The right side of blogland is crowing about the resignation of Eason Jordan, apparently for little more than saying something they all didn't like. I'm sure that in 20 years, when the US military targeting of journalists is revealed, on page A20 of the Toledo Blade or something, that Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt will not buy a joint bus ticket to Jordan's retreat in Media Exileville to say they're sorry. (Actually the targeting may have already been revealed, and if we had a curious press in this country, Jordan's remarks might have led to some actual reporting on this and other stories. But of course then the walls of the Pentagon would start to shake, and we can't have that.)
But here's my question: how are Richard Perle's remarks in a House Intelligence Committee hearing on February 2 ANY different?
In today's LA Times, Greg Miller writes a story revealing a breakdown in a CIA intelligence operation in Iran in the late 80s or early 90s:
WASHINGTON -- Dozens of CIA informants in Iran were executed or imprisoned in the late 1980s or early 1990s after their secret communications with the agency were uncovered by the government, according to former CIA officials who discussed the episode after aspects of it were disclosed during a recent congressional hearing.
The source who disclosed this incident to the Congress was Richard Perle, neocon member of the Defense Policy Board.
Details of the setback were first outlined Feb. 2 by former Pentagon advisor Richard N. Perle in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. During a hearing on security threats, Perle was critical of U.S. intelligence capabilities and cited the crackdown on American sources in Iran as an example of the failures that have beset U.S. espionage in the Mideast.
Perle referred to the "terrible setback that we suffered in Iran a few years ago when in a display of unbelievable, careless management we put pressure on agents operating in Iran to report with greater frequency and didn't provide improved communications."
When the CIA's sources stepped up their reporting, "the Iranian intelligence authorities quickly saw the surge in traffic and, as I understand it, virtually our entire network in Iran was wiped out."
The CIA refuted a good deal of this testimony. While acknowledging a breakdown in Iran, they explained it was sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, not "a few years ago." They also disputed the claim that Iran found out about the spies due to CIA pressure to have their agents report more often. Here's a quote from an official:
The CIA declined to comment, but a U.S. intelligence official rejected Perle's criticism of the agency's record in the Mideast as ill-informed and outdated.
"Intelligence methods evolve constantly," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Trying to use these things from the past to make assertions about the present is in this case ill-advised."
When confronted about this, Perle immediately backed off all of the most damning assertions that he made:
In a phone interview, Perle acknowledged that he had "a poor sense of time" concerning the events he described and was uncertain about details.
"I don't recall the details, or the mechanism by which the [Iranian agents] were communicating," Perle said. "What I was told was that our entire network was destroyed" and that as many as 40 of the informants were executed.
The point here is that this is directly analogous to the Jordan affair. Richard Perle (Eason Jordan) makes comments before a Congressional panel (Davos panel) that are inflammatory about the CIA (US military) and contain statements that are more hearsay than fact. When challenged by the CIA (right-wing bloggers), Perle (Jordan) immediately backs off the comments. Perle (Jordan), who has a long history of antagonism toward the CIA (US military), has then slandered an organization dedicated to trying to protect Americans.
So where's the outrage on the right? Why won't C-SPAN release the Perle tape? Is this transcript from the LA Times correct? Who's starting the perlegate.com blog?
No, of course, that won't happen. And I'm not exactly calling for that to happen. I do think it's irresponsible of a leading critic of the CIA to make false or misleading statements about the CIA to Congress. Perle had the gist of the story somewhat down, but the specifics were wrong, and mainly designed to play up a notion of CIA incompetence. Like Jordan (I imagine), Perle believes that the importance of his project (to undermine the CIA) means that he doesn't have to back up his statements with facts that correspond to them.
The point is that Perle will face no public pressure for these remarks, for (arguably) compromising CIA efforts in the Middle East by bringing to light techniques for reporting, because the Right Wing Noise Machine is on his side. If you see this story at all over there, it will be spun as proof that the CIA needs to go. The fact that there's NO SUBSTANTIAL DIFFERENCE between the Perle affair and the Jordan affair is irrelevant. The hypocrisy of blind ideology once again rises to the surface.
If Eason Jordan did something wrong by saying out loud what people have been saying in private for a couple years, the Richard Perle needs to turn in his Defense Policy Board executive washroom key.