Release date: Nov. 24, 2003
Issue date: 12/09/03
The sordid tale now making the rounds in the "mainstream" press ofa rogue Pentagon intelligence operation has all the elements of anurban legend: heavy breathing, a secret basement office "down by theramp" and government officials who form a hidden alliance based onlong-ago ties to an obscure but influential university guru. Only thework of a few good men with the courage to face up to this "cabal" -and a few crusader-journalists to help them - can make the demonsscatter and scare the dark ones into the light. Or so the story goeson those increasingly febrile Democratic Party Websites.
All this silliness could become deadly serious if Senate Democratsget their way, led by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia,the vice chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSIC).For now, the controversy revolves around a suite of crammed cubicleson the fourth floor of the Pentagon that in September 2002 wasrenamed the Office of Special Plans (OSP). At that time the officeconsisted of only four persons. But it soon became apparent that thePentagon needed to begin serious planning for the postwarreconstruction of Iraq in the event the president made the decisionto go to war.
On orders from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz the officewas expanded to 16 persons, including two detailee Armyjudge-advocate-general officers - lawyers whose job was to explorethe legal framework for conducting potential war-crimesinvestigations of members of Saddam's regime.
"In hindsight, that may have been an unfortunate choice of name,"an administration official tells Insight during an extensiveinterview on the operations of the OSP. "But we didn't want to have a16-man Iraqi planning group set up at a time when the president wasconducting negotiations at the U.N. because it would have undercuthis diplomatic approach."
The OSP grew out of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs, one ofmany regional bureaus that reports through the assistant secretary ofdefense for international security affairs to the head of thePentagon's policy shop, Undersecretary Doug Feith. "As we weregearing up for the Iraq campaign in September 2002, the deputydecided that we needed to expand the Northern Gulf directoratebecause of the tremendous workload. There were literally dozens ofnew tasks we had to do. And there were just four of us," the officialexplains.
The head of the unit, Navy Capt. William Luti, came to thePentagon after working for Vice President Dick Cheney at the WhiteHouse. He was given a promotion, a new title (deputy undersecretaryfor Special Plans and Near East/South Asia affairs) and a handful ofnew bodies to carry out the work. Some of the new bodies were givencubicles in a hastily painted spillover office suite in a formerstorage area on the first floor of the Pentagon - not in thebasement. ("Isn't that down by the ramp?" Washington Post reporterDana Priest asked Luti's office conspiratorially. Insight verifiedthe location of the office: Luti's desk warriors have windows.)
Among their urgent new tasks were to develop defense policiesaimed at building an international coalition, prepare the secretaryof defense and his top deputies for interagency meetings, coordinatetroop-deployment orders, craft policies for dealing with prisoners ofwar and illegal combatants, postwar assistance and reconstructionpolicy planning, postwar governance, Iraqi oil infrastructure policy,postwar Iraqi property disputes, war crimes and atrocities, war-planreview and, in their spare time, prepare congressional testimony fortheir principals. "We are a policy shop, not an organization thatcollects or creates intelligence," the official says. "We were askedto do stratospheric planning. Others took the concepts and turnedthem into action plans" [see "Details of the Postwar MasterPlan."].
Some of the tension between the OSP and the intelligence community(which has been the source of many of the rumors about the OSP) camefrom faulty intelligence that was fed to the war planners. "Warplanning is based on assumptions that you make, based on theavailable data. For example: The CIA told us that all we had to dowith the Iraqi police was lop off the top layer of leadership andeverything else would fall in line. This was [former U.S.civilian administrator for Iraq and retired Gen. Jay] Garner'splan going in," the official says. "Well, we lopped off the top layerof leadership and found the corruption went so deep that we had tostart from scratch. Was it a mistake? Yes. But it was a mistake thatcame from faulty intelligence."
Luti and others from the office regularly took part in interagencymeetings to develop postwar plans and Congress was regularly briefedon their efforts. Despite this, the same critics who blast thePentagon for establishing the Office of Special Plans today arewhining about a lack of planning. "It's unfortunate that thepresident had no plan for what to do in Iraq after the fall of SaddamHussein," Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) told National Public Radio onNov. 14.
"We so underestimated and underplanned and underthought about apost-Saddam Iraq that we've been woefully underprepared," addedNebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, now known among politicalconservatives as the senator from France.
The rigor and extent of the prewar planning kept the war fromspinning out of control. "Turkey didn't come in. The Kurds didn'thave a civil war. Israel didn't come. There were no oil fires, noecological disasters, no large numbers of internally displacedpeople, no refugees," the official involved in the planning says."The country didn't split apart, there was no ethnic-on-ethnicfighting, which everybody had predicted. Why? Because we had allthese plans in place. We had food stockpiled ahead of time. We hadhumanitarian-assistance equipment, we had medical supplies. We wereprepared for all of these contingencies."
So how did a legitimate and effective Iraq planning office getpainted as a dire "cabal?" As incredible as it may seem, it beganwith conspiracy-theorist Lyndon LaRouche, a self-styled DemocraticParty presidential aspirant who claimed in March that a "cabal" ofpro-Israel conservatives he called the "Children of Satan" wererunning a rogue intelligence operation at the Pentagon. Theirmission: fabricate intelligence and drag the United States into aneedless war, all at Israel's bidding. It was all very dark, murkyand conspiratorial. If responsible journalists had been doing theirjob, the story never would have crept from the LaRouche Website intothe light.
