The Usual Suspects Part 5: Robert Gates

Bumped and promoted. Originally posted 2009-06-04 22:32:35 -0400. -- GH

There are several commonalities amongst The Usual Suspects.  Many of them served under Scoop Jackson.  Many of them were investigated for spying for Israeli intelligence. and nearly all of them were involved up to their necks in the Iran-Contra Affair.  Robert Gates falls into that latter category.  But he was involved in more than just that.  Like the most recent White House, he was extensively involved in "massaging intelligence" in order to support a political stance, not the real facts on the ground.  Oh, and he was involved in the October Surprise as well.

More on Robert Gates, a man who still serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States, after the fold.

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The October Surprise and Robert Gates:

The story starts, not with Robert Gates, but with an associate of his, Donald Gregg.  Donald Gregg was a CIA officer who served under Jimmy Carter as part of his NSC staff.  In 1990, as part of the Iran-Contra investigation led by Lawrence Walsh, Gregg was asked:

"Were you ever involved in a plan to delay the release of the hostages in Iran until after the 1980 Presidential election?"


The lie detector showed he was lying.  [See the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, 501]

Gregg had known George H.W. Bush since 1967.  Bush was at the time trying to help Ronald Reagan get elected.  In 1980, Jimmy Carter had promised to get America off it's dependence on oil. He'd signed into law the Windfall Profits Act which provided free heating to impoverished Americans by taxing the oil giants.  He installed solar panels on the roof of the White House west wing. As The Daily Chicken recalls:

In 1979 he issued a Presidential Message to the Congress, charting a path to increased reliance on solar energy, renewable resources and conservation, and setting a goal: 20 percent of our energy needs were to be met by solar and renewable resources by the year 2000.

If we let cheap oil lull us into inactivity, Carter warned, "we could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs." He saw our oil addiction as a threat to our national security, and he urged the nation to break free of it.

Carter saw solar power as a key to America's energy independence. Energy from the sun would be clean and safe, and would provide a non-polluting insurance policy against the rising cost of imported oil.

As a demonstration of his commitment, Carter directed that solar collectors be installed on the roof of the White House.

That made Jimmy Carter Oil Industry Enemy #1.  And George H.W. Bush was out to get him.  The Iran Hostage Crisis offered the perfect opportunity to shoot down Jimmy Carter and get Ronald Reagan elected President. 

Bush arranged meeting with the Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, as described here:

At Madrid's Plaza Hotel, Jamshid Hashemi said the Iranians met with Casey and another American whom Hashemi identified as Donald Gregg, the CIA officer working on Carter's NSC.

    "What was specifically asked was when these hostages should be released, and it was the wish of Mr. Casey that they be released after the Inauguration," Jamshid Hashemi said. "Then the Reagan administration would feel favorably towards Iran and release the FMS [foreign military sales] funds and the frozen assets and return to Iran what had already been purchased."

    The FMS sales referred to $150 million in military hardware that had been bought by the Shah but held back by Carter after Khomeini took power and the hostages were seized. Casey's offer also included F-14 spare parts, which were crucial to the maintenance of Iran's high-tech air force, Jamshid Hashemi said.

    After the July meeting with Casey, Jamshid Hashemi said, cleric Mehdi Karrubi returned to Teheran, where he consulted Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the ayatollah's senior advisers. Two to three weeks later, Karrubi called and asked that a second meeting with Casey be arranged, Jamshid Hashemi said.

    New arrangements were made for a meeting in mid-August again in Madrid, he said. Karrubi "confirmed" that Khomeini's government had agreed to release the hostages only after Reagan gained power. "Karrubi expressed acceptance of the proposal by Mr. Casey," Jamshid Hashemi said. "The hostages would be released after Carter's defeat."

But things nearly fell apart as bani-Sadr managed to reopen talks with Carter and Khomeini.  With the future of the American energy hegemony at stake, the neocons had to push and push hard. 

