Tuesday, August 03, 2004


CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-c

With the recent Senate report on intelligence and with the subsequent debate over the reorganization of the intelligence services in the news, this series of posts may be of topical as well as general interest.

William Karel is not well-known in the U.S. In fact, a Google search of his name turns up a plethora of links in French, Dutch, German but very few in English. I discovered him by accident while searching for some CIA-associated names.

Karel is a Swiss documentary filmmaker, and his most recent foray into the news came thanks to his film “Le monde selon Bush”—“The World according to Bush.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter,

When "Fahrenheit 9/11" was selected for the Cannes film festival, another documentary about George W. Bush was waiting in the wings in case Michael Moore's film wasn't ready in time. "The organizers were keen to include our film in the Official Selection but felt it was politically incorrect to have two anti-Bush documentaries at Cannes," says Jean-Francois Lepetit, whose Flach Film produced "Le monde selon Bush."

“The World according to Bush” premiered on French television in June and has been released in French theaters.

But it’s about a previous documentary “CIA: Guerres secrètes” or “CIA: Secret Wars,” produced last year, that I am writing. It’s a three-part film, Part III covering the years from Gulf War I to the lead-up to the Iraq war, the period 1990-2001.  [Note: I haven't yet located a vendor for the film, though it's my understanding that it's available. As soon as I've found one, I'll add the information.]

Karel says of his film,

I had already made a film on the workings of the White House in times of crisis. This time I wanted to try to do the same, but about the true power of the CIA. Meeting with the higher-ups of the Agency, but also the men on the ground—those who dreamed of being new James Bonds but who were left only a dirty job for little money. These CIA agents are neither naive nor choirboys.

Yet they were willing to talk.... They talk because they have scores to settle—with their predecessors, with their successors. [my translation]

And Karel describes his approach as—

Knitting together a story with several voices. Leaving the words of the witnesses to make the point. Almost no commentary, a few facts required to understand the subject.

“CIA: Secret Wars” was shown on French television, the Arte channel, in 2003. De defensa, a French journal of political analysis, considers the film to be so outstanding that it has published a transcript of Part III of the film, of which it says,

This documentary is remarkable for its rhythm, its profusion of circumstances, of connections, of established facts that paint a picture that captures the state of power in the USA, of its vertiginous decadence, of its corruption that is as much psychological as venal. We think the transcript brings its effect back to life.

Another aspect that stands out in the document is the feeling of the extraordinary depth of the crisis in the US intelligence services, primarily the CIA, essentially because of the treatment to which they have been made to submit and to which they are being made to submit by Presidents Clinton and GW Bush. This is an unprecedented factor: everybody knows that the CIA is in crisis, but what is brought out here is that it may be a matter of a mortal crisis, notably stemming from a complete rupture—at the level of activities and of confidence—between the CIA and the political authorities. [my translation]

I chose to divide the transcript into three parts, and I've translated and presented the last of the parts first. This section deals with the period from George Jr.'s ascension to the Presidency. There is material in the other sections that is, if anything, even more gripping. And I will try to get them posted in the next few days.

In the meanwhile, this post remains, so far as I know, the only English version available of this document. Enjoy.

Warning: I am not a French-to-English translator by trade. In addition, I have the odd task of translating language that was originally uttered in English, then rendered into French, back into English. It’s a little like the children’s game of Gossip in which a child passes a "secret" to another child, who passes it to still another, until the “secret” returns to the first child. There is inevitably some distortion.

To anyone more versed in French than I: You are welcome to comment or to write me with suggestions for corrections or other edits. They will be promptly noted in the text.

VOICEOVER: With the presidential election of 2000, George Bush Junior, governor of Texas, contrary to all expectations, goes on to win the race to the White House by the skin of his teeth. His opponent, Vice-President Gore, yields the ballot in order not to discredit the American electoral system.

WILLIAM QUANDT [National Security Advisor]: Bush rejects everything that is complex, all the nuances, and he ends up convincing people here and abroad that he is poorly informed.

STANSFIELD TURNER [CIA Director 1978-81]: I don’t believe he had enough of the necessary experience in foreign policy to assume this responsibility by himself, nor that he had the intellectual capacity to do it.

