December 5, 2006
Outside access to Pentagon email accounts may be shut down
MAJOR CLARIFICATION: It appears that only remote access to email has been suspended. Perhaps the hackers gained access via remote web access, something like Microsoft Webmail. Original post follows:
A tipster notes that Pentagon email has been restricted to sending and receiving to other Pentagon accounts. No messages from other domains may enter the system. This measure has been instituted because a foreign government hacked the Pentagon's computer systems.
I'm not sure if this includes all dot.mil accounts or only certain domains.
Looking for confirmation elsewhere . . .
UPDATE: Looks like the hackers were Chinese. Strategypage reported this several days ago:
December 4, 2006: For the third time in five months, Chinese based hackers attacked a Department of Defense computer network. In mid-November, the U.S. Navy's War College had to shut down it's computer network because, as one instructor explained to his class, Chinese hackers had gotten in, and the Naval War College servers had to be scrutinized to see what was taken, changed or left behind. The is the latest of several attacks on Department of Defense computers, that could be traced back to China.Perhaps the damage is wider than they thought. The information I received was very specific that email accounts in the Pentagon itself will not be receiving messages from outside domains for the time being.
Portions of The Adventures of Chester Open Source Analysis Policy may apply to this post. If you need to contact me, my email address is in the sidebar.
UPDATE: Here's more info on the original attack.
November 13, 2006
By a thousand cuts . . .
Travel has kept me from writing about what I'd intended today . . . but not to worry, as Westhawk has instead done so. See his piece on Britain's looming insurgency.
November 6, 2006
A Coffin for Dimitrios
While traveling over the weekend I read A Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler. Fans of Alan Furst's spy fiction will love this book. Ambler wrote it in 1939 and it was one of the most popular works he ever wrote.
The premise goes something like this: An Englishman who is a successful writer of detective stories is vacationing in Turkey and has a chance social encounter with the head of the Turkish secret police. While they are discussing another issue entirely, the Turk has to attend to a professional matter: dealing with the death of one Dimitrios, a murderer, spy, assassin, and drug smuggler whose body has just turned up. The writer, who has always written crime fiction, but never really witnessed the underworld up close, is fascinated by Dimitrios' life and decides to trace it on his own out of curiosity . . .
To tell more would begin to spoil things. Hopefully that's enough to whet your appetite. The book was outstanding and I'm adding it to the Adventures of Chester Bookstore. Put it on your Christmas list!
October 25, 2006
The Autumn of the Patriarch
Frederick Turner has written a brilliant piece in TCSDaily that offers a reinterpretation of the "death squads" so frequently mentioned in the press coverage of Iraq:
When there is a significant fraction of the population that will not join in political compromise, whether because of ideological idealism, addiction to supernatural power, or the passion for revenge, civil society is faced with a diabolical paradox.How to deal with this minority?
It wishes to form legal and political institutions that are transparent, correctable by debate, and under the control of the people (with protections for minorities), where people can make good money in the marketplace and raise families in peace. But the reality is that even after all possible compromises have been offered to the refuseniks, civil society is faced with a small but absolutely hostile minority that will be content with nothing but total victory.
October 9, 2006
Was the nuke test a hoax?
This site does not profess conspiracy theories.
But from time to time, I do attempt to perform what I've called "agressive pattern-spotting."
1. About two years ago, there were rumors of an impending North Korean nuclear test. Later, there was an enormous explosion. The explosion was later determined to have been a massive amount of conventional munitions. The North Koreans, living in such a mountainous country, are quite good at mining, tunnelling, and excavation, and large quantities of TNT and other explosives are part and parcel of those competencies. Read about this incident here, via the BBC.
2. President Bush, in his statement today about the test, said this (emphasis added):
Last night the government of North Korea proclaimed to the world that it had conducted a nuclear test. We're working to confirm North Korea's claim. Nonetheless, such a claim itself constitutes a threat to international peace and security.3. Via Drudge, Japan's Kyodo News Agency is reporting that a number of jets have been dispatched from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force to:
[ . . . ]
Threats will not lead to a brighter future for the North Korean people, nor weaken the resolve of the United States and our allies to achieve the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Today's claim by North Korea serves only to raise tensions, while depriving the North Korean people of the increased prosperity and better relations with the world offered by the implementation of the joint statement of the six-party talks.
check levels of radioactivity over the Sea of Japan and other areas following North Korea's announcement about its nuclear test.4. The scale of the explosion was small for a nuclear test. This article quotes the Korea Earthquake Research Center thus:
The agency's move to collect samples at an altitude of 10 kilometers is part of the Japanese government's efforts to step up its monitoring of the impact of the reported nuclear test.
The activity measured 3.6 on the Richter Scale, which could be caused by the explosion of the equivalent of 800 tonnes of dynamite, he said.
Based on these four things, there is a significant chance that it is still unclear whether North Korea has actually conducted a test; that our own and allied governments are working to independently confirm such; and that it is within the realm of possibility that the seismic event detected was in fact a massive conventional explosion.
I think we should await independent confirmation.
Feel free to discuss.
UPDATE: Only the Russians are claiming that the blast was larger:
Russia's defense minister said Monday that North Korea's nuclear blast was equivalent to 5,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT.
That would be far greater than the force given by South Korea's geological institute, which estimated it at just 550 tons of TNT.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a much more detailed description of the large explosion in 2004. It seems no one is really sure just what happened then.
ONE MORE UPDATE: Gratuitous Machiavellian thought of the day: if we tell them we don't believe their test was real, and they test again, how many tests before they run out of weapons? I'll turn my internal monologue back on now.
STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Suitcase nukes are supposed to be difficult to produce because, among other reasons, they only require very small amounts of radioactive material, and that material decays very rapidly. If there are any nuclear scientists reading this, by all means chime in.
MORE: Welcome Instapundit readers! He had the same Machiavellian thought. Feel free to look around. I hope you'll visit again sometime.
MORE AGAIN: There is speculation that the test was a dud. This raises an interesting totalitarian leadership question: if one has only a handful of nuclear scientists, and they are expensive to create and maintain, when a nuclear scientist fails you, how do you punish him? Moreover, if one is such a nuclear scientist, and one knows that a nuclear capability is still beyond your means, but the Dear Leader schedules a test without your foreknowledge, how do you tell him that his capabilities aren't quite what he thinks they are? Or do you just go ahead with it and hope that afterward his ire won't fall completely upon you?
LATEBREAKING UPDATE: The Washington Times' Bill Gertz is reporting that "U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday."
Still not conclusive. Gertz frequently reports things that aren't seen anywhere else. Either he has incredible access or his sources are sometimes wrong. Or both. We'll see what happens in this case.
October 3, 2006
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Suppose you are a member of Britain's security services and are faced with a dilemma: you can either arrest a terror plotter and lose the opportunity to continue rolling up his network, or know that if you don't, the US will swoop him up and send him to a secret prison (aka, "render" him)? Which is worse?
August 9, 2006
Interview with Alan Furst
I've conducted a brief interview with Alan Furst, who has written several superb spy novels set in pre-WWII Europe. The interview is now up over at TCSDaily.
Furst's own site is www.alanfurst.net.
I have to tell the story of how this came about, cause it's pretty neat.
Mrs. Chester dragged me shopping one day and I ducked into a Borders in need of a reprieve. Browsing around, I moseyed over to the Mystery/Suspense section to look for Furst's new book, The Foreign Correspondent.
I couldn't find it, so I went to the help desk. There, I saw a stack of copies, along with the entire inventory of everything else they had in stock by Furst. "Are these all on hold?" I asked the staff. "No, we've set them aside because he's supposed to come in today and sign them. He's supposed to be here any minute."
Well, this was cool! So soon enough Mr. Furst did arrive and signed a copy for me. I went and sat down in the cafe. Then a thought occurred to me: why not a blog interview? I asked him and he agreed immediately, saying he loves reading blogs.
Anyway, I thought that was very kind of him and a pretty cool little backstory.
Furst's novels are truly fascinating. You feel as though you are really in Europe right before all hell breaks loose. And in some cases after it's broken loose too.
My favorite is Night Soldiers, probably because it's a bit longer than the others, which means all the more intrigue:
I've also read The World at Night and Dark Voyage:
Those were both excellent as well. When reading these works, the scope and depth of the changes that were afoot in Europe really begins to dawn on the reader. Most interestingly perhaps is that everyone seems to know that war is coming . . .
Loyal Readers here at Adventures will probably enjoy any of Furst's novels. Go check out the interview too.
UPDATE: Here's a previous post that references his work as well: Through The Looking Glass.
July 12, 2006
The Guns of July
The big news of the hour is twofold: first, Carl in Jerusalem has it on good authority that Israel is stepping up its strikes into Lebanon and will declare war tonight against its neighbor. I've never heard of Carl in Jerusalem before but that post is being linked from everywhere. So far, no other secondary confirmation of an open declaration of war, even though Drudge himself is running with the headline "It's War, Israel Says" which points to this piece in which Olmert doesn't say that but calls "the Hezbollah raid an "act of war" by Lebanon and threatened "very, very, very painful" retaliation."
Then there's good ole Debka, which always has something interesting, but which usually must be taken with a shaker of salt. Debka is reporting both that Ali Larijani, the Iranian National Security Advisor, is in Damascus for consultations with Syria, AND that the real reason this whole dustup started is so Iran can force the G8 to focus on Israel during their conference starting today:
Tehran hopes to hijack the agenda before the G-8 summit opening in St. Petersberg, Russia on July 15. Instead of discussing Iran’s nuclear case and the situation in Iraq along the lines set by President George W. Bush, the leaders of the industrial nations will be forced to address the Middle East flare-up.This makes for an interesting little narrative, but it ascribes a great degree of control of events to the Iranians -- a degree that is hard to sustain at any level when human beings are involved. Keep It Simple Stupid is the best defense against conspiracy theories: no plan ever survives contact with the enemy, and conspiracy theories are always the most convoluted of plans.
But even if Iran didn't set in motion the current crisis, there's no reason to believe it doesn't want to profit from it.
If Larijani is in Damascus, my guess is they're trying to keep Israel from declaring war on Syria at all costs. Consider:
-Syria is militarily extremely weak compared to Israel
-Iran is not only weaker than Israel, it has no easy method of threatening Israel, save with missiles of questionable accuracy.
-Israel can strike Syria from the air with impunity.
Now consider: from the Iranian and Syrian standpoint, the best course of action is to vex the Israelis as much as possible via their Hamas and Hezbollah proxies. So long as this happens, Israel does take the headlines, and the attention span at the G8. But as soon as Israel declares war on Syria, or commits an act of war, which might be the same thing, then events start to turn sour for the Iranians:
-Iran will have to declare war on Israel or risk losing face in the region, since it has pledged to defend Syria
-Syria's government would likely fall; what might follow it is anyone's guess; what does follow might not be nearly as close to Iranian interests
-Israel and the US have never fought on the same side at the same time, but Lord (and Yahweh) knows they'll help each other in other ways. If a three-way war breaks out, and Israel requested US permission to use bases in Iraq for strikes against Iran, even for refueling, the US might grant them their wish. Alternatively, it was rumored long ago that Israel had set up a deal with the Kurds to use Kurdish bases for strikes into Iran. The same might be true of Turkey, which has no love for Iran either.
