Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Kenneth R. Timmerman, the New York Times bestselling author of Countdown to Crisis, The French Betrayal of America, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America, and Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. In 2006 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking reporting on Iran ’s nuclear weapons program. He is the author of the new book, Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender.
FP: Kenneth Timmerman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Timmerman: Thanks, Jamie. It’s always a pleasure to appear alongside other founding members of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy.
FP: My pleasure as well.
What inspired you to write this book?
Timmerman: In the beginning were the leaks. I was curious how highly-classified intelligence information was winding up on the front pages of the NY Times and in other leftist media. Two stories, in particular, caught my attention initially: the leak of the CIA “secret prisons,” and the smearing of Ahmad Chalabi, to which I will return below.
I knew quite a bit about both stories, and knew that the way they were being reported was incredibly selective and politically motivated. I wanted to track them back to the source.
What I discovered was a vast, underground network of government officials, former intelligence officers, members of Congress and their staffs, who were in bed with a complacent, anti-Bush media. They were eager to publish anything that did damage to this president, even if it put the lives of our intelligence officers or of our front-line troops in jeopardy.
FP: So tell us about the underground resistance movement against President Bush.
Timmerman: It certainly comes as no surprise to readers of this page to discover that a segment of the Democrat party never accepted the legitimacy of the 2000 presidential election, and sought in every possible way to delegitimize George W. Bush.
What I discovered, however, was that this political “pay-back” went far beyond the realm of domestic politics, and that legions of “shadow warriors” purposefully burrowed into the bureaucracy with the sole purpose of undermining the president and his policies.
The sabotage was so intense, for example, that CIA officers actually stood by and watched as a key moderate Iraqi cleric was hacked to death in front of their eyes on the steps of a Shiite shrine in Najaf by the pro-Iranian radical, Muqtada al-Sadr, in April 2003. The death of Majid al-Khoie, who was brought back to Iraq by the Bush administration just after the overthrow of Saddam, was a tremendous setback to our efforts to help the Iraqi Shiite community to distance itself from Iran and organize itself around moderate, pro-Western leaders.
For the shadow warriors, the failure of the liberation of Iraq was not “collateral damage.” It was the actual goal of their efforts. Within just weeks of the liberation, as I reveal in the book, a retired State Department officer who briefly served in Iraq devised the mantra “Bush lied, people died.” The Left has never tired of repeating it.
FP: Your thoughts on the politicization of intelligence by Senate Democrats?
Timmerman: The end result of the extraordinary cherry-picking of intelligence by Senate Democrats that I describe in detail in the book is to devalue intelligence and to make it suspect.
As you know, I follow events in Iran quite closely. You will not be surprised to learn that I am skeptical of the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concluded with “high confidence” that Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in late 2003.
What I find truly disturbing, however, is the widespread skepticism that has greeted this NIE by ordinary Americans and by intelligence specialists alike. No one trusts the intelligence community to come to an unbiased conclusion any longer. This NIE is far worse than the much disputed October 2002 estimate of Iraqi WMD programs, which failed to properly weigh conflicting information but never recommended a policy to the President or to Congress. (No, Rosie, there was no ‘rush to war.’) This NIE explicitly advocates policy – something the intelligence community is not supposed to do – and gives the impression that the intelligence information it chose to credit was pre-cooked in support of a political conclusion.
FP: Shed some light for us on the shadow warriors at the State Department. How much have they hurt Bush administration policies?
Timmerman: Let me answer with an anecdote I describe in the book. After President Bush was elected to a second term in November 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell called a town meeting at the State Department in Washington . Faced with a sea of Kerry-Edwards stickers in the parking lot, Powell decided to confront the problem head on. “We live in a democracy,” he said. “As Americans, we have to respect the results of elections.” He went on to tell his employees that President Bush had received the most votes of any president in U.S. history, and that they were constitutionally obligated to serve him.
One of Powell’s subordinates, an assistant secretary of state, became increasingly agitated. Once Powell had dismissed everyone, she returned to her office suite, shut the door, and held a mini town meeting of her own. After indignantly recounting Powell’s remarks, she commented: “Well, Senator Kerry receive the second highest number of votes of any presidential candidate in history. If just one state had gone differently, Sen. Kerry would be President Kerry today.” Her staff owed no allegiance to the president of the United States , especially not to policies they knew were wrong, she said. If it was legal, and it would slow down the Bush juggernaut, they should do it, she told them.
Here was an open call to insubordination, and, I might add, it was not an isolated incident. We have heard recently from John Bolton confirmation of another story I tell in the book about Vann Van Diepen, one of the authors of the recent Iran NIE. Van Diepen systematically refused to carry out direct orders from Bolton to enforce non-proliferation sanctions against Iran and North Korea , because he disagreed with the policy.
