Russian "Mole" In CENTCOM... In Clear View
Since the news came out that we found documents in Iraq indicating that the Russian ambassador there had given parts of our "war plans" to the former government before the 2003 invasion, some people, including mil-blogger Aubrey J., have wondered how Russia could have gotten a "mole" into CENTCOM. The news reports make it sound pretty bad:
"The Russian government had sources inside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians passed information to Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents released as part of a Pentagon report."
Aubrey J. asks: "Who is the Mole???How are we going to catch him??? And should he be executed for his crimes???"
Here's the deal: The "mole", if there was one, was almost certainly one of the Russian liaison officers at CENTCOM. Check out the list of the countries in the Coalition for the GWOT; every one of them had (and maybe still has) one or more liaison officers at CENTCOM HQ in Tampa, and during the more active parts of the war, would have liaisons forward deployed to Doha, Qatar.
When I showed up at CENTCOM HQ in Tampa back in August 2003, I was really surprised to see Russian officers there; I was even more surprised the first time I went into the SCIF and saw one there. The thing is, the Global War On Terror requires us to look at the world through a new mindset; the Cold War is over, and we won. Having Russian liaison officers helped in coordinating our actions in Afghanistan. Sure, they tried to collect intelligence on us, but CENTCOM was pretty good at keeping the Iraq info compartmented from Afghanistan stuff. Plus, check out some of the information that was passed to the Russian ambassador, which they don't mention in the Fox News Story:
"One document, dated after the start of the air assault, claimed the US had decided that occupying Iraqi cities would be "impossible", and had changed their plans accordingly. Another seemed to have provided faulty information on the exact timing of the American assault on Baghdad that would have aided American forces.
"A document dated April 2 2003 from Iraq's foreign minister to Saddam said the attack would not begin until the US 4th Infantry Division, which had become stranded on ships in the Mediterranean after Turkey refused to cooperate in the invasion, arrived around April 15. This helped the US military to give the impression that the invasion was still some way off, in order to catch Saddam's regime by surprise, the Pentagon report said. In fact, the US military began the attack before the division was in place and the Iraqi capital fell on April 9.
"US forces moved into Iraq across the border with Kuwait but the report said the Iraqis were receiving intelligence which "fed suspicions that the attack out of Kuwait was merely a diversion". Another document, dated April 2, claimed Russia told Iraq that the US would cut Baghdad off from the south, east and north, concentrating its efforts around Karbala, where it would amass 12,000 troops and 1,000 vehicles - a claim that bears more resemblance to what actually happened."
So basically it looks like the Iraqis got fed three pieces of information: two that any 2nd Lieutenant could figure out with a dull pencil, and one nice big fat piece of disinformation. Sounds to me like we used the "Russian information conduit" pretty nicely. We should give the "mole" a medal, not a bullet.
Update 1902 25 March: Corrected the name of mil-blogger Aubrey J.; also added his site to my blogroll, since he's got a really good blog. Captain's Quarters also has a piece on this story that wonders who the "mole" was...