We’ve previously noted the new book Sabotage by Rowan Scarborough. Scarborough’s book explores the CIA’s efforts to undermine the Bush administration. It is a subject that we have written about here frequently over the past several years. John explored the subject in the Standard column “Leaking at all costs,” as I did in “Three years of the Condor.”
Scarborough states his thesis clearly in the introduction of the book, begining on page 1 with his discussion of a May 2006 letter by Rep. Pete Hoekstra to President Bush. In the letter Hoekstra asserts that “a strong and well-positioned group within the agency undermined the administration and its policies.” Scarborough illustrates his thesis with numerous episodes involving CIA officers. Many of these episodes have previously been reported, such as the disclosure of the Washington Post’s CIA secret prisons that John discusses in his Standard column. Scarborough notes that fired CIA employee Mary McCarthy was apparently a key source for that story.
Scarborough also discusses the opposition of former CIA Near East and South Asia national intelligence officer Paul Pillar to Bush administration foreign policy. Scarborough does not discuss the undisputed September 2004 incident reported by Robert Novak involving Pillar’s remarks at a private dinner in California. Steve Hayes summarized the incident for the Standard:
Pillar’s “management team” at the CIA, where he was employed as the national intelligence officer on the Near East/South Asia desk, approved [Pillar's] appearance. According to Novak, the ground rules for the speech were based on the “Lindley Rule,” which holds that the speaker, his audience and the event are not to be disclosed, “but the substance of what he said can be reported.” That substance, apparently, was a harsh assessment of the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq.
Think about that: A senior, unelected CIA official–Paul Pillar–was given agency approval to anonymously attack Bush administration policies less than two months before the November 2, 2004, presidential election. That Pillar was among the most strident of these frequent critics–usually in off-the-record speeches to gatherings of foreign policy experts and business leaders–was well known to his colleagues in the intelligence community and to Bush administration policymakers. His was not an isolated case; CIA officials routinely trashed Bush administration policy decisions, often with official approval, in the months leading up to the Iraq War and again before the election. Pillar, who had complained to a CIA spokesman that someone had violated the ground rules by providing his name to Novak, simply got caught.
CIA Public Affairs Director Mark Mansfield has now issued a press release responding to Scarborough’s book:
We generally don’t comment on books, but we have departed from that on occasion, and have decided to do so in connection with Rowan Scarborough’s new book, “Sabotage: America’s Enemies Within the CIA.”
CIA employees work very hard to protect their fellow citizens and to help keep America safe. They take great pride — and take great risks — in serving our country. They know that the intelligence they collect, analyze and deliver to policymakers, diplomats, law enforcement officers, and military commanders makes a difference, each and every day.
The premise of Mr. Scarborough’s book — that CIA employees are working to undermine our government — is both ridiculous and offensive.
This statement is a classic non-denial denial. Scarborough thesis is that the CIA has sought to undermine the Bush administration. Much of Scarborough’s evidence involves previously reported incidents and undisputed events. The CIA’s statement does not address any of the evidence adduced by Scarborough. Perhaps understandably, the CIA’s statement does not even directly address, dispute or deny the thesis of Scarborough’s book.
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