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Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat: The Intelligence Business

The Intelligence Business


by Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, former Chief of the Naval Staff, India
February 22, 2004

Had ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ not gone sour, had the oil begun to flow to expectations for the ‘oil majors’ and Afghanistan not in disarray and near anarchy, it is doubtful if the kind of uncomfortable and noisy debate that is reflected in the media, would emerge in the US. Not finding WMDs is being termed an Intelligence failure-a Presidential Commission has been appointed to report its findings by March 2005 in the US . In UK a post-script is being played out by a committee announced by the PM to submit its report by mid year.

WMDs or rather the absence of WMDs would hardly matter to the Executive Branch in normal circumstances. It is the politics of the decision to invade Iraq and execute a regime change, through use of military force that needs to be justified to the growing number of critics, gathering into a storm, that has to be cooled. After all the indiscriminate and disastrous use of ‘Depleted Uranium munitions’, the ‘Silent WMDs’ in Afghanistan and Iraq (earlier in Kosovo, has not evoked the opposition that its use deserves, yet.)

The appearance of George Tenet, Director, Central Intelligence, first at the UN Security Council and last week at Georgetown University, televised live by the CNN, BBC and other networks in ‘defense’ of the CIA is as astonishing as it is unprecedented. The CIA of course has an excellent group of experienced analysts who help prepare the draft ‘national intelligence estimates’ which are processed through the National Security Council’s, second tier, as a sound staff vetting before the NSC’s proper scrutiny, before they, with the assent of the President, become formalised. The NIEs are usually prepared, country wise. However they could also be region-wise or subject wise. This has been a sound practice as it demands accountability from the $40 billion CIA budget and more importantly that its priorities are strictly in accord with its ‘tasking’ by the President/NSC. However the CIA’s over-riding purpose is ‘Operations, covert and overt, where its energies are directed. Its intelligence gathering is facilitated by a host of organizations/ institutions, with global reach, including the media, financial institutions and ‘technological means’. The US Intelligence apparatus is supported by the willing participation of the Western Alliance systems, the G-7, their myriad fronts and associate business, social, cultural and media fronts. The technical means, include the giant ‘US National Security Agency( bigger than the CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (both under the Pentagon), GCHQ Cheltenham, UK, the North West Cape, Australia facility and a host of others hosted, like the US military bases and facilities in a hundred countries. The pointer to US Intelligence is only because it is probably the best example of a sound and successful Intelligence set up.

Intelligence agencies, no matter their track record and excellence, ultimately deliver only when after the ‘national tasking’ by the political executive have a healthy tradition of professionalism, and enjoy autonomy of functioning. If they begin to look over their shoulders to take cues from the political masters, they are compromising their integrity and therefore their ability to serve the national interest or even the interest of a particular government . That is one reason why the CIA was legitimized by the National Security Act 1947. Sometimes in the past, Heads of the CIA, MI-5/6 have been perceived as ‘independent’ of the Chief Executive and even had a British PM, like Harold Wilson, under surveillance because the Intelligence establishment thought he had been too close to the Soviets! Certainly, people close to the political executive are meant to be under the watchful eyes of counter-intelligence and State security requires this.

The point that is sought to be made is that national intelligence organizations are necessarily committed to the national vision and goals. They are its strategic arm. While following annual tasking by the Executive arm of the Govt. they should not become subservient to its political manipulation or partisan viewpoint. In our own case in the late 1950s and 1960s, the Intelligence Bureau appeared to be suborned to an external intelligence agency’s manipulation, contributing to a national debacle. Later it had to be rescued, split and a separate external intelligence agency created, which made a substantive contribution to several national enterprises including the victory in 1971. This agency, the R&AW was weakened in 1977-80 and again started to get manipulated thereafter, permitting its own subversion; leading to the assassination of two Prime-ministers in 1984 and 1991; followed by a string of fiascos like the LTTE, Srilanka and Afghanistan, to name just a few. The report of the erstwhile JIC Chairman, Khandelwal, hardly set matters right and was neatly filed. Kargil, was the result of both the MOD, the General Staff, being lulled by the magic of Lahore. President Reagan’s wise words in the US –Soviet dialogue, “Trust but verify” have been forgotten on home-ground. The maxim for the armed forces had always been that apparently successful diplomacy does not permit the lowering of the guard.

A sound and solid political vision and economic strength is a pre-requisite to successful intelligence operations contributing to enhancing the national interest. When the ‘co- relation of forces’ is more or less evenly matched, good intelligence can and does make the difference, but like politics it is also dependent on the stakes that the majority of the people have in the system. Apathy and disenchantment may make it very difficult for the agencies to perform, even though intelligence organisations which have been subverted, often use this very environment to turn people away from democracy to fascism.

