Former CIA Operative Robert Baer is author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism by Crown Books.

CIA Emasculation Led to September 11th Intelligence Breach -

Should U.S. intelligence agencies have seen September 11th coming? Have we failed to keep up with the activities and plans of terrorists around the world? Former CIA operative Robert Baer has written an explosive new book called See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the Cia's War on Terrorism.
He talked with Pat Robertson about the major changes he has seen in the CIA in the last two decades and how those changes have crippled the agency.

PAT ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentlemen, if you read this book, called See No Evil, it really will bring tears to your eyes or anger at your heart at the failure of U.S. intelligence over the years. And I want to read something from the latter part of it. It says, "Whether it was Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat, Iranian terrorism, Saddam Hussein or any of the other evils that so threaten the world, the Clinton administration seemed determined to sweep them all under the carpet. Ronald Reagan and George Bush before Clinton were not much better. The mantra at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seemed to be: ¡®Get through the term, keep the bad news from the newspapers, dump the nay-sayers, gather money for the next election, gobs and gobs of it, and let some other administration down the line deal with it.¡¯" And what was worse, the CIA went along for the ride. Robert Baer, this is a very intriguing book you have written. How did the CIA let you get away with it, by the way?

ROBERT BAER: It took me two years working with them before we arrived with a text. But still, they are not very happy.

ROBERTSON: This is a damning indictment, of the Clinton administration particularly. Dick Morris was talking the other day about how they ignored it. What was it? You are saying the politicians just didn't want to hear these pieces of bad information?

BAER: Let¡¯s start with Iran. We knew that Iran was planning to blow up a U.S. facility in Saudi Arabia from 1991 and we did nothing about it. It finally happened in 1995 and again in 1996 with Khobar. We turned the other way. That¡¯s why the book is called See No Evil. We just ignored it.

ROBERTSON: Talk about Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, I understand, supposedly arrested a couple of people and executed them immediately without giving us a chance to interrogate them. Are the Saudis the people, from your knowledge, are they with the terrorists in terms of what they are doing against America?

BAER: Pat, absolutely, they are complicitous. They covered up the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. They didn't help on Khobar, they didn't help on the National Guard barracks in which five Americans died, and they are not helping with the current investigation. This operation, September 11th, was funded through Saudi Arabia and not just Afghanistan. We are getting no cooperation. It¡¯s scandalous.

ROBERTSON: You talk about the Saudi Arabian royals. I don't know whether the term would be "stealing the money" or just profiting from this gusher of oil money that comes in to them and the poor are not getting their share. Is that the way it is?

BAER: It¡¯s true. The people who were the suicide bombers came from Assir Province where they don't have jobs, they don¡¯t have work, and the royal family takes all of that money and goes to Switzerland and Nice [France] and spends it on who knows what.

ROBERTSON: You were in Lebanon, and I understand you had a line on the man who blew up those marines in Lebanon. And you wanted to get him but you couldn't?

BAER: Pat, I had the opportunity to eliminate the man, let¡¯s put it that way, but it is against the law, and I certainly wasn't going to do that on my own hook. We in the CIA have always obeyed the law when we can, there¡¯s been a few exceptions. But I just couldn¡¯t do it because the policy was not to assassinate people and I let the opportunity go.

ROBERTSON: What was his name and is he still at large?

BAER: Imad Mugniyah. He is still at large and there¡¯s an award for him. There¡¯s a good chance, and I have no current information, but there¡¯s a good chance he was working with Osama bin Laden and still is.

ROBERTSON: Mugniyah was funded, I presume, out of Iran. Did you have a clear connection with that?

BAER: He was funded entirely from Iran. We saw the connection. The first embassy bombing in 1983 and the Marines bombing later that year were all funded and coordinated by Iran. It was very clear to us.

ROBERTSON: You wanted to capture him but your contacts said, "We can't capture him but we can kill him for you."

BAER: That¡¯s the way things work over in Lebanon. They thought I was crazy to arrest him. They said, "Are you nuts?! We¡¯ll blow him up with a car bomb."

ROBERTSON: You sent the information back to the CIA headquarters? What did they tell you?

BAER: On the car bomb, I didn't bother telling them because I knew what the answer was going to be. I just let it go, I dropped the contact. That kind of contact got us in trouble back in those days with the Department of Justice and I got rid of them.

ROBERTSON: Now let's switch a bit to our friends down there in the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. You said in your book, as I recall, that the first telephone call to Ayatollah Khomeini was from Arafat. How close were they with the Iranians?

BAER: They were very close. When the new regime came in Tehran in 1979, Arafat helped to carry out a couple of terrorist attacks in Paris and Germany and Lebanon. He turned his networks over to the Iranians in 1982.

ROBERTSON: What is the deal with him? He got a Nobel Peace Prize. Are we being totally hoodwinked, we keep saying we want him to restrain terror, but he¡¯s the leading terrorist. How does that compute?

BAER: It doesn't compute. Because in 1993 when he decided he wanted to make peace, I would have forced him to give up the terrorist networks and tell us who these people were and help us with the arrests, but we didn't. It was just too easy putting everything behind us and I think that was a mistake.

ROBERTSON: How do these things link. Do they link? You have a number of groups: Egyptian Jihad, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. How do they tie together?

BAER: They all work together and are at war with the United States. All are in the same side in this war. And they all want to throw us out of the Middle East.

ROBERTSON: What do you do about it, as a nation? How do we handle it?

BAER: You insist on any nation that supports terrorists and covers up terrorist operations or harbors them, you have to do something about it early on. The problem gets worse as we saw in the 80¡¯s.

