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Thursday, May 25, 2017

A trip down memory lane to Baghdad, circa Fall, 2003, and Operation Blue Eyes.

In the Fall of 2003, Mark and I were both posted to Baghdad, spending our days and nights trying to find contacts that we could work into penetrations of the Insurgency.  At the time, the enemy had temporarily coalesced into a nasty, potent force that was making it very difficult for our troops to accomplish their mission, not to mention the civil service folks that had arrived for the purpose of rebuilding Iraq.  Normally, the hard-core terror networks like to keep their hands clean from association with local militias and armed groups, like the ones that constituted a big part of the Insurgency.  As time went on, though, these groups started working together much more effectively.  Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been sent to Iraq by Al-Qaida to create a new organization, Al-Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers.  Zarqawi had no qualms working with the various insurgent groups, which provided greater access to the different provinces of Iraq.  Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers were popping up everywhere, including Baghdad.  At this particular time, travel outside of the Green Zone, the safety corridor established for civil servants, diplomats, etc., had become very difficult, not to mention dangerous.  Regardless, the officers in my Branch were having success utilizing our network of contacts to locate freshly planted IEDs and notifying the military in time to prevent casualties.  We had the authority to leave the Green Zone, which was a calculated and necessary risk, given that my colleagues were absolutely the best of the best, and there was a job to do.  Social visits to Baghdad were out of the question, at least temporarily.

Every few months, I would return stateside to see our medical staff and my personal physician, and get approval to return to the field.  This was an arrangement that was crafted by my close friend Gretchen, who was also the chief personnel officer for our Baghdad facility.  After initially receiving the assignment, I didn't think I would be able to accept the job.  As much as I wanted to go, and Baghdad needed competent officers, I couldn't see how the medical folks would sign on.  Gretchen went to battle for me, and when all was said and done, she had put together a plan which was satisfactory to all, and in the end, worked perfectly.  Gretchen is one of those rare personalities that you seem to meet more often in the halls of the CIA than in the real world.  Brilliant, hard working, one-step ahead of everyone else, and funny as hell.  She is known for her reputation, and for having the most beautiful, piercing ice-blue eyes you can imagine.  If you needed help, and she thought the effort was in the best interests of all involved, Gretchen would go to bat.  That being said, I would never want to get on her shit list, although I don't know that she's ever had one.  She was damn good at measuring up people within five minutes of walking into her office.


On one of my return trips to DC, I went in to visit Gretchen and chew the fat.  I was really excited when she told me that she would be making a short TDY visit to Baghdad, because Gretchen was a priceless cog in the big machine that kept the Baghdad facility well-oiled and productive.  She wasn't someone, as opposed to Homeland's Carrie Matheson, who could just get up from her desk, pack away her Baretta, and fly First Class to wherever takes her fancy.  Gretchen always had to deal with someone asking for something, so I was surprised and pleased to find out that she had arranged the time to come to Baghdad.  Her trip was all about work, and she didn't get much sleep during her stay.  Personally, I was thinking that Mark, his fiance, Gretchen and I could hang out in my hooch, playing games, drinking a bit of wine, and watching DVDs.  Gretchen had other ideas.  Besides the workload that would undoubtedly be waiting for her on arrival, Gretchen told me that she would just love to get out of the Green Zone.  At first, I couldn't figure out how I could make it work.  She was known to everyone, and her presence, or lack thereof, would have been noticed in our facility.  I returned to Baghdad a few weeks before Gretchen, so when I returned, I brainstormed with Mark, and we eventually came up with "Operation Blue Eyes".

I wish I could say that Operation Blue Eyes was a great success, and Gretchen was able to buy three rugs at the local suq, and the original lamp containing Barbara Eden, but events didn't play out as planned.  During Gretchen's first full night in the Green Zone, while the four of us were chatting in my digs, we had a mortar attack, during which the three veterans who knew the location of the bomb shelters, up and ran out of the hooch, leaving Gretchen to find her own way (I address the escapade in greater detail in my memoir, Mukhabarat, Baby).  That experience encouraged Mark and I to shelve our original plan, given the heightened state of security.  What was Operation Blue Eyes?  Frequently Mark and I would have interviews with sources so sensitive that, utilizing disguises, we would bring the contact into the Green Zone for debriefing.  We were going to create the illusion that we were returning a source outside of the Green Zone following an interview.  The fun part would have been instructing Gretchen to don a man's wig, sunglasses, and a big mustache.  In the real world, Gretchen is light complected and very feminine.  This Op, which would have required an entire chapter in my book all to itself, contained other really fun details that I'm forced to keep to myself (including a "fake" Gretchen!).  The truth is, we would have been obliged to break a few rules (oops!), and stretch the security issue too much for comfort, so this operation never saw the light of day.  Regardless, it was great having Gretchen with us for a bit.  She made every occasion funnier, brighter, and special.  I don't think Gretchen was ever aware of the original Op- I had basically forgotten itself until today.  But I assure you, no one would have appreciated the effort we made more than Blue Eyes.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reuters releases a story on the recently-announced Special Prosecutor which clearly demonstrates how close they are to becoming a second-rate distributor of left-wing talking-points.


