start to finish, the Niger deception and the outing
of CIA agent Valerie Plame depended on a relay team of hawkish officials
providentially placed throughout various government agencies. These included
the CIA, the Pentagon and its Office
of Special Plans (now
under official investigation by the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General),
the State Department, and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), performing
a handoff of information from the point of origin (the CIA) to the ultimate
"commissioners" of the inquiry, the masterminds in the White House
and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Considering the frequently attested intra- and interfactional nature of all
of these agencies, it is understandable why the highest officials in the land
jostled to get their "people" strategically inserted throughout the
departments, where they could garner inside information and hinder the objectives
of their ostensibly direct employers whenever they conflicted with the goals
of their real minders.
Aside from the high-visibility officials involved or presumably involved in
the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame – Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove,
etc. – we also have a generous sprinkling of neocons who, while somewhat less
well known, have played a crucial role in not only the Plame outing but in policy-crafting
and, perhaps, criminal activities as well.
The present study considers four such figures: David Wurmser and Frederick
Fleitz, both formerly employed in the State Department office of the Madman
with the Handlebar Mustache, John Bolton; Marc Grossman, a longtime State Department
official recently turned lobbyist; and Eric Edelman, like Grossman a former
ambassador to Turkey, longtime Cheneyite, and current recess appointee to Doug
Feith's old position as No. 3 in the Pentagon.
John Bolton's Attack Dogs
While he has always been an outspoken opponent
of arms control of all kinds, John
Bolton was assigned to precisely that brief by the Bush administration in
May 2001. Now his brief has been changed to acting UN ambassador, though he
has in the past called for the cessation of the world body. At least he's consistent
On Oct. 27, on the eve of the Libby indictment, Richard
Sale reported that according to "several former and serving U.S. intelligence
officials," Libby was told of Plame's CIA identity via a phone call that
"definitely came from the State Department office of John Bolton, then
the arms control chief of the department."
More specifically, says Sale, Bolton assistants David Wurmser and Frederick
Fleitz were part of the relay team responsible for leaking Plame's identity
to Libby and then to Novak and Miller. "These same sources alleged that
Wurmser, as Bolton's special assistant, got his knowledge of Plame's classified
identity from a colleague in his office, Frederick Fleitz, a CIA officer detailed
to Bolton's office from the agency who worked in the CIA's Weapons Intelligence
Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINIPAC)." Gary Leupp's
Nigergate timeline of Nov. 9, 2005, gives further details on their involvement.
David Wurmser: A Blowhard Empowered
Bolton's attack dogs come from the very heart
of the neocon establishment. It was Wurmser, after all, who largely wrote the
now-infamous 1996 policy paper urging an invasion of Iraq for the sake of Israel:
Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." Among the signers were
Doug Feith and Richard Perle. Another was Wurmser's wife, Israeli-born Meyrav
Wurmser, director of Middle East studies at the neocon-friendly Hudson
Out of power but continuing to skulk around the AEI
with his neocon comrades, Wurmser handed out yet more free advice in
a similar study published in 2000 by neocon Daniel Pipe's Middle East Forum
and Ziad Abdelnour's U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon; it "advocated a
wider U.S. role in Lebanon":
"The study, 'Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role?'
called for the United States to force Syria from Lebanon and to disarm it of
its alleged weapons of mass destruction. It also argued that 'Syrian rule in
Lebanon stands in direct opposition to American ideals' and criticized the United
States for engaging rather than confronting the regime. Among the documents
signers were several soon-to-be Bush administration figures, including Elliott
Abrams, Douglas Feith, Michael Rubin, and Undersecretary of State for Global
Affairs Paula Dobriansky. Other signers included Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick,
Michael Ledeen, and Frank Gaffney."
When the neocons started feeling their oats with the return to power of a Republican
administration later that year, hawks like Wurmser were locked and loaded to
put these ideas into practice. With 9/11 came their ultimate opportunity. As
Raw Story reports:
"[S]hortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Wurmser was
handpicked by Harold Rhode, a Foreign Affairs Specialist in the Office of Net
Assessment, a Pentagon 'think tank,' and Undersecretary of Defense
Douglas Feith to head a top secret Pentagon 'cell' whose job was to comb through
CIA intelligence documents and find evidence that Iraq posed an imminent threat
to the United States and its neighbors in the Middle East so a case could be
made to launch a preemptive military strike. Wurmser largely invented evidence
that Iraq had close ties to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."
