13 July 2006

The Real 007

This morning we attended a lecture given by Sir Richard Dearlove, current Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge and former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). His lecture was free flowing and anecdotal, but several interesting points stood out.

On the intelligence community in general, he said that "it [intelligence services] change to fit the enemy." He applied this specifically to the British and American experience with KGB infiltration during the Cold War. They feared that double agents would gain access to high level information and convey it to their operators in Moscow. He further explained that this fear caused the SIS and the CIA to compartmentalize themselves. That is to say, they established "need to know" protocol that kept secrets separate. In this way, the body (our metaphor, not his) did not consist of legs, arms, hands, and feet with a single head, but that they often operated independently and without access to information held by the other departments.

He believes that it was this "compartmentalization" that stopped the SIS and CIA from discovering 9/11 before it happened. We wonder if he would also blame the same cause for their (the CIA and SIS) collective failure to predict the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of radical islamic terrorism, or the post-war insurgency.

Regarding the war in Iraq, he failed to understand why the public and media were so intent on casting the blame on the governments and intelligence services of Britain and the US. He argued, quite persuasively, that the Iraqi regime had every opportunity to avoid conflict and yet did nothing. Thus, in his view, the bulk of the blame for the Iraqi war lay with Saddam and Co.

When asked about intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq and the failure to find WMD (at least until a couple of weeks ago, subscription required) he referred to the findings of the Iraqi Survey Group, commonly known as the Duelfer Report. Though they failed to find WMD, the report contains evidence of an expansive WMD program. Furthermore, Mr. Dearlove pointed out that Iraq is a large country and he also noted its proximity to Syria and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Sattelite photos showed abnormal amounts of traffic out of Iraq and into these regions in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Dearlove believes this increased traffic was WMD in transport.

He insists that debate about pre-war intelligence is still open, despite the desire of politicians to end it. Mr. Dearlove seems to agree with the opinion of Senators Hoekstra and Santorum (cited above) that one of the reasons we don't know about the true findings of the ISG and other reports which show evidence of WMD is because it does not fit what he calls the "orthodoxy of the press." In other words, it doesn't fit the 'approved theme' of mainstream media that "bush lied, people died."

On one point, Mr. Dearlove affirmed, "there can be no equivocation." The intelligence was not a lie. "In fact," he said, "every member of the Iraqi regime believed that they had WMD." His statements would seem to agree with our series on pre-war intelligence (Part I, II, III, IV, V, Conclusion) and like us, disagree with Joe Wilson's assertion that the Bush administration pressured the CIA to produce intel that fit their agenda. In what seemed like a desire to exculpate the CIA and SIS, he suggested that there was "no failing in the intelligence, just a failure in how it was used." Of course, that's a policy decision best left to elected officials.


Stephen said...

Thanks, that was interesting.

Raisin said...

Glad to read you're having some great experiences over there Jake.

Regardless of the quality of the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, I still can't help but think this was about more than WMD and terrorism. The fact that the public justification turned out to be bullshit doesn't really change the nature of the conflict. Of all the nations out there that were/are hostile to the U.S. and have WMD, why did we choose Iraq? Couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that Iraq sits above one of the largest oil deposits in the world, could it? Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that the decision makers in the White House are oil men, could it?

Steve Polychronopolis said...

Raisin once again a nice point. Why have we not even touched N. Korea. I will tell you why there is no benefit to this nation if we attack. N. Korea has proven that they are willing to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. How do these admittances and uses of nuclear weapons go unchecked and allowed. When WMD's are out in the open it might be a little scarier then just trying to track the WMD's down.

Ron Mexico said...


The UN finally approved U.S. proposals to sanction N. Korea. Remember, Iraq violated 17 separate sanctions before the U.S. attacked. As for Iran, the UN just referred the matter to the Security Council and it looks as though they will draft a similar resolution.

Seriously, war for oil? There's no evidence of any financial gain as a direct result of the war in Iraq. Looking for scandal and conspiracy? The Oil for Food scandal shows that *reasonable* world powers France, Germany and Russia benefitted greatly from their pre-war relationships with Iraq.

I think the decision to go after Saddam and Iraq rather than Ayatollah Kohmeini and Iran or Kim Jong-il and N. Korea was pragmatic. These psychos acted with impunity because Clinton's retreat in Somalia and Reagan's in Beirut sent the message that the U.S. had no backbone when it came to fighting abroad. Iraq caused Libya to voluntarily disarm. Iran, N. Korea, Syria and others know we will use force if necessary. Without Iraq, negotiations with those countries would have no teeth.

Good post Jake, it's nice to get some info straight from one of the key players.

Dried Grape said...


