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Republished from Random Lengths News

Is Bush’s nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld another scandal just waiting to happen? And why don’t the Democrats seem to care?

Over two decades before the Bush Administration first thought about politicizing intelligence to build a phony case for war against Iraq, Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, played a trailblazing role in politicizing intelligence within the CIA, vastly inflating the threat posed by the Soviet Union, and blaming it for a wide range of terrorism it had nothing to do with. His right hand man was Robert Gates, President Bush’s appointee to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

But Gates did more than politicize intelligence.  His involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, selling weapons to the terrorist-supporting Iranian government to illegally fund the terrorist Nicaraguan Contras—came close to getting him indicted.

As the Independent Counsel, Lawrence Walsh (a life-long Republican), explained in his final report, “The issue was whether Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth.” Just because he declined to indict did not mean he thought that Gates was innocent.

Furthermore, in his book, Firewall: the Iran/Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up, Walsh explained that Gates set up an internal CIA investigation that hindered his criminal investigation. “No longer would we be able to question CIA witnesses while they were fresh,” Walsh wrote. Instead, they had time to get their stories straight.

As for Iran-Contra itself, national security expert Ivan Evland, of the Independent Institute, recently wrote, “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the Iran-Contra affair was worse for the Republic than the Watergate scandal.... the Reagan administration’s evasion of a congressional ban on assisting the Nicaraguan Contras (the Boland Amendment) was a knife in the heart of the greatest power the Congress has under the checks and balances of the Constitution—the power of the purse.”

It gets worse. The arms shipments actually began in 1981—long before the Boland Amendment was passed. A report from Russian intelligence—buried by a “bipartisan” committee in 1993—confirmed long-standing suspicions that the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign struck a secret deal with the Iranian government to not release 52 American hostages it was holding until after the 1980 elections. The secret deal was known as “the October Surprise.”

Gates was part of the Reagan/Bush team—even though he officially worked for the U.S. government, headed by Jimmy Carter. The head of the committee that buried the report was then-Congressman Lee Hamilton, a conservative Democrat from Indiana, who formerly co-chaired the “Independent” 9/11 Commission and now co-chairs the Iraq Study Group.

Politicized Intelligence

Even without the most explosive evidence against him, there’s a strong case against Gates for spinning intelligence.

“Here is a nation that went to war with politicized intelligence,” said former CIA Agent Mel Goodman—a senior Soviet analyst from 1966-1986 who clashed directly with Gates. And now to help clean up the mess, Bush is naming, “someone who was the most important practitioner of politicized intelligence in the history of the CIA,” Goodman stressed, adding, “As Yogi Berra would have said, ‘This is deja-vu all over again.’”

Goodman, is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, and co-author of the book, Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk, one of the earliest warnings of the fiascoes we now face. Now that the neocon plans are in ruins, Goodman said, “There is an attempt now to soften the debate on Iraq,” both with the Gates nomination, and the Iraq Study Group—headed by Hamilton and Bush family crony James Baker, who helped steal the Florida election in 2000.

“This is not a legitimate way to expand the debate,” Goodman told Random Lengths News. “It’s an exercise in damage limitation to save the Bush legacy.”

In 1991 Goodman was one of three former CIA officers who testified against the nomination of Gates as director of the CIA. Congressional Quarterly’s National Security Editor, Jeff Stein, recently wrote, “The charges [Goodman raised] were almost identical to those that would be raised against Bush administration officials, a number of whom held high positions in the Reagan and first Bush administrations — Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney, in particular.”

Deja-vu, indeed.

Also testifying was Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl, tasked in 1981 with preparing an analysis of the Soviet’s alleged string-pulling behind international terrorism. Only it turned out that the Soviets discouraged acts of terrorism, for purely practical reasons.

“We agreed that the Soviets consistently stated, publicly and privately, that they considered international terrorist activities counterproductive and advised groups they supported not to use such tactics,” Ekedahl testified, describing the a broad consensus among the analysts involved. “We had hard evidence to support this conclusion.”

Perhaps if Gates had accepted what his analysts told him then, we might have seen al Qaeda coming years before we finally did. But the ironclad belief in evil states pulling terrorists’ strings persisted even after 9/11, Goodman pointed out. “As Richard Clark tried to tell the White House, these guys operate on their own. Bush never believed it,” Goodman said. Hence, the invasion of Iraq.

Instead, Ekedahl testified, Gates accused the analysts of trying to “stick our finger in the policy maker’s eye.” He helped rewrite the report, to make it more politically correct. Soon afterwards, Ekedahl said, many analysts were “replaced by people new to the subject who insisted on language emphasizing Soviet control of international terrorist activities.”

