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Making America a Bigger Target of Terrorism

By Eric Margolis

10/29/1998

 

WASHINGTON - How much was the hidden cost of the latest Mideast summit, I asked last week in my column from Washington? What did Clinton's latest Hollywood diplomacy cost American taxpayers?

Hard figures are beginning to emerge. Israel is likely to get a special US $1 billion grant on top of the $3-5 billion in annual aid it currently receives. The Palestinian Authority may get $100 million, some of which is more likely to end up in Switzerland than Palestine. This is a very expensive photo-op. The president's self-proclaimed process of `redemption' is not going to come cheap.

Clinton compared the Wye River summit to the 1978 Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt. Camp David cost US taxpayers $4 billion annually in direct aid - $80 billion to date. Half of all US foreign aid now goes just to Israel and Egypt.

Military power and money are the two principal components of international power. America's huge expenditures to rent Mideast peace have degraded its ability to influence events elsewhere. Excuse my cynicism, but Israelis and Palestinians are no fools. They clearly understand their ongoing feud keeps the Yankee dollars coming.

The second big cost incurred at Wye was Clinton's offer to use the Central Intelligence Agency to

  • combat terrorism;

  • ensure the Palestinian Authority is making a maximum effort to crush Palestinian radicals.


This is a terrible mistake that will have dangerous repercussions for US security. CIA's prime role is to provide information and evaluation to the White House and Congress. Its secondary mission is to influence events overseas by covert means, and to provide an unofficial diplomatic network.

Turning CIA into an official auxiliary of Israeli and Palestinian security forces in their long war against Palestinian radicals deters from the agency's mission, wastes resources, and interferes with CIA's ability to make clear, impartial evaluations.

CIA has long operated in the Mideast shadows to defend America's Arab clients or Israel, and combat radical groups. Everyone in the region understands this. CIA was also the main defender of the PLO within the US government, and a close ally of Arafat since 1980. Yet CIA also maintains links with many radical groups, including groups branded `terrorists' by the US and Israel.

Giving CIA an open role in the `war against terrorism' means its agents cease being unbiased information providers and become foot soldiers in the Mideast's back-alley battles. Worse, by clearly aligning CIA with one side, Clinton will drag the US ever deeper into the Mideast's multi-layered conflicts and make America a bigger target than ever.

CIA is simply not ready for this new job, contrary to Director George Tenet's assurances. CIA is strong in information collection, but its analysis/evaluation is still flabby, bureaucratized, and too often tells the White House what it wants to hear.

The agency's human intelligence (humint) remains a disaster. Mass purges of veteran field officers by President Jimmy Carter, ineffectual directors, the Aldrich Ames spy catastrophe, and failure to hire sophisticated personnel, crippled the Operations Directorate, caused widespread demoralization, and produced a string of humiliating fiascos.

Consequently, CIA has had to rely on foreign intelligence services for humint. Not surprisingly, it gets fed a steady diet of disinformation, or selective, self-serving information from `friendly' governments. Just such tainted data resulted in the recent disgraceful attack against a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant.

Once CIA is seen working overtly on behalf of Israel or the Palestinian Authority, its already dented credibility, and essential access in other Mideast factions or regimes will suffer, not to mention heightened risks to its agent networks, methodology, and codes caused by such close collaboration.

Palestinians and Israelis are, of course, delighted. Uncle Sam will fork out yet more cash. CIA has been openly enlisted to fight their sworn enemies. Just such `mission-creep' got the US into Vietnam.


Copyright: Eric Margolis, 1998



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