Thursday 24 December 2009

Glimpses of America's Man-Made Disasters - Part 16

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Angus Mackenzie's developing a brain tumor in December 1992, and then dying on Friday, May 13, 1994 - whatever the cause of the cancer, and his possible overuse of cellphones looks increasingly unlikely - was a black period not only for the aggressive 44-year-old journalist but also for American democracy. During the period when he was dying, a hiatus was created in his research which his survivors were unable to properly revive when they belatedly added to the finished manuscript. They worked on the assumption that Mackenzie was particularly interested in firing the spies - what Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes called for in a January 26, 1992 article in the San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle as a way of allegedly getting rid of the CIA - when Mackrenzie essentially wanted transparency in the conduct of American government. DCI Robert Gates, in giving orders to Agency employees to make it more popular with the public, had "...made it plain that CIA 'openness' did not mean the lessening of secrecy." (Angus Mackenzie, Secrets: The CIA's War at Home, p. 197)

Now there is a clear distinction between protecting secrets, and stopping spies. While counterintelligence agents focus on the latter, it usually is for protecting some kind of vital information, though it can just be to prevent dangerous blowback from opponents or just to protect an agency from embarrassing disclosures. In this case, Gates was clearly protecting information, particularly of a scientific nature that Danny Stillman had discovered for the Agency in his visits to China and Russia during 1990-1, and Thomas Reed has written about in The Nuclear Express. The visits had apparently shown that neither of them were really that far advanced in nuclear capability but this information was cooked up for domestic political and public consumption so that Congress was panicked into funding far more than America's bloated military-industrial state could possibly consume, resulting, among many other things, in the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) building itself a grand new headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia with $310 million of allocated but unspent funds. Stillman officially claimed that "... Chinese weapons technology is on a par with that of the United States" (p. 356), and that his December 1991 visit to Russia turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to mask its past and ongoing stealing of American nuclear technology. (pp.42-3)

The biggest cause of the change in focus from protecting secrets to catching spies was caused by the difficulties surrounding Bill Clinton's unexpected election as President in November 1992. America's covert government had written off the Governor of Arkansas as a likely replacement of George H. W. Bush, given Clinton's serious involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, especially his making available the services of Mena's International Regional Airport to the Agency's Evergreen International Aviation, Southern Air Transport, Vortex Aircraft Sales and Leasing and other carriers, but was panicked when it happened as he had promised to end the Agency during the election campaign, not only for vote catching purposes but also to cover up his role in its operations. To head off the Agency's possible demise, Gates gave him an unprecedented personal briefing in Little Rock in September 1992 about what it was doing - something they both had a mutual interest in keeping covered up - and continued on a regular basis as the Presidential Daily Brief in Little Rock, once he was elected.

For more on the crisis, see these links:

The arrangement that Clinton and CIA's new DCI R. James Woolsey reached was that they would work mutually to clean up their acts with as little contact as possible, while leaving the NRO to stew in its own juice. The primary threats were Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh's continuing efforts to prosecute high Reagan officials, especially the National Security Council's Oliver North, and the possible fallout from Peter Dale Scott's and Jonathan Marshall's Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America which was based upon John Kerry's Senate Subsommittee Report on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations shortly after George Bush became President, and was published in 1991 by the University of California Press, the same university press which would publish Mackenzie's manuscript. Clinton was afraid that the prosecution of North would lead to his revealing all, especially the former Governor's role in the Agency's use of Mena - what led Walsh to back off from prosecuting him after others had been pardoned by Bush - what the President-elect perfunctorily criticized. Fortunately for Clinton, the Scott and Marshal book neither mentioned him nor Mena, and nothing new was said about then Deputy Director of Operation Gates's role in the whole process.

The biggest problem for the Clintons was keeping secret all the dealings they had had with the Agency during Iran-Contra - what kept them preoccuppied while considering more routine matters, especially appointments, explaining partially why it was done so ham-handedly. The first task was to get rid of Bureau Director William Sessions who was involved in knitting the FBI and CIA together at the top rather than catching turncoats at the bottom during the "decade of the spy."When Sessions began having his agents look into the Agency's relationship at the bottom with Banco Lavoro Nazionale where the Agency's Aldrich 'Rick' Ames had desposited $111,000 of unexplained money from a Swiss bank account, as Mark Riebling wrote in Wedge (p. 443), Sessions became a marked man (p. 425), and soon he was gone because of alleged ethics violations. While the Bureau's investigations of so-called Iraq-Gate hurt Bush at the polls, it was time to get rid of Sessions when it was reported his reduction of its counter intelligence capability had led to the continued spying by Ames for Soviets which the Brueau had finally started investigating when the real problem then was Hillary's dealings with weapons firms like Teledyne which had been supplying Saddam with cluster bombs from cutouts like Chile's Cardoen - what Gates had denied at his confirmation hearings under oath as DCI.

Hillary soon took over the White House Travel Office for fear that its official employees would get wind of its most questionable transactions, especially the many money-laundering trips to Switzerland and elsewhere by deputy White House counsel Vince Foster who had been dragged in to "accelerate the process". (James B. Stewart, Blood Sport, p. 260) As 'Travelgate' developed, Foster became increasingly in the eye of the storm, particularly thanks to the media's, especially The Wall Street Journal's, pursuit of him. The prospect of congressional hearings over the messy business seemed increasingly inevitable despite the hiring of counsel David Gergen to stem the hostile publicity. Soon the WSJ was requesting Forter's photograph, and when he refused to provide it, the newspaper filed a succesful Freedom of Informtion Act request for it. Foster was so stressed that he even cancelled his trip to Arkansas to receive its Bar Association's 1993 Outstanding Lawyer of the Year award.

He felt like he was in a hopeless situation that he could do nothing about. As soon as he heard Sessions had been fired - replaced by former Bureau eager-beaver Louis Freeh rather than Clinton old friend Richard Stearns to stem criticism that the White House was politicizing it - Foster committed suicide the next day in Fort Marcy Park.

While conspiracy theorists went wild over the death - thanks particularly to articles in The New York Times, and fumbling activities by the Bureau making it look like it might well have been murder - the White House not only encouraged such suspicions by unreliable claims, unexpected activities, and puzzling evasiveness but also took advantage of them. Of course, the prospect that everyone might believe that Foster did, in fact, commit suicide, was the last thing the Clintons wanted. Then when all kinds of claims were made about important witnesses of the suicide allegedly being silenced, Clinton critics - particularly former security chief Jerry Luther Parks who had been pressuring Foster and predicted his own murder after Foster killed himself; troublemaking lawyer Paul Wilcher who had been investigating activities at Mena and how it related to Iran-Contra; and nearly me who almost died several times the way Wilcher did - were taken care of, as I have explained in these articles:

Then the Agency complemented the process by getting rid of potential troublemakers, one way or another. On August 8, 1993, Freddie Woodruff, a long-time friend of the Ameses, was shot dead in the Republic of Georgia while he, the director of its intelligence service Eldar Guguladze, and two unidentified women were taking a sightseeing visit to Mount Kazbek. The Woodruffs had rented the Ameses' house on the Golf Course Island in Reston back in 1976 when Ames was transferred to NYC, and had remained close friends thereafter - what the Agency ignored when it wrote up an account of Rick's spying. (David Wise, Nightmover, p. 234) Woodruff was the CIA resident in Leningrad when the non-nuclear conclusion to the Cold War occurred after the assassination of Olof Palme, and Woodruff knew more clearly than anyone else what was at stake - especially unexpected Soviet counterforce if the triggering had worked on Moscow - if the showdown had gone ahead. Woodruff could clearly have blown the Agency sky high it he had lived to testify in any trial. Woodruff's murder was written off by the Agency as merely a random act of violence.

To show that the Agency had Palme's unsolved assassination clearly on its mind, Viktor Gunnarsson, the most likely assassin of still unsolved Palme killing according to the Swedish public, was himself assassinated in North Carolina where he had sought refuge. His killing was certainly caused by at least two killers who managed somehow to remove the drugged, good-sized man from his apartment complex in Salisbury, and drive him, unconscious in the trunk of a car, 90 miles to Deep Gap where his body was disposed of - so well that it took six weeks for it finally to be found. Consequently, the plotters were obliged to murder the mother of Kay Weden, the leading suspect's former girl friend, former policeman L. C. Underwood, in the hope of making Gunnarsson's killing stick on him too. The successful prosecution was based on the assumption that if Underwood had killed Gunnarsson, then he might well have murdered Ms. Weden's mother, Mrs. Miller and the reverse. With hypothesizing like this, the state of North Carolina was able to incarcerate Underwood for life with no chance of parole.

For more on this, see this link:

With the Clinton administration's covert problems greatly reduced, Freeh's Bureau finally arrested KGB spy Ames in February 1994 because he no longer had potential witnesses who could provide extenuating circumstances for his spying for Moscow. While his colleagues made much of the spies he had betrayed, Viktor Cherkashin, his KGB recruiter, was much more to the point when he explained: "He is a humanitarian. How did he hurt your country? He didn't betray any of your secrets, he simply told us who were the traitors in our midst. I consider him a very fine fellow." (Quoted from Pete Earley, Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames, p. 350.) Of course, in saying this, Cherkashin was alluding to the secret plot to eliminate the USSR by a non-nuclear war, thanks to triggering it by the assassination of Olof Palme, and the spying by Stillman which disclosed that Russia was apparently still seeking world domination, thanks to spying for the Russians by PERSEUS aka Arthur Fielding and apparently MI5's Peter Wright et al., which Ames never allegedly mentioned to Moscow. It ultimately even denied that Ames was its spy.

To repay the KGB in kind, the Bureau then hired Robert Eringer to befriend Edward Lee Howard in Moscow, and render him back to the States to face the music, as Eringer has now been describing and posting the fruits of on his blog. Of, course Eringer did not explain it as an act of vengeance, as Howard had no mitigating circumstances like Ames - what would have led to his execution if successful. While Howard had deliberately been allowed to escape to Moscow before the non-nuclear showdown with the Soviets to give them a false sense of what was afoot, his disclosures to Moscow, especially the spying for the Agency by Adolf Tolkachev which kicked off the celebrated year of the spies - 1985, were worthless.

Of course, one would like to know why it took the Bureau so long to go after Howard, and why Eringer has waited so long to tell of his adventures and insights into spying with an agent that even the Agency didn't want. President Clinton's refusal to permit Howard's rendering from any European location showed that he wanted to let sleeping dogs lie, especially since the Bureau was rendering terrorists involved in the first bombing of the WTC.. Eringer's purpose apparently is to show how amateurish such agents are in deed and thought.

During all this messy clean up, the American intelligence community, especially the NRO, was keeping a most low profile, hoping that the revelations would only be about spies outed rather than secrets revealed. NRO Director Martin Faga released a few basic facts about the organization to still complaints about it performance until the construction of its new headquarters at Chantilly was revealed - reviving the concerns which had caused Judge William Webster to retire as DCI back in 1991. Webster had appointed the Dan Childs Study Group in March 1991 to review generally the intelligence community's performanace, and he was shocked when it reported in May about how the NRO operated, and how intelligence was managed in the DoD. While the DCI thought that the air attacks in preparation for the invasion had been greatly overdone, he was shocked by what these departments had done - an apparent allusion to the Iranian earthquake. "This extraordinary statement," the Agency's own history of his performance as DCI recorded, "seemingly reflected a perception that the DCI was not in charge of some important changes being undertaken within the community he putatively led." (CIA's The Work of a Nation: The Center of Intelligence, "William Webster: Transition to Post-War Era," Chapter Ten)