From the Israeli standpoint, it all depends on what they can gain from striking Syria. If they think strikes in Syria will convince the Syrians to pressure Hamas to release Shalit, they might give it a shot. But they are probably just as aware of the consequences as anyone else: Iran might declare war.
So my guess is neither Israel, nor Syria, nor Iran want to get in a war with each other at the moment. But there're always wild cards. At least three groups, Israel, Hamas, Hizbollah, and possibly a fourth, the Lebanese military, are now involved. From that stew, an event might emerge that like it or not would force a widening of the conflict by one side or another, or an entry by Iran or Syria. This is it, in a nutshell: Is Israel willing to risk a widening of the conflict in order to dismantle Hamas and Hezbollah? Is Iran willing to risk the dismantlement of Hamas and Hezbollah in order NOT to widen the conflict?
The New Republic carries a piece entitled, Battle Plans:
The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites . . .And we silly Americans thought this was about one captured Israeli soldier. Stupid, stupid . . .
The ultimate threat, though, isn't Hezbollah or Hamas but Iran. And as Iran draws closer to nuclear capability--which the Israeli intelligence community believes could happen this year--an Israeli-Iranian showdown becomes increasingly likely. According to a very senior military source with whom I've spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.
For Israelis, that is the worst scenario of all. Except, of course, the scenario of nuclear weapons in the hands of the patron state of Hezbollah and Hamas.
UPDATE, 8:08am EST: Welcome Pajamas Media and Roger Simon readers! Roger says, about this post: "I think he is naive in thinking the Israelis didn't want this confrontation. It may be quite the opposite - at least in its result. You could look at this all as Sharon's trap... and his adversaries walked right into it."
Hmm. Could be. The question is what kind of confrontation did they want? Is this a limited action meant to stop the kidnapping for prisoners rubric that has become standard practice? Or is this something larger? Is it meant to attack Hezbollah in depth? Or is it even larger, meant to hit Syria and Iran too? My guess, as I tried to outline above, is that the Israelis don't want to spark a regional conflict, just hurt Hezbollah very badly.
Here are some interesting things to read:
-The Jerusalem Post reports :
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Thursday morning that Israel would not allow Hizbullah to return to its positions on Lebanon's southern border. He also demanded that Lebanese forces secure the border, something they have not done to date, during comments made to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.Hmm. Several months.
A high-ranking IDF source said that the current operation, dubbed Operation Just Reward, would be "long" and could last up to several months, or "as long as it takes to destroy the Hizbullah's ability to launch attacks against Israel."
Raja @ Lebanese Bloggers, who's been doing a play-by-play of events, also something big is in the works:
Something tells me that everything the Israelis are doing right now is preparation for something much bigger.Finally, this is the most interesting thing I've read in the past 24 hours. An article written in August of 2002 by Mark Silverberg, an author in the Ariel Center for Policy Research is an absolute must-read:
American and Israeli leadership both share a common concern that Bashar al-Assad is "playing with fire". Hezbollah has the ability - even the intention - of sparking an explosion that could lead to a regional war. Nasrallah now possesses 7,000 Katyusha rockets - each targeted at Israel. Some are heavy, long-range missiles that threaten the entire Galilee region to the outskirts of Haifa (and its oil refineries).Read the whole thing. It's an uncanny description of exactly what's happening 4 years later.
Hezbollah has completed building a line of forward positions along the Israeli border, complete with video cameras that track the IDF's movements in order to learn the operational routine of its units. Iranian officers in Southern Lebanon check Hezbollah deployments directly under Syrian eyes.
Within the next several months, Hezbollah will also complete construction of its second line of defense deep inside South Lebanon meant to create a barrier against any Israeli armed advance. The effect of such a barrier will permit Hezbollah to shell northern Israel continuously over a period of several months, and, if necessary, to slow an Israeli retaliatory invasion.
The problem for Israel is that young President al-Assad has surrounded himself with people inexperienced in high politics, although he recognizes his country's military and technological inferiority to Israel. Assad Jr. unfortunately, is fascinated by Nasrallah, accepts his patronizing praise and has allowed him to hold at least one Hezbollah paramilitary parade on Syrian soil.
He's playing the dangerous game of brinksmanship without understanding the rules. Slowly, almost invisibly, an important revolution appears to be underway. Hezbollah is gradually consolidating its strength in Syria, and the Iranians, whose Vice-President recently visited Damascus, have "laid down the law" for the confused leadership there.
A Syria that can be manipulated by Hezbollah under Iranian guidance could well miss that crucial moment when Iran and Hezbollah attempt to spark a regional conflagration by means of a military provocation on Israel's northeastern border.
That is a major source of concern to both Israel and the United States Defense Department. A weak and naive Syria will accelerate the power, influence and growth of Hezbollah, just as Arafat now finds it impossible to control Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Palestinian territories. The more that Nasrallah is convinced that Assad Jr. is not up to speed; the more he will be convinced that he, in consultation with his Iranian cohorts, holds the key to power. And if he is convinced that there is an American threat to Iran, he will preempt it by striking at the Galilee to provoke an Israeli retaliatory strike.
But that retaliatory strike will be at Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Syria.
