May 26, 2004
The fallout from the fall of Ahmad Chalabi looks like it might splash all over the Pentacons—the neocon hardliners in the Pentagon who've backed Chalabi since the '90s. And Chalabi's backers are worried. Here's today's Wall Street Journal editorial, citing a report in The New York Times that U.S. intelligence officials are investigating Pentagon officials:
Critics of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy are using the raid and the leaks as an excuse for demanding a purge of anyone who ever supported Mr. Chalabi. A Monday piece in The New York Times , based on more anonymous leaks, noted that 'intelligence officials' are investigating a handful of officials in Washington and Iraq who dealt regularly with Mr. Chalabi.' Are they Iranian agents, too?
Maybe, and maybe not. But next, here's a report from The Guardian :
An intelligence source in Washington said the CIA confirmed its long-held suspicions when it discovered that a piece of information from an electronic communications intercept by the National Security Agency had ended up in Iranian hands. The information was so sensitive that its circulation had been restricted to a handful of officials.
"This was 'sensitive compartmented information'—SCI—and it was tracked right back to the Iranians through Aras Habib," the intelligence source said.
The DIA is also reported to have launched its own inquiry into the INC-Iran link.
An intelligence source in Washington said the FBI investigation into the affair would begin with Mr. Chalabi's "handlers" in the Pentagon, who include William Luti, the former head of the office of special plans, and his immediate superior, Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defence for policy. There is no evidence that they were the source of the leaks. Other INC supporters at the Pentagon may have given away classified information in an attempt to give Mr. Chalabi an advantage in the struggle for power surrounding the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30.
Next is this, from UPI yesterday, reporting that the FBI is investigating a Pentagon official and a former Pentagon official for having passed classified info to Chalabi. Though not named, the two officials in the UPI story are, according to my sources, Harold Rhode, an official in the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, and Michael Rubin, now at the American Enterprise Institute. Reports UPI:
Officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority are suspected of having leaked sensitive CIA and Pentagon intercepts to the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress, which passed them on to the government of Iran, according to federal law enforcement officials and serving and former U.S. intelligence officials.
These sources also acknowledged that the Bush administration has been the victim of an enormous Iran-perpetrated intelligence fraud that worked to provoke a U.S. military invasion of Iraq in order to defeat Iran's bitter, long-time enemy, a campaign of deception which one U.S. source called "positively a most brilliant and extraordinarily successful operation."
This source said that some of the intercepts are believed to have been given to Chalabi by two U.S. officials of the Coalition Provision Authority, both of whom are not named here because UPI could not reach them for comment.
Other targets of the probe include senior and other Pentagon officials who dealt with Chalabi on a regular basis, this source said.
One former CPA official has returned to the United States and is employed at the American Enterprise Institute, the former very senior official said, a fact which FBI sources confirmed without additional comment.
When I asked Rubin if the story was accurate, he replied with the three-word message: "It is untrue."
It's not clear where all this might lead. Certainly, the CIA is a sworn enemy of Chalabi, and it has been for many years. And certainly, Chalabi's enemies would love to use the scandal over Chalabi's Iran connections to tarnish his Pentacon allies. But it seems to me unlikely that they would risk a formal investigation unless they had some concrete evidence to support what otherwise would be a witch hunt.