On Sept. 16, Casey was focusing again on the crisis in the region. At 3 p.m., he met with senior Reagan-Bush campaign officials Edwin Meese, Bill Timmons and Richard Allen about the "Persian Gulf Project," according to an unpublished section of the House Task Force report and Allen's notes. Two other participants at the meeting, according to Allen's notes, were Michael Ledeen and Noel Koch.

Yes, Michael Ledeen, the fascist radical I nicknamed Kayser Soze in The Usual Suspects, Part 2: Michael Ledeen.  You don't have to go far to find these guys popping up all over the place.  And what do you think these guys were scheming?

That same day, Iran's acting foreign minister Ghotbzadeh again was quoted as citing Republican interference on the hostages. "Reagan, supported by [former Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger and others, has no intention of resolving the problem," Ghotbzadeh said. "They will do everything in their power to block it."

The Republicans wanted the Iranians to release the hostages only after the Nov. 4 election, Ben-Menashe wrote, with the final details to be arranged in Paris between a delegation of Republicans, led by George H.W. Bush, and a delegation of Iranians, led by cleric Mehdi Karrubi.

    Also present, Ben-Menashe wrote, would be about a half dozen Israeli representatives, including David Kimche, and several CIA officials, including Donald Gregg and

Cue drum roll here, at last, the man of the hour

Robert Gates, an ambitious young man who was considered close to Bush. At the time, Gates was serving as an executive assistant to CIA Director Stansfield Turner.

Ben-Menashe said he was in Paris as part of a six-member Israeli delegation that was coordinating the arms deliveries to Iran. He said the key meeting occurred at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

Ben-Menashe said he recognized several Americans already there, including Robert Gates, Robert McFarlane, Donald Gregg and George Cave, the CIA expert on Iran.

"A few minutes later George Bush, with the wispy-haired William Casey in front of him, stepped out of the elevator. He smiled, said hello to everyone, and, like Karrubi, hurried into the conference room. It was a very well-staged entrance. My last view of George Bush was of his back as he walked deeper into the room - and then the doors were closed."

    Ben-Menashe said the Paris meetings served to finalize a previously outlined agreement calling for release of the 52 hostages in exchange for $52 million, guarantees of arms sales for Iran, and unfreezing of Iranian monies in U.S. banks.

    The timing, however, was changed, Ben-Menashe said, to coincide with Reagan's expected Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981.

    "It was such a secret arrangement that all hotel records of the Americans' and the Israelis' visits to Paris - I cannot speak for the Iranians - were swept away two days after we left town," Ben-Menashe wrote.

    Ben-Menashe testified under oath before Congress about seeing Bush and other Republicans in Paris in October 1980. Gates, McFarlane, Gregg, Cave, Karrubi and Bush have all denied participating in the meeting, although their alibis were either shaky or were never checked out by the House Task Force in 1992.

But don't trust one web source.  There's also veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry, who sheds more light on Robert Gates involvement:

ROBERT PARRY: Well, when we were doing the Iran-Contra investigations, one of the mysteries was when it really started, and we were able to trace it back initially to 1984, when there were these contacts between some Iranians and some Israelis and some former CIA people, which sort of led to the scandal that we knew at the time. But as we went back, we learned that there the shipments of weapons did not begin in 1985, as we had first thought, but really back in 1981. So we had to look at some of these issues of these allegations that were sort of longstanding from some people who had sort of been in the intelligence world that there had been earlier contacts, that during the 1980 campaign, when 52 Americans were being held hostage in Iran and Jimmy Carter was trying desperately to get them out, that the Republicans went behind his back, first to get information, but also then to make contacts with the Iranians directly.

And the evidence on this has built up over time. We now have a lot of documents. We have some records from that period. We have statements from former Iranian officials, including the former Iranian president, Banisadr, the former defense minister, the former foreign minister, all of whom saying that they had these dealings with the Republicans behind the scenes. So, as we went back through that, the evidence built up that there had been these earlier contacts and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in them.

