Saturday, September 02, 2006

Behind the Plan to Bomb Iran

By Prof. Ismael Hossein-zadeh
September 1, 2006

'Aggressive existential tendencies of the U.S. military-industrial empire to war and militarism are shaped by its own internal or intrinsic dynamics: continued need for arms production as a lucrative business whose fortunes depend on permanent war and international convulsion.'

It is no longer a secret that the Bush administration has been methodically paving the way toward a bombing strike against Iran. The administration’s plans of an aerial military attack against that country have recently been exposed by a number of reliable sources. [1]

There is strong evidence that the administration’s recent public statements that it is now willing to negotiate with Iran are highly disingenuous: they are designed not to reach a diplomatic solution to the so-called "Iran crisis," but to remove diplomatic hurdles toward a military "solution."

The administration’s public gestures of a willingness to negotiate with Iran are rendered utterly meaningless because such alleged negotiations are premised on the condition that Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program. Considering the fact that suspension of uranium enrichment, which is altogether within Iran’s legitimate rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is supposed to be the main point of negotiations, Iran is asked, in effect, "to concede the main point of the negotiations before they started." [2]

The administration’s case against Iran is eerily reminiscent of its case against Iraq in the run up to the invasion of that country. Accordingly, the case against Iran is based not on any hard evidence provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but on dubious allegations that are based on even more dubious sources of intelligence. Iran is asked, in effect, to prove a negative, which is of course mission impossible—hence grounds for "noncompliance" and rationale for "punishment."

The administration’s case against Iran is so weak, its objectives of a military strike against that country are so fuzzy, and the odds against achieving any kind of meaningful victory are so strong, that even professional military experts are speaking up against the plans of a bombing campaign against Iran. [3] Furthermore, predominant expert views of such a bombing campaign maintain that it would more likely hurt than help the geopolitical and economic interests of the United States.

So, if the administration’s "national interests" argument as grounds for a military strike against Iran is suspect, why then is it so adamantly pushing for such a potentially calamitous confrontation? What are the driving forces behind a military confrontation with Iran?
Critics would almost unanimously point to neoconservative militarists in and around the Bush administration. While this is obviously not false, as it is the neoconservative forces that are beating the drums of war with Iran, it falls short of showing the whole picture. In a real sense, it begs the question: who are the neoconservatives to begin with? And what or who do they represent?

The neoconservative ideologues often claim that their aggressive foreign policy is inspired primarily by democratic ideals and a desire to spread democracy and freedom worldwide—a claim that is far too readily accepted as genuine by corporate media and many foreign-policy circles. This is obviously little more than a masquerade designed to hide some real powerful special interests that lie behind the façade of neoconservative figures and their ideological rhetoric.

The driving force behind the neoconservatives’ war juggernaut must be sought not in the alleged defense of democracy or of national interests but in the nefarious special interests that are carefully camouflaged behind the front of national interests. These special interests derive lucrative business gains and high dividends from war and militarism. They include both economic interests (famously known as the military-industrial complex) and geopolitical interests (associated largely with Zionist proponents of "greater Israel" in the Middle East, or the Israeli lobby).

There is an unspoken, de facto alliance between these two extremely powerful interests--an alliance that might be called the military-industrial-Zionist alliance. More than anything else, the alliance is based on a conjunctural convergence of interests on war and international convulsion in the Middle East. Let me elaborate on this point.

The fact that the military-industrial complex, or merchants of arms and wars, flourishes on war and militarism is largely self-evident. Arms industries and powerful beneficiaries of war dividends need an atmosphere of war and international convulsion in order to maintain continued increases in the Pentagon budget and justify their lion's share of the public money. Viewed in this light, unilateral or "preemptive" wars abroad can easily been seen as reflections of domestic fights over national resources and tax dollars.

In the debate over allocation of public resources between the proverbial guns and butter, or between military and nonmilitary public spending, powerful beneficiaries of war dividends have proven very resourceful in outmaneuvering proponents of limits on military spending. During the bipolar world of the Cold War era that was not a difficult act to perform as the rationale—the "communist threat"—readily lay at hand. Justification of increased military spending in the post-Cold War period has prompted these beneficiaries to be even more creative in manufacturing "new sources of danger to U.S. interests" in order to justify unilateral wars of aggression. It is not surprising, then, that a wide range of "new sources of threat to U.S. national interests" have emerged in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union: "rogue states, axis of evil, global terrorism, Islamic radicalism, enemies of democracy," and more.

Just as the powerful beneficiaries of war dividends view international peace and stability inimical to their business interests, so too the hard-line Zionist proponents of "greater Israel" perceive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors perilous to their goal of gaining control over the promised "Land of Israel." The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of the United Nations’ resolutions, peace would mean Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders; that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But because proponents of "greater Israel" are unwilling to withdraw from these territories, they are therefore fearful of peace and genuine dialogue with Palestinians—hence, their continued disregard for UN resolutions and their systematic efforts at sabotaging peace negotiations. By the same token, these proponents view war and convulsion (or, as David Ben-Gurion, one of the key founders of the State of Israel, put it, "revolutionary atmosphere") as opportunities that are conducive to the expulsion of Palestinians, to the territorial recasting of the region, and to the expansion of Israel’s territory. [4]

The military-industrial-Zionist alliance is represented largely by the cabal of neoconservative forces in and around the Bush administration. The institutional framework of the alliance consists of a web of closely knit think tanks that are founded and financed primarily by the armaments lobby and the Israeli lobby. These corporate-backed militaristic think tanks include the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Center for Security Policy, Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, National Institute for Public Policy, and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

These think tanks, which might appropriately be called institutes of war and militarism, are staffed and directed mainly by the neoconservative champions of the military-industrial-Zionist alliance, that is, by the proponents of unilateral wars of aggression. There is strong evidence that the major plans of the Bush administration’s foreign policy have been drawn up largely by these think thanks, often in collaboration, directly or indirectly, with the Pentagon, the arms lobby, and the Israeli lobby. These war mongering think tanks and their neoconservative champions serve as direct links, or conveyer belts, between the armaments lobby and the Israeli lobbies on the one hand, and the Bush administration and its Congressional allies on the other.

Take the Center for Security Policy (CSP), for example. It "boasts that no fewer than 22 former advisory board members are close associates in the Bush administration. . . . A sixth of the Center's revenue comes directly from defense corporations." The Center’s alumni in key posts in the Bush administration include its former chair of the board, Douglas Feith, who served for more than four years as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, former Defense Policy Board Chair Richard Perle, and long-time friend and financial supporter Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In its 1998 annual report, the center "listed virtually every weapons-maker that had supported it from its founding, from Lockheed, Martin Marietta, Northrop, Grumman, and Boeing, to the later ‘merged’ incarnations of same—Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and so forth." [5]

Likewise, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a major lobbying think tank for the military-industrial-Zionist alliance, can boast of being the metaphorical alma mater of a number of powerful members of the Bush administration. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney, State Department arms control official John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the UN), and former chair of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle all have had long-standing ties with the Institute. The Institute played a key role in promoting Ahmed Chalabi’s group of Iraqi exiles as a major Iraqi opposition force "that would be welcomed by the Iraqi people as an alternative to the regime of Saddam Hussein." The group, working closely with the AEI, played an important role in the justification of the invasion of Iraq. It served, for example, as a major source of (largely fabricated) intelligence for the militaristic chicken hawks whenever they found the intelligence gathered by the CIA and the State Department at odds with their plans of invading Iraq. [6]

Another example of the interlocking network of neoconservative forces in the Bush administration and the militaristic think tanks that are dedicated to the advancement of the military-industrial-Zionist agenda is reflected in the affiliation of a number of influential members of the administration with the Jewish Institute for the National Security Affairs (JINSA). These include, for example, Douglas Feith, assistant secretary of defense during the first term of the Bush administration, General Jay Garner, the initial head of the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, and Michael Ledeen, who unofficially advises the Bush administration on Middle Eastern issues. JINSA "is on record in its support of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and against the Oslo Accord. . . . In its fervent support for the hard-line, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian Likud-style policies in Israel, JINSA has essentially recommended that ‘regime change’ in Iraq should be just the beginning of a cascade of toppling dominoes in the Middle East." [7]