As senior analysts objected, restructuring was used to minimize their influence, Ekedahl explained. “Casey and Gates used various management tactics to get the line of intelligence they desired and to suppress unwanted intelligence,” she said.

Another example Goodman cited was the alleged Papal assassination plot. Casey wanted a report blaming it on the Soviets. “It was Gates who picked the three people who wrote it. And he told them to write it in secret,” Goodman recounted. Yet, “He [Gates] had testified as late as 1983 that the Soviets had nothing to do with it.” Because of this willingness to do whatever he’s asked, Goodman calls Gates “a windsock,” without any core beliefs. For this reason, labels like “neocon,” or “realist” are both irrelevant and misleading, Goodman stressed.

Gates was eventually confirmed, thanks to behind-the-scenes politicking by another conservative Democrat David Boren, then-Senator from Oklahoma, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee that held the confirmation hearings. “David took it as a personal challenge to get me confirmed,” Gates wrote in his memoirs. But 31 senators voted against Gates—more than had voted against all previous CIA directors combined.

Iran-Contra—Not Enough Evidence to Indict

But Gates was first nominated four years earlier. He withdrew in the face of certain rejection because of his murky involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. At the very least, Gates was terribly negligent during Iran-Contra, and terribly forgetful afterwards.

Two questions were foremost, Walsh recalled in Firewall: “Had Gates falsely denied knowledge of Oliver North’s Contra-support activities? Had Gates falsely postdated his first knowledge of North’s diversion of arms sale proceeds to the Contras?” Walsh had direct testimony from Alan Fiers, who struck a plea bargain, that “he had kept Gates generally informed of his Contra-support activities,” but no records had been found to corroborate his testimony—possibly because the internal investigation had already found and buried them.

Investigative journalist, Robert Parry, who originally broke the Iran-Contra story for AP—only to have the rest of the media ignore it for six months—goes much further than Walsh. He begins with witnesses the committee called, but essentially ignored, without ever seriously investigating their charges. They pointed to active involvement on the Iran side of supplying arms, as well as involvement in supplying arms to Iraq—Iran’s enemy in the Iran-Iraq war at the time. There is a famous photograph of Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1983, but Gates was reportedly a far more significant actor in providing assistance for his regime.

Congressional investigators have far more resources than journalists do, yet Boren’s committee left these questions hanging. Further allegations would be similarly ignored by the 1992-1993 investigation headed up Hamilton.

October Surprise—A Secret Deal to Steal the Election?

Parry had interviewed one of the witnesses against Gates, Ari Ben-Menashe, for PBS Frontline in August 1990. In the interview, Ben-Menashe, who worked for Israeli military intelligence from 1977-87, tied Gates to arms dealings with both Iran and Iraq.

Most chillingly, Parry wrote recently, “Ben-Menashe said Gates joined in meetings between Republicans and senior Iranians in October 1980. Ben-Menashe said he also arranged Gates’s personal help in bringing a suitcase full of cash into Miami in early 1981 to pay off some of the participants in the hostage gambit,” a reference to the October Surprise.

Long written off as a mere “conspiracy theory,” the October Surprise scenario is strongly supported by the fact that arms shipments to Iran began in 1981.” An off-course plane carrying weapons to Iran via Israel was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981.

Official Washington largely ignored the October Surprise until 1992, when Hamilton headed a low-profile investigation that, in Parry’s words, “debunked the charges by adopting an elaborate set of alibis for the key players, particularly the late CIA director William J. Casey.” The alibis lacked crucial corroboration at key points—a fact carefully glossed over by investigators and Beltway journalists alike.

Two days before the report’s official release in early January, 1993, however, a cable came from Moscow. It contained a six-page report responding to an earlier query about any information Soviet intelligence may have had. The Russians confirmed the October Surprise as fact. With Clinton about to be sworn in, and the bipartisan storylines about the report already written, the Russian report was quietly ignored, filed away in a set of boxes where Parry stumbled across it several years later.

According to the report, William Casey, representing the Reagan campaign, “met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership.... in Madrid and Paris.” What’s more, at the October meeting in Paris, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter and former CIA director George Bush also took part,” the report stated.

Why does this so-called “ancient history” matter? Parry put it bluntly: “One risk of putting career intelligence officer Robert Gates in charge of the Defense Department is that he has a secret —and controversia—history that might open him to pressure from foreign operatives, including some living in countries of U.S. military interest, such as Iran and Iraq.”

