Monday, April 25, 2005

Bolton and the Politicization of US Intelligence on Syria

I am posting an article on Syria's security network in Lebanon below that comes from intelligenceonline.com. It was sent to me by a reader who asked that I publish it even though he noted that "I feel it's too much talk, not enough facts."

I post it, nevertheless, because there have been a number of articles reporting the same thing. One never knows about the truth of such unsubstantiated claims.

I never now how to pass on such articles. US intelligence agencies and institutes have been so damaged by their propensity to spin that one must take this sort of unverified news with a large grain of salt and remain skeptical until ones sees some facts.

Nothing has done more harm to our confidence in US intelligence warnings than the willful politicization of intelligence by the ex-Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, whose nomination for the position of US Ambassador to the UN has now run into grave problems in the Senate.

The recent hearings on Bolton underline his intelligence misrepresentations only too well, something I have sought to point out on Syria Comment for the past year (see this post of May 20, 2004, or this post of June 26, 2005, or this post).

The most damaging allegation about Bolton involves his 2002 efforts to prod the intelligence community to back his allegation that Cuba might be seeking to export WMD from an offensive biological weapons program. In February 2002, he prepared a speech that, according to an unclassified Senate Intelligence Committee report, "contained a sentence which said that the U.S. believes Cuba has a developmental, offensive biological warfare program and is providing assistance to other rogue state programs."

The problem was that Bolton's charges went well beyond what the intelligence community viewed as solid evidence. They claimed Cuba had a "limited, developmental, offensive biological warfare research and development effort." In 2004, the intelligence community revised its 1999 estimate even further downward because it was even less sure that Cuba had any such offensive WMD effort.


Bolton did the same thing to Syria as he did to Cuba. From 2002 to 2004, he consistently insisted that Syria was a growing threat because of WMD and even accused it of developing nuclear weapons capabilities for which there was no evidence and only allegations. Even more egregious, he kept on insisting that Saddam Hussein had smuggled his WMD into Syria even after it had become quite clear that Iraqis could provide no evidence of this and that US agencies had found no evidence that Saddam had preserved any of his WMD. The politicization of intelligence has done a great disservice to US creditability.

After writing this last night, I saw this morning that the New York Times published an article on Bolton's Syria misrepresentations. It says:

Ex-Officials Say Bolton Inflated Syrian Danger
By DOUGLAS JEHL, April 26, 2005
In the speech itself, Mr. Bolton pointed to Cuba, Syria and Libya as "rogue states intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction," a trio that extended "beyond the axis of evil" of Iran, Iraq and North Korea that President Bush had described in his State of the Union address several months earlier. On Syria, Mr. Bolton said in the 2002 speech that the government in Damascus "is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small quantities of biological warfare agents."

In testimony to Congress in June 2003, Mr. Bolton said American officials "know that Syria is pursuing the development of biological weapons." But a report sent to Congress by the C.I.A. in April 2003 was more guarded in its assessment than Mr. Bolton had been. Using an abbreviation for biological warfare, it said only that it was "highly probable that Syria is also continuing to develop an offensive B. W. capability."


David Sanger also has an article in the Times entitled, "Arms Move to Syria 'Unlikely,' Report Says"
The Bush administration's senior weapons inspector said in a report released last night that it was "unlikely" that Saddam Hussein's forces moved weapons to Syria, though he expressed concern about nuclear-related equipment that was apparently removed after American-led forces invaded Iraq.


It is good to see that the administration is finally getting around to clearing up the false allegations that Syria had spirited away Iraqs WMD. Even the CIA has now included a disclaimer on its website.

Here is the article on Syria's Network in Lebanon. Most of its information is tied to one unnamed "diplomatic source," who mysteriously knows exactly what was said in a high level meeting of Syria's top security officers. For this "diplomatic source" to know what went on in the meeting, one of Syria's top security officers must have leaked the information in order to undermine Syria's position in Lebanon. This does not seem likely to me, but here it is anyway.
Syria's New Network in Lebanon
Syria is officially pulling out of Lebanon but appears to be simultaneously deploying clandestine networks throughout the entire country.

