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Sun Nov 18, 2012, 01:46 PM

Intelligence vs Counterintelligence

I have not been following the “scandal” involving General David Petraeus closely. In large part, my lack of interest is due to so much of the media coverage focusing on human sexuality. And whenever the media seeks to titillate the public with sexually suggestive gossip, I think that it is to provide cover for some larger story.

This is not to suggest that while the media shines a light on the surface sex-story, that the larger part of the iceberg doesn’t involve Petraeus and the intelligence community. Indeed, it would seem foolish to neglect the complex relationship between him, the Obama administration, the military-industrial machine, and the numerous declared and undeclared conflicts around the globe -- particularly in the Middle East.

As always, I recommend the viewing of these various relationships to be based upon the model of a mobile, such as hangs over an infant’s crib. For this discussion, we can limit the mobile’s pieces to domestic characters. At this point, we do not need to assign a “good/positive” or “bad/negative” identity to the players. Instead, we only have to recognize two factors: first, that if one piece shifts its position, every other piece must move to maintain the balance; and second, this “scandal” broke shortly after a national election that might have removed the “Obama” pieces, and replaced them with the neoconservatives who were preparing Romney’s foreign policy positions.

Thus, there would appear to be three general systems that one can attribute this scandal to:

{1} Random bureaucratic coincidence: It could be that the entire scandal is exactly what the media is portraying it as: human frailty that just happened to pop up as a result of a couple of e-mails, which focused some FBI attention upon four central players. This would by necessity define the timing as coincidence, too. When a random rolling of the coincidental dice connects with both titillation and timing, it can be called “fate.” In my own opinion, there is no such thing as “coincidence,” any more than “fate” was the only thing tempted in this scandal.

{2} Intelligence: The “Patriot Act” has instituted a new, intense level of “information gathering.” And information gathering plus analysis equals “intelligence.” The Patriot Act is, of course, simply an updated version of the Huston Plan of the Nixon era, with greater technical and computerized abilities to gather and coordinate information. And the Huston Plan, which brought about the series of crimes that threatened the Constitution, showed that in the jungles of power, there are hunters, and there are those who hunt hunters.

{3} Counterintelligence: When those who gather and analyze information (intelligence) identify a specific threat to the system that they are working for, the taking of specific, secretive actions against the opposition is known as “counterintelligence.” There are two general types: defensive counterintelligence, to quietly strengthen your system; and offensive counterintelligence, which confuses, weakens, or destroys the opposition.

Although General Petraeus’s career, both in the military and with the CIA, is primarily viewed in the context of foreign policy implementation, there may be benefits to examining the recent events in their domestic context. Indeed, there have been other, similar situations that can be useful in understanding how so powerful a figure as Petraeus has been kneecapped in this manner.

Obviously, in terms of “intelligence,” knowledge is power. And, as I have noted in previous essays on this forum, to more fully appreciate what “power” is, we look to the word’s Latin root, “posse,” which means “to be able.” Thus, intelligence by definition leads “to be able” to conduct either defensive or offensive counterintelligence.

Let’s consider an obvious example, personified by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It is well known that Hoover had a pathological drive to collect “intelligence” about the sex lives of public figures. In the case of politicians, it allowed Hoover to apply pressure amounting to blackmail, in order to force the politicians to obey the Director’s wishes. It is important to understand that, reality aside, Hoover justified this as “defensive” counterintelligence.

During the 1960s, Hoover’s FBI would engage in offensive counterintelligence programs that targeted the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements. Two examples stand out: first, Hoover’s disturbing fascination with Martin Luther King’s sex life -- including the infamous sending of tapes of Rev. King’s hotel rooms, with a letter instructing Martin to kill himself before the tapes were to be made public; and COINTELPRO, which sought to disrupt, compromise, and destroy Black Nationalist organizations (and included murder).

The Nixon administration sought to institute a domestic spying program, known as the Huston Plan, to coordinate federal, state, and local police and intelligence forces for purely political purposes. During the various investigations that resulted from “Watergate,” the public learned that Nixon spied upon not only political rivals and journalists, but also upon members of his own administration. More, it was learned that at the same time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were spying on President Nixon.

Nixon’s humiliating forced resignation has been “officially” recorded as a case where mere coincidence leading to two young reporters and a caught-off-guard legal system upholding law and order. But it was far, far more than that. To fully appreciate its significance, one must understand the relationship between Washington politics, intelligence, and counterintelligence. (And again, the use of a mobile model is useful per Watergate.)

One can safely say that the official remedy to the systematic Watergate crimes did not constitute successful defensive counterintelligence or achieve justice. Rather, it sacrificed a few pieces of the mobile, which quickly regained its balance. Thus, the Iran-Contra scandal took place -- again leading to the official clipping of a few of the Washington mobile’s pieces. And a relatively short time later, that same system produced the Plame scandal.