In the last century, there were a number of inflexion way-points that changed events beyond the control of ordinary institutions: the October 1917 Soviet revolution, Gandhiji’s non-violent freedom movement, the aftermath of the second world war and the creation of the Bretton Woods International financial institutions, concurrent with the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombs to terrorise and play on people’s fear and insecurity; the steady rise of ‘finance capital’ after 1975, the steady decline of the socialist world through masterful subversion of its key institutions, including the Politbureaus, so well described by Yuri Andropov, the head of the KGB, and the weakening of its ideology. The capitalist system too has been in decline since 1980, except for its illusory peak in the mid 1990s.

1997 was just the opportune moment for Brzezinski’s ‘The Grand Chessboard’, a game-plan for the domination of Eurasia by the sole super power. Fukiyama’s boastful ‘The End of History’ and Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisation’ were the philosophical underpinnings of the draft of the ‘Project for the New American Century’, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, Resources for the new Century. The Grand Chessboard and the PNAC (made public in September 2002) are a quest for world hegemony, not necessarily through the control of territory, except for temporary periods, but resources and markets, through the agency of the MNCs, WTO, WB-IMF navigated by the Department of the Treasury and ultimately by the Wall Street (Investment Banks). The prizes are oil, gas, strategic and high value minerals, drug money and laundered money as the means of accumulation of surplus. Deregulation, liberalization, free-trade, privatization are buzz words. Brzezinski prognosticates that the control of Eurasia is central to this new imperialist enterprise, which Britain’s think tanks have already justified in several postulations (Prime Minister of UK, Mr Blair’s Chief Foreign Policy Adviser, Robert Cooper in a written paper in a pamphlet with Blair’s foreword published by the ‘Foreign Policy Center, London, called for a ‘new / defensive imperialism’ in respect of Afghanistan and such other states which Cooper reiterated at a conference on Afghanistan held in Germany in April/May 2000.) But Brzezinski with his deep perceptions also argued the conclusion that the central and west Asian region, specially the CAR will be the next major region of conflict , starting Pakistan and north-westwards to Kazhakastan which will be an anchor for the new enterprise (see map) The ‘War on Terror’ is just a punctuation in the new century of ‘unending wars’.

At this inflexion point where the ‘500 Billionaires club’ has more wealth than the less worthy 2.6 billion people of the world, Brzezinski philosophises that ‘democracies are inimical to imperialist mobilization’. Before we revert to the efficiencies or the productivity of the Intelligence organisations which must necessarily have their networks and co-opted institutions/groups/individuals spread world wide, specially in the targeted resources (not necessarily territories ), let us look at some of their more favourable opportunities and fundamentals which facilitate their operations.

Brzezinski underlines that the ‘American global system emphasises the technique of co-optation to a much greater extent than the earlier empires did. It likewise relies heavily on the indirect (perhaps direct too) exercise of influence on dependent foreign elites, while drawing much benefit from the appeal of its democracy and institutions (albeit eroded after Iraq and the current domestic Patriot Act etc). All of the foregoing are reinforced by the domination of global communications, popular entertainment, and mass culture and by the potentially tangible (felt) clout of American technological edge and global military reach ( and presence).’

‘America has become a Mecca for those seeking advanced education with approximately half a million students flocking to the US, with many of the ablest never returning home. Gradautes from American universities and are to be found in almost every Cabinet in every continent.’ ( and in every civil , military , intelligence and financial institution of the State)

Brzezinski elaborates , ‘Special security arrangements in the Persian gulf, specially after the brief punitive mission in 1991 against Iraq, have made that economically vital region into an American military preserve. Even the former Soviet space is permeated by various American sponsored arrangements for closer co-operation with NATO’. EU, finance capital, oil majors and naturally the Intelligence agencies, stretching from East Europe, Georgia, Azerbaijan to Khazakastan are all hungry to control energy reserves in the CAR. Afganistan, Pakistan and Kashmir are part of the game plan, a friendly co-opted regime in India is a valued asset

Brzezinski continues in the Grand Chessboard, ‘ …one must consider as part of the American system the global web of specialised organizations, specially the “international” financial institutions. The IMF, the WB (and BIS) can be said to represent “global” interests (global finance capital, added). In reality however they are heavily American dominated and their origins are traceable to American initiative...Bretton Woods 1944.’ (and added Basel Convention 2000) …..’ Rather America stands at the center of the interlocking universe and the consensus /dialogue (Washington Consensus) that power originates from a single source, Washington DC’.

Brzezinski may well have said ‘Wall Street’ for that is where it really belongs. So most of the Directors, Deputy Directors and third echelon heirarchy is drawn from wall street lawyers and bankers, who have actually been reorganising the CIA set up from time to time, to serve their interests. Political scientist G. John Ikenberry using political sophistry adds, ‘Europeans ……...and the Japanese, were able to reconstruct their societies and economies in ways that were congenial with American hegemony but also with room to experiment their own autonomous and semi-independent political systems..’

Huntington also asserts that a world ‘without US primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the US continues to have more influence than any other country in shaping global affairs.’