The fact that neoconservative militarists of the Bush administration are organically rooted in the military-industrial-Zionist alliance is even more clearly reflected in their incestuous relationship with the warmongering think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Like most of its lobbying counterparts within the extensive network of neoconservative think tanks, PNAC was founded by a circle of powerful political figures a number of whom later ascended to key positions in the Bush administration. The list of signatories of PNAC’s Founding Statement of Principles include Elliott Abrams, Jeb Bush, Elliott Cohen, Frank Gaffney, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. Add the signature of Vice President Dick Cheney to the list of PNAC founders, "and you have the bulwarks of the neo-con network that is currently in the driver’s seat of the Bush administration’s war without end policies all represented in PNAC’s founding document." [8]

A closer look at the professional records of the neoconservative players in the Bush administration indicates that "32 major administration appointees . . . are former executives with, consultants for, or significant shareholders of top defense contractors." For example, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is an ex-director of a General Dynamics subsidiary, and his deputy during the first term of the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz, acted as a paid consultant to Northrop Grumman. Today the armaments lobby "is exerting more influence over policymaking than at any time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower first warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex over 40 years ago." [9]

This sample evidence indicates that the view that the neoconservative militarists’ tendency to war and aggression is inspired by an ideological passion to spread American ideals of democracy is clearly false. Their successful militarization of US foreign policy stems largely from the fact they operate essentially on behalf of two immensely powerful special interests, the military-industrial complex and the influential Israeli lobby. Neoconservative architects of war and militarism derive their political clout and policy effectiveness primarily from the political machine and institutional infrastructure of the military-industrial-Zionist alliance.
It is necessary to note at this point that, despite its immense political influence, the Zionist lobby is ultimately a junior, not equal, partner in this unspoken, de defacto alliance. Without discounting the extremely important role of the Zionist lobby in the configuration of the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, I would caution against simplifications and exaggerations of its power and influence over the U.S. policy in the region. It is true that most of the neo-conservative militarists who have been behind the recent U.S. military aggressions in the Middle East have long been active supporters of Israel’s right-wing politicians and/or leaders. It is also no secret that there is a close collaboration over issues of war and militarism between militant Zionism, neoconservative forces in and around the Bush administration, and jingoistic think tanks such as AEI, PNAC, CSP, and JINSA.

It does not follow, however, that, as some critics argue, the U.S.-Israeli relationship represents a case of "tail wagging the dog," that is, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is shaped by the Israeli/Zionist leaders. While, no doubt, the powerful Zionist lobby exerts considerable influence over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the efficacy and the extent of that influence depend, ultimately, on the real economic and geopolitical interests of U.S. foreign policy makers. In other words, U.S. policy makers in the Middle East would go along with the desires and demands of the radical Zionist lobby only if such demands also tend to serve the special interests that those policy makers represent or serve, that is, if there is a convergence of interests over those demands. [10]

Aggressive existential tendencies of the U.S. military-industrial empire to war and militarism are shaped by its own internal or intrinsic dynamics: continued need for arms production as a lucrative business whose fortunes depend on permanent war and international convulsion. Conjunctural or reinforcing factors such as the horrors of 9/11, or the Zionist lobby, or the party in power, or the resident of the White House will, no doubt, exert significant influences. But such supporting influences remain essentially contributory, not defining or determining. The decisive or central role is played, ultimately, by the military-industrial complex itself—that is, by the merchants of arms or wars.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is an economics professor at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. USA. This article draws upon his newly released book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (by Palgrave-Macmillan Publishers). Contact:,

Note: Readers are welcome to cross-post this article with a view to spreading the word and warning people of the dangers of a broader Middle East war. Please indicate the source and copyright note.


1. See, for example, Seymour M. Hersh, "The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy," The New Yorker (July 10, 2006): <>; Evan Eland, "Military Action Against Iran?" (January 24, 2006):
2. Hersh, "The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy."
3. Ibid.; see also Ismael Hossein-zadeh, "
U.S. Iran Policy Irks Senior Commanders: The Military vs. Militaristic Civilian Leadership," (July 24, 2006):
4. A detailed discussion of this issue, and of the de facto alliance between militant Zionism and the powerful beneficiaries of war dividends, can be found, among other places, in Chapter 6 of my recently released book,
The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2006).
5. William D. Hartung, How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? (New York: Nation Books, 2003), P. 101; William Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca, "The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex," Multinational Monitor 24, nos. 1 &2 (Jan/Feb 2003): <> .
6. Hartung, How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? PP. 103-106.
7. Ibid., PP. 109-11.
8. Ibid., P. 113.
9. William Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca, "The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex."
10. I have provided a longer discussion of the role of the Zionist lobby in the configuration of the U.S. policy in the Middle East in Chapter 6 of my recently published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2006).
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
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© Copyright Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Global Research, 2006 The url address of this article is:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

'Currently, the CIA, under the regime of
General Michael Hayden, is cooking the intelligence to prove the
Congolese-Tanzanian-Sudanese-Syrian-Iranian uranium smuggling connections'.

African Uranium Redux

by Wayne Madsen
Wayne Madsen Report,
August 18 2006

On Aug. 6, 2006, Rupert Murdoch's main British mouthpiece, The Sunday Times, reported that "Iran is seeking to import large consignments of uranium from Africa." It was a similar utterance, contained in a bogus 16-word claim by George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address that was used, in part, to justify America's and Britain's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Now, the same canard is being used to justify a U.S. attack on Iran. The Sunday Times chief source for its story was an unnamed Tanzanian customs official who claimed that Tanzanian customs intercepted in October 2005 an air shipment of uranium from near Lubumbashi in Congo's Katanga to Mwanza in Tanzania. The alleged uranium shipments from Congo to Iran were said to have started in 2002 and consisted of several alleged shipments. The alleged source of the uranium, the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga, was also the source for the uranium used in the U.S, atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The only problem with the Sunday Times story is that the Shinkolobwe mine is no longer in operation. "The Congo mine has been closed for decades," according to a very knowledgeable U.S. government who has dealt extensively with African uranium production. Congo's government claims the ore concentrator for Shinkolobwe has been shut down since 1961 and, therefore, cannot be concentrated into refined yellowcake uranium.

Resource-rich Congo, which is just emerging from a genocidal civil war encouraged by U.S., British, and Israeli elements using their surrogates in Rwanda, Uganda, and eastern Congo, is a lucrative target for the Bush administration and its criminal accomplices. Conveniently for the neo-cons, the story about Congolese uranium shipments to Iran is said to have involved trans-shipment points in Sudan and Syria and middlemen in Lebanon, all three countries targets of the Project for the New American Century operatives in Washington, London, and Jerusalem/Tel Aviv. Currently, the CIA, under the regime of General Michael Hayden, is cooking the intelligence to prove the Congolese-Tanzanian-Sudanese-Syrian-Iranian uranium smuggling connections. Just for good measure, the neo-cons are suggesting that Zimbabwe, a major target of the Bush administration, and Zambia, were also involved in the alleged elaborate uranium smuggling scheme. President George W. Bush is reported to have ordered Hayden and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to do everything possible to prove a uranium connection between Iran and Congo.

Africa, which is rife with false "official looking" documents, such as those Nigerien documents laundered through the Silvio Berlusconi-Italian Fascist-Michael Ledeen network to "prove" that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, is a favorite pace for the neo-cons to cook up phony intelligence and false flags. Some of the phony intelligence being used to prove a Congolese-Iranian uranium link is originating with political enemies of President Joseph Kabila, who is the reported winner of the recent UN-supervised presidential election. His two major opponents, both U.S. and Israeli-backed guerrilla leaders, are the likely sources of the bogus uranium stories. Belgian intelligence, which has extensive sources in Kinshasa and throughout Congo, have scoffed at the reports of the alleged uranium sales. They have evaluated the uranium reports with a confidence level of "not serious," according to the Belgian magazine Trends. The Belgian magazine also reports that an official of the American embassy in Kinshasa visited the Shinkolobwe mine on August 9 and "found nothing irregular." The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has also derided the notion of Congolese uranium sales to Iran.