The Cheney-Bush2 administration was publicly claiming something it knew was untrue: that Iraq had yellow cake and WMDs that posed a direct threat to the United States. The coordinated use of the image of a mushroom cloud provided their justifying the ultimate offensive counterintelligence action: warfare. An attempt by one faction within the CIA to expose the false WMD claims (classic defensive counterintelligence) came by way of a New York Times op-ed by an agency employee with the official cover of “former Ambassador,” Joseph Wilson.

Dick Cheney -- a specimen who combined the very worst qualities of Hoover and Nixon -- had overseen the installation and coordination of neoconservative cells within the administration, various intelligence agencies, and the military. Hence, he was fully aware of Wilson’s position, and that included knowledge of Wilson’s wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame. The vice president believed that Wilson and Plame were engaged in a counterintelligence operation against the neoconservative faction of the federal government. Hence, the Office of the Vice President’s offensive counterintelligence efforts to discredit Wilson and Plame, and to intimidate the others associated with them. In fact, OVP employees testified that this offensive as called “Scooter’s ‘black ops’ “ during Libby’s criminal trial.

In this year’s presidential election contest, republican candidate Willard Romney had engaged several of the Cheneyite neoconservatives to mold his proposed foreign policy. While the majority of Romney’s positions were as secret as his tax returns, the candidate did rant about Iran’s mushroom cloud threat. There are factions within the government, as well as in non-official positions, who seek a more aggressive set of “policies” in the Middle East. And neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan had the background necessary to exercise “power” in the context of defining US policy in the Middle East or other areas of the world.

Where exactly General Petraeus fit in is difficult to say. The public image he had cultivated does not identify clearly where his loyalties were, in the sense of the conflicts between the various domestic interests competing for power in Washington and abroad. The corporate media continues to focus its attention entirely upon sexuality. The “grass roots” media has correctly focused more attention on not the “what” of the official version of events, but upon the “why.” I’ve read a number of interesting theories on “why.”

What do you think?

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Intelligence vs Counterintelligence (Original post)
H2O Man Nov 2012 OP
bigtree Nov 2012 #1
bigtree Nov 2012 #11
hootinholler Nov 2012 #2
H2O Man Nov 2012 #8
Horse with no Name Nov 2012 #3
coeur_de_lion Nov 2012 #4
H2O Man Nov 2012 #9
AntiFascist Nov 2012 #5
H2O Man Nov 2012 #6
Octafish Nov 2012 #7
H2O Man Nov 2012 #10
Octafish Nov 2012 #12

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 03:48 PM

1. kicking to read in a little while

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Response to bigtree (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 10:35 AM

11. deep


You know, Barack Obama has yet to establish an intelligence organization which is independent from the republican plants over the years; except, maybe, with Panetta and a few others. I think this limits his ability to put a Democratic frame on actions and interpretations of events. I trust very little that comes out of those agencies. I hope the President is just as wary.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 06:44 PM

2. Damnit Pat, why make me think on a Sunday? :P

Not that I have any answers, but, Petraeus is clearly a neocon. I seriously doubt Cheney would have allowed anyone not on board with his agenda to rise to the position he held. I think what we are seeing won't be clear for a number of years.

One possibility is a naivety correction by the administration. It became clear to someone that to allow him to remain would be hazardous to foreign policy. I think this is least likely.

The one where I would possibly put money if I were a betting man, is that it is coverage to dampen media coverage of the offensive underway in Gaza. Then again, that could simply be happening opportunistically preparing a defensive buffer against the day when Iran is taken care of. If we look at those pushing the whole Bengazi outrage from which I think the uncovering of the affair grew, but I could just be merging things in my mind.

The only thing that is clear here is that it's nearly impossible to assemble a puzzle when large pieces are missing.

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Response to hootinholler (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:07 AM

8. Ptraeus is

exactly the type of never-ending war military man that the neoconservative agenda requires to be in charge of occupying large areas in and around the Middle East.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 06:46 PM

3. Kicking for later. n/t

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 10:53 PM

4. Really interesting, I wonder what the Petraeus "scandal" is really covering up

As usual H20 your analysis is more intelligent, thorough, and thought provoking than any single article I've read about this whole mess.

I did read somewhere that Ms. Broadwell's father said that there is way more to this than is being reported. That his daughter got caught up in some sort of deeper political thing.

I don't know what to think, really. As you say the timing of this story breaking was interesting to say the least. What would have happened if Obama had not been elected?

What indeed? What was Petraeus doing that the Republicans didn't like?

I hope to God that we don't find it's another cover-up a la Plame. But think about it. Had we been following Plame from the beginning only through the eyes of the mainstream media and not thinking for ourselves at all, what conclusions would we have drawn? We might have believed that Valerie Plame suggested her husband for some mission, and that he was blowing smoke when he said he didn't find uranium yellowcake in Africa . . . . We might have believed that the Wilsons were full of crap and they were just trying to smear Bush.