Brzezinski concedes that that ‘while America’s global hegemony is admittedly great, but its depth is shallow, limited by both domestic (and one may add declining economic power) and external restraints. The dynamics and potential of Eurasia places a premium on geo-strategic skill, on the careful, selective and very deliberate deployment of America’s resources on the huge Eurasian chessboard.’ Here perhaps lies the root of the failure of US policies in West Asia and Afghanistan where the resistance of the Palestinian and Iraqi people was discounted by the US Government, and then the military men in uniform and the intelligence community in the US and UK have been left to hold the baby and to face domestic public opinion, as scape-goats. The principle was in part applicable to the Indian intelligence agencies in the case of Kargil.

The three grand imperatives of imperial geo-strategy, writes Zbigniew Brzezinski are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.’ A more apt description of the state of play in West Asia and the Central/South Asian region would be difficult to find.

Now the CIA, Mossad and the co-opted Western alliance intelligence t agencies have their job cut out, and they have been so hugely successful in the past, in securing the precious resources for the Imperial centre, be it from Latin America, South Africa, Congo, Zaire, Sierre Lone, Guinea, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Iran (pre1979), Indonesia, South Korea, Phillipines, East Europe, Ukraine and Russia, to name only a few, replete with a history of assassinations and regime changes, that it would appear that nothing would stop them from delivering on their further tasks. Apparently there is some difficulty in this ‘new world order.’ Maybe it is imperial over–stretch, maybe an over drive in imperial / corporate ambitions for control and profits.

Enron was not simply an ‘Energy trading’ company. It had over 300 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands. It navigated perhaps the biggest drug money laundering operations in the world, that being the shortest cut to raise the market value of company stock on the NYSE and NASSDAQ. The lawyers, investment bankers and the accounting firms all were party to it . One domino fell and the others too rolled. ( The estimated flow of drug money is $ 700 million annually. The United Nations estimates of ‘criminal’ money is $ 1.7 trillion per year). That gives unlimited opportunities for the Big Intelligence agencies to compromise and blackmail top officials, prominent members of the local ruling establishment, political parties and groups in countries connected with these activities including the big names that initiate ‘flight of capital’ and recycling of official aids/grants to dollar accounts abroad as has been the wide spread practice in Latin America and Africa in particular, in the past.

In Afghanistan the abonimable Taliban, bank rolled by the US Government agencies, destroyed the opium crop planted in November 2001, and therefore indirectly assaulted the liquidity of the Big, big banks and dropped accidently a big economic bomb, where it hurt.

The big intelligence agencies have a massive job to do. The Veteran Intelligence Professional for Sanity, VIPS, Ambassador Joseph and Scott Ritter, Head, UN Weapons Inspection Team Iraq (1991-98) have raised their voices. So have serving and retired top–notchers in the UK (Brian Jones, MOD’s top WMD analyst is quoted as saying that intelligence experts of the UK Defence Intelligence Staff were over-ruled)*, Israel, Germany and Australia. Vincent Cannstaro, former Head of CIA Counter-intelligence says, “basically cooked information is working into high-level pronouncements.” The Commission set up by President Bush may well end up reshaping the Intelligence institutions in the image of the right (a la Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, created recently by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ‘to offer a more alarming picture of the Iraq threat than the Intelligence professionals were willing to Provide,’ writes Paul Krugman in the New York Times. The Senate Intelligence Committee has since departed from the standards earlier set by Senator Church. Professional intelligence officers are standing up in the West to resist politiciztion of national intelligence institutions .

Another challenge that faces the big intelligence agencies is that while they have over the years built up valueable ‘assets’ and ‘sleepers’ in target areas and countries there appears to be a new ‘fly in the ointment’. Margaret D. Tutwiler, US State Department in charge of public diplomacy, in her very recent testimony before a Congressional sub-committee, acknowledged that America’s image abroad had deteriorated to such an extent that “ it will take us many years of hard, focussed work” to restore it. “Unfortunately our country has a problem in far too many parts of the world, ..a problem that we have gotten into many years through both Democrat and Republican administrations and a problem that does not lend itself to a quick fix or a single solution or a simple plan.” That makes the operational working environment a little difficult, but not impossible for the ‘Department of Dirty Tricks’ of Intelligence outfits. It may also have the effect of making them more aggressive and desperate.

Our intelligence agencies need to focus particular attention towards the financial warriors waging economic warfare against the nation, speculators, currency traders, the invisible faces that manipulate the ‘participatory notes’ and the levers of ‘forward trading’, mergers and acquisitions, the ones who control and exploit the ‘Mauritius Route’ and those that are pirating the surpluses generated by the hardworking people of India and the rest of the ‘third world’ to the ‘first world’ (classic case of reverse transfer of wealth). ‘Follow the money trail is a time tested maxim’.

For us in the developing countries the object lesson is that when political establishments get suborned, Intelligence agencies usually follow in the wake. It is hard then to find gentlemen who having sworn to defend and protect the Constitution and the national interest, stand up and say “Not in my watch !”

*********

From Aerospace & Marine International, Mumbay, India. Also published Here, republished by Scoop with the permission of the author. Submitted by Leuren Moret.

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