Instead, like a virus jumping from animals to humans, the storyerupted in a May 6 article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. Hersh,a former New York Times investigative reporter, pumped it up into afull-blown feature of 5,500 words. He quoted former DefenseIntelligence Agency officers who had never set foot in the Pentagonoffice or had any direct dealings with it and used sources such asVincent Cannistraro, a former CIA official who in 1995 was cited as awitness for a convicted terrorist leader. "Hersh was briefed on thisoffice and told all about it, but he wrote it anyway," anadministration official says. Since Hersh's piece, the virus migratedto Newsweek, Time, Britain's Guardian newspaper and now has becomethe subject of an inquiry by the Senate Select IntelligenceCommittee.
"They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal," Hersh wrotebreathlessly. "These advisers and analysts, who began their work inthe days after Sept. 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligencereviews that have helped to shape public opinion and [U.S.]policy toward Iraq. ... By last fall, the operation rivaled both theCIA and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, asPresident [George W.] Bush's main source of intelligenceregarding Iraq's possible possession of weapons of mass destructionand connection with al-Qaeda."
In the world of the conspiracy theorist, the real "director" ofthe special-plans office was not Luti but Abram Shulsky, a scholarlyexpert in the works of the long-deceased political philosopher LeoStrauss, according to Hersh. Strauss was a longtime University ofChicago professor who died in 1973. Taking LaRouche's lead, Hershpainted Shulsky as the secret leader of a cabal of American Jews whomhe alleged were perpetrating a massive fraud on the American people.The term "cabal" is favored by anti-Semites and LaRouche to describetheir claims of a Jewish world conspiracy. (In fact, the office wasrun by Luti, but it may be that his name didn't fit theconspiratorial bill).
Britain's left-wing Guardian newspaper called Luti's office a"shadow, right-wing intelligence network set up in Washington tosecond-guess the CIA and deliver a justification for toppling SaddamHussein by force." But the real crime of the OSP was to listen todefectors who had been brought out of Iraq by the opposition IraqiNational Congress (INC) led by Ahmad Chalabi, the Guardian and othersalleged. In late September, Time magazine "revealed" that INCWashington representative Francis Brooke was "in weekly contact" withLuti by phone.
Chalabi indeed did visit once with Luti at the OSP in fall 2002,according to the visitor sign-in sheet in Luti's front office.Chalabi also visited with the secretary of defense, the deputysecretary and a host of other top officials and members of Congress.And Chalabi proudly has acknowledged to this reporter and many othersthe INC's role in recruiting defectors and presenting them to theU.S. government. In the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, being able to recruitdefectors was literally priceless.
The INC's intelligence-collection program, run for years on ashoestring by Chalabi and a few top aides, was taken over by thePentagon in 2002 and handed over to the Defense Human Service - thehuman intelligence (HUMINT) side of the DIA - not the Office ofSpecial Plans. "DHS established rules and regulations and put it on aprofessional basis," a Pentagon official told Insight before the war.
Luti's office now stands accused by Sens. Rockefeller and CarlLevin (D-Mich.) of illegally organizing clandestine intelligenceoperations overseas. In an Oct. 1 request for documents toUndersecretary Feith on behalf of Democrats sitting on the SenateSelect Intelligence Committee, Rockefeller quoted an article in theleft-wing weekly The Nation alleging that Feith's staff "have beencoordinating their terrorism assessments with 'a rump unitestablished last year in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ofIsrael.'" The letter also alleged that Luti's staff had been "sentabroad to meet with defectors produced by the INC," and had heldunauthorized meetings with "Iranians" in Western Europe.
"This is Church committee stuff," an administration official tellsInsight, referring to the disastrous Senate Select IntelligenceCommittee of the mid-1970s that was responsible for gutting the CIA'sclandestine services. "The SSIC is more worried about getting thepresident than it is in fixing the intelligence mess," this sourcesays. Little wonder that Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) has said that ifwhat his fellow Democrats have done on the SSIC to try to underminethe war effort in Iraq for political purposes is not treason, then"it is its first cousin." As election fever takes hold of the mostpartisan Democrats, many expect it to get worse.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight. His latestbook, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America, has just beenpublished by Crown Forum.
Nine months before the Iraq war, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)planners conducted detailed analysis of postwar requirements, whichthey called "Phase IV." In December 2002, the initial concepts wereturned over to an operational planning team based in Qatar known asJoint Task Force IV (JTF-IV). The planning team "includedrepresentatives from the departments of Defense, State and theTreasury, USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development],CIA and, from the White House, staff of the National Security Counciland the Office of Management and Budget [OMB]," OMB DirectorJoshua B. Bolten told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July.It also included representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada andAustralia as members of the coalition.
The detailed blueprint for the postwar period they drew up becameknown as "OPLAN Iraqi Reconstruction." Nearly 300 pages long, it wasactivated at the end of April by CENTCOM OPORD 10-03. Postwarreconstruction was split up into seven broad areas:coalition-building, security, rule of law, civil administration,infrastructure, governance and humanitarian assistance. Each area hadits own set of detailed plans.
For example, the security piece included plans to rebuild theIraqi police force, the border police and the army, as well as thecreation of a facilities protective service and a separate Iraqicivil-defense corps. Recruitment goals were set and budgetsallocated. The one major change in the prewar plan was the creationof a police-training academy in Jordan once it became apparent thatthe old Iraqi police could not be rehabilitated. The academy is nowset to begin class. It will graduate 25,500 new policemen during thenext 18 months, under contract.
If anything, the original time line of OPLAN Iraqi Reconstructionhas been accelerated, not slowed, officials say. Under the originalplan, Phase IV-A (Stabilization) was not expected to begin until"three to six months after major combat operations," which thepresident declared to have ceased at the beginning of May, and wasexpected to last another three to six months. In other words, CENTCOMfully expected and planned to be dealing with low-intensity combat inIraq for as long as one year after the end of the war.