Bolton Flunky Fleitz Raises Stakes for Iran

From the Archive: Islamophobe & Bolton pal Fred Fleitz has been named chief of staff for the National Security Council. Fleitz was a danger a decade ago in the Bush administration and is even more so now, recalls Ray McGovern.

Ray McGovern reports that with Bolton’s old “enforcer” Fred Fleitz as NSC Chief of Staff the odds increase of war with Iran. Bolton and Fleitz can now elbow out any honest intelligence on Iran and goad the President into a world-class catastrophe. This time the result would be much worse — geometrically worse says McGovern than during the Bush administration.  

By Ray McGovern  Special to Consortium News

Originally published April 12, 2016

On a recent TV appearance, I was asked about whistleblowing, but the experience brought back to mind a crystal-clear example of how, before the Iraq War, CIA careerists were assigned “two bosses” – CIA Director George Tenet and John Bolton, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, the arch-neocon who had been thrust on an obedient Secretary of State Colin Powell.

CIA “analyst” Frederick Fleitz took the instructions quite literally, bragging about being allowed to serve, simultaneously, “two bosses” — and becoming Bolton’s “enforcer.” Fleitz famously chided a senior intelligence analyst at State for not understanding that it was the prerogative of policymakers like Bolton – not intelligence analysts – to “interpret” intelligence data.

In an email from Fleitz in early 2002, at the time when one of his bosses, the pliable George Tenet, was “fixing” the intelligence to “justify” war on Iraq, Fleitz outlined the remarkable new intelligence ethos imposed by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their subordinates who were reshaping the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Apparently, senior State Department intelligence analyst, Christian Westermann, “had not gotten the memo” on how things had changed. Rather, he was performing his duties like a professional analyst under the old rules. Westermann had the temerity to block coordination on a speech in which Bolton wanted to make the spurious assertion that Cuba had a developing biological weapons program.

On Feb. 12, 2002, after a personal run-in with Westermann, Fleitz sent Bolton this email: “I explained to Christian [Westermann] that it was a political judgment as to how to interpret this data and the I.C. [Intelligence Community] should do as we asked.” Fleitz informed Bolton that Westermann still “strongly disagrees with us.”

At this point, Bolton became so dyspeptic that he summoned Westermann to his office for a tongue-lashing and then asked top officials of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to fire him. Instead, they defended him, and this was not the only time intelligence managers at State – virtually alone in the Intelligence Community – gave the Bush-43 White House and political hacks like Bolton the clear message not to count on managers and analysts at INR to acquiesce in the politicization of intelligence.

Fleitz: Neo-con creature and fear monger of Muslims.

Exaggerating Iran Threat

Later, Fleitz went on to bigger and better things. In 2006, he became “senior adviser” to House Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan. Bowing to desires of the White House to portray Iran as a strategic threat, Hoekstra had Fleitz draft an almost comically alarmist paper titled “Recognizing Iran as Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.” Fleitz was told not to coordinate his paper with the Intelligence Community.

The objective was to pre-empt a formal National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program – an NIE that the Senate had just commissioned. Fleitz and Hoekstra feared the NIE might come to unwelcome conclusions, contradicting the kinds of stark warnings about Iran’s nuclear program that the White House wanted to use to stir up fear and justify action against Iran. Iraq deja vu.

The Fleitz-Hoekstra gambit failed. Their over-the-top paper made them the subject of ridicule in professional intelligence circles.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar was named to manage the formal NIE on Iran, and, mirable dictu, he was not only a seasoned professional but also a practitioner of the old-time ethos of objective, non-politicized intelligence.

Worse still for Bush, Cheney and their sycophants, the NIE of November 2007, endorsed by all 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community began: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

That Estimate holds the distinction of being the only NIE of which I am aware that demonstrably played a key role in preventing an unnecessary war – the war on Iran that Cheney and Bush were planning for 2008. Bush pretty much admits this in his memoir Decision Points, which includes a highly instructive section that he must have written himself.

Indeed, nowhere in his memoir is Bush’s bizarre relationship to truth so manifest as when he describes his dismay at learning that the Intelligence Community had redeemed itself for its lies about Iraq by preparing an honest NIE that stuck a rod in the wheels of the juggernaut rolling toward war with Iran.

