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Outraged intelligence professionals say President George W. Bush is “cheapening” and “politicizing” their work with claims the United States foiled a planned terrorist attack against Los Angeles in 2002.
“The President has cheapened the entire intelligence community by dragging us into his fantasy world,” says a longtime field operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. “He is basing this absurd claim on the same discredited informant who told us Al Qaeda would attack selected financial institutions in New York and Washington.”
Within hours of the President’s speech Thursday claiming his administration had prevented a major attack, sources who said they were current and retired intelligence pros from the CIA, NSA, FBI and military contacted Capitol Hill Blue with angry comments disputing the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks.
He’s full of shit,” said one sharply-worded email.
Although none were willing to allow use of their names, saying doing so would place them in legal jeopardy, we were able to confirm that at least four of the 23 who contacted us currently work, or had worked, within the U.S. intelligence community.
But Los Angeles Mayor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is willing to go on the record, claiming Bush blind-sided his city with the claims.
“I’m amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels,” the mayor says. “I don’t expect a call from the president — but somebody.” Villaraigosa also said he has twice requested meetings with Bush to discuss security issues for Los Angeles and was turned down both times.
Intelligence pros say much of the information used by Bush in an attempt to justify his increased spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, trampling of civil rights under the USA Patriot Act, and massive buildup of the Department of Homeland Security, now the nation’s largest federal bureaucracy, was “worthless intel that was discarded long ago.”Â
“A lot of buzz circulated in the months following the September 11, 2001, attacks,” says an NSA operative. “Snippets here and there were true but most were just random information that could never be confirmed. One thing we do know about al Qaeda is that they seldom use the same technique twice. They tried a car bomb to bring down the World Trade Center and it failed. Then they went to planes. The next time will be something different because we’ve geared up to prevent hijacking planes and using them as flying bombs.”
In August 2004, just as the Presidential campaign was about to heat up, the Bush White House raised the terror alert, claiming attacks were imminent on major financial institutions. The alert, apparently timed to steal thunder from Democrat John Kerry”s nomination for President, was withdrawn after administration officials admitted it was based on old information from a discredited informant.
The discredited information dated back to the same period when intelligence agencies began receiving reports of a planned attack against Los Angeles.
Counterterrorism officials say they are surprised that Bush claimed the plot was “set in motion.”
“There was no definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage,” says a senior counterterrorism official, who has worked at the CIA and the FBI, who talked to Capitol Hill Blue and the New York Daily News.
FBI Deputy Director John Pistole refused to characterize it as an advanced plot when discussing it in June 2004.
Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge admits the U.S. raised terror alerts for the wrong reasons and now says he often disagreed with the timing of such alerts but was overruled by the White House.
“More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it,” Ridge says. “Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on alert, There were times when the White House was really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘For that?’ We often lost the argument.”
Ridge left DHS in February 2005 and Bush replaced him with Michael Chertoff who agrees with the “cry wolfÃ¢”Â strategy of the White House.
“Chertoff is a lackey,”Â says Kevin Riley, a retired New York City Detective who knew Chertoff during his days as a U.S. Attorney in New York. “He’ll do whatever Bush tells him to do.”
Intelligence pros at established Washington agencies laugh at DHS operatives, calling them “Keystone Kops” and “overpaid rent-a-cops,”Â saying they lack any real expertise in dealing with terrorism.
“DHS is a political police force,”Â says a retired CIA agent. “They exist to enforce the political propaganda program of George W. Bush. That’s all they’re good for and they’re not very good at that.”