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Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 2002 / 17 Tishrei, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Intelligence? What intelligence? | First of all, to have Congress investigate intelligence failures is like asking the Madame to check her employees for VD. Lots of those failures are the direct responsibility of congressional investigations, hearings, breast-beatings and heavy-breathings that led to congressionally welcomed restrictions, parameters, and guidelines. Let's just take a few, and then move on:

  • The Torricelli Rule, concocted in the Clinton years, according to which CIA was not permitted to have working relationships with people of dubious ethical standing. This utter absurdity (I mean, if CIA can't work with bad guys, why do we need a secret intelligence service? Even a foreign-service officer can talk to nice people) was swallowed whole by Clinton and Deutch;

  • The See No Evil rule, according to which the FBI was not even permitted to clip newspaper articles about openly violent anti-American organizations unless there was evidence they either had, or were planning to, commit a criminal act. This, and other insane restrictions, were swallowed whole by a series of feckless presidents and FBI directors;

  • The Executive Order banning assassinations, first enacted by President Ford and then expanded over the years to make it next to impossible for CIA to talk to anyone likely to kill anyone. In short, penetration of terrorist groups was off limits.

    Any serious investigation of intelligence failures would include scrutiny of Congress's central role. But don't hold your breath.

    Second, the really, really big intelligence failures are not investigated at all, because their causes are political. The three biggies are:

  • Saudi Arabia. How can it be that no one - not a diplomat, not a spook, not anyone, as far as I can tell - noticed that we were dealing with a fanatical regime that was financing a worldwide network of radical schools and mosques that indoctrinated young Muslims to wage jihad against us? Has clientitis gone so far that our people no longer have eyes to see or ears to hear? This is a truly monumental failure, and it requires serious analysis. But our paladins in Congress aren't looking that way;

  • Clinton, Sudan, and Osama bin Laden. Much is being made over the failure to get specific information about bin Laden's plans. Yet Clinton seems to have refused detailed information about bin Laden's years in Sudan. The Sudanese, trying to buy favor with us, offered to monitor bin Laden, report to us on his contacts, get us intelligence on bin Laden's conversations, or even turn him over to us. Clinton was not interested. Some sort of information was turned over to the Bush administration in the fall of 2001, but by then Osama had long since relocated to Afghanistan. Still, if Congress wants to catalogue missed opportunities, it would be worthwhile to look at that material in order to figure out how much damage the Clinton people did to us in this area.

  • Sunnis and Shiites: Until a few months ago, it was taken as gospel by the intelligence community that the branches of Islam were in such conflict it was virtually inconceivable that they could closely cooperate, even on terrorist actions against us. Events like the Iranian (Shiite) weapons ship "Karine A," discovered bringing arms and explosives to the (Sunni) PLO, have caused at least some of our smarter analysts to reconsider.

Let's hope they've learned their lesson and realize that Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are now working together against us. Otherwise our fighting men are likely to encounter some unpleasant surprises in the near future.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, The War Against the Terror Masters. Comment by clicking here.


09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen