This, above, from DH's comment below rather neatly sums up the true level of Washington efforts to "play" in the Big Game. pl
Still a lot to digest, as Cold War Zoomie says. Re charlottemom's puzzlement at the fact that Murdoch newspapers are reporting on this. A bit of background on British newspapers. Unlike the Telegraph group, which sticks rigorously to the neocon 'party line', even despite Conrad Black's departure from the scene, the Times' papers will from time to time publish strong stories which do not fit with it. The classic example, of course, is the Downing Street memos. Like Cieran, I would give Andy a certain amount of slack on the possibility that an operation to penetrate and disrupt groups trying to acquire U.S. weapons technology was involved. But the fact the Sunday Times is prepared to run with a story so damaging to their proprietor's close political allies is I think a potent reason for taking it seriously. As I pointed out to Andy in our earlier discussion, a key statement in the original Sunday Times story is that the nuclear network Edmonds describes 'has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain's Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.' In addition to this, there is the 'small team' investigating the 'same procurement' network referred to in the third story -- to which Valerie Plame belonged, and for which Brewster Jennings was a front company. One quite possible explanation for the appearance of this story in the Sunday Times is that important elements in this 'joint Anglo-American intelligence effort', either in London, or in Washington, or in both, decided they wanted this network shut down, and saw the disclosures by Edmonds as a means of securing this end. Be that as it may, we can I think be confident that British and American officials involved in getting this story into the MSM are not impressed by the notion that they are contributing to destroying a valuable intelligence operation. This could be partly because, if an operation sufficiently major to account for the material Edmonds collected had been in progress prior to 2002, more substantial results might have been expected by 2008. Moreover, the notion that a penetration operation was involved does not establish that the claims Edmonds makes can be discounted. Such a penetration operation, by its very nature, would of course involve the disclosure of valuable information -- as is commonly the case with deception operations in intelligence. But precisely because of this, deception operations played against superior players can backfire. One can recall the immortal quotation from Richard Perle in the long piece Dexter Filkins did in the NYT on Chalabi in November 2006. According to Filkins, Perle 'discounted the idea that Chalabi might be a double agent. "Of course Chalabi has a relationship with the Iranians - you have to have a relationship with the Iranians in order to operate there," Perle said. "The question is what kind of relationship. Is he fooling the Iranians or are the Iranians using him? I think Chalabi has been very shrewd in getting the things he has needed over the years out of the Iranians without giving anything in return."' It is I think perfectly possible that as with the intelligence on Iraqi WMD, rather naïve Americans who fancied themselves as masters of Machiavellianism have simply been taken to the cleaners by people whose command of the arts of duplicity is real rather than imagined. Another claim about the role of senior Pentagon officials in the original Edmonds story is to the point: 'The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their "hooking points", which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.' This is how one would expect the kind of network which clearly exists to operate. Its members corrupt people by playing on their weaknesses, getting them to cross the line in small matters which leave them compromised, and in a position where they have no way back. Once this point is reached, turning them into outright traitors may be easy -- and they may also help corrupt others, in order to try to rescue their self-respect. As to CWZ's very relevant question as to the relationships and motives. I think we are liable to get into problems by assuming underestimating the extent to which public and private have got confused. 'What's in it for Turkey?' does indeed seem a very relevant question. But how far are we dealing with agencies which act on behalf of the state, how far simply with individuals? Meanwhile for some of the end destinations, such as the Pakistan ISI or indeed the Israelis, nuclear secrets may well be of enormous value -- and as a result, they may be prepared to pay a great deal, be it in money -- or indeed in other kinds of trades.