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Monday, August 30, 2004

Flipped and Blown

Missed this exchange on Friday, and after stopping by Informed Comment and seeing Juan Cole reference the conversation, I went off looking for the transcript. Here is Alex Witt on MSNBC speaking by phone with former State Department official and CIA agent Larry Johnson, discussing the Larry Franklin investigation.

JOHNSON: ...I've heard about this investigation for, you know, several months now. And you know it is-it actually is tied into the forged memo regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq from Niger. [...]

JOHNSON: What I've been told is that there's a strong belief that the forgery was carried out by Israel in an effort to help build up the evidence to allow the United States to justify going to war. So, this whole thing that started with the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA officer, started growing and expanding when they saw that there's this forged memo and then people linked to the office of-in the office of Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Fife at the Department of Defense were seen as having some very close contacts and sharing information with the Israeli intelligence sources. [...]

WITT: So my question to you, the timing of this release, it is Friday night. We're heading into the weekend, leading into the Republican National Convention. Anything to be tied to that?

JOHNSON: Potentially, yes. You know, this would be a political black eye for the Bush administration if it turns out to be true. Well and again, it is-I know that the FBI has been very reluctant to talk about it. I've been hearing about it through people who have had access to people who have been involved with the investigation. And they've been trying to run down these various leads. [...]

WITT: Now Larry, from your perspective, how big might this be?

JOHNSON: Well I think it'll be huge. I mean I've heard some of the other names that are being looked at and you know one of the concerns is it goes over to the National Security Council as well. So this could expand beyond the Department of Defense and go into the National Security Council. I mean I know that there were targets that are being looked at. Now whether they've collected enough evidence to be able to prosecute, that's a whole other issue.

Johnson had been hearing about this for months and makes a point of mentioning that the FBI has been very reluctant to talk about it. As I suggested earlier, the leaking of this investigation seems not to have been aimed at embarrassing the president or anyone else, but rather to cut the legs of the investigation out from under it. Juan Cole agrees:

It appears to be the case that someone in the Pentagon got wind that Larry Franklin had been flipped, and was terrified that the investigation might go on up the ladder at the Pentagon, in AIPAC, and with the Israelis. So they leaked news of the investigation to make sure that everybody clammed up and shredded everything.

Earlier, I came across this column on the subject from Karen Kwiatkowski, who has questions of her own:

The story of spies in the Pentagon will percolate, no doubt. I have no answers, but perhaps the questions themselves will help explain what is going on in the current administration, and the administration that is sure to come.

Was the release of Larry's name at this time politically motivated? And was that to hurt the Bush presidency or to save it, as Laura Rozen muses, with a "controlled burn"?

Why would Larry need to give draft documents on policy anywhere in the Middle East to AIPAC, when all the big decisions are already coordinated between Israel and the U.S. at far higher levels?

Why is Larry the result of FBI investigational success instead of the names of the Pentagon senior operatives who shared classified information with Ahmad Chalabi regarding American success in reading coded Tehran communications, specifically now as neoconservatives rage for war in Iran? Or instead of the names of senior White House operatives who revealed and destroyed the U.S. security mission of Valerie Plame?

Are there any advantages gained in front-page stories on a "spy for Israel" who is not one of the usual suspects? You know, a person with no business dealings dependent upon American (and Israeli) decisions, a person without an openly pro-Israel ideology or someone who was never known as a passionate advocate of U.S. power to promote Israel's security and economic viability? A career-constrained professional rather than fly-by-night political appointees who have written widely and acted most consistently to advance the interests of Israel in American policy towards the Middle East? Qui bono?

You'll remember Kwiatkowski as the author of the even more relevant story in Salon from March of this year, The New Pentagon Papers, detailing the active attempts by the OSP to bring the Neocon dream of invading Iraq to fruition. In a nutshell (and clipped from an LA Times interview with her from before the Salon article's publication), here's a bit of bio:

After two decades in the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, now 43, knew her career as a regional analyst was coming to an end when -- in the months leading up to the war in Iraq -- she felt she was being "propagandized" by her own bosses.

With master's degrees from Harvard in government and zoology and two books on Saharan Africa to her credit, she found herself transferred in the spring of 2002 to a post as a political/military desk officer at the Defense Department's office for Near East South Asia (NESA), a policy arm of the Pentagon.

Kwiatkowski got there just as war fever was spreading, or being spread, as she would later argue, through the halls of Washington. Indeed, shortly after her arrival, a piece of NESA was broken off, expanded and re-dubbed with the Orwellian name of the Office of Special Plans. The OSP's task was, ostensibly, to help the Pentagon develop policy around the Iraq crisis.

She would soon conclude that the OSP -- a pet project of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld -- was more akin to a nerve center for what she now calls a "neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon."

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