ROBERTSON: You can't assassinate these guys and we¡¯re certainly not going into Iran and capture terrorists, you¡¯re not going to do the same thing in Iraq. I recommended a couple of years ago that we go in after Saddam Hussein and take him out, but there was, you know, a shudder of horror in America, what a shocking suggestion. But how do you deal with them?

BAER: You can do a covert action. If the Iranians support terrorists, we can find terrorists that oppose them, if we want, just to teach them a lesson. You have to go to war with these people, they are at war with us. You just can¡¯t ignore it.

ROBERTSON: Let¡¯s go into Iraq. I understand you were in on a very well planned operation that was going to move Saddam out. Can you tell us what was planned there?

BAER: It was a two-phase operation that was going to start in March 1995, with an insurrection in the North, what we considered a diversion. But the diversion was only to cover a well-planned coup d'¨¦tat against Saddam in Tikrit. We had 12 tanks, we were going to box him in and remove him from power all in the course of 12 hours. But 36 hours before the operation went down, I received a message from the White House saying that the operation was totally compromised. That was never explained. They never said whether the 12 tanks were compromised, and it ultimately failed although in the end we did overrun three Iraqi divisions.

ROBERTSON: This Tikrit thing, Saddam was going to flee from Baghdad because the generals were going to squeeze him and he would go up to the safe house?

BAER: As a safe haven, he had a small fortress up there. But that was the trap. We had somebody in his security service that was going to tell us when he would leave Baghdad, go to Tikrit, and as soon as he got on a helicopter or in a car we were going to move on him with the twelve tanks.

ROBERTSON: And the Clinton administration, was it the White House or was it the CIA headquarters?

BAER: It was the White House that pulled the plug.

ROBERTSON: The White House. Who in the White House did that?

BAER: Tony Lake [former Clinton national security advisor] and Bill Clinton.

ROBERTSON: And Clinton. Together?

BAER: Together, in a meeting.

ROBERTSON: And why not? Why didn't they want to move. They said it was compromised, but that was part of your plan, wasn¡¯t it?

BAER: It was. It was part of the diversion. I think they were scared that Iraq, as far as I can tell ¡ª and I wasn¡¯t in these councils that were going on, and no one ever told me what happened afterwards ¡ª I think they were afraid of what was going to happen and they only cared about the status quo. It¡¯s just like Iran. All we cared about was keeping the status quo, pushing the problems off to the next administration, and that's why this administration is facing a terrible problem with Saddam, a worse problem.

ROBERTSON: You mentioned that there was a particular lady trying to favor an oil company and therefore was sort of cooling our response to Iran. Could you elaborate on that?

BAER: She wanted us to stand down on operations against Iran in the Caspian. And she forbade specifically an operation against Iranians in one country which I can¡¯t mention, and that was later withdrawn under the threat of Congressional pressure. But they were more concerned about building that pipeline from the Caspian to the Mediterranean than they were about stopping the Iranians.

ROBERTSON: And she was high up in the Clinton administration?

BAER: On the National Security Council.

ROBERTSON: And she's still there?

BAER: No, she has left.

ROBERTSON: We can be grateful for that.

BAER: Yes.

ROBERTSON: Tell us how the set-up is. I was talking to someone that was in touch with some high level people in the Justice Department. And the word is that these terrorists are still out there still looking for an opportunity and they are coming against us pretty heavily. Can you tell us where you think they'll hit next?

BAER: They will hit the United States. They will do a big operation. The fact that bin Laden got away, they¡¯ll give that time to set in, then they will hit us and he will announce it, it¡¯s psychological warfare. And all of these people are compartmented, it¡¯s very difficult to run them all in. And in any covert action of war like this, you have to have a follow-up operation to September 11th, it is going to be on their timing, and it¡¯s going to be surprise to us where and when.

ROBERTSON: Do you have any kind of back-channel feeling as to what the next target will be in America?

BAER: No, sir.

ROBERTSON: Is the CIA back in the game or on the sidelines?

BAER: The CIA is getting back in the game. It is going to be hard to do, putting people back on the ground. But I think this current director is committed to restoring the CIA. It wasn¡¯t his fault, I think he's a good guy. Now, he's been given a mandate to go back in business and that will take us a couple of years, maybe three or four.

ROBERTSON: But we don't have three or four years.

BAER: We will get hit before they are back in business for sure.

ROBERTSON: One more question, and I could talk for an hour or two because this is so fascinating. Stansfield Turner under Jimmy Carter was the one who was blamed for dismantling the human intelligence at the CIA, is that where the blame should be or is it a cumulative thing over the decades?

BAER: It¡¯s cumulative. But when he came in, I was working at the CIA during the October massacre when he fired hundreds of people and demoralized the agency. I was too junior to know the long-term effect. But he certainly contributed to bringing the CIA down, no question about it.

ROBERTSON: And were subsequent directors the same? John Deutsch didn¡¯t exactly cover himself with glory.

BAER: Deutsch came out and said he didn't like the CIA. He said the officers were not any good, and the director of operation. That destroyed morale and this came out in The New York Times Magazine. That hurt a lot, too.

ROBERTSON: This is a tough problem, I don't know what to say. You said in your book with all of the resources we have, it was a couple of brave Americans that kept one of those planes from hitting the White House. I guess that¡¯s the last line of defense, brave Americans.

BAER: When I heard that I was furious. What are we spending $30 billion for if we have passengers on a passenger airliner defending the White House.

ROBERTSON: That's the way it is. Robert Baer, I wish we could talk more. But ladies and gentlemen, this is a fascinating book, you ought to get it. See No Evil, by Crown Publishers, available in the bookstores now. And you really ought to read this one. Thank you so much.

BAER: Thank you for having me.

ROBERTSON: We appreciate it.