'Trends' also discovered some proof that official Congolese Gécamines (the Congolese state mining company) uranium sales records from 1966 to 1968 were tampered with to make it look like there were recent sales of uranium from Katanga to Iran. The magazine states, "The serial numbers of the uranium shipments referred to in the exchange of letters between Wieland GmbH [of Germany] and Saman Cheshemen [mining company] of Iran, could possibly been taken from official uranium sales by the Congolese state-owned company Gécamines of existing reserves from 1966 and 1968 from Shinkolobwe. Have those previous serial numbers been used to give this smuggling operation an appearance of truthfulness? The incredible amount of 2 billion dollars is explained by some as forming part of a money laundering operation." As every user of e-mail is aware, Africa is the source for all kinds of money laundering schemes and frauds. It would seem that the neo-cons are the only people in the world not aware of these schemes but are, nevertheless, trying to convince professional intelligence agencies that the money laundering operations and phony intelligence reports are clues in proving a "Congo sells uranium to Iran" scheme.

A U.S. intelligence source told WMR two months ago that the Kabila government would be implicated by the neo-cons in a false uranium smuggling operation with Iran in an effort to justify both an attack on Iran and a military overthrow of Kabila by pro-U.S./Israeli elements in Congo. Kabila has been the target of several attempted coups staged in neighboring countries by mercenaries in the pay of U.S. and British intelligence. It now appears that the forecast of a phony Congolese link to uranium sales, which also mentioned Tanzanian involvement, was correct. It is also very apparent that the neo-cons are becoming incredibly predictable in their machinations. As with Niger and the bogus yellowcake sales to Iraq, we now have forged Congolese documents, phony news stories emanating from the always-suspect Murdoch News Corp. falsehood factory, and intelligence agencies calling the bluff of the neo-cons.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush. Cheney. Rumsfeld, Rove. All main players, all familiar. But here's one you won't know. John Rendon. He's a fixer. When the elite want to seize control of a sovereign country for its resources, Renford's their man. He'll invent the excuses, distort the intelligence, arrange the fake dossiers, punish those who won't tolerate the lies. Read James Bamford's account of this ultimate PR man, and reflect on the thousands who suffer and die as a consequence of his actions.....

The Man Who Sold the War

Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war

by James Bamford

November 17th, 2005

"The Man Who Sold the War,"won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the reporting category.

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

Rendon is a man who fills a need that few people even know exists. Two months before al-Haideri took the lie-detector test, the Pentagon had secretly awarded him a $16 million contract to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda. One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power."

Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam. It was as if President John F. Kennedy had outsourced the Bay of Pigs operation to the advertising and public-relations firm of J. Walter Thompson.

"They're very closemouthed about what they do," says Kevin McCauley, an editor of the industry trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "It's all cloak-and-dagger stuff."

Although Rendon denies any direct involvement with al-Haideri, the defector was the latest salvo in a secret media war set in motion by Rendon. In an operation directed by Ahmad Chalabi -- the man Rendon helped install as leader of the INC -- the defector had been brought to Thailand, where he huddled in a hotel room for days with the group's spokesman, Zaab Sethna. The INC routinely coached defectors on their stories, prepping them for polygraph exams, and Sethna was certainly up to the task -- he got his training in the art of propaganda on the payroll of the Rendon Group. According to Francis Brooke, the INC's man in Washington and himself a former Rendon employee, the goal of the al-Haideri operation was simple: pressure the United States to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

As the CIA official flew back to Washington with failed lie-detector charts in his briefcase, Chalabi and Sethna didn't hesitate. They picked up the phone, called two journalists who had a long history of helping the INC promote its cause and offered them an exclusive on Saddam's terrifying cache of WMDs.

For the worldwide broadcast rights, Sethna contacted Paul Moran, an Australian freelancer who frequently worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I think I've got something that you would be interested in," he told Moran, who was living in Bahrain. Sethna knew he could count on the trim, thirty-eight-year-old journalist: A former INC employee in the Middle East, Moran had also been on Rendon's payroll for years in "information operations," working with Sethna at the company's London office on Catherine Place, near Buckingham Palace.

"We were trying to help the Kurds and the Iraqis opposed to Saddam set up a television station," Sethna recalled in a rare interview broadcast on Australian television. "The Rendon Group came to us and said, 'We have a contract to kind of do anti-Saddam propaganda on behalf of the Iraqi opposition.' What we didn't know -- what the Rendon Group didn't tell us -- was in fact it was the CIA that had hired them to do this work."

The INC's choice for the worldwide print exclusive was equally easy: Chalabi contacted Judith Miller of The New York Times. Miller, who was close to I. Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration, had been a trusted outlet for the INC's anti-Saddam propaganda for years. Not long after the CIA polygraph expert slipped the straps and electrodes off al-Haideri and declared him a liar, Miller flew to Bangkok to interview him under the watchful supervision of his INC handlers. Miller later made perfunctory calls to the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, but despite her vaunted intelligence sources, she claimed not to know about the results of al-Haideri's lie-detector test. Instead, she reported that unnamed "government experts" called his information "reliable and significant" -- thus adding a veneer of truth to the lies.

Her front-page story, which hit the stands on December 20th, 2001, was exactly the kind of exposure Rendon had been hired to provide. AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES, declared the headline. "An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer," Miller wrote, "said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago." If verified, she noted, "his allegations would provide ammunition to officials within the Bush administration who have been arguing that Mr. Hussein should be driven from power partly because of his unwillingness to stop making weapons of mass destruction, despite his pledges to do so."

For months, hawks inside and outside the administration had been pressing for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Now, thanks to Miller's story, they could point to "proof" of Saddam's "nuclear threat." The story, reinforced by Moran's on-camera interview with al-Haideri on the giant Australian Broadcasting Corp., was soon being trumpeted by the White House and repeated by newspapers and television networks around the world. It was the first in a long line of hyped and fraudulent stories that would eventually propel the U.S. into a war with Iraq -- the first war based almost entirely on a covert propaganda campaign targeting the media.

By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas -- knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on "covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations." In a "secret amendment" to Pentagon policy, the report warns, "psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies." The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that "combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare."

It is a belief John Rendon encapsulated in a speech to cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996. "I am not a national-security strategist or a military tactician," he declared. "I am a politician, a person who uses communication to meet public-policy or corporate-policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager." To explain his philosophy, Rendon paraphrased a journalist he knew from his days as a staffer on the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter: "This is probably best described in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when he wrote, 'When things turn weird, the weird turn pro.'"

John Walter Rendon Jr. rises at 3 a.m. each morning after six hours of sleep, turns on his Apple computer and begins ingesting information -- overnight news reports, e-mail messages, foreign and domestic newspapers, and an assortment of government documents. According to Pentagon documents obtained by Rolling Stone, the Rendon Group is authorized "to research and analyze information classified up to Top Secret/SCI/SI/TK/G/HCS" -- an extraordinarily high level of clearance granted to only a handful of defense contractors. "SCI" stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information, data classified higher than Top Secret. "SI" is Special Intelligence, very secret communications intercepted by the National Security Agency. "TK" refers to Talent/Keyhole, code names for imagery from reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites. "G" stands for Gamma (communications intercepts from extremely sensitive sources) and "HCS" means Humint Control System (information from a very sensitive human source). Taken together, the acronyms indicate that Rendon enjoys access to the most secret information from all three forms of intelligence collection: eavesdropping, imaging satellites and human spies.
Rendon lives in a multimillion-dollar home in Washington's exclusive Kalorama neighborhood. A few doors down from Rendon is the home of former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara; just around the corner lives current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. At fifty-six, Rendon wears owlish glasses and combs his thick mane of silver-gray hair to the side, Kennedy-style. He heads to work each morning clad in a custom-made shirt with his monogram on the right cuff and a sharply tailored blue blazer that hangs loose around his bulky frame. By the time he pulls up to the Rendon Group's headquarters near Dupont Circle, he has already racked up a handsome fee for the morning's work: According to federal records, Rendon charges the CIA and the Pentagon $311.26 an hour for his services.

