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Scooter Libby (left), Lawrence Franklin and Karl Rove

The US capital is used to espionage cases that shake it every six to twelve months. Each one of them has, in its way, its own characteristics. For example, two years ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld created, practically behind the back of Congress, a new secret service [1]. The Pentagon was then accused of waging a war against both friends and foes.

Traditionally, Republicans have always had the urgent need to know each others’ political secrets and to collect compromising files about their own friends, let alone their enemies. Whatever their advocates may say, it is well known that discretion and an unpredictable nature have always been typical features of Washington’s policy under Republican administrations.

For example, the Philippines have never been hostile towards Washington. Actually, it is a loyal ally although Manila was a US protectorate in the past. However, as the habit becomes a conditioned response, the US special services put together a compromising file on President Gloria Arroyo, a file that, according to the Philippine Justice Minister, “could be used to destabilize the government of the Philippines”.

However, due to a boomerang effect, a trick of fate put the United States under the observation of spies who worked – what a paradox! - for the Philippine opposition.

A former US marine of Philippine origin, Leandro Aragonchillo, who worked for three years for the White House and later for the FBI, was arrested for having transmitted hundreds of documents and confidential data to his accomplices in Manila. Although they were mainly members of the opposition, the possibility that government officials could also be involved in the network is not ruled out. However, the spy was not professional enough and acted almost openly, downloading data from computers in the very heart of the “American” power.

This may seem very strange. But, if it is true, the leaders of many countries, particularly of those countries whose internal life the United States is trying to democratize, have many reasons to be concerned, including some loyal allies in the Near and the Middle East that we will not mention here. To top it off, these events make us think that such a vulnerable security system should have led other countries allied to Washington, not to mention its enemies, to wonder, just for the sake of curiosity, if the White House does or does not have compromising documents about them.

Another case that confirms this hypothesis is that of Lawrence Franklin, head of the Political Department of the Pentagon, who seems to have passed on, for several years, confidential documents to the Israeli embassy in the United States and to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Other countries should also question the sincerity and reliability of their American partners, mainly taking into account events that go beyond this scandal.

For example, the ABC television network, the first one that announced the arrest of the marine citing FBI and CIA sources, stated that it was the first case of espionage inside the White House, although that is untrue. In December 1971, also during a Republican administration, an unprecedented espionage scandal shook the Nixon administration. In that case, known as the “Moorer-Radford” case, a US Admiral who was the Commander in Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a noncommissioned officer of the USS Navy coding service who worked in the White House, were involved.

Thanks to almost unlimited access to confidential documents, including personal documents of Nixon’s national defense advisor, Henry Kissinger, for two consecutive years the noncommissioned officer transmitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff secret files about the secret projects of Nixon and Kissinger on foreign policy and the military – projects that they were hiding from diplomats and military leaders.

It was actually a military espionage cell infiltrated inside the White House by the Committee of Chiefs of Staff who opposed Nixon’s priorities in foreign policy, including the talks with the USSR about the reduction of strategic armaments. The presidential elections were close and Nixon buried the incident in a completely unexpected way: extending for another year the mandate of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Radford was discreetly discharged and the other accomplices only received light sentences without compromising the honor of the White House or that of the US Navy. Later, during the summer of 1972, another scandal broke out. It was as singular as the previous one but more famous, known as the Watergate, which relegated the Moorer-Radford case to a second level. According to FBI and CIA officers, today it has been completely forgotten.

But the case existed and it can be proved that it was a very characteristic one for Washington. “President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and other officials close to them made systematic and very effective efforts to disguise their real objectives about the most sensitive questions related to national security. Disguise and lies were amply used to the detriment of public opinion, media, the US Congress, the allies and even the members of the executive that, due to their duties, were in charge of consultations in matters of national security”, wrote Admiral Elmo Zimwalt in his memories.

We have to note that the allies do not escape the list, which is nothing new. Watching friends and foes, depending on the political circumstances, has for a long time been part of the US political culture, faithful to its double standards and interested only in achieving its mean goals. Many people appeal to the Constitution to denounce that they betray public trust – a typical US analysis. Other states, however, give priority to their trust in allies and partners.

[1] “SSB: Donald Rumsfeld’s Personal Secret Service», Voltaire, January 24, 2005.