North Korea has violated numerous treaties and agreements also, so we can't differentiate the two nations based on bad behavior and open disregard for international concerns. Besides, wasn't this supposed to be about fighting terrorism and eliminating catastrophic scenarios from the world? Then what the hell do the 17 U.N. sanctions really even matter if the country being sactioned had no WMD (except the ones we helped them acquire) and the country we ignored advanced its nuclear capabilities dramatically during the same period. I realize we are discussing motives and being wrong doesn't necessarily make one's intentions bad, but our intelligence was equally certain that North Korea had nukes. I am not pushing for a war with North Korea and I think Bush's humbled ass is less dangerous now than before the Iraq mistake. The recent cover of Time magazine showing a little cowboy drowning in a huge cowboy hat was priceless. Where did all the tough guy rhetoric go? Dead or alive. With us or against us. Bring 'em on. Please. Maybe with North Korea we have nothing to gain from acting unilaterally, and in Iraq we had everything to gain. (No offense to your British comrads Jake or the rest of the coalition of the willing, but Iraq was the U.S. vs. Iraq and the vast majority of the reconstruction and security contracts went to well-connected U.S. companies with big lobbying bucks, and you know it.)

But I am going off on a tangent. Let's get back to the issue of oil. Ron, the reason there is no evidence of financial gain as a direct result of the war is because, SURPRISE!, things didn't quite go according to plan, now did they? If Cheney thought we would be greeted with flowers, which in fact turned out to be IED, then what else was miscalculated? If the war would have been successful, then no one would have cared if U.S. companies controlled Iraqi oil because the focus would have been on the success of democracy and so on. To the victor go the spoils. Instead oil output has been stagnant due to insurgent activity and the companies winning right now are U.S. reconstruction and security firms. I don't think oil is the only reason the Bush administration pushed so fervently for war (a fervor that now makes Bush's advocacy of diplomacy in Iran and Iraq seem a bit odd) but it certainly had something to do with it. If you are interested in reading about the history of energy imperialism on planet earth, I recommend American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips. Stop reading after the first 1/3 of the book if you are an Evangelical Christian and don't want to get your feelings hurt. I agree with you though that the Oil for Food scandal is embarrassing and I am glad it was exposed.

Ron, how can you possibly think we are in a better bargaining position with Iran and N. Korea because of the Iraq war? I'm sure N. Korea and Iran are trembling in their boots as they watch Iraq slip away from American interests and Afghanistan returns to pre-war levels of violence and a second rise in Taliban activity. The simple fact that we are negotiating with terrorists now should tell you a little bit about America's current position. Wait, Iran and N. Korea aren't terrorists are they? Well, if you apply that same bogus logic about Saddam Hussein being connected to 9/11 because he paid suicide bombers and blah blah blah (I've forgotten all of your shady claims Jake), then surely the war machine should be able to draw a terrorist connection to these other members of the Axis of Evil. Iran and North Korea may disarm, and I hope they do, but it won't be because of a fear of a similar punishment that the Iraqi people received. America is more afraid of that than anyone.

Fernando said...


It seems like you always have to be right and that other's opinions are wrong. I'm not sure where this syndrome came from, but it gets a little old. On the other hand, it gives me something to read... so, I'm torn. Do I want to hear you jabber... still trying to figure that out.

It is always amusing to hear one's argument for or against an issue. I don't think it makes much sense because neither side changes his or her mind. However, I guess that's what blogs are all about. Expressing your ideas and seeing how many people agree/disagree with you.

Thanks to everybody for their inputs. When I'm not so tired and have time to form a response, I'll try and provide some meaningful input. Gotta run.

On a side note...

Jake, I was fortunate enough to go the Yankees/Mariners game tonight. I must say that the beginning and end were enjoyable. It ended up being tied 4-4 (last min comeback by NY) before being rained out. Hope all's well in England.

Que Pasa? said...

What's wrong with making a statement and trying to defend it? I don't think I'm hurting anyone's feelings, and the majority of the time I actually believe what I say. Besides, who wants to have a kum ba yah circle jerk on a political blog? Can you imagine:

Raisin: That was a great comment Jake. Jake: No, your comment was better Raisin.
Raisin: Oh you stop, you know yours was better! Ok ok, mine was good, but I really have to give it to Fernando for his great insight.
Fernando: Thanks Raisin. I try! Say, do you all want to come on over tonight after ward prayer for some snickerdoodle cookies and chocolate milk?!
Jake: Fernando, you know I can't resist your cookies. I'll be there!
Raisin: I'll bring my U2 collection and ask my mom if I can stay out late!
Fernando: You guys are great! I love how politics brings us together.

Bromas amigo, no mas.