Friday, October 06, 2006

Joseph Goebbels

'you could almost say a Goebbels type unit'

This is part four of Luke Ryland's interview with Rod Barton:

Judy Miller

Luke Ryland: I presume that you came across Judy Miller

Rod Barton: Yes - I know Judy Miller quite well

LR: Your thoughts?

RB: I’d rather not comment

LR: OK... Some of my friends are curious about the relationship between David Kelly and Judy

RB: Well - they certainly met quite frequently - just as Judy and I met. You see, officially, David Kelly, Dick Spertzel, Hamish Killip and I were the team that discovered Iraq's biological program. Judith Miller was very interested in what we were doing - and the UN gave her permission to interview us - and she wrote a major front page article in the NYT about us. That's how we got to know her.

LR: When was that?

RB: 1996, I think. We discovered the biological weapons program in 1995 - and so we were told to cooperate. It was good publicity for the UN. Judith continued to talk to us on several matters after that and of course we feature in her book Germs. So we continued to have contact with her - and David became friendly with her, as did I. We were all in New York and she'd often ask us about various things - if we were working for the UN we wouldn’t tell her because we didn’t want to lose our jobs - but she'd sometimes ask us about other countries - just to seek our technical expertise - on Libya or Iran or North Korea or whatever, and we were often in a position to comment because of our technical expertise. We were often used in that way - and I think that was a relationship that continued through. Certainly with me - and I think also with David. Sometimes the two of us, David and I, we'd have dinner with her, or lunch if we were all in town together. It wasn’t uncommon - and I assume, but don’t know, that is all there was to that relationship - and I don’t know any more than that.

LR: OK - there were emails that they exchanged on his final morning - where Judy mentioned that he had some fans who were interested in how his testimony went - do you have any idea, or can you say, who she was talking about?

RB: No (laughs)

LR: (laughs) I thought that might be your answer - just thought I’d ask!


LR: OK - I presume that you followed fairly closely when those mobile trailers were found in Iraq, and some of the reporting that came out of that period. There were a lot of odd leaks regarding the White Paper and the Jefferson Project and whatnot - and Judy was trying to sell the trailers as being weapons labs and so on - do you have any comment about how the CIA could even allow that dodgy reporting to occur, and how that came about?

RB: Well.... this is a very curious thing - and it's not just about Judy Miller, but also other reporters getting information - sometimes from the CIA - both pre and post war. There was some very curious reporting - and you've got to wonder 'where does this information come from?'

Because the sort of information that comes out, I have to say, is usually supportive of the administration. Other information that is not supportive of the administration, well, you don’t see it in the reporting, and you don’t see it in the leaks from the CIA. So you have to ask yourself 'is someone orchestrating this?'

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything - but I have to say that I have wondered about this on a number of occasions. Again it's not just Judith Miller but a number of others seem to get 'official information' from the CIA, or someone, somewhere in Washington, anonymous sources that can't be named for various reasons. But who are these people? It can’t possibly be just one person - but it seems like there are a few people orchestrating this whole thing.

I have doubts that the agency can leak like that - because there are polygraph tests and all that - you can't leak information and pass a polygraph test. You know, there are a lot of CIA agents who are anxious to show me things they shouldn’t show me - even though I’m cleared to see it - because the question may come up 'have you shown any foreign national?' - So for them to give something to a journalist, unofficially - I’m not sure that would happen.

LR: But it sure does look like it a lot, doesn’t it?

RB: Well, yes - especially when it all happens in one direction. It makes me wonder - and I’m cautiously speculating - I have no evidence - but there may very well be a propaganda unit - within the CIA and other agencies. It must be within the US administration somewhere. So it appears that there's a propaganda unit that 'leaks' selectively information to certain journalists to spin a certain line that supports the administration. If that is true, it is very, very serious.

LR: (laughs) There aren’t many who would argue with you, I don’t think

RB: Well - if it’s true, then the American people are officially being hoodwinked. This is more serious than the American president saying something with a spin on it. These papers like Washington Post, NY Times, LA Times - well known and respected newspapers are reporting something that might falsely influence the American people - that’s propaganda. And it is illegal, and it is very sinister - it must be illegal if it is true. But I have to say, I’ve watched this fairly carefully, not just with Judy Miller - but with other journalists as well and I think 'who is this source that they are quoting? Why is information of this nature coming out?' And it’s hard to come to any other conclusion - but it must be a possibility that this is true - I have to be careful about how I phrase that.

LR: Well - there was the White House Iraq Group that did a lot of that of that. They had the job of selling the war in Iraq.

RB: Was there? I don't know of them.

You know, it's one thing for politicians to come out and say various things that we might not accept as true - but at least they’re saying it publicly - they aren’t leaking it and trying to influence public opinion per se. But this is different - if they are leaking it to journalists, officially - this is trying to influence public opinion in a certain direction - it's sinister!

LR: Well - a lot of us bloggers watch it closely every day - and we have no doubt that it goes on. In fact, we watch it happen and dissect it in real-time.

RB: Well, to an innocent like me, and I've been in the system for a long time, it's a shock! I dare say you may believe it - but I’m also coming to that conclusion myself. I'm deeply suspicious that it is true. And if it is true, then why aren’t more people writing about it? Why aren’t more people concerned? It’s very weird - I don’t think it occurs in Australia, for example, and probably not in the UK. If it occurs in the US, the American people should be very, very concerned about this. If there's actually a propaganda unit, you could almost say a Goebbels type unit, but I prefer not to use that analogy, influencing American public policy and opinion - this is deadly serious and very, very sinister - and they should all be very concerned if that is true.

LR: Of course - and the same message gets cycled around the world.

RB: Especially when it comes through prestigious newspapers like the NYT and Washington Post and LATimes - people listen when those newspapers report something...

Look, there are legitimate things that can be done to influence public opinion, and then there are things that are flat-out wrong. And selective leaking of bits of information, especially when it is dodgy information, and it's presented as being from some deep source within the CIA, that is just plain wrong. It's different if you are open and transparent about it, for example a politician speaking in public - that’s what politicians do - but what I'm talking about is a lot more sinister than that.

UPDATE: The fifth and final part of this interview is now posted at:

Luke Ryland: I mentioned to some friends that I was going to be speaking to you and they sent through some questions. Here’s one:

"At what point in time did you begin to believe that political influence was having an effect upon the findings or lack of findings by UNSCOM/UNMOVIC?"

Rod Barton: I don’t think that politics affected us - certainly not Blix anyway. There were people pulling him in different directions - it wasn’t just the US. Blix walked a pretty steady line - and you only have to read his Dec-Jan-Feb speeches to the UNSC - the critical months before the war - he wasn’t going easy on Iraq, he said that Iraq wasn’t cooperating - they were quite balanced speeches, and I think he got the balance right. He was treading a very thin line - but it was all based on our assessments. He had a stream of politicians of all stripes trying to get him to say this or that - but he did his own thing. If you go back to the old UNSCOM days, there was some political interference - particularly with Richard Butler - he was very much a US man - and I think he was swayed by the US at time to do something that favoured them, rather than favoured the UN. Do you know the Black Box episode?

LR: No

RB: The black box was put in our mission in Baghdad to collect communications intelligence - with Butler's permission - this is something that Scott Ritter talks about. We installed a device that would intercept Iraqi communications. Because the communications were secure, all the tapes had to go back to the NSA to be deciphered and the idea was that we would receive the product of that, but we received nothing. Nothing! And that was a problem with Butler - he didn’t keep control of that process. I think it was legitimate to install the black box - but it was being used by the US intelligence services, rather than for the benefit of the UN, and the inspectors. So that was a big mistake by Butler. He always claimed that he didn’t know that the US was going to do that, but how naive! And if he didn’t know, he should have asked! That was his job - he authorised it, the black box belonged to the US. You know, before putting something like that into a UN building to collect communications, he should have enquired. He claims that he was misled - I find it hard to excuse him on that - and he did get too close to the US, I believe. He lost a bit of independence and of course that was partly the reason that UNSCOM came crashing down and the whole organisation was wound up - we were totally discredited. I remember being in New York at the time and my colleagues were embarrassed about the whole story, and genuinely apologetic! It got to the point that I was embarrassed to say that I worked for UNSCOM!

LR: Here's another question. It doesn’t make much sense to me - but it might to you:

"Was there ever any significant consideration that those actual weapons (R400 chemical bombs, chemical Scud warheads, 155mm chemical artillery shells) which remained unaccounted for might have been used either during the 1991 Gulf War or at Halabja in 1988?"

RB: It's a good question - because one of the things that the ISG did not do was to account for all those weapons. We didn’t account for all of them - which isn’t to say that they still exist - but could they have been used elsewhere? I think we accounted for what was used at Halabja. We didn’t account for everything that was used in the 1991 war - I'm sorry, there were no chemical or biological weapons used in the 1991 war, but after the Gulf War... and this is where some of the accounting, we now know, and the ISG has found this out, is that after the 1991 Gulf war, Iraq still used chemical weapons - which seems remarkable to me - but its true, and the Iraqis have confessed to it. They used the chemical weapons to suppress the Shia uprising in Karbala and that’s where some of the R400 bombs were used - filled with nerve gas - and that’s why we couldn’t account for some of those bombs. That’s why some of them were missing. And going back to the 12,000 word document that you mentioned - this wasn’t mentioned in that document - and we only got that confession out of Iraq via some of the scientists and engineers and politicians that were locked up in 2003 - they freely admitted it, we didn’t have to extract it.

