In its drive to sell the world on its plans for war with Iraq, the Bush administration has deployed its intelligence agencies to spy on friendly governments and to doctor evidence to prove Iraqi wrongdoing.
On January 31, Frank Koza, a National Security Agency official, sent a “Top Secret” memo to NSA agents and British intelligence, informing them that the NSA is spying on U.N. Security Council members “for insights as to how membership is reacting to the on-going debate.” In that memo, leaked to the Observer of London, Koza wrote that NSA is monitoring all communications of “UN Security Council members (minus US and GBR of course).”
Specifically, Koza asks his agents to use their electronic surveillance “product lines” — bugging phone lines in homes and offices and monitoring e‑mail — to collect information on Security Council members, including their “plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/negotiating position they may be be considering, alliances/dependencies, etc. — the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policy makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises.”
Such spying is not without recent precedent. As was revealed in 1999, the Clinton administration used the U.N. inspection team as a cover for spying on Iraq. The Boston Globe characterized it as “an ambitious spying operation designed to penetrate Iraq’s intelligence apparatus and track the movement of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.”
When evidence of Iraq’s evil intentions cannot be found, it is invented. U.N. nuclear weapons inspector Mohamed El Baradei has reported that documents indicating that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger were forged. Further, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded that the high-strength aluminum tubes that Iraq has tried to import over the past two years were intended for Iraq’s artillery rocket program, rather than, as the Bush administration claims, a secret Iraqi program to make enriched uranium.
And let’s not forget the “intelligence” report released in January by Tony Blair, and later trumpeted by Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council, a report that was lifted verbatim from previously published articles which were then edited to sound scarier.
Glen Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who exposed that deception, has now caught Powell in another lie. This one concerns what the administration learned from Hussein Kamel, the Iraqi weapons chief who defected in August 1995. In the past six months, the administration has repeatedly cited the crates of evidence Kamel turned over as proof that Iraq has not accounted for all its weapons of mass destruction.
In late February, Rangwala received a transcript of a three-hour debriefing of Kamel, who was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, by IAEA and UNSCOM inspectors. In that interview, Kamel said: “I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons — biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.”
That destruction, he said, took place “after visits of inspection teams. You have an important role in Iraq with this. You should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in Iraq.” He added, “I made the decision to disclose everything so that Iraq could return to normal.” (When Kamel returned to Iraq in 1996, Saddam had him assassinated.)
News of this transcript first surfaced in late February in the “Periscope” section of Newsweek, where John Barry reported that Kamel told the CIA and British intelligence the same story. Barry writes that Kamel’s statement was “hushed up by the U.N. inspectors” to “bluff Saddam into disclosing still more.”
As In These Times went to press, however, this story has been largely ignored by the national media. It is particularly odd that the New York Times has overlooked it, since Kamel has been cited four times on the Times op-ed page by supporters of war as providing proof that Iraq poses a clear and present danger, when in fact he did exactly the opposite.
So what do we have? An administration that, having failed to make a case for war against Iraq, sinks to lies and subterfuge. A national media that, having been taken in, lacks the wherewithal to tell it like it is.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.