Because it was buried, the report has never been investigated. But neither has it been refuted. Once again, the Washington establishment is singing the praises of bipartisanship, after a somewhat jarring Democratic victory at the polls. Once again, Hamilton is heading a committee—the Iraq Study Group—that is papering over problems, rather than facing up to them. No one, it seems, wants to take a closer look at disturbing, upsetting facts.

As Mel Goodman said, “This is deja-vu all over again.” Or as philosopher George Santayana put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Originally posted to Paul Rosenberg on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 04:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  hey, I care! (14+ / 0-)

    I care a hell of a lot more about stopping Gates than I do about impeaching Bush at this point.

    Gates is disgrace to the country; we need to freeze out any nomination process until we take control in January.

    No more Reagan-era criminals.  Period.

    CA-50: exile Brian Bilbray from Congress in 2008.

    by thereisnospoon on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 04:57:59 PM PST

  •  Tip Jar: Watch Hegemony In Action! (16+ / 0-)

    That's my tip, folks!  I'm doing a series of diaries on hegemony, and the way that Gates has been recreated as a savior, all his past sins flushed down the memory hole, is a case study in the workings of hegemony.  None of his past misdeeds are the sorts of things you're supposed to discuss in "polite company."

    None of them really happened, you see.  Because they say so.

  •  You and your rhetorical question ... (9+ / 0-)

    ...and your fine Diary.

    Thanks for stripping the skin off him. Because you know it's not going to happen in the hearings. After all, what's a little arms dealing with people we were told were our second-greatest enemies on the planet if it means the ability to finance terrorists behind Congress's back?

  •  It all started when FOX put Ollie North on TV... (6+ / 0-)

    Next thing you know, all these Iran/Contra losers are popping up left and right in our government again.  

    I belong to the LMTFA wing of the Democratic Party.

    by Sam Loomis on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 05:09:06 PM PST

  •  Congress wants to close down early (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, walkshills

    and defer the spending bills to the Dems (so Bush can veto them, I suppose).  The senate wants to go home shortly after they go.  I think the Dems plan to ask him tough questions, but in the end, if the current Republican senate approves him, that's how it goes.  Bush will only replace Rummy with another Bush family loyalist.  It's how the godfather runs his mafia. When did they ever care what we think?

    Winning without Delay.

    by ljm on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 05:42:28 PM PST

    •  Governing Is Just Too Much Trouble (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, peace voter

      It gets in the way of golf.

    •  I pray his confirmation (4+ / 0-)

      waits til the new Congress. Senator-elect (that is sooo sweet) Jim Webb wants to ask him some questions!

      •  Damn Straight! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avila, peace voter, walkshills

        I think there really is a chance that the Dems could refuse to act until next year, precisely because this means so much to Webb.  So we should not assume there's nothing we can do.

        •  Don't know about that ~ I read somewhere (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Avila

          last week that even Democrats were saying his nomination was expected to go forward without much objection.

          But if this is true:

          confirmed long-standing suspicions that the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign struck a secret deal with the Iranian government to not release 52 American hostages it was holding until after the 1980 elections. The secret deal was known as “the October Surprise.”

          is that not treason?  By negotiating such a deal they interfered with Carter's attempts to get the hostages released ~ If any ordinary citizen even talked to those who were holding Americans hostage, they'd still be in jail.

          I hope he is not confirmed, but even if he is not, Bush will simply find another criminal to nominate, or he'll do a recess appointment as he did with Bolton. These people do not believe that laws apply to them. Democrats should fight this nomination fiercely. But will they?

          As for Lee Hamilton and Baker, (and today I learned, Sandra Day O'Connor) supposedly trying to come up with a solution for Iraq, after reading this diary it seems Gates' problems might be on their agenda also.  

          The more I learn the less faith I have in this government. Thanks for another great diary, Paul ~

          •  If it isn't treason for private citizens (0+ / 0-)

            to a) negotiate with a hostile foreign power  b) promise weopons forbidden to them by law and the official policy of the duly elected government  c) arrange for hostages captured by said hostile foreign power in an act of war (the invasion of our embassy - sovereign American soil) to be held longer than otherwise might be the case and d) sabotage official negotiations for the release of said hostages for political and/or financial gain, then treason is a meaningless concept.

  •  he wanted to bomb Nicaragua (7+ / 0-)
    "Records: Gates Advocated Nicaragua Airstrikes"


    Records: Gates Advocated Nicaragua Airstrikes
    Defense secretary nominee took stand while at CIA in '84

    WASHINGTON  |  NOV. 24, 2006 -- In 1984, Robert Gates, then the No. 2 CIA official, advocated U.S. airstrikes against Nicaragua's pro-Cuban government to reverse what he described as an ineffective U.S. strategy to deal with communist advances in Central America, previously classified documents say.