Rendon is one of the most influential of the private contractors in Washington who are increasingly taking over jobs long reserved for highly trained CIA employees. In recent years, spies-for-hire have begun to replace regional desk officers, who control clandestine operations around the world; watch officers at the agency's twenty-four-hour crisis center; analysts, who sift through reams of intelligence data; and even counterintelligence officers in the field, who oversee meetings between agents and their recruited spies. According to one senior administration official involved in intelligence-budget decisions, half of the CIA's work is now performed by private contractors -- people completely unaccountable to Congress. Another senior budget official acknowledges privately that lawmakers have no idea how many rent-a-spies the CIA currently employs -- or how much unchecked power they enjoy.

Unlike many newcomers to the field, however, Rendon is a battle-tested veteran who has been secretly involved in nearly every American shooting conflict in the past two decades. In the first interview he has granted in decades, Rendon offered a peek through the keyhole of this seldom-seen world of corporate spooks -- a rarefied but growing profession. Over a dinner of lamb chops and a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape at a private Washington club, Rendon was guarded about the details of his clandestine work -- but he boasted openly of the sweep and importance of his firm's efforts as a for-profit spy. "We've worked in ninety-one countries," he said. "Going all the way back to Panama, we've been involved in every war, with the exception of Somalia."
It is an unusual career twist for someone who entered politics as an opponent of the Vietnam War. The son of a stockbroker, Rendon grew up in New Jersey and stumped for McGovern before graduating from Northeastern University. "I was the youngest state coordinator," he recalls. "I had Maine. They told me that I understood politics -- which was a stretch, being so young." Rendon, who went on to serve as executive director of the Democratic National Committee, quickly mastered the combination of political skulduggery and media manipulation that would become his hallmark. In 1980, as the manager of Jimmy Carter's troops at the national convention in New York, he was sitting alone in the bleachers at Madison Square Garden when a reporter for ABC News approached him. "They actually did a little piece about the man behind the curtain," Rendon says. "A Wizard of Oz thing." It was a role he would end up playing for the rest of his life.

After Carter lost the election and the hard-right Reagan revolutionaries came to power in 1981, Rendon went into business with his younger brother Rick. "Everybody started consulting," he recalls. "We started consulting." They helped elect John Kerry to the Senate in 1984 and worked for the AFL-CIO to mobilize the union vote for Walter Mondale's presidential campaign. Among the items Rendon produced was a training manual for union organizers to operate as political activists on behalf of Mondale. To keep the operation quiet, Rendon stamped CONFIDENTIAL on the cover of each of the blue plastic notebooks. It was a penchant for secrecy that would soon pervade all of his consulting deals.

To a large degree, the Rendon Group is a family affair. Rendon's wife, Sandra Libby, handles the books as chief financial officer and "senior communications strategist." Rendon's brother Rick serves as senior partner and runs the company's Boston office, producing public-service announcements for the Whale Conservation Institute and coordinating Empower Peace, a campaign that brings young people in the Middle East in contact with American kids through video-conferencing technology. But the bulk of the company's business is decidedly less liberal and peace oriented. Rendon's first experience in the intelligence world, in fact, came courtesy of the Republicans. "Panama," he says, "brought us into the national-security environment."
In 1989, shortly after his election, President George H.W. Bush signed a highly secret "finding" authorizing the CIA to funnel $10 million to opposition forces in Panama to overthrow Gen. Manuel Noriega. Reluctant to involve agency personnel directly, the CIA turned to the Rendon Group. Rendon's job was to work behind the scenes, using a variety of campaign and psychological techniques to put the CIA's choice, Guillermo Endara, into the presidential palace. Cash from the agency, laundered through various bank accounts and front organizations, would end up in Endara's hands, who would then pay Rendon.

A heavyset, fifty-three-year-old corporate attorney with little political experience, Endara was running against Noriega's handpicked choice, Carlos Duque. With Rendon's help, Endara beat Duque decisively at the polls -- but Noriega simply named himself "Maximum Leader" and declared the election null and void. The Bush administration then decided to remove Noriega by force -- and Rendon's job shifted from generating local support for a national election to building international support for regime change. Within days he had found the ultimate propaganda tool.
At the end of a rally in support of Endara, a band of Noriega's Dignity Battalion -- nicknamed "Dig Bats" and called "Doberman thugs" by Bush -- attacked the crowd with wooden planks, metal pipes and guns. Gang members grabbed the bodyguard of Guillermo Ford, one of Endara's vice-presidential candidates, pushed him against a car, shoved a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. With cameras snapping, the Dig Bats turned on Ford, batting his head with a spike-tipped metal rod and pounding him with heavy clubs, turning his white guayabera bright red with blood -- his own, and that of his dead bodyguard.

Within hours, Rendon made sure the photos reached every newsroom in the world. The next week an image of the violence made the cover of Time magazine with the caption POLITICS PANAMA STYLE: NORIEGA BLUDGEONS HIS OPPOSITION, AND THE U.S. TURNS UP THE HEAT. To further boost international support for Endara, Rendon escorted Ford on a tour of Europe to meet British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Italian prime minister and even the pope. In December 1989, when Bush decided to invade Panama, Rendon and several of his employees were on one of the first military jets headed to Panama City.

"I arrived fifteen minutes before it started," Rendon recalls. "My first impression is having the pilot in the plane turn around and say, 'Excuse me, sir, but if you look off to the left you'll see the attack aircraft circling before they land.' Then I remember this major saying, 'Excuse me, sir, but do you know what the air-defense capability of Panama is at the moment?' I leaned into the cockpit and said, 'Look, major, I hope by now that's no longer an issue.'"

Moments later, Rendon's plane landed at Howard Air Force Base in Panama. "I needed to get to Fort Clayton, which was where the president was," he says. "I was choppered over -- and we took some rounds on the way." There, on a U.S. military base surrounded by 24,000 U.S. troops, heavy tanks and Combat Talon AC-130 gunships, Rendon's client, Endara, was at last sworn in as president of Panama.

Rendon's involvement in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein began seven months later, in July 1990. Rendon had taken time out for a vacation -- a long train ride across Scotland -- when he received an urgent call. "Soldiers are massing at the border outside of Kuwait," he was told. At the airport, he watched the beginning of the Iraqi invasion on television. Winging toward Washington in the first-class cabin of a Pan Am 747, Rendon spent the entire flight scratching an outline of his ideas in longhand on a yellow legal pad.

"I wrote a memo about what the Kuwaitis were going to face, and I based it on our experience in Panama and the experience of the Free French operation in World War II," Rendon says. "This was something that they needed to see and hear, and that was my whole intent. Go over, tell the Kuwaitis, 'Here's what you've got -- here's some observations, here's some recommendations, live long and prosper.'"

Back in Washington, Rendon immediately called Hamilton Jordan, the former chief of staff to President Carter and an old friend from his Democratic Party days. "He put me in touch with the Saudis, the Saudis put me in touch with the Kuwaitis and then I went over and had a meeting with the Kuwaitis," Rendon recalls. "And by the time I landed back in the United States, I got a phone call saying, 'Can you come back? We want you to do what's in the memo.'"
What the Kuwaitis wanted was help in selling a war of liberation to the American government -- and the American public. Rendon proposed a massive "perception management" campaign designed to convince the world of the need to join forces to rescue Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government in exile agreed to pay Rendon $100,000 a month for his assistance.

To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon.