Nothing ever really came of that Plame "thing.". Karl Rove lied, Scooter Libby lied, Scooter got a slap on the wrist and then even that little slap was commuted by *.

Now the good guys are in charge. As the reasons behind the scandal unfold, what will we learn? If we learn that something similar to Plamegate has been perpetrated, at least we know that justice will be served. Or it will if the whole thing comes to trial while Obama is still in office.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Thanks for the informative article H20. I'm glad I can count on you to sift through the BS. I am looking forward to reading your developing point of view as this develops.

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Response to coeur_de_lion (Reply #4)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:10 AM

9. Later today,

I will post another essay on this, to provide more insight on -- as in the infamous Plame Threads -- the "why" this is happening. The "what" and "how" are important, of course, but the "why" is essential.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 11:24 PM

5. K&R! ...

the major events that happened to Nixon and JFK should all be analyzed from the context of the failed "Bay of Pigs" CIA operation. Nixon and his supporters orchestrated the Bay of Pigs when he was Vice President under Eisenhower. People in power assumed that Nixon would easily beat JFK in the 1960 election. Instead, JFK won and although he endorsed the Bay of Pigs, he was also blamed later for its failure. Some even accused JFK of being a leftist traitor, conspiring with the Communists. "neocons" of the time (of course they weren't called neocons back then) wanted to defeat the Soviet Union by force and to carry on by dominating the Middle East and the rest of the world through our bombing superiority. 50 years later, their attitude hasn't changed much.

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #5)

Mon Nov 19, 2012, 10:28 AM

6. Right.

You raise an important example. After the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy made the famous statement about smashing the CIA. What his plan was highlights some of the most important aspects of intelligence vs counterintelligence: JFK attempted to restrict the CIA to its original purpose -- gathering and analyzing intelligence. But the operational aspects -- the counterintelligence -- was to be tasked to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and definitely not one branch, specifically the Office of Naval Intelligence).

When one bureaucratic agency has both responsibilities, it has to become compartmentalized. This increases the likelihood that some (and almost always in counterintelligence) will become "too independent," which is a nice way of saying "loose cannons." Counterintelligence is almost never an individual activity: it involves linkages with other groups and individuals, often of less than honorable character.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Mon Nov 19, 2012, 12:03 PM

7. DIA vs CIA vs ???

Going from an armchair Sovietologists perspective:

Petraeus wasn't the first guy to sing the Money Trumps Peace tune in the Pentagon, but he was chosen to spread the culture to Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning he was a loyal and trusted member of the BFEE. The late Col. Ted Westhusing found the corruption palpable. Also supporting his membership in the Secret Government-Mafia-Wall Street-NAZI- axis is Col. Michael Meese, his assistant chief of staff in Iraq, is the son of former Reagan attorney general Edwin Meese of Wedtech and Inslaw PROMIS fame.

IMFO, as to who is properly zooming who, DIA over CIA, CIA militarized can trump DIA, Secret Spy Club This vs Secret Spy Club That: It may be the Pentagon refuses to cede nuclear authority to CIA. The generals and admirals have not been held to account for the Moorer-Radford affair, let alone their roles in ginning up wars from the Gulf of Tonkin to the present day. OTOH, a recently dismissed Chairman of the JCS worked to derail Bushco's run-up for war on Iran, showing me there are many -- if not the majority -- of men and women at the top of the leadership have ingegrity. Whether they are following orders from a hidden level above, whether that person or persons command CIA, is open to question.

What's clear is the fact that using a sexual affair as the public cause for terminating Petraeus' government service indicates a desire to completely remove the DCI from any future role. From now on, the guy is labeled as an untrustworthy cheat. Whoever decided to "out" the general wanted the Obama pieces of the mobile to continue hanging around. It may be we are seeing the removal of the "money trumps peace" pieces from the mobil. They're still around, in the forms of near-invisible wars on behalf of the interests of the ownership class, the resource extraction industries, and the empire.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #7)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:15 AM

10. Very good!

I think that there is a good possibility that this larger event is ongoing, and will be among the most important issues of the President's second term. When I get back from today's medical appointment, I'll post the second in what I hope becomes a series of threads on this. (I did see one other outstanding OP/thread on DU:GD, in which DUers "followed the money" in the context of some of the players in the scandal.)

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #10)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 04:22 PM

12. When you get back in front of a computer...

...something from Tarpley, the unauthorized biographer of George Herbert Walker "Caligula" Bush, that I can't get to pop up on my smart phone thing:

Coup and counter-coup in Washington


This year, a cabal of generals evidently believed it could secure the White House for Mitt Romney by staging the Benghazi incident and using it as the signal for a cold coup under cover of elections -- probably including computer-generated election fraud -- to bring down Obama. They guessed wrong.

PS: Hope the docs didn't do too much damage.

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