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[FYI] "Four Intelligence Scandals and a Culture War "


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8 March 1999. TTA. 

Global Intelligence Update, Red Alert, 08 March 1999 

Four Intelligence Scandals and a Culture War 


Four intelligence scandals blew up in the past week or so: A blown
U.S. intelligence collection operation in Iraq; Chinese theft of
nuclear weapons secrets from Los Alamos; the claim that Israel's
Mossad had taped Clinton having phone sex with Monica Lewinsky and was
using it to blackmail Clinton into stopping a mole hunt for an Israeli
agent in the White House; and suspicion that Greece had traded U.S.
and NATO jamming codes to the Russians. However true each of these is,
somebody has clearly launched a campaign against the Clinton White
House. Depending on your point of view, this is either another in an
endless series of attempts by a vast right-wing conspiracy to
discredit the President or a desperate attempt to warn the country
about the incompetence or malfeasance of the Administration. But it
does not strike us as accidental that these four reports all hit the
major media within a few days of each other. We see a "culture war"
underway between the Clinton Administration and the national security
apparatus. Underlying it is a fundamental disagreement as to the
nature of the international system, the threat faced by the United
States and the appropriate policies that ought to be followed. 



Whoever the leakers were this week, they are trying to paint a picture
of an Administration that was simply indifferent to the classical
concept of national security. The end of the Lewinsky affair has, it
appears to us, opened a new battlefield in which the stakes are much
higher. The President and his Administration are being charged with
being either fools or knaves when it comes to defending the security
interests of the United States. Now, there is the obvious question as
to whether the charges in their particulars are true. But it is clear
that the Iraq and China stories are true. The congressional oversight
committees will probe the truth of the Greek story. And if Mossad
didn't tap Monica's phone, it was only because of pure luck and not by
Presidential caution. 

The real issue here is cultural. On one side, those leaking these
charges are claiming that the national security state is not archaic,
that protecting the integrity of U.S. military and covert operations
remains a priority above all other considerations. On the other side,
there is the view of the world in which national security
considerations, properly understood, have created a new hierarchy of
values. In this view, cooperating with China on maintaining financial
stability in Asia is more important than weapons technology theft and
working with Greece as a conduit to Serbia or the Kurds is more
important than keeping jamming codes out of Russian hands. The
argument is that maintaining operational security over a covert
operation in Iraq is less important than the short-term goal of
getting the information needed, since the U.S. has the ability to live
through the embarrassment of exposure and the loss of exposed
collection systems. Indeed, in the extreme, the argument is that the
existence of an Israeli mole in the White House is less important than
keeping Netanyahu at the bargaining table with Arafat. 

Rulers have traditionally compromised intelligence operations for
higher, policy goals. That is to be expected. What surfaced this week,
however, has been the charge that the Administration systematically
ignored national security issues such as collection systems, jamming
codes, and even nuclear technology, in favor of policy goals of
dubious value. This is the real debate: were these trade-offs worth
it? What did the United States achieve by ignoring foreign operations
or failing to maintain its own operational security? 

Apart from the truly sensational revelations of the last week, there
is a deep policy debate that involves how the United States views the
world. If we view the world as having genuinely evolved to a point at
which traditional security issues are now marginal, then the Clinton
Administration's behavior (assuming the stories are true at all) is
understandable. If, on the other hand, the world continues to behave
today much as it did for the past few centuries, then national
security considerations remain central. Scandals aside, this is what
was being debated in Washington this week. 


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