Rendon also set up an elaborate television and radio network, and developed programming that was beamed into Kuwait from Taif, Saudi Arabia. "It was important that the Kuwaitis in occupied Kuwait understood that the rest of the world was doing something," he says. Each night, Rendon's troops in London produced a script and sent it via microwave to Taif, ensuring that the "news" beamed into Kuwait reflected a sufficiently pro-American line.

When it comes to staging a war, few things are left to chance. After Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, it was Rendon's responsibility to make the victory march look like the flag-waving liberation of France after World War II. "Did you ever stop to wonder," he later remarked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American -- and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" After a pause, he added, "Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

Although his work is highly secret, Rendon insists he deals only in "timely, truthful and accurate information." His job, he says, is to counter false perceptions that the news media perpetuate because they consider it "more important to be first than to be right." In modern warfare, he believes, the outcome depends largely on the public's perception of the war -- whether it is winnable, whether it is worth the cost. "We are being haunted and stalked by the difference between perception and reality," he says. "Because the lines are divergent, this difference between perception and reality is one of the greatest strategic communications challenges of war."

By the time the Gulf War came to a close in 1991, the Rendon Group was firmly established as Washington's leading salesman for regime change. But Rendon's new assignment went beyond simply manipulating the media. After the war ended, the Top Secret order signed by President Bush to oust Hussein included a rare "lethal finding" -- meaning deadly action could be taken if necessary. Under contract to the CIA, Rendon was charged with helping to create a dissident force with the avowed purpose of violently overthrowing the entire Iraqi government. It is an undertaking that Rendon still considers too classified to discuss. "That's where we're wandering into places I'm not going to talk about," he says. "If you take an oath, it should mean something."
Thomas Twetten, the CIA's former deputy of operations, credits Rendon with virtually creating the INC. "The INC was clueless," he once observed. "They needed a lot of help and didn't know where to start. That is why Rendon was brought in." Acting as the group's senior adviser and aided by truckloads of CIA dollars, Rendon pulled together a wide spectrum of Iraqi dissidents and sponsored a conference in Vienna to organize them into an umbrella organization, which he dubbed the Iraqi National Congress. Then, as in Panama, his assignment was to help oust a brutal dictator and replace him with someone chosen by the CIA. "The reason they got the contract was because of what they had done in Panama -- so they were known," recalls Whitley Bruner, former chief of the CIA's station in Baghdad. This time the target was Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the agency's successor of choice was Ahmad Chalabi, a crafty, avuncular Iraqi exile beloved by Washington's neoconservatives.

Chalabi was a curious choice to lead a rebellion. In 1992, he was convicted in Jordan of making false statements and embezzling $230 million from his own bank, for which he was sentenced in absentia to twenty-two years of hard labor. But the only credential that mattered was his politics. "From day one," Rendon says, "Chalabi was very clear that his biggest interest was to rid Iraq of Saddam." Bruner, who dealt with Chalabi and Rendon in London in 1991, puts it even more bluntly. "Chalabi's primary focus," he said later, "was to drag us into a war."

The key element of Rendon's INC operation was a worldwide media blitz designed to turn Hussein, a once dangerous but now contained regional leader, into the greatest threat to world peace. Each month, $326,000 was passed from the CIA to the Rendon Group and the INC via various front organizations. Rendon profited handsomely, receiving a "management fee" of ten percent above what it spent on the project. According to some reports, the company made nearly $100 million on the contract during the five years following the Gulf War.

Rendon made considerable headway with the INC, but following the group's failed coup attempt against Saddam in 1996, the CIA lost confidence in Chalabi and cut off his monthly paycheck. But Chalabi and Rendon simply switched sides, moving over to the Pentagon, and the money continued to flow. "The Rendon Group is not in great odor in Langley these days," notes Bruner. "Their contracts are much more with the Defense Department."

Rendon's influence rose considerably in Washington after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In a single stroke, Osama bin Laden altered the world's perception of reality -- and in an age of nonstop information, whoever controls perception wins. What Bush needed to fight the War on Terror was a skilled information warrior -- and Rendon was widely acknowledged as the best. "The events of 11 September 2001 changed everything, not least of which was the administration's outlook concerning strategic influence," notes one Army report. "Faced with direct evidence that many people around the world actively hated the United States, Bush began taking action to more effectively explain U.S. policy overseas. Initially the White House and DoD turned to the Rendon Group."

Three weeks after the September 11th attacks, according to documents obtained from defense sources, the Pentagon awarded a large contract to the Rendon Group. Around the same time, Pentagon officials also set up a highly secret organization called the Office of Strategic Influence. Part of the OSI's mission was to conduct covert disinformation and deception operations -- planting false news items in the media and hiding their origins. "It's sometimes valuable from a military standpoint to be able to engage in deception with respect to future anticipated plans," Vice President Dick Cheney said in explaining the operation. Even the military's top brass found the clandestine unit unnerving. "When I get their briefings, it's scary," a senior official said at the time.

In February 2002, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon had hired Rendon "to help the new office," a charge Rendon denies. "We had nothing to do with that," he says. "We were not in their reporting chain. We were reporting directly to the J-3" -- the head of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following the leak, Rumsfeld was forced to shut down the organization. But much of the office's operations were apparently shifted to another unit, deeper in the Pentagon's bureaucracy, called the Information Operations Task Force, and Rendon was closely connected to this group. "Greg Newbold was the J-3 at the time, and we reported to him through the IOTF," Rendon says.

According to the Pentagon documents, the Rendon Group played a major role in the IOTF. The company was charged with creating an "Information War Room" to monitor worldwide news reports at lightning speed and respond almost instantly with counterpropaganda. A key weapon, according to the documents, was Rendon's "proprietary state-of-the-art news-wire collection system called 'Livewire,' which takes real-time news-wire reports, as they are filed, before they are on the Internet, before CNN can read them on the air and twenty-four hours before they appear in the morning newspapers, and sorts them by keyword. The system provides the most current real-time access to news and information available to private or public organizations."
The top target that the pentagon assigned to Rendon was the Al-Jazeera television network.

The contract called for the Rendon Group to undertake a massive "media mapping" campaign against the news organization, which the Pentagon considered "critical to U.S. objectives in the War on Terrorism." According to the contract, Rendon would provide a "detailed content analysis of the station's daily broadcast . . . [and] identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships."

The secret targeting of foreign journalists may have had a sinister purpose. Among the missions proposed for the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence was one to "coerce" foreign journalists and plant false information overseas. Secret briefing papers also said the office should find ways to "punish" those who convey the "wrong message." One senior officer told CNN that the plan would "formalize government deception, dishonesty and misinformation."

According to the Pentagon documents, Rendon would use his media analysis to conduct a worldwide propaganda campaign, deploying teams of information warriors to allied nations to assist them "in developing and delivering specific messages to the local population, combatants, front-line states, the media and the international community." Among the places Rendon's info-war teams would be sent were Jakarta, Indonesia; Islamabad, Pakistan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Cairo; Ankara, Turkey; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The teams would produce and script television news segments "built around themes and story lines supportive of U.S. policy objectives."

Rendon was also charged with engaging in "military deception" online -- an activity once assigned to the OSI. The company was contracted to monitor Internet chat rooms in both English and Arabic -- and "participate in these chat rooms when/if tasked." Rendon would also create a Web site "with regular news summaries and feature articles. Targeted at the global public, in English and at least four (4) additional languages, this activity also will include an extensive e-mail push operation." These techniques are commonly used to plant a variety of propaganda, including false information.

Still another newly formed propaganda operation in which Rendon played a major part was the Office of Global Communications, which operated out of the White House and was charged with spreading the administration's message on the War in Iraq. Every morning at 9:30, Rendon took part in the White House OGC conference call, where officials would discuss the theme of the day and who would deliver it. The office also worked closely with the White House Iraq Group, whose high-level members, including recently indicted Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, were responsible for selling the war to the American public.

Never before in history had such an extensive secret network been established to shape the entire world's perception of a war. "It was not just bad intelligence -- it was an orchestrated effort," says Sam Gardner, a retired Air Force colonel who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College. "It began before the war, was a major effort during the war and continues as post-conflict distortions."

