Monday, May 21, 2007

"Cuban spies are lurking"

Scott Carmichael, the self-deprecating Defense Intelligence Agency official who investigated Cuban spy Ana Montes, wrote in his book that he looks like Chris Farley of Saturday Night Live.

Actually, the more he continues his book tour, the more he resembles not an actor, but a prop in a show – I would say a right-wing show, but that would give conservatism and political philosophy in general a bad name.

Carmichael, fresh from appearances in Miami, spoke at the American Enterprise Institute last week.

I’m sorry I missed him, but his appearance was covered by, which is sort of a wire service with attitude.

Newsmax called him DIA’s “top counter-spy,” which is a considerable promotion – Carmichael is a veteran investigator, not the director of the agency. Carmichael said, “I believe” that other Cuban spies are operating in the U.S. government, which Newsmax translated as “more Cuban spies are lurking inside the U.S. government.” You get the idea.

According to Newsmax, Carmichael said that Montes, DIA’s top Cuba analyst, was “on a first name basis” with Fulton Armstrong, the intelligence community’s top Latin America analyst. (Amazing, isn’t it?) They “continued to confide by phone even as Carmichael and his investigative team were closing the noose around Ana Montes,” Newsmax says.

Joe McCarthy, call your office.

This is a clumsy innuendo that looks ridiculous to readers of Carmichael’s book. Nothing was more important to Carmichael, he wrote in detail, than to create a “bubble” around the investigation so that neither she nor her colleagues would know an investigation was under way. As a result, her colleagues at DIA and other agencies continued to “confide” in Montes until the moment of her arrest in an atmosphere of complete normalcy.

Also appearing was Paul Crespo, a Miami media personality. He said that the U.S. government contains a “huge infrastructure of Castro sympathizers…Castro agents of influence have infiltrated the U.S. Army War College, the Navy War College,” not to mention Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Miami, they have “penetrated the Miami Herald” and other media, Crespo added.

Brave statements, no names provided.

Norman Bailey, who was dismissed after serving three months as the intelligence community’s Cuba-Venezuela “mission manager,” also appeared. He wondered, according to Newsmax, why none of Montes’ analytical work has been disavowed by the government.

Maybe, in the case of bioweapons allegations, it’s because the intelligence community – post-Ana Montes – re-examined its files on weapons of mass destruction programs worldwide and downgraded its assessment of Cuba’s activities.

Newsmax breaks new ground in reporting that Bailey:

“…was summarily fired without explanation in March 2007 by the incoming Director of National Intelligence, Gen. Mike McConnell, after asking too many questions about Cuba and the continued use of the National Intelligence Estimates that Ana Montes had authored before her arrest. ‘FBI counter-intelligence is entirely convinced there are several other high-level Cuban agents, not just in the intelligence community, but in the policy community,’ Bailey said.”

Newsmax also reports:

“Montes also played a decisive role in suppressing intelligence obtained from Cuban sources in 1994 that led other analysts to conclude that Castro was developing biological weapons. ‘Ana objected so strongly to the draft that she actually spiked it. That's the kind of power she had,’ Carmichael said.”

That assertion is not in Carmichael’s book, and it can only be drawn from the intelligence community’s assessment of the damage Montes caused during her long spy career.

As Carmichael continues to promote his book, maybe it’s time for the the U.S. government to declassify as much of this assessment as possible, so everyone in this debate can separate fact from his commercial efforts and the political theater in which he is playing.


Anonymous said...

In fairness, Carmichael is donating the proceeds from his book to a college fund set up for the kids of the Special Forces soldier killed in El Salvador. But, yeah, he needs to take a chill pill.

Phil Peters said...

Fair enough – I pointed out that fact in a previous post about Carmichael, and it would have been good to repeat it here. To me, anyway, “commercial” is not a pejorative word.

leftside said...

Carmichael appears to be doing this for ideological reasons more than money. But he'll be rewarded...

Count me as one who thinks it is disgusting (but sadly natural under capitalism) when someone in power keeps making unsubstantiated claims, whether it is to make headlines or sell books.

Montes' reports were remakably nuanced and accurate. How she managed to serve Cuba's interests and retain credibility in her reports til the end is a testament to her talent as a "spy" and analyst (so says Brian Latell at least).

Phil Peters said...

Well, this begins to get at my reasons for wishing the U.S. government would publish the damage assessment, or at least part of it. We know Montes revealed U.S. secrets to Cuba; in fact we know a lot more on this score from court documents than from Carmichael’s book. Did she also take on the task of distorting intelligence products? Maybe, but we don’t know. Carmichael is beginning to hint that she did. He also says things, according to press accounts of his appearances, that are plainly ridiculous, such as that she was in on every major Cuba policy decision for nine years. DIA, and by extension the intelligence community, are allowing the issue to enter the public debate through the book-tour appearances of this author. The issue deserves a more serious treatment.

I’ll repeat that I have nothing against promoting the book, and I hope it makes a lot of money. I bought a copy myself.