Friday, September 5, 2008

US Employed 'Groundbreaking' Spying Against Iraqi PM: Woodward

Stephen C. Webster

'Everything is F*cking Spin,' McCain said of WH

Update at bottom: Iraq govt says it will ask US if it spied on PM; White House declines to comment

Bob Woodward, the journalist partly responsible for bringing about President Nixon's resignation during the Watergate scandal, will see his new book on the Bush Administration published Monday. And while the volume is a lengthy study of the administration's failures, even Sen. John McCain, now the GOP nominee to the presidency, does not escape the light of his pen.

"Everything is f*cking spin," says McCain in the new book, "The War Within," of the Bush Administration.

Fox News, which secured a copy of Woodward's book ahead of its release, brought the details to light in a Thursday report. Coming on the eve of McCain's acceptance speech to the GOP, the report appears as little more than spin itself. Fox reported the quote without context.

Spin or none, it will be difficult for the administration to step back from some of Woodward's other revelations.

"Groundbreaking" new covert techniques, and not the troop "surge," was behind the drop in violence in Iraq, he writes. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with his staff, were these techniques' guinea pigs, and were wrapped tightly in a web of next-generation spying.

Employing these unspecified techniques against Maliki and aides allowed US forces to "hear every word he says," states a Thursday night report from the Washington Post.

"Overall, Woodward writes, four factors combined to reduce the violence: the covert operations; the influx of troops; the agreement by militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to rein in his powerful Mahdi Army; and the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied with U.S. forces," reports the Post.

"The War Within" is Woodward's fourth book on the Bush Administration, but only the second to veer into criticism of the president.

"The book portrays an administration riven by dissension, either unwilling or slow to confront the deterioration of its strategy in Iraq during the summer and early fall of 2006," says the Post. "Publicly, Bush maintained that U.S. forces were 'winning'; privately, he came to believe that the military's long-term strategy of training Iraq security forces and handing over responsibility to the new Iraqi government was failing. Eventually, Woodward writes, the president lost confidence in the two military commanders overseeing the war: Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command."

"Calling Bush 'the nation’s most divisive figure,' Woodward criticized the president for failing to fulfill what some might view as impossible expectations.

"'He had not rooted out terror wherever it existed,' Woodward scolded," said Fox. "'He had not achieved world peace. He had not attained victory in his two wars.'"

The Washington Post, where Woodward currently serves as an associate editor, will run excerpts on Sept. 7. That night, Woodward will be interviewed on CBS television's "60 Minutes."

Woodward's literary representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, declined comment when asked whether President Bush, who spoke with Woodward for the first two volumes, had been interviewed for the current book.

"There has not been such an authoritative and intimate account of presidential decision making since the Nixon tapes and the Pentagon Papers," Woodward's longtime editor, Alice Mayhew, said. "This is the declassification of what went on in secret, behind the scenes."

Iraq govt says it will ask US if it spied on PM
The Iraqi government reacted sharply Friday to published allegations that the U.S. spied on Iraq's prime minister, warning that future ties with the United States could be in jeopardy if the report is true.

The excerpt from Woodward's book emerged as the two governments are in delicate negotiations over the future of American troops in Iraq. Those talks have already extended past their July 31 deadline and have drawn sharp criticism from Iraqis who want an end to the U.S. presence.

Critics may well use the allegation to step up pressure on the government not to sign a deal or hold out for the most favorable terms.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Baghdad will raise the allegations with the U.S. and ask for an explanation. But if true, he warned, it shows a lack of trust.

"It reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spy on their friends and their enemies in the same way," al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

"If it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions," al-Dabbagh added, referring to the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

In Washington, the White House declined to comment directly on the allegations (FULL EXCERPTS FROM WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING FOLLOW). Instead, spokeswoman Dana Perino said official channels of communication between the two governments happen daily.

"We have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking because he tells us, very frankly and very candidly, as often as we can," Perino said.

Excerpts from White House briefing
Q Dana, to the Woodward book --

MS. PERINO: Mm-hmm.

Q -- if you have any comments on the Woodward book in general, and particularly the allegations of spying on the Iraqi government -- the Iraqi government's spokesman said today, if it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions, referring to CIA and others. And your concerns about whether this might slow down any sort of strategic forces agreement.

MS. PERINO: Is that it? (Chuckles.) Okay, I -- I haven't -- I don't have a copy of the book yet. And we did receive one or two at the White House late yesterday evening, and they are working through it. So all I know is that the coverage of the book that I've seen -- that I've written -- that I've read in news reports of it, I would say that in general, the president of the United States -- any president of the United States is criticized for lots of different things.

I think the results of the surge are undeniable. And in Washington, sometimes you see that the process has been -- comes under extra scrutiny and can be picked apart in ways that aren't reflective of the end result. This president, it seems to me that he gets criticism that if he's -- if he's perceived to be careful or deliberative, he's accused of being slow; and if he is decisive, he is accused of being impulsive and rash.

So with that said, I would just point to the fact that we would not comment on any of the assertions in the book regarding the allegation that you brought up.

What I can tell you is we have extensive cooperative with Prime Minister Maliki. Our ambassador sees him almost daily. President Bush speaks to him by secure video teleconference at least every other week, if not more. And we have a -- we have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking because he tells us, very frankly and very candidly, as often as he can. And that's one of the reasons we've been able to succeed in a lot of these different areas, especially in the economic, diplomatic and security areas.

Q But are you concerned, given the statements that are coming out of Iraq today, about that they want an explanation? If this is true, it could hurt relations. Are you concerned about statements like that?

MS. PERINO: I -- as I said, I would not comment on it. To the extent that they have any concerns, because we have the relationship that we have with them, which is one that's very frank, open and candid, that we have contact with them every single day, I'm sure that they'll be talking about it.

Q To follow up on that, Dana, why are you not simply denying the allegations in Woodward's book?

MS. PERINO: Why am I not denying what allegations?

Q Denying that there is -- that spying --

MS. PERINO: I didn't deny it. I said I decline to comment on it. And I will decline to comment on it.

Q And also, what is the latest on the negotiations with the Iraqi government on the Strategic Framework Agreement? Is there a possibility that any announcement on this will be coupled with an announcement on the troop --

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so. I don't think that they're going to be coupled. We still have some things to work out with them.

And our negotiators had a little bit of a break over the past week, and I'm sure they'll be starting that up again early next week. And let me give you an update when we get -- when they get back. But I don't think that that announcement would be coupled. If that changes, I'll let you know.

Source: RawStory.Com

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