Journal: Robert Baer on Transparency of Assassinations

07 Other Atrocities, 09 Terrorism, 10 Security, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Peace Intelligence

A Perfectly Framed Assassination

Stepped-up surveillance technology may be tipping the scales in the cat-and-mouse game between spies and their targets. Robert Baer on the current state of spycraft.


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I can only speculate about where exactly the hit went wrong. But I would guess the assassins failed to account for the marked advance in technology. Not only were there closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated and at the airport, but Dubai has at its fingertips the best security consultants in the world. The consultants merely had to run advanced software through all of Dubai's digital data before, during and after the assassination to connect the assassins in time and place. For instance, a search of all cellular phone calls made in and around the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated would show who had called the same number—reportedly a command post in Vienna. It would only be a matter then of tracking when and where calls were made from these phones, tying them to hotels where the team was operating or staying.

Phi Beta Iota: Robert Baer, who spoke to the international OSINT conference before the movie was made about his life as a case officer, is a most valued colleague who apart from being a speaker of truth and an author, has doubts about the 9/11 Commission and the general veracity of the U.S. Government.  He is a “tough love” patriot.  His newest opinion piece exposes the rapidly narrowing space for covert actions including assassinations and other behaviors that can no longer pass undetected.  As we pointed out a decade ago, it is no longer possible to create solid covers–instead of stealing or misappropriating them, we have been preaching 1) hire mid-career officers who have already built their covers unwittingly, and keep them in those real-world covers; and 2) stop doing the stupid shit.  95% of intelligence (decision-support) should b e legal and ethical.  All its takes is integrity and a leadership that actually knows something about full-spectrum intelligence and the point of it all: to create a Smart Nation.

Journal: Afghanistan, Biden, Baer, & Brains

03 India, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 10 Security, Communities of Practice, Ethics, History, Peace Intelligence, Policy, Reform, Strategy, True Cost
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Rethink Afghanistan Part Six

Robert Baer, a former CIA field operative says, “The notion that we're in Afghanistan to make our country safer is just complete bullshit… what it's doing is causing us greater danger, no question about it. Because the more we fight in Afghanistan, the more the conflict is pushed across the border into Pakistan, the more we destabilize Pakistan, the more likely it is that a fundamentalist government will take over the army — and we'll have Al-Qaeda like groups with nuclear weapons.”

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U.S. troop funds diverted to pet projects

Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops. . . . . . .

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Why Joe Biden Should Resign

Citing a Newsweek story: “Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?” Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. “And how much will we spend on Pakistan?” Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. “Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?” The White House Situation Room fell silent.

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Review: Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Congress (Failure, Reform), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Misinformation & Propaganda, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Condemnation of Crude Corruption,

July 29, 2003
Robert Baer
Edit of 22 Dec to add links. Book is available in paperback.

Former spy Robert Baer, author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, makes the leap from intelligence reformist to national mentor with his new book, “SLEEPING WITH THE DEVIL: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude.” Indeed, his last sentence has the White House laying in the moonlight with its legs spread, lustfully eyeing the Saudi wallet on the bureau.

This is an extraordinary compelling work, not least because it provides detailed and documented discovery not previously available, of how the U.S. government has over the course of several administrations made a deliberate decision to a) not spy on the Arab countries, b) not collect and read open sources in Arabic, c) not attempt to understand the sub-state actors such as the Muslim brotherhood, despite a long history in which these groups commit suicide to achieve their objectives, including the murder of several heads of state.

Baer's most brutal points should make every American shudder: it is America itself that is subsidizing terrorism, as well as the corruption of the Saudi royal family. Baer's documented estimate is that $1 dollar from every barrel of petroleum is spent on Saudi royal family sexual misbehavior, and $1.50 of every barrel of petroleum bought by America ultimately ends up funding extremist schools, foundations, and terrorist groups.

Baer has “gone back in time” to document how all of this terrorism began in the 1970's, but despite its terrible local consequences (including the assassination of heads of state), was ignored by Washington as “a local problem.”

In one lovely real-life account, Baer, then duty officer at CIA while Iraq poised to invade Kuwait, found that the $35 billion per year system was useless, impotent. It came down to his calling the chief of station in Kuwait, who called a border guard, who lifted his binoculars and described the Iraqi tanks stopped for lunch. Baer says: “As I waited, I wondered: Is this what all that money for intelligence is buying us? A pair of binoculars?”

Baer joins with Robert Kaplan in concluding that democracy in Arabia would be an out and out disaster. The decades of Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism run amok cannot be resolved by democratic elections because the very people who most hate America will be elected. Baer observes that “strongman tactics” such as used by Saddam Hussein and by the Syrian leadership–including a “scorched earth” campaign against the internal terrorist groups–are a more stable “rule of law”. One can conclude that the US has made a mistake in destabilizing Iraq, and that the imposition of a democratic solution in Iraq will turn out to be vastly more difficult, and vastly more expensive, than the naive neo-conservatives understood when they set forth without bothering to establish who was in the majority within the population being “liberated.”

