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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Who is Duane Clarridge?

As I mentioned in my last post, reporter Richard Sale is linking Duane Clarridge with his "fine journalist...friend" Michael Ledeen and other operatives to the production of the Niger uranium forgeries.

Who is Duane Clarridge? AKA Dax P. LeBaron? Some astute bloggers have been asking that question since July, but I haven't seen many complete answers.

Let me try to make a good start.

Clarridge has certainly had an interesting life.

Clarridge is best known as "the CIA official who engineered the covert war in Nicaragua." He's the guy who mined the harbors! And the guy on the ground in Nicaragua who supported the contras against the Sandinistas.

That means Clarridge was knee deep in the Iran-contra affair. Indeed, after being indicted for lying to Congress (seven counts of perjury), Clarridge was pardoned by the current President's father. From the USIA, 1992:
The president also pardoned five other persons who already had pleaded guilty or had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages investigation. They were Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; and Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George, all former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Even by Novak's ambiguous definition, Clarridge was an operative.

Like Ledeen, Clarridge lived and worked in Rome for awhile -- apparently participating in some way in the toppling of an Italian government. He was serving in Rome when the Pope was shot. He was also there when a Libyan aircraft crashed (filled with bullet holes) at about the same time an Italian airliner went down. There was some sort of coverup in Italy and Clarridge allegedly said Israel shot down the plane because it suspected France of shipping nuclear fuel to Iraq on the plane!

After his friend's career in government ended, Ledeen used his connections to get a job for Clarridge at General Dynamics.

Through his writings and interviews, Clarridge has been a major defender of US covert operations.

And, as you might expect given his neocon friends like Ledeen, Clarridge was a major booster of the Iraq war, years before any shots were fired.

As reported by the LA Times in 2004, Clarridge
"Since 1996 has been part of a group of conservative activists who supported and promoted Chalabi as a vehicle for overthrowing Hussein and installing a pro-American regime in Baghdad."
As I reported in my last post, Clarridge thought that the US could deploy a modest number of troops (5000) with trained INC forces and topple Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

General Anthony Zinni called this plan, "The Bay of Goats."

Since the war started, Clarridge has been to Iraq for months at a time and says the US population should get used to the idea that America will be there "for a generation."

My question: Is Clarridge a former CIA guy who, according to Sy Hersh's account, allegedly forged the Niger documents just to see if the administration would buy it? I'm skeptical that Clarridge would have done this out of anger at Cheney. They shared the same goals!:
Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking to me about the Niger papers in March, when I first wrote about the forgery, and said, “Somebody deliberately let something false get in there.” He became more forthcoming in subsequent months, eventually saying that a small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves.

“The agency guys were so pissed at Cheney,” the former officer said. “They said, ‘O.K, we’re going to put the bite on these guys.’ ” My source said that he was first told of the fabrication late last year, at one of the many holiday gatherings in the Washington area of past and present C.I.A. officials. “Everyone was bragging about it—‘Here’s what we did. It was cool, cool, cool.’ ” These retirees, he said, had superb contacts among current officers in the agency and were informed in detail of the sismi intelligence.

“They thought that, with this crowd, it was the only way to go—to nail these guys who were not practicing good tradecraft and vetting intelligence,” my source said. “They thought it’d be bought at lower levels—a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes. But the tactic backfired, he said, when the papers won widespread acceptance within the Administration. “It got out of control.”
I hope Fitzgerald resolves this one.

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