The second part of the Senate investigation into bungled pre-war Iraq intelligence is still being held up by an internal Pentagon investigation of Douglas Feith, one of the war's leading architects, RAW STORY has learned.
As previously reported by Raw Story, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) inquiry -- titled Phase II -- is waiting on a report from the Pentagon inspector general as to Feith's alleged role in manipulating pre-war intelligence to support a case for war. Feith, who is also being probed by the FBI for his role in an Israeli spy case, resigned in January 2005.
More broadly, a RAW STORY investigation has found that Feith's access to classified information and his alleged wrongdoing can likely be laid at the feet of more senior officials in the Bush Administration -- namely Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who would have had to have overruled Pentagon background checks to reissue Feith's clearances after he was booted from the National Security Council for allegations of espionage in the mid 1980s.
Feith is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
Senate and intelligence sources say that although the Phase II investigation into Iraq pre-war intelligence is stalled, the real issue is a "revolving door" policy which allowed a coterie of Iraq war hawks to shuttle in and out of the Pentagon despite their involvement in myriad intelligence-related scandals.
At the heart of the Senate Intelligence Committee's delay is the fact that Feith and the Defense Department refuse to provide documents and witnesses to the Committee. Senate sources say that Feith and the Pentagon have made the case that they will not share any information until the Senate provides them with full documentation of what the investigation is looking into, documentary evidence that Senate staff have acquired, and any other key findings that Feith's lawyers believe should be made available to them.
The Intelligence Committee is investigating possible violations of the 1947 National Security Act, which requires the heads of all departments to:
"(1) keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities, other than a covert action (as defined in section 503(e)), which are the responsibility of, are engaged in by, or are carried out for or on behalf of, any department, agency, or entity of the United States Government, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity and any significant intelligence failure; and
(2) furnish the congressional intelligence committees any information or material concerning intelligence activities, other than covert actions, which is within their custody or control, and which is requested by either of the congressional intelligence committees in order to carry out its authorized responsibilities."
But according to Senate sources, instead of forcing the release of documents, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KN) has deferred to the Pentagon's Inspector General, allowing the Pentagon to investigate itself, Feith and its clandestine Office of Special Plans. Feith played a prominent role in the Office of Special Plans, a unit of the Pentagon that collected information favorable to the Administration's case which purported that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction.
The Pentagon Department of Public Affairs did not return calls seeking comment.
This lack of oversight has caused great concern among many former military and intelligence sources. One former intelligence source point to "a bigger can of worms" that a Feith investigation may unravel, pointing to the Israeli spy case -- in which Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passed classified information to a pro-Israeli lobby -- and to the Defense Department's own inability to address security breaches.
Franklin and AIPAC
Much of the current concern over security breaches stems from the case of Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Larry Franklin, who has recently plead guilty to passing classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). But Franklin seems to be a new face on the block when one considers the past involvement of higher level officials. Some intelligence sources have described Franklin as a "patsy" who is to take the fall for a much more insidious history and questionable activities by more senior officials.
The Franklin leak is hardly an isolated incident.
In 1978, the current head of the World Bank and former Deputy Defense Secretary Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was investigated for passing classified information through AIPAC, the same organization that Franklin is charged with passing state secrets to.
Wolfowitz, who at the time was working for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), was himself brought in by yet another high level alleged leaker, Richard Perle. Perle, too, is being investigated in the current AIPAC case.
Perle, who most recently served as chairman of the Pentagon Defense Policy Board and quietly resigned after the AIPAC case broke, was alleged to have passed on highly classified information to the Israeli embassy when he was a foreign policy aide for Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson in 1970.
Perle was instrumental in bringing Feith into several positions, starting in the early 80s. By the mid-1980s Feith was relieved of his clearances for allegations of passing secrets to AIPAC, bringing the question of clearances full circle.
Rumsfeld seen to reinstate clearances
Despite their checkered past, Rumsfeld's Pentagon reissued clearances to Feith, Perle and Wolfowitz. Clearances were also issued to several of Feith's consultants, some of whom were major players in the Iran Contra scandal.
The Iran Contra scandal implicated then-President Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush, and nearly the entire senior level of the administration in a weapons trafficking operation in which the US sold arms to its avowed enemy Iran. The money was then funneled to the Contras in Nicaragua, a group of anti-communists fighting the then seated regime of the Socialist Sandinistas, in order to subsidize a grassroots uprising. Feith's team of consultants included such Iran Contra luminaries as Michael Ledeen and his go-to Iran arms merchant, Manucher Gorbanifar.
One former intelligence source said only an official of Rumsfeld's seniority could reissue clearances after they had been revoked.
"The DOD has its own security investigators, as all departments do, and they generally follow the same [strict] guidelines," the source said. "But if Rumsfeld says I want these guys on payroll, the security guys fold."
Therein lies the rub. Military and former intelligence sources say that if the Pentagon reissues clearances to the same group of people who have repeatedly been accused of espionage, its ability to further investigate itself for the breach of those clearances is compromised.
The Senate continues to wait for the Pentagon's report on Feith and the Office of Special Plans.
"Any government agency collecting and analyzing its own intelligence must inform intelligence oversight committee," a Senate aide said.