Three important national security stories command our attention right now...
1. The nukes that weren't.
Marcy Wheeler and others are looking into a huge
damned story -- ignored, naturally enough, by the mainstream media -- concerning a CIA effort to feed false nuke info to the Iranians. You can read about it in David Swanson's excellent piece
The story is this. The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as "the crown jewels" of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.
It was called Operation Merlin. The idea -- supposedly -- was to goad Iranian scientists into pursuing an unworkable plan. But Swanson implies that this stated goal was not the real
goal. The real goal, he says, was to make the oft-heard allegations of an Iranian nuke program into a reality, thereby justifying the neocon dream of "regime change" in Iran.
Why give Iran flawed plans for a key part of a nuclear weapon? Why fantasize about giving Iran the thing already built (which wouldn't delay Iran's non-existent program much). Because then you can point out that Iran has them. And you won't even be lying, as with forged documents claiming Iraq is buying uranium or hired subcontractors pretending aluminum tubes are for nuclear weapons. With Operation Merlin you can work some real dark magic: You can tell the truth about Iran having what you so desperately want Iran to appear to have.
The more I look into this murky affair, the likelier it seems that the United States was actually trying to give Iran the ability to build nuclear bombs
Marcy's unique reporting on all of this can be found at ExposeFacts
. And -- hot off the presses! -- we now have Norman Solomon's take
in The Consortium.
The tale of Merlin was exposed by journalist James Risen. In 2003, the NYT squelched his account, but three years later, he included a chapter about Operation Merlin in his book State of War
. A former CIA employee named Jeffrey Sterling
is now being tried for providing information to Risen.
There is strong support for Sterling
As Risen documented in his book State of War, Operation Merlin was ill-conceived and dangerous.
In the name of countering nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked promoting it.
The prosecution of Sterling smacks of selective prosecution. General James Cartwright, who reportedly leaked information on far more recent and sensitive counter-proliferation efforts against Iran, has not faced prosecution.
As a whistleblower, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling went through channels to inform staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the ill-conceived and dangerous CIA action known as Operation Merlin. The current effort to prosecute Mr. Sterling, for allegedly providing information about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen, comes 15 years after that CIA operation took place. This prosecution serves no valid purpose.
Once again, this administration has proven itself incredibly (yet selectively) vindictive in its treatment of whistleblowers. We'll be talking about this important matter in greater detail soon, I hope.
2. The terror that wasn't.
In The Intercept,
Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman cast a skeptical eye on the claims the the FBI foiled a plot to attack the US Capitol. This plot seems to be a one-man conspiracy. That one man is a near-friendless 20 year-old video gamer named Christopher Cornell who calls his mother "mommy."
The case against him comes down to a few pro-ISIS tweets and information supplied by an informant looking for leniency in an unrelated case. I have not seen the tweets and thus cannot judge them. Even if we stipulate that this report is accurate, it should be noted that a pro-ISIS tweet, although foolish, is not the same thing a plot to attack the Capitol building.
As for the tale told by the self-interested informant: We've seen this movie before, haven't we?
The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.
This is pre-emptory prosecution: targeting citizens not for their criminal behavior but for their political views. It’s an attempt by the U.S. Government to anticipate who will become a criminal at some point in the future based on their expressed political opinions – not unlike the dystopian premise of Minority Report – and then exploiting the FBI’s vast financial, organizational, and even psychological resources, along with the individuals’ vulnerabilities, to make it happen.3. The "expert" who isn't. This story is hilarious.
Terror "expert" Steve Emerson recently made some outrageous statements on Fox News (where else?), in which he spoke about Muslim-only zones in Europe that are "no-go" for non-Muslims.
Identified as the founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Emerson got specific about this matter: “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones. There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” he said. Prime Minister David Cameron had a strong reaction to the comments: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.”
The backlash against Fox News has been fierce all week, and Emerson’s claim about Birmingham even earns a “Pants-on-Fire” rating from PolitiFact.
I'm not usually a big fan of Mr. Cameron, but I must applaud him for saying what needed to be said in this case. Bravo!
I learned to detest Emerson long, long ago -- well before 9/11, which marked his emergence as an alleged terrorism expert. Some of you will recall the controversy over the 1980 "October Surprise" allegations. This "conspiracy theory" -- once widely discussed, now largely ignored -- actually reached the level of congressional hearings.