Wurmser's two-man "cell" was officially known as the Counter-Terrorism
Evaluation Group, and was based in "a windowless, cipher-locked room
at the Pentagon." In order to expedite Wurmser's "research,"
Feith and Rhode had to perform some "softening-up" operations on the
professional intelligence community. A Jan. 26, 2004, report from Mother
their methods like this:
"[A]ccording to insiders, Rhode worked with Feith to purge career Defense
officials who weren't sufficiently enthusiastic about the muscular anti-Iraq
crusade that Wolfowitz and Feith wanted. Rhode appeared to be 'pulling people
out of nooks and crannies of the Defense Intelligence Agency and other places
to replace us with,' says a former analyst. 'They wanted nothing to do with
the professional staff. And they wanted us the f*ck out of there.'
Frederick Fleitz: Dual-Use Technology Personified
For his part, Fleitz was an old confidante of
Bolton's and "on loan" to his office from the CIA. A State Department
intelligence analyst on WMD, Greg Thielman, told Seymour
Hersh in 2003 that Bolton "surrounded himself with a hand-chosen group
of loyalists, and found a way to get CIA information directly." Bolton
affirmed for Hersh that he had demanded and received "direct electronic
access to sensitive intelligence, such as foreign agent reports and electronic
intercepts. In previous administrations, such data had been made available to
undersecretaries only after it was analyzed, usually in the specific secured
offices of the INR [the State Department intelligence branch]."
That Bolton's boys would betray Valerie Plame should come as no surprise, considering
their consistently vicious previous tactics with intelligence officers who resisted
their orders to make the intelligence fit their case. In April 2005, the
New York Times reported on several antagonistic e-mails sent during
2002 by Fleitz to Christian Westermann, "the State Department's top expert
on biological weapons," who also worked under Thielman.
Apparently, John Bolton could not tolerate the "wimpy" language that
the INR recommended he use in a speech about Cuba. The always bellicose Bolton
sought to accuse Cuba of developing biological weapons – a prospect even more
fanciful than Iraq's alleged ambitions in the field. In any case, the war of
attrition had its effect on Westermann, who on Sept. 23, 2002, wrote a high-ranking
INR official, Thomas Fingar, stating that the incessant attacks from Bolton/Fleitz
were "affecting my work, my health, and [my] dedication to public service."
Westermann, a career naval officer, was moved in 2000 to the State Department's
Bureau of Nonproliferation. In 2005, he testified in a
Senate hearing [.pdf] that "Mr. Bolton was very unhappy that a working
level analyst [i.e., himself] had the temerity to alter language that he wanted
to say." Regarding Fleitz, Westermann revealed that "Fred was a conduit
for Mr. Bolton to receive other information [from the CIA] … there were times
that material flowed from other agencies to Undersecretary Bolton not through
INR." Frank affirmations of Bolton's abusive nature while in the State
Department were made at his April 2005 UN confirmation hearings by
Carl W. Ford Jr., Westermann's ultimate boss at the INR.
Marc Grossman: A Dark Horse Candidate?
It's clear that Cheney assistant Libby thought
to ask John Bolton about the identity of the CIA's "secret envoy"
to Niger (i.e., Wilson) because he recognized that the WMD-focused brief of
Bolton and Fleitz meant they had a good chance of finding out who was behind
Joe Wilson's trip to Africa. They also shared Libby's neocon ideology. In short,
they were people he could count on.
But why, then, did Libby also ask a non-WMD specialist like Marc Grossman?
How was he in a position to help, and why did Libby believe he could be trusted
with the mission?
Although Grossman "has not been as high profile in the press"
FBI whistleblower Sibel
Edmonds cryptically told me the other day, "don't overlook him – he
is very important."