WILLIAM QUANDT: His inexperience, and I would say his lack of seriousness when faced with the complexity of foreign policy prompts him to simplify everything.

ROBERT STEELE [CIA - Operations]: When you have as a President a mediocre student who knows very little about the problems of the planet, you have every chance to run into a disaster.

GEORGE W. BUSH, JR. (public speech): And I want to thank my father -- the most decent man I have ever known. All my life I have been amazed that a gentle soul could be so strong. And Dad, I want you to know how proud I am to be your son. [August 3, 2000. Nomination acceptance speech.]

VOICEOVER: George Bush Sr., before becoming director of the CIA and then President of the United States, had created in 1960 the Zapata Company, an oil company, tiny but one that had obtained the right to exploit the drilling fields in Kuwait. George Bush Sr.’s fortune was made. His son had followed his advice and founded in ’79 his own petroleum company in Texas—Arbusto Energy—which was catastrophically managed and which was saved from failure by Selim bin-Laden, the half-brother of Osama, who repurchased for a high price a large portion of the shares. The bin-Laden family was already owner of the Houston airport in Texas. Before being elected governor, George Bush Jr. received $120,000 from the petroleum group Arken Energy for the position of consultant. A quarter of the company belonged to the Saudis, and the company attorney was Secretary James Baker, former Secretary of State to Bush Sr.

JOSEPH TRENTO [Historian]: Listen. George Bush Sr., the former President, clearly said that our strategic interest was to wage war against Saddam. What does that mean? The only strategic interest we have in the Gulf is oil.

JAMES SCHLESINGER [CIA Director 1973]: Secretary of State Baker said, "It can be said in one word—oil"

VOICEOVER: George W. Bush (Sr.) ended up making a fortune by selling all his shares for one billion dollars. Two months later, Iraq invaded Kuwait. An investigation—opened to determine if there had been insider-trading by Bush, then President of the United States—was dropped.

JOSEPH TRENTO: You have the President of the United States [and] his father, the former President and Vice-President of the United States, all of whom have made their fortune in the oil business solely thanks to their relations with the [Saudi] royal family.

ROBERT STEELE: The people don’t know that the government that they trust to stamp out crime is in fact directly linked to the criminals.

JOSEPH TRENTO: I can assure you that there never would have been negotiations with the Taliban if Enron hadn’t demanded it and if they hadn’t largely financed Bush’s campaign.

ROBERT BAER [CIA – Special Operations]: Realizing the way this government does business, I end up missing the Clinton era. These people are crazy.

ROBERT STEELE: The Bush family enjoys solid relations with the criminals. Dick Cheney also has ties with the criminals. It’s a veritable Mafia.

VOICEOVER: In 1989, George Bush Jr. took the post of advisor to the management of the Carlyle Group, a position that he retained until ’94 without ever declaring his income. This gigantic enterprise works primarily in the defense sector: missiles, planes, tanks. $16 billion in assets. George Bush Sr. is always a mainstay of Carlyle. The board of directors is composed of a network of powerful men in the foreground [who are] capable of influencing any and all political decision-makers. Each partner holds $200 million in capital. The Carlyle Group is led by Frank Carlucci—former Deputy Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense under Reagan. The day after his election, George Bush Jr. signed an arms contract with the Carlyle Group of $12 billion that concerned a new artillery system, contrary to the opinion of all Pentagon experts, who deemed it completely inappropriate.

ROBERT STEELE: The Carlyle Group probably has direct access to everything the CIA knows about the rest of the world.

JOSEPH TRENTO: No one to account to, no shareholders; it serves as a cover for a very effective intelligence service. When you’re facing Frank Carlucci, you’re at the heart of the American government.

ROBERT STEELE: Carlucci can call anyone he wants to at the CIA and talk to him as an equal.

JOSEPH TRENTO: His wife Marsha worked in a large accounting firm. Her job consisted of hiding the secret budget of the CIA inside the budget of the Department of Defense. Everything was kept in the family.

FRANK CARLUCCI: There are numerous accusations concerning our so-called “political enterprise” but nobody can cite the slightest example of political pressure in which we would have been implicated, nor any occasion whatsoever where we would have attempted to use our influence. We don’t try to exercise political influence; we buy and sell businesses—that’s how we earn our money.

