Skip to comments.Dispute Over France a Factor in Intelligence Rift
Posted on 05/22/2010 12:46:15 PM PDT by Seizethecarp
WASHINGTON An already strained relationship between the White House and the departing spymaster Dennis C. Blair erupted earlier this year over Mr. Blairs efforts to cement close intelligence ties to France and broker a pledge between the nations not to spy on each other, American government officials said Friday.
The White House scuttled the plan, officials said, but not before President Nicolas Sarkozy of France had come to believe that a deal was in place. Officials said that Mr. Sarkozy was angered about the miscommunication, and that the episode had hurt ties between the United States and France at a time when the two nations are trying to present a united front to dismantle Irans nuclear program.
Officials said the dust-up was not the proximate cause of President Obamas decision to remove Mr. Blair, who announced his resignation on Thursday, from the job as director of national intelligence, but was a contributing factor in the mutual distrust between the White House and members of Mr. Blairs staff. The episode also illuminates the extent to which communications between the presidents aides and Mr. Blair had deteriorated during a period of particular alarm about terrorist threats to the United States.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
(US-UK no-spying agreement discussed farther into the story)
Mr. Blair had pressed for a pact between the United States and France that would have halted espionage operations on each others soil, a more formal version of Americas gentlemans agreement with Britain.
The informal agreement with London is built on decades of trust between the American and British governments. Officials said that Mr. Blair had come to believe that Mr. Sarkozys presidency was a unique opportunity for two countries long suspicious of each others motives to build lasting security ties.
But others worried that a written pact the first of its kind for the United States would handcuff the United States if a new government came to power in France that was more hostile to American foreign policy goals.
What people balked at was the suggestion of a formal, written, no-spy pact, signed by heads of state, said one American intelligence official. How would you verify it by spying?
A spokesman for the intelligence director declined to comment.
Unlike Americas relationship with Britain and other close allies like Australia, the United States and France have a long history of spying on each other. For example, intelligence experts said the French had been particularly aggressive in trying to steal secrets about the American defense and technology industries. For its part, the United States has long been suspicious of French government and business ties to countries like Iran and Syria, and about North African militant groups whose operatives work inside France.
In recent months, Mr. Blair had also made a push to rein in covert activities carried out by the C.I.A., reflecting his view that the United States had become too enamored over stealth activities.
He even developed rules to guide policy makers before they approved a covert action. Among them were guidelines that covert activity should never be employed for the purpose of circumventing a lack of U.S. public support for any particular overt policy, according to one American official.
Officials said that some in the White House and C.I.A. bristled at Mr. Blairs efforts to exert greater oversight over covert action. The reaction, they said, puzzled Mr. Blair, who had thought he had been given a degree of authority over these activities.
There appears to have been similar miscommunication on the France episode. Officials said that while Mr. Blair had been authorized to work out new intelligence-sharing arrangements with the French, he was specifically told by the White House that a formal no-spying pact was off the table.
Despite Obama kissing up to our enemies, Panetta’s CIA didn't want to give up spying on the French, it seems, even when they were willing to agree not to spy on us.
If Obama isn't even willing to trust the French, how can he be willing to trust a whole lot of undemocratic despots under his proposed nonproliferation, unilateral disarmament and no preemptive first strike schemes?
The conclusion I draw is that, as with its activities under Bush, the CIA is basically rogue and can leak damaging info on whoever it wants, whenever it wants, to bring them down and keep its autonomy.
“I don’t wanna be French.” - Lady Gaga