She was not speaking about the Plame affair, though Grossman did indeed have
a key role there, as we will see. According to her, Grossman was one of three
officials – the other two, she says, are Richard Perle and Douglas Feith – who
had been watched by both Valerie Plame's Brewster Jennings & Associates
CIA team, and by the major FBI investigation of organized crime and governmental
corruption on which she herself was working until being terminated in April
Marc Grossman has served in a number of interesting countries and positions
over the past 29 years. From 1976-1983, at a pivotal point in the Cold War,
he was employed at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan – America's key regional ally,
through which millions of dollars in weapons and other "aid" were
delivered by Pakistan's ISI intelligence service to the mujahedin following
the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
At the same time, Pakistan was actively seeking to become a nuclear power following
another humiliating military defeat at the hands of India in 1971. This pursuit
necessarily involved clandestine, black-market transactions, and it in fact
led Pakistan to spawn the world's biggest eventual nuclear proliferator – A.Q.
Khan, father of the country's nuclear program and supplier to numerous sketchy
regimes and underworld characters. The U.S., as Seymour Hersh
recounted in 1993, looked the other way as Pakistan developed nuclear technologies
throughout the 1980s: "protecting the Afghanistan war had emerged as a
major policy of the State Department's Bureau of Near East and South Asia Affairs,
which was responsible for Pakistani policy."
Grossman's professional ties with Pakistan apparently long outlived his nine-year
tenure there. The
Guardian, among others, mentioned the fact that in the days immediately
preceding Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistani ISI chief Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed – financier
of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta – paid a visit to senior administration officials,
including Grossman, then undersecretary of state for political affairs.
A Pakistani article
published on Sept. 10, 2001, claimed that Ahmed's
"most important meeting was with Mark Grossman, U.S. undersecretary
of state for political affairs. U.S. sources would not furnish any details beyond
saying that the two discussed 'matters of mutual interests.' What those matters
could be is a matter of pure conjecture. One can safely guess that the discussions
must have centered around Afghanistan, relations with India and China, disarmament
of civilian outfits, country's nuclear and missiles program, and, of course,
Osama bin Laden."
Following a three-year stint in the private office of NATO Secretary General
Lord Carrington in Brussels, Grossman went on to become deputy chief of mission
at the U.S. embassy in Turkey from 1989-1992. Two years later, he was appointed
ambassador, representing U.S. political, commercial, and military interests
in Turkey until June 1997. In this position, he would have been well informed
of everything in these realms, and worked with leading lobbyists from both America
and Turkey, as well as the firms they represented. A comprehensive
study shows the staggering scope of American military aid to Turkey during
the period in question. This largesse depended and continues to depend on the
good offices of influential governmental and near-governmental officials and
Examples abound: let's take the other two doubly implicated characters by Sibel
Edmonds, Doug Feith and Richard Perle. In 1989, "Feith
registered International Advisors Inc. (IAI) as a foreign agent representing
the government of Turkey," wrote James Zogby, four months before 9/11.
"One of the stated purposes of the work of IAI was to 'promote the objective
of U.S.-Turkish defense industrial cooperation.'" In fact, in the ensuing
years, the firm – its highest paid "external" consultant being one
Richard Perle – was compensated for lobbying services for Turkey at a rate of
$600,000 a year. Zogby cites a Wall Street Journal story from the time
of IAI's inception stating that Perle "among other things supervised U.S.
military assistance to Turkey during his recent seven-year hitch in the Pentagon."
Interestingly enough, at the same time Feith and Perle were greasing Turkish
palms and Grossman was presiding over in Ankara, the CIA's Brewster-Jennings
network and Valerie Plame were focusing on nuclear proliferation in Turkey.
This scrutiny led them to trace private citizens in America as well as lobby
groups like the American-Turkish Council – which is precisely where Plame met
future husband Joseph Wilson, while "on duty" at
a 1997 reception held by then-Turkish ambassador to the U.S. Nuzhet Kandemir.
The FBI also got involved on the domestic front, as
the Edmonds case affirms. And there was discussion between successive Turkish
and Pakistani governments, during the 1980s and 1990, regarding the idea of
making both nuclear-armed
Islamic states. At least as far as we know, only the latter has so far succeeded.
After leaving Turkey in 1997, Grossman was promoted by President Clinton to
become assistant secretary of state for European affairs (1997-2000), where
he helped expedite NATO's illegal war against Yugoslavia. Under George W. Bush,
he would become undersecretary of state for political affairs. As the administration
was pushing for war in early 2003, Grossman became a mouthpiece for neocon policy.