Bush complains bitterly that the “eye-popping” NIE “tied my hands on the military side,” adding that the “NIE’s conclusion was so stunning that I felt it would immediately leak to the press.” He writes that he authorized declassification of the key findings “so that we could shape the news stories with the facts.” Facts?

A disappointed Bush writes, “The backlash was immediate. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad hailed the NIE as a ‘great victory.’” Bush’s apparent “logic” here is to use the widespread disdain for Ahmadinejad to discredit the NIE through association, i.e. whatever Ahmadinejad praises must be false.

An Embarrassment

How embarrassing it must have been for Bush and Cheney! Here before the world were the key judgments of an NIE, the most authoritative genre of intelligence report, unanimously approved “with high confidence” by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and signed by the Director of National Intelligence, saying, in effect, that Bush and Cheney were lying about the “Iranian nuclear threat.” Just a month before the Estimate was issued, Bush was claiming that the threat from Iran could lead to “World War III.”

Bush’s Lament: How can I attack Iran now?

In his memoir, Bush laments: “I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was. … Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact — and not a good one.” Spelling out how the NIE had tied his hands “on the military side,” Bush included this kicker:

“But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Yet, that didn’t stop neocon warmongers from trying. The NIE was subject to virulent criticism by those disappointed that it did not provide justification for a “preventive” attack on Iran.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who has proudly described himself as the “anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA),” called the Iran NIE “deceptive.” Hoekstra called it “a piece of trash.”

Greg Thielmann, a former State Department official who had managed strategic intelligence analysis but quit before the intelligence debacle on Iraq, could not resist commenting on this bizarre set of circumstances from his new position as a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association: “There is some considerable irony in hearing such criticism from those intimately familiar with the inner workings of the intelligence community, who seemed to have sleep-walked through the serious professional lapses of the 2002 NIE on Iraq WMD.”

But the neocons were deprived of the Iran war for which they had been lusting (just as, six years later, they were deprived of the war on Syria, into which they almost mouse-trapped President Barack Obama).

Still, you need not worry about any negative consequences for the compliant Bush-Cheney “analysts” who were willing to “fix” more intelligence around war policies. As usually happens in Official Washington, they landed on their feet. For instance, Fleitz is now Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs with the Center for Security Policy, a think tank founded by Frank Gaffney, Jr., an archdeacon of neocondom, who is still its president.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former Army officer and CIA analyst, McGovern co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, in an attempt to expose the corruption of intelligence under the Cheney-Bush regime.

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26 comments for “Bolton Flunky Fleitz Raises Stakes for Iran

  1. June 4, 2018 at 4:30 am

    How come it is mentioned that Ray McGovern works with Tell The Word, Bla bla bla Church of The Savior, in “Inner City” Washington, like “Inner City” Washington gives him “Street Creds” somehow. I like Mr. McGovern, don’t get me wrong, but using “Inner City” is a bit
    over the top don’t you think ? Just Sayin’.

  2. JC
    June 3, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    first off none of this is possible if we had a real free/investigative media…the USA does not it has a media controlled by the same neocons as are in the gov…until they are wiped out one way ot another expect no peace anywhere..

  3. michael crockett
    June 2, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you Ray for another excellent article. Thanks to you as well Abe for the back round information provided in your comment. Attempting to predict where Trump is going with his foreign policy agenda is guesswork for sure. However, looking at who he surrounds himself with makes me think that he fully intends to wage an illegal and unconstitutional war with Iran. The first provocation salvo fired was the tearing up of the JCPOA. The MSM is doing its part to constantly vilify Iran as a sponsor of terror throughout the ME and accusing Iran of planning to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. No evidence is required, just fix the intelligence to support the story line. A lot of momentum is building toward this scenario. With that said, I think Trump realizes that the country is war weary and may not give support to an attack on Iran at this time. Enter North Korea where the President, with a peace agreement, comes off looking like a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. Trump assumes the mantle of a thoughtful and reasonable peace maker. In Trumps foreign policy we (the American people) can trust. This will create the political capital Trump needs to sell and ultimately wage a catastrophic war against Iran.

  4. Ol' Hippy
    June 2, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Just to chime in I think the Bolton fiasco is just getting started. He has war written on his face and’s itching for some ‘action’. If Mr Trump can quell N Korea that’s great but Iran has always been on the back burner so to speak. With frenimies like Netanyahu who knows? We need another level minded individual in the White House. Mr Trump just can’t stand up to the pressure from the damn neocons.

    • Sam F
      June 2, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Yes, it’s the 2400-strong National Security Council and agency top execs that surround the Pres with groupthink. An administration must clear the upper levels of the executive and free decision makers from controlled views and emotionalism. Apparently neither Trump nor Obama had any idea of the extent of swamp immersion they faced.

  5. mike k
    June 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Alice in Wonderland is way too sane to reflect what is transpiring in Washington. The US Capitol is way too crazy and truly frightening for children of any age. When the controllers of our destiny have become this insane and evil, we can only try to figure out how to eliminate them from their unfortunate positions, before it is too late.

  6. Jeff
    June 1, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Mr. McGovern is always a breath of sanity in an otherwise looney-bin situation. It does occur to me that the neo-cons in general are a bunch of pussies and cowards. Oh, they’re brave, brave, brave if they have overwhelming force (that somebody else has to deliver) behind them but otherwise, they sit around quaking in their boots. Iran, Syria, N. Korea are strategic threats? What alternative universe do these people live in? Until just recently, none of the three of them even had a delivery system capable of delivering a weapon to the US. Two of them still don’t. The third, N. Korea, can just barely get here and only has less than a handful of nuclear devices. How could these three countries be a strategic threat to the United States?

    • Sam F
      June 2, 2018 at 7:52 am

      The warmongers know very well that we are under no threat at all. The tyrants must rally their bands of fools, afraid each other, with shouts of an enemy outsider, to pose as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. So they choose small defenseless foreign countries. See the “Devil’s Game” by Dreyfuss for details.

      The Christian fundamentalists, oil companies, and zionists allied with Islamic fundamentalists and monarchists after WWII against communism, and stayed together after the USSR dissolution to attack socialism and get the zionist/KSA bribes. The ones who choose victims in the Mideast now run on bribes from the zionists/KSA to rent the US military for less than a penny on the dollar to steal land for Israel. All hail the warmonger traitor!

  7. June 1, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    “…archdeacon of neocondom”, i liked that one, too. And apparently Mr. Alexander Stephens supports the US perpetual war machine. Trump must have gotten many lashings during his “trip to the woodshed” (per Skip Scott), or he was a setup from the start for an about-face, or the deep state has something on him that’s the equivalent of the Zapruder film. If only Bolton and Fleitz would be taken to outer space and get zapped by aliens! I do agree that Bolton looks like Yosemite Sam.

  8. F. G. Sanford
    June 1, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Freddy Fleitz was a neocon man.
    He had visions of bombing Iran!
    With Tillerson fired and Pompeo hired,
    He said with a grin, “Now I can!”

    Roseanne Barr was against BDS.
    She resented the Middle East mess.
    She said Barry Hussein was a major league pain,
    He made Bibi endure lots of stress!

    Some thought that her humor was splendid.
    But poor Valerie was quite offended.
    It’s not sour grapes being likened to apes,
    So she’s happy Roseanne got suspended!

    Those Mullahs were stirring up fuss.
    The think tanks had much to discuss.
    Ayatollahs with rockets strained Adelson’s pockets,
    They’d throw Bibi right under the bus!

    Mad Dog says our forces are staying.
    All the neocon crazies are praying!
    To bring on the rapture, Assad they must capture,
    Then on to Iran, no delaying!

    Civil rights are at stake, so they claim.
    Those Mullahs deserve all the blame!
    Just ask Charles Ortel, he thinks Saudis are swell,
    They buy weapons so they’re not the same!

    John Bolton adores Freddy Fleitz.
    He endorses those neocon fights.
    Iran sponsors terror, there can be no error,
    There’s oil in them Golan Heights!

    Swamp draining progresses apace.
    It’s being accomplished with grace:
    They’re taking great pains to clean out the drains,
    These new turds will need much more space!