Link: Reuters has access to people who know "how the White House thinks".

 For decades, conservatives and Republicans have groaned about a perceived liberal bias in the news.  Poll after poll confirms that the great majority of journalists support the Democratic Party, and to be fair, most members of the media have never denied this reality.  During the 1980s and 1990s, those of us on the right had to put up with the media's almost ferocious defense of Anita Hill and President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but the public at large seemed to understand the media's inclination to sympathize with liberals.  Some people unforgivably associate conservatism with fascism, and I've noticed many left-wing thinkers like to promote the idea that Democrats are the defenders of free-speech.  In truth, the actions of numerous groups who have been supported by the Democrats in the past, which include forcibly preventing guest speakers from delivering their addresses, call into question the left's true intentions regarding the First Amendment.  Not surprisingly, the media has been all-but silent on the repeated instances of conservatives being denied the right to speak, which falls in line with the less-than-fair way President Trump has been treated by the press.  Since his arrival in Washington DC, the media has attacked President Trump on a daily fashion, and from many different directions.

Taking a chance on public burnout, CNN, MSNBC, and the three traditional news stooges, ABC, CBS, and NBC, take turns printing front-page stories that detail a White House in absolute chaos.  Every third or fourth story, though, reminds the public of Trump's plan to outlaw Muslim immigrants in perpetuity, and to hide the "fact" that he and his staff colluded with Russian espionage to unfairly steal the presidential election from the oh-so deserving Hillary Clinton.  Actually, the media can take full credit for turning a non-story with absolutely no evidence, into an investigation with a Special Prosecutor, which will cost the U.S. taxpayer untold millions of dollars.  The Justice Department has a legal threshold that they are obliged to meet before enacting the Special Prosecutor option; that threshold certainly includes the existence of evidence.  Once this investigation is complete and the Trump Administration is vindicated, we all know that the media will bring up sources who claim that the Trump Justice Department "fixed" the outcome.  Regardless, I want to know which media billionaire big-shot is going to pick up the tab for the cost of an investigation that should never have been initiated.

The fact that the mainstream media is aggressively pursuing an agenda to discredit the Trump Administration is no longer "news", so to speak, to conservative listeners of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.  That being said, the Reuters story that I've linked at the top of the page leaves me both angry and a bit perplexed.  I realize that there are folks on both the right and left who are going to believe the worst of the other side, regardless of the truth, as this is the nature of politics in today's day and age.  The problem of leaks emanating from the White House has become a full-blown crisis, and President Trump needs to appoint someone (Vice President Pence would be a great choice from my perspective, if not, I'm happy to do the job myself) who will focus exclusively, every day, on finding, firing or reassigning persons suspected of leaking.  Heck, why not just can everyone who has "Obama" written on their resume?  Also, keep Jared Kushner and Ivanka as far away from Operation Plug the Leak as possible.  There is no question that life-long Democrat Kushner elbowed his way into getting a few like-minded friends hired, and they may not actually be part of the problem, but I would look at those people very closely regardless.

Reuters claims to not only have sources in the White House who can report on conversations and events, they also claim to have sources who are familiar with how the White House thinks (see link, first paragraph, last sentence).  Are they referring to the White House as a living, breathing creature, or just certain people inside?  How long has Reuter's sources been able to tap into the thoughts of people in the White House?  Shouldn't this be an issue for the Secret Service and the FBI?  In a very bizarre way, things are beginning to make sense.  Since the Associated Press, the United Press International, Reuters, the Washington Post and the NY Times all have multiple sources in the White House, maybe we are dealing with only a handful of leakers, all with the ability to know what Trump and his closest advisers are thinking.  During my years with the CIA, I was not aware that this type of "information collection" was legitimate, but I can't account for what is now acceptable after two terms of Obama.

My tongue-in-cheek comments about Reuters is meant to shed light on the media and their self-authorized efforts to steal information from the Trump White House that is meant to be classified.  Shouldn't the President of the United States be afforded the opportunity to converse with his staff in private?  Why is the media allowed to repeat White House conversations involving the President of the United States?  Since the beginning of this embarrassment, we have assumed that these sources exist, and what they are reporting is accurate.  Since the media has no obligation and certainly no intention of disclosing their sources, how can we be sure that the details being printed in the Post and NY Times isn't all bullshit?  Is it beyond the pale to consider that the media might INVENT something?  Actually, history is replete with journalists doing just such a thing, as both the NY Times and the Post are aware.  In today's over-the-top, angry-left political environment, I have absolutely no reason not to approach everything I hear that has been published by Reuters, the Post or the NY Times, with great cynicism.  I voted for Donald Trump, as did enough Americans to put him in the White House.  He deserves just as much respect from the media in his first term as the Community Organizer got from me in 2008.