Has Barack Obama made an enemy who can sabotage his presidency?
The presidency of George W. Bush began to unravel when some in high
positions at the Central Intelligence Agency began waging a covert
campaign against him.
It began in the summer of 2003 when officials at the CIA asked the
Justice department to open a criminal investigation into who had
disclosed to columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, wife of
controversial former diplomat Joseph Wilson, worked at the CIA.
The officials knew at the time the Intelligence Identities Protection
Act did not apply to Ms. Plame, who'd been out of the field for more
than five years.
Another blow was struck with the publication in 2004 of the book
"Imperial Hubris" by Michael Scheuer, who'd headed the bin Laden desk
during the Clinton administration. It was harshly critical of the Bush
administration's conduct of the war on terror in general, and the
invasion of Iraq in particular.
Never before had a serving officer been allowed to publish such a book.
The CIA typically slow-rolled and censored books even by retired CIA
"Why did the CIA allow such a controversial book to be published in the
first place?" asked attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in national
security law. "There is simply no question that the CIA could have
prevented the publication of Scheuer's book if it had wanted to do so.
And no court would have sided with him."
Why would some at the CIA want to sabotage President Bush? One motive
might have been to deflect blame for intelligence failures. The CIA
confidently had predicted Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass
destruction. But none were found. The tactical intelligence the CIA
provided to the U.S. military forces invading Iraq proved nearly
worthless. And the CIA was caught flat-footed by the insurgency that
developed several months after Saddam's fall.
There may have been a simpler motive. The novelist Charles McCarry was
a deep cover CIA operative for ten years. "I never met a stupid person
in the agency," he said in a 2004 interview. "Or an assassin. Or a
The CIA's war against President Bush was motivated by ass covering, or
by political partisanship. But with President Obama, it's personal.
Many are furious about his disclosure of explicit details of the
interrogation methods used on some al Qaida bigwigs, and his waffling on whether or not those who employed them will be subject to prosecution.
Others are incensed by his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo
Bay, and to let some of those incarcerated there (17 Chinese Uighurs)
loose in the United States.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held two hush hush meetings with CIA Director
Leon Panetta and Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee last
"Her fear and frustration have apparently given way to panic after word
reached her of the CIA's reaction to the damage she, President Obama and other Democrats have done to the spy agency in the last three months, wrote Jed Babbin, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense.
"Pelosi learned that her actions and those of President
Obama have so damaged CIA morale that the agency's ability to function
could be in danger."
The upshot of the meetings was an unprecedented letter from House
Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex) to Mr. Panetta,
making a quasi-apology. Rep. Reyes asked the CIA director to
"disseminate it to the CIA workforce as soon as possible."
But the CYA nature of the letter, and Mr. Reyes' pledge of more
oversight are unlikely to mollify many at Langley.
Other Western intelligence services regard the Obama administration with contempt and rising concern, an officer of the DGSE, France's military intelligence agency, told my friend Jack Wheeler (the real life Indiana Jones) last week.
"All of us in our little community are worried us, our friends in Berlin, London, Tel Aviv," the DGSE officer told Jack. "It is not like the barbarians at the gates. It is every barbarian horde in the world being told there are no gates."