Tuesday 28 May 2013

Intelligence and Accountability: From the Cold War to the War on Terror

Paper Presentation by Adeyinka Makinde at the biennial Conference of the Centre for International Intelligence and Security Studies (C.I.I.S.S.) held under the auspices of the University of Aberyswyth at Gregynogg, Mid-Wales; 25th of May 2013.

Thank you very much I will get straight into things without further ado.

The topic is intelligence and accountability from the cold war to the war on terror. It’s obviously potentially a wide field of area so I’ll try to be as selective as possible.

I do want to give the idea of comparing the intelligence projects that were undertaken mainly by democratic nations; centering on the United States and CIA with strong support from the British SIS.

To cut to the chase it’s essentially an issue of national interest. Nations need to promote their national interest and to preserve them and the use of intelligence is a very crucial feature of that.

And speaking of national interest the United States has been in a position of world power and dominance and seeks not unnaturally to preserve that.

Through the Cold War as well as the contemporary circumstances of the War on Terror. But in doing that, the use of intelligence has provided moral and ethical dilemmas.

Without getting totally philosophical about things, I wanted to use the analogy of Machiavelli and his thesis about how a ruler preserves his domain and in that sense the United States seeks to do that.

The question is how far do you go? Because Machiavelli’s thesis, as we all know, was that the end justifies the means. Whatever is done, whether it involves murder, cruelty, deception is all par for the course.

The ends justify the means.

However the United States and Great Britain are democracies and when you are a democracy this has consequences if you do immoral things.

So I am looking at accountability not just from the point of view of intelligence officers on the field but the politicians who are the engineers of national policy and who make the intelligence services the tools of their statecraft and some of these do stray into the morally objectionable.

The question is what limits can be placed on that.

Is the rule of law, transparency, all the things associated with democratic societies, justice, is that inviolable or are there no limits involved?

So I think that is essentially the scene as one wants to set things.

So speaking in terms of morality, at the outset of the Cold War a memorandum was sent to President Eisenhower from the National Security Agency.

They were facing what was described as an “implacable enemy”; international communism, “whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and whatever cost” and that the US needed to learn to "subvert, sabotage and destroy its enemies by more clever and more ruthless methods than those of its opponents."

 “It entailed a fundamentally repugnant philosophy which contradicted longstanding American concepts of fair play", but insisted that such an approach was necessary given the gravity of the international situation.

So that sort of sets the scene. The United States were against a so-called totalitarian society in (the form of) the Soviet Union. And it provided some sort of a dilemma of how hard you fight to protect your domain.

It’s a question of the rule of law, it’s a question of human rights when you indulge in certain forms of intelligence and covert operations and there comes a point where you say is there a threshold or do you go “full out.”

Or to quote Oliver Cromwell, he once said that there were “great occasions in which some (great) men are called to perform great services in the doing of which they are excused from the common rule of morality”. That was something of a question posed.

I think that being a man who killed a king, he would say that wouldn’t he.

There is that conflict between democratic values and espionage values. When you think about democracy it’s all about transparency; objectivity. 

With the rules of espionage. It’s about deception. It’s about plausible deniability, and I think that everyone realises there is a certain element of a dark art to the practice of espionage and when it comes to the vital protection of national interest this comes into sharp focus as we’ve seen not only in the Cold War but in the contemporary circumstances of the War on Terror.

A sample of this that gives an exception to the institutions of the intelligence world is section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act of 1994.

Now what that actually implies is that if an MI6 officer was involved in murder, kidnapping, bribery (or) corruption outside of the United Kingdom, they would have a defence if that operation was undersigned by a secretary of state.

It’s been in the news recently with a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who is now suing the British government. He is alleges that Jack Straw undersigned a rendition request.

We’ll come back to that right at the end, but very little to remind us about the basis of the Cold War. It was in the aftermath of the Second World War; Churchill’s speech about the Iron Curtain from the Baltic to the Adriatic.

He should have known what was coming anyway because he had already had talks with Stalin about the division of spheres of influence and that was confirmed in Yalta.

And certainly one thing that America wanted to preserve was that 'Yalta System' particularly in Italy and the efforts made by the CIA for it not to fall under communist influence or the influence of the Left.

The CIA was created in 1947 under the National Security Act, and it was going to be involved in the application of the Truman Doctrine and also remember that NATO was established in 1949 as a military alliance which potentially would do conflict with the Warsaw Pact in the event of a war.

