November 20, 2006
Pelosi's Slap At Security
I've written an article for the New York Post arguing that Alcee Hastings poses an incredible security risk as chair of the intelligence committee. You can read it here.
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 31, 2006
Not a great way to identify an anonymous source
An AP article, Marines Prop Up Ailing Local Gov't in Iraq (via the Washington Post), contains this snippet:
"There's been a concerted campaign against government officials that's had some great success ... the government center is nearly devoid of governance," said the top Marine intelligence officer for the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, who asked not to be identified because of security policies for intelligence officers.It's things like this that make me really wonder about some reporters. Unless 3/8 is in an unusual situation, there's probably only one intel officer in the battalion, and definitely not more than a few if more than one. What a way to screw up a source. On the same token, if I was an intel officer in Iraq, I'd avoid the press like the plague itself.
July 13, 2006
The Guns of July Part Two
Assorted thoughts for today about the conflict in the Middle East:
1. All day I thought, you know, there really hasn't been that much activity on the ground yet. Richard Fernandez agrees, writing in a Belmont Club thread:
. . . remember that actual events on the ground are still limited, despite the ominous sounds being generated everywhere. That might be part of the posturing game. Our best bet is to keep watching. We'll know where this goes soon enough.I agree.
2. Strategic Forecasting, in a subscription-only piece (hat-tip to Tigerhawk) has predicted this [emphasis added]:
Given the blockade and what appears to be the shape of the airstrikes, it seems to us at the moment the Israelis are planning to go fairly deep into Lebanon. The logical first step is a move to the Litani River in southern Lebanon. But given the missile attacks on Haifa, they will go farther, not only to attack launcher sites, but to get rid of weapons caches.This means a move deep into the Bekaa Valley, the seat of Hezbollah power and the location of plants and facilities. Such a penetration would leave Israeli forces' left flank open, so a move into Bekaa would likely be accompanied by attacks to the west. It would bring the Israelis close to Beirut again.This is eerily similar to a possible scenario for Israeli action described in an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post[emphasis added here as well]:
This leaves Israel's right flank exposed, and that exposure is to Syria. The Israeli doctrine is that leaving Syrian airpower intact while operating in Lebanon is dangerous. Therefore, Israel must at least be considering using its air force to attack Syrian facilities, unless it gets ironclad assurances the Syrians will not intervene in any way. Conversations are going on between Egypt and Syria, and we suspect this is the subject. But Israel would not necessarily object to the opportunity of eliminating Syrian air power as part of its operation, or if Syria chooses, going even further.
At the same time, Israel does not intend to get bogged down in Lebanon again. It will want to go in, wreak havoc, withdraw. That means it will go deeper and faster, and be more devastating, than if it were planning a long-term occupation. It will go in to liquidate Hezbollah and then leave. True, this is no final solution, but for the Israelis, there are no final solutions.
For some time, the defense establishment has considered the Hizbullah armaments an important enough target to justify preemptive action. Therefore, the removal of the missile threat and the perceived strategic parity that has constrained Israel's reaction to past Hizbullah provocations must be the primary goal of an Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon.
Eliminating the Hizbullah missile threat will allow greater freedom of action against Syria and Iran. The "search and destroy" mode of operation required for capturing and/or destroying the missiles hidden in numerous locations necessitates the use of ground forces. But, of course, even their cautious employment under an aerial umbrella might be costly. To a large extent the success of Israeli actions in Lebanon will be measured by the counting of casualties.
Israel may well capitalize on its missile hunt in Lebanon to expand the goal of the operations. Israeli threats to seriously punish Hizbullah probably mean targeting its leadership. A "gloves off" policy to decapitate Hizbullah could paralyze this terrorist organization for several years. This would clearly signal Israel's determination to deal with terrorist threats and with Iranian proxies.
A further expansion of goals concerns Syria - the channel for Iranian support to Hizbullah. Damascus still hosts the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, despite promising the Americans a few years ago to close their offices.
Israel may enjoy much freedom of action versus Syria because Syria frustrated the American and French attempts to limit it's influence in Lebanon in their quest to restore Lebanon's independence. Washington, in particular, may relish military pressure on a Bashar Assad regime that allows infiltration of insurgents into Iraq from its territory.
