In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran. The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.
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A CIA internal review of the agency’s performance prior to 9/11 is harshly critical of former CIA Director George Tenet, former Director of Operations James Pavitt, and the former chief of the Counterterrorist Center, Cofer Black, for not doing everything possible to confront terrorism. Pavitt, who was reluctant to take on risky missions against bin Laden encouraged by the National Security Council during the second term of President Bill Clinton, is particularly criticized. The report, completed by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, is especially acerbic regarding the failure of the agency to stop two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, as they entered the United States. Black did not share information on the two men with the FBI agents assigned to the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA and also turned down a request for a formal memorandum to be sent to FBI Headquarters. The report will be finalized and given to Congress after those criticized in it add their own comments. Pavitt, as head of the Operations Directorate, has publicly accepted full responsibility for the agency’s failure, but Black has not acknowledged any deficiencies in his performance. Tenet has not yet responded.
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There is increasing evidence that the Iraqi police forces, now under Shi’ite control, are carrying out systematic revenge killings against Sunnis in Baghdad. The bodies now showing up at the morgue have obvious signs of handcuffing and blindfolding and evidence of being tortured before death. U.S. sources indicate that the suspicious killings have reached the rate of almost 700 per month. The police are supervised by the Shi’ite-run Ministry of Interior, which claims that the killings are being carried out by insurgents wearing stolen police uniforms. But American intelligence sources disagree, noting that many of the killers appear to be actual policemen carrying the expensive standard-issue Glock automatics and driving official Toyota Land Cruisers.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is a partner in Cannistraro Associates.