Gates, at the time, had been assigned to the National Security Council for Jimmy Carter and then had become the executive director—executive assistant to Stansfield Turner, the CIA director. So he was in a key spot. And he was also, though, developing these close ties to some of the Republicans who were about to come into power.
but there’s evidence that’s come out since then that he’s never really been confronted with, including a remarkable report that the Russian government prepared at Hamilton’s request in January of 1993, in which the Russian government went back through their KGB files on what they knew about these contacts with Iran, and they reported to Lee Hamilton on January 11, 1993, that in fact these contacts with the Republicans had occurred, the Soviets at that point had intelligence on it, and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in it. That report was never released by Hamilton. It was put in the unpublished files of this investigation, and I discovered it a couple years later.

Robert Gates appears to have been, as they say in the Mafia, a "made man".

On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981, just as Reagan was beginning his inaugural address, word came from Iran that the hostages were freed. The American people were overjoyed.

The solar panels went down a few years later and in case you haven't noticed, we're still totally dependent upon oil.  But hey, the groundwork for Ronald Reagan's legacy was just being laid:

    The coincidence in timing between the hostage release and Reagan's taking office immediately boosted the new President's image as a tough guy who wouldn't let the United States be pushed around.

    President Reagan named his campaign chief, William Casey, to head the CIA. Donald Gregg became Vice President Bush's national security adviser. Richard Allen became Reagan's NSC adviser, followed later by Robert McFarlane. Though relatively young, Robert Gates quickly climbed the CIA's career ladder to become deputy director and later CIA director under President George H.W. Bush.

Notice anything about that list of names?  Robert McFarlane?  William Casey?  Robert Gates?  Donald Gregg?  All became heavily embroiled in the Iran-Contra Affair.

According to the official Iran-Contra investigations, that plot to sell U.S. weapons to Iran for its help in freeing American hostages then held in Lebanon involved Cyrus Hashemi, John Shaheen, Theodore Shackley, William Casey, Donald Gregg, Robert Gates, Robert McFarlane, George Cave, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush


The Iran-Contra Affair and Robert Gates:

By 1982, Gates was deputy to CIA Director William Casey.  In 1995, in a sworn affidavit submitted to a Florida criminal case, Howard Teicher, a former NSC official under Ronald Reagan, testified that:

the covert arming of Iraq dated back to spring 1982 when Iran had gained the upper hand in the war, leading President Reagan to authorize a U.S. tilt toward Saddam Hussein.

The effort to arm the Iraqis was “spearheaded” by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher’s affidavit. “The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.

Teicher described Gates’s role as far more substantive than Rumsfeld’s. “Under CIA Director [William] Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA authorized, approved and assisted [Chilean arms dealer Carlos] Cardoen in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.

Like the Russian report, the Teicher affidavit has never been never seriously examined. After Teicher submitted it to a federal court in Miami, the affidavit was classified and then attacked by Clinton administration prosecutors

Because, you know, we have to remain bipartisan.  Don't want to anger our congressmen across the aisle.  Bipartisans like Robert Gates good friend David Boren, D-Oklahoma, in the Senate Intelligence Committee who failed to look into these shenanigans when he recommended Gates for confirmation as Director of the CIA in 1991.

The Confirmation Hearings of Robert Gates:

Intelligence officers came out of the woodwork to testify against Gates as Director of CIA because they said he cherry picked intelligence to suit the political agenda of the president.

At Gates’s confirmation hearings in 1991, former CIA analysts, including renowned Kremlinologist Mel Goodman, took the extraordinary step of coming out of the shadows to accuse Gates of politicizing the intelligence while he was chief of the analytical division and then deputy director.

The former intelligence officers said the ambitious Gates pressured the CIA’s analytical division to exaggerate the Soviet menace to fit the ideological perspective of the Reagan administration. Analysts who took a more nuanced view of Soviet power and Moscow’s behavior in the world faced pressure and career reprisals.

Sound familiar?  Is it any wonder we got what we did in the run up to the war with Iraq?  It's these guys modus operandi.

For example, let's take the story of Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl of the CIA’s Soviet office:

In 1981, Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl of the CIA’s Soviet office was the unfortunate analyst who was handed the assignment to prepare an analysis on the Soviet Union’s alleged support and direction of international terrorism.

