When New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail, rather than reveal her sources, we were told that the confidentiality of sources is a sacrosanct principle. But this is a principle that the media only claim for themselves. When Rep. Curt Weldon recently came forward with a new book that includes top-secret information about the terrorist threat to America, the New York Times and the Washington Post viciously attacked him and tried to reveal the identity of and discredit one of his key sources.
The attacks reflect apparent discomfort over the fact that Weldon, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has done the kind of research that the media should be doing. The attacks also reflect media dependence on official sources in the intelligence community who have a record of failing to protect America from terrorist attack.
But one journalist broke ranks. Richard Miniter, who has reported for the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Times of London, recognizes the value of the book and highly recommends it.
A Powerful Book
“Decision-makers, journalists and anyone interested in the single greatest threat to America, Iran, should read this fast-paced book,” he says. “Even experts will learn from it. Iran is already at war with the United States, directly financing terror strikes against American soldiers and diplomats across the Middle East. As Weldon’s book and a wealth of other documentation reveal, Iran is harboring bin Laden’s son and some 500 other al Qaeda figures today. It has already tested missiles that have the range to hit U.S. bases in the Middle East as well as our friends in Israel. It is developing nuclear warheads to put on those Shihab-3 missiles. If you want to understand the threat from Iran, you can either read this book or read the headlines six months from now.”
Weldon was interviewed by AIM editor Cliff Kincaid and WTNT-AM 570 radio host Julian Tepper on “The Tepper Show” in Washington, D.C. Letting the congressman speak for himself, this AIM Report is publishing much of this interview verbatim.
Weldon said, “The book is about information that has been found to be very credible, consistent information over the past 2 and one-half years that I have provided to the CIA after having met with George Tenet (then-CIA director) and John McLaughlin (then- deputy director). They assigned their top operations person to work with me. I was under the impression that they would take a look at this information. Unfortunately, within the first two weeks I was lied to by the CIA. The information was manipulated. And in the end, even though this information consistently was proven correct, the agency continued to ignore and not deal with this information seriously.”
Weldon said the information includes
The location of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (in a town in Iran).
Iran’s creation of a “Council of Nine” to coordinate worldwide terrorist activities against America and the West.
The planning of a major terrorist attack against America.
Weldon said that, for two years, he fed raw intelligence to the CIA, including material from a source Weldon called “Ali.”
“I continued to feed this information, some of it very provocative, as outlined in my book,” he explains. “To make sure I wasn’t going overboard with it, a friend of mine, Dr. Peter Pry, who worked for the CIA for 10 years, joined me in this process.”
Where Is The CIA?
Weldon said, “He actually went with me twice to Paris to meet with Ali and others. He knew what to ask and how to approach it. He knew how to judge the sources. He said, ‘I don’t understand why the agency is not aggressively working with him.’ Many of the things he told us months in advance of when they occurred actually did occur.”
As one example, Weldon said that Ali told him in May 2003 in writing that Iran was going to attack the U.S. using a cell of 19 Pakistanis that would fly a commercial plane into a U.S. nuclear reactor.
Planned Attack On Reactor
“He said the reactor began with the letters S-E-A, which could have been Seattle or Seabrook [New Hampshire],” Weldon said. “In July 2003 he came back and said it was Seabrook. All of that was fed to the CIA. On August 22, 2003, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada broke up a 19-member Pakistani cell that had ties to al Qaeda. They had no identifiable means of income, yet one had $40,000 in a bank account.
“Two of them were arrested at 4 o’clock in the morning for trespassing at a nuclear power station in Canada. They said they were simply walking on the beach. Another of the 19 we found out had been taking flying lessons and had been practicing flying over a reactor in Canada. They had all kinds of paraphernalia confiscated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was exactly as Ali had told me it would be. The difference was that he told me the attack was going to be on November 24, 2003, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke up the cell on August 22, 2003. You can’t get much more specific than that. There’s no way that could be a coincidence.”
In another case, Weldon was told two years ago?before it became an issue in the press?that Iran was conducting a crash program to develop a nuclear bomb. The information included revelations that Iran had dispatched agents to North Korea to acquire nuclear materials.
Even more ominously, Weldon received information that Iran’s Ayatollah Khameni had received a “vision” of the Twelfth Imam, the holiest figure in the Koran, ordering him to attack America on U.S. soil.
Weldon said that he chose to write the book partly because he thought that going public with the information would cause the Iranians to postpone their scheduled attack on America.
“I could have gone to anyone in the media for the past two years and given them any one of a number of stories and reporters would have loved to have this information. But I didn’t do that. I kept it to myself,” he said. “Being a vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee and vice-chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I have a leadership position on security issues.”