The charge was, of course, well-founded; I consider the matter proven. The basic story was verified by a number of important people, including French spy chief Alexandre de Marenches, not long before his death. As I wrote some years ago:
The October Surprise thesis has been confirmed by:
* French intelligence chieftain Alexandre de Marenches
* Former Russian prime minister Sergei V. Stepashin
* Israeli secret agent Ari Ben-Menashe
* Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr
* Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
* Former Israeli prime minister Yitshak Shamir.
I doubt that you could ever have gotten those six guys to agree on anything else. They probably would not have agreed that the sun is hot. But they all said that, to their personal knowledge, the October Surprise thesis describes actual events. After a certain point, we have to consider the matter resolved beyond intelligent debate.
It might be possible to assail the credibility of one or two of those witnesses -- but all
Nevertheless, the October Surprise story is still considered a mere conspiracy theory. Why? Because four people worked assiduously to deep-six the investigation.
One of those guys was a former intelligence agent named "Frank." I won't give the last name because I don't want to get into a pissing match with the guy. (I also don't want to have to dig up the story he wrote, because I lost the clipping ages ago and I can't even recall where the hell it was published. Was it The Village Voice
The second man was a spooked-up former prof named Oswald LeWinter -- and boy, was he
a piece of work!
The third man was an even more flamboyant deception agent named Gunther Russbacher, whose outrageous story about flying George H.W. Bush in an SR71 was believed by very few (although Ross Perot looked into it briefly).
Steve Emerson was the fourth man.
For a good debunking of Emerson's "debunking" of the claim, see this piece
(and this piece
) by the superb Robert Parry. A few days ago, Parry offered some important observations
about the latest Emersonian brouhaha:
That ploy – of palming off his falsehoods on others – is typical of Emerson when he gets caught in a deception. In the early 1990s, when Emerson was riding high as “an award-winning journalist” and took aim at me by falsely claiming that I had lied in a PBS documentary, he responded to my protest to his editors by threatening a lawsuit against me.
Only after I was able to prove that it was Emerson who was lying did he grudgingly back down and blamed one of his researchers for the falsehood.
This all goes back to the October Surprise scandal -- specifically, to some Secret Service records which would have proven the whereabouts of "Poppy" Bush on key dates. Emerson had said in a major piece that Bush had not gone to France for a much-discussed meeting with the Iranians. The documents, if uncensored, would have proven the matter one way or the other.
Unfortunately, Parry's copies of the documents (attained via FOIA) were redacted.
Writing for The New Republic, Emerson claimed that he had received copies of the Secret Service records under a Freedom of Information Act request without any redactions, suggesting that I had lied.
After talking to the Secret Service and being told that Emerson’s records had redactions like everyone else’s – even Congress and federal prosecutors received redacted versions – I challenged Emerson’s account in letters to his editors, including one to CNN where he had been hired as an investigative reporter.
Emerson was subsequently dumped by CNN and I was promptly threatened by one of his law firms with a libel suit for having criticized him in letters to his editors. Apparently, I was supposed to apologize for saying that Emerson was lying when he claimed to have Bush’s unredacted Secret Service records.
After much expensive legal wrangling, Emerson finally admitted that he never received these records. He blamed an assistant, although I don't see how that deflection of responsibility can even be possible.
That should have been the end of Emerson's journalistic career, but there will always be employment for a writer willing to say the things that the Powers That Be want said. And so he embarked on a new path as a professional "terrorism expert," linked to the Likud party and bankrolled by the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife. His documentary "Jihad in America" was broadcast on PBS.
Only gradually did a few brave reporters begin criticizing Emerson and his cozy ties to right-wing Israeli officials, including Israeli intelligence officers. Typically, Emerson would hit back by issuing legal threats from his vast stable of high-priced lawyers.
Emerson’s use of lawyers to bully other journalists, which I had witnessed firsthand, became part of his modus operandi, as Nation reporter Robert I. Friedman discovered in 1995 after criticizing Emerson’s “Jihad in America.”
“Intellectual terrorism seems to be part of Emerson’s standard repertoire,” Friedman wrote. “So is his penchant for papering his critics with threatening lawyers’ letters.”
Friedman also reported that Emerson hosted right-wing Israeli intelligence officials when they were in Washington. “[Yigal] Carmon, who was Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s adviser on terrorism, and [Yoram] Ettinger, who was Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s man in the Israeli Embassy, stay in Emerson’s apartment on their frequent visits to Washington,” Friedman wrote.
Former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky calls Emerson "The Horn" because he trumpets what Mossad tells him to trumpet.
It is said that Emerson's "Birmingham" comment was so ridiculous that he may not be booked on Fox ever again. Where to go now? Well, there's always...Brietbart