Sunday, February 20, 2005
Trevor Royle of the Glasgow Sunday Herald suggests that John Negroponte's experience in Honduras, where he helped to manage the covert terror war against Nicaragua, may pay immediate dividends in his new position as the "omnipotent" Director of National Intelligence:
Not only will [Negroponte] be in overall control of all 15 agencies involved in the war against terrorism but he will have unprecedented power in deciding and executing policy, allocating budgets and giving the authority for covert operations . . . .
John McGaffin, former associate deputy director of CIA operations said: “Right now, our war in counter-terrorism looks more like kids’ soccer, with everybody doing everything that they want to do in all directions. What we have got to do is make it look like more organised, professional football where you have plays and people know what they’re supposed to do, and some adult is in charge.”
While McGaffin’s analogy will be welcomed by security professionals who say the US war on terror is going nowhere and has become badly bogged down in Iraq, Negroponte’s appointment seems to have been brought into being without any political checks and balances other than in reporting directly to the President.
Not only does this make him the most powerful member of the Bush administration, but it also heightens fears the US could be returning to “dirty war” tactics which allowed CIA-trained operatives to pinpoint and neutralise known terrorist targets or obstructive political leaders.
Extra-judicial killings of this kind have been in the CIA repertoire since it began its response to the 9/11 attacks. Sources close to the White House have already admitted the US might have to resort to this approach in its policy of fomenting internal regime changes in the Middle East.
A senior strategist in Washington told the Sunday Herald that the US had no intention of getting bogged down as it had done in Iraq and that the next two stumbling blocks, Iran and Syria, would have to be approached in a more subtle way.
“We are in no position to take any military action just now and, in any case, the odds are stacked against us,” he said. “Iran is on the point of developing nuclear weapons and Syria is a patron of terrorism. Both have created a powerful alliance, both need to be brought round and both need to mend their ways. If they are not open to negotiation, we’ll have to take a more indirect approach.”