Scott Carpenter, who had been in charge of the Iran pro-democracy programs at State, recently told the New York Sun that those programs were “dead” because they had been sabotaged by career State Department officials and Democrat political appointees, such as Suzanne Maloney, who now works at Brookings.
Thanks to those efforts, we now have only two policy options when it comes to Iran : acquiesce to an Iranian bomb, or bomb Iran (as French president Sarkozy has said so eloquently). The much better option, which I have advocated in these pages for some time, is to help the people of Iran to overthrow the regime. Thanks to the shadow warriors at State, we no longer have that option.
FP: The war in Iraq is going very successfully now, but for a while there it did go wrong. Where, when and why did it go wrong?
Timmerman: I believe the single most catastrophic decision in the war was made by L. Paul (“Jerry”) Bremer just two days after he arrived in Baghdad in May 2003.
I comment everyone to read this particular chapter of Shadow Warriors. It is entitled, “The Viceroy Cometh,” and it describes how Bremer single-handedly overturned the long-standing strategic plan of the Bush administration to liberate Iraq and hand over power to the Iraqis, without even consulting with the White House. Bremer, who knew nothing about Iraq , decided upon arriving in Baghdad that the Iraqi Governing Council was “unrepresentative” and that he should replace them and rule Iraq directly. His decision single-handedly transformed the liberation of Iraq into an occupation and spawned the insurgency that ultimately cost the lives of more than 3000 U.S. soldiers.
FP: The CIA’s war against Chalabi?
Timmerman: Google the name Ahmed Chalabi and “fraud,” and you get more than 55,000 hits. Google his name plus the word “crook” and you will get more than 12,000 hits. This gives a measure of how successful the effort to smear Ahmad Chalabi’s reputation has been. As I reveal in Shadow Warriors, that effort was spear-headed by the CIA,
Why did the CIA hate Chalabi? It wasn’t because he was an Iranian “agent” (just one of many false accusations made against him). The hatred began in 1996, when Chalabi came to Washington to warn then CIA director John Deutch that a CIA-sponsored coup plot had been penetrated by Saddam Hussein. In short, he had intelligence the CIA did not, and they never forgave him for it. It’s the old story of exposing the Emperor with No Clothes.
The Senate Select committee on intelligence vindicated Chalabi, and the information the Iraqi National Congress supplied to the US intelligence community on Saddam’s WMD programs, in a scathing report released last year. Never heard about that report? Little wonder. The “mainstream” press almost totally ignored it. That is why I reproduce parts of it in Shadow Warriors.
FP: What was the insurrection at the CIA against Porter Goss all about?
Timmerman: Porter Goss was the president’s pick to replace George Tenet, who most famously predicted that building a case against Saddam’s WMD programs was a “slam dunk” and failed to inform the FBI of information the CIA had gathered about the future 9/11 hijackers that could have allowed them to foil the terrorist attacks.
As he was leaving CIA, Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, stacked the decks against Goss, naming Steve Kappes to head the Operations Directorate, making him America’s top spy. Normally, an outgoing director would leave that type of major personnel decision to his successor. This was a key move, because Kappes had been under investigation by Goss’s staff at the House intelligence committee for serious security breaches while at a previous job.
Once Goss came in, as I reveal in Shadow Warriors, Kappes and an Old Boys’ network at CIA fought tooth and nail against Goss, even providing him with false intelligence to take to the White House that subsequently had to be called back. (That particular black op was symptomatic of the type of thing Kappes and his rogue weasels did to undermine Goss, hoping to discredit him with the president and force his removal).
Ultimately, Goss called Kappes’ bluff, and Kappes resigned in November 2004 –but never gave up. In the end, Kappes won, and his allies, who included Judge Lawrence Silberman and the incoming director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, urged the president to get rid of Goss and bring Kappes back.
It was a tremendous victory for the shadow warriors, and a story that has never been told until now.
While the CIA will deny this, Kappes has always been big on “liason” rather than developing unilateral American sources. This willingness to rely on agents controlled by foreign intelligence services can get you in a lot of trouble, especially when “friends” do not always behave as “allies.”
FP: You have a unique angle on the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson saga. Share it with us please.
Timmerman: Valerie Plame has got some explaining to do. In March, she testified under oath before Congress and swore she had “nothing” to do with sending her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, to Niger to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium there.
In fact, Val sent an email to her bosses recommending that they send him on this mission because he “has good relationships with both the [Prime Minster] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.”
I guess she never realized anyone would check her emails, or ask the CIA to declassify them. Oops! Val, you may want to read page 354 of Shadow Warriors before you are next asked to testify…
But rest assured. I have high confidence that Valerie Plame will NOT be hauled before a federal grand jury on perjury charges, as was done to vice president aid Scooter Libby. The Dems do a much better job than this president has done at protecting their own.
FP: Kenneth Timmerman, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Timmerman: My pleasure Jamie.