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December 5, 2006

Looking into Gates

Since President Bush’s nominee to head the Defense Department is so popular with lawmakers, the corporate media has done even less than the usual cursory digging into his past.

But a handful of outlets have looked deeper and here’s some of what they have found about Robert Gates:

Robert Parry at Consortium News found this memo from 1984 in which Gates, who was then deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, advocates the US bombing of Nicaragua.

In the memo, Gates warns of dire consequences if Washington refuses to take a harder-line approach to the democratically elected Sandinista government. Gates advocates:

 

What’s telling about this memo is that it shows just how much of a hawk Gates was (is?), as well as how completely out of touch he was with reality on the ground in Nicaragua. He proposed super heavy-handed tactics to achieve Washington’s objective – the ousting of the Sandinistas. But history proved that the good old-fashioned isolation and covert terror tactics he decried as "silly and hopeless" later proved highly successful in toppling the socially minded and thus highly dangerous Sandinistas.

Meanwhile, over at Salon, Mark Benjamin obtained some more info about Gate’s tenure at the CIA:

A close examination of Gates' record, including little-known documents obtained by Salon from the National Security Archive, shows that as Gates was rising through the echelons of the CIA in the late 1980s to be CIA director in 1991, he was involved in the trafficking of intelligence reports that relied on compromised sources to show an exaggerated foreign threat. With the U.S. struggling for an exit strategy from Iraq and eyeing adversaries like Iran, President Bush has selected a man to head the Pentagon who was once in charge during an intelligence fiasco not unlike the one that unleashed the Iraq war.

In September 1995, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz recommended that Gates be held accountable for his role in hyperbolic intelligence reporting on the danger posed by the Soviet Union. In those reports, the CIA relied on sources the agency knew or should have known had been under Moscow's influence, Hitz found. At that time, though, a robust Soviet threat was music to the ears of some hard-liners in Washington, and the trumped-up intelligence made it into the hands of the president and Pentagon leaders.

Then there is Gates’s alleged involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, a double violation of democracy in which members of the Reagan administration defied the US Congress, sold arms to Iran, and used the money to fund a brutal war against the Nicaraguan people and government. Several mainstream newspapers have mentioned Gates’s connection to the scandal because it dislodged his bid to become CIA director in 1987. But few discuss what his possible involvement in Iran-Contra might mean for today. What we do know is that Gates knew about the illegal conspiracy and did not report it.

The Miami Herald did run an in-depth article over the weekend on the subject, but didn’t really talk to people who could analyze what it might mean now.

Another interesting article was published by the LA Times on possible conflicts of interest posed by Gates’s dealings with defense contractors.

But as Gates awaits Senate confirmation as President Bush's secretary of Defense, ethics watchdogs worry about the revolving door between government and private business that allowed Gates to align himself with defense contractors, investment houses and a global drilling company involved with Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton Co.

Companies with which Gates has been affiliated have secured hefty no-bid Pentagon contracts, and "you have to wonder if these companies will continue to get around bidding requirements once Gates is secretary," said Alex Knott, political director of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based watchdog group.

Of course, given the deluge of articles about Gates – most of them superficial but some woefully extensive-yet-lacking – this paltry list of decent looks (none of them complete) says a lot about the state of media. I only wish TNS had the resources for a more-in-depth report.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.