LR: there were no chemical scuds used in 1991?

RB: No - in 91, they had 50 chemical warheads - 50 scuds with chemicals, and 25 scuds with biological warheads - and we’re fairly sure of those numbers now. UNSCOM always argued that there could be more, or maybe not. I can tell you that we are close to being 100% sure as you can be on this sort of thing. None of them were ever fired, and I think we can account for all of them.

LR: ok - here's another question that I don’t really understand:

"What was the significance of the 'Air Force Document' and the documents relating to equipping of Missile Unit 223 in relation to the withdrawal of Iraqi cooperation in 1998?"

RB: The question makes sense to me. The 'Air Force document' was something that we recovered from a safe in 1996 or 97 - and the 'Air Force document' accounts for the number of chemical weapons that were dropped in the war against Iran. Iraq had always said that they knew how many they dropped but that they didn’t have any records about how many they dropped. But we found the records, this document, that showed how many they dropped - and the two don’t reconcile - so, basically, you could deduce that there were some missing weapons.

The 'Air Force document' was given to us in 2003 - as a last desperate measure - to indicate that they were cooperating - but we actually got a hold of that document in 1997 - I think - but it was grabbed back off the inspector. But before it was grabbed back off her, she had 30 mins with a translator and made a record of what it said. We’d demanded the document back but it was always a bone of contention because they said it had nothing to do with UNSCOM.

This was a sign of non-cooperation of course, because it was relevant, it did refer to chemical weapons, and it did relate to how many bombs had been used. I have to say I still cannot resolve that issue. The numbers do differ - there may be explanations - but we still don’t know the answers. The ISG was so obsessed with pre-war intelligence, with things that officials said, that they didn’t investigate some of the more basic issues - and this is one of them. Whether it really matters or not, I’m not sure - but this was certainly one of the unanswered questions.

LR: and Missile Unit 223?

RB: Right - that's the scud unit. I’m not sure I understand what is being referred to in that question - they did try to hide a lot from us on the missile side. The Iraqis did try to reactivate things on the missile side - not with scuds, so much - we could account for all the scuds in the end - but we couldn’t account for all the components. And what Iraq was doing in what I call 'the dark years' - when the inspectors left at the end of 98 - and didn’t return until the end of 2002 - they had about 4 years with which to fiddle around with things. They didn’t do anything in the chemical and biological or nuclear - but they certainly did a lot of things with missiles. They had long range missile programs going - not based on the scud which was old technology - but on newer technology, and they started the new long-range missile program - and UNMOVIC found this, and then later the ISG discovered the rest - but I’m not specifically sure about what the question about 223 is all about.

LR: Ok - moving on. I mentioned to you this movie about Sibel(Edmonds). David Albright talks about al Qaeda getting nukes - or at least plutonium or uranium, do you know anything about al Qaeda getting their hands on any of that stuff?

RB: No - I don’t. Its a possibility, but I'd have to say that I’d be surprised, partly because nuclear weapons are so valuable - enriched uranium is so valuable, nobody gives it away - but also, to enrich uranium, enough for a weapon, say 25 kg, you are talking about millions of dollars. And so its highly protected - not only because of its strategic value, but because of its commercial value. So I don’t know how they would get this stuff I guess is basically what I'm saying. It's a possibility of course - for ideological reasons or whatever - but this stuff is so protected that you know, one person is not in charge - so I cant really answer the question - and I don’t know what al Qaeda might do with that, or how they might get it - but I have to say, I’d be surprised. More likely, if al Qaeda was doing anything, they'd look at chemical or biological - that's easy compared to nuclear.

LR: OK. Thanks very much for your time. Anything else?

RB: All I can say is that the whole thing is a disgraceful episode - for both intelligence and politics - and what I hope from all of this is that we learn something. It appears that we haven’t - but we do need to learn something because now we are have other concerns like Iran and North Korea (ed: the interview was conducted prior to the recent DPRK test). Have we lost faith in our intelligence communities? Have we learnt anything from it? I fear not. That’s partly why I wrote the book - which is what has been described as a 'ripping yarn.'

LR: How about the situation in Iraq today?

RB: Yeah - Iraq is a very grim situation - however, I've seen worse situations than Iraq - I worked in Somalia. Iraq isn't there yet, but it will be if we don't do something.

LR: There doesn't look to be much good news coming out of there

RB: No - afraid not - and it just gets worse. The Iraqis are paying a terrible price for the actions we took in that war - there are 3000 people dying a month. And the future looks very grim - I'm not sure where it's going to go, or what should happen next. If I had a magic wand, I don't even know what I would do. It's very grim.



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