While this led to Webster's hasty departure, disclosure of the construction of the Chantilly facility led to Faga's. Jimmy Hill, the NRO's long-time serving Deputy Director, took over to help it weather the storm, and he certainly was needed, as trouble kept occurring. Its biggest problem was the murder of its security guard, Tina Ricca, while on duty for Vance International at the construction site of the alleged Rockwell International Building in Westfields on November 6, 1994. It was not only the front for the new NRO building but also showed that the diversifying aerospace company was busy in supplying it with its high-energy, chemical iodine laser (COIL) to shoot up anything on the ground, worth shaking up. Rockwell moved its headquarters repeatedly during this period, and in May 1994 it had been awarded two contracts to make the airborne laser system fully operational. For those who like vivid logos, its was a cobra, spitting deadly poison at a rising ICBM during the booster stage, and with the motto of "Peace Through Light" - light which had the power of a thermonuclear explosion.

Ms. Ricca had been murdered for apparently helping disclose the NRO's runaway character to reporters like Stephen Aftergood - who had a piece in the August/September 1994 issue of Secrecy and Government Bulletin, entitled "Get Smarter, Demystify the NRO" - and threatening to tell more about its most cosy relation with Rockwell International as she moved to a position with it in Australia. According to her father, John Ricca - just days after President Clinton declassified the existence of the new NRO headquarters - his daughter was shot dead by one bullet at cross range, and it was not reported to her employer for well over two hours. "It gave the CIA plenty of time to destroy whatever evidence there was before the police got on the scene," Rocca told reporter Bonnie Hobbs of the Centre View. Rocca was particularly upset because the Fairfield County police were just treating it as a common homicide which had no connection with the NRO, and seemed to have been an insider killing which The Washington Post had not even reported. "If (the CIA) doesn't want Congress and the Ways and Means Committee to know what happened," Ricca complained, "they're surely not going to tell me - especially if they're involved in it." (Ibid., "The Tina Ricca Murder," November 8, 1994.) When Ricca tried to get some worker compensation of her murder, Virginia's Worker's Compensation Commission trivialized it by claiming that her death occurred in 1993, and was the result of "a work accident". (VWC File No. 171-16-86)

The murder - especially since it has never been solved - had the desired effect upon any other potential whistleblower since even Mackenzie's survivors did not make mention of it when completing his manuscript, though they did make mention of the scandal at the NRO in a footnote regarding its use of Special Access Programs (SAPs) in building the new headquarters with a minimum of oversight and "an exotic level of secrecy" (p. 196) - what the joint venture with Rockwell International fitted to a tee. Matters got even more confused after a Fund for Constitutional Government panel discussion at the Capitol of Mackenzie's book which was dominated by personnel working in the media, particularly the Post's Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus, when David Martin aka DCDave asked Woodward why nothing had appeared in his paper about Tina's murder, the reporter looked pained, and said reluctantly that he would look into the matter if Martin briefed him about its details. After Martin did so, and asked Woodward to inform him when something appeared, he said he would do so, but he never did, leading Martin to conclude that the whole panel, which also included James Bamford, was just a pack of bird dogs, working for the spooks.

By this time, the whole Intelligence Community furore over Iran-Contra. Iraq-Gate, and the NRO was starting to simmer down, and Stillman resumed his campaign to tell tales about Russia and China to keep up for the pressure on Congress for additional funding. He was so upset about PERSEUS's continued spying for the communists that he went to the FBI special agent in charge in Santa Fe with his evidence against the suspect who was becoming wealthy because of it - an apparent allusion to what Peter Wright was raking in from the sales of Spy Catcher. After the Bureau's leading counterintelligence expert had seen Stillman's files and supporting evidence against PERSEUS, he was soon on the trail of Wen Ho Lee at Los Alamos, as Stillman had clearly indicated that the spy was an Amerrican. (p. 38) He was suspected of having given Beijing American secrets about the W88 warhead of its latest thernonuclear bomb, and it was only in 2000 that the government admitted that it was all a terrible mistake, and allowed Lee to be released after pleading guilty to one charge of mishandling non-classified information about nuclear weapons.

