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VIPS to Trump: Intel on Iran Could be CATASTROPHIC

As drums beat again for war — this time on Iran—-the VIPS’ warning is again being disregarded as it was before the Iraq debacle and this time VIPS fear the consequences will be all-caps CATASTROPHIC. (published on Consortiumnews.com on August 1, 2018)

August 1, 2018

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Intelligence on Iran Fails the Smell Test

Mr. President:

As the George W. Bush administration revved up to attack Iraq 15 years ago, we could see no compelling reason for war. We decided, though, to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt on the chance he had been sandbagged by Vice President Dick Cheney and others. We chose to allow for the possibility that he actually believed the “intelligence” that Colin Powell presented to the UN as providing “irrefutable and undeniable” proof of WMD in Iraq and a “sinister nexus” between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

To us in VIPS it was clear, however, that the “intelligence” Powell adduced was bogus. Thus, that same afternoon (Feb. 5, 2003) we prepared and sent to President Bush a Memorandum like this one, urging him to seek counsel beyond the “circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

We take no satisfaction at having been correct — though disregarded — in predicting the political and humanitarian disaster in Iraq. Most Americans have been told the intelligence was “mistaken.” It was not; it was out-and-out fraud, in which, sadly, some of our former colleagues took part.

Five years after Powell’s speech, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee minced few words in announcing the main bipartisan finding of a five-year investigation. He said: “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

Iran Now in Gunsight

As drums beat again for a military attack — this time on Iran, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and other experienced, objective analysts are, by all appearances, being disregarded again. And, this time, we fear the consequences will be all-caps CATASTROPHIC — in comparison with the catastrophe of Iraq.

In memoranda to you over the past year and a half we have pointed out that (1) Iran’s current support for international terrorism is far short of what it was decades ago; and (2) that you are being played by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims about Iran: they are based on intelligence exposed as fraudulent several years ago. Tellingly, Netanyahu waited for your new national security adviser to be in place for three weeks before performing his April 30 slide show alleging that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program. On the chance that our analysis of Netanyahu’s show-and-tell failed to reach you, please know that the Israeli prime minister was recycling information from proven forgeries, which we reported in a Memorandum to you early last spring.

If our Memorandum of May 7 fell through some cracks in the West Wing, here are its main findings:

The evidence displayed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 in what he called his “Iranian atomic archive” showed blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more than a decade earlier as “proof” of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated, as well.

In our May 7, 2018 Memorandum we also asserted: “We can prove that the actual documents originally came not from Iran but from Israel. Moreover, the documents were never authenticated by the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

Iran: Almost Targeted in 2008

There was a close brush with war with Iran a decade ago. Bush and Cheney, in close consultation with Israel, were planning to attack Iran in 2008, their last year in office. Fortunately, an honest National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003, and that key judgment was made public. Abruptly, that NIE stuck an iron rod into the wheels of the juggernaut then speeding downhill to war.

The key judgment that Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapon was the result of the painstakingly deliberative process that was customarily used, back in the day, to produce an NIE. After that process — which took a full year — the Nov. 2007 NIE was was approved unanimously by all U.S. intelligence agencies.

(In other words, it was decidedly NOT a rump “assessment” like the one cobbled together in a couple of weeks by “handpicked” analysts from three selected, agenda-laden agencies regarding Russian meddling. We refer, of course, to the evidence-impoverished and deceptively labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” that the directors of the FBI, CIA, and NSA gave you on January 6, 2017. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department intelligence bureau were among the other 13 agencies excluded from that “Intelligence Community Assessment.”)

As for the Bush/Cheney plans for attacking Iran in 2008, President George W. Bush, in his autobiography, Decision Points, recorded his chagrin at what he called the NIE’s “eye-popping” intelligence finding debunking the conventional wisdom that Iran was on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon. Bush added plaintively, “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Mr. President, we do not know whether a fresh National Intelligence Estimate has been produced on Iran and nuclear weapons — or, if one has been produced, whether it is as honest as the NIE of Nov. 2007, which helped prevent the launch of another unnecessary war the following year. We stand on our record. In sum, if you believe that there is credible evidence that Iran has an active secret nuclear weapons program, we believe you have been misled. And if you base decisions on misleading “intelligence” on Iran, the inevitable result will be a great deal worse than the Bush/Cheney debacle in Iraq.

