For additional analysis of Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Pentagon-Manucher Ghorbanifar meetings in Europe in 2001 and 2003, see John Walcott’s article published Friday by McClatchy, “Did Iranian Agents Dupe Pentagon Officials?”
Among other things, Walcott notes that it was Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s intelligence czar, who shut down a counter-intelligence investigation into the initial meeting in December 2001 that sought to determine whether Ledeen and his Pentagon accomplices from Douglas Feith’s office (Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin) may have been used by Tehran to, in the words of the Senate report, “directly or indirectly influence or access U.S. government officials.”
The report and Walcott’s account of it also illustrate the degree to which Vice President Cheney’s office, with which Ledeen has long had close ties, operated quite independently of the rest of the government. According to the report, a Cheney official — I would guess that would be either Scooter Libby or John Hannah — at least tacitly approved a second meeting between the Pentagon’s Rhode and Ghorbanifar in Paris in June 2003 despite orders from the White House, under pressure from the State Department the intelligence community, to avoid all contact with the Iranian arms dealer. It also helps spell out Ledeen’s Capitol Hill network whose support he sought to activate in continuing his Iran- and Ghorbanifar-related efforts. They included former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, and Arizona Sen. John Kyl, as well as former House Speaker and Cheney buddy, Newt Gingrich, who, like Ledeen, is associated with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
What remains quite murky, of course, is which intelligence agencies Ghorbanifar and Ledeen were working on behalf of, whether wittingly or not: Iran’s, as indicated by the McClatchy headline; Israel’s; both Iran’s and Israel’s; yet others, such as Italy military intelligence agency (SISMI) for which Ledeen has worked in the past and which hosted the 2001 meeting; or all of the above? Or are they simply entrepreneurs who thrive and prosper (financially speaking) on intrigue?
Much of what the Committee found was reported by Laura Rozen in Mother Jones almost two years ago, and her article offers additional details.
While Larry Franklin is serving a long prison sentence for passing unauthorized information to Israel via senior officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (who are themselves awaiting trial), Rhode, so far as I know, continues to work at the Pentagon on a variety of Middle East-related projects, while Ledeen, of course, remains AEI’s “Freedom Scholar” no doubt consulting for various government agencies and perhaps some private clients. Cambone is making it big in the private sector; Libby, having escaped a prison sentence by Bush’s commutation, is based at the neo-conservative Hudson Institute, and Hannah is Cheney’s national security adviser.
Hadley, who initially authorised the first meeting and subsequently failed to inform the intelligence community or the State Department about it, now serves, of course, as Bush’s national security adviser.