Indeed, it is unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress of such high rank to go public with such information. But rather than be welcomed as a whistleblower, he has been savagely attacked by the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Weldon’s letters to the editor of both publications, which have not been printed, tell the story.
Weldon’s letter to the editor of the Washington Post:
“Dana Priest’s article (June 9, 2005) on my book Countdown To Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent The Next Terrorist Attack On America?and How the CIA Has Ignored It is grossly inaccurate on what little of my book is described. Priest also gives the false impression that she interviewed me, when she did not. Priest neglects my book’s credible evidence on: Iranian support to the Iraqi insurgency, Iranian support of Bani Sadr, Iranian backing of an assassination attempt against the Ayatollah Sistani, Iran’s crash A-bomb program, and Iran’s support and direction of an ongoing plot for a major terrorist attack on the United States.
“Ms. Priest misleads readers into thinking that I support a war against Iran, when in fact I do not. My book specifically recommends against military action against Iran. Ms. Priest’s breathless reporting that CIA disagrees with my book should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the title. For two years I have sought, and CIA has failed to provide, any credible evidence that the source cited in my book is lying, and has failed to explain why his warnings so often come true. In effect, CIA has merely told me, as they told reporter Priest, ‘Trust us.’
“After the CIA’s long record of monumental intelligence failures, also described in my book but unreported by Ms. Priest, Congress needs more than CIA’s mere assertion that they are on the job and can be trusted because of their superior intuition. CIA’s failure after two years to provide a factual analysis to support their dismissal of the above intelligence is reason enough to enact the sweeping intelligence reforms proposed in my book, and that are the book’s most important purpose, ignored by Ms. Priest.
“My door remains open to CIA to provide me with sound, factually substantiated reasons, for ignoring the terrorist threats to the United States described in my book.”
Weldon’s letter to the editor of the New York Times:
“NYT reporter Scott Shane used his exclusive interview with me (June 9, 2005) to do a hatchet job on my reputation and to allow the CIA to disinform the public about my new book, Countdown To Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent The Next Terrorist Attack On America?and How the CIA Has Ignored It. The article virtually ignores the content of my book, wrongly asserts that the terrorist plot to attack the Seabrook Nuclear Reactor is the ‘strongest argument,’ ignores the evidence that the ‘Toronto 19’ were terrorists, and fails to explain the politics, including the Canadian Government’s aversion to the war on terrorism, that led to the decision to deport, instead of prosecute, most of the suspects.
“Shane ignores the book’s credible evidence on: Iranian support to the Iraqi insurgency, Iranian support of Bani Sadr, Iranian backing of an assassination attempt against the Ayatollah Sistani, Iran’s crash A-bomb program, and Iran’s support and direction of an ongoing plot for a major terrorist attack on the United States. Instead, Shane uses most of his article to allow the CIA to dismiss this intelligence as untrue, without offering any evidence. Mr. Shane’s breathless reporting that CIA disagrees with my book should come as no surprise to anyone who bothers to read the title. For two years I have sought, and CIA has failed to provide, any credible evidence that the source cited in my book is lying, and has failed to explain why his warnings so often come true. In effect, CIA has merely told me, as they told reporter Shane, ‘Trust us.’
“After the CIA’s long record of monumental intelligence failures, also described in the book but unreported by Shane, Congress needs more than CIA’s mere assertion that they are on the job and can be trusted because of their superior intuition. CIA owes Congress the facts, not their intuition.
“CIA’s failure after two years to provide a factual analysis to support their dismissal of the above intelligence is reason enough to enact the sweeping intelligence reforms proposed in my book, and that are the book’s most important purpose, virtually ignored by Shane. My door remains open to CIA to provide me with sound, factually substantiated reasons, for ignoring the terrorist threats to the United States described in my book.”
Shane of the Times and Priest of the Post appear to have been following the lead of Laura Rozen, a left-wing journalist for the American Prospect magazine. Priest even referred her readers to Rozen’s attack on Weldon’s then-forthcoming book published in the American Prospect on April 1, 2005, commending the article. Yet Rozen never interviewed Weldon, never saw the book or even any part of the manuscript.
Rozen seems to believe that Weldon is part of a Bush administration conspiracy to feed the public false intelligence on Iran just like President Bush supposedly did in Iraq so that the Bush Administration can launch another “unjustified” war.
Rozen released the name of a former official that she assumed was Ali. Priest also cited “U.S. intelligence sources” as saying who Ali was supposed to be. Shane of the Times asked Weldon to identify the informant.
Journalist Miniter says he knows who Ali is and that he finds him credible. He explains, “Since Ali has been a source of mine, I can tell you how I established his credibility. I asked him for the names of two non-declared Iranian intelligence agents working in Europe. I passed those names to a trusted contact at a European intelligence service. A few weeks later, that service confirmed that the Iranians (whose names had never appeared in press reports) were indeed believed to be intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover. A former National Security Council staffer showed me documents that revealed that Ali’s intelligence was not only accurate but had saved the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan. So I used him as a source in my book Shadow War.”
