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[casi] Top White House anti-terror boss resigns

Top White House anti-terror boss resigns
By P. Mitchell Prothero
 >From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Published 3/19/2003 5:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- The top National Security Council official
in the war on terror resigned this week for what a NSC spokesman said
were personal reasons, but intelligence sources say the move reflects
concern that the looming war with Iraq is hurting the fight against

Rand Beers would not comment for this article, but he and several
sources close to him are emphatic that the resignation was not a protest
against an invasion of Iraq. But the same sources, and other current and
former intelligence officials, described a broad consensus in the
anti-terrorism and intelligence community that an invasion of Iraq would
divert critical resources from the war on terror.

Beers has served as the NSC's senior director for counter-terrorism only
since August. The White House said Wednesday that he officially remains
on the job and has yet to set a departure date.

"Hardly a surprise," said one former intelligence official. "We have
sacrificed a war on terror for a war with Iraq. I don't blame Randy at
all. This just reflects the widespread thought that the war on terror is
being set aside for the war with Iraq at the expense of our military and
intel resources and the relationships with our allies."

A Senate Intelligence Committee staffer familiar with the resignation
agreed that it was not a protest against the war against Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein but confirmed that frustration is widespread in the
anti-terror establishment and played a part in Beers' decision.

"Randy said that he was 'just tired' and did not have an interest in
adding the stress that would come with a war with Iraq," the source said.

The source said that the concern by the administration about low morale
in the intelligence community led national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice to ask Beers twice during an exit interview whether the resignation
was a protest against the war with Iraq. The source said that although
Beers insisted it was not, the tone of the interview concerned Rice
enough that she felt she had to ask the question twice.

"This is a very intriguing decision (by Beers)," said author and
intelligence expert James Bamford. "There is a predominant belief in the
intelligence community that an invasion of Iraq will cause more
terrorism than it will prevent. There is also a tremendous amount of
embarrassment by intelligence professionals that there have been so many
lies out of the administration -- by the president, (Vice President
Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of State Colin) Powell -- over Iraq."

Bamford cited a recent address by President Bush that cited documents,
which allegedly proved Iraq was continuing to pursue a nuclear program,
that were later shown to be forgeries.

"It is absurd that the president of the United States mentioned in a
speech before the world information from phony documents and no one got
fired," Bamford said. "That alone has offended intelligence
professionals throughout the services."

But some involved in the fight on terror said that it was dangerous to
look too far into one resignation -- particularly from an official who
has not blamed the war on Iraq.

"I found his resignation shocking," said one official closely involved
in the domestic fight on terror. "And it might reflect a certain
frustration over the allocation of resources. But I'm not positive that
there's a consensus (among intelligence services) that deposing Saddam's
regime is a bad idea for fighting terror. I think that there are serious
concerns about resources and alienating allies, but some of us see an

But others point out that the CIA warned Congress last year that an
invasion might lead to a rise in terrorism. This, they say, is evidence
there's more than just ambivalence about the war among the spy community.

"If it was your job to prevent terror attacks, would you be happy about
an action that many see as unnecessary, that is almost guaranteed to
cause more terror in the short-term?" said one official. "I know I'm not

Beers joined the NSC in August after heading the State Department's
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement branch, where he ran the
Plan Colombia program to fight narco-traffickers in that country. Beers
served both Bush administrations as well as serving in similar
capacities with both the Clinton and Reagan administrations.

Copyright  2001-2003 United Press International

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