Syrian targets could be attacked by an Israel Air Force that could easily suppress the Syrian air defenses and acquire aerial supremacy. Israel may also decide the time is ripe for attacking the Syrian long-range missile infrastructure, whose threat hovers over most of Israel.
3. Michael Ledeen makes this point in an NRO piece:
After a few days of fighting, I would not be surprised to see some new kind of terrorist attack against Israel, or against an American facility in the region. An escalation to chemical weapons, for example, or even the fulfillment of the longstanding Iranian promise to launch something nuclear at Israel. They meant it when they said it, don’t you know?The kidnapping yesterday put the initiative in the hands of Hezbollah. Israel has regained the initiative in this conflict with its rapid and robust response. It's important at this point to differentiate between acts by Hezbollah that regain the initiative yet again at the operational level and acts which escalate the conflict in an attempt to seize the initiative at the strategic level. If Israel conducts airstrikes in Syria, this is an escalation, a strategic enlargement of the conflict. The same is true of Hezbollah acts that involve overt Syrian or Iranian involvement. On the other hand, an Israeli ground incursion into Lebanon does not seem like such an escalation. The same might be said for rocket attacks by Hezbollah. These would be more confined to the existing campaign space, small though it may be.
4. Today, the Intrade prediction market contracts dealing with Iran were extremely active and had high volume. Here's a breakdown:
a) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31SEP06" increased from 5.0 to 10.0, an increase of 100% on volume of 631.
b) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31DEC06" increased from 10.0 to 18.0, an increase of 80%, on volume of 5050.
c) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31March07" increased from 15.0 to 22.0, an increase of 47%, on volume of 8179.
For the uninitiated, these contracts are settled when the event occurs or when the date expires. When a contract is settled, it is either a "yes" and the value goes to 100, or it is a "no" and the value drops to 0. So the "price" level of the contracts currently don't indicate a huge sentiment that airstrikes are imminent, since the prices are mostly closer to 0. But they are worth watching to see how that sentiment changes in the coming days. At least, they are worth watching if you have any belief whatsoever in the wisdom of crowds.
5. Here's a couple of requests for information for you Loyal Readers:
a) What's the range and payload of Israel's Jericho missiles? What would be the most effective use of them if Israel wanted to strike Iran? How many does it have? I researched this once and I think they have between 200 and 300. But I bet there are readers who know better than any quick Google searches I could do.
b) Have there ever been any reports of chemical weapons being shipped to Hezbollah? How credible are those reports? Can Katusha or Fajr rockets hold a chemical payload without destroying it on detonation?
c) Can rocket attacks be countered with counterbattery fire? My guess is that the Katushas can, but that something like the Fajr missiles depend on how close the counterbattery tubes are to the launch sites. Artillery has a much shorter range than rockets do.
d) What's the latest version of Patriots we've sold to Israel? Do they have PAC3s or just PAC2s? There's an order of magnitude of difference in performance.
6. Tigerhawk's big post today was extremely insightful. This is his conclusion:
Iran cannot afford to let Israel decimate Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Israel measures its response to preserve Hezbollah, a wider war can still be avoided. However, if Israel decides that it can no longer allow Hezbollah to attack it from Lebanon, Iran will have to intervene. The question is how? One method might be to increase the pressure on the United States, the external player with the greatest ability to influence Israel. If Iraq's Shiites rise up during the crisis in Lebanon, we will know who is behind them.This is a very compelling argument. Allow some absolutely unadulterated speculation: If Iran's goal is to set the Middle East ablaze in order to give it as much leverage as possible in upcoming trials concerning its nuke program, then an Iraqi uprising seems like a great way to do so. The question is, can they actually accomplish such an uprising? I haven't followed the latest antics of Moqtada Al-Sadr closely enough to know. Readers may disagree. Keep an eye on Muthanna province though, which was turned over to the Iraqi security forces in toto today. That is deep in the heart of Shi'ite Iraq. If there's to be some sort of uprising, it might be one place to look, and the target might not be American and coalition forces, but the Iraqi government.
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 27, 2006
Open Letter to the President of the New York Times
I just sent this email to Scott Heekin-Canedy, President and General Manager of the New York Times:
To: firstname.lastname@example.orgI do not expect a response, but will certainly print any I receive.