This is not an imaginary scenario. As recently as three weeks ago, American and Israeli UN representatives met privately with their Syrian counterpart to warn him of the danger posed to Syria and the entire region by Hezbollah.
The singular conclusion is that someone has to inject sufficient fear into the Syrians to bring Nasrallah down.
And if the Europeans and Americans can't, the Israelis will. [emphasis added]
UPDATE2 8:38am EST: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please comment. What does everyone else think?
June 30, 2006
Some things to note for weekend thinking:
1. The Guardian reports that:
The intelligence agencies have warned ministers that Iran could launch terrorist attacks against British targets if the row over its controversial nuclear programme escalates, it was disclosed today.That's something to keep in mind. The same article notes:
The parliamentary intelligence and security committee - which oversees the work of the agencies - said the possibility of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism was now considered one of the main threats facing the UK.
"There is increasing international tension over Iran's nuclear programme and backing of groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah," the committee said in its annual report.
"There is a possibility of an increased threat to UK interests from Iranian state-sponsored terrorism should the diplomatic situation deteriorate."
The report also revealed that MI5, the security service, was expanding so rapidly in order to meet the threat of terrorism in the UK that it had outgrown its London headquarters building.Wow. That is amazing. MI-5 is the agency that will be infiltrating or surveiling any homegrown terror cells or organizations. Good to see that they are taking things seriously across the pond.
Thames House at Westminster is expected to have exhausted its capacity by October. The committee said another building had been found to provide additional accommodation - but its identity was censored out on security grounds.
MI5 staff numbers are now expected to grow by over 50% over the next three years, with over half its resources now devoted to counter-terrorism.
2. That article was via RegimeChangeIran, which is asking for your help. Gary Metz, aka Dr. Zin, is requesting donations for "several campaigns to take this work to the next level." Look for more info there soon. He's also asking for volunteers. Sounds like he has something up his sleeve . . . RegimeChangeIran is a great site, so consider supporting him.
3. Finally, while we're in an altruistic mood, Robert Mayer of Publiuspundit sends this:
I have decided to try the path of Michael Totten sans the Middle East. I will be writing pieces from places like Honduras (one of the darkest corners in Latin America), Catalunya (which voted for large autonomy from Spain), The Netherlands (where the government has collapsed over the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair), Switzerland (an overlooked and extremely interesting country), and the Czech Republic (home of the original velvet revolution that people talk so much about). Most of my reporting will be from Latin America and eventually Eastern Europe, someday moving on to other regions.His first post is here. Check it out and if you like it hit his tipjar.
June 21, 2006
The Reasons We're Only Learning About the 500 Shells Now . . .
The announcement by Senator Santorum that the US has uncovered over 500 sarin and mustard gas chemical artillery rounds comes as quite an interesting development and deserves a bit of thought. The obvious question is: why are we only learning of this now?
The details of the revelation itself are telling: Sen. Santorum revealed in his interview with Hugh Hewitt that he first learned of this information some 10 weeks ago, and has been working on getting a sanitized, declassified version of the existence of these shells released since then. He learned via a tip, and after his own efforts came to naught, he implored upon Rep. Hoekstra to do what he could as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Soon enough, a sanitized version of the document in question, describing the shells, was produced. To hear Santorum tell the story, he nearly immediately held a press conference.
Someone has been sitting on this information for awhile. Why? Here are four scenarios:
1. Sources and Methods: The discovery of the shells was kept under wraps because of the sources and methods used to find them. This could mean both technical means or human information. Moreover, the fact of the shells' very existence might have necessitated security. If there are 500, there may be more, and there are many who would like to get their hands on them. I'll be the first to testify that Iraq has more ammunition depots than Texas has barbecue. They may still be in the process of discovery today.
2. CIA = CYA Perhaps the CIA was underplaying the existence of the shells to cover its own poor estimates of Iraq's capabilities? This explanation is less plausible to me. According to Santorum, the report comes from the National Ground Intelligence Center, or NGIC to the military. This is not part of the CIA. Unless I'm mistaken, and I hope a military reader will correct me if so, NGIC is a DoD facility, run and mainly staffed by the Army, but serving all services. If memory serves, Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel regularly train and take classes at NGIC, and much of what they learn there (how to defuse nukes, for a made-for-tv example) is understandably classified. It makes sense that any chemical munitions discovered would be tallied, and probably even examined in the field, by NGIC; NGIC, after all, would be in charge of promulgating procedures for the handling of shells if more were discovered in the future.
On the other hand, the stonewalling of Santorum came from the DNI, John Negroponte. He's the man who runs everything, CIA, NGIC and other DoD intelligence agencies, supposedly. So he is the one to ask about this scenario . . .
3. Covert Action It's always impossible to tell with such things, and absolutely futile to speculate, but there is the chance that some recovered shells have been used in covert action operations by the US. Many people in the world would like to have chemical artillery shells; why not put them up for sale and see who comes a-knockin? Or perhaps there's an underground railroad leading out of Iraq for these things; who's on the other end of it, and was it set up by the former regime, or just entrepreneurs?
I mention these possibilities only because they are worth mentioning. To think though that the US might have conceived of such covert action, and then succeeded in executing it, is to assume a level of competence within our clandestine services that seems unlikely. There's no way to prove or disprove this scenario. And that's all I'll say about that.
They Don't Know What They Know If this scenario is true, someone will be reading the paper in the morning and saying, "Oh yeah . . . I guess chemical artillery rounds kind of are WMD, huh?" The government is large. It is unwieldy. It doesn't always talk to itself. RIght hand, meet the left hand.
