spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cable TV's Counterterrorism Morons


I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear to watch much TV news anymore. I mean, there’s so little of it anyway, sandwiched as it is between pundits who know little beyond a particular moment in Beltway politics and the "experts" who are so misleading they're dangerous.

But last night’s appearance on CNN of killer-thriller terrorism novelist Brad Thor to offer expertise on the downing of that helicopter in Afghanistan was a new low in foreign policy commentary -- unless I’ve missed something that’s been broadcast today.


Thor--surely a made-up name--has been a conduit of dubious intelligence in the past about Afghanistan and Pakistan. To all appearances, much of it has been supplied by The Eclipse Group, a private intelligence network led by ex-CIA black-arts specialist Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, whose indictment on seven counts of perjury in the Iran-Contra affair was vacated by George H. W. Bush in the last hours of his presidency.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Clarridge & co. were behind Thor’s bizarre assertion on CNN Monday night that Iran was involved in last week’s downing of a special operations helicopter with some 20 Navy SEALs aboard.  It’s a longtime theme of the group, in line with the drumbeat of Israeli-backed neocons for attacking Iran.

Asked about the helicopter incident, Thor started off with a riff out of right field, that the Afghan government is “riddled with Iranian spies.”  He then offered CNN host John King a convoluted explanation of the weapon suspected of downing the helicopter, which seems to have been a rocket-propelled grenade, as something uniquely Iranian (as opposed to the Pakistan-supplied weapons they’ve been using for years).

Thor, whom  King had introduced as someone “familiar with these types of operations” -- which one can only hope he's regretted by now --  called them "flying IUD's." Surely he meant IED's.

“You know it makes me wonder,” Thor said.

“The Taliban are good, but man, I don’t think they’re this good, John. I think this thing really has the fingerprints of an Iranian cooperation on it.”

King’s other benighted guest, former Bush homeland security advisor Fran Townsend, jumped right in, jabbering about Iranian “meddling” in Afghanistan.

“We saw it in Iraq, and that makes sense because it’s a neighbor, but we see it in Afghanistan as well,” she blabbed.

Oh, Afghanistan is not Iran’s “neighbor”?

Is it too much to ask that such an “expert” -- and a top former counterterrorism official to boot! -- know the simplest geography about the region?

And might one not ask who installed Iran’s agents in Baghdad if not the Bush administration?

But I digress.

“Fran’s analysis is spot on, which is why I enjoy watching her so much,” chirped Thor, the spitting image of a special operations type, with his short blonde hair, strong jaw and impatience with contradictory evidence.

Townsend blushed -- and kept on blushing as Thor yapped on.

King then moved to a huge map of a bright red-colored area where the chopper went down, in Taliban-controlled Wardak, which shields, finances and arms their fellow Sunni insurgents.  The map said it all about who the Taliban’s champion is.

The host asked the “experts” about the future of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who have failed to quell the insurgency after 10 years this fall.

“Let’s call it what it is… “ Townsend said, sounding her cable TV-authority best. “President Obama ran on drawing down troops in Afghanistan, and he’s trying to keep true to that promise before he faces reelection in 2012…”

Uh, wrong. Backward, actually, King gently pointed out.

“A little bit of a misspeak there. He [Obama] said he would bring home troops in Iraq, but he actually promised in 2008 to fight the war in Afghanistan.”

Oh, well. For some reason, Townsend did not blush at this.

And so on it went, in an endless moment so excruciating I was compelled to watch it,  like a slow-motion, five-cart fatal on the Beltway.

It made me almost sorry that I had missed Thor’s “expert” opinion on the Norway tragedy, which, he told ex-Murdoch editor Piers Morgan, “had all the fingerprints of an al-Qaeda style attack.”