Monday, April 26, 2004

The CIA, the Swansea police and the neo-conservatives

I don't think this story has been covered much in the UK, which is a great pity as not only is it good, it is also a fine piece of Ealingesque British farce. Imagine. The former director of the CIA, James Woolsey, snooping around a college in Swansea trying to prove that one of its former students was really the 1993 World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef in order to substantiate a weird conspiracy theory concocted by a neocon pet intellectual to boost the war with Iraq. Imagine him coming to the attention of The Authorities in the form of South Wales policemen, usually more famous for playing rugby union than exploding international espionage. Imagine the State Department having to hang him out to dry - his visit being neither official nor authorised - and also admitting that no-one had told them about Woolsey's Dick Tracy act. Well, it all happened...

Basically, the problem was a woman from the American Enterprise Institute who wrote a book, in which she claimed on the grounds that Yousef's passport photo didn't look too much like him (I paraphrase) that the original 1993 WTC attack was an Iraqi plot and that hence it was all Iraq's fault. Details and debunking here Now, the original book had been showered with glittering reviews from people like - well - Richard Perle and John Bolton, and she found it necessary to credit Paul Bleeding Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney's future chief of staff in the acknowledgements. If it didn't hold up, there would be trouble. It was necessary to prove that Yousef really had been given the identity of another man by Iraqi intelligence - well, that would be tough, but a start would be to prove the other man was Yousef. The FBI don't, holding that Yousef had invented the name. So, that former CIA boss set out for the college in Swansea where someone using that name had done a course in electrical engineering. It would appear, though, that he failed to find any evidence that the student was Mr. Yousef. And that, it seems, was when he fell foul of PC Plod.
"Apparently proving that directors of intelligence organizations do not themselves make ideal field operatives, Woolsey's pursuit of the World Trade Center connection led him to the small town of Swansea, Wales, where his sleuthing piqued the curiosity of the local constabulary, whose chief decided to ring the U.S. Embassy in London for clarification as to whether Woolsey was visiting in an official capacity. This was the first anyone at State or CIA had heard of Woolsey's British expedition, and upon being apprised of it, Powell and Tenet were not amused. "It was a stupid, stupid, and just plain wrong thing to do," an intelligence consultant familiar with the "operation" said."

Talking Points Memo is following this.

Background: Initial Guardian report, but there's not much else from British media sources out there. The Financial Times's search function amusingly brings up the same Guardian story as the top result -
but requires you to subscribe to the FT to see it. Clever. Mind you, in the end it was the Grauniad that came up with the full skinny:link
"The two sets of fingerprints were entirely different," says a source familiar with the investigation.

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