“Do you believe it?”
I had just started talking to the spirit of James Jesus Angleton, the legendary chief of CIA’s counterintelligence, back when there were still a few folks who took such things seriously. The Ouija board seemed to be in good shape, and his raspy, high-pitched voice, which more often than not sounded like a whisper, came through very clearly.
Obviously, I wanted to know what he thought about the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
JJA: “I was going to ask you the same question. After all, you’ve probably talked to somebody who actually knows something. I’ve only got the news reports.”
ML: “Yeah, but nobody’s saying a lot about the details of the case, since it’s going to trial and all…”
JJA: “I get that. But the Iranian guy apparently talked, didn’t he?”
ML: “Yes, he did. That’s pretty much standard for them, by the way. I’m told it’s rare for Iranians to clam up. However, now he’s pleaded ‘not guilty,’ so we’ll have to see how much of what he said will be admitted, and all that.”
JJA: “Indeed. But we’re not a jury, and it would seem on the face of it that if he confessed—as he seems to—then the government’s claim is certainly believable.”
ML: “That was the opinion of a grand jury, anyway.”
JJA: “Right-o. But grand juries tend to believe prosecutors, as we know…”
ML: “In fact, here in DC it is said that a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich.”
JJA: “Chortle.” And he started chortling, until that cough of his kicked in, and there was a pause.
ML: “Got some water?”
JJA: “I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about the liquid refreshment we get here, but it was delicious and effective.”
ML: “I’m glad of that! But getting back to the assassination plot, are you surprised at the number of experts who don’t believe it?”
JJA: “Not only that; I’m impressed at how much they think they know, even though none of them has seen anything approaching the full case. There’s an undersecretary of the Treasury—David Cohen, I think his name is–running around describing the case to leaders of allied countries, and he seems to have made an impact with the Canadians and the French, both of whom have said that it justifies increased sanctions.”
ML: “I agree. And the Brits, as usual, were brought in early, trying to locate the Iranian co-conspirator, but without success. We’re in the usual funny situation concerning classified information, aren’t we? Those who have seen it can’t talk about it, while those doing the talking haven’t seen it…”
JJA: “That’s how it should be.”
ML: “Somehow I knew you’d say exactly that.”
JJA: “The other things that impress me are the claims that it couldn’t have been the Iranian Quds Force—that is, the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guards—because they are so professional and smart, they couldn’t possibly have done this thing, which is unprofessional and stupid.”
ML: “Yeah, very funny. My friend and colleague Reuel Gerecht tried to disabuse some congressmen on this score. Did you see it? He said:
Well, let me tell you, the truth is Iranian operations are almost always sloppy. That’s the way they have been. Do not the mix up the notion that the operations are sloppy and therefore they cannot be lethal.
…I tracked Iranian operations all over the place in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of those operations succeeded – that is they killed individuals. Most of those operations, again, it didn’t take you very long to put all of the pieces together again. The Iranians really don’t hide all that much. That is the real truth.
JJA: “Well said. Furthermore, we know they have sent assassins to both North and South America. Many Iranian leaders have been indicted for the bombings in Buenos Aires in ’93 and ’94—probably because the Argentines reneged on a promise of nuclear assistance to the mullahs—and then there’s the guy they sent to Canada, posing as a political and religious refugee, whom they enlisted to assassinate Salman Rushdie.”
ML: “But an-ex CIA guy, Bruce Riedel, says that if they were working with someone in a drug cartel, that would be a major departure from their previous behavior. He thinks it’s fishy, fishy, fishy.”
JJA: “Really! From what I hear, it’s well established that the Iranians are up to their necks in drug trafficking. After all, they operate at the source, inside Afghanistan, and you’ve written many times that Supreme Leader Khamenei is a consumer of opium. So they are in that network. They couldn’t operate without joint ventures with mafias and drug cartels. If there were better open reporting on Iran’s activities in Latin America, this would be common knowledge.”