The A.R. Interview
EX-D.I.A. OFFICER QUESTIONS 9/11 REPORT, FAULTS HUMAN INTELLIGENCE LACK
by Margie Burns
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- Ted Pahle has retired after 34 years of experience in intelligence matters with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and U.S. Army Intelligence. Now it's his turn to speak up, and he has.
"I'm not a whistleblower," he told the American Reporter. "I do not consider myself a whistleblower, that's the wrong word for it. This neglect of human intelligence has been going on for about thirty years, and we're now paying the price. The problem is with the leadership in intelligence, rather than with the people doing the intelligence."
Pahle has strong reactions to the report of the 9/11 Commission, but says, "I don't want to be listed as a whistleblower. I want you to recognize that I have strong support for the intelligence community, which I've been part of for 34 years. I'm just a retired DIA guy, speaking out on behalf of the humint community," which in his view is being seriously neglected.
Pahle also feels that the "humint" community is often doing a "fabulous" job, though this view does not entirely include the CIA. "The CIA was not good enough to do it all," Pahle sums up. The CIA is "still very parochial" and "wants all the glory."
"That's what the hunt for bin Laden is about", he says - a "CIA rush for glory."
Pahle was interviewed in Washington.
AR: Osama bin Laden is back in the news. Pakistan's Gen. Musharraf, who told more than one news agency in early 2002 that he thought UBL had been killed, directly or indirectly, by the bombing of Bora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001, is now saying that bin Laden is still alive. Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry and his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, recently referred to bin Laden as in hiding. Do you think Osama bin Laden is still alive?
Pahle: "No. I think he died in Tora Bora. Why? Because, by now, his reappearance, which could have been easily confirmed without compromising his location - he's smart, he would have been easily able to do that - would have been a terrible blow to American recovery after 9/11."
"To have Osama bin Laden reappear and say, 'I'm still alive, and I'm coming back!' Would have been absolutely devastating to the American economy," he said. Pahle recommends Walter Laquer's book on terrorism, "The Methods and Motivations of the Terrorist."
"You have to remember, terrorism is an act or the threat of an act; it doesn't have to be an act. ... The purpose is to gain a reaction greater than the terrorist action."
AR: What do you think of the "reforms" proposed by the 9/11 Commission?
Pahle: "I am absolutely devastated at what they're doing: throwing more money, more layers of bureaucracy, at the organization. It's the American way," he says ironically, to "throw more money" when something goes wrong.
"The intelligence community does not have to be a monster; it doesn't have to be huge; it has to be focused," he emphasizes. "It can be small." What is important, in getting a qualified person, is background, education.
"You can't take somebody out of Oklahoma with a Master's degree in Middle East studies; that's more dangerous than anything. Like Condoleezza Rice; she may be a brilliant scholar, but she belongs on the Stanford campus; she doesn't belong in the business of espionage," Pahle says. "That's what I'm angry about: ...The long-term stupidity."
"They've been politicizing humint for the last thirty years," he said.
AR: The open letter to the 9/11 Commission refers to "omission" of serious cases, issues, and problems, in the 9/11 Commission report (see http://pogo.org/m/hsp/hsp-911commission-040913.pdf). What were some omissions you had in mind?
Pahle: "Maritime security. This is not an overland issue, it's purely a maritime issue. To the best of my knowledge there were only two intelligence officers assigned to the Coast Guard in the port of Long Beach, in Los Angeles," for example. "If you invite humint to the party, humint will play, but if you only have one token humint with all this other emphasis on resources for signal catching, electronic capabilities ... I still don't believe that we are serious."
The administration is budgeting "lots of money for electronics, but where's the hiring?" Pahle asked. You need to hire good people, qualified people, "and to train them properly, that's the big issue."
"Border patrol folks don't get any training in talking to people, debriefing," he said. "It's not interrogation; it's just knowing how to say 'Hi, What's up?', etc.," he said.
"They need to have scrutiny."
AR: Do you think the DIA was pressured into supporting the Iraq invasion?
Pahle: "I can tell you that a lot of people in the DIA, especially in the analytical community, shrugged their shoulders and said this is a real stretch, when Saddam Hussein was linked by the administration to 9/11."
"You might be able to link him ideologically, but if you're going to do that, you link not only him but a lot of other people around the world." "I think the president's personal involvement with Saddam Hussein was the overriding issue."
Pahle provides a parallel: "I lived in Iran for eight years; I was in the U.S. embassy till just before the takeover." Like Iran, he said, "Iraq is a country with tremendous wealthy resources," including oil.
"The Iraqi people are very industrious, at least they tend to be, but they're split by tribal rule, and by ideological divisions, by rich versus have nots. Let me give you a parallel: in 1977 and 1978, we in the U.S. had a relationship, a tremendous commercial investment with Iran, and the moment that things got a little bit rough, the commercial sector found out that hands might be cut off (when the Iranian regime threatened to cut off the right hands of foreigners as punishment for greed), when that first came out, we - GE, Rockwell, you name it, all the biggies -- packed up their people and sent them home.
"We booked, and within a couple of months after that, when a couple of bombs were thrown at U.S. housing, etc., we evacuated Iran, and damned be the $17 billion" Americahad invested there.