Contrary to the desired White House take on Soviet-backed terrorism, Ekedahl said the consensus of the intelligence community was that the Soviets discouraged acts of terrorism by groups getting support from Moscow for practical, not moral, reasons.

“We agreed that the Soviets consistently stated, publicly and privately, that they considered international terrorist activities counterproductive and advised groups they supported not to use such tactics,” Ekedahl said. “We had hard evidence to support this conclusion.”

But Gates took the analysts to task, accusing them of trying to “stick our finger in the policy maker’s eye,” Ekedahl testified

Ekedahl said Gates, dissatisfied with the terrorism assessment, joined in rewriting the draft “to suggest greater Soviet support for terrorism and the text was altered by pulling up from the annex reports that overstated Soviet involvement.

It wasn't long before you had what the military calls Incestuous amplification

The existence of Incestuous Amplification shapes one's Orientation by naturally distorting the Observations feeding that Orientation. (The observer sees what he wants to see rather than what is.) When this happens, the Decisions and Actions flowing from that Orientation become progressively disconnected from reality. This process pumps dysfunctional behavior into the OODA loop which then becomes magnified as the effects of the disconnected actions are fed back into the Incestuously Amplified Orientation. As any student of nonlinear dynamics or evolution knows, this kind of positive feedback loop can produce confusion and disorder and ultimately degenerate into chaos or extinction, if the organism becomes disconnected from its environment. Any hint of Incestuous Amplification is therefore a bright red flag."

Case in point:  The fall of the Soviet Union.  As the Soviet Union careened towards oblivion, the White House and the CIA were largely, well, oblivious to this fact because it did not fit their predisposed need to have a large boogeyman to stir up paranoia and support the military-industrial-complex.  Reagan and Bush needed Soviet supported terrorism, not a decaying monolith.  So any reports that contradicted their goals were purged, along with the CIA analysts who made them:

With Gates using top-down management techniques, CIA analysts sensitive to their career paths intuitively grasped that they could rarely go wrong by backing the “company line” and presenting the worst-case scenario about Soviet capabilities and intentions, Ekedahl and other CIA analysts said.

Largely outside public view, the CIA’s proud Soviet analytical office underwent a purge of its most senior people. “Nearly every senior analyst on Soviet foreign policy eventually left the Office of Soviet Analysis,” Goodman said.

Gates made clear he intended to shake up the DI’s culture, demanding greater responsiveness to the needs of the White House and other policymakers.

“It was a kind of chilling speech,” recalled Peter Dickson, an analyst who concentrated on proliferation issues. “One of the things he wanted to do, he was going to shake up the DI. He was going to read every paper that came out. What that did was that everybody between the analyst and him had to get involved in the paper to a greater extent because their careers were going to be at stake.”

And thus they were able to move ahead with their political agendas:

MELVIN GOODMAN:  And let me just add one thing to what Bob said, because there’s an intelligence aspect that Bob Gates was responsible for in the 1980s that I am aware of. In order to have arms sales to Iran and secret deliveries from Israel to Iran, you had to change the intelligence analysis on Iran, and Bob Gates was part of that. He worked very closely, again, with Howard Teicher over at the National Security Council and Graham Fuller, his National Intelligence officer for the Middle East, to rewrite the intelligence record to say that Iran was no longer interested in terrorism, Iran was now looking to open up dialogue with the United States, that the Soviet Union was about to move into Iran. And this became the intelligence justification for Iran-Contra and why this operational policy had to be put into play.

All of which led Sen.Daniel Patrick Moynihan to ask

Why?  Why was the CIA able to tell Presidents everything about the Soviet Union except the fact that it was falling apart?

He could just as well have been asking why Iraq didn't welcome us with open arms and flowers.  Or why we never found any WMDs.

Yet, despite a record of clearly being the wrong man for the job, Robert Gates was confirmed by the Democratically led Senate to become the Director of the CIA.

