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Weissman writes: "If Obama tries to bring up any complaints of China hacking into U.S. defense contractors' computer system, the Chinese president can just respond that the United States is doing the same thing."

Ex-CIA operative Robert Baer. (photo: Channel 4 London)
Ex-CIA operative Robert Baer. (photo: Channel 4 London)

Edward Snowden Beware: How Spooks Smear Whistleblowers

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

11 June 13


ormer CIA officer Robert Baer never misses an opportunity. A 21-year veteran of clandestine operations in the Middle East and Soviet Central Asia, Baer is an engaging rogue who has become a man of letters. His books "See No Evil" and "Sleeping with the Devil" became the basis of the Oscar-winning "Syriana," and he widely offers his thoughts as intelligence correspondent for Time and in other publications.

Does Baer express only his own well-considered opinions? Or, like so many in his shadowy world, is he still spreading lies and half-truths on behalf his former employers at Langley?

His latest target is Edward Snowden, the top-secret techie who admits leaking the documents showing that his former employer, the National Security Agency, systematically tracks millions of U.S telephone calls and Internet communications. Snowden was last seen in Hong Kong, hoping, he says, to find political asylum either there or in Iceland.

"China could be behind NSA leaks," screams the Newsmax headline on Baer. "On the face of it, it looks like it's under some sort of Chinese control," Baer said, especially with U.S. president Barack Obama meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping …. "You have to ask what's going on? I mean, China is not a friendly country, and every aspect of that country is controlled."

Snowden could have fled to Sweden, Baer suggests helpfully. "And if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill."

The timing seemed to be "a pointed affront to the United States," Baer concludes. If Obama tries to bring up any complaints of China hacking into U.S. defense contractors' computer system, the Chinese president can just respond that the United States is doing the same thing.

"I can see the Chinese doing that," says Baer.

All vintage Robert Baer, and a throwback to the propaganda daze of the Cold War. Note how completely he shifts attention away from the massive U.S. surveillance that Snowden has revealed, offering only spy-fi speculation without any supporting evidence. He also adds an ominous note.

"We'll never get him from China. There's not a chance. He'll disappear there," says Baer. "He won't be able to go anywhere else, but if, in fact, the Chinese had a hand in this … they're not about to send him to The United States." So, if Snowden is "disappeared," as he himself warned could happen, Baer wants us to blame the Chinese and not his fellow-American masters of rendition.

Significantly, Baer has taken similar shots at another major whistleblower. Back in November 2010, in Foreign Policy magazine, he savaged the late Philip Agee, a former operations officer who had exposed the CIA in 1975, just before Baer went to his first interview to become an agency analyst. Instead, the recruiter tempted Baer with a copy of Agee's best-selling memoir, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary."

"Read this," said the recruiter, "and tell me whether you might be interested in operations."

The young applicant could not believe what the recruiter handed him. In Baer's words, the book "portrayed the CIA as an evil, secret society that pulled strings around the world, corrupting otherwise honest officials and overthrowing democratically elected governments. Agee described in detail how the CIA propped up Latin American juntas and corrupt regimes around the world."

"And worse," wrote Baer, "Agee named names - confidential sources and names of operatives - people who are supposed to work outside the public spotlight their entire lives."

Rather than being repulsed, Baer admits becoming fascinated that "there really might be such a thing as a secret society, one that channeled the currents of history" like some modern-day Knights Templar. Seduced, in part by Agee's revelations, he happily joined the ranks of the secret elite.

Flash forward to the pages of Foreign Policy, which incidentally has just published a ringing defense of the NSA's massive surveillance and data mining. In his 2010 story, Baer goes after his seducer in a feature article called "Havana's Man in Havana."

"The simple truth is that Agee was a fraud. No, let me be exact: He was a paid traitor. As the U.S. government would come to learn, Cuban intelligence was behind Agee's campaign against the CIA - and it paid him well for his work. Agee's claims of being driven by conviction and ideology were lies."

In contrast to his attack on Snowden, Baer pretends to offer evidence against Agee, all of it from the agency itself. But, hoping to help round out an instructive slice of history, I felt compelled to jump in and offer some first-hand evidence of my own.

Having worked closely with Phil Agee in London in the mid-1970s, I seriously doubt Baer's accusations, for which he offers no evidence other than hearsay. Even at the time, I knew that Phil had lived several months in Cuba, where he talked to the Cuban security services. But my impression from other sources was that neither the Cubans nor the Russians felt they could trust him. I also came to know Phil's "Russian contact" Edgar Cheporov, who worked in London as correspondent for the Novosti News Agency. I assumed Edgar was KGB and was reporting back to Moscow on what we were doing, but he never gave us any information or guidance that I saw. I must admit, I found Edgar extremely good company, and my wife Anna and I often went to London jazz clubs with him. Alas, we always split the check.

Even more to the point, Phil did not provide the original impetus for others of us to out CIA officers. That came from a former State Department officer named John Marks, who wrote an instructive article in the Washington Monthly, "How to Spot a Spook." As silly as it sounds, CIA officers working under diplomatic cover in American embassies always showed the same tell-tale career patterns. All we needed to spot them were the State Department's Biographic Registers and Foreign Service Lists, which we readily found in the library of the British Museum.

In the end, I don't really care whether Phil ever dined out on Havana or Moscow gold. Everything I saw him write or say about the CIA was true, as some of the agency's defenders had to admit. And, in telling the truth, he alerted millions of people to the threat the CIA's covert actions continue to pose, as much to the United States as to other countries.