This was the directive issued to the CIA. They were to carry out operations against “hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups, but which are so planned and conducted that any US government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorised persons.”

This is very important when we talk about what has happened recently, not just in Iraq, but in Libya and also what is currently happening in Syria.

A lot of people are quite familiar with the Cold War activities of the CIA. They famously overthrew a number of governments starting in spectacular style in Iran when they overthrew the government of Mohamed Mossadegh.

Actually, the SIS was very much in support of that operation. It was officially led by the (Middle Eastern) station chief of the CIA, Kermit Roosevelt, however Britain had this legacy in the Middle East so they would have supplied them information to do with geography and the makeup of Iranian society etcetera.

The tricks of the trade were all on display there. There was rumour-mongering; use of what you could call ‘black propaganda’ or deception in the media; trying to link Mossadegh with communism. Thugs were paid to rampage during election time. Influential Muslim leaders were made to distance themselves from Mossadegh.

And it was a success; Operation Ajax.

And then in Guatemala, the same thing happens. You have an enlightened leader trying to build bridges, to be socially progressive and he embarks on land reform. But the United States doesn’t like this: it affects the interests of the United Fruit Company.

And the same tactics are used: media manipulation, dropping of pamphlets from the air, suborning members of the armed forces; inciting them to rebel against the constitutional order.

And of course the government of Jacobo Guzman Arbenz was overthrown. So this was a Bay of Pigs scenario that actually worked. They stimulated a civil war and that led to a military coup and the overthrow of the government. It was known as PBSUCCESS.

In Indonesia, I think everybody is aware that the government of Sukarno was overthrown by tactics engineered by the CIA, however, the British SIS’s role was not really that really well known to its fullest extent until the 1990s.

They were involved, not just the SIS, but the Foreign Office and its Information Research Department; again manipulating the media from Phoenix Park in Singapore.

One of the most insidious things they did was they identified the Chinese community in Indonesia with Red (Chinese) communism, so when the purges came, a particular ethnic group also bore the brunt of that. So Sukarno was overthrown.

I think the most famous one is probably Chile. The CIA spent a lot of money trying to frustrate Salvador Allende’s attempts to get elected in 1970. They (the CIA) actually paid a gang who were to kidnap the chief of army staff Rene Schneider and it went ‘wrong’ apparently and he was murdered.

But I think that is aiding and abetting. The CIA was in the background manipulating the media: Time magazine had to change a cover. There were newspaper reports in the Latin American press and the European press that bore the imprints of intelligence interference; not to give Allende a fair stab at the cake, basically saying that it (his government) was on course for disaster.

They tried to bribe the Chilean Parliament not to have him elected because it wasn’t a totally direct election. The congress had to confirm that.

And so we have to think about the cost and benefit of that. Here is America preserving its national interest. You don’t want the Soviet Union to get a foothold in Latin America; somewhat a continuation of the corollary of the Monroe Doctrine, but at what cost?  

Iran was then led by the Shah with a repressive regime which was overthrown twenty-six years later and it left a vacuum which was filled by an Islamist regime which has been at loggerheads with the West ever since. So what was the victory at the end of the day?

In Guatemala we’ve had death squads in the supervening years and a corrupt, repressive military dictatorship.

In Indonesia we had concentration camps. Half a million people slaughtered, including members of the Chinese community who were targeted because of that association with Red Chinese Communism.

And of course Chile:  Did General Pinochet save Chile from a pit of Marxist misery? Or was that worth it with all the executions and the murders?

I also want to look at Operation Gladio in Europe because this involves something that people might say is the preserve of so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’.

I want to remind us that as I said at the beginning; America liberated (Western) Europe from Nazi domination.  So lives were lost, they shed blood. They also undergirded European economic rehabilitation with the Marshall Plan.

So they had an interest that Europe should not fall in the hands, so to speak, of communist or Leftist influence. That was shown because one of the first operations of the CIA was to protect the Christian Democrat Party in the first (post-war Italian) elections.

Gladio, a secret army which goes by different names in different European nations, were emplaced after the Second World War to form a band of guerrillas who would wage war against the Soviet Union in the event of an invasion. That did not come to pass. In fact elements of the Cold War were probably overstated.

And so what happens to these secret armies? They are actually turned against their populations. Members of the secret armies tended to be recruited from Right-wing groups.

And one member, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, made an admission which shed light on a number of bombs that exploded. There was one in Milan in 1969, another in Peteano in (1972), and Bolognia in 1980.

These were planted by Right-wing extremist groups on the direction of Italian military intelligence who themselves were advised and paid by the American CIA. This is well documented.

The result was to create what the Italians call ‘La Strategia della Tensione’: a strategy of tension. So that when bombs blow up and people are killed in the streets, it will create fear and panic and people will look to the state for authoritarian government to bring order.

The military coup that was expected after Milan did not transpire, however, the repeat of this strategy was in place.  

I must say that much of the secret army has not been revealed and we don’t know whether they still exist. I say the chances are that they still do.

There were suspicious bombs that went off in Belgium in Brabant (and) the Munich Festival, the October Fest in 1980 and there are those who feel that these were strategy of tension ploys aimed at bringing in Right-wing governments because in Belgium nuclear disarmament and the Left were gaining ground, and in Germany they wanted a Right-wing government in place of the one led by Helmut Schmidt.

This is an excerpt from a parliamentary inquiry into Gladio. That directly links the American intelligence services:

“Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions, had been organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and as has been discovered more recently by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence.”

Very quickly, the Cold War in Latin America.

Operation Condor was run by Latin American dictatorships: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and a few others, and they involved kidnapping people on the Left or people who were just simply anti-military regime.

And then, if they were in foreign countries extraditing them, illegally, to face torture, imprisonment and quite frequently death and they were secretly buried.

Now, did the United States know about this? They certainly did. The United States has trained generations of Latin American officers and they’ve done that under the Army School of the Americas based in Panama, and in that whole context, a lot of these officers were indoctrinated by manuals produced by the Pentagon; things that stray into the rules of torture, for instance.

They also were guided, these Latin American dictatorships, by the Doctrine of National (Security) which was about preventing communist subversion and preventing so-called class warfare.

There are cables for instance like from the State Department. An ambassador in Paraguay was communicating to Cyrus Vance, the secretary of state and implicitly everyone in the US government knew what was going on.

These countries used an encrypted system based in Panama which the United States controlled. So the United States had foreknowledge about everything that was happening and obviously they were very much in support of anything that would keep communism out of Latin America.

The death squads are extremely well documented. The United States military intelligence has had an agenda of using death squads that dates back to the Vietnam War and the Phoenix Program which claimed (26,000) lives in South Vietnam. And that continued in Central America in El Salvador and other Central American countries.

President Kennedy was the one who introduced what was ostensibly a very enlightened program to prevent the spread of communism. It was the Alliance for Progress.

This was to increase economic development and was supposed to forestall any sympathies with communism, but it came to the point where the State Department and the CIA felt that this programme could not be successfully implemented unless it had a back up from civil, paramilitary and military structures. This is where you have the creation of death squads, ORDEN and ANSESAL .

ORDEN was a rural paramilitary force. It collected information and it would send that information to ANSESAL which was located with the presidential office and ANSESAL would give instructions as to who would be liquidated. The American military trained these death squads; these practitioners and interestingly we will see this repeated went it comes to the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

We know the basis of the War on Terror: the attack in New York on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and other buildings. There is a lot of controversy about the circumstances of that.

Nonetheless, it inaugurated the War on Terror; a different kind of war against irregulars who are supposed to be Islamic extremists. The Cold War wasn’t an outright military confrontation although there were proxy wars, but this has brought up its own set of controversies.

But I do want to argue that whether you want to call it the War on Terror, and now we have an annexe called the Arab Spring, however they were created or however they were perpetuated, the Americans have always followed their national interests.

Take for example the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring is something in which it is purported to be mainly youthful, forward-looking, progressive, Western-influenced people who want democracy to come to their country.

The problem is that that does not seem to apply to certain countries which the United States has good relations with such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. So the countries that have been targeted for destabilisation have been Libya and Syria.

The PNAC, the Project for the New America (n Century) was the blueprint I think for essential American policy as far as (identifying) who the enemy is. The neo-Conservatives were about using American military might, while ignoring  multi-national agreements, to go into countries and fill out a vacuum left by the retreated Soviet Union.

And those countries who were earmarked: Libya, Syria; all of them were supposed to end with the taking out of Iran. It was a five year project and this was revealed by General Wesley Clarke the former head of NATO.

So that policy has been followed.

I have this chart which on the one hand shows you what the governments of America and Britain say are their aims and objectives, but they actually have other aims and objectives.