Weldon says that Rozen may have gotten the information from the CIA since she interviewed a former CIA station chief from Paris who claimed he had analyzed and dismissed Weldon’s information. “He had the most to lose in this,” Weldon said. “He had the most to be embarrassed about” because he didn’t take the information seriously.
“But what bothered me most,” said Weldon, was that the Post reporter, Priest, “never talked to me.”
Weldon added, ‘The New York Times writer, who I did meet with, never mentioned that [former CIA Director] James Woolsey wrote a three-page endorsement of the book and the findings, and that Jack Caravelli, who was a 20-year CIA agent and who was Al Gore’s National Security Council senior member when Al Gore was vice president, wrote a letter in solid support of the book.”
The evidence suggests that there is an “entrenched bureaucracy” in the CIA, as Weldon puts it, that has failed miserably in the past and is now attacking Weldon for having exposed its failures.
Weldon’s book is dedicated to the intelligence analysts and agents who do good work. But he did write the book in part to show support for Porter Goss, the new CIA director, as he takes on this bureaucracy “that has been so wrong so many times that it’s both laughable and disgusting.”
Why The Attacks?
What motivates the media attacks on Weldon and his book? Weldon contends that reporters “like to get juicy tidbits of information” and that the upper bureaucracy of the CIA has the ability to release information to help make stories.
“In the end, they manipulate the media,” notes Weldon. “And the media respond because they want those stories and they want that information. So when somebody comes out and challenges the CIA, reporters are going to rally around [the CIA] and bureaucrats will give out little tidbits of information. The quid pro quo is that reporters have to write a trash piece so that any criticism of the CIA is going to be undercut.”
Problems At The CIA
And what is the core problem at the CIA? Incompetence? Or has the CIA been penetrated?
“I don’t think it’s been penetrated. I hope not,” said Weldon. “It’s arrogance?the attitude that ‘we know better than you do.’ Last year, during the presidential election, one of the agents got the approval to write a book to embarrass George Bush during the middle of a campaign.
“If that’s not arrogance, I don’t know what is.” (The book was Imperial Hubris, written at the time by an “anonymous” CIA officer later identified as Michael Scheuer).
Speaking of arrogance, Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly threw a temper tantrum over Weldon’s failure to show up for an interview on his TV program, “The Factor,” on June 20. O’Reilly blurted out, “This is grossly irresponsible. So, he’s banned from The Factor forever. And we thought you would like to know what kind of a classy guy [he] is.”
Responding to this personal attack, Weldon took to the House floor on June 21 to declare, “Mr. Speaker, in this job, all of us are used to misinformation, lies and distortions and manipulation by the media. We refer to that as spin; but, Mr. Speaker, I never expected such spin to come from the no-spin zone of Bill O’Reilly.
“Mr. Speaker, on Friday my staff confirmed that I was to do a television show with Mr. O’Reilly last evening. It was initially scheduled to be seven o’clock. I had a 5:15 meeting scheduled with the Secretary of Energy. At some point in time yesterday morning, the O’Reilly show changed that appointment to 5:50. My 5:15 meeting was still in place. My staff was fully in touch with the O’Reilly show. We gave them the information, and I attended a very important meeting with Secretary of Energy Bodman in his office, a classified meeting, on the specific problems with the threats on the nuclear program and capabilities of the former Soviet states. That meeting ran over, partly because the meeting was interrupted several times by important phone calls the Secretary had to make. Following that meeting, which ended somewhere around 6:15, as my colleagues know, we had a series of six votes on the House floor.
“Mr. O’Reilly proceeded to tell his national audience last night that I ‘snubbed’ him; that I failed to call him; that I was inconsiderate; that I was rude.
“Talk about spin, Mr. Speaker. So today, I sent a memo to Mr. O’Reilly explaining the facts, and I would remind Mr. O’Reilly that the Secretary of Energy and an important meeting on nuclear issues in the former Soviet States takes my top priority.”
O’Reilly truly embarrassed himself with such an outburst. Weldon missed the show because he had a meeting with the Secretary of Energy on a national security matter. Part of the meeting was to discuss a plan Weldon has been working on for strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and gaining more Russian help in the war on terrorism.
AIM issued a press release criticizing O’Reilly’s behavior. “The war for our national survival takes precedence over O’Reilly’s TV show,” we said. And we urged O’Reilly to re-schedule an interview with Weldon as soon as possible. This book is too important to ignore simply because O’Reilly’s feelings were hurt.
What You Can Do
Send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, Scott Shane of the New York Times, and Judith Miller of the New York Times (now serving time in jail.)