    Gates, President Bush's nominee to be defense secretary, said the United States could no longer justify what he described as "halfhearted" attempts to contain Nicaragua's Sandinista government, according to documents released Friday by the National Security Archive, a private research group.

    In a memo to CIA Director William Casey dated Dec. 14, 1984, Gates said his proposed airstrikes would be designed "to destroy a considerable portion of Nicaragua's military buildup" and be focused on tanks and helicopters.
    He also recommended that the United States prevent delivery to the Sandinistas of such weapons in the future. The administration, he said, should make clear that a U.S. invasion of the country was not contemplated.

    This taken from Ysbee's diary:  Stop Him! Bob Gates Planned Airstrikes of Nicaragua

    Great diary, this one (also Ysbee's).   Thanks for posting it.   This man is a goddamn crook and a warmonger and should NOT be confirmed.

    Not in a million years.

    We need to mobilize to make sure that he is NOT

  •  recommend this, damnit! (6+ / 0-)
    If there's anything we need to make a big stink about in the coming days and weeks, it's THIS.
  •  Dictatorships are picky in who they'll employ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Superpole
  •  I've said it from the start (5+ / 0-)

    in this card game they'd never toss a biggie like that if they didn't have a better bet in hand. This is not a casual choice. Folks, this is the gauntlet. If we don't meet them fighting on this AND win, they will know from the start that it is still business as usual, and ALL the rest is lost.

    all of us are pupils in the eyes of God

    by SassyFrass on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 07:07:47 PM PST

  •  Recycling, Revolving Door (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Catrina

    government.

    Load.

    we're stupid and lazy.

    that's why I give this country another ten years, tops, before it all comes crashing down.

    Egyptian Civilization (pre "modern") = 3,000 year lifespan.

    USA = 200 plus years. that's it.

    "Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice." Spinoza

    by Superpole on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 07:28:34 PM PST

  •  no one cares (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Catrina

    Dems have already signaled they won't fight this. None have the balls to look weak on terrorism. One or two will be allowed to make a speech and then another crooked SOB takes his seat.

    My wife says I'm cynical though...

    Seriously though, I can't hardly find a person that even knows what Iran/Contra was. If only he got an illicit blowjob or employed an undocumented housekeeper.

    •  They Damn Sure Won't Do Anything, UNLESS (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, walkshills, KiaRioGrl79

      we light a fire.

      When was it ever any different?

      •  Grab the matches (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avila, KiaRioGrl79, Catrina

        I should hope, if anyone reads this, it should be Sens. Leahy and Feingold as well as KO.

        Agree that this is a key battle. Enough is enough. Just a straight up list of Gates' transgressions should be on everyone's radar. I remember all those elements; being named head of Texas A&M (with Bush 43's library) was one of the payoffs - in Texas that is a powerful position with respect to research grants and investment funding.

        Thanks for the diary. Good exposition. Let's get this narrative going.

        Illumination is cheap around here.

        by walkshills on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 08:58:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I heard that also ~ I just mentioned it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila

      in my comment above ~ so I don't think you're being cynical, just realistic. But if the people get involved and push Democrats hard, maybe something can be done to stop him ~

      This Bush family truly is a criminal organization. Being optimistic for a moment. Would it not be ironic if this nomination led to re-opening the Iran/Contra investigation and maybe, finally nailing those who are guilty?  Dreaming I know, but how ironic would that be?

    •  Biden has already said he'll support Gates (0+ / 0-)

      "because he isn't Rumsfeld."  Neither was Benedict Arnold.  Hard as it may be to believe now, there may be worse candidates than Rumdum.  If there are, I have complete confidence that W can find em.

  •  The problem Bush has is he (0+ / 0-)

    only puts up cronies for nominations and the only cronies he has are crooked!  I wonder what that says about Bush himself????

  •  I wish the new Congress would hold (0+ / 0-)

    a separate set of Bob Parry hearings. Just set down with Parry and let him testify to all the nasty stuff he's uncovered...which Washington and the media have studiously ignored.

    Excellent diary, Paul. Gates is a lousy nominee, but my sense is that the Dems are going to give him a pass. Sen. Reid all but said so a few weeks back. Sickening, given what a crooked past he has.

  •  so are we gonna fight this or not?? (0+ / 0-)
    Why hasn't there been any kind of an organized effort yet to fight this creep?

    That's what I want to know.

    I wrote about this last night following the lame response to this very diary's original incarnation.

    And here's how I finished it up:


    Gates is one of the crookedest of the crooks, the insider's insider, his fingerprints are on everything from the conspiracy to unseat Jimmy Carter to the El Salvador massacres, to the Iran Contra debacle (with all its attendant illegalities including drug-running), a man who wanted to BOMB NICRAGUA for God's sake!