[Carlucci acknowledges here “our influence.” Truly remarkable, isn’t it, that someone with all that influence would not use it.]

JOSEPH TRENTO: They went on to some secret operations, they laundered dirty money through an intermediary of the Carlyle Group. George Bush is associated with the affair. Even Colin Powell took part in it.

FRANK CARLUCCI: James Baker, John Major, Arthur Lewit, yes, these are the personalities recognized in the forefront. But these people have a talent for business and so they do business.

ROBERT STEELE: And I find it would be interesting if the public would look a little more closely at where their money comes from.

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD [French intelligence]: The Carlyle Group is very well established in Saudi Arabia, of course, and it is thought that the bin-Laden family, for example, and the investors in the Carlyle funds in London have very strong ties and that has undoubtedly been one of the driving forces of that privileged relationship that has been able to tie together the United States and Saudi Arabia, particularly the Bush family.

FRANK CARLUCCI: It was a matter of a very modest investment, one or two million, I believe. We have recouped our funds, and we have of course ceased to do business with bin-Laden, obviously.

VOICEOVER: Since his entry into the White House, George W. Bush was warned by the CIA—Bin-Laden now directly threatens the United States. Two months later, in March 2001, a government commission published a 150-page report that ends with these words: “A direct assault against American citizens on American soil causing death and destruction appears likely. Against this threat, our nation has no coherent governmental structure.”

ROBERT GATES: Several of us were saying since the middle of the 90s that terrorists were very likely going to use weapons of mass destruction on the soil of the United States and that we needed to prepare for it. Several commissions had underlined that a fearsome, large-scale terrorist attack was going to happen. It was practically inevitable.

STANSFIELD TURNER: The CIA was shouting “The United States is going to be attacked own its own territory.”

PETER EARNEST [CIA operations officer, analyst]: They were receiving an enormous quantity of information about the terrorist threats, about the terrorists’ plans, about the fact that something was going to happen, something very important

ROBERT GATES [CIA Director 1991-93]: After all, and without speaking of the attempt on the World Trade Center in ’93, they were thinking that there were going to be other attacks in New York. There was that plot to cause 12 airliners to crash in ’95, another [plot] at the same time that anticipated an airplane crash into CIA headquarters, and the anticipated attack against the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the year 2000.

PETER EARNEST: There had been a plan to attack CIA headquarters at Langley and of course all those threats regularly launched at the White House and the Capitol. Someone is going to show up behind the steering wheel of a vehicle and attempt an attack.

DALE WATSON [Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division]: We were absolutely persuaded that America was going to be attacked. We weighed the gravity of the situation and we prepared ourselves against that.

ROBERT GATES: Unfortunately, all the politicians who agreed with us, with an understanding look, did nothing.

JAMES WOOLSEY [CIA Director 1993-1996]: The whole country was in fact slow to act.

VOICEOVER: Despite the threats that were increasingly precise, the battle in which the CIA and the FBI had indulged themselves does not end. The rivalries and the withholding of intelligence continue. The head of the FBI warns his agents: “You don’t share any information with the CIA.”

STANSFIELD TURNER: Apparently, several errors were committed, such as the lack of intelligence exchange between the [intelligence] services and the rest.

WILLIAM WEBSTER [CIA Director 1987-89, FBI Director 1978-87]: It wasn’t a matter of keeping the intelligence secret, we didn’t have the necessary means to transmit it to the CIA.

ROBERT STEELE: They don’t communicate between themselves, their computers aren’t linked to each other, their agents don’t train together, they refuse to work together.

WILLIAM QUANDT: When they receive any information, each service has a tendency to keep it for itself. They never trust each other.

WILLIAM COHEN: It isn’t a matter of fighting each other. Each agency has a different mission, a different mentality.

DUANE CLARRIDGE [CIA-Director of the Counterterrorist Center 1986-89]: It was war, but a war that extended throughout the domain of counterespionnage.

VOICEOVER: In February 2001, Israel warns the CIA: Terrorists are going to pirate one or two airlines and use them as weapons. King Abdullah of Jordan, President Mubarak, then Chancellor Gerhard Schroder transmit the same information to the Pentagon: An attack on American soil will take place shortly in which airplanes would be involved.