Yes, they are combating or trying to contain Islamist-inspired terrorism, but they are at the same time trying to secure economic advantages around the Persian Gulf – there’s no question about that. They have invaded Afghanistan, they have invaded Iraq and that entailed the encirclement of Iran.

When they talk about promoting democracy and the Arab Spring and overthrowing oppressive dictators such as Libya’s Gaddafi, Syria’s Assad on the other hand  what they are really doing is targeting the ‘hostile’ regimes, they are not targeting Bahrain which is violently suppressing protests by the majority Shias.

Also humanitarian intervention through this juggernaut of NATO protecting civilian populations from massacres. Essentially it is also a device used very selectively to attack certain countries which are hostile to America.

I think that we’re all clear about the War on Terror as relates to Iraq. Saddam Hussein led a secular government and he was in no way a bedfellow of al-Qaeda terrorists. That war, as we know, was engineered by the use of flawed and fabricated intelligence. Again a way in which intelligence is used in a deceptive manner to fool the public and to utilise it for some form of national interest.

There’s no question about it. There was a revelation that Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, in a conversation with Tony Blair was saying, “Look, it’s very “thin”, this evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but President Bush has made his mind up that he’s going to invade Iraq, but what they are doing is they’re “fixing things around intelligence” and Colin Powell showed what the fix was, and as we know there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Another way in which American intelligence has shown its ‘dirty hand’ was in combating the insurgency. When the Americans removed Saddam Hussein, they dismantled the Baathist regime. The Sunni insurgency was very successful and a lot of American soldiers were getting killed.

So what happens, very publically, but it was a short, brief announcement, the Pentagon tells the press: “we are thinking about the Salvador Option”. So we’re going back to El Salvador death squads. And so what do you do? You make friends with your enemy. They did that with the al-Qaeda-like fighters who overthrew Gaddafi in Libya and those who are fighting to remove Assad and in this case, they recruited members of Shia militias; the Badhr Brigade and the Madhi Army.

They were highly motivated in getting their own (back) against the Sunnis who were the favoured people under the Saddam regime. It involved not just kidnappings, torture and murders; it involved also regulating a (special) prison system.

And so who does Donald Rumsfeld get? He gets retired Colonel James Steele who was a veteran of the death squads of El Salvador. And he comes and works in concert with a Colonel Coffman who reports to General Patraeus and they use that to defeat the insurgency. So again, end justifies the means? But severe human rights violations.

So we know what happened in Libya, Gaddafi with whom they had a bit of a rapprochement but they decided, “We want him overthrown.” And effectively Britain and America were arming and training militias who had Islamist sympathies to overthrow this secular regime of Gaddafi.

Here’s the news about Syria. All this talk about, “Oh, we are thinking about officially supplying a few radio bands whatever to (the opposition)"...There’s a secret war going on. There’s no question that the so-called Free Syrian Army is being aided by the United States intelligence.

There was a report in the Daily Telegraph in early March about the airlift of 3,000 tons of weapons from Zagreb in Croatia and this one also from the New York Times which says “at the behest of the CIA Arab governments through Saudi Arabia and Turkey” are arming these Syrian rebels. So that’s what the agenda is all about.

How do we compare these tactics? It’s a never ending cycle.

Extraordinary renditions, black sites and torture. We became familiar with the term waterboarding; a form of medieval-like torture. And where does that come out of?  It comes out of the book as applied in Operation Condor which the American intelligence services oversaw, and the death squads that occurred in Central America.

Assassinations: The attempts to assassinate Castro and Sukarno. They tried to assassinate Saddam Hussein. And the same way with Gaddafi who eventually was lynched. I think the militias were guided to him by intelligence supplied to them.

The use of criminals and political extremists: We’re familiar in the Cold War with the American CIA recruiting the mafia to try and assassinate Fidel Castro and also political extremists; we’ve noticed the use of neo-fascists preserving European democracy ironically because that was the sort of person who could be reliable ideologically in fighting communism.

In the same way the United States has no problem in terms of forming alliances with extremists who will serve their purposes. Let me just give you an idea about that:

Is al-Qaeda the shock troop regiment of the CIA?

It sounds like a smart-alecky comment, but effectively this is what happened in Libya with the unseating of Gaddafi in Libya and this report in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh in 2007 talking about the reconfiguration of the Bush Administration’s policy that they were engaging in operations in Lebanon aimed at marginalising Hezbollah.

All roads, as I said earlier on, lead to Iran. These are bastions of Shiadom who are in opposition to American and British interests. And this has succeeded in bolstering Sunni extremist groups. They have taken over Libya with the aid of NATO; they want to take over Syria again with the aid of America.

So again, what are they creating? A Mediterranean lake to be festered by al-Qaeda-like sympathisers?

And then media manipulation, which we mentioned earlier on as a Cold war strategy. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, MI6 was involved in ‘Operation Mass Appeal’ which was discovered sometime in November and admitted to in December of 2003.

They were planting stories which heightened the suspicion that Saddam Hussein was better armed than he actually was. So again a continuation of a situation.

So what is the basis of accountability? There is a framework in which the CIA and MI6 are supposed to operate. Ironically as most of us will obviously know, the British security services were not acknowledged to even exist until the later part of the 20th Century.

So accountability was essentially an abstract concept as far as the wider public was concerned or having parliamentary committees oversee them, but at the moment both in America and the UK you have these intelligence committees that technically monitor their work and they are given briefings in secret.

But there are always caveats involved. As we know, both the CIA and the security services in this country are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation. There are exceptions to the 30-year Cabinet rule regarding the release of documents, so again the intelligence services tend to operate on a different plane from the rest of the civil institutions of the executive side of government.

And as I gave that example of the MI5 and MI6 officers being able to claim some sort of immunity as long as the secretary of state undersigns it, the same thing under the PATRIOT Act or Homeland Security regime, CIA officers and members of the United States military cannot be tried for war crimes or torture. They have immunity.

So again, not a level playing field in terms of accountability which obviously gives cause for concern as to the extent of how far they go.

Well we want to think about who is responsible? I think political, military intelligence service figures should be able to face prosecution.

You have leaders of countries from the Balkans and Africa being tried in the Hague for war crimes. Why isn’t Tony Blair, why isn’t George Bush in a cage in the Hague  being tried for instigating a war of aggression, because that is what is was in terms of invading  Iraq based on that flawed, fabricated evidence.

That was what led Generals Jodl and Keitel to the hangman’s noose at Nuremberg, because they aided a war of aggression.

The picture I have there is of Nicollo Parroti, the (former) head of SISMI, Italian military intelligence who aided the CIA in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric who was based in Milan.

He was jailed in February 2013 for the rendition. He has a lot of time to appeal, I guess, but this is showing us a vista. It is not about forming reconciliation commissions as in certain other societies. It’s a situation in which the law exists if judiciaries have the will and politicians have the will to pursue the figures who transgress.

The CIA station chief of Milan has also been convicted in abstentia.

Those are the (transgressors). How can you get redress?

Through criminal prosecutions such as the head of SISMI, but also through the European Convention of Human Rights. And a particular individual, Khalid el-Masri who was kidnapped in Macedonia and renditioned to Afghanistan and then left in Albania when they found that they got the wrong man, he won 50,000 euros as compensation.

His case against the head of the CIA, George Tenet at the time, was thrown out by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it would involve divulging national security issues.

So how do we conclude on this?

There is no fast and easy answer, but my point is to accept that vital national interests are always involved in things. It is a question though if you are a democracy and America a land of freedom and liberty and you hold yourself out to be an exemplar of this, you need to practice what you preach.

But it seems that Western governments through the able hand of the intelligence services are able to operate almost on the level of psychopaths. They profess one thing on the one hand but do another thing with the other. And it’s been patently obvious.

It presents not just problems of human rights and freedom of information, it can outright distort history; the fact that secrets are kept for an inordinate amount of time.

I’ll give a good example before I finish off.

The Lockhart Plot. This is a legendary situation that involved the precursor of MI6 in Russia through Robert Bruce Lockhart, who was stationed as a diplomat in Moscow and it was always been suspected that the British wanted to have Lenin killed and the Bolsheviks overthrown so that  Russia could come back into the first world War.

It was always denied but more evidence has come to light.

This is almost a hundred years ago, but more evidence has come to light that that was indeed the truth, but yet a lot of the relevant papers are still locked up.

I think as Robert Service the historian basically intimated, the only reason for this must surely be that the British security establishment and government want to put forward the idea that they are not in favour of destabilisation or assassinating leaders of foreign nations.

But the truth is that the British have played dirty like everybody else, and it is a fatuous situation for you to deny that this never occurred. Because if you cannot account for the past, how are you going to properly pursue things as they stand in the present and the future?

So that is where I shall leave it for the moment.

(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2013)

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