Dan is Mother Jones' deputy DC bureau chief. He is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita(Grand Central Publishing), a biography of the Koch brothers that is now out in paperback. Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.
Before the Senate Armed Services Committee interrupted its questioning of Robert Gates to break for lunch, outgoing chairman John Warner commented that today's hearing was among "the best we've had" in his 28 years in the Senate "best" being code, one assumes, for least contentious. The hearing was certainly uncharacteristically civil and free, for the most part, of partisan barbs, save for one surreal moment when Senator Hillary Clinton questioned Gates on whether he believed the President and the Vice President are "intelligent men." But absent from the hearing as well were any tough questions about the serious allegations that have been leveled against Gates in the past, including his role in Iran-Contra and in politicizing intelligence at the CIA.
Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, came the closest to raising these issues, asking Gates to comment on a passage from former Secretary of State George Shultz's memoir, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State, which relates a conversation Shultz had with Gates, then the acting CIA director, in January 1987. "I don't have any confidence in the intelligence community," Shultz reportedly told Gates. "I feel you all have very strong policy views. I feel you try to manipulate me. So you have a very dissatisfied customer. If this were a business, I'd find myself another supplier."
Gates responded by telling Levin that he believed Shultz's view of intelligence was colored by his fractious relationship with former CIA director (and Gates' mentor) William Casey. "Bad blood influenced the Secretary of State's view of intelligence," he said, pointing out that Casey had once written to President Ronald Reagan recommending that Shultz be fired. Levin did not press him further.
Certainly Shultz was not the only one who distrusted the information coming out of the CIA. So did some career CIA analysts who believed Casey and Gates were subverting the intelligence process in order to play up the Soviet menace. One of them was Mel Goodman, a longtime friend of Gates and a veteran Soviet analyst, who became one of his most vocal critics, offering damaging testimony during Gates' confirmation hearings in 1991 as he sought to become the director of Central Intelligence. "My major concerns are issues of integrity," Goodman told me recently. "For me, basically, the test of character is what you do when no one's looking. I don't think Bob Gates can be trusted when no one's looking."
Perhaps the Democratic wing of the Armed Services Committee, who would seem the most likely to raise questions about Gates' past, feel this is ancient history, but it certainly seems relevant given the intelligence failures to put it charitably that preceded the Iraq war.
During the hearing Gates, who has previously been circumspect about what he knew about Iran-Contra, was praised repeatedly by members on both sides of the aisle for being a straight-shooter. "Dr. Gates, thank you for your candor," Clinton remarked. "That's something that has been sorely lacking from the current occupant in the position that you seek to hold." She was referring to the way Gates had fielded questions about Iraq, at one point answering "No, sir" when asked by Carl Levin whether "we are currently winning in Iraq." Sadly, it seems any semblance of truth passes for candor in Washington these days.
An interview with the most interesting witness senators won't hear from this week.
Daniel SchulmanDec. 4, 2006 4:00 AM
Intelligence cherry-picked for ideological purposes; the claims of a single, unreliable source treated as fact and stovepiped straight up to the White House; a National Intelligence Estimate riddled with dubious claims; efforts made to connect an enemy regime with international terrorism. Echoing the prelude to the Iraq War, these are, in fact, a sampling of the allegations directed at Robert Gates 15 years ago, when the Senate Intelligence Committee considered Gates' nomination to be the director of Central Intelligence.
The Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood unearthed this fascinating nugget in a recent Navy directive on its "Human Research Protection Program," which, much as the name suggests, is tasked with safeguarding human research subjects from inhumane experiments.
The Under Secretary of the Navy (UNSECNAV) is the Approval Authority for research involving... severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques).
Umm, mind control. Part of me is relieved that research, of the Manchurian Candidate variety, if it does indeed exist, requires some form of high level approval. Mostly, though, I'm unnerved by the possibility that government researchers are spending any time whatsoever contemplating this line of inquiry. Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. The DoD is known for floating some pretty absurd proposals, such as one in 1994 by researchers at the Air Force's Wright Laboratory who pitched developing "harassing, annoying, and 'bad guy' identifying chemicals." One example:
Chemicals that effect human behavior so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely affected. One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.
Kim Jong Il has made a sport of defying U.S. efforts to halt his country's burgeoning nuclear program, essentially thumbing his nose at the international community in October by staging North Korea's first nuclear test. Today, after the U.S. government's latest diplomatic overture failed, the Bush administration was forced to take swift and decisive action intended to hit Kim where it hurts that is, to cut off exports of luxury goods, such as yachts, plasma TVs, Rolexes, and iPods to North Korea in conjunction with the U.N. Also embargoed is Kim's favorite French cognac, Hennessy, which is certain to agitate "Dear Leader," who is reputed to purchase upwards of $700,000 per year of the stuff. As the AP points out, these trade sanctions seem squarely targeted at Kim, a connoisseur of the finer things in life, who's one of the few people in the impoverished nation who can afford to indulge his taste for extravagances. It remains to be seen whether this effort will bring North Korea back into the diplomatic fold. But one would think that Kim, whose regime has successfully negotiated the nuclear black market, probably won't have a great deal of trouble getting his hands on some outlawed hooch.
In the past Barack Obama has been accused of many things -- having ties to a crooked political fundraiser, for one -- but this, I dare say, is a first. In a recent column in the Henry Daily Herald of McDonough, Georgia, reporter Nicklaus Lovelady lambasts Obama for ruining his chances with a love interest working for a rival paper. Best to let Lovelady take it from here:
I had the looks, I had the charm and I had my eye on this pretty young thing who was doing an internship for a competing paper.
It took me nearly two months of running into each other at various news events before I worked up the nerve to begin talking to her.
And then Obama shows up.
The senator made his way to SIUE one day to introduce some legislation that would increase grants for students. Prior to that, me and the girl became really cool as I let her in on a few tricks of the trade.
The day Obama came, there was a huge press conference at the university's student center with about 100 people inside the conference room and hundreds more viewing the conference on a big screen in the lobby.
Obama did his thing, and at the end there was segment for questions by the media.
After about five questions from different television and newspaper reporters, I stood up to ask mine.
"Wait a minute son, this is for professional media only," Obama said to me.
"What do you mean? I work for the local paper," I said with a crackling nervous voice.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face," he said with an unremorseful grin.
At that point everyone in the room turned to look at me and laugh. The 800 people in the lobby laughed as my face was projected on the big screen.
Alas, the "pretty young thing" was laughing, too. And, after that humiliating episode, she was no longer interested in Lovelady's "tricks of the trade." "Obama owes me a public apology for making me look like a court jester and for blocking my shot," Lovelady's column concludes. "Until that time, Hillary or Giuliani will get my vote."
Not about to lose Lovelady's vote, Obama, who has yet to declare whether or not he'll seek the presidency in 2008, phoned the reporter "to publicly apologize for messing up your game. I read that; I felt terrible. I didn't know there were any ladies around. I just wanted to let you know that I'm deeply sorry."