Monday, August 16, 2004


CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(2)

Well, I’m behind in getting this section of CIA: Secret Wars posted, with all the excitement in Venezuela.

Note: The unidentified speakers were identified in previous portions of the transcript. If you're coming upon this transcript for the first time, you might want to begin at the beginning, or at least here.

CIA: Secret Wars, Part III-b(2)
"One war begets another"
[The Clinton years - continued]

The first attack on the World Trade Center should have made it clear that neither the CIA nor the FBI was prepared for al-Qaeda. It didn't.

VOICEOVER: February 26, 1993, hardly a month after the arrival of Bill Clinton in the White House, the explosion of a boobytrapped truck parked in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York caused six deaths and around a thousand injured. For the first time in its history, the United States was attacked by terrorists on its own territory. The CIA and the FBI laid the responsibility on each other for the failures of the intelligence services. The FBI wasn’t involved if the operation was developed abroad, which is the preserve of the CIA. On its side, the CIA reminded that it was forbidden to investigate or operate on United States territory.

ALEXANDER HAIG:23 They should have taken that as a warning, that’s clear. Fifteen thousand Americans almost died in that first attack on one of the World Trade Center buildings. Only the poor placement of the explosive charge saved them.

ROBERT STEELE: That first attack was a real warning and they didn’t take it into account.

JOSEPH TRENTO: The war had begun some years ago but nobody wanted to admit it. The first attack on the World Trade Center was a call to vigilance, but nobody paid attention to it. The Muslim extremists had been recruiting in Washington since the Seventies.

WILLIAM COHEN:24 We were naive about the determination of these groups to attack us mortally. We should have proven ourselves a great deal more vigilant than we were.

ROBERT STEELE: After the first attack on the World Trade Center, they seized a whole collection of documents in Arabic concerning the attack, but they didn’t translate even one of those documents. There was only one person who spoke Arabic in the FBI office in New York. In any case, he didn’t want to do it and he didn’t have the money to get it done outside. He didn’t feel like wasting his time translating documents. He considered himself to be too important to do that. Secondly, he didn’t have the wherewithal to pay someone in the private sector to have it translated. Thirdly, he didn’t consider those document to be of much interest.

WILLIAM BLUM:25 The FBI has a tactic, the same for years. They love to conduct surveillance, follow suspects for a long period. Because the longer they observe them, the more they learn about them as to what they’re planning and the better the chance of arresting the greatest number of people. So they prefer to wait, to wait, to wait some more, and in the case of the attack on the World Trade Center in ’93, they undoubtedly waited too long.

ROBERT STEELE: Because the FBI doesn’t understand anything and considers the information not very credible from the very outset –which seems crazy to me, absolutely astonishing. But I don’t say that to clear the CIA, which completely failed in its attempts to infiltrate the worldwide terrorist network. But in the World Trade Center affair, the FBI tossed everything into the air for only one reason: these are bureaucrats. And because it’s a bureaucracy that’s naive and arrogant at the same time, they don’t take anything seriously.

The Ames Affair. As Robert Steele says, “Ames was an alcoholic working in an agency of alcoholics.”

VOICEOVER: But above all it was the Ames affair that was going to escalate the war that the CIA and FBI had engaged in for years. Aldridge Ames, director of the counterespionage service of the CIA, was suspected of having been a mole of the Soviet secret services since ’85. Ames would be responsible for the elimination of 130 agents working for the CIA and the deaths of 10 others executed by the KGB.

ROBERT BAER: Aldridge Ames was a failure. He should never have occupied that post nor should he have ever attained it. They should have stopped him earlier.

ROBERT STEELE: Aldridge Ames was known to be an agent of rare incompetence and an alcoholic who had exceeded all the accepted norms with regard to alcoholism. And the secret services toasted him. Ames was an alcoholic working in an agency of alcoholics. They had put him at the head of the Soviet counterespionage service. A failure, an incompetent and a drunk was responsible for Soviet counterespionage. Pointless after that to try to find the origins of the death of the secret services.

The FBI ferrets out Aldridge Ames and scores a major coup over the CIA

VOICEOVER: The CIA’s internal security conducted an initial investigation without success, and the matter was haphazardly classified as closed. The American government, for which the spy affair was the most serious in the history of the United States, then decided to entrust the investigation to the FBI, which took back the file and unmasked Aldridge Ames several months later. It was a rebuff for the CIA and a resounding victory for the FBI.

JAMES WOOLSEY: We couldn’t find anything and we weren’t really working in direct collaboration with the FBI.

WILLIAM WEBSTER: They managed to do absolutely nothing, examining the same old papers without ending up anywhere. They needed to have ordered an additional step in the investigation.

RICHARD HOLM: And the FBI, which is the only agency that has the right to investigate American citizens within the country, then took back the file. And they ended up nabbing him.

ROBERT BAER: And the FBI moved into the CIA, and that dirty counterespionage affair made all of us potential suspects.

ROBERT GATES: Certainly the relationship between the CIA and FBI had become dreadful, really horrible.

ROBERT BAER: They took the Ames affair as a pretext and declared that there were hundreds of Russian moles inside the CIA and that they were going to drive them all out. And they besieged the CIA.

MILTON BEARDEN: The CIA suffered seriously from it, seriously suffered irreversible damage.

ROBERT BAER: I think the arrest of Ames sounded the deathknell, the death of the CIA, of the CIA as I had known it.

MILTON BEARDEN: At a time when people were saying: “But who still needs the CIA?”, it was 1994, the Cold War had ended and nobody had ever heard of bin-Laden.


23 ALEXANDER HAIG, former Secretary of State (1981-82) [back]

24 WILLIAM COHEN, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton (1997-2001) [back]

25 WILLIAM BLUM, former official in the State Department, author of Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower [back]

Related posts:
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(1) (Beginning, the George H.W. Bush years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(2) (The George H.W. Bush years - continued)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(1) (The Clinton years)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(3) (The Clinton years - continued)
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-c (The George W. Bush years)

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