- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gadhafi’s circle

Western security and intelligence officials monitoring the unfolding events in Libya are closely watching Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, the former Libyan intelligence chief and close confidant of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Mr. Kusa is well known to U.S. intelligence agencies as the mastermind behind the 1988 Libyan intelligence operation to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 people on board. He also was the key Libyan official who first contacted U.S. and British intelligence agencies in late 2003 when Col. Gadhafi agreed to give up his nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S. official said Mr. Kusa’s role may be diminished. “While Musa Kusa has served as one of Gadhafi’s closest advisers for many years, there are indications he’s not playing a key role in the current crisis,” the official said.

Robert Joseph, a former State Department and White House national security policymaker in the George W. Bush administration, said he dealt with Mr. Kusa in the operation to dismantle Libya’s nuclear program.

“I dealt with him when he was head of intelligence,” Mr. Joseph told Inside the Ring, noting that Mr. Kusa went to school in Michigan and is “very cosmopolitan in orientation and conceptual in his thinking.”

“The moniker he had when he was head of intelligence was ‘The Envoy of Death,’ which tells you a lot about his character,” he said.

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Kusa was someone who could be equally conversant about democracy or Islamic fundamentalism.

“He operates on the premise that the way to rule is through brute force, and that’s certainly being demonstrated in the streets and towns of Libya today,” Mr. Joseph said.

The Libyan official probably has money stashed away outside the country; and if things fall apart, Mr. Kusa would likely be one of the first people out the door of the regime, he said.

Another observer close to the region said Mr. Kusa currently is still a key official who is among the small circle of aides trying to keep the regime together in the face of both political and military defections.

“The thing to watch is what Kusa does,” this person said. “If he turns against Gadhafi, it is probably over. If he stays with him, most likely there will continue to be massive bloodshed. The odds of Gadhafi surviving internally remain high as long as he has Kusa’s support.”

China’s Jasmine revolt

Pro-democracy forces are quietly developing plans for continuous demonstrations to be held every Sunday in the hope of triggering mass protests like those now being witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa.

Initial protests called for 13 cities in China for last week produced several hundred demonstrators in Beijing and Shanghai. In other cities, police and undercover security agents outnumbered protesters, according to U.S. government officials.

China’s communist government is bracing for what could eventually develop into the kind of protests with hundreds of thousands of people nationwide calling for democratic political reform.

“Younger people in China are calling for this to be ‘our 1989,’” said one official monitoring the events.

In June 1989, pro-democracy forces took over Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and called for political liberalization, until the communist rulers called in Chinese military forces to brutally suppress the demonstrators.

The authorities — including the Ministry of State Security, China’s political secret police and security agency — are clamping down on social media and people to try to squelch the anticipated protests and prevent the kind of large-scale demonstrations taking place in the Middle East.

Among the measures so far are arrests of several organizers and blocking Internet postings and text messages related to what is being called the Jasmine Revolution. The unofficial voice for the protests has been the Chinese-language Boxun website, which has been hit hardest by official Chinese hackers.

The initial announcement calling for protests urged Chinese to take to the streets.

“Whether you have a child who suffered from tainted milk, whether your house or apartment was unjustly torn down, whether you are a veteran who couldn’t find a job, or a teacher from a privately funded school, or laid-off worker, or one who has tried many times to appeal to higher authorities for justice; … you may be upset with the son of an official who thought he could get away with crime because of who he is. You may have signed the Charter ‘08. You may be a Falungong practitioner, or you may be a member of the Communist Party or any other Party. At this moment, you and I both are Chinese. You and I both still harbor dreams for China, and we must take responsibility for our own future, and take responsibility for our children’s future.”

A Chinese official defiantly told reporters in Beijing that events in the Middle East “won’t happen in China.”

But reports from China on Twitter are hailing recent efforts as a significant start to a renewed democracy movement.

“This is a great beginning of something big and we will continue,” one Chinese language Twitter posting said.

Hayden on terror war

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and National Security Agency director, spoke out on Wednesday against the Obama administration’s effort to prosecute CIA interrogators and in favor of more efforts to capture and hold terrorists for their intelligence value.

“This is an intelligence-driven war,” Gen. Hayden said during a forum at the American Enterprise Institute.

He noted that one of the “greatest achievements of American arms” was the policy in Iraq developed by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal to use special operations commandos in progressive direct action raids that were held in succession, based on intelligence gained from each raid.

“We see that being somewhat repeated, I think, right now in Afghanistan,” Gen. Hayden said. “We don’t get that in the global war on terror because we don’t capture.”

Political risk aversion and legal constraints produced “our default option” against terrorists that is “to simply kill them,” he said.

Killing terrorists is justified under the laws of armed conflict.

“But at the operational level, we should at least begin to hold open the possibility of capturing individuals in order to gain intelligence from them, because, again, it’s an intelligence-driven war,” he said.

On the current investigation into CIA interrogators, Gen. Hayden said: “I think we should end the current investigation of CIA officers that was launched by the attorney general on August of 2009 for cases that were reviewed by career prosecutors and rejected for prosecution 4½ years prior to that decision.”

The probe is having a chilling effect on both the action and thinking of current intelligence officers, he said.

Rumsfeld book party

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld celebrated the publication of his new book, “Known and Unknown,” in Chevy Chase, Md., last week at the home of former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

The gathering was timed perfectly to coincide with news the same day that Mr. Rumsfeld’s book will debut at the No. 1 spot on the prestigious New York Times best-seller list.

Congratulated on the feat, Mr. Rumsfeld remarked: “Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in awhile,” a favorite aphorism of the former Pentagon chief.

Among the more than 50 guests at the party was former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

It was part reunion, part book party. The former defense secretary’s staff and a few hand-picked generals sipped Dry Creek cabernet and munched tiny cheeseburgers, gourmet pizza and other treats. They told authentic war stories on how they helped define the century’s first decade in terms of defending America.

Especially warm weather made the porch a popular hangout.

Among the current and former defense and military officials, mainly former Rumsfeld aides and special assistants was Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who stopped by after spending most of the day on Capitol Hill testifying on the service’s budget.

Former Marine Corps Commandant retired Gen. James T. Conway also attended, as well as former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, and former intelligence adviser Richard Haver, who earned the undying enmity of many in the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy for conducting some of the numerous damage assessments of the many extremely destructive spy cases over the past several decades.

Also present was retired Army Brig. Gen. Mark T. Kimmitt, a one-time operational commander and spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq who later served as both a senior Pentagon policymaker and assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

Gen. Conway, one of the several four-stars nurtured by Mr. Rumsfeld, held court in the foyer with his wife, who wanted to say a few things about the current course of the Marine Corps, but held her tongue. The Marine commandant had openly opposed President Obama’s decision to open the military to avowed gays before he retired last year.

Others there: Powell Moore, Mr. Rumsfeld’s top congressional lobbyist; Pete Geren, former Army secretary; J.D. Crouch, an arms-control specialist; Bill Luti, a former White House military specialist; former Pentagon and NATO official Peter Flory; and former CIA and FBI Director Bill Webster.

The few journalists at the party included your reporters, Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, who wrote a book on Mr. Rumfeld’s early war years; and New York Times defense writer Thom Shanker; Washington Post scribe Bradley Graham, who wrote a full-blown Rummy biography; and Jamie McIntyre, who covered Mr. Rumsfeld for CNN.

During Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarks, Mr. Geren introduced his former boss by quipping that he bought the new book on his electronic Kindle for considerably less than the $36 hard-copy price.

“It’s for the soldiers,” Mr. Rumsfeld chided him, referring to the fact the book’s profits go to warriors and their families.

Mr. Rumsfeld told a few war stories and how he worked hard to get the book out.

“I wanted to beat Cheney,” he said.

The former veep’s own memoir, “In My Time,” is due out in August.