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April 16, 2009
Notes from the Pentagon

Counterspy review
Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair has formed a panel of former officials to review troubled U.S. government efforts to counter foreign spying.

The panel is headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who recently appeared in a PBS television documentary as a spokesman for Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former Saudi ambassador in Washington and a national-security adviser to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

In the "Frontline" program that aired last week, Mr. Freeh said claims that "my client," Prince Bandar, was paid $2 billion and an Airbus 340 as bribes "are totally false."

The program revealed that the Justice Department is conducting an international corruption investigation into an $80 billion jet-fighter deal between Britain's BAE Systems PLC aerospace company and Saudi Arabia.

Former federal Judge Eugene R. Sullivan, a law partner of Mr. Freeh's at the Freeh Group International, said Mr. Freeh is not a spokesman for Prince Bandar but his personal attorney. He declined to comment on Mr. Freeh's role as chairman of the director's counterintelligence panel.

Mr. Blair has come under criticism for two other appointees. Charles "Chas" W. Freeman Jr. withdrew as his pick for a top intelligence post following reports Mr. Freeman was on the board of a state-run Chinese oil company and headed a think tank that got some funding from Saudi Arabia.

Several members of Congress also criticized Mr. Blair for appointing former CIA Director John M. Deutch to an advisory group. Mr. Deutch was pardoned by President Clinton in 2001 of charges he had compromised Pentagon and CIA secrets by improperly e-mailing highly classified documents to his home in the 1990s.

Other members of the counterintelligence review panel include former CIA officer John MacGaffin; electronic- and computer-security specialist James. R. Gosler; retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, a former director of operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Mary Margaret Graham, a former CIA official who briefly headed CIA counterintelligence.

According to an administration intelligence official, the panel will hold its first meeting April 23 and will produce a report for Mr. Blair within 60 days. "The director has asked several people to give him some advice regarding counterintelligence, an important issue to the United States," said spokeswoman Wendy Moragi. She said Mr. Blair regards counterintelligence as "critical to the nation's security."

"Louis Freeh is one of the people he is speaking with. There is not a formal group, and those being consulted will offer their own thoughts," she said.

Mr. Freeh has extensive experience in counterintelligence, and "Director Blair appreciates his advice and perspective," Ms. Moragi said. She declined to comment on Mr. Freeh's work for the Saudis.

Mr. Freeh was FBI director from 1993 to 2001 under Mr. Clinton, a time when the bureau suffered through several extremely damaging and long-running spy cases. They included the cases of FBI turncoats Robert Hanssen and Earl Edwin Pitts and the Chinese spying case of FBI informant Katrina Leung, who sexually compromised two senior FBI counterintelligence agents.

Kenneth E. deGraffenreid, former deputy director of the National Counterintelligence Executive office (NCIX), said most of the DNI counterintelligence panel members, including Mr. Freeh, Mr. MacGaffin and Miss Graham, opposed the counterintelligence reforms enacted into law in 2002 in the aftermath of several damaging spy cases.

"In seeking to reform counterintelligence, the new administration should have chosen people who did not oppose the very reforms that were enacted into law by the Congress, and who were not associated with past counterintelligence failures," Mr. deGraffenreid said. Former National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave said: "The NCIX has been utterly marginalized, and the DNI is doing exactly the right thing in seeking outside advice on how to fix that before U.S. counterintelligence backslides even more."

Formation of the review panel followed the abrupt departure in February of two senior counterintelligence officials under National Counterintelligence Executive Joel Brenner.

In February, Marion E. "Spike" Bowman, the No. 2 official inside NCIX, left the agency, and NCIX chief of staff Robert L. Hubbard was reassigned to another post. The departures followed an inspector general's report that was critical of management at the agency, which is charged with coordinating U.S. governmentwide counterintelligence and counterespionage efforts.

Afghanistan Intel
The 21,000 American troops preparing to reinforce U.S. forces in Afghanistan will find a Taliban enemy able to control key portions of the south, a military intelligence officer tells Inside the Ring.

"The Taliban are in charge across the board," the officer told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough. "We don't like to admit it, but they are. We just need to figure out which ones we can work with. No easy task, but there are, in fact, good Taliban."

What has happened in the south and its hub of Kandahar, the Taliban birthplace, is similar to problems experienced in Iraq. Americans would clear a village of the enemy, then go on to the next battle, leaving Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda free to retake the territory.

That same template is stamped across southern Afghanistan. With insufficient NATO forces to capture and hold territory, villages swung back to Taliban control. In a region of nearly 78,000 square miles and nearly 3 million people, the U.S. command is trying to put a halt to shifting loyalties.

The intelligence officer, who granted an interview on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the information, said the task will be tougher in Afghanistan.

Afghanis have "been doing it for generations and are far better at it than the Iraqis were or ever will be," said the officer, who daily reads intelligence on the war. "They are ready and hungry for this fight. We'll have a tough go, and I expect there will be plenty of opportunity for the press to take pictures at Dover Air Force Base." Dover is the first U.S. destination point for American war dead.

The U.S. Army is building eight major forward operating bases (FOBs) in the south, an indication of where Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Central Command chief, thinks most of the fighting will take place. Until now, the allies worked out of relatively FOBs, limiting the number of troops that could be deployed.

The new task, like Iraq, will be not only to clear a town, but to stay there, protect civilians and win them back to the government's side.

Wartime advice
Veteran Washington national-security specialist Angelo M. Codevilla has advice for President Obama: Fire incompetent advisers and watch out for the CIA.

Mr. Codevilla, a former naval officer and Foreign Service officer, states in his new book, "Advice to Wartime Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft," that the United States has been at war since 1914 but has lost "peace after peace" because of misguided policy and intelligence advisers, including liberal internationalists, neoconservatives and right-of-center realists.

The book lays out a detailed, common-sense-based approach to the essentials of international affairs: diplomacy, alliances, war, economic statecraft, intelligence and prestige, or what the Obama administration and others have called "soft power."

The advice to the president is this: "Keep it simple: To come down from rhetorical highs, to use words according to their ordinary meanings, and sharply to distinguish war from peace, lest they give us violence without end."

On intelligence, Mr. Codevilla states that secret information can only help presidents if they understand the country's needs, its friends and enemies, and if they have a reasonable strategy for securing peace.

"To the extent they lack any of these, information from special sources is likely to deepen indecision and ensnare them in intellectual traps of their own making," Mr. Codevilla says.

Mr. Codevilla is especially harsh on the CIA, and he writes that the agency undermined the policies of the George W. Bush administration through intelligence reports and books by its employees. One example he gives is the December 2007 Iran estimate that defined away Iran's nuclear program by strictly defining nuclear-weapons work and accepting Iran's claims that its uranium enrichment was part of a civilian nuclear program. "Intelligence is an instrument of war, not law," Mr. Codevilla writes, noting that the key to its success is identifying friends and enemies.

"Our statesmen impose on our intelligence services the task of searching out insignificant persons they do not know - precisely because they disagree among themselves about whether to wage war on the significant ones they do know about."

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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