Subj: Publication of Classified Material
I am outraged that the New York Times chose to publicize an ongoing intelligence operation on its front page on June 23rd, 2006. By the admission of the story itself, the program to track terrorist financing was legal; it was effective; it was limited; it had no history of ongoing abuse; it was independently audited by an outside board; and it was briefed to members of Congress. What else could one want from a classified program? If the t's weren't crossed and the i's weren't dotted, then I challenge the New York Times to mount some constructive criticism that would have made the program better.
While you consider that, I am contacting the largest institutional shareholders in the New York Times Co and asking them to sell their stakes. I am also contacting the three largest buyers of national advertising and asking them to refrain from buying advertising in your publication. Below is a copy of an email I've just sent to Proctor and Gamble, General Motors, and Time-Warner.
On Friday, June 23rd, 2006, the New York Times published on its front page the details of a classified, legal, and effective program to monitor the financial transactions of terrorist networks. The program is legal and had been briefed to members of Congress. It had no known record of ongoing abuse and is audited by an independent board of auditors.
The decision to out such a government program endangers our national security, with such little benefit to the public as to seriously question the judgment of those who decided to publish the story.
As one of the largest national advertisers in the United States, I’d like to recommend that your firm seriously consider not purchasing advertising in the New York Times. Why invest in a media organization that displays such little respect for the security of the United States?
I write on my own behalf, and not for the government. Thanks very much for your consideration.
I am extremely disappointed that the Times has chosen to endanger our national security in such a blatant fashion, with such little to gain from that recklessness. And to be based in Manhattan as well! Unbelievable! Do the memories of our enemies' intent to take innocent life run so shallow on 43rd Street?
Despite your protestations of serving the public interest, I think your newspaper's decision is disgraceful.
Joshua P. Manchester
Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve
UPDATE: Response received from T. Rowe Price:
Dear Captin [sic] Manchester:Pretty standard, but the first paragraph indicates that they did actually read my email, which is better than I could have hoped for.
Thank you for your e-mail to T. Rowe Price.
We appreciate your taking the time to contact us regarding our
investment association with the New York Times Company. Please be
assured that your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate party
If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please call us
at 1-800-225-5132. Representatives are available Monday through Friday
from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5
Senior Account Services Representative
June 26, 2006
Hit Em Where It Hurts
SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES
It is sad and unfortunate that the New York Times has chosen to publish the classified details of a legal and effective government program meant to secure the Republic from attack. In fact, it is not just sad, it is enraging. In December, I thought that the outing of the NSA wiretapping techniques was in poor form, but there was a case to be made, and it was made by many, many commentators, that the program was operating in a gray area of the law.
But this latest bit of treason is truly outrageous. The program was legal; it was effective; it was not abused; it had independent auditors; and it was briefed to the members of Congress of both parties who Needed To Know.
I've never written about this on the ole blog here before, but there was a period not long ago when I wrote some things that could have been construed as putting sensitive data in the public realm. Shortly thereafter, I received one email -- one -- from a concerned member of the military. He wasn't a government representative, he was just acting on his own. He made a case that what I had written was not a good idea. I disagreed with him, but I felt disgusted and sickened. I immediately removed the post in question. I emailed the other bloggers who had linked to it and discreetly asked them to remove their links. They complied.
The truth is, I was absolutely horrified that I might have done anything at all to endanger ongoing operations. God forbid I should be the officer who burned an op.
Now this is just a blog, and I had only received one email, but that was enough to make me reconsider. But by its own admission, the President of the United States himself asked the New York Times not to reveal the details of how we spy on terrorist financing. And by its own admission, the New York Times blew him off.
Fortunately for all of you who are as shocked as I am, it turns out that the details of how the New York Times finances its own operations are not secret at all. In fact, The New York Times is owned by a public company, known as The New York Times Company, trading as NYT on the New York Stock Exchange.