According to a diplomatic source, Syria's leadership held one of its most important meetings ever on the Lebanese situation in Damascus on March 24. In attendance for the occasion were president Bashar al Assad; his younger brother, Maher, commander in chief of the Republican Guard; his brother-in-law, the all-powerful general Assef Shawkat, chief of Military Intelligence; his influential sister Bushra, wife of Shawkat; general Ghazi Kanaan, interior minister and former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon; general Bahjat Suleiman, chief of Section 251 of the General Intelligence Directorate; general Mohamed al Mansourah, new boss of the Political Security agency (IOL 493); and general Roustom Ghazale, chief of Syria's secret service in Lebanon.

While Assad called for Syria to disengage itself from the Lebanese "quagmire", Kanaan, Shawkat and Maher Assad pushed a plan to set up covert networks taking their orders from Damascus throughout all of Lebanon.

As a result, Syrian intelligence operatives have begun infiltrating the 12 Palestinian camps housing 400,000 refugees in Lebanon, and particularly the Ain el Heloue camp east of Saida in the southern part of the country. Other agents carrying fake Lebanese ID papers have installed themselves in the southern suburbs of Beirut with the assistance of Hezbollah, which put apartments at their disposal.

And to retain a presence in the capital and in Christian regions the Syrians have activated their local networks, and specially among Lebanese political parties that have long been beholden to Damascus.

This is the case of the Syrian National Social Party (PSNS) in which Christians are an active minority; the Lebanese branch of the Ba'aath Party; the Habashis, a Sunni fundamentalist movement; and the Movement for Islamic Unification.

Syria's new strategy is reflected in events affecting the Movement for Islamic Unification, which is also a Sunni fundamentalist outfit established in Tripoli in northern Lebanon. At the outset the movement close to Syria's Moslem Brotherhood violently opposed Syria's presence in Lebanon.

Following a deadly rift within the movement the Syrians started in 1994 to arrest and jail several hundred of its members. But early this month, the Syrian secret service began releasing the prisoners who flooded back to Tripoli, this time to serve Syria's interests. According to sources in Tripoli, large amounts of weaponry have been distributed in the city.

There was a demonstration yesterday of about 50 people in front of the State Security Court: See Syrians stage rare protest at trial of rights activists. One photographer, Ghaith, whom I spoke to said that he was impressed with the courage of the demonstrators, who were surrounded by security people in full riot gear and who out numbered the demonstrators. He took pictures until he was told to leave.

Ghaith, an Iraqi, came to Syria only a week ago from Baghdad and says how pleasantly surprised he has been to find Syria so different from Saddam's Iraq. He said that he was amazed to see the demonstrators holding their small sheets of paper above their heads and demanding that emergency law be lifted. "No one ever dared to do that in Iraq." He was hardly checked at the airport, and he was able to help his fiancé, a British reporter and novelist, get an extension for her reporter's visa for several months with a minimum of fuss, just a small payment to an officer who made the telling eye contact. They both sang Damascus' praises for being so much fun and cosmopolitan.

They are both refugees from Iraq, driven out by the deteriorating security situation.

14 Comments:

At 4/26/2005 05:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

American neo-cons should really make up their mind: Either Syria is a weak stupid state that is not even worth thinking about (Bush stated this clearly) or a highly sophisticated country capable of developing WMD and plotting in foreign lands and threatening the stability and welfare of mankind.

 
At 4/26/2005 06:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon 5:41.

It is both: weak and stupid AND dangerous. What Syria is doing or did in Leb, Iraq, and with the Palestinians is stupid and dangerous and counterproductive.

It may pose no danger to the strong (US, Israel) but it did a lot of damage to the weak.

 
At 4/26/2005 06:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

American NeoCons have made up their minds. The problem with the Middle East is family despotism, no democracy, no rule of law, and no freedom.

Crying about US charges of WMD is a smoke screen when a country is governed by a clan who has no free press and at the same time gives refuge to terrorists.

I agree with Anon except that Syria DOES pose a danger to the US, Israel and any other country that has felt the hands of terrorism.

GWB's comment after 9-11 still stands: "...you're either with us or against us...".

 
At 4/26/2005 07:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria is 20 million people of whome maybe 60% are under 20 years old.

They were born after all the hedious things that happened in the middle east and somehow they have to bear the consequences.

They are damned if they try to change their country they are damned if they don't.

