The Colombian terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, threatened to attack President Bush during his stop in Colombia this week.
U.S. intelligence officials said reports from the region indicated that the Marxist group, which has conducted numerous bombings and terrorist attacks in the country, had planned to conduct some type of bombing or shooting attack during Mr. Bush’s visit.
The president traveled to Cartagena, Colombia, on Monday in a show of support for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The stop came after the Pacific Rim summit in Chile.
Mr. Bush said at a press conference that since July 2003, “dozens of leaders and financiers of the FARC narcoterrorist organization have been killed or captured.”
Colombian government security and military forces were out in force for the four-hour visit, including 15,000 military security forces and overflights by military helicopters.
U.S. military advisers have been working as trainers with the Colombian military, which has been battling the Marxist FARC fighters for years.
The FARC is made up of an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 armed combatants and several thousand additional supporters who operate mostly in rural areas.
The group engages in bombings, killings, mortar attacks, narcotrafficking, kidnappings, extortion and hijackings.
U.S. security officials breathed a sigh of relief that the visit to Colombia took place without any attack or other incident.
The United States is set to revamp its counterintelligence operations by taking a more aggressive posture against foreign spies.
Michelle Van Cleave, who holds the position of national counterintelligence executive, an interagency director, said in a speech last week that counterintelligence (CI) is more than neutralizing spies.
“CI embraces all activities, human and technical, whether at home or abroad, that are undertaken to identify, assess, neutralize and exploit foreign intelligence threats,” she said. Counterintelligence in the United States has been fragmented in the past as a result of “having no one in charge of the enterprise,” she said.
“Hostile intelligence services don’t target an FBI field office, or a CIA station, or a military unit. They target the United States. For our nation’s security, we need to approach CI strategically,” Miss Van Cleave said at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
President Bush is reviewing a new national counterintelligence strategy designed to consolidate and better integrate U.S. counterintelligence programs for more offensive operations, she said.
“In my view, the imperative for U.S. CI parallels the strategic imperative for the global war on terrorism: to go on the offense,” Miss Van Cleave said. “In support of the nation’s security, U.S. counterintelligence needs to shift emphasis from a posture of reacting to a proactive strategy of seizing advantage.”
Offensive counterintelligence will entail strategic assessment of the problem and “engagement of adversary presence, capabilities and intentions,” she said.
It will involve a doctrine of “attacking foreign intelligence services systematically” through strategic counterintelligence operations, she said.
“Offensive CI, put into a larger context, can be used to defuse or shape an emerging threat, influence key decisions, mask vulnerabilities, advance diplomatic objectives or confer advantage at the negotiating table or on the battlefield,” Miss Van Cleave said. “In wartime, we must be able to defeat the adversary’s intelligence capabilities, including their ability to deceive or mislead us.”
Iraq was a reminder that neutralizing intelligence services of an adversary is crucial to winning the war and that it is better to plan well in advance than on a crash basis, she said.
U.S. Central Command is busy portraying the battle of Fallujah, Iraq, as the greatest military victory since the fall of Baghdad and a turning point in its counterinsurgency.
Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the top Marine in Iraq who planned much of the north-to-south attack, proclaimed the victory had “broken the back” of the nationwide insurgency.
At U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., planners drew up “talking points” for anyone in government who wants to sell the Fallujah victory.
Among the points:
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have killed scores of allied Iraqis and Americans, “were emplaced all over the city and were found in furniture, toys, doorways and rooms throughout the buildings that the Marines have attempted to clear.”
“Every mosque [of 77 in Fallujah] encountered and engaged by Iraqi and coalition forces was used as a weapons storage facility or fortress to attack from.”
Weapons and explosives were also found in bunkers, railroad cars, basements and automobiles.
In one sector alone, a Marine unit found 91 caches and 432 IEDs. As a comparison, in October in all of Iraq, the coalition found 130 arms caches and 348 IEDs.
Evidence suggests that some, if not all, the beheadings carried out by Abu Musab Zarqawi or his followers were done in a building in Fallujah, Iraq.
In one room, Marines found a flag that was seen in the background of some videotaped beheadings, as well as bloodstains on the floor.
Marines found a Syrian hostage alive in the building who thought, because his captors were Syrian, that he was in Syria. Outside the house, Marines found a towed mortar system and two anti-aircraft guns.
One piece of evidence showed insurgents had been in the building minutes before Marines arrived. The evidence: a drink bottle still had ice in it.
On Oct. 29, as House and Senate negotiators reached an impasse on an intelligence-reform bill, compromise language arrived.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and House Armed Services Committee chairman, did not like Senate language that gave too much power to a new director of national intelligence at the expensive of the defense secretary. Backed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Hunter feared the director could interfere in the flow of information between defense intelligence agencies and troops in the field.
The compromise, Mr. Hunter told us, came from Stephen J. Hadley, soon to be the next White House national security adviser.
The amendment language was titled “Preservation of Authority and Accountability.”
The Hadley paper read, in part: “The national intelligence director shall conduct the director’s responsibilities and authorities for the management and direction of the activities of the intelligence community in a manner consistent with the applicable chain-of-command from heads of departments.” Read here: defense secretary.
The proposal went on to say, “Nothing in this title or amendments made by this title shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect … the authority of the principal officers of the executive department as heads of their respective departments.”
Senators rejected the deal, arguing that it defeated the bill’s purpose of having one director in overall charge of the intelligence flow.
Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at email@example.com.