Then this same Bureau expert on spying, it seems, was claiming that the Chinese had tried to recruit at both labs scientists to provide data about their development of the neutron bomb aka "Tiger Trap". This alleged spying had started in the late '70s and continued into the middle '80s when Beijing, it seems, had stolen secrets about warhead W70. In 1988, China tested successfully its own neutron bomb, and passed its secrets along to Pakistan. About the hurried process, Reed wrote: "During thte 1980s, the Chinese developed a neutron bomb after four failed attempts. They were unabashedly concerned about their 'northern neighbor', Russia, and they were quite open about the studies done to confirm the ability of enhanced radiation weapons to destroy mobile tank forces without obliterating their own countryside." (p. 231) Thanks to Stillnam's scaremoggering, Gwo-Bao Min, who had been fired from Lawrence Livermore for leaking classified material in the early '80s, the FBI continued its pursuit of him but it came up with nothing.

At other times, Stillman continued to spread disinformation about China's nuclear capability, as Reed duly recorded: "On September 25, 1992, the Chinese tested a new and quite sophisticated primary. The test employed diagnostics beyond any U. S. capability at the time." (p. 231)

During a 1994 visit to China, Stillman learned through his friendly discussions with Chinese counterparts that the president of the Chinese Institute of Atomic Energy " 'had been spending a lot of time with scientists from Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan trying to sell them scientific equipment'." (Quoted from p. 229.) Reed made it quite clear that Saddam was still working on getting the bomb, and seemed quite confident that he would do so, thanks to his continual tricking IAEA inspectors. "In May 2007, the Congressional Research Service (CRS)," Reed explained, thanks to all the disinformation that Stillman had supplied it, "published a bill of particulars.

Among other transgressions, that report noted that, immediately prior to the Iraqi Freedom War, China supplied Iraq with critically needed missile components

China also supplied Iraq with missile guidance software disguised as 'children's computer software.' " (p. 328)

Of course, this was the missing link that the Clinton adminsitration had long wanted to close the noose around Slobodan Milosevic's neck - connecting Russia and China to Saddam's alleged WMD via Serbia. While Moscow had allegedly given Milosevic the capability to make a bomb, and he had passed it along to Baghdad, China had long provided the missile components to make Saddam's WMD threats deadly serious to Israel and beyond. And when Clinton learned that China was providing information to frustrate his bombing of Serbian forces to make them withdraw from Kosovo, he flatened its embassy in Belgrade on May 8, 1999 for converting a three-day bombing sortie into a three-month campaign. Of course, Stillman and Reed, contrary to the Chinese hosts, acted as if they had had no role in the process when it was just the tip of the iceberg that they had essentially created.

For more on this, see this link:

Clinton was not satisfied with this result, though, going on to cause the earthquake in Ismit Turkey for the assistance that its Demirel-Ecevit government had given Milosevic about NATO's aerial bombardment. Washington had resumed interest in the possible use of lasers in causing earthquakes after Rockwell International had sold its Aerospace and Defense divisions to Boeing in December 1997, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen had prepared the public about the possibilities of such man-made disasters in a speech he delivered at the University of Georgia earlier in the year. The NRO's high-energy, chemical iodine laser satellite had an ideal target in the sandy, qanat infested territory around Ismit, and Washington just added to Turkey's problems by sending in warships and marines to prop up the isolated government when solid, across-the-board disaster reconstruction was needed.

The airborne laser had become the primary weapon in America's offensive arsenal.