In the footsteps of another Marine, involved with the CIA, and while on a mission in the Soviet Union met his (second) wife …


UNSCOM and Saddam Hussein: A Futile Game of Hide and Seek  

(Washington Post) Oct. 11, 1998 – UNSCOM was a product of the uneven conclusion of the Gulf War, which left the Iraqi regime defeated but still in power. The war also shaped Ritter’s eventual role.

Ritter spent the conflict fixed on Iraq’s special weapons as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Central Command, responsible for watching Scud missiles. Like everything Ritter does, he took it personally. As a lowly captain, his stubborn intensity led him into career-endangering disputes with the allies’ commander in chief, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. These foreshadowed later battles in UNSCOM with the French armed services chief, a senior British defense official, the director of the CIA’s Near East operations and National Security Adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger.

Ritter “was a man who had not always toed the line,” Ekeus said with a smile in the wood-toned office where he now holds court as Sweden’s ambassador to Washington. When Ekeus first began recruiting for UNSCOM, he heard about a young Marine who stuck to wartime judgments “that I don’t think were popular at the time. I knew he was a man of his own opinions. I liked that. We wanted to have strong personalities, but the very best talent.”

Ritter had been on his way out of the Marines when war came. He resigned in 1990 to try to save a troubled first marriage to the former Heidi Evans, politely rebuffing a phone call to reconsider from the commandant, Gen. Alfred Gray. But Ritter changed his mind when President Bush began dispatching troops. “I can’t leave the Marine Corps when my country’s getting ready to go to war,” Ritter said. “That’s a dishonorable thing to do.”

As the war began, Schwarzkopf was eager to claim success in the Scud hunt, for fear that Israel, the missile’s main target, would enter the conflict. At a Jan. 30, 1991, news conference, the general displayed gun camera tape from an F-15E attack. “We knocked out as many as seven mobile erector-launchers in just that one strike,” he declared.

Alarms rang immediately for Ritter, who was bomb damage assessment officer in Centcom’s J-2, or intelligence directorate. He told his colleagues — in Centcom and at the Defense Intelligence Agency — that the targets looked like fuel trucks. Frantic work ensued among analysts at the CIA and the Joint Imagery Production Center. Before long, Rear Adm. Mike McConnell walked into Gen. Colin Powell’s Pentagon office and told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he had a problem.

We don’t think those were Scuds,” McConnell said, according to Powell’s memoirs. When Powell asked his source, McConnell replied, “A captain, an analyst, on Schwarzkopf’s staff.”

The following morning, when he prepared the daily bomb damage report for Schwarzkopf, Ritter refused to mark the Scuds as “confirmed kills.” According to Brig. Gen. John A. Leide, Centcom’s intelligence chief, Schwarzkopf “didn’t want to hear” he had made a mistake. Three members of the intelligence staff said in interviews that Schwarzkopf sent word down the chain he wanted Ritter to rewrite his report.

“I said, ‘I’m BDA [bomb damage assessment] officer, and there is no criteria that says if the commanding officer says it’s so, it’s so,’ ” Ritter recalled. “They took it back, and Schwarzkopf blew up and they came back again and said, ‘You have to change it.’ I said I couldn’t do that.”

Ritter, meanwhile, had written a memorandum arguing that the allies were consistently striking decoys and not real Scuds. Even Delta Force commandos, running risky but, they thought, productive Scud hunts behind Iraqi lines, were blowing up the wrong targets, he wrote. Postwar analysis proved he was right.

Ekeus’s decision meant UNSCOM was to play at a game of spy versus spy — inspector versus spy, in legal terms — that is normally the province of governments.

Ritter became the main figure in this risky enterprise, which he would call by a code name, “Shake the Tree.” Its conception reflected his own outsized personality, skills and values. His own long journey into Iraq, which began before UNSCOM even existed and deepened as he rose from a junior UNSCOM hire to chief of its anti-concealment team, therefore became deeply entwined with the commission’s.

Ritter brought skills to the job he