HEAR NO EVIL
The Prince and I made it through the Holidays. There hadn’t been much to celebrate.
D.C. Shifted into high gear. It was pass-the-buck time within the Beltway. Committees were convened. Fact-finding forums were formulated. Task forces were fabricated. Everyone was “going to get to the bottom.” Most everyone had newer and better ways of getting there.
After the dust had settled in New York, HH and I had discussed the situation. We deduced the following:
The Abu Sayyaf and its ‘dismantlement’ should become a reasonably high level priority for Uncle Sam.
For HH and I, the logic worked. Apparently, different rules applied in the capital.
Uncle Sam had finally begun to take the ASG seriously. The Prince called to inform me that America was sending over 600 troops to the Philippines to train and equipment the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in the fine art of fighting the Abu Sayyaf. HH went on to explain that the Philippine government had had to seriously bend their own constitution, since ‘foreign troops’ were no longer allowed on Filipino soil.
Operation ‘Balikatan [“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”] 2002-1’ began on January 15th and was to end on July 31st. It sure made good sense to the Prince and I. It would obviously be wiser and less expensive to deploy over 600 troops for over 6 months than to meet with HH and see what he thought could be done. Considering how well all the American planning and training had paid off in the 2001 bungled Burnham rescue which totaled out at 3 out of 3 hostages shot; 2 out of 3 hostages dead; this seemed incredibly stupid and irresponsible.
At the Prince’s instructions, I dusted off my 1995-1996 Federal Christmas card list, updated and added to it anyone and everyone remotely involved in fighting the War on Terror and got to work. ‘Anybody’ who was possibly ‘somebody’ in the battle against the bad guys got contacted – repeatedly.
As it turned out, D.C. had not changed at all. 9/11 had not made on damned bit of difference. Thousands of innocent people had died for nothing. No one, not anyone, in the Intelligence community, the Administration or the Congress deigned to reply. The government was batting 0 for 37.
It got better. Just after my initial mailing, my main guy from the original office rang through. He wanted to inform me that my FBI records had been subpoenaed by Congress, the same Congress who couldn’t be bothered to answer their mail.
It got even better. My guy went on to say that we could still talk but he was no longer allowed to call me. I would have to call him. Then, he was ‘allowed’ to return to the call.
Also, anything I sent would be handled ‘informally.’ No headers, no trailers, no nothing. Everything had to be flown under the bureaucratic radar.
Oh and, by the way, he had been reassigned to a completely different area, totally unrelated to Counterintelligence or Counterterrorism. Over a decade of experience, cooperation and trust went down the tubes.
Since my undercover stint in D.C., Uncle Sam had made it extremely difficult for me to share my information with him. The F.B.I. had headed for the hills and an indefinite hibernation. Any reports which actually made it through to them could or could not be read and could or could not be sent on to HQs, depending on how the attending (or offending) bureaucrat felt at that particular point in time.
Secret Service came to my rescue. Since they were not primarily involved with Counterterrorism, they agreed to accept the reports and try to get them to the “appropriate parties.” Since the Bureau had gone ‘missing in action,’ the CIA became the logical choice. Not my favourite, but I was running out of options.
At the same time that my flak jacket Fed was cruising the countryside playing courier, I was sending to the Secret Service by normal, unsecured fax the same now “FBI-sensitized” report which, according to the Bureau, now required had to be encrypted. I’m sure it made sense to somebody, because it sure as hell didn’t to me.
Blessedly, my guy at the USSS graciously accepted my reports. He then took the reports and faxed them to his buddy, the Secret Service Liaison to the CIA. The Secret Service Liaison to the CIA would then go and meet with his counterpart, the CIA Liaison to the Secret Service and had him the report. The CIA Liaison to the Secret Service would take the report and presumably go find someone in the Agency to accept the report. Since the CIA never deigned to inform the USSS who received the report, we never learned what happened to it after it left Secret Service custody. Several of these episodes followed by months of silence signaled a dead end to this one-way avenue.
The question because what to do next. Both the FBI and the CIA had faded into the mists of the missing. There had to be another way. USSS made a suggestion. How about the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency)?