In the first weeks following the September 11th attacks, Rendon operated at a frantic pitch. "In the early stages it was fielding every ground ball that was coming, because nobody was sure if we were ever going to be attacked again," he says. "It was 'What do you know about this, what do you know about that, what else can you get, can you talk to somebody over here?' We functioned twenty-four hours a day. We maintained situational awareness, in military terms, on all things related to terrorism. We were doing 195 newspapers and 43 countries in fourteen or fifteen languages. If you do this correctly, I can tell you what's on the evening news tonight in a country before it happens. I can give you, as a policymaker, a six-hour break on how you can affect what's going to be on the news. They'll take that in a heartbeat."

The Bush administration took everything Rendon had to offer. Between 2000 and 2004, Pentagon documents show, the Rendon Group received at least thirty-five contracts with the Defense Department, worth a total of $50 million to $100 million.

The mourners genuflected, made the sign of the cross and took their seats along the hard, shiny pews of Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church. It was April 2nd, 2003 -- the start of fall in the small Australian town of Glenelg, an aging beach resort of white Victorian homes and soft, blond sand on Holdback Bay. Rendon had flown halfway around the world to join nearly 600 friends and family who were gathered to say farewell to a local son and amateur football champ, Paul Moran. Three days into the invasion of Iraq, the freelance journalist and Rendon employee had become the first member of the media to be killed in the war -- a war he had covertly helped to start.

Moran had lived a double life, filing reports for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and other news organizations, while at other times operating as a clandestine agent for Rendon, enjoying what his family calls his "James Bond lifestyle." Moran had trained Iraqi opposition forces in photographic espionage, showing them how to covertly document Iraqi military activities, and had produced pro-war announcements for the Pentagon. "He worked for the Rendon Group in London," says his mother, Kathleen. "They just send people all over the world -- where there are wars."

Moran was covering the Iraq invasion for ABC, filming at a Kurdish-controlled checkpoint in the city of Sulaymaniyah, when a car driven by a suicide bomber blew up next to him. "I saw the car in a kind of slow-motion disintegrate," recalls Eric Campbell, a correspondent who was filming with Moran. "A soldier handed me a passport, which was charred. That's when I knew Paul was dead."

As the Mass ended and Moran's Australian-flag-draped coffin passed by the mourners, Rendon lifted his right arm and saluted. He refused to discuss Moran's role in the company, saying only that "Paul worked for us on a number of projects." But on the long flight back to Washington, across more than a dozen time zones, Rendon outlined his feelings in an e-mail: "The day did begin with dark and ominous clouds much befitting the emotions we all felt -- sadness and anger at the senseless violence that claimed our comrade Paul Moran ten short days ago and many decades of emotion ago."

The Rendon Group also organized a memorial service in London, where Moran first went to work for the company in 1990. Held at Home House, a private club in Portman Square where Moran often stayed while visiting the city, the event was set among photographs of Moran in various locations around the Middle East. Zaab Sethna, who organized the al-Haideri media exclusive in Thailand for Moran and Judith Miller, gave a touching tribute to his former colleague. "I think that on both a personal and professional level Paul was deeply admired and loved by the people at the Rendon Group," Sethna later said.

Although Moran was gone, the falsified story about weapons of mass destruction that he and Sethna had broadcast around the world lived on. Seven months earlier, as President Bush was about to argue his case for war before the U.N., the White House had given prominent billing to al-Haideri's fabricated charges. In a report ironically titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception," the administration referred to al-Haideri by name and detailed his allegations -- even though the CIA had already determined them to be lies. The report was placed on the White House Web site on September 12th, 2002, and remains there today. One version of the report even credits Miller's article for the information.

Miller also continued to promote al-Haideri's tale of Saddam's villainy. In January 2003, more than a year after her first article appeared, Miller again reported that Pentagon "intelligence officials" were telling her that "some of the most valuable information has come from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri." His interviews with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Miller added, "ultimately resulted in dozens of highly credible reports on Iraqi weapons-related activity and purchases, officials said."

Finally, in early 2004, more than two years after he made the dramatic allegations to Miller and Moran about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, al-Haideri was taken back to Iraq by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group. On a wide-ranging trip through Baghdad and other key locations, al-Haideri was given the opportunity to point out exactly where Saddam's stockpiles were hidden, confirming the charges that had helped to start a war. In the end, he could not identify a single site where illegal weapons were buried.

As the war in Iraq has spiraled out of control, the Bush administration's covert propaganda campaign has intensified. According to a secret Pentagon report personally approved by Rumsfeld in October 2003 and obtained by Rolling Stone, the Strategic Command is authorized to engage in "military deception" -- defined as "presenting false information, images or statements." The seventy-four-page document, titled "Information Operations Roadmap," also calls for psychological operations to be launched over radio, television, cell phones and "emerging technologies" such as the Internet. In addition to being classified secret, the road map is also stamped noforn, meaning it cannot be shared even with our allies.

As the acknowledged general of such propaganda warfare, Rendon insists that the work he does is for the good of all Americans. "For us, it's a question of patriotism," he says. "It's not a question of politics, and that's an important distinction. I feel very strongly about that personally. If brave men and women are going to be put in harm's way, they deserve support." But in Iraq, American troops and Iraqi civilians were put in harm's way, in large part, by the false information spread by Rendon and the men he trained in information warfare. And given the rapid growth of what is known as the "security-intelligence complex" in Washington, covert perception managers are likely to play an increasingly influential role in the wars of the future.
Indeed, Rendon is already thinking ahead. Last year, he attended a conference on information operations in London, where he offered an assessment on the Pentagon's efforts to manipulate the media. According to those present, Rendon applauded the practice of embedding journalists with American forces. "He said the embedded idea was great," says an Air Force colonel who attended the talk. "It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part they did not lose control of the story." But Rendon also cautioned that individual news organizations were often able to "take control of the story," shaping the news before the Pentagon asserted its spin on the day's events.

"We lost control of the context," Rendon warned. "That has to be fixed for the next war."

James Bamford is the best-selling author of "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies" (2004) and "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" (2001).

NOTE: This story has been updated to make two clarifications to the original, published version

Monday, July 10, 2006

How British Intelligence Sold the Iraq War

By Nicholas Rufford
The Sunday Times

Sunday 28 December 2003

The Secret Intelligence Service has run an operation to gain public support for sanctions and the use of military force in Iraq. The government yesterday confirmed that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein?s weapons of mass destruction.

The revelation will create embarrassing questions for Tony Blair in the run-up to the publication of the report by Lord Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the government weapons expert.

A senior official admitted that MI6 had been at the heart of a campaign launched in the late 1990s to spread information about Saddam's development of nerve agents and other weapons, but denied that it had planted misinformation. 'There were things about Saddam's regime and his weapons that the public needed to know,' said the official.

The admission followed claims by Scott Ritter, who led 14 inspection missions in Iraq, that MI6 had recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. He described meetings where the senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff had discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material.

'The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was,' Ritter said last week.

He said there was evidence that MI6 continued to use similar propaganda tactics up to the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. 'Stories ran in the media about secret underground facilities in Iraq and ongoing programmes (to produce weapons of mass destruction),' said Ritter. 'They were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage.'

Kelly, himself a former United Nations weapons inspector and colleague of Ritter, might also have been used by MI6 to pass information to the media. 'Kelly was a known and government-approved conduit with the media,' said Ritter.

Hutton's report is expected to deliver a verdict next month on whether intelligence was misused in order to promote the case for going to war. Hutton heard evidence that Kelly was authorised by the Foreign Office to speak to journalists on Iraq. Kelly was in close touch with the 'Rockingham cell', a group of weapons experts that received MI6 intelligence.

Blair justified his backing for sanctions and for the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that intelligence reports showed Saddam was working to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The use of MI6 as a 'back channel' for promoting the government's policies on Iraq was never discovered during the Hutton inquiry and is likely to cause considerable disquiet among MPs.