For the Steering Group

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (ret.)

Sen. Richard H. Black, 13th District of Virginia; Colonel US Army (ret.); former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Marshal Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Kathleen Christison, Senior Analyst on Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter-terrorism officer

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); Wing Commander, RAAF (ret.); Intelligence Officer & ex-Master SERE Instructor

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, Capt., USMC (ret.); former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council

Ray McGovern, former US Army Infantry/Intelligence Officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC; former UN Weapons Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq)

VIPS Call on Senate Intel Panel to Vote Against Haspel

Published May 8, 2018 on Consortiumnews.

With torture-overseer Gina Haspel set to face the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday instead of a judge, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge committee members to vote against her nomination.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA Director

We, the undersigned intelligence, diplomatic, law enforcement, and military professionals, are writing to urge you to vote against Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Putting Haspel in charge of the CIA would undo attempts by the agency — and the nation — to repudiate torture. The message this would send to the CIA workforce is simple: Engage in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you’ll get promoted. Don’t worry about the law. Don’t worry about ethics. Don’t worry about morality or the fact that torture doesn’t even work. Go ahead and do it anyway. We’ll cover for you. And you can destroy the evidence, too.

Described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” Haspel has been at the CIA for 33 years, both at headquarters and in senior positions overseas. Now the deputy director, she has tried hard to stay out of the public eye. Former CIA Director Michael Pompeo has lauded her “uncanny ability to get things done and inspire those around her.”

That is true for those of Haspel’s mindset. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Haspel at the CIA called her “Bloody Gina” because of her direct involvement in the CIA’s torture program.

The President’s appointment of Haspel hurts morale among CIA officers who recognize that torture is wrong, inefficient, and counterproductive. It comforts people at the agency who still believe that “enhanced interrogation” is somehow acceptable.

The message it sends to our friends and allies (and the countries we criticize in the State Department’s annual human rights reports) is this: We say we’re a shining city on a hill, a beacon of respect for human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the rule of law. But that simply is not true. We say those things when it’s expedient. We say them to make ourselves feel good. But when push comes to shove, we do what we want, international law and the 8thAmendment to the Constitution be damned.

The meaning of Haspel’s nomination won’t be lost on our enemies, either. The torture program and similar abuses at military-run prisons in Iraq were among the greatest recruitment tools that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other bad actors ever had, according to legal experts, U.S. lawmakers and even to the militants themselves. It energized them and gave them something to rally against. It sowed an even deeper hatred of the United States among militant groups. It swelled their ranks. It was no coincidence that the Islamic State paraded its prisoners in front of cameras wearing orange jumpsuits (like those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees) before beheading them. Haspel and the others at the CIA who engineered and oversaw the torture program are at least partially responsible for that, because they showed the world how the United States sometimes treats captives.

Do we Americans want to be a rogue nation that tortures people, like North Korea? Do we want to be a nation whose CIA Director will not be able to visit the heads of counterpart services for fear of arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction for the torture she is known to have led? Are we proud of the era when we snatched people from one country and sent them to another to be interrogated in secret prisons? Do we want to be the country that cynically preaches human rights and then violates those same rights when we think nobody is looking?

Do we want to be a government that lies to its own people and then punishes the truth-tellers who have exposed official activities illegal, immoral, unacceptable, and incompatible with our values, even when classification of embarrassing or illegal conduct is expressly forbidden? (Full disclosure: The drafter of this memo, John Kiriakou, spent 23 months in federal prison for revealing that torture had been approved at the highest levels of government.)

Our country cannot afford that. We cannot look the other way. We cannot reward the torturers. Gina Haspel has no business running the CIA. Please vote against her nomination.

On March 25, 2018, we sent President Trump a Memorandum urging him to withdraw Haspel’s nomination, citing a long list of cogent, compelling reasons to do so. We have had no response. You and your staff may wish to review it.