The DIA was sort of the military equivalent of the CIA and US soldiers were being blown up by terrorists. Therefore, presumably, they would be interested in Counterterrorism.
I had a West Point friend who knew some Generals. He kindly collected a fax number and I wrote the General informing him of my predicament. Apparently this General contacted another General who contacted another General. The outcome of their findings was freaky:
“Would the DIA have an interest in this information?”
“When could we meet?”
“Because the CIA and FBI must approve the meeting.”
“Why? I have never worked for the CIA and the FBI closed my file. I’m a free agent.”
“I don’t know why, you just can’t. Oh, by the way, their approval must be in writing.
“Why in writing?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long with that take?”
This was definitely not going to work. My friend and I decided to go back to the Generals once more. I don’t know what they did but the DIA had the approval in 8 hours. As far as I was concerned, the Generals had earned every one of their stars.
My new contact for the DIA drove up and we met for over 7 hours on a Friday. He was intelligent and asked intelligent questions. I was very pleasantly surprized. We finished with some questions still outstanding.
Accordingly, I called him on Monday morning:
“When can we meet again?”
“Because we were only authorized to meet for one time.”
“I don’t know?”
Realizing that this discussion wasn’t going much further, I decided once again to lay my case before the Generals. Once again, they performed to perfection. Once again, permission was granted. This time it was for an indefinite period. Some much for 4 to 6 months, in writing garbage.
Everything went well. We met either weekly or bi-weekly depending on schedules and the urgency of information. Since my guy had to drive 7 hours round trip, it appeared that he took my information seriously. He even took the time to round up and send me written questions in advance, so I could have the answers ready when we met.
All was smooth sailing until my contact was periodically shipped out overseas. Finally it became indefinitely. No replacement was ever suggested. Well, it had been wonderful while it worked. I shouldn’t have expected too much from my Uncle Sam.
The Prince had followed my intelligence travels with great interest. He approved of the Secret Service and was impressed by the intelligence of the DIA questions.
HH decided to take it one step further. He suggested that I arrange for a meeting with the FBI Legate for Southeast Asia. I questioned the wisdom, but he felt it was to push forward to the next level. We had already invested 10 years, what was a few more months?
While I began to try and figure out how to arrange this magical meeting, the Prince and I watched as yet another Philippines President decided to take on the MILF. The outcome was predictable and poor. Again, civilian Mindanao paid the price.
Plans plodded ahead. True to form, the Secret Service had been very helpful. The meeting was to take place in Metro Manila. This was not the Prince’s favourite place to visit but if the mountain couldn’t come to Mahomet, then Mahomet would have to travel to the mountain. HH has 7 hours of travel to look forward to.
After one aborted attempt, the meeting finally took place. Several of the terms and conditions had been ignored. The Prince was not happy with the changes but felt the meeting had gone OK.
I spoke with the Bureau guy. From his description, it was had to tell that they had both attended the same meeting. For once, I was not at all surprized.
The Bureau guy wanted a follow up get together. The Prince was not so sure. Therefore, HH had declined to give him any contact information other than a generic phone number. That didn’t stop this guy. He called the number several times and left the message:
“If you can’t come to me, I’ll come and find you.”
This was not the message to leave a local Prince with battalions of bodyguards who was living ‘incognito’ so that he could remain living. HH’s response was short and less than genteel. So much for the meeting.
HH and I headed into the Holidays. It had not been the greatest of years, but it had certainly beat the hell out of its predecessor. We wished each other the now time-honoured year end courtesies and signed off.
We had made it through the Holidays without major mishap. The Prince and I speculated about the escalating confrontation with Iraq: was Uncle Sam willing to go to war? Time would tell.
Early in the new year, the White House finally jumped into the Intelligence imbroglio. President Bush ordered a complete overhaul and reorganization of the FBI and CIA intelligence divisions.
HH and I hoped for the best, but our hearts weren’t in it. We had been disappointed too many times. Besides, the bureaucrats were still getting their paychecks from the same ole folk. Home was where the pensions were.
Continued next week...