A key figure in Operation Mass Appeal was Sir Derek Plumbly, then director of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office and now Britain's ambassador to Egypt. Plumbly worked closely with MI6 to help to promote Britain's Middle East policy.

The campaign was judged to be having a successful effect on public opinion. MI6 passed on intelligence that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction and rebuilding its arsenal.

Poland, India and South Africa were initially chosen as targets for the campaign because they were non-aligned UN countries not supporting the British and US position on sanctions. At the time, in 1997, Poland was also a member of the UN security council.

Ritter was a willing accomplice to the alleged propaganda effort when first approached by MI6's station chief in New York. He obtained approval to co-operate from Richard Butler, then executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq Disarmament.

Ritter met MI6 to discuss Operation Mass Appeal at a lunch in London in June 1998 at which two men and a woman from MI6 were present. The Sunday Times is prevented by the Official Secrets Act from publishing their names.

Ritter had previously met the MI6 officer at Vauxhall Cross, the service's London headquarters. He asked Ritter for information on Iraq that could be planted in newspapers in India, Poland and South Africa from where it would 'feed back' to Britain and America.

Ritter opposed the Iraq war but this is the first time that he has named members of British intelligence as being involved in a propaganda campaign. He said he had decided to 'name names' because he was frustrated at 'an official cover-up' and the 'misuse of intelligence'.

'What MI6 was determined to do by the selective use of intelligence was to give the impression that Saddam still had WMDs or was making them and thereby legitimise sanctions and military action against Iraq,' he said.

Recent reports suggest America has all but abandoned hopes of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group, has resigned earlier than expected, frustrated that his resources have been diverted to tracking down insurgents.


Dr David Kelly was barely cold in the ground when MI6's John Scarlett asked fellow weapons inspector Rod Barton to 'sex up' yet another dossier by inserting nine 'nuggets'..... He has since been made Head of MI6. Read on:

Focus: Arms and Iraq
Secret emails, missing weapons

by Antony Barnett, Observer
Sunday May 15 2005

In an exclusive interview, a former arms inspector tells Antony Barnett that, a year after the Kelly affair, a spy chief tried to 'sex up' his Iraq report.

It was a little before 6pm on 19 January 2004 in Baghdad and the early evening air outside Saddam Hussein's former Perfume Palace was turning cold. Inside this most ornate of Saddam's former homes replete with crystal chandeliers and indoor swimming pool, Dr Rod Barton was sitting behind his desk waiting for his visitor from London to arrive.

As one of the world's leading experts in biological and chemical warfare, Barton had been hand-picked by the CIA to be the special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the body to which George Bush and Tony Blair had given the task of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Barton, who worked for the Australian secret intelligence services for more than 20 years, was working on what was shaping up to be a highly controversial 200-page report.

Despite all the publicly stated optimism of the British and US governments that the survey group would find Saddam's WMDs and help justify their decision to invade, the group was preparing to reach quite different and damning conclusions. Not only did Saddam not have any WMDs at the time of the US-led invasion, the report would boldly state, he had not had any programmes to manufacture such weapons after 1991.

For the critics of the war, it would be used as evidence that Britain's 2002 WMD dossier was wrong. 'I had come to that conclusion within one week of arriving,' said Barton. But it seems on that cool January evening, his visitor from the UK had different ideas.

Members of the intelligence services rarely speak about the secret world they inhabit. But for the first time in the British media, Barton has decided to talk about the extraordinary events he witnessed last year. His account gives a fascinating insight into the operation of the intelligence services and throws a light on a shadowy world.

Almost a year ago, Barton was one of three senior weapons inspectors of the Iraq Survey Group, including one unnamed Briton, who resigned in protest at the 'dishonest' censorship and political pressure they say they came under.

In an exclusive interview with The Observer Barton details how senior figures in British intelligence tried to stop the ISG publishing its interim report when they realised what it would say. He also reveals how when this failed, John Scarlett, who was then head of the powerful Joint Intelligence Committee and was subsequently appointed by Blair as the head of MI6, tried to strengthen the ISG report by inserting nine 'nuggets' of information to imply Saddam's WMD programmes were active, despite evidence to the contrary.

Barton's disclosures echo some of the claims made a year earlier by Dr David Kelly, the weapons scientist who committed suicide after being outed as the source of the BBC story that the government's dossier on Iraq's WMDs had been 'sexed-up'. Scarlett was the chief architect of that dossier.

The bespectacled man who entered Barton's office on that January evening in Baghdad was Martin Howard, deputy chief of defence intelligence at the Ministry of Defence. Four months earlier, Howard had been cross-examined during the Hutton inquiry and accused of taking part in the 'parlour game' that led to Kelly's name being leaked to journalists as the source of Andrew Gilligan's BBC story. Howard rejected the allegations but was nevertheless a central figure in the MoD's handling of the Kelly affair.

During his time in Baghdad, Barton kept notes in a personal diary. According to his entry for 19 January, Howard arrived at '1800 hours' and had a different perspective: he didn't want the ISG to publish a report - at least not then. Barton's diary records that Howard wanted to wait until the ISG found something 'substantive'. Barton assumed this meant a weapon.

'He came into my office,' said Barton. 'And he was not very keen on having this report.' Howard told Barton that if a report had to be produced it should, at this stage, avoid any firm conclusions.

Howard flew back to London the next day and then took part in a three-way video conference with the CIA and Barton's team in Baghdad. Howard made it clear that he had discussed the situation with Scarlett and the UK would prefer if the report were not published.
Barton said: 'He spelled it out. We had a video conference and he said our preference is not to have any report.'

Barton argued that this was not an option. Not only had the report been promised to Congress but the British, US and Australian governments had 'spent a heck of a lot of money' on it. To Barton's relief John McLaughlin, deputy director of the CIA, over-ruled Britain's position, saying a report must be published by late March.

The battle was now on as to what the report would say.

At around this time a crisis was brewing in London and Washington. David Kay, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector who was put in charge of the ISG after Saddam was toppled, was about to go public with his views after resigning from the group earlier in the year. Despite being among the most hawkish inspectors who was once certain Saddam had stockpiles of WMD, he had changed his mind. On 28 January, Kay told the US Congress that he and many others had been wrong: Saddam had not had any WMDs. It was a bitter blow to both Bush and Blair.

In a December 2003 broadcast for British Armed Forces Broadcasting, Blair claimed the ISG had made a breakthrough. 'The Iraq Survey Group has already found massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories, workings by scientists, plans to develop long-range ballistic missiles,' he said. British ministers were still using the fact the ISG had not finished its work to rebuff attacks on their position.

But in Baghdad's Perfume Palace the situation was looking very different.

In February, the CIA appointed Charles Duelfer as head of the ISG and he flew out to Baghdad to take control. Barton was kept on as his special adviser. Barton's diary entry for 15 February said: 'We have done a lot of investigations. We have found no evidence. I believe we have a duty to report that. Anything less is dishonest. After all, if we had positive results we would report that.'

But, according to Barton, Duelfer initially took a different view. Shortly after his arrival he arranged a meeting with the ISG team leaders in a room renamed the Winston Churchill. He announced that there would be a short 20-page document without conclusions.

'It became clear to me in discussions [with Charles] the following day that he meant no assessments either,' said Barton, who feared this would lead to the inclusion of only partial information. For example, it would be wrong to cite the discovery of aluminium tubes which the British dossier once claimed were for nuclear centrifuges, without stating that evidence had been found that these were in fact for conventional rockets.

Barton saw this as being economical with the truth. 'To use an analogy, it was like being at a dinner party the night before and somebody asks me what I had and I say "coffee". If I say nothing else that implies that's all I had.

'It would be dishonest. If we know things and we don't say it, that is being dishonest and I didn't want to be party to it.' A few months later Duelfer would come to agree.
Yet at the time, one thorny issue confronting Duelfer was how to deal with the two mobile trailers that had been found and brought back to ISG headquarters for inspection. The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, famously used photos of these as proof of Saddam's elusive biological warfare programme when he spoke to the UN Security Council to garner support before the invasion.

