Israel offers settlement freeze in exchange for US spy’s release

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli government officials are considering extending a settlement freeze in Israeli-occupied territories in exchange for the release of an American citizen serving a life sentence for spying on the US for Israel. Laura Rozen over at Politico reports that a representative of the embassy of Israel in Washington DC has denied knowledge of the rumored deal. But according to Israel Army Radio, an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already “unofficially” passed the proposal along to US government officials. If accepted by the White House, the deal would involve the freezing of all new construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in exchange for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, a US Navy intelligence analyst who in 1987 was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying on the US on behalf of Israel. Pollard, who has since been awarded honorary Israeli citizenship, and is considered a hero in Israel, has so far served 25 years in prison. Read more of this post

Documents reveal Bill Clinton’s secret contact with Iran

Mohammad Khatami

M. Khatami

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Two newly declassified high-level documents reveal a short-lived overture between Washington and Tehran, initiated in 1999 by the Bill Clinton administration. The US President resorted to the secret communication with Iran in an attempt to preempt several hawkish policy planners in his administration. The latter pressed for strong American military retaliation against Iran, in response to the latter’s alleged involvement in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. The bombing, which targeted a US Air Force base in the suburbs of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killed 19 and wounded 400 American servicemen and women. By 1999, US intelligence agencies were convinced that the bombing had been financed and orchestrated by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), an independent administrative and paramilitary institution tasked with –among other things– exporting the Iranian Revolution abroad. But the Clinton Administration decided to contact the then newly elected reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and sternly inform him of the evidence against the IRGC. Read more of this post

Analysis: Bush focus on Daily Brief skewed policy decisions

Lieberthal

Lieberthal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A study by a Brookings Institution analyst says the “unprecedented” level of importance given to the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) by George W. Bush skewed his administration’s policy decisions after 9/11 and had negative consequences for the US intelligence community. The PDB arrives at the US President’s desk every morning with highly classified summaries of the latest findings from America’s intelligence community. The importance given to the PDB, whose contents are often highly speculative or unprocessed, varies with Presidents. But Kenneth Lieberthal, former National Security Council staffer in the Bill Clinton administration and senior fellow at Brookings, says the Bush cabinet overwhelmingly relied on the PDB to make policy decisions, which were often based on information that lacked substantial analysis. Read more of this post

US threatened Indonesia with war during 1999 East Timor crisis

William Cohen

William Cohen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Clinton Administration threatened to go to war with Indonesia in 1999, if Jakarta resisted an Australian-led plan to grant independence to what was then Indonesia’s province of East Timor. The revelations were made by former American and Australian military officials quoted in a new book titled The March of Patriots: The Struggle for Modern Australia. According to Pentagon official James Schear and Dr. Ashton Calvert, the late Director of the Australian Foreign Affairs Department, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen met with Indonesia’s President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and Defense Minister General Wiranto, and told them that Washington would retaliate militarily if Jakarta contested the planned deployment of an Australian-led UN force in East Timor. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0047

  • Bin Laden still alive, says terrorism expert. Jere Van Dyk, who is CBS News’ consultant on terrorism, weighs rumors that Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, or even Europe.
  • Sri Lanka authorities claim arrest of LTTE spy commander. Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Division says it arrested the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam intelligence chief on Monday. The LTTE appears to be in shambles, having lost its entire intelligence network.
  • CIA Director praises Bill Clinton during visit. CIA Director Panetta “complimented Mr. Clinton for his understanding of the CIA’s role in intelligence gathering in the post-Cold War era” and praised “the experience and perspective of a man who for eight years worked to defuse those dangers, protect our nation, and share the best of its ideals with the rest of the world”. Panetta was Clinton’s White House aide in the 1990s.

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Judge accuses CIA of fraud in 15-year court case

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 15-year old lawsuit against the CIA unexpectedly resurfaced yesterday, after a US federal judge accused the CIA attorneys of fraud and warned the former and current CIA leadership of serious legal sanctions. US District Judge Royce Lamberth said the CIA misled him on several occasions by falsely claiming that the “state secrets” clause applied to the case, which three consecutive US administrations have tried to bury. The case was filed in 1994 by retired Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Richard A. Horn, who claimed that CIA agents illegally wiretapped his conversations while he was stationed in Burma. It appears that, at the time, the US diplomatic representation in Burma and the CIA station in Rangoon were at loggerheads with the DEA. Read more of this post

Panetta uses Senate hearing to send message to CIA

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Reassuring CIA’s rank-and-file that he does not represent a coup d’état from the “left flank” of the Democratic Party appeared to be at the top of Leon Panetta’s agenda in yesterday’s Senate hearing. Barack Obama’s nominee for the post of CIA Director emphasized that he does not intend to replace officials currently at senior positions in the Agency, including Deputy Director Stephen Kappes, who was favored by CIA hawks to lead the Agency. He also confirmed earlier rumors, reported by intelNews on January 15, that the Obama Administration has no intention to punish CIA officers involved in torturing terrorism detainees. Read more of this post