Saudi Arabia has bought and paid for all the White House and Congressional influence it needs. This is why the recently released 9-11 report contains no mention of the secret documentation of Saudi Arabian complicity in the terrorism that took 3,000 American lives. As Senator Shelby noted on PBS NewsHour recently (he has read the secret report), 93% of the blanked out pages, and specifically those on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism against America and other nations, is a “con man's” effort to avoid “embarrassment.” As the families of the 9-11 victims have said, “we need to know.”

Baer is extraordinary. He was a success as a case officer (a clandestine representive of America dealing with traitors and terrorists under conditions of extreme risk), and he has now become a sort of “Patrick Henry” of the modern era, warning us in clear and compelling terms that White House corruption (a non-partisan recurring corruption) and Saudi Arabia are the twin swords upon which this great Nation may yet impale itself.

Other books Americans need to read (or at least read the reviews):
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition

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Review: See No Evil–The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Biography & Memoirs, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Culture, Research, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Misinformation & Propaganda, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy

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5.0 out of 5 stars Straight Talk from Patriot–Should Testify at 9-11 Hearings,

January 31, 2002
Robert Baer
As a former clandestine case officer, leaving the Agency in 1988 after unsuccessfully chasing terrorists for a few years, I knew we were in bad shape but I did not realize just how bad until I read this book. The author, working mostly in the Near East (NE) Division of the Directorate of Operations, and then in the Counter-Terrorism Center when it was just starting out, has an extremely important story to tell and every American needs to pay attention. Why? Because his account of how we have no assets useful against terrorism is in contradiction to what the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) told the President and his top advisors at Camp David on Saturday 15 September. According to the Washington Post of 31 January 2002, page A13, on the 15th the DCI laid out an ambitious “Worldwide Attack Matrix” and told the President that the United States had a “large asset base” from its years of working the terrorism target. One of these two men one is closer to the truth than the other. In my judgement, I believe Baer has three-quarters of the weight on his side. This discrepancy warrants investigation, for no President can be successful if he does not have accurate information about our actual capabilities.There are four other stories within this excellent book, all dealing with infirm bureaucracies. At one level, the author's accounting of how the Directorate of Operations has declined under the last three leaders (as the author describes them: a recalled retiree, an analyst, and a “political” (pal)) is both clearly based on ground truth, and extremely troubling. The extraordinary detail on the decline and fall of the clandestine service is one that every voter should be thinking about, because it was the failure of the clandestine service, as well as the counterintelligence service (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) that allowed 9-11 to happen…at the same time, we must note that it was a policy failure to not have investigated similar incompetencies when a military barracks in Saudi Arabia, two Embassies, and a naval destroyer were attacked, and it was clearly known in open sources that bin Laden had declared war on America and had within America numerous Islamic clerics calling for the murder of Americans–all as documented in an excellent Public Broadcast Service documentary.

At a technical level, the author provides some really excellent real-world, real-war annecdotes about situations where clandestine reporting from trusted operations officers has not been accepted by their own superiors in the absence of technical confirmation (imagery or signals). As he says, in the middle of a major artillery battle and break-out of insurgent elements, screaming over the secure phone, “its the middle of night here”. We've all known since at least the 1970's that the technical intelligence side of things has been crushing human sensibility, both operational and analytical, but this book really brings the problems into the public eye in a compelling and useful manner.

At another level, the author uses his own investigation for murder (he was completely cleared, it was a set-up) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and at one point by the Secret Service, to shed new light on the complete break-down of internal security processes within the CIA. At its lowest point, he is pressured by DO management with a psychological evaluation to determine his fitness for duty–shades of Stalinism! I know this technique, of declaring officers unfit for duty based on psychological hatchet jobs, to be a common practice over the past two decades, and when Britt Snider was appointed Inspector General at CIA, I told him this was a “smoking gun” in the 7th floor closet. That it remains a practice today is grounds for evaluating the entire management culture at CIA.

There is a fourth story in the book, a truly interesting account of how big energy companies, their “ambassadors” serving as Presidential appointees within the National Security Council, and corrupt foreign elements, all come together. In this the spies are not central, so I leave it as a sidenote.

In my capacity as a reviewer of most intelligence-related books within these offerings, I want to make it clear to potential buyers of this book that the author is not alone. His is the best, most detailed, and most current accounting of the decrepit dysfunctionality of the clandestine service (as I put it in my own book's second edition), but I would refer the reader to two other books in particular: David Corn's “Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades”–its most memorable quote, on covert action in Laos, being “We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed, and we didn't get much for it.”–and Evan Thomas' “The Very Best Men–Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA”–its best quote: “Patriotic, decent, well-meaning, they were also uniquely unsuited to the grubby, necessarily devious world of intelligence.” There are many other books, including twelve (12!) focused on reform and recommended by the Council on Intelligence.

The author is a brave man–he was brave on the fields of war and clandestinity, and he is braver still for having brought this story to the public. We owe him a hearing.
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