Barton's diary entry suggests that he believed Duelfer would have preferred not to inspect them or know, so he could genuinely say in Washington that he doesn't know what they are for.
Barton told Duelfer: 'You can't say we found a trailer but don't say we know that they are not for WMD but to generate hydrogen [for artillery balloons]".'

The decision was made simply not to refer to the trailers at all in the report.

A few days later, Barton circulated a draft of the 20-page report to the intelligence agencies in London, Washington and Canberra, to see if they supported the approach. He received a shock reply. On 8 March, Duelfer called Barton into his office and showed him an email he had just received from Scarlett. The Joint Intelligence Committee, of which Scarlett was head, is a hugely influential body, assessing intelligence and liaising with the Prime Minister and ministers.
The email suggested inserting nine 'nuggets' into the interim report. Barton has refused to reveal what these nuggets were because the contents of the email remain classified. But it is understood from other sources that these included suggestions that Saddam was working on a smallpox weapon, did have mobile biological laboratories and was developing research equipment for use in nuclear weapons.

When Barton saw Scarlett's email he was shocked. He had worked with previous heads of the JIC and believed such behaviour was unacceptable.

'I couldn't believe it,' he said. 'He was suggesting dragging things from a previous report [that the ISG had been found to be false] to use them to, well, "sex it up". It was an attempt to make our report appear to imply that maybe there were still WMD out there. I knew he had been responsible for your [government's] dossier and then I realised he was trying to do the same thing.'

A note Barton made at the time suggests that he believes one possible reason for Scarlett's attitude may have been to 'establish breaches of UN Security Council resolutions'. This was, of course, a vital plank in the government's legal and political justification for invasion. Barton told Duelfer that they could not include these so-called 'nuggets'.

Yet more was to follow. Ten days after Scarlett sent his email, another video conference was arranged between Washington, London and Baghdad. This time Scarlett appeared personally. He asked whether his 'nuggets' were going to be included. Duelfer stood up to Scarlett and told him that they were not.

Although Barton had considered resigning earlier, he was pleased he stayed: 'If I resigned those nuggets might have been put in. I stayed and gave Charles a backbone.'

Barton firmly believes Scarlett was trying to 'sex up' the report and that his email to the ISG should be declassified and made public. While the published report did not include Scarlett's nuggets, Barton believed it was still a dishonest document and resigned along with two other inspectors. The short report, which lacked any firm conclusions, received little media attention - a successful outcome for the intelligence agencies in London and Washington.

Speaking from his home in Canberra, Barton questioned Blair's decision to make Scarlett the director of MI6. He said: 'As chairman of JIC he [Scarlett] was in a very influential position. He can influence major assessments of a whole range of things. Now that he has moved to head of MI6 he has a more narrow field, but it is his objectivity that must be questioned and whether he is a suitable person for that position.'

Barton also believes that elements remain in British intelligence who simply cannot accept they were wrong about Saddam's WMDs. All Barton's allegations have been put to the Foreign Office, but it declines to comment on intelligence matters.

Last August, Barton was invited to a top-secret meeting in London. Although he had resigned from the ISG he was still working for Australian intelligence. By now, Duelfer was determined to publish a comprehensive report in October 2004 spelling out the conclusions Barton and Kay had come to: there had never been any WMDs in Iraq after 1991.

Barton received an assurance that this was Duelfer's position and agreed to help him put the final report together. Barton attended two meetings in London with representatives of the CIA and MI6. The first was at the US Embassy and the second in the Old War Office in Whitehall.
To Barton's astonishment there were still some members of the British team who 'did not accept the ISG conclusions'.

To prove his point he refers to the annual report published last month by the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee. In it, the JIC reviews its performance in relation to Iraq and its role in producing the 2002 dossier. Barton accuses the JIC of using 'weasel-words' to deflect criticisms. The JIC said that programmes to produce chemical weapons and retain 20 long-range al-Hussein ballistic missiles had 'not been substantiated'. Barton said that both these claims had been found to be incorrect by the ISG and to say they had 'not been substantiated' was like saying 'a Scud missile programme on the Isle of Man had not been substantiated'.

Barton said: 'Intelligence agencies have access to information that nobody else can see. They have a duty to use words responsibly. The US have finally come to terms with the fact they got it dead wrong. The UK is lagging far behind. They still haven't come to terms with it. Some analysts [are] still thinking this stuff is going to turn up. Unless they accept they did go badly wrong, how can they ever improve?'

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006,,5194020-111381,00.html

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Death of Truth



2 JULY 2006

Norman Baker has given up his seat on the front bench in a personal crusade to uncover the truth about David Kelly's death. Two months into his investigation, he is beginning to piece together disturbing facts. On Sunday he gave his debut TV interview on the subject to GMTV's 'The Sunday Programme'. Watch the video -- links below.

The Kelly Investigation Group (KIG) is back. We and Norman Baker will work in parallel to get to the bottom of discrepancies between witness statements. The Hutton Inqury didn't do it, the Coroner didn't do it -- someone must.

Ten doctors - the ones who elected to speak out - have stated categorically that this death does not make medical sense. Here are just a few of the troubling aspects to this case:

  • The body was photographed in two different positions; in Chapter 5 of his Report Lord Hutton stated he'd seen a photograph of the body against the tree, yet PC Sawyer, who took the photos, states the body was flat on its back; a complete set of photos would reveal then, that the body had been moved. Who moved it and why?
  • The transected (ulnar) artery would have retracted and sealed itself off; Dr Kelly could not have lost more than a pint of blood.
  • The knife - one he habitually carried on his walks to cut away undergrowth - was blunt. It had a concave blade with a hook on the end. Why would someone intent on suicide select a blunt knife with such an awkward shape?
  • Despite the 29 tablets missing from the blister packs in his pocket, only a fifth of a co-proxamol tablet was found in his stomach; whatever he ingested, a large proportion of it was regurgitated onto the ground. The toxicologist to the Hutton Inquiry said the amount of co-proxamol in his bloodstream was less than a third of what is normally a fatal amount.

So if he didn't die of haemorrhage and he didn't die of co-proxamol poisoning, what did he die of?

The Hutton Inquiry had no 'teeth' - witnesses were not subpoenaed and did not give evidence on oath. Even the pathologist who examined Dr Kelly told the Channel 4 News team he would have preferred a formal inquest. In a case as important as this, why WAS there no inquest, why WAS there no verdict? Did Dr Kelly kill himself? Three years after the event legal and medical experts - three of them vascular surgeons - are not convinced that he did.

Tom Mangold crops up yet again as Dr Kelly's 'friend', yet in his own words to the Hutton Inquiry he described it as 'not a frequent' relationship. It transpired they exchanged few e-mails, seldom met, and when they did, it was on a professional basis. When offered a 'dry shoulder' by Mangold during a time of crisis Kelly told him in an e-mail it was a 'bad time to communicate' -- not a particularly friendly response.

Mangold persists (as he did in Radio 4's 'Today Programme') in deliberately misleading the viewer by implying the Kelly Investigation Group's thesis is that Dr Kelly was physically lifted out of his house under the nose of his wife. The KIG has made no such assertion. It is on record that just before he disappeared, Kelly walked out of the house on his own and met a neighbour. Why does this supposed 'investigative journalist' ignore the facts and try to turn the assassination scenario into a joke? He talks of seven agencies rgiorously examining the facts; but they didn't -- they ignored those they deemed inconvenient. Two 'dodgy dossiers' have shown the government worked hard to distort the facts over intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, so why should its agencies be trusted?

Find video on following sites:





Investigation Into The Death Of David Kelly




A major new article on Norman Baker's concerns and findings to date will be in the 'Mail on Sunday' to coincide with the anniversary of Dr Kelly's death.


If you wish to be on the KIG mailing list send me an e-mail - entitled 'Join KIG'. If you want to be removed send me an e-mail entitled -- 'KIG - please remove'.

Rowena Thursby
Kelly Investigation Group

Tel: 01425 638409