Whatever the explanation, it'll get interesting. The key is: did the White House know about them? The answer to that question will go a long way toward figuring out which of the above scenarios might be correct.
April 22, 2006
Mary McCarthy: The Left's CIA Mole
Frequent readers will know that I'm a huge fan of the BBC series MI-5. This latest episode in the US regarding Mary McCarthy's alleged leaking of classified information to press agencies is very reminiscent of one episode of MI-5 in particular, in Season 3. Entitled "Sleeper," it begins with 5 seeking to "activate" a world-renowned chemist, a Nobel winner in fact, who long ago promised he'd be there when needed. The scientist is played brilliantly by Ian McDiarmid (Lord Sidious in another role, of course).
Scientist: [laughing] "Activate me?"It appears that Mary McCarthy might have either sold her own soul to the Democrats, or perhaps merely volunteered it of her own will. Either way, it appears that she serves a higher calling than the US Constitution: it appears she serves only one political party.
Harry Pierce, MI-5 senior officer: "You knew this would happen someday."
S: "Harry! That was . . . 20-odd years ago!"
H: "It was twenty-four years."
S: "That was bravado. When I said yes to you, I didn't take it that seriously."
H: "I did. Young MI-5 officer, you were the first sleeper I recruited."
S: "I never heard from you again!"
H: "We don't contact sleepers until we wake them."
S: "Ahh . . . No, no. Whatever it is you want me to do, no. My life is . . . set."
H: "Nobel prize winner. But did you really deserve it?"
S: "What the hell are you suggesting?"
H: "Your work which won you the Nobel . . . your discovery of the chemcial imbalance between neurons in the brain . . . that basic research came from nerve gas experiments at Port and Down which we made sure you were given."
S: "What . . . are you saying MI-5 manufactured my whole career?"
H: "We opened doors for you, and to your credit you barged right through them. That was the agreement: we'd help you become an expert in your field and if we ever wanted to call on your expertise we would."
S: "What am I Faust? I sold my soul to the devil for my success?"
H: "You sold your soul to your country. What's wrong with that?"
How else to explain both her meteoric rise in the intelligence bureacracy and the size and choice of her political contributions (!!! Jeez -- who knew that intelligence personnel were allowed political contributions. Last week I mentioned that George Marshall refused to vote when an officer in the Army. It appears no such apolitical regimen is required of our spooks.). From entry-level analyst to National Intelligence Officer in only 10 years. One might fervently hope that our civil service rewards excellent performance at such a quick pace, but one would be wrong, I believe. It just ain't so. The only explanation is political hackery of the first order.
And then there's the campaign contributions: perhaps as much as 9500 of Mme. McCarthy's dollars went to Democratic candidates in 2004.
You know I really don't want to accuse the Democrats of "planting" her at the CIA, or seeking her out for favors and advancement. I think it's more likely that she was especially ruthless in making known her political beliefs, and those were rewarded when the time was right, and punished later when Bush came to office. With her 2004 campaign contributions perhaps she hoped to earn a higher position than her likely demoted status under Bush. And when Bush won again, she set out to tarnish his administration, out of spite. That's the narrative which seems most likely to me.
All of this is hair-raising because it really makes one wonder: what the heck are the Chinese, Russians, Saudis, etc able to pull off if our own spooks are up to pranks like this? Who's minding the store while these yahoos have a go at some domestic political intrigue of their own? Seriously, what kind of people get their jollies from trying to maneuver their way into the position of First Assistant Deputy Assistant to the Undersecretary of Whatever, instead of trading espionage blows with the Russkies and ChiComs? If it seems bewildering to you too, I'm at a loss to explain it -- except to say that many years ago, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the CIA's clandestine service, writing under his pseudonym, Edward Shirley, published an article in The Atlantic about his own experiences at Langley, which asked the question, "Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?" The answer is either "no", or that they were playing a quite different game altogether.
In most spy stories -- real or fiction -- top agents are usually rewarded with money, positions of influence, medals, etc. I think it was John Walker who, on the occasion of one of his meetings with his Soviet handler, was told he'd been given the rank of Colonel in the KGB and awarded the Order of Lenin, or some such. Of course he'd never see any of that, but things like that were supposed to make the inside man feel better about his treachery. The same usually occurs in novels as well . . .
Well, Mary McCarthy may not have been promised anything by any official intelligence service or political party for her own treachery (if guilty of course), but she'll certainly receive it nonetheless. As In From the Cold notes via Belmont Club,
Within a few weeks, fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy will take her place in the pantheon of liberal heroes. Democratic politicians, left-leaning pundits and analysts in the drive-by media will hail her "courage" in exposing secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe, and providing that information to the Washington Post. There will almost certainly be a book and movie deal; I'm sure Joe Wilson's literary agent will be in touch, if he hasn't called already. However, timing for those media events will probably depend on whether Ms. McCarthy spends any time in jail for her "disclosures."That's right. She might not be a spy for any single foreign country or other master, but she certainly will be rewarded by the twisted interests of the Left, which seem foreign enough to me.
February 23, 2006
Has war with Iran begun already?
Back in January, I said:
Here's what I expect in the next 12 months.Is it possible that the Iranians have begun their campaign of terror, but with as much deniability as possible? Let's discuss.
-There will be airstrikes upon Iranian facilities by either the US or Israel.
-There will be catastrophic, if not cataclysmic, terror attacks in various parts of the Middle East, sponsored by Iran or its proxies; The Gulf States, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq are potential targets.
I'm not going to make any definitive statements of causality. Either of the above two events may happen before the other. What happens after those two is anyone's guess. But I think they are both coming, and coming faster than we may all expect.
As far as terrorism and its relationship to a state, Iran presents a different set of circumstances than either Iraq or Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's raid on the eastern seaboard on 9/11 was an act of a transnational terror organization with sanctuary within a state. Afghanistan was a totally willing host to Al Qaeda's parasitic organization. Nevertheless, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were still different organizations, with different goals, intents, and motivations, complementary though they might have been.
In Iraq, terror organizations have yet a different relationship with the state. There they exist as something more akin to a cancer, feeding off the ideological and organizational remnants of the Hussein regime, and attacking the host -- the new Iraqi state, founded in the period of 2004-2005.
But what if terrorism is not just a tactic, or an organization separate from its host state? What if instead, terrorism is part and parcel of the state, and not just a tactic, but key to the national security strategy of a state? What if its institutions are not just cooperative with those of a given state, but nearly completely reliant upon it, even to the point of serving as its proxy?
Something akin to this last scenario describes the relationship of Iran to terrorist outfits, whether Hezbollah, its own internal security organizations, or its Pasdaran officers who have made mischief in all parts of the Muslim world at some point or another. Let us then posit that terrorism in some form is an integral part of Iran's foreign policy.
Allow a slilght digression on the nature of terrorism itself. As much as Al Qaeda or its brethren may wish to inflict massive casualties within the West and the US especially, terrorism is just as much about, well, terrorizing a given audience or constituency. That is to say, even though many forms of it might inflict significant casualties, the ultimate goal is influence. It is meant to change minds. When its perpetrators are known, and terror acts are overt, it might be categorized within that type of operation that the West would know as a "show of force." When its origins are not known, or if it is perhaps not even clear that a certain event has a single human agency behind it, then it seeks other forms of influence -- perhaps to change mindsets or affect policy. In some cases, it might even overlap or be confused with covert action, one of the purposes of which is to affect or change policy without any public knowledge of agency or origin.
The US response to 9/11 -- transformation of two states, and an unremitting pursuit of Al Qaeda in all its forms -- would seem to suggest that overt terrorism does not influence the US in a productive manner. Any organization or state that used terror solely for the purpose of a "show of force" would be looking down the business end of the US military's arsenal with little delay. This is not to suggest that spectacular attacks won't be pursued, just that they might now be most useful only for their destructive power.
But the second kind of terrorism -- deniable, covert, and meant to influence -- might take on a whole new importance. These kinds of attacks might be meant to embarrass the West, harrass it, sow discord among its nations, or alternately (and perhaps not simultaneously) unify the Muslim world against it. What might some of these actions look lilke? Well, perhaps "spontaneous" demonstrations in dozens of countries about something published four months previously in an obscure news organ would fit the bill. Or, perhaps a massive terror attack upon a key Shia shrine, which has thus far not been claimed by Al Qaeda in Iraq, could fit into this category as well.
When considered in the light of the long history of Iran with terror, as both its sponsor and its exporter, one wonders if Iran has begun a new campaign in its quest to achieve nuclear power status with no real objection from the rest of the world. Much of the below has been stated in other venues, but consider each of these points afresh:
-the cartoon controversy did not really begin until after the IAEA had referred Iran to the security council.
-the current chairmanship of the IAEA is held by Denmark.
-some of the worst violence was in Syria, a state where the government controls association, and which is allied with Iran.
And as far as the mosque destruction goes:
-no particular group has claimed responsibility.
-conventional wisdom, correct or not, holds that this act has created one of the highest states of tension in Iraq in some time.
Have these acts been effective in influencing the West? The cartoon controversy might have united the West a bit, but it might have united the Muslim world much more. The mosque destruction is a bit too recent to judge.
One wonders though: how does the US public's reaction to the UAE port deal relate to the cartoon riots? One commentator today (can't find the link) mentioned that it is the reaction of the US public to distrust this transaction when they see that their own government was not forthright enough in supporting Denmark.
One can speculate all night on whether the above two acts are related and how. There are other explanations. Coincidence is one of the easiest.
But all of this raises a larger point: when Americans envision war, we imagine large scale military assaults and operations to neutralize targets, not covert and deniable violence on behalf of influencing public attitudes. Yet this blind spot is exactly what Iran excels at performing, and exactly what vexes Secretary Rumsfeld so much as he laments today in the LA Times:
Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we -- our government, the media or our society in general -- have not.I believe our war with Iran has begun.
Consider that violent extremists have established "media relations committees" and have proved to be highly successful at manipulating opinion elites. They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communication to break the collective will of free people.
Strategypage today has a list of "Ten Signs that the United States is about to Bomb Iran." These are things to look for that will indicate an imminent strike by the US, movements of units and materiel and such that intelligence analysts would examine.
Iran is playing quite a different game than us. It seeks a campaign of influence, of which terrorism and rioting might be key components. Iran's campaign needs no top ten signs to detect it. If the period before it was referred to the Security Council might have been called the "diplomatic phase," it is now in the "influence phase," which might last for a long time, and mean no further escalation is necessary. There may be no start or stop, there may be no formal military action, there may be no overt Iranian involvement, but war with Iran will likely look like a series of events, inexplicable and spontaneous, yet which frustrate our aims.
It is a well-crafted strategy really, as it seeks the seams in our defenses. It undermines our cultural assumptions (wars must be declared at a given point, ended at a given point, and fought by uniformed military forces on "battlefields") and even some of our societal organizational seams (media institutions are not part of the governments that fight wars, but are separate, and beheld to different standards).