If their future is not lost because of the bad economical situation, corruption and emergency law George Bush will make sure they lose it in a war.

On behalf of the Syrian youth, I adress a big big thank you to all the politicians in the world.

Please, very kindly, let us live our lives.

 
At 4/26/2005 07:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.intelligenceonline.com/p_index.asp

 
At 4/26/2005 08:43:00 AM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Syria setting a covert network in Lebanon...

I don't think it will be really covered... And Syrian Intelligence won't have the kind of impunity it used to enjoy.

But if it's in the southern suburb there will be political reasons that will prevent the dismantling

 
At 4/26/2005 10:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eventhough some of what this article is saying is true, all the details mentioned, including the meetings are very well fabricated.
First of all, if such a high level meeting is held, and details of what was said is leaked, someone would be dead, shortly.

Second, Bushra has no political role, and never attended such meetings.

Third, the well informed and educated writer of this peace, doesn't even know the name of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, SSNP, not SNSP as the writer said.

Syria still has intelligence officers in Lebanon, just like how it has in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq. Moreover, Syria still has reliable loyalist that are really supportive of the Syrian cause, whatever it maybe, and have inherited it from their grandfathers..I cannot think of anyone better than Ghazi Kanaan than finding loyalists through true friendships, persuasion, bribes, and threatening lives.

But the rest of this report is pure bologne!

 
At 4/26/2005 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


American NeoCons have made up their minds. The problem with the Middle East is family despotism, no democracy, no rule of law, and no freedom.


To be more precise it is Anti-American despots. Pro-American despots are very low in the priority list of neocons. Some of them (such as Musharaff even get F-16s while they're harboring terrorists attacking democracies). Others such as Egypt get $2B in aid yearly, while only occasionally getting a rebuke if they arrest a liberal opposition (but cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood is OK).



GWB's comment after 9-11 still stands: "...you're either with us or against us..."


Well, GWB now seems to have a lot of the world against him -- at least in the sense that they dont' agree with him.

 
At 4/26/2005 01:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is about the old, not so covert syrian network in Lebanon:

http://www.annaharonline.com/htd/KADAYA050426-1.HTM

 
At 4/26/2005 01:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is about the old, not so covert syrian network in Lebanon:

http://www.annaharonline.com/htd/KADAYA050426-1.HTM

 
At 4/26/2005 05:49:00 PM, Anonymous Haidar said...

Thanks for your great blog, check it every day. I'm just wondering, do you have any stats on how many Iraqi refugees are coming into Syria and if they're staying there for long? I'm starting to get worried, Syria already has a population problem and now Iraqi refugees are coming.

 
At 4/26/2005 06:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haidar there was an article somewhere, (not sure if it was this site) which spoke about the influx of iraqi refugees. From experience, I know a lot of whores (high class) have come and set up their activities in syria. I think everybody else would be a temporary move. Not sure though.

As for the guy who claims to speak for syrian youth. You speak for yourself in any situation so dont use the collective to describe your stance. Secondly, I dont know what freedom you expect from the USA. Get rid of Bashar and install a puppet controlled by America who yes, will give free press and news just like the wonderful fox news and capitalist magazine.

For everyone, I suggest reading anything by Ayn Rand and objectivists/rationalists and know that there are such people in the USA actively pursuing the destruction of the middle east, claiming the Oil is "their property."

So yea, I prefer my neighbour beat me than a foreigner.

 
At 4/27/2005 03:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon 6:45.

Leave the Syrian youth alone he is ignorant, apathetic and happy with the current state of things.

As for you, you are a notch less apathetic. I am your neighbor, can I come over and beat you up?

 
At 5/02/2005 05:41:00 PM, Anonymous JP said...

Bolton and his gang have succeeded in taking over US foreign policy to pursue their agenda on behalf of Israel. Their program has nothing to do with democracy for the Arab world. They do not even tolerate dissent in the U.S.

The gravest danger to Israel will come when true democracy and economic reforms come to Syria and other Arab nations. This will stop the emigration of bright young Syrians, encourage the return of Syrians from overseas, strengthen the desire of the citizens of the Arab countries to confront all threats to their nations,including threats from Israel, build economic strength comparable to the EU and eliminate Israel's false claim that it is the only real democracy in the Middle East.

Bolton's worst nightmare.

 

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