June 23, 2004 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Everyone's favorite unidentified 22-year CIA veteran who used to hunt Osama bin Laden, Anonymous, is back with a new book, "Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror," and suggests that al-Qaida may try to reward Bush before the election. Last year, Anonymous created a stir with another book and was interviewed on Nightline. If only he had a scramble suit, he could do a book tour.
posted by homunculus (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Talking Points Memo had a few interviews with Anonymous. Scroll down to June 21 (the permalink doesn't seem to work right) and below.

Here's a really grim quote:

"Without the option to work for reform, a large portion of what Anonymous advocates is essentially a policy of brutal and unforgiving war..."
posted by StOne at 12:49 AM on June 24, 2004

Thanks. The permalinks are working for me here and here. Sobering stuff.
posted by homunculus at 2:34 AM on June 24, 2004

Anonymous is one prolific author!
posted by moonbird at 3:43 AM on June 24, 2004

Note that the NYT articles identifies Anonymous as "Mike" (apparently his true first name), the head of the CIA's specialized "Alec" (Bin Laden) station from '96 through '99. James Bamford's A Pretext for War describes Mike as someone seen as:
[...] an unkempt, tactless, annoying manager who had little understanding of the international ramifications of some of his suggestions. Killing innocent women, children and members of the royal families in harebrained, and likely to fail, cruise missile assassinations was the best way to increase, not decrease, hatred and terrorism directed against the United States.

Complaints began coming in, even from the White House. Mike later acknowledged that many even within his own agancy believed he and his unit had gone off the deep end. "The rest of the CIA and the intelligence community looked on our efforts as eccentric and, at times, fanatic" he said. In 1999, after three years as head of Alec Station, Mike transferred to another job at CIA headquarters.
from p.216, James Bamford A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies, Doubleday, 2004.
(Via Laura Rozen's excellent blog, "War and Piece".

Rozen also reports that Mike is one of the few high-ranking people to serve in both Operations and Intelligence. Mike is not "covert", by the way.

Not having read the book, but having read many reports of it in the last week, Anonymous sounds a bit nuts to me. Well, that's harsh. He thinks he's being relentlessly pragmatic.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:53 AM on June 24, 2004

A bit of a derail, but I'm a bit depressed that it seems that(at 28) I'm too old to be a CIA operative. And in a somewhat related note, the guy hiding in that shadow picture looks a lot older than 22 to me.
posted by nprigoda at 5:07 AM on June 24, 2004

"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

What kind of polling data does Al Qaeda have that would support this assertion? I find this sort of thing dangerous and troubling to say, because it's really anyone's guess as to what the effect of another pre-election (God forbid) attack would have. Though they shouldn't be understimated, this kind of thinking perpetuates the media-driven perception that Al Qaeda is a super high-tech and omniscient organization like James Bond's SPECTRE.
posted by psmealey at 5:12 AM on June 24, 2004

"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

What kind of polling data does Al Qaeda have that would support this assertion?

It doesn't have to be Al Qaeda, unfortunately. Mounting an attack and blaming it on them would work just as well, no?
posted by amberglow at 5:18 AM on June 24, 2004

I agree that at this point an Al Qaeda attack on US soil would be unpredictable in terms of public sentiment toward Bush. Lots of folks take it as axiomatic that it would solidify his support—and they do so for the very good reason that the public typically rallies to the President in these sorts of situations.

However, I think this particular case should be examined in the context of 9/11 and everything that's happened since. All the polling shows Bush's ratings on terror and Iraq falling (the latter now majority unfavorable, the former getting close). An Al Qaeda attack on US soil would further call into question the idea that the Bush admin's response to 9/11 has made Americans safer.

My guess is that for everyone else but independents and the center, it would be a wash. The Republican faithful would rally strongly behind Bush, while the Democrat and leftist faithful would be even more antagonistic. But they're going to vote that way anyway. The center and independents are leaning heavily away from Bush at this point, and my intuition tells me that an Al Qaeda attack would push them, in aggregate, away from Bush, not toward. (I say "aggregrate" because I think some polarizing would occur within the center in response as it would elsewhere.)