For those who think I might be some sort of conspiracy nut, consider: a key part of influence is opportunism. I'm not implying that Iran knew the cartoons would be published, or even was behind the Danish imam who first started circulating them. But when you see an opening you seize it. Iran may have had nothing to do with the destruction of the golden mosque, but this doesn't stop Ahmadinejad from fanning the flames of popular emotion by blaming the US or Israel.
Welcome to warfare in the 21st century. What will be next?
UPDATE: Hat-tip to Instapundit for the Strategypage bit. Also, for this piece by Michael Novak:
Naturally, the West is feeling guilty about the cartoons, and chillingly intimidated by the “Muslim reaction”—more exactly, by the contrived, heavily stimulated, long-contained, and deliberately timed demonstrations of focused political outrage against them—while failing to pay serious attention to the truly huge event that started off this week with a great boom.I guess I'm not the only one . . .
That event, I have a hunch, might well be followed by another shocker fairly soon.
For the stakes for Iran—its nuclear future—and for Syria—its safety from within—and for the future of Hamas in Palestine, could scarcely be higher than they are just now. The most organized radical forces are poised to act in great concert. The moment is crucial for their future prospects.
February 21, 2006
"I want hard bastards. I want MI-5."
(dialogue excerpt from Episode 8)
I've finished watching Season 3 of MI-5 and it did not disappoint. MI-5 is consistently one of the best television shows around. It addresses varied aspects of intelligence work, the clandestine lifestyle, morality and national security, and is not afraid to call a spade a spade when face to face with Islamic terror. It is superb.
If Season 3 has a theme, it is of the trials of love while engaged in serving one's country, a cruel mistress indeed. Also, extended ruminations on death are throughout these ten episodes as well. When is it moral for a country to order an assassination? I found the scenario that the show used to be completely justified, but, well, I'm a Marine. Is the lifestyle of a spy compatible at all with a personal love life? When has an agent gone too far in influencing a target? What should one be prohibited from suggesting?
These larger questions are punctuated with bits of technological whimsy -- I'm no computer geek but I think some of the technology mentioned seems a little far-fetched -- but they at no point detract from the plot, as they are ancillary to the more substantial questions above.
There are also a few digs at the Americans ("Most Americans still think the world on the other side of the oceans is empty save for signs saying 'Here be dragons." -- I took no offense at this, but found it amusing.), interservice rivalry (whew! are things really that bad between 5 and 6?), political usage of the agency, and the role of corporations in influencing policy. But none of these made up the substance of plots, and were really sideshows -- maybe even bones thrown by the writers to their political masters at the BBC.
No, this show is a work of art of the highest quality.
One episode contains a chilling exchange between a suspected terror financier -- who hides beneath three-piece suits, flawless English, and legitimate businesses -- and a female agent sent to investigate his motives:
TARGET: [sipping cognac] "American rubbish."I found this exchange to be very compelling because the message was not only delivered by a silver-tongued businessman, speaking to an attractive woman in a $500-a-night hotel suite, but also because its content is not one of Islam, Allah, paradise or fascism. It is only the most cynical nihilism. What a telling scene. For all of our rightful stereotypes of poor Arabs shouting in the streets and brandishing AK-47s, here is another side of Al Qaeda equally dangerous: megalothymia wed only to violent thrill-seeking. Might this derivation of "Islamic" terror be a growiing constituency of Eurabia in the future? I hope not, but suspect so.
AGENT: "You don't like Americans?"
TARGET: "I think no better or worse of them than of anyone else. I did enjoy watching the planes flying into the Twin Towers."
AGENT: "It certainly made the pulse . . . beat a little faster."
AGENT: "The people jumping . . . was awful though."
TARGET: "Can't you imagine the excitement of those young men who had taken over the planes? To do something so . . . devastating, so spectacular . . . "
AGENT: "It almost sounds as though you . . . support Al Qaeda."
TARGET: "No . . . I'm not interested in their ideology. They're a business as well as a terrorist organization."
AGENT: "But they could do something here or back in London that would kill everyone."
TARGET: "Why be so frightened of death, Sophie? Couple kissing down in the lobby. Boy who brought us the drinks. Who would really care if they all vanished tomorrow?"
AGENT: "Well, their families, the people that love them . . ."
TARGET: "Compare their trivial lives to those men who rushed to their deaths on that beautiful morning in New York."
AGENT: "Is that what you enjoy then? Death and destroying people?"
TARGET: "Enjoy? No, not really. But if you don't like death and destruction, I suggest you look away for the next thirty years, because it's inevitable. And millions will perish."
AGENT: "You know, you make money from people who deal in death and destruction. I'm not sure I entirely approve of you."
TARGET: "But there is a part of you that agrees with me, I'm sure."
AGENT: "What makes you think that?"
TARGET: "You're clever. You're a bit lonely. I imagine you've never been able to keep a lover, but you pretend that's through choice. One thing puzzles me though. That lost child at the station.
AGENT: "What about it?"
TARGET: "I saw your face. It wasn't the Sophie Newman who screams at cloakroom attendants.
AGENT: "How do you know about that? . . . [recovers her bearing] I've always had a soft spot for children. That other bitch happened to lose a particularly beautiful scarf of mine."
TARGET: "Shall I have her killed?"
TARGET: "The girl in the cloakroom? Hmm? Come on, Sophie! I thought it was your mission in life not to be bored. Let's see if she's working tonight.
AGENT: "Let's just . . .sit down."
TARGET: "One call to the casino, and one of my men can follow her to her house, kill her, and everybody in it."
AGENT: "Stop it."
TARGET: "Come on, Sophie, you don't find this boring do you? We can listen to her screaming." [Speaks a few sentences in Turkish into his phone] Good. She's working. So how much pain does she deserve for losing your scarf?"
AGENT: "Stop it."
TARGET: [Looks at her, then hangs up phone] "One person. A million people. You or me. It changes nothing in the end. Life is only a dream. And one day, we all wake up from it."
AGENT: "I'd like to believe that when people wake up from it they'll see a kinder face than yours."
TARGET: "Good night, Sophie."
Lest you think that this is the only impression of terrorists that is given, I have to contrast the above depiction of terror's nihilistic side with the portrayal of an influential imam in a London mosque in an episode from Season 2. The imam gives this homily to six would-be suicide bombers in one scene:
"What is it to wear 150 pound American training shoes? To put on jackets with a label from Milan in Italy? What is it to drink alcohol? To go clubbing, and end up fumbling a slut of an English girl in the park at dawn, your mind wrecked with pills? It is nothing but ash in the mouth, the taste of the death of the soul. For the west sells you the illusion of an earthly paradise. This is how the American Jews on Wall Street make their money. But despite all the pressures of the West, gaudy promises in your schools, on the television, the way your British friends behave, you've kept yourselves pure. You've become the West's worst fear: young people they cannot sell to, young people they cannot touch. You know the way to true paradise: through a martyr's death." [ALL, shouting] "Death to America and her allies! Death to the unbelievers! Death to the West!"That episode aired at least a few months before the bus and train bombings in London. Like I said, MI-5 does not shy from asking the difficult questions inherent in strategy, or offending where necessary to ask those questions. If you aren't watching MI-5, why not? I recommend starting with Season 1.
February 18, 2006
The Saddam Tapes and the Intelligence Summit
The Intelligence Summit, a "non-partisan, non-profit, educational forum", is taking place this weekend in the Washington, D.C. environs. Another blogger, Kobayashi Maru
, is there and I just spoke with him on the phone. He had some highlights from this morning's speaker, John Tierney, who discussed the tapes of Saddam Hussein recently released to ABC, and subject of a story on Nightline.
Here are some points Tierney made this morning. Take from them what you will:
-Only 4% of the tapes have been analyzed
-The tapes contain the voices of senior Iraqi scientists, meeting with Saddam. Many of these scientists' identities were completely unknown to UNSCOM. Tierney implied that they were being hidden and were never interviewed in the search for WMD in Iraq.
-References are made on the tapes to "plasma programs" of some kind, which Tierney took to mean that Iraq was attempting to manufacture hydrogen bombs first, rather than more simple nukes.
-It is clear from Saddam's tone of voice, and his laughter on the tapes, that he was supremely confident that he had UNSCOM completely running around in circles and utterly confused insitutionally as to what he was actually doing.
Other speakers in the tapes share the same view.
-Tariq Aziz is not just a diplomat at arm's length on the tapes, but is very highly valued by Saddam. At one point, Saddam tells him that when they win the fight against the Americans, Aziz will write the book about it. (Readers with a sense of irony may enjoy knowing that US troops occupied Aziz's home in the spring of 2003. A detailed account of this may be found in The March Up by Bing West and Ray Smith.)
-Many speakers on the tape punctuate their remarks with references to Allah, God's will, etc etc. Tierney points out that Saddam never stops them, corrects them, or discourages them from using such pious language. This may be meaningless, as such expressions are common in the Arab world. But they seem to speak to the notion that Saddam would never cooperate with Islamists.
-Tierney implies that in one portion of the tape, Tariq Aziz makes the case that a biological weapons attack would be more difficult to blame on Iraq than a nuclear attack. Tierney then mentions that the anthrax attacks in 2001 were in some part blamed on personnel at Fort Detrick.
-Another speaker, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jack Shaw, has restated his case that the Russians helped move Iraqi WMD materials to Syria, and have even helped move some of them back to Iraq, and that many places in Iraq where they might be have still not been thoroughly investigated. He makes the case that the US wants to keep a lid on this in exchange for Russian cooperation with Iran in the future. Shaw also implies that some of these allegations have been corroborated by Ukrainian intelligence agencies.
So that's some highlights from today at the Intelligence Summit. Take what you will from them. Are they true? Who knows? But they're certainly interesting.
Based on my interpretation of the list of speakers at the conference, I think it probably succeeds as a non-partisan forum. Looks like quite a number of different backgrounds and viewpoints are present.
January 19, 2005
Ukraine's Intelligence Services Prevented an Anti-Protest Crackdown
An amazing article in the New York Times: Back Channels: A Crackdown Averted: How Top Spies in Ukraine Changed the Nation's Path.
Throughout the crisis an inside battle was waged by a clique of Ukraine's top intelligence officers, who chose not to follow the plan by President Leonid D. Kuchma's administration to pass power to Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president's chosen successor. Instead, these senior officers, known as the siloviki, worked against it.
The officers funneled information to Mr. Kuchma's rivals, provided security to opposition figures and demonstrations, sent choreographed public signals about their unwillingness to follow the administration's path and engaged in a psychological tug-of-war with state officials to soften responses against the protests.
Ultimately, the intelligence agencies worked - usually in secret, sometimes in public, at times illegally - to block the fraudulent ascension of Mr. Yanukovich, whom several of the generals loathe. Directly and indirectly, their work supported Viktor A. Yushchenko, the Western-oriented candidate who is now the president-elect.