"Today, no one's talking about departure" from Iraq. He asks rhetorically, "What's happened since 1978?" No one even got a hand cut off in Iran, and now we're having Americans' heads cut off; are we really that much tougher now? With the economy, now it's an issue of necessity."
AR: So one big reason for our being in Iraq is oil?
Pahle: "That's one of the reasons I retired a year and a half ago. I've always supported what I've done in the Intelligence Community, but it just got too difficult. It was hard for me to swallow." He retired in April of 2003, so "I'm really restricted to what I've been reading. I don't know the amount of force structure that's been committed" to protecting Iraqi oil, relative to forces protecting the infrastructure, for reconstruction,and other needs, he said.
"All I know is that we've got GIs coming back saying, 'We've been guarding truck drivers, guys on trucks, who are making six figures,' delivering supplies and personnel, while the GI is making $24,000 per year, and I believe it; I believe what I'm hearing.
"That makes it very difficult to motivate young guys to go into the military, unless they just don't have anything else."
AR: Back to the 9/11 attacks, why did the plotters have to pick guys who didn't know how to fly, and give them flying lessons? Couldn't they have found attackers who had pilot's licenses, or at least knew how to fly?
Pahle: "I think I can give you a reasonable answer to that, because I lived and worked so long with the Middle Eastern mentality. For religion, for an objective that'll give you great stature, you need somebody who subscribes to that. If you've already taken flight lessons, then you've signed up to professional duties as a pilot, at a level of intellect that has already subscribed to having professional responsibilities, some discipline."
Someone in the Arab world who has had flight training probably "had fairly good family, had at least some education, at least some opportunity," and wouldn't be "as good a recruit for a suicidal attack," Pahle says. "If I'm asking someone to do something stupid, like fly a plane into a building, the least amount of intellectual level is necessary for that."
The person who can be recruited for a suicide mission "won't always bring skills," he said.
"That's the difference between European terrorism, the Red Brigade and so on, back in the seventies; they were dissatisfied college kids taking on the Establishment. The Middle East terrorist is a lost soul who's being given an opportunity to at least do something with his life. It's easier to train a pilot [to fly into a building] than to find one, willing to fly into a building. If I'm trying to get someone to take a mission, the big factor is willingness."
AR: Why did the hijackers have to take their flying lessons in the U.S., at maximum danger or risk of being observed and caught? Couldn't they have taken their aviation lessons in some other country with less risk?
Pahle: "That's a superb question, by the way. Learning to fly a plane, which basically you can do anywhere in the world," is one thing. It's another thing to learn "the language, habits of airports, techniques of flying in this country, the U.S. aviation industry," he says.
If you learn to fly in Turkey, for example, you're not going to be familiar with flying here in the U.S. Also, he adds, "If you learn how to fly in most of the world, there's going to be some kind of security system that's going to look you over. In the U.S., learning to fly is no different from driving an automobile."
If you're asked in this country why you want to learn to fly, all you need is "money and time and dreams of doing it. That answer would not be acceptable in Turkey," he says.
"It's like buying a gun in the U.S. Try buying a gun in other countries, and you have to answer questions; you get more scrutiny," he notes.
"What the hijackers were doing was, as we say in intelligence, hiding the bush inside the forest."
AR: Is it true that some of the hijackers' pilot training was at U.S. military installations?
Pahle: "We train so many foreign pilots in U.S., both rotary and fixed-wing ... what names do they use when they go thru training, how old were they, since faces change in a few years, it's hard to say. I would say, it's very unlikely."
AR: Why is the biggest U.S. embassy in the world being built in Iraq?
Pahle: "Actually, the embassy in Colombia is the largest in the world. The question to ask is what is the make-up of the embassy?
"An embassy is nothing more than a building for the federal government to operate effectively outside the country. Obviously the planners have already levied their requirements for personnel on the embassy."
There is also a question whether the Iraqi embassy in the U.S. will have reciprocity, will be an equivalent size, he notes.
"What is the Iraqi embassy going to look like in the U.S.? At this point the Iraqi government wouldn't push that."
AR: What was [American Airlines Flight 77 hijacker] Majed Moqed's real name? Why isn't his real name being released??
Pahle: "It's nothing conspiratorial. It's what happens often in our business. There are often significant lapses in following up, in checking. Much of that checking is still done manually by interested parties, that's one of our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Many items need additional referencing, analysis, Sherlock Holmes kind of work."
"I'm just a person who has been part of the DoD humint structure. The IC is a monster, a huge structure, and every part of it is different from every other part, in philosophy, in budgeting, you name it. Watching the human community over the years, I've seen the human community absolutely neglected, abandoned, ostracized within the IC, in the political structure, while electronic capabilities get huge funding.
"We need a sociological and philosophical change in our government, in our leadership. If we're going to fix the Intelligence Community we may have to clean house first, from top to bottom."
That is politically difficult, he knows, partly because human intelligence is more complicated: "Satellites are fabulous. Human operations have the potential for embarrassment. [Former CIA director] Bobby Ray Inman was an idiot when it comes to humint, and there are a lot of others who are the same way."