Matthew Alexander, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (retired)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (retired) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader, Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (retired)

Philip Giraldi, CIA Operations Officer (retired)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, U.S. Air Force, Intelligence Officer, and former Master SERE Instructor (retired)

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and Former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, LTC, U.S. Air Force (retired)

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (retired)

Ray McGovern, Army/Infantry Intelligence Officer and CIA Presidential Briefer (retired)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council (retired)

Diane Roark, Republican Professional Staff, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (retired)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (retired)

Greg Thielmann, Former Director, Office of Strategic, Political, and Military Affairs, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State and former staff member, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Peter Van Buren, former diplomat, U.S. Department of State

Sarah Wilton, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve (retired) and Defense Intelligence Agency (retired)

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Laurence Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired), former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State; Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary

Trump Urged Not to Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal

Published May 7, 2018 on Consortiumnews.

As Donald Trump announces his decision at 2 pm Tuesday on staying in the Iran nuclear deal, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge him in this memo exclusive to Consortium News not to base his decision on fabricated evidence.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Being “Played” By Bogus Evidence on Iran

NOTE: The evidence presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 alleging a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program shows blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more a decade earlier as proof of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated as well.

We sent President Bush a similar warning about bogus intelligence — much of it fabricated by Israel —six weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, but Bush paid us no heed. This time, we hope you will take note before things spin even further out of control in the Middle East. In short, Israel’s “new” damaging documents on Iran were fabricated by the Israelis themselves.

Executive Summary

The Bush administration account of how the documents on Iran got into the hands of the CIA is not true. We can prove that the actual documents originally came not from Iran but from Israel. And the documents were never authenticated by the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Two former Directors-General of the IAEA, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, have publicly expressed suspicion that the documents were fabricated. And forensic examination of the documents yielded multiple signs that they are fraudulent.

We urge you to insist on an independent inquiry into the actual origins of these documents. We believe that the renewed attention being given to claims that Iran is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons betokens a transparent attempt to stoke hostility toward Iran, with an eye toward helping “justify” pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

* * *

Mr. President,

We write you in the hope that you will be informed of our views before you decide whether to continue to adhere to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran. We fear that upcoming decisions may be based, in part, on unreliable documents alleging secret nuclear weapons activity in Iran.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu displayed some of those documents in his slide show on what he called the Iranian “atomic archive.” But those are precisely the same fraudulent documents that were acquired by the CIA in 2004.

The official accounts offered by the senior officials of the CIA about the provenance of these documents turned out be complete fabrication. Journalists were told variously that the documents (1) were taken from the laptop computer of an Iranian working in a secret research program; (2) were provided by a German spy; or (3) simply came from a “longtime contact in Iran.”

However, Karsten Voigt, the former German Foreign Office official in charge of German-North American cooperation, revealed in an on the record interview with historian/journalist Gareth Porter in 2013 that senior officials of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, told Voigt in November 2004 that the documents had been passed to the CIA by a BND source. That source, the senior BND official said, was not considered trustworthy, because he belonged to the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed Iranian opposition group that was known to have served as a conduit for information that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) wanted to provide to the IAEA without having it attributed to Israel. (In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed MEK from the list of terrorist organizations.)

Voigt recalled that the senior BND officials told him of their worry that the Bush administration was going to repeat the error of using fraudulent intelligence, as was the case with the notorious “Curveball”, the Iraqi living in Germany, whom the BND had identified as unreliable. Nonetheless, Curveball’s fictions about mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq —with “artists renderings” by the CIA of those phantom labs — had been used by Colin Powell in his error-ridden presentation to the UN on February 5, 2003, leading to war on Iraq.

As for the purported Iranian documents, the CIA never ruled out the possibility that they were fabricated, and the IAEA made no effort to verify their authenticity. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalled in his memoirs that he had believed the documents were not really from the Iranian government and that, as he put it, “it made more sense that this information originated in another country.” ElBaradei stated publicly from 2005 through 2009 that the documents had not been authenticated, and he refused to use them as “evidence” of a covert Iranian weapons research program. And ElBaradei’s predecessor as Director-General, Hans Blix, has said he is “somewhat more worried” about the intelligence on the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program than about the dubious intelligence he saw on Iraq, because “there is as much disinformation as there is information.”

