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Monday, December 09, 2013


Seymour Hersch has a piece up questioning whether the sarin used in those Syrian chemical attacks -- Remember? The ones that almost led to war? -- actually came from Assad's stockpiles. I've been making the same argument for months now, but Hersch has lots of new details.

Hersch does not come down firmly on the "rebels did it" side, but he seems to lean that way. Most of his reportage focuses on the after-action manipulation of intelligence designed to convey the impression that the NSA had found "chatter" blaming Assad's forces. Wise observers called bullshit on that claim from the get-go. After all, if such chatter existed, we'd have heard recordings of the actual voices all over the teevee and internet. Moreover, the administration would not have waited days to make an announcement.

Here's the most important bit from Hersch's piece:
One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’
Sigh. The pattern holds: Right after my attitude toward Obama softens, he does something that indicates that he secretly seeks advice from Dick Cheney.

Hersch even gives the name of a man working with the rebels who might have created these weapons...
An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin’.
Interestingly, both the WP and the New Yorker rejected Sy's article. That means it's good.

Marcy Wheeler does her usual close analysis and deduces that Hersch's source is probably someone who opposed the ascent of CIA Director John Brennan.
But CIA officers and alumni who opposed Brennan’s nomination have long condemned his close ties to the Saudis, even claiming he thwarted investigations of al Qaeda while serving as Riyadh station chief in the 1990s, investigations which might have prevented 9/11. So while it is a subtle point, it is worth noting that Hersh’s sources point to Brennan as the source for the quick conclusion that the Saudis wanted us to reach, that Assad had launched the attack.
Our friend at Suburban Guerilla has this response to the Hersch article:
I have no idea who’s telling the truth in this story. Is Seymour Hersh being manipulated by sources in the intelligence establishment? Is Obama? Or, as Hersh says, did Obama deliberately try to force us into another war?
Well, Susie, that's why we must conduct interviews and study original documentation in order to learn our real history. Once you understand that the CIA's David Atlee Phillips concocted evidence designed to ignite World War III (by pinning the JFK hit on the KGB), then you understand how these things are done.

(That said, Obama may well have been the manipulatEE, not the manipulatOR.)
I'm glad you weighed in on this...I started to follow this story, but the comments were too maddening.
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