I just spent a few fruitful moments on Yahoo Finance and discovered some basic information that may be of interest to many of you readers out there. On the major holdings page, we learn that a significant percentage of the New York Times' stock is held by institutions and mutual funds: 83%, quite a large chunk. Those institutions, especially the mutual funds, are in turn owned by none other than many of you Loyal Readers out there. You might want to find out if you own a little piece of the New York Times in your own 401K or IRA. Take a look at the largest mutual fund holders:
FUND, size of holdingHere's the contact info for some of those funds, if you are an investor:
PRICE (T.ROWE) EQUITY INCOME FUND $196,152,500
FIDELITY EQUITY-INCOME II, FUND $133,709,464
PRICE (T.ROWE) MID-CAP VALUE FUND $59,853,088
FIDELITY EQUITY-INCOME FUND $63,835,036
PRICE (T.ROWE) CAPITAL APPRECIATION FUND $53,100,380
VAN KAMPEN SERIES FUND INC.-GLOBAL FRANCHISE FUND $46,467,059
VANGUARD 500 INDEX FUND 1,362,604 $34,487,507
FIDELITY CAPITAL APPRECIATION FUND $37,926,669
FIDELITY PURITAN FUND INC $37,209,406
FIDELITY VALUE FUND $37,118,280
T. Rowe Price: 800-225-5132
Fidelity: 800-FIDELTY [one might ask them what exactly they render "fidelity" to]
Van Kampen: 800-341-2941 (Say "Representative" or press "**0")
If a few dozen investors were to call the these numbers tomorrow and ask if these respectable blue-chip investment firms are going to continue to hold the stock of a company that sells out the security of the United States, my guess is that would register pretty quickly with the management of those firms. Those firms after all, being in the financial services industry, no doubt have a significant presence in Manhattan. And Manhattan after all, is the site of our most ignominious encounter with our sworn enemies -- whom the New York Times has decided to assist.
Now, what else might we find on Yahoo Finance? Returning to the Institutional Holdings page, [here it is again], one can find a list of Institutional investors in NYT as well, though these are probably less responsive to outraged individuals like you and me . . .
Poking around in the New York Times Annual Report does however yield some useful information. On page 2, we learn that 65% of all advertising revenue for the business segment that contains the Gray Lady comes from national advertisers. Hmm. Interesting. A bit further, on page 12, we find this tidbit [emphasis in original]:
Our largest newspaper properties are dependent on national advertising.Later, on page F3, we learn that the same business segment, the News Media Group, earns 95% of the revenue for the entire company. The role of those national advertisers to the viability of the firm is becoming very clear now.
A significant portion of advertising revenues for our largest newspaper properties is from national advertising. As a result, events that affect national advertisers, such as structural changes and challenges to their traditional business models, may change the level of our advertising revenues. Increased consolidation among major national and retail advertisers has depressed, and may continue to depress, the level of our advertising revenue.
Googling "largest national advertisers" led me to this new article in AdAge magazine, which is dated -- what are the odds? -- June 26, 2006, and consists of the 51st annual listing of the 100 largest national advertisers in the United States. If you clickthrough you'll get to a lovely PDF with all the info you could need about national advertising in it.
Let's focus on, say, the 3 largest national advertisers in the United States. Here are their Investor Relations contact numbers. Perhaps a few calls suggesting that they refrain from buying advertising in the New York Times might not be a bad idea:
Proctor and Gamble 800-742-6253
General Motors 313-667-1500
Time Warner 866-INFO-TWX
I'll be calling each of these myself during regular business hours tomorrow.
To reiterate the facts, as reported by the New York Times itself: the program was legal; it was effective; it was briefed to Congress; there were independent auditors; there was no evidence of abuse. These are the facts. I know they're true cause I read them in the New York Times.
If you contact any of the above-listed numbers, feel free to leave a comment here about your experience. Or shoot me an email. I'd like to know how it goes.
UPDATE: Ah yes, one final bit of info. According to the contact page on the New York Times Company corporate site, here are some good people to know:
Catherine MathisThose might come in handy.
Assistant Director, Investor Relations and Online Communications
UPDATE2: As recommended by a commenter, here are the contact methods for the 3 investment companies, and 3 national advertisers listed above. This is actually a much better way to go. I realized this after calling Fidelity. THe poor person on the other end of the line doesn't really know how to react when politely asked if Fidelity might be able to sell its NYT holdings.
T. Rowe Price (Click on the Contact Us link and a popup window will appear)
And the Time-Warner email, as noted here, is "ir" at "timewarner.com.
UPDATE3: Here's what I sent to the financial institutions:
Your firm is a large institutional investor in the New York Times Co (NYT). On Friday, June 23rd, 2006, the New York Times published on its front page the details of a classified, legal, and effective program to monitor the financial transactions of terrorist networks. The program is legal and had been briefed to members of Congress. It had no known record of ongoing abuse and is audited by an independent board of auditors.