JAMES WOOLSEY: For years the Islamic extremists were training to hijack an airline in an old downed plane that we could observe in our satellite photos. They trained in small groups of four or five to take control of the plane using iddy-biddy knives.

ROBERT BAER: In ’98 I sent an email to the CIA about Raledchek Mohamed concerning airplane hijackings and some aliases that he would be using when he traveled in Europe. I never received a reply.

PETER EARNEST: Several people from Arab countries were taking pilot training but they declared they weren’t interested in learning to land—details that would have merited additional investigation.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: You can imagine a guy considered competent to pilot an airplane saying to his instructor: “I’d just like to know how you turn left and right.” Really!

ROBERT STEELE: They received several indicators that weren’t seriously examined. A young man landed in the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, a year before September 11 and warned the FBI. He had been informed of a plan that airplanes were going to be used to crash into the World Trade Center. The FBI couldn’t verify any element of the story, but instead of taking it seriously, of trying to understand what they didn’t know, of discovering what the CIA didn’t want to tell them, they discounted it.

WILLIAM BLUM: They must have thought that the air pirates planned a run-of-the-mill airplane hijacking with hostage-taking and demands. They probably didn’t know that they planned to use the airplane as a bomb, missile. So they preferred to wait, and they waited until it was too late.

ROBERT BAER: That’s just the way it was with the intelligence on Zaccharia Moussawi.

JOSEPH TRENTO: On August 24, the French Secret Service, the DST, sent a document to the FBI representative in Paris that proved that Moussawi had links with al Qaeda.

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD: The intelligence [we] sent—we know now—was, in spite of everything, relatively precise, notably regarding the fact that Moussawi was trained in Afghanistan, in this camp controlled by bin-Laden. Likewise we knew that he had relationships in Europe with the leaders or members of al Qaeda, whom we had named, whom we had pointed out to the United States.

JOSEPH TRENTO: You can believe that that document never reached the FBI agents in Minneapolis where Moussawi was located. They not only prevented the intelligence that was gathered [by the French] to rise to the leadership of the FBI, but the leadership itself refused to pass on their own intelligence.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: The FBI person in charge in Minneapolis is a kind of prince, a little king, a baron. He only lets reach headquarters in Washington what he jolly well wants.

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD: The FBI decided at some point or other that the items passed on by the French concerning Moussawi were not enough to prompt additional investigation—and especially wiretaps.

ROBERT BAER: The French had had the information passed on to the United States, but the Americans responded, “We’re not interested.” They didn’t tap his telephone or search his computer. They never listen.

JOSEPH TRENTO: Everybody wails, “It’s the FBI’s fault, it’s the CIA’s fault.” But when you have the whole Presidential team telling you, “Don’t dig too deep; you don’t want to know what’s down there. We don’t want problems. We don’t want to hear about it. The Saudis are our friends.” What do you want the agents of the intelligence services to do?

DUANE CLARRIDGE: The biggest mistake, the real mistake was not to have authorized the CIA to go investigate inside Saudi Arabia.

ROBERT STEELE: They said to us: “The Saudis are our friends and we don’t spy on our friends.”

JOSEPH TRENTO: The king had the message passed: “I don’t want to know.” I’m speaking about the king George W. Bush or about the advisor to the king, Dick Cheney. But in truth they didn’t let the intelligence services do their job.

ROBERT BAER: Maybe--and I emphasize “maybe”--if they had let the CIA do its job right, we could have prevented September 11.

VOICEOVER: ROBERT BAER, 5 years after having slammed the door on the CIA, decides on his own to renew contact with the groups that he infiltrated and to gather intelligence on the operation being prepared.

ROBERT BAER: I had become close with a group of dissidents in the Gulf who were current on those plans. When I resigned and didn’t take my retirement, I left for Beirut and once there, these people warned me: “Raledchek Mohamed is getting ready to hijack airplanes.” This was the former cell of Ramsey Yousef, who had already bombed the World Trade Center.

STANSFIELD TURNER: From the month of August 2001 on, he warns the President: “We’re going to have a terrorist attack within the United States.”