As Baer's current attack suggests, these covert actions now threaten Edward Snowden and anyone else who reveals what our surveillance state is doing behind our backs without Constitutional authority. Hopefully, we have all learned from the individual courage of Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning, Philip Agee, and now Edward Snowden that it is possible to fight back, especially if we find nonviolent ways for massive numbers of us willing to stand up with them against Big Brother. We are beyond bearing witness or "talking truth to power." The time has come to show the too-often-hidden strength of popular outrage and to bring millions of others - right, left, and center - along with us.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

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+4 # jwb110 2013-06-11 22:09
Could there be more lunatics who have worked for the gov't?!
+1 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-13 15:14
Jwb Who are you referring to as a lunatic?
+16 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-11 22:11
Thanks for your preparation for the media assassination & onslaught to follow. Thanks to Edward Snowden & especially Bradley Manning for being a whistleblower about US, Canadian, NATO, Israeli atrocities & war-crimes. Thanks to those who use their minds as well as their hearts as part of one world soul to animate all of us in these fragile times.
On the subject of Banks & Corporations, we're in the beginning of launching an online web-based neighbourhood Human Resource Catalogue HRC, resource mapping & accounting in a Community Investment & Exchange System CIES in humanity's 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') 'economic' (Greek 'oikos' = 'home') tradition.
+13 # anarchteacher 2013-06-11 23:13

Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies
-9 # cordleycoit 2013-06-11 23:32
Anyone claiming affinity to Ramparts should be watched.In London they should be watched closely.
0 # dandevries 2013-06-13 12:42
Quoting cordleycoit:
Anyone claiming affinity to Ramparts should be watched.In London they should be watched closely.

Claiming? I do believe Weissman wrote for Ramparts for some time. (Some skulls can be a little numb.)
-11 # cherylpetro 2013-06-12 00:53
Why does this Right Wing plant want to seek asylum in China, or Russia? Something seems very odd about that! (Like he would do better there?) It shows that they guy is a mental moron! He didn't even get a two year degree from a community college, how did he get a consulting job at NSA? He is a Ron Paul supporter, which tells me he doesn't like rules, or laws, period. Sovereign Citizens back Ron Paul, and they think our laws don't apply to them, and they like to kill police and judges. I think it is a Republican attempt to get public sentiment against Obama, and then go in for the kill against healthcare. The Patriot Act was signed into law by Bush, yet suddenly it is a big deal? Throw in a few Repubes decrying the guy to make it look legit (gotta mix in a little dissent to make it look more believable, and the Republicans have a new/old Earth shattering event to try and bring down the black president. Republicans are the ants at a picnic; always attacking and biting, and ruin it for everyone. They are relentless jerks. They have crooks like Issa judging the Dems, and always attacking the president, whether it is valid, or not. It takes steel balls to attack the current President for following the law of the former Republican president. Of course, that is what Issa did when he was caught stealing a car..blamed someone else...his BROTHER! Republicans will stop at nothing to keep American citizens from getting healthcare; because that is just how very much they hate us!
+5 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-12 10:34
Cheryl, To bring you up to date on 'education' (Latin 'to lead forth from within'). Institutional education, which most dregs submit to has nothing to do with learning. As we all know children before the contradictions & subservience of schools are at their most innovative & integrating ability. Considering institutional knowledge vacuums, some like Edward Snowden, who still listen to internal knowledge, form apprentice relations with mentors & excel at whatever information systems which they apply themselves to.

Snowden as well removes himself from institutional truth-suppressi on, lack-luster slavishness, sick-apathy & irresponsible subservience to which you seem to align yourself. While we may agree that; Ron Paul's laissez-faire economic policy is a disaster, Paul & Snowden stand up to vast abuses of the Miltary-Industr ial-Complex.
+16 # RMDC 2013-06-12 04:52
Guys like Baer are trained to see enemies everwhere. His books and celebrity status are based on his fantasies about enemies of the US.

In reality, most likely Snowden is a headache for the Chinese in the same way Assange is a headache for the Equadorans. No one wants to cross the US because the US regime is vindictive in so many ways, most of them covert. But sometimes nations are caught in a situation where they have to do the right thing. Handing Snowden over to the US regime would be a humiliation for any nation. Everyone knows Snowden will be tortured and paraded as a captured spy and traitor. He is not. He simply told Americans what they needed to know.

Baer is also cashing in. It will be very popular for ex-spooks to come on TV and condemn Snowden. That's how the propaganda system works and Bear knows there a lot of money to be made in playing a role.
+10 # RnR 2013-06-12 05:20
The fact that Baer's story shifts guilt from the O administration (unlawfully tapping and recording anything that moves) to Snowden and his supposed instigators (in this case the Chinese are behind this) just reeks.

If there wasn't anything to leak in the first place this would not have happened. If the O administration hadn't been so zealous in its' persecution of whistleblowers and plain old journalists we wouldn't be so willing to dump O in the garbage can, where, at this point, I truly believe he belongs.
+6 # Andrew Hansen 2013-06-12 06:15
Right on the mark.
+3 # oakes721 2013-06-12 07:47
This guy's riding shotgun with Satan, making the world safe for corruption. A direct attack on honesty with no qualms about the carnage caused in the wake of his 'creativity', evidently having no real values other than self preservation. Nice tan.
0 # Douglas Jack 2013-06-13 15:12
Oakes, The article has a few subjects. Of whom are you speaking about?

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