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March 14, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon


Richard Immerman, the assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytical integrity, has written a journal article harshly critical of President Bush and his administration for what he charges is their role in the "politicization" of intelligence.

The article echoes liberal academic criticism of the president and his advisers, but with one significant difference: Mr. Immerman is now the top U.S. intelligence official in charge of checking politicization within 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

The appointment of Mr. Immerman as the analysis' "ombudsman" is raising questions among intelligence analysts about whether the office of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell is politicizing U.S. analysis.

DNI spokesman Michael Birmingham and Mr. Immerman declined to comment. A White House spokesman also declined to comment.

"Immerman has put his political partisanship on the record and allowed it to shape his views," said one U.S. official critical of Mr. Immerman. "He has in the process done the very things that intelligence analysts are typically taught to resist. The kind of loaded language he's thrown around in public won't help his credibility or relevance as an intelligence officer."

The official said that appointing someone "so openly biased" to the post of analysis ombudsman "gives new meaning to the phrase alternative analysis."

"If he really thinks intelligence is all but destined to have such a minor impact on policy, why did he take the job?" the official asked.

Mr. Immerman's journal article, in the latest issue of Diplomatic History, also accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of camping out at CIA headquarters to intimidate analysts into politicizing reports, charges dismissed by several government commissions.

The effect of intelligence on U.S. policy, despite recent reforms, "is likely to be slight so long as the makers of that policy remain cognitively impaired and politically possessed," Mr. Immerman said.

"One must wonder, nevertheless, whether the same attributes that enable someone to achieve the presidency of the United States, or a position almost as high up the political food chain, militate against his or her receptiveness to information and advice that is discordant with his or her pre-existing beliefs, images, and even values," Mr. Immerman said.

"Electoral success normally requires holding strong beliefs or convincing the electorate that beliefs held are strong and sound. How likely is it, one must therefore ask, for those who are politically successful to learn from intelligence once in office that these beliefs are unfounded? I'll leave this examination to those with the required expertise. Besides, I'm afraid of the answer."

Bout release sought
U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Russia's government is quietly seeking State Department help in pressuring Thailand authorities into releasing arms dealer Victor Bout from custody.

The officials are concerned that as a result, a major counterterrorism investigation could be compromised, if Thailand releases Mr. Bout.

The officials also said the behind-the-scenes efforts by Moscow to spring Mr. Bout, a former Russian military officer who was arrested March 6 with U.S. government assistance, show that elements of the Russian government, namely the Russian intelligence services, are covertly backing his arms dealing.a Russia's government recently announced it would not seek Mr. Bout's extradition to Russia because it had no criminal case against him.

A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of appeals from Russia on Mr. Bout's behalf.

The Justice Department, however, is seeking Mr. Bout's extradition on arms smuggling charges. An associate of Mr. Bout, Andrew Smulian, was arrested this week in New York.

Mr. Bout's arms-selling operation includes purchases of Russian weaponry that is transported by a fleet of aircraft based in United Arab Emirates. His activities have been a major target of U.S. intelligence for years.

Mr. Bout was caught as part of a sting operation involving U.S. agents posing as members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, a terrorist organization. The sting involved a deal for 100 surface-to-air missiles. Fallon fallacy
The Esquire magazine article that led to the resignation of U.S. Central Command commander Adm. William Fallon was written by former Naval War College professor Thomas P.M. Barnett, and it angered naval aviators - but not because of Adm. Fallon's resignation over policy differences with President Bush.

Two fighter pilots contacted us to take issue with Mr. Barnett for falsely reporting that Adm. Fallon was a "fighter pilot" whose call sign was "Fox." Mr. Barnett said Adm. Fallon is knowledgeable because he's "had his hand on the stick for a very long time," another pilot reference.

"In the naval aviation community there is an unspoken code of honor," one former fighter pilot said. "Navy-Marine combat aviators take great pride in their courage and professionalism. Naval aviators [pilots] and naval flight officers, especially flying off carriers, work, fly, fight and at times die for each other. All take great pride in what they do, but a line is never crossed in confusing their professional responsibilities. So for Fox Fallon to be identified as a 'fighter pilot' or naval aviator by a Naval War College professor when Fox actually flew as an A-6 bombardier navigator in the now famous Esquire article, he crossed the line."

Brigade America
A group of conservatives, including former CIA officer Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, are taking on the city of Berkeley, Calif., and others who oppose the U.S. military by setting up a new Internet site called Brigade America.

The new site "came about as a result of the Berkeley City Council orally trashing the U.S. Marines as 'criminals,' and worse, and passing a resolution attempting to force the Marine recruiting post out of the city of Berkeley," Mr. Clarridge said.

The Berkeley action against the Marines prompted one businessman, Brian G. Dennard, principal director of the Meridian Development Group, to write Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to inform him that the company will no longer do business with the city because of the insults.

"In that my company is in international resort real estate development, and do business with and am associated with, developers and investors worldwide, I am informing all of my contacts, associates and patrons that we will no longer do any business of any sort with anyone living in the Berkeley area," Mr. Dennard stated in the Jan. 31 letter.

The boycott is likely to affect Berkeley area marina construction, building material suppliers and many others from doing business in Berkeley.

"You have every right to choose to take the obnoxious anti-military stance you have taken, and as stated, that right was bought for you with the blood of better men than you," he stated. "I too have every right to do all that I can to insure that your city suffers consequences arising from that obnoxious, sickening stance."

Mr. Clarridge said a boycott of Berkeley businesses also appears to be having an affect in punishing the city and led to the new Web site.

"We hope to galvanize similar activities in similar circumstances across the country," Mr. Clarridge said. "The response so far has been rather overwhelming."

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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