Each of the documents mentioned by both Netanyahu and the IAEA reports bears tell-tale signs of fraud. The most widely reported document in the collection is a set of schematic drawings showing efforts to redesign the re-entry vehicle of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile to accommodate a nuclear weapon. But the slide that Netanyahu displayed on the screen in his slide show provides visual confirmation of fraud. The drawing shows clearly the “dunce cap” design of the Shahab-3 reentry vehicle. But Iran’s Defense Ministry had already discarded that “dunce cap” reentry vehicle when it began to develop a new improved missile. That redesign began in 2000, according to the Congressional testimony in September 2000 of CIA national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs Robert D. Walpole. But the earliest dates of any of the alleged Iranian nuclear weapon program documents on the project for redesign of the reentry vehicle in the May 2008 IAEA report on the entire collection are from summer 2002 after the “dunce cap” was replaced. The “baby-bottle” shaped reentry vehicle on the redesigned missile was not known to the outside world until the first test of the new missile in mid-2004. So those drawings could not have been done by someone who was actually involved in the redesign of the original Shahab-3 reentry vehicle; it was clearly the work of a foreign intelligence agency seeking to incriminate Iran, but slipping up on one important detail and thus betraying its fraudulent character.

The second document from that same collection turned over to the IAEA that has been widely reported is the so-called “green salt project” — a plan for a bench-scale system of uranium conversion for enrichment given the code name “Project 5.13” and part of a larger “Project 5”. Other documents that had been provided by the MEK showed that “Project 5” also included a sub-project involving ore processing at a mine designated “Project 5.15,” according to a briefing by IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen in February 2008.

But when Iran turned over detailed documents to the IAEA in response to its questions about Project 5.15 in 2008, the IAEA learned the truth: there had been a real ore processing project called Project 5.15, but it was a civilian project of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran – not part of a covert nuclear weapons program—and the decision to create Project 5.15 had been made on August 25, 1999—more than two years before the initial date of the project found in the collection of supposedly secret nuclear weapons research documents. That fact gives away the ruse surrounding the numbering system of “Project 5″ adopted by intelligence specialists who had fabricated the document.

A third document that purportedly shows Iranian nuclear weapons research is about what Netanyahu called “Multi-Point Initiation in hemispheric geometry” and the IAEA called “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.” Significantly, that document was not part of the original collection that the CIA had passed to the IAEA, but had been given to the IAEA years later, and officials from the IAEA, Europe and the United States refused to reveal which member country had provided the document. Former Director-General ElBaradei revealed in his memoirs, however, that Israel had passed a series of documents to the IAEA in 2008-09, in an effort to make the case that Iran had continued its nuclear weapons experiments until “at least 2007.”

The summary picture we offer above includes unusually clear evidence of the fraudulent nature of the documents that are advertised as hard evidence of Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons. One remaining question is cui bono? — who stands to benefit from this kind of “evidence.” The state that had the most to gain from the fabrication of such documents was obviously Israel.

Completely absent from the usual discussion of this general problem is the reality that Israel already has a secret nuclear arsenal of more than a hundred nuclear weapons. To the extent Israel’s formidable deterrent is more widely understood, arguments that Israel genuinely fears an Iranian nuclear threat any time soon lose much of their power. Only an extreme few suggest that Iran’s leaders are bent on risking national suicide. What the Israelis are after is regime change in Tehran. And they have powerful allies with similar aims.

We therefore urge you, Mr. President, not to go along with these plans or to decide to pull the U.S. out of the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran based on fraudulent evidence.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Kathleen Christison, Senior Analyst on Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain,Wing Commander, RAAF (ret.); Intelligence Officer & ex-Master SERE Instructor

John Kiriakou,former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Edward Loomis,NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, Ph.D., former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern,former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray,former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce,MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Gareth Porter, author/journalist (associate VIPS)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); also Foreign Service Officer who resigned in opposition to the US war on Iraq

About the Sam Adams Associates

Sam Adams AssociatesSam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. Read more about the history here.

The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.