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Cheney Under Attack in Senate
At Tenet Testimony

by Jeffrey Steinberg

March 10, 2004 (EIRNS)—Five leading Senate Democrats used the occasion of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, to launch a coordinated assault against Vice President Dick Cheney, for going outside official channels to create his own rogue intelligence pipeline, which played a pivotal role in disinforming the Congress and the public into an Iraq war that has so far claimed over 500 American lives, and more than 15,000 Iraqi lives.

If that war has been horrible for the United States and devastating for the entire Near East, it has been a life-saving windfall for Halliburton, the defense contractor that was headed by Cheney before he ran for Vice President. Halliburton has won billions of dollars in contracts for Iraq reconstruction and security, many of them no-bid contracts. Cheney earned $44 million during his five-year tenure at Halliburton; he still receives deferred salary payments, and holds options on 440,000 shares of Halliburton stock (whose price has skyrocketed since this Administration took office, particularly since the close of the Iraq war).

Tenet Under Interrogation

Facing intense questioning by Democratic Senators Carl Levin (Mich.), Ted Kennedy (Mass.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and Jack Reed (R.I.), DCI Tenet admitted that Cheney had peddled intelligence on Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program, its links to al-Qaeda, and allegations that Iraqi had unmanned aerial vehicles capable of releasing biological and chemical weapons—all false or unproven, according to the combined assessments of the intelligence community.

Even more damning were revelations during the course of the hearings, that in August 2002, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith had briefed the National Security Council staff, and the Office of the Vice President, on Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Tenet admitted, under questioning, that he found out about the Feith briefing to top White House policymakers only two weeks ago.

The revelations came as a result of the five-month effort by Sen. Levin to obtain documents on the Office of Special Plans and the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluations Group—both Pentagon rogue intelligence units controlled by Feith. Yesterday, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the Senate committee chairman, released a copy of a letter from Feith in which he admitted that he had conducted the briefings, bypassing the CIA and other official intelligence agencies. The briefing itself, according to a Los Angeles Times account today, consisted of a slide presentation of so-called "intelligence" about Iraqi links to Osama bin Laden; the briefing to the OVP and NSC also featured attacks on the CIA, for failing to tout the Baghdad links to the 9/11 terrorists.

The Senate revelations filled out an already-damning picture of Vice President Cheney as the head of a rogue disinformation effort, employing former OVP employees, shipped over to the Pentagon, to produce disinformation and "cherry-picked" intelligence to make the case for war. William Luti, a retired Navy Captain who was in Cheney's office at the start of the Bush 43 Administration, was sent over to the Defense Department as head of the Near East and South Asia policy planning shop, where he created the "Office of Special Plans," as an Iraq war propaganda unit.

Luti ostensibly reported to Feith, but, according to former NESA staffers, boasted that he was really working for "Scooter," a reference to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Libby was one of the people who received the "off the reservation" briefing from Feith in August 2002.

Although CIA boss Tenet did his best to protect President Bush and other top Administration politicos, he was forced to admit that Cheney had made a number of false or exaggerated statements, and that he was at a loss to explain how the Feith briefing had taken place without his knowledge. Tenet promised the committee that he would speak to Cheney about the gross misstatements, a promise committee Democrats greeted with skepticism.

Levin's Letter

To make sure that Cheney cannot easily dodge the revelations, Levin released his Feb. 12 letter to the Vice President, in which he demanded that Cheney provide the intelligence on which he based his claim that Iraq was close to having a nuclear bomb. He also demanded that the Vice President explain why he cited the Weekly Standard's publication of a leaked Doug Feith memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee as proof that links existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

That memo was produced by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, and has been denounced by many intelligence community professionals as a collection of raw leads and disinformation. What's more, the fact that the classified memo was leaked to the neo-con media should have been reason enough for Cheney to refrain from praising the article as the "best" source of information on the Iraq-bin Laden alliance.

Cheney, a Loser

As new revelations about Cheney's secret parallel intelligence operation surface, more Republicans have come forward with warnings to the President that Cheney is a liability to his reelection. The March 5 edition of Coleman/Bartlett's Washington Focus, a political insiders' newsletter, reports that many prominent Republicans, for the first time in their lives, are going to vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate, rather than give another four years to Bush-Cheney.

Author Charles Bartlett, a onetime close friend of President Kennedy, singled out Cheney, writing, "One of the Administration's political vulnerabilities is certainly the admission of Halliburton, the oil company which Cheney left after five years as CEO with a retirement fund of $44 million, to the plush rewards of Iraq reconstruction contracts." Bartlett gave a detailed account of Cheney's tenure as Halliburton CEO, which nearly drove the firm into bankruptcy. "All of this seems important mainly because of Cheney's central role in the policy-making of the Bush Administration. I will continue to probe into the record of Cheney's judgments because," he concluded, "if they are as bad as the Halliburton record suggests, Bush will be sadly mistaken to run with him a second time."

Adding to Cheney's woes, news accounts in Newsday this week by Tom Brune indicate that the Federal grand jury probing the Valerie Plame leak by "senior Administration officials," to columnist Robert Novak, is aggressively moving forward. Numerous sources say the leaking of the identity of CIA undercover officer Plame came from top officials in Cheney's office. The two names most prominently mentioned are Scooter Libby and Libby's deputy chief of staff, John Hannah.