    • robjira
      June 1, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Excellent ^_^

    • mike k
      June 1, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Good one FG

      with your humor I am blessed

      it helps alleviate my stress

      one might never guess

      that in spite of your jest

      you are a dude with a

      really high consciousness!

  9. exiled off mainstreet
    June 1, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Fred Fleitz is an exemplar of the war criminals exempted from prosecution because the yankee imperium is in total control of the war crimes trial apparatus.

  10. Sam F
    June 1, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Good to hear of Bolton’s Fleitz of fancy in the Iraq/Iran WMD warmonger treasons.
    Also that Woolsey headed “the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)” keeping the anti-communist Christian and Islamic fundamentalist loonies allied long after the USSR dissolved, to destroy the Mideast for Israel. Who needs anything but money, fundamentalism, and war in the Mideast? The “negative consequences” for these scammers should be prosecution for treason.

    • mike k
      June 1, 2018 at 10:41 am

      “Fleitz of fancy” lol! I love your mix of heavy and light Sam.

      • Sam F
        June 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm

        Thanks, Mike, I will try to improve in that area. And I enjoy your refreshingly principled outlook.

  11. mike k
    June 1, 2018 at 10:08 am

    “Those of us in civil service (feel insulted)”? Who do you work for Alexander? You sound like a neocon lawyer. Who told you to try to undermine Ray McGovern? Did they cut a check for this job specially, or does it just come under “service” you do regularly as a matter of course?

  12. Christian Chuba
    June 1, 2018 at 9:25 am

    I recall many of Fleitz’s articles on NR where he expressed he used his credentials as a former CIA analyst to lie about the JCPOA.

    For some reason, the one that made the biggest impression on my was his insistence that the JCPOA allowed Iran to stockpile Plutonium to build a nuclear weapon because 1. he got to make himself sound technical, and 2. it was so blatantly false.

    He used Iran’s two extremely minor excess accumulations of heavy water (less than 1%) as evidence even though Arak is currently decommissioned and in the process of being re-designed by China.

    He stated in an ‘aha’ like fashion that the newly designed plant would still produce enough plutonium for a bomb every two years neglecting to state that Iran was obligated to ship their spent fuel out of the country and if they don’t well, we have 4 yrs notification that they are up to know good and have a potential arsenal of 2 warheads. Oh, and that is if we do nothing after they violate the JCPOA.

    He told other lies but for some reason, this one stuck with me.

  13. Joe Tedesky
    June 1, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Read what Professor Cole has to say about Rosanne Barr’s influences…..

    https://www.juancole.com/2018/06/advocate-roseanne-running.html

  14. RnM
    June 1, 2018 at 8:17 am

    “the Archdeacon if Neocondom.” Brilliant, Ray. In a way, perhaps laughing these fools out of existance and relevance might be a good strategy. For instance, does anyone else see the resemblace of Bolton to a wild-eyed, pistol-packin’ mustachioed Yosemite Sam?

  15. mike k
    June 1, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Crooked rats in government, and throughout society work constantly to spoil everything for those that are honest and decent. So far they have done a marvelous job corrupting the world, and they are well on their way to totally destroying it.

  16. Tom Welsh
    June 1, 2018 at 5:55 am

    Many thanks, Mr McGovern. The more detailed case studies like this are published, the better for all of us.

    We have all known – for ever, it seems – that money will buy politicians, judges and police in the USA. Recently I discovered, to my surprise and disappointment, that money can and does also buy scientific studies and reports.

    Now we find that money can even buy – or powerfully distort – intelligence.

    That, in short, is why the USA is doomed. A culture in which nothing can dispute the power of money cannot survive.

    • mike k
      June 1, 2018 at 7:31 am

      You are right about money Tom. It may not be the proverbial root of all evil, but it comes damn close. Money is condensed power, and as such it becomes tremendously attractive to all within it’s sphere of influence. As a child, I became aware that my parent’s main concern about me was whether I would learn to make a lot of money. This was what life was about to the adults around me. I reacted adversely to this pressure, and that has made all the difference…..

  17. George Lane
    June 1, 2018 at 3:24 am

    An edifying article as always. Neocons really are the scum of the earth.