    This nomination is INSULTING.  To the Democratic Party, and to the counry.

    We're supposed to sit back and let him be confirmed and NOT put up a big fight?

    What does that say about us, if we don't fight him?

    What does it say about our party if our party does not fight him?

    What does it say about our country if we accept him?

    The title of this diary is deliberately provocative.  Because I see a Democratic Party that's a bit drugged with the sweet wine of victory, a Party that has slept in after the big win, a party that's still lounging in bed, sipping the coffee and wondering when they have to get back to work.

    Well the work is here.  It's time to quit hitting the snooze button and get back to fighting.  Because, hell, it may wear you out, but it's all about fighting.  It's no hyperbole to say this is a fight of good against evil, and you can't let that slide.  The evil people don't slither away into the dark just because you won an election.  They don't cry "Uncle", EVER.

    So let's get off our asses and fight this goddamn crook.

    Hello, freshly elected Democrats?  Anybody listening?  

    •  Webb Wants To Fight (0+ / 0-)
      Thanks agsin for your diary.

      I just want to point out that right now, we shouldn't really have to ask for much.  The least the current Democrats can do (or need to do) is refuse to approve Gates, so that Webb can confront him.

      We're always hearing how the Senate is such an exclusive club, and how they defer to one another.  Well, this is one of those rare occassions where that would be a good thing.  So how about it, Senators?

  •  I think it's a mistake to think that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theyrereal

    there's an effort to rescue the Bush legacy.  What's more likely is that there's an on-going effort to cover up behavior that's been undermining the national interests of the United States for several decades.  That is, IF you equate the national interests with the will of the people.

    As Robert Gates said himself, in a speech he delivered in 1999, before he was "parked" at the Bush Presidential Library,

    In short, after Vietnam made the use of American military forces in the third world politically impossible at home for several decades, CIA became the primary instrument of successive Presidents and acted at their direction to maintain a decade's long policy of containment of the Soviet Union - a policy based on the premise that a Soviet Union denied the opportunity to expand influence and power outside its own borders would eventually collapse from its own internal contradictions.

    The Agency's clandestine successes went beyond covert action. We secretly acquired by thievery, scams and trickery an amazing array of Soviet military equipment for the US military to dissect and study that enabled the preparation of countermeasures. CIA stole Soviet weapons manuals, recruited Soviet scientists and engineers as agents who told us about weapons in research and development, and developed many often heroic agents who revealed much about Warsaw Pact plans and capabilities.

    This whole speech makes it clear that Gates' allegiance is to the executive, rather than the people he's supposed to serve.  There's been this subterranean cadre that have run the nation (you could say at the behest of the armaments industries) largely by persuading the people's representatives that foreign relations are the President's prerogative and are not to be questioned in public.

    Of course, the big thing to cover up now is the project to turn Iraq into a giant spy machine, a collection point for satellite and radar intercepts of the world's commercial, industrial and military transmissions.  Under the guise of hunting terrorists, they've created technology that will make it possible to "fight the wars" of the future in cyberspace.  What that means is that instead of boots on the ground and military hardware, "unfriendlies" will be taken out by having their energy and communications systems disrupted.  Which, by the way, explains the N.S.A. warrantless spying--they're not after specific people or information, but trying to determine how best to disrupt enemy communications without disrupting our own.  (If that can't be accomplished, then they'll need laws on the books that justify such a disruption on national security grounds).

    Bush said that Gates was slated to replace Rumsfeld regardless of the outcome of the election.  That may well have been true.  Now that the embassy/spy center in Baghdad is about complete, it may be time to send in the spook to set up all the technical stuff.

    If you'll think back to the investigation of 9/11 and the supposed failure to have accurate data on Iraq's WMD, much was made of the supposed over-reliance on technical data collection systems and the lack of "human intelligence"--i.e. spies on the ground.  And the implication of these admissions was always that this would be changed.  Yet, it hasn't happened.  Indeed, quite the opposite.  Iraq is now stuffed with four major military bases hosting an incredible array of monitoring and tracking equipment and all linked to the "embassy" in Baghdad with a fiber-optic connecting line.  
    When this stuff is all up and running, it will be able to be manned by a skeleton force of 15,000 to 20,000.  But, until then, fully ninety percent of the troops in Iraq are engaged in setting the bases up and the other ten percent are supposed to keep the supply lines open and keep them from being shelled on a daily basis.
    Star wars is not dead.  The plan to control the globe electronically is alive and well and Gates is being sent in to make the final connections.

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