So, on balance, an Al Qaeda attack would likely hurt Bush, in my opinion, probably enough to put the nail in his coffin.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:24 AM on June 24, 2004

EB, I don't necessarily disagree with you, what I'm saying is that I don't believe the people in Al Qaeda that plan such things have a sophisticated understanding of the psychology of the American electorate. At this point, their data points are: pre-election Madrid attacks -> incumbents thrown out. (I'm not suggesting that the attack influenced the election, btw, I am merely positing that this is how al Qaeda might perceive it.)

Why, at this point, would they assume that another, similarly timed attack would have the opposite effect on the outcome of the US General election?
posted by psmealey at 5:38 AM on June 24, 2004

I really have no clue what the Al Qaeda leadership thinks or is likely to think about the political ramifications of an attack on the US. Spain worked in their favor. Will they think the same thing would happen here? But how much that actually affected the Spanish vote is much debated; and, anyway, the Spaniards were pretty dead-set against the war from the beginning anyway. I don't think you can compare Spain to the US in this context at all. Whether Al Qaeda understands that or not is, as you point out, another question.

But you know they want to attack again on US soil, regardless. I suspect their thinking about how it would affect the election is a minor point in comparison to their simple desire to attack.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2004

EB, I agree with you entirely. That's exactly the point I was trying to make, albeit in a roundabout way. When it comes down to it, I don't think al Qaeda cares to understand the nuances between Bush, Kerry or Ralph Nader, it's irrelevant to their goals.
posted by psmealey at 5:52 AM on June 24, 2004

A bit of a derail, but I'm a bit depressed that it seems that(at 28) I'm too old to be a CIA operative. And in a somewhat related note, the guy hiding in that shadow picture looks a lot older than 22 to me.

nprigoda, I think "22-year CIA veteran" means that he's been in the CIA for 22 years. Assuming he wasn't drafted at birth, he's probably much older than you.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:17 AM on June 24, 2004

"Anonymous" my ass. We all know it's Joe Klein.
posted by soyjoy at 8:37 AM on June 24, 2004

Meanwhile, Bush questioned over CIA leak
posted by homunculus at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2004

Public exposure of Mr. Anonymous by White-House-favorite-pundit coming in 5... 4... 3... 2...
posted by wendell at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2004

I seem to recall, although it's been about twelve hours, arguing that the US isn't like Spain, and that it's the failures of the Bush admin in Iraq and elsewhere that have changed the equation, not 9/11. Dissent wouldn't be universally regarded as heresy after another attack—there'd be a lot of anger this time that someone in authority didn't prevent it. That's their job. On 9/11, pretty much everyone agreed (although it wasn't true) that no one could have expected someone to fly two planes into the WTC and another into the Pentagon. Not so with anything, really, ever again.

The US has changed since 9/11—dramatically—with regard to internal security issues and terrorism. Yeah, people say they expect another attack, but they also expect the government to prevent one.

I don't disagree that among the usual suspects and a portion of the middle there'd be a reflexive rallying around the President. But the non-right wing press wouldn't treat him with kid gloves this time around—they know now how much Bush knew pre-9/11 and how little he took it seriously. They'll be itching to find a similar story. As much as the US rallied aroung the Pres and the flag after 9/11, there was, even then, a hunger to scapegoat someone. You better believe that hunger will be increased tenfold after a second attack.

There's not much point in trying to argue this with you, though. If it happens, we'll find out who's right; although that will be petty and trivial in that context. I don't recall seeing anything from you lately about the election; but I have the suspicion that you're similarly gloomy and near-paranoid about it, as well. That is an event which will almost certainly come to pass and I confidently predict that Kerry will win, by a significant margin. We can reassess each others' credibility in November.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2004

The secret history of Anonymous: The author of Imperial Hubris is unmasked and says he fears for his job at the CIA, not for his life at the hands of Al Qaeda.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on June 30, 2004

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