Former CIA Director stripped of security clearance asked to join panel

John Deutch

John Deutch

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
John M. Deutch was Director of Central Intelligence (CIA) from 1995 to 1996, under US President Bill Clinton. In 1997, the CIA initiated an internal security investigation over Deutch’s handling of classified material and discovered that he routinely stored and worked on hundreds of CIA top-secret files on his unprotected home laptop computer. This was allegedly the same computer that Deutch’s wife and children used to view their email and browse the Internet. Following the results of the CIA investigation, Deutch was stripped of his top-secret security clearances by George Tenet, who in 1996 had succeeded him as DCI. In January 2001, shortly before leaving office, President Clinton pardoned Deutch, sparing him from prosecution by the Justice Department. It has now emerged, however, that the Obama Administration’s new National Intelligence Director, Admiral Dennis Blair, has asked the former DCI to join a National Reconnaissance Office advisory panel on surveillance satellites. President Barack Obama’s CIA Director nominee, Leon Panetta, was asked about this during his Congressional hearing earlier today, but refused to comment before having an opportunity to “sit down and talk with Admiral Blair about just exactly what he had in mind” when he asked Deutch to join the panel.

Confirmed: CIA extraordinary renditions to continue under Panetta

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On January 22, I examined the possibility that Leon Panetta, Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA Director, may favor the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition. The Los Angeles Times has now confirmed that the new US President has authorized the CIA to continue its policy on renditions under Mr. Panetta –a Clinton-era administrator who has publicly come out against the use of torture in interrogations. Extraordinary rendition involves extrajudicial kidnappings of wanted terrorism suspects by CIA or FBI paramilitaries, often abroad, followed by extrajudicial transfers of same suspects to third countries, such as Egypt or Syria, where they are usually tortured. The extracted information is then utilized by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies in their pursuit of the “war on terrorism”. This notorious practice became widespread under the first George W. Bush Administration, but it was first implemented under former US President Bill Clinton. As White House aide to Mr. Clinton at the time, Leon Panetta was reportedly  “a consumer of intelligence at the highest level”. It follows that he must have known about the practice, though he apparently failed to speak out against it. Read more of this post

DNI nominee advocates major overhaul of US intelligence classification rules

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Confirmation hearings for retired US Navy Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair, who is expected to succeed Mike McConnel as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), have already begun on the Hill. Last week, Admiral Blair was questioned by several Senators about the classification system for intelligence records, which is frequently the subject of criticism by open government advocates. In responding, Mr. Blair conceded that “[t]here is a great deal of over-classification, some of [which] is done for the wrong reasons, to try to hide things from the light of day”. His remark prompted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to relay his personal experience, which “is that over and over and over again, we have seen official secrecy used not for national security purposes, but to mislead the public”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Why Did Bush Not Pardon Israeli Spy?

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In his latest article for The Santa Barbara News Press, Robert Eringer, the former FBI counterintelligence agent who now works for Prince Albert II of Monaco, reminds intelligence observers of the case of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard, who has so far served 24 years of a life sentence, was found guilty in 1987 of spying on the US on behalf of Israel, while working as a US Navy intelligence analyst. Since his arrest and conviction, Pollard has been considered something of a national hero in Israel, and an enormous effort has been launched to secure his release. Israeli newspapers, whose articles routinely liken Pollard to Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006,  disclosed earlier this month that a “massive campaign was conducted behind the scenes in Washington to persuade US president George W. Bush to commute Pollard’s sentence”. The effort, which included “tens of thousands of phone calls” that “flooded the White House”, was so enormous that several Israeli insiders considered Pollard’s release almost certain. Pollard remained imprisoned after all, and the question is, why did George W. Bush not succumb to these lobbying pressures? Read article →

Comment: Is CIA Director Nominee a Hypocrite?

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On January 6, I wrote that the President’s nominee for CIA Director, Leon Panetta, draws many of his intellectual positions from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party –most notably in the case of torture, of which he is a strong opponent. It is for this reason that many in the CIA hesitate to embrace Panetta, who is seen as representing “the left flank of the Democratic Party”. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that what passes as “left” in the eyes of the CIA is not necessarily –and should not be– considered “left” in the real world of politics. Leon Panetta’s stance on the practice of extraordinary rendition might be a case in point. Read more of this post

Obama’s choice for DNI ignored Timor massacres

It has emerged that US President Elect Barack Obama intends to nominate retired US Navy Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair to succeed Mike McConnel as Director of National Intelligence (DNI). What most news outlets are not reporting is that in 2000 Blair led a group of Pentagon officials who were determined to maintain close relations with Indonesia’s military establishment, despite its documented involvement in horrendous massacres in East Timor. Read more of this post