Mark Perry, a long-term advocate of talking to terrorists and cutting deals with Hamas and Hezbollah, published a damaging piece in Foreign Policy reporting a memo accusing Israelis posing as CIA operatives of supporting Jundallah, a Baluchi terrorist group in Iran. Those seeking to bash Israel or exculpate Iran bent over backwards to support the Islamic Republic and jumped on the allegation. The National Iranian American Council, for example, accepted Perry’s report as fact and called Israeli behavior “appalling.” A memo’s existence, however, does not automatically validate its contents,. CIA analysts often push random theories, many based on supposition rather than fact. Some CIA memos are brilliant; others suggest their authors were valedictorians of their summer school class.
The article’s sourcing is problematic and should also raise red flags. Perry relies on two current intelligence officers, only one of whom has seen the memo alleging Israeli malfeasance. One officer—presumably the same who saw the memo and perhaps also wrote it—describes Bush’s reaction, and so presumably was a briefer for the White House. Should Gen. David Petraeus, director of Central Intelligence, wish to identify that leaker, he could do so easily. In addition, Perry talks to four retired intelligence officials, whose names and positions he also cloaks in anonymity. Allowing these officials a wall of anonymity from behind which to throw mud is problematic as intelligence officials have admitted leaks to advance personal political agendas.
At the very least, Foreign Policy should have printed when the retirees left the service. Retired Defense Intelligence Agency officer W. Patrick Lang, whose animus toward Israel is pronounced, for example, made a cottage industry during the Iraq war of commenting about matters following his retirement. He neither disclosed his role as a registered Foreign Agent nor the fact that he lacked direct knowledge of much for which he purported to be a source.
Perry’s previous work should also color the credibility with which his accusations are accepted. His book, Talking to the Enemy, was deeply problematic and showed a tendency to allow agenda and conspiracy to trump fact. Few analysts—even those with animus toward Israel—would be as willing as Perry to take Hezbollah at its word.
Nevertheless, Perry’s accusations are serious and deserve a response. Rather than allow the intelligence community to sway policy with innuendo, Petraeus should either back the accusation or declare it baseless. He and other intelligence community executives should investigate and plug the leaks. When unsanctioned leaks come from the State Department or the Pentagon, that would be bad enough, but such leaks are often fall into the realm of policy. Intelligence should be sacrosanct. When the intelligence community allows an individual’s political peccadilloes to corrupt its process, it permanently erodes its reputation and ability to conduct its mission. Should Petraeus decline to investigate, there are only three possibilities: He lacks control, he sanctioned the leaks himself, or conversely, his superiors in the White House are willing to corrupt intelligence to sanction anonymous Israel-bashing.