The decision to out such a government program endangers our national security, with such little benefit to the public as to seriously question the judgment of those who decided to publish the story.
I’d like to recommend that your firm seriously reconsider its investment in the New York Times Co. Why invest in a media organization that displays such little respect for the security of the United States?
I write on my own behalf, and not for the government. Thanks very much for your consideration.
Joshua P. Manchester
Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve
June 22, 2006
Prairie Pundit Review of Cobra II
Prairie Pundit has posted a review of Cobra II in which he takes the authors to task for several different reasons, namely, its description of the Fedayeen, troop strength debates, and descriptions of intelligence work at the operational level. As they say, read the whole thing, especially if you are considering buying it.
I can personally vouch for one of Prairie Pundit's criticisms:
In fact the Centcom staff and Franks came up with pretty good way of eliminating a large part of the Fedayeen on the way to Baghdad that Trainor and Gordon, again, do not even discuss. The intelligence analyst noticed that the Fedayeen would come back from their attacks and "puddle" around Baath Party headquaters or Iraqi intelligence offices in the towns along the route. Franks told the staff to bomb those buildings when the "puddles" were at their maximum. Reports on these attacks were usually limited to just saying that the building had been destroyed, because we did not want to tip the Fedayeen and let them know why we happened to bomb those building when we did. The authors never discuss this tactic of dealing with the enemy and write as if the Fedayeen survived to start the insurgency.Prairie Pundit is exactly right. Sitting in our ops tents one day in Nasiriyah right after the invasion, I was checking the MEF's Significant Events page, chronologically listing important things that were happening throughout the MEF's battlespace, along with a standard date-time group. At one point, something like this came up on an update:
SOF TM REPORTS 500 FEDAYEEN FIGHTERS CONVERGING ON SOCCER STADIUM IN AD-DIWANIYAH, GC XXXXXXXXAbout half an hour later, this was followed up with this:
SOF CONFIRMS DIWANIYAH SOCCER STADIUM DESTROYED WITH CLUSTER MUNITIONS @ DTG XXXXXXXLater, when my unit moved to Diwaniyah, I had an opportunity to visit the soccer stadium as part of a team sent to find humanitarian projects in the city which my engineer battalion might have been able to perform. Needless to say, the stadium was pretty screwed up (I may even have a picture of that somewhere . . .).
Anyhow, see Prairie Pundit's review for further discussion.
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.
May 8, 2006
General Hayden, Director, Human Intelligence Agency
Two things can be expected from Bush's nomination of General Hayden to be the Director of National Intelligence:
a) During the confirmation hearings, Hayden's role in the NSA wiretapping will be discussed ad infinitum, with lots of posturing by Democrats. Sadly, this will not work in their favor. In the end, they'll either vote for Hayden, angering their own base, or vote against Hayden, showing the country yet again that, "if Al Qaeda makes a phone call to someone in the US" the Democrats don't want to know what is discussed.
b) All of this activity around the NSA wiretapping story will probably cause the larger issue to fade from the spotlight: the CIA is being retooled into an HIA, or Human Intelligence Agency. This is not yet a fait accompli, but it seems that much of the analytical capability of the agency is being transferred over to the Director of National Intelligence, or at least being reproduced there. Whether this is a good thing or not is hard to determine. But it seems to be happening. Perhaps the Bush Administration has decided that rebuilding analysis capabilities in whole or in part is the best way to circumvent the leak-prone CIA: after all, if the place is turned into solely a resource for human intelligence and covert action, its employees will be firmly ensconced around the world, yes? instead of installed in the Beltway's subculture, with Washington Post reporters on speed dial . . .
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.
April 12, 2006
Through the Looking Glass
Austin Bay's piece today about The Quiet War Against Muqtada Sadr has this interesting bit:
Sistani's aides told Iraqi and coalition officers: "Let us deal with Sadr. We know how to handle him and will do so. However, the coalition must not make him a martyr."I have a feeling many more than the Iraqis would understand, just not many Americans. Politics, when not democratic, makes a messy affair.
I left Iraq with the impression that Sistani's plan for handling Sadr would be a python-like squeeze only an Iraqi insider would fully understand.
Two of Alan Furst's historical novels of espionage in World War II contain moments when the soon-to-be agent realizes just what business he is about to become involved in.