ROBERT BAER: I knew that the CIA wouldn’t listen to me. They had decided that nothing would happen. That’s the way they work. These are bureaucrats. They refuse to listen to someone who comes from outside.

ROBERT STEELE: We should have seriously examined all those documents and realized that they were starting up again, but this time with a plan on a much grander scale.

RICHARD KERR: Whether it was the fault of the FBI or of the CIA—you can accuse whom you wish—what is certain is that nothing was done right in the center.

ROBERT STEELE: You know, to give all the resources over to the incompetents is like pouring oil on the fire. That’s what happened.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: Everybody talks about it [9/11] as if [it were] an extraordinary operation. “My God, these people are geniuses, such a complex operation.” That’s completely absurd. That was done by a handful of crazies.

RICHARD HOLM: But we couldn’t imagine that they were capable of it, that so many people were ready to kill themselves, to set up such a structure.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: We were completely left by the road.

VOICEOVER: September 11, 2001, George W. Bush, who has just taken 5 weeks of vacation on his ranch in Texas, does his morning in Florida. His brother, governor of the State, has invited him to begin his crusade for education here; the President chats with the journalists. In an hour, he’s going to visit a school in Sarasota. At 8:47, as the President chats with the students, his advisor receives a call.


ROBERT STEELE: They have never succeeded in finding bin-Laden. All those ridiculous declarations of the President of the type: “Bring him to me dead or alive”—that was worthy of a Texas cowboy. Our military doesn’t have the means to do it, particularly because of the uselessness of the American secret services. We have never been effective on this terrain. So Saddam Hussein is going to pay because bin-Laden escaped us. They would never have attacked him if everything hadn’t failed.

WILLIAM QUANDT: There is no link between the two, and the government knows it.

GEORGE W. BUSH (public speech): On September 11, 2001, the American people saw what terrorists could do using four airplanes as combat weapons. We are not going to wait and see if some terrorists, or terrorist states, are capable of using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein is going to try to play one last hand, tossing out a new string of lies, of denials, attempting a sucker’s game at the last hour, but the party’s over.

WILLIAM QUANDT: Bush talks about the War on Terror, about the Axis of Evil or about Saddam Hussein as a new Hitler.

JOSEPH TRENTO: Bush repeats everywhere: “He’s the incarnation of evil, he’s evil, we have to get rid of him.” Yet in the 80s he was one of our best friends. President Reagan even sent his personal physician to Baghdad to treat him for his back pains. And suddenly he isn’t our friend any more. Who are we going to put in his place?

WILLIAM QUANDT: We will discover another face of George Bush when his inexperience becomes more evident. This rush to start a war with Iraq is anything but rational. The President ceaselessly changes the explanation. One day he’s invoking the threat of nuclear weapons; the next day he’s betting on a terrorist threat; the following day it’s a matter of defending the United Nations, and the day after he insists that Iraq is going to attack us if we don’t act. I think he’s—I’d say—manipulated by certain of his advisors.

ROBERT STEELE: He’s in the hands of a group of the extreme right. Moreover, this group is so extremist that he places their own analyses first and substitutes them for those of the CIA These people nourish him in the proper meaning of the term; they make him swallow what they want instead of furnishing him the intelligence he needs to act as President.

WILLIAM QUANDT: He thinks that if the United States overthrows Saddam’s regime to replace it with a friendly regime, and makes itself more or less officially at home in Iraq where the petroleum reserves are gigantic, the Americans will then have at their disposal a second powerful ally. An Iraq placed under American control would permit surveillance of Iran and above all cause Saudi Arabia to lose its importance. You could also add Turkey to the list of friendly countries. Israel, Turkey and Iraq, turned pro-American. And once that objective is accomplished, they will say “Who still needs the rest of the Middle East? Who still needs the Saudis?” They have no importance any more.

MILTON BEARDEN: Are we going to occupy Iraq for 30 years; are we going to become a country of the Middle East, maybe a new member of OPEC?

WILLIAM QUANDT: I think there is a risk because it draws us into a terribly dangerous terrain without having taken the trouble to explain why it’s necessary for the United States to go to war today. Who is going to stop us, who can stop us?

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