Despite the fact that his actions led directly to a vital breach of national security:

Mr. President, Robert Gates is a career Soviet analyst and former Deputy Director of the CIA who was wrong about what CIA analyst Harold Ford described as `the central analytic target of the past few years: the probable fortunes of the USSR and the Soviet European bloc.' And I believe that the committee report points out one possible reason why the CIA failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to testimony, Mr. Gates was busy pursuing hypotheses and making unsubstantiated arguments attempting to show Soviet expansion in the Third World, instead of looking for or paying attention to facts that pointed in the opposite direction. Why? Why, as Mentor Moynihan has pointed out, was the CIA able to tell Presidents everything about the Soviet Union except the fact that it was falling apart?

Mr. Gates was also wrong about the Soviet threat to Iran in 1985. The 1985 Special National Intelligence Estimate on Iran stressed possible Soviet inroads into Iran. Gates admits that the analysis was an anomaly. It was a clear departure from previous analyses and almost immediately proven wrong by subsequent events. Gates was involved in preparing that analysis. According to Hal Ford, whose testimony the nominee never refuted, Gates leaned heavily on the Iran Estimate, in effect, `insisting on his own views and discouraging dissent.' What was the result? The 1985 estimate was skewed and contributed to the biggest foreign policy debacle of the Reagan administration, the sale of arms to Iran.

Mr. President, I also have doubts and questions about Mr. Gates' role in the secret intelligence sharing operation with Iraq. Robert Gates served as assistant to the Director of the CIA in 1981 and as Deputy Director for Intelligence for 1982 to 1986. In that capacity he helped develop options in dealing with the Iran-Iraq war, which eventually involved into a secret intelligence liaison relationship with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Gates was in charge of the directorate that prepared the intelligence information that was passed on to Iraq. He testified that he was also an active participant in the operation during 1986. The secret intelligence sharing operation with Iraq was not only a highly questionable and possibly illegal operation, but also may have jeopardized American lives and our national interests. The photo reconnaissance, highly sensitive electronic eavesdropping and narrative texts provided to Saddam, may not only have helped him in Iraq's war against Iran but also in the recent gulf war. Saddam Hussein may have discovered the value of underground land lines as opposed to radio communications after he was give our intelligence information. That made it more difficult for the allied coalition to get quick and accurate intelligence during the gulf war. Further, after

the Persian Gulf war, our intelligence community was surprised at the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. One reason Saddam may have hidden his nuclear program so effectively from detection was because of his knowledge of our satellite photos. What also concerns me about that operation is that we spend millions of dollars keeping secrets from the Soviets and then we give it to Saddam who sells them to the Soviets. In short, the coddling of Saddam was a mistake of the first order.

Do these guys ever get any intelligence right without risking our national security?

Robert Gates from 2006 to today:

In 2006, Robert Gates was tagged by Little Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.  At the time, bloggers like Kos warned us that Robert Gates was a shoot first crazy neocon.  He was batshit crazy I tell ya, and he was guilty of all sorts of shit like like wanted to bomb Nicaragua.

Two years later, Barack Obama, the President of Change (tm), retained Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, to which DailyKos was littered with Gates defenders - and Obama apologists - like this one:

Okay, let's start with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Anybody here like Star Trek?  Remember that saying "Only Nixon could go to China"?  It made sense when Spock said it.  It makes sense now.  By allowing the Bush people to negotiate an end to the Iraq War and allowing Secretary Gates to oversee the first phase of our withdrawal out of Iraq, well, Obama has found a masterstroke.

Which is much like saying Hitler would have been a great choice to forge peace between Israel and Egypt.  Except that Hitler was dead, Gates, apparently, just keeps coming back for more.  As does our misguided Obamabot:

Gates is a realist.  He's smart as hell and he's no ideologue.  Some of the comments I've seen today blow my mind.  He is not, I repeat NOT, one of the guys who got us into this mess.

And I'm the faerie snow queen.

The more things change, the more The Usual Suspects keep popping back up in the same places.

 But don't mention any of this stuff over at DailyKos, because, in addition to flip-flopping over Robert Gates and what a crazy, shootfirst, er, realist the guy is, they'll ban you for being a conspiracy theorist.  Because, you know, they're the reality based community over there that pushes Democrats first over progressivism and all Hail Obama!

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