The World At Night has this recruitment scene:
"So, what I"m working on." Simic lowered his voice, leaned closer to Casson. "What I'm working on is a nice private Spaniard for the British secret service. A general. An important general, respected. What could he do? What couldn't he do! He could form a guerrilla force to fight against Franco. Then form a military junta and restore the monarchy. Prince Don Juan, pretender to the Spanish throne, who is tonight living in exile in Switzerland, could be returned to Catalonia and proclaimed king. See, Franco took the country back to 1750, but there's plenty of Spaniards who want it to go back to 1250. So the junta would abolish the Falangist party, declare amnesty for the five hundred thousand loyalist fighters in prison in Spain, then declare that Spain's strict neutrality would be maintained for the course of the war. And no German march to Gibraltar."And Night Soldiers contains a similar scene, but for a different master:
Slowly, Casson sorted that out. It had nothing to do with the way he thought about things, and one of the ideas that crossed his mind was a sort of amazement that somewhere there were people who considered the world from this point of view. They had to be on the cold-hearted side to think such things, very close to evil -- a brand-new war in Spain, fresh piles of corpses, how nice. But, on the other hand, he had been reduced to crawling around like an insect hunting for crumbs in the city of his birth. It was the same sort of people behind that -- who else?
The man and the woman at the next table laughed. She began it, he joined in, one of them had said something truly amusing -- the laugh was genuine. You think you know how the world works, Casson thought, but you really don't. These people are the ones who know how it works.
"You understand, do you not," Antipin said, "that they meant for me to kill him."
"If that's his name."
"Why. To create an incident, to make politics, to give their newpapers something to say: bloody-fanged Bolshevik murders local policeman. Yes?"
Khristo though about it for a time. He understood it, but it seemed very strange. Events occurred, newspaper stories were written. That the sequence could be staged -- events made to happen so that stories would be written -- had simply never crossed his mind.
"The murder was an alternative, a second scheme to try in case their first one failed."
Khristo squinted with concentration. The world Antipin was describing seemed obscure and alien, a place to be explained by an astrologer or a magician. Violence he knew, but this was a spider web.
Or maybe such is not confined to non-democratic politics after all . . . Bruce Bawer notes this about the French in his article in the Hudson Review:
All of which makes it even more fascinating to read Timmerman on Chirac’s shabby little demimonde of bribes and bagmen. From the cash stashes in Chirac’s office toilet to the Quai d’Orsay diplomat caught poking through garbage bags outside a Houston home to the classified U.S. and UN data that Chirac, unforgivably, shared with Saddam right up to the invasion of Iraq, Timmerman’s account makes the entire history of Washington scandals from Watergate onward look like a Girl Scout cookie drive. He makes a point that’s actually occurred to me before, too: that the French are so accustomed to their politicians being profoundly cynical and corrupt that they naturally assume all American politicians are like that, too. One recalls the cheers at Cannes for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, that pastiche of falsehood and cheap innuendo; the bitter irony is that the scale of French leaders’ real-life avarice and perfidy dwarfs even the worst of that film’s accusations against their American counterparts.If America's perpetual tale is one of innocence lost, then innocence regained, perhaps we are in the midst of the eye-opening portion of that cycle . . . and once opened, what might our eyes tell us to do?
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.
February 21, 2005
Look for things to start slipping into the press this week about the content of Goss's plan to strengthen the CIA.
Goss will stress, as he did last year, that he wants to get more people overseas, "in the field," including not just clandestine officers but also knowledgeable analysts, one senior administration official said yesterday. His plan will focus on recruiting more officers and analysts who "look, sound and talk like" the groups being spied on, so that they "can have close access and learn plans and intentions," the official added.Meanwhile, here's some background on the new Deputy Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte's second in command, Lieutenant General Michael Hayden.
