Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Spy With My Little Eye

Being of tender sensibilities, you will no doubt be shocked to learn that the United States actually spies on other countries.  

And sometimes it finds out really, really important stuff:
Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say 

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.
But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?" 
Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military's rationale for launching the strike -- if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. "We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official added. "We just know it was pretty fucking stupid."
American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 -- the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors' accounts and video documentation of the tragedy -- are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region. 
However, U.S. spy services still have not acquired the evidence traditionally considered to be the gold standard in chemical weapons cases: soil, blood, and other environmental samples that test positive for reactions with nerve agent. That's the kind of proof that America and its allies processed from earlier, small-scale attacks that the White House described in equivocal tones, and declined to muster a military response to in retaliation.
How fortunate that in this cold, hard world, the poor, beleaguered, snooped-upon Assad regime can at least count on support from it's dear friend and staunch ally, Vladimir Putin:
Russia says Western attack on Syria would be ‘catastrophic’

MOSCOW — A Western military attack on Syria would only create more problems in the region, lead to more bloodshed and result in the same sort of “catastrophe” as previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Monday.

“Hysteria is growing, and confrontation is incited,” Lavrov said in what he portrayed as an emergency news conference. He said the United States and its European allies have condemned the regime of Bashar al-Assad without any evidence that it actually used chemical weapons in an attack in the Damascus suburbs on Wednesday.

Turkey, Britain and France indicated Monday that they would back the Obama administration if it decided to act against Syria in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack, even without a mandate from the United Nations.

Russia has been a stalwart ally of Assad, refusing to allow U.N. action to intervene in Syria’s conflict. On Monday, the Russian newspaper Izvestia published an interview with Assad in which he warned the West against military intervention and noted that Moscow continues to sell arms to Damascus under the terms of existing contracts.
And what a stroke of darn good luck it was that just that as tensions in the region escalate exponentially and the stakes in the game of trying to tries to suss out the other players' intentions and capabilities skyrocket,  in addition to Bashar al-Assad's firm friendship to lean on, Vladimir Putin now has his very own NSA analyst-in-exile crashing right on his own futon!  An NSA analyst-in-exile who is carrying around oodles of exotic details about the sources and methods of American intelligence and who now depends entirely on the goodwill of Vladimir Putin for his continued liberty and good health.


marindenver said...


Anonymous said...

"Vladimir Putin now has his very own NSA analyst-in-exile crashing right on his own futon"

I think that's a lie.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me this would be a brilliant opportunity to bring charges to the ICJ/World Court in the Hague. If it was an officer who overstepped, try him using the evidence. If he was given orders, first, that's no defense, and follow the chain of command up to Assad himself, if it can.

ICJ CAN and DOES try people in absentia, but charges must first be brought. Bombing campaigns against hospitals and water treatment plants generally inhibit the prosecution of war criminals.

blader said...

At least that NSA analyst in exile is not sequestered for a lifetime in a cage, subjected to torture and incommunicado and whatnot. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

Retired Patriot said...

Others are reporting that it was Israel's version of NSA (Unit8200) that captured the supposed "intercept," and then shared it with USA and others. Israel is not a dis-interested observer in this situation; they have advocated for some time to regime change the Assads out of power.

Don't let your disgust at the GG-ES issue cloud your critical thinking on the Syrian crisis.


Anonymous said...

That is my feelings as well, Retired Patriot. I would like to see the initial intel verified or at least buttressed by other sources before the US commits to action.

-- Nonny Mouse

gratuitous said...

Nice try, Retired Patriot; but you must know that you're micturating up a hempen cord . . .

Anonymous said...

"I think that's a lie."

But I hear that hyperbole dollar is a good dollar.

Lumpy Lang said...

"But I hear that hyperbole dollar is a good dollar."

The rumors are exaggerated... Droneglass doesn't seem to have been able to cash in so far, despite his best efforts.

Professor Fate said...

1) I understand that this intercept came from Isreal Intelligence - not the NSA.
2) If Assad had actually ordered the attack why the hell would this call exist? it's possible a rogue unit in the Sryian Army did lanch the attack but Assad doesn't seem the type to allow folks to follow their own whims with Chemical weapons.
3) as history proves - intellignce that supports the pre-exisitng opinions of the recipient (Bay of Pigs and Curveball come to mind) should be treated with extreem caution. Especially when they are coming from sourses that could very well have a pre-exisitn agenda.
4) The timing of this leak- coming before the un inspectors can get to the site is troubling. One hopes folks will supress the urge to bomb Syria for at least a few days to Let the inspectors do their work.

driftglass said...

Professor Fate,

You understand...from whom? I am genuinely interested and would appreciate any links to any credible sources you might have.


Anonymous said...

I'm just glad America stays out of it. Who knows what rain of terror US interference in a nation like Syria or Egypt might bring upon their respective populations.

On the other hand, America's right to "commit to action" should never be questioned but always assumed.

because freesom... or something

OBS said...

You understand...from whom?

Yeah, I'd be interested in hearing that too.

And also what exactly Israel's motives would be in fabricating it if that's the implication. Not that I trust them, I'm just wondering what they'd get out of further destabilization of Syria. Seems like they'd face some blowback (since so many in the region, and here, think Israel=U.S. and vice versa) if we start poking around over there more. What's the upside for them?

Anonymous said...

"The rumors are exaggerated..."

Well, who started that rumor then?

Professor Fate said...

Dear Mr. Driftglass

from the internet re Israeli source for this intel:
The Guardian:

Fox News:

Times of Israel:

Can't help getting the sense we're being told what we want to be true. Sober analysis has never been the US Intelligence Agencies strong point.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess that makes the lie about Edward Snowden that much less helpful to Driftglass's argument. Maybe he needs an editor.

OBS said...

Thanks Professor Fate, that helps. I still would like to know what Israel's goal in fabricating that intelligence would be, if that's what was being implied. What do they get out of it?

And for the record I really don't want us involved at all -- get the UN to deal with it, otherwise WTF are they for?