  18. Abe
    June 1, 2018 at 2:01 am

    From the profile on Fleitz at Right Web
    http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/fleitz_frederick/

    Fleitz is perhaps best known as an author of a controversial 2006 report on the alleged nuclear threat from Iran that was harshly criticized by the International Atomic Energy Agency for containing “erroneous, misleading, and unsubstantiated information.” (The Washington Post reported that Fleitz was the “principal author” of the report; Fleitz, however, wrote in an email to Right Web that it was “a bipartisan committee paper signed out by Democratic and Republican members of Congress with three authors.”)

    The report, titled “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States,” criticized the intelligence community for not providing more evidence of the threatening nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Commenting on the report, journalist Jim Lobe wrote, “The fact that Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer, was apparently the report’s main author suggests that his effort to undermine confidence in the intelligence community’s estimates regarding Iran is part of a larger campaign that includes many of the same hawks who led the drive to war in Iraq. In addition to working for [Rep. Peter] Hoekstra, a staunch [Bush] administration loyalist, Fleitz served as John Bolton’s special assistant during Bush’s first term. Bolton, then undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, worked particularly closely with neoconservatives in [Dick] Cheney‘s office and the Pentagon to undermine efforts by his nominal boss at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, to engage Iran, North Korea, and Syria on a range of issues.”

    ————

    Fleitz was formerly the managing editor of LIGNET.com (Langley Intelligence Group Network), a part of the conservative Newsmax Media group, which claimed to provide “global intelligence and forecasting from former CIA, U.S. intelligence, and national security officers, drawing on an international network of experts and sources.” Advisors to LIGNET included several high-profile right-wing figures, including John Bolton, former Ambassador Otto Reich, and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

    From his various perches, Fleitz has promoted alarmist views of numerous alleged threats to U.S. security. Among his subjects have been several Middle Eastern countries that have long been targeted by neoconservatives and other “pro-Israel” hardliners, in particular Iran. His CSP publication page is littered with fear-mongering headlines about Iran, like “The Enormous Fraud of the Iran Deal Is Catching Up with…,” “Another Obama Bomb Concession: Iran May Get Access to US Financial…,” “More Indications of the Iran Nuclear Deal’s Dangerous Weakness,” “In Yet Another Secret Side Deal, Iran’s Nuclear Violations Won’t Be….”

    This editorial slant on Iran was apparent during his time at LINGET. For example, in July 2012, LIGNET hosted a roundtable discussion “on the serious threat a nuclear Iran poses to the United States.” Participants included Fleitz and Michael Hayden, as well as Arnaud de Borchgrave and Thomas Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. According to a Newsmax story about the event, which was available to LIGNET members only, Hayden “delivered a disturbing message” during the discussion, arguing that “Every time you turn the page, it gets scarier.” Fleitz, according to Newsmax, stated that “diplomacy is no longer an option,” arguing that Iran “wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”

    “In March 2012, Fleitz contended in a 2012 LIGNET.com interview that the Assad regime in Syria might try to transfer nuclear weapons-related material to Iran or terrorist groups, arguing: “If Assad thinks he’s in danger, he just may decide to transfer some technology, or maybe some uranium, to Iran.” The claims were reported on the LIGNET.com webpage under the heading, “The Secret Threat from Syria’s Nuclear Weapons Program.”[6] Despite this alarming headline, it is not clear that Syria has ever had a “nuclear weapons program.” Although the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in 2011 that a Syrian building destroyed by Israeli jets in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor, the IAEA made no claims with respect to a nuclear weapons program. In an email to Right Web, Fleitz appeared to walk back some aspects of the LIGNET.com story, claiming that he did not think he ever said that there was a “secret threat” from Syria’s nuclear program and that his point was that there are “unanswered questions about the Syrian program and related materials.”

    Fleitz’s advocacy of aggressive U.S. actions against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program has included pushing conspiratorial stories implying that “left-wing” U.S. intelligence analysts are covering up Tehran’s activities. In a July 2011 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal’s neoconservative editorial page, Fleitz wrote that the U.S. intelligence community was “unwilling to conduct a proper assessment of the Iranian nuclear issue,” adding that it was “unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists.”

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