February 1, 2005
Tinker, Tailor, Green Beret, Spy
Two stories today highlight a "market inefficiency" within the national security apparatus: there is a lack of good human intelligence. The first is by Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, who writes about the CIA in the Washington Post, here: The Wrong Changes for the CIA. Gerecht doubts that Porter Goss is making any needed changes, despite his publicized house-cleaning at the CIA:
So far, all signs show that his CIA will be the CIA of his predecessor: bureaucratically moribund at headquarters and operationally ineffectual in the field. If this were not the case, we would see Goss and the White House announcing plans first to fire, not hire, hundreds of operatives who do not advance the agency's primary counterterrorism mission.Gerecht believes the use of "Non-official cover" operatives is a necessity for success:
This is especially true for the operatives in the Near East division and the counterterrorism center, the two parts of the CIA most responsible for running operations against Islamic extremists. "Inside" officers simply cannot maneuver outside in an effective way. An officially covered case officer posted to Yemen trying to fish in fundamentalist circles would be immediately spotted by the internal security service, to say nothing of fundamentalists. And security concerns since Sept. 11 often seriously restrict the activities of CIA officers based in official U.S. facilities abroad.Gerecht's stated number of a mere dozen NOCs for the Middle East is surprising because he believes so few are needed, and scary, because it means there aren't even a dozen now. Gerecht rightly asks if any sort of long-term after-action analysis of the CIA's past efforts has ever been undertaken:
Meanwhile, nonofficial cover officers working in the Middle East are, according to active-duty case officers, still mostly doing short-term work, flying in and out on brief assignments. Like their NOC colleagues elsewhere in the world, they are usually trapped by business cover that has little relevance to high-priority, dangerous targets.
The agency desperately needs to develop the culture and capacity to mimic the Islamic activist organizations that attract young male militants. Creating such useful counterterrorist front organizations -- Islamic charities and educational foundations -- isn't labor-intensive, but it does take time. A dozen operatives, based at headquarters and as NOCs abroad, would be sufficient. But the clandestine service as currently structured and led would resist designing such a program, let alone trying to attract the people with the right backgrounds to accomplish the task. To go after the Islamic terrorist target in this way -- to wean the CIA from its ever-growing dependence on Middle Eastern intelligence services and stations full of "inside" officers -- would cause a revolt at Langley.
To my knowledge, there has never been a single study of the efficacy of CIA officers deployed against any target during the Cold War. The agency never once sat down and reviewed how and why case officers were stationed abroad. Certain targets would suddenly grow in importance -- Cuba, Iran or Iraq -- and large operational desks would become even larger task forces, all fueled by the assumption that bigger is better. According to active-duty officers, no serious evaluation has so far been done on the world of Islamic extremists, even though the number of officers assigned to this target has grown exponentially.The CIA, in other words, has no metric for judging its own intelligence performance.
Given this weakness on the CIA's part, the Pentagon is making up the difference. The International Herald Tribune notes that the Pentagon now gets to pay informers:
Congress has given the Pentagon important new authority to fight terrorism by authorizing Special Operations forces for the first time to spend money to pay informers and recruit foreign paramilitary soldiers.Given the division of labor that these differences in collection presuppose, it seems that the CIA will continue to concentrate on strategic level information, whereas the role of the Pentagon in gathering intelligence will be more tactically or operationally based.
A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said the new authority was necessary to avoid a repetition of problems encountered in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. During that conflict, Special Operations troops had to wait for the CIA to pay informers and could not always count on timely support, the Pentagon concluded.
Defense Department officials did not call attention to the program even at a briefing last week in which they confirmed news reports about other steps to broaden the military's involvement in intelligence operations. Those include the formation of a new clandestine unit within the Defense Intelligence Agency to work more closely with Special Operations forces in supporting battlefield missions, including counterterrorism operations.
The difference between the two could constitue a seam in information-sharing. How well will each integrate the other's information when formulating analyses or predictions (actually, that's laughable -- the CIA predicts nothing, though any good intelligence analyst is also a futurist by disposition)? Wouldn't much of the small-scale, tactical data that the Special Forces will gather be useful to building a bigger picture at the CIA?
And if the CIA abdicates any role for smaller-scale info gathering -- like cultivating relationships at lower levels in other countries -- the Pentagon cannot cover all the bases. Consider China, a state about whom it is wise to hold a healthy paranoia. There is no Special Forces Group that learns Chinese. And deploying Special Forces in China is, well, rather unlikely. Perhaps this is beyond the scope of the Pentagon program. But who will deploy low-level information gatherers in China? If the current Pentagon program does not contemplate such concerns, one of two things will happen. Either the Pentagon program will grow, or the CIA will take over that task after it has reformed itself.
Does it really matter who is doing the gathering, so long as it does get done, and is shared effectively?