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Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5762

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book -- THE reception of Robert Baer's terrific book, See No Evil, speaks volumes about what people read nowadays, and how they read it. See No Evil is many things. It's a thumbnail autobiography of a really interesting man, with exceptional physical skills and plenty of courage, who went into the CIA's Directorate of Operations because he wanted to fight bad guys. In the course of 20-plus years, he damaged his share of bad guys, learned that the CIA is hopelessly politicized and morally corrupt, and quit.

It's also a bit of a kiss-and-tell book about the agency, which always attracts attention, and so it has in this case. Bob Baer is plenty disgusted with the CIA, which is nothing new; lots of disgruntled former agency employees have lambasted the place for one reason or another, and usually they have been good reasons. Baer's indictment is rather unusual, and particularly important at this time: He thinks it's incompetent, and he's certainly made a convincing case.

From case officers who spend most all their time trying to convert their colleagues and agents to a modernistic form of Christianity, to superiors who will not, under any circumstances, take any risks (so what do we need a CIA for anyway? I mean, the State Department can avoid risks with the best of them), and regional bureaus at Langley where hardly anyone is fluent in the major languages of the region, he paints a really distressing picture of the place. Sy Hersh wrote the introduction, and of course all he cares about is the anti-CIA stuff.

But See No Evil is much more than this. It's a real blockbuster, a revelation. But I have yet to see a review that mentions it. So here goes.

Bob Baer was terribly shaken by the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983, in which several of his buddies were killed. His obsession for the next 15 years was to figure out who had done it, and how. As he kept looking for the answers, he was astonished that the CIA apparently didn't know very much about it, and didn't seem to obsess about it nearly as much as he did. But he kept at it, and finally arrived at a minor epiphany:

In my last months (at CIA)," he tells us, "I unraveled the...bombing, at least to my satisfaction: Iran ordered it, and a Fatah network carried it out."

So our guys were killed by an unholy alliance between the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The same deadly duo that recently organized the very short voyage of the Karine A, loaded with tons of explosives and weapons from Iran headed for Palestinian territory.

If that's not a headline story, I don't know what is.

If Baer is right, then we're just going to have to add Yasser to the axis of evil. His evidence is quite convincing, and wonderfully presented. Despite all the unfamiliar names and the scouring of documents and archives all over the Middle East and Langley, Virginia, and conversations everywhere, he ties it all together like a suspense novel.

And then, having found the truth he had sought so long, he figures out something else, which is also of great importance to us today:

It was clear from the documents I dredged up that, by at least 1997, the CIA knew the Pasdaran's command structure inside and out, just as it knew that Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i and President Rafsanjani approved every terrorist operation to come out of Iran. As I looked at the evidence in front of me, the conclusion was unavoidable: The Islamic Republic of Iran had declared a secret war against the United States, and the United States had chosen to ignore it.

So the CIA had the book on Iran at least five years ago, but either Bill Clinton never noticed, or John Deutch and George Tenet never let him in on the secret.

Somehow I don't have the impression that George Tenet told "W." about it before September 11th, either. If he had, I think we'd have heard a lot more about Iran before the State of the Union. I think it took the "Karine A" to get the spooks to fess up.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen