Friday, July 28, 2006

Bamford, Rolling Stone: "Iran: The Next War"

Here are some snips from Bamford's latest in Rolling Stone.
Now, unwilling to play by the rules any longer, Franklin was taking the extraordinary—and illegal—step of passing on highly classified information to lobbyists for a foreign state. Unable to win the internal battle over Iran being waged within the administration, a member of Feith's secret unit in the Pentagon was effectively resorting to treason, recruiting AIPAC to use its enormous influence to pressure the president into adopting the draft directive and wage war against Iran.

Working together, the two men hoped to sell the United States on yet another bloody war. A few miles away, digital recorders at the FBI's Language Services Section captured every word.

War with Iran has been in the works for the past five years, shaped in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senior Pentagon officials attached to the Office of Special Plans.
But as the Pentagon moved the country closer to war with Iran, the FBI was expanding its investigation of AIPAC and its role in the plot. David Szady, then the bureau's top spy-catcher, had become convinced that at least one American citizen working inside the U.S. government was spying for Israel. "It's no longer just our traditional adversaries who want to steal our secrets, but sometimes even our allies," Szady declared. "The threat is incredibly serious." To locate the spy sometimes referred to as Mr. X, agents working for Szady began focusing on a small group of neoconservatives in the Pentagon—including Feith, Ledeen and Rhode.
In addition to meeting Rosen and Weissman, Franklin was also getting together regularly with Naor Gilon, an Israeli embassy official who, according to a senior U.S. counterintelligence official, "showed every sign of being an intelligence agent." Franklin and Gilon would normally meet amid the weight machines and punching bags at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club, where Franklin passed along secret information regarding Iran's activities in Iraq, its missile-testing program and even, apparently, New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
On May 20th, shortly after the discovery of the leak, Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad. The FBI suspected that Chalabi, a Shiite who had a luxurious villa in Tehran and was close to senior Iranian officials, was actually working as a spy for the Shiite government of Iran. Getting the U.S. to invade Iraq was apparently part of a plan to install a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, with Chalabi in charge.
The revelation shocked Franklin and other members of Feith's office. If true, the allegations meant that they had just launched a war to put into power an agent of their mortal enemy, Iran.
Franklin needed to control the damage, and fast. He was one of the very few in the government who knew that it was the NSA code-breaking information that Chalabi was suspected of passing to Iran, and that there was absolute proof that Chalabi had met with a covert Iranian agent involved in operations against the U.S. To protect those in the Pentagon working for regime change in Tehran, Franklin needed to get out a simple message: We didn't know about Chalabi's secret dealings with Iran.
So far, however, Franklin is the only member of Feith's team to face charges. The continuing lack of indictments demonstrates how frighteningly easy it is for a small group of government officials to join forces with agents of foreign powers—whether it is AIPAC or the MEK or the INC—to sell the country on a disastrous war.

The most glaring unindicted co-conspirator is Ahmed Chalabi. Even top-ranking Republicans suspect him of double dealing: "I wouldn't be surprised if he told Iranians facts, issues, whatever, that we did not want them to know," said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who chairs the House subcommittee on national security. Yet the FBI has been unable to so much as question Chalabi as part of its ongoing espionage case. Last November, when Chalabi returned to the United States for a series of speeches and media events, the FBI tried to interview him. But because he was under State Department protection during his visit, sources in the Justice Department say, the bureau's request was flatly denied.
i urge you to read the rest. larisa and laura have covered a lot of it previously - but bamford wraps it up nicely.

Sibel's story is kinda there in the shadows a little bit as well - Bamford mentions repeatedly the FBI translation department - although the story that Bamford conveys is from 2003, whereas Sibel left the FBI in early 2002.

But remember what Sibel said:
""SIBEL: Essentially, there is only one investigation – a very big one, an all-inclusive one. Completely by chance, I, a lowly translator, stumbled over one piece of it.
You can start from the AIPAC angle. You can start from the Plame case. You can start from my case. They all end up going to the same place, and they revolve around the same nucleus of people. There may be a lot of them, but it is one group. And they are very dangerous for all of us."

and remember that the Franklin investigation goes way back to 1999. here's raimondo:
Particularly fascinating is the apparent longevity of the ongoing investigation: the implication of the latest indictment [.pdf] is that FBI counterintelligence officials have been looking into Israel's covert activities in the U.S. since at least 1999, when Rosen apparently was observed telling a "foreign official" that he (Rosen) had "picked up an extremely sensitive piece of intelligence" identified as "codeword protected." At this meeting, the indictment avers, Rosen handed over this information – regarding "terrorist activities in Central Asia" – to the foreign official.
and of course, don't miss emptywheel's take on the bamford piece.

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