David Murfee Faulk was a translator in the Navy, working in Arabic and Iraqi dialect. In April 2004 he began working for the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Gordon outside Augusta, Georgia. (He now writes, under the name Murfee Faulk, for the Metro Spirit newspaper in Augusta, but he has never written about what he did for the NSA.)
Faulk says that in May 2004 he found an extremely large text file containing grid coordinates for alleged chemical weapons sites in Iraq. Faulk showed it to his supervisor, who was surprised. But he was not surprised that the file existed, only that it had not been deleted. The supervisor said he had believed all such files had been deleted, and that there had been a great many of them. In fact, according to this supervisor, U.S. Special Forces had gone to the locations and found nothing.
That’s what usually happens, Faulk’s supervisor told him, when you get something from the Israelis. “Four out of five times it’s complete and total bullshit.”
I asked veteran Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Ray McGovern what he made of this, and he said that there is “no such thing as a ‘friendly’ intelligence service. Reporting from liaison services always needs to be taken with utmost reserve. That goes in spades for what comes from the Israelis, the more so since they have unique, yes unique, access to the White House and Pentagon, and are thus able to circumvent the intelligence bureaucracy set up to vet and evaluate raw intelligence and prevent unverified and/or tendentious ‘intelligence’ from reaching senior officials, lest they be misled.”
With regard to other pieces of Israeli “intelligence” on Iraq’s mythical weapons of “mass destruction,” McGovern said: “Yes, most of the Israeli ‘intelligence’ on things like chemical weapons in Iraq was of little or no value. Worse still, data like coordinates for suspected chemical weapons-related sites could not be dispassionately evaluated by objective intelligence analysts because the key function of imagery analysis was ceded by the CIA to the Pentagon in 1996. What sergeant was going to tell Rumsfeld that Israeli sources and the ‘intelligence’ from the Israelis or the likes of [Ahmed] Chalabi were certainly not worth what Rumsfeld was paying for. At the same time, if truth was not the objective, but rather reports alleging this or that WMD-related sites, well, the Israelis were performing a useful service for the likes of Doug Feith, who would bundle them up and give them to the ‘Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal’ for passing to the president. Woof! Proof!”
McGovern seemed to find it perfectly possible that “evidence” of the sort that Faulk stumbled upon was voluminous: “The neuralgic search for WMD pointed up the problem. US chief WMD-searcher, David Kay, has told lurid stories of being awakened in Iraq at all hours by people working in the office of the Vice President: ‘Hey we got new coordinates; check them out!'”
McGovern recalled one instance of someone speaking openly about the quality of Israeli “intelligence.” When John Negroponte was Director of National Intelligence, National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel asked him to explain why the Israelis have suggested a much shorter timeline for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. “I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do [is] give you the worst-case assessment,” Negroponte said.
Faulk is not the first former NSA employee from Fort Gordon to speak about things he saw there. In fact, Faulk contacted me after reading an article I wrote last July ( http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/24183 ) when Adrienne Kinne decided that she would stay silent no longer. (She also told her story on “Democracy Now” this month: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/13/fmr_military_intelligence_officer ). Kinne described the priority that was given to less than credible WMD claims that came in from Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. She also described how the NSA’s policies with regard to spying on Americans changed completely on September 11, 2001. Prior to that date, she said, it was unacceptable to listen in on or collect information on Americans. The practice was barred by United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18. Kinne recalled an incident in 1997 in which an American’s name was mentioned, and she and her colleagues deleted every related record because they took very seriously the ban on collecting information on Americans. After September 2001, she said, it was acceptable to spy on Americans even after identifying them as aid workers for non-governmental organizations. Faulk confirmed that this was the policy when he worked there as well.
It’s a shame that we have to learn what our government is up to, after the fact, from former employees daring to speak out, but if more of them would do so the risk to them would be lessened, our knowledge increased, and our government’s worst abuses reined in.