In a March 3, 2003, interview for Dutch television, he
made a statement that could have come out of some PNAC
policy papers: "[T]he time has come now to make a stand against this kind
of connection between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. And we think
Iraq is a place to make that stand first … the great threat today is the nexus
between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."
In June 2005, Grossman left the public sector and became
vice chairman at all-powerful lobbying firm The
Cohen Group, run by an old Kosovo War colleague, former Secretary of Defense
Bill Cohen. Actually, as
the Washington Post put it,
"Cohen Group folks don't officially lobby but, according to the group,
provide clients 'the insights and intelligence needed to better understand and
shape the business, political, legal, regulatory and media environments in which
they operate.' The consulting shop has a 'strategic partnership' with DLA
Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, which has a lobbying component."
The Cohen Group, along with major
Turkish lobbyist The Livingston
Group, is a paying sponsor of the American-Turkish Council. Marc Grossman
looks set for a long and comfortable second career well out of the public eye;
no doubt, he will cash in handsomely by leveraging for Cohen clients the formidable
influence he has gained through a long career of State Department postings under
five different presidential administrations.
Grossman as a Key Source in the Plame Leak
Unless, of course, he finds himself tangled up
in Plamegate or other related scandals that have as yet not been divulged. Gary
Leupp recounts that on May 29, 2003, in addition to Bolton, Libby asked Marc
Grossman for information on news reports "about [the] CIA's secret envoy
to Africa in 2002." Grossman then requested a classified memo from INR
boss Carl Ford (the boss of both Westermann and Fleitz), "and later orally
brief[ed] Libby on its contents."
On July 21, 2005, the Washington
Post stated that the memo had been written on June 10, 2003, "by
an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)
… for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who asked to be brought up to date
on INR's opposition to the White House view that Hussein was trying to buy uranium
A subsequent Washington
Post article of Oct. 17 pointed out that at the time, Grossman had actually
assumed the role of acting secretary of state "since Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard L. Armitage were out of the country."
Yes indeed, while the cat is away, the mice will play…
The article also stated that Grossman "wanted the letter (classified 'secret')
as background for a meeting at the White House where the discussion was focused
on then growing criticism of Bush's inclusion in his January State of the Union
speech of the allegation that Hussein had been seeking uranium from Niger."
Grossman seems to have been regarded as suitable by Cheney et al. for finding
out what the war party wanted to know about Joe Wilson.
The Grossman memo laid out the reasons why the State Department's INR had found
the Niger intel not credible. It also described "a meeting at the CIA in
February 2002, attended by another INR analyst [emphasis mine], where
Plame introduced her husband as the person who was to go to Niger."
The article continues:
"Attached to the letter were the notes from the INR analyst who had
attended the session, but they were written well after the event occurred and
contained mistakes about who was there and what was said, according to a former
intelligence official who reviewed the document in the summer of 2003.
"Grossman has refused to answer questions about the letter, and it
is not clear whether he talked about it at the White House meeting he was said
to have attended, according to the former State official."
Who could have been the "other INR analyst" sent to the CIA meeting?
And was it the same analyst responsible for drafting the memo in the first place?
Could the analyst have been Fleitz, the CIA officer "on loan" to Bolton's
office in the State Department, but still working for the CIA at the same time?
Indeed, how many other people would have had the freedom and relevant security
clearances to go back and forth between the two agencies, let alone have direct
access to the White House?
These disclosures indicate two things: one, that a covert channel of information
through the CIA, State Department, and White House existed; and two, that Grossman
definitely was involved throughout, probably enlisting the help of Fleitz and/or
Wurmser in expediting the process.
From this it seems pretty clear that Grossman's mission was a key part of the
neocon offensives against the intelligence community, as with the Bolton/Fleitz
harassment of analysts like Christian Westermann. And, like all career diplomats
serving under multiple administrations, Grossman's ideological sympathies were
clearly flexible enough for the job.
Eric Edelman: A Witness, or More?
Another low-profile neocon associate who has been
swept up in the Plamegate controversy is Eric
Edelman, a former Cheney staffer, the previous ambassador to Turkey, and
current replacement for Douglas Feith as undersecretary of defense for policy.
However, as with John Bolton's appointment to the UN, Edelman was installed
via a White House recess appointment.
to the NY Times on Nov. 5, Edelman has been identified as the "then-principle
deputy" of Lewis Libby in the weeks leading up to the outing of Plame,
as named in the
Fitzgerald indictment [.pdf]. Edelman and his boss spoke on the phone "on
or about June 19, 2003, before Mr. Wilson's name became public."
It says that Mr. Edelman asked Mr. Libby in June 2003 whether information about
Mr. Wilson's trip could be disclosed to the press to rebut allegations that
Vice President Cheney had called for the trip. Reads the indictment:
"LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed
the article [in The New Republic]. That official asked LIBBY whether
information about Wilson's trip could be shared with the press to rebut the
allegations that the VP had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be
complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he
could not discuss the matter on a non-secure phone line."
What is interesting here, aside from the cloak-and-dagger, almost Franklinesque
flair of Libby, is that Edelman was no longer even supposed to be employed
with him at the time: as the NYT reminds, "Mr. Edelman ceased work
for Mr. Libby on June 6, 2003, to begin language training in preparation for
a posting as ambassador to Turkey."
Perhaps the need for a recess appointment had to do with Edelman's dangerous
failure at his previous place of employment. A 2003 article from Turkish
columnist Ali Aslan remarked on how strongly Edelman, in his new role as
ambassador, was disliked by Turks. During his two-year tenure in Ankara, Edelman
became a lightning rod for criticism as a meddlesome, bullying diplomat who
disrespected Turkish sovereignty on a number of levels. The
local media laid into him on numerous occasions. Columnist Ibrahim Karagul
writing in "the Islamist daily Yeni Safak, known as the unofficial
mouthpiece of the Justice and Development Party (AKP)," said, "if
we want to address the reasons for anti-Americanism, Edelman must be issue one.
As long as Edelman stays in Turkey, the chill wind disturbing bilateral relations
will last." Milliyet writer Can Dsündar added, "[I]f Turkey
today is the leader in the race of 'America-hating countries,' Edelman is a
major part of it." Yeni Safak's Ahmet Kekeç, reciting a litany
of abuses and revenge tactics Edelman used against the newspaper, closed by
simply stating, "Edelman must go."
And go he did – straight
back into the arms of Dick Cheney and the war party, which he had already served
on two occasions, first during the reign of Bush I, and again between 2001-2003
as a special assistant to Cheney. In the first period, he worked under Paul
Wolfowitz in the creation of a Defense
Policy Guidance that "stipulated that the U.S. should wage preventive
war to maintain unchallenged U.S. military supremacy." The second time
around, in the run-up to the Iraq war, Edelman played a vital role, along with
Lewis Libby, Doug Feith, and other prominent neocons, in crafting the bogus
rationale for war in Iraq that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. In August
2005, President Bush "used a constitutional power to bypass the Senate"
in confirming Edelman as the new undersecretary of defense for policy, replacing
According to the above RightWeb article, "replacing Douglas Feith with
Edelman allows the radicals running U.S. foreign policy to leave behind the
controversies building around Feith and get a relatively clean start with a
new undersecretary of defense for planning." However, that "relatively
clean start" now seems in danger of being sullied by Edelman's as yet unknown
role in L'Affaire Plame.
Fitzgerald's Announcement and the Woodward Revelations: More
When all is said and done, how many more "peripheral
figures" aside from Fleitz, Wurmser, Grossman, and Edelman are going to
be sucked in by the vacuum that is Plamegate? Although I don't have space here
to dip into the feeding
frenzy of speculation that has ensued following Bob
Woodward's testimony that yet another official had informed him of
Plame's identity in June 2003, a month before Libby told Bob Novak, it is worth
mentioning that things are bound to get more exciting yet: after all, the meticulous
and patient Patrick
Fitzgerald has announced that a second grand jury will be convened.
So it looks as if the show's not over. Perhaps it hasn't even begun. And if
certain business interests and foreign relations are going to be affected by
the prosecutor's inquiry into high treason, well, that's just too bad.