported by an objective reading of the underlying intelligence reporting.
Again, Rockefeller called Feith's intelligence op "non-lawful," but it's hard to say whether he was referring to the Office of Special Plans, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group or the Rome adventure.

Maybe it's a trifecta?

In any case, all these investigations (save the Plame) are focusing on the same small group of neocons who are suddenly facing some serious problems.

As Jim Lobe wrote back in June, "the neocon retreat has turned into a rout."

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