Thursday, June 10, 2004

Are spooks haunting the White House?

I'm never quite sure how to assess the work of Michael Ruppert, the former LAPD cop turned anti-CIA muckraker. His politics hardly mirror mine: He considers Dennis Kucinich too conservative! I place his work in the "Read with caution" category.

His latest article, which bears the title "Coup d'Etat," can be filed under "must-read, with extreme caution." Ruppert addresses one of the most under-reported and significant aspects of the current political landscape: The sub rosa war between the neocons attached to the Bush White House and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In Ruppert's view, DCI George Tenet and DDO James Pavitt were "axed" to leave not because of Iraq but because of the Plame investigation, a point verified (we are told) by unnamed sources within the intel community. Ruppert further argues -- and here, frankly, is where he loses me -- that the Niger forgeries, at the heart of l'affaire Plame, were deliberately created by CIA operatives (or former operatives) pursuant to an exquisitely calculated scheme to undermine the Bush administration. The neocons had tried to supplant the CIA with a more pliant spook-house run by civilians at the Pentagon; thus, the Agency men felt constrained to parry.

Is there evidence for this notion? Yes, some, but it is hardly conclusive. Seymour Hersh, in a little-noticed aside, mentioned a rumor (it seems to be no more than a rumor) that a "small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators" had cobbled together the fakes.

The problem with this suggestion: Everyone agrees that the faking was poorly done. Although one should never ascribe an Olympian level of expertise to the lads and lasses of the Company, most observers feel "our" counterfeiters would have taken greater pride in their craft. Even so, it is worth noting that Pavitt ran the clandestine side of the service, and thus would have known these "disgruntled" spooks by name.

It is also worth noting (as Ruppert, alas, does not) that Ahmad Chalabi ran a forgery shop. In fact, his crude fake-makers seem to have whipped up a doozy, connecting hijacker Mohammed Atta with Saddam Hussein. Intriguingly, this bit-o-buncombe was proffered as genuine by known MI6 asset Con Coughlin, the British "journalist" who seems to enjoy guaranteed employment despite a history of dubious stories.

Ruppert finds firmer ground when he notes that the Plame matter seemed ready to recede into the background until Tenet initiated an investigation. Until the DCI set the game into play -- and as you recall, he did so by blowing a very loud whistle -- the story remained one of those things that disappear down the memory hole after progressives snarl for a few days.

Because of Tenet's action, Bush now has hired a lawyer. The man's in trouble.

Capitol Hill Blue -- the publication everyone is talking about these days -- came out with two stories that should have been bombshells, had they not been eclipsed by the orgy of Reaganolatry.

The first article, published on June 3, claims that Bush knew about the Plame leak. The information comes, we are told, from "witnesses" testifying to the grand jury. So far, we don't know how Capitol Hill Blue learned of this testimony. In grand jury proceedings, all parties are sworn to secrecy except for the witnesses themselves. Thus, if the report is accurate, we must conclude that someone with direct personal access to Bush not only gave testimony tending to incriminate the president, but went on to discuss said testimony with reporters.

That's no small matter. And it's hard to think of anyone aside from Tenet, John McLaughlin or James Pavitt who might have had both access and the motivation for a retaliatory strike.

The second article, published on June 4, relays the worries of White House staffers that George Bush's behavior has become "erratic," much like Nixon's at the height of Watergate. His mood swings (we are told) between pious invocations of the deity and bloodthirsty vows to "fuck over" all who dare to cross him.

Taken together, these reports indicate that the man is in serious trouble.

Ruppert goes on to make a complex argument involving Bush holdings in ARAMCO. I won't address that subject, since my main interest at the moment is Plame-gate and the CIA rebellion.

Here's the odd part: The URL of Ruppert's site is He has a rep as a staunch Agency opponent. In what we may call a "previous life," I too was a harsh critic of the CIA. I still recommend that anyone who wants to know that organization's real history can do no better than to consult to works of William Blum, John Stockwell and the like.

And the "war" between Langley and this dangerous administration, I can't help but root for the spooks. The situation reminds me of one of those old Marvel comics where the good guys temporarily team up with Dr. Doom to defeat some ultra-villain who is even worse. Kerry cannot win the election on his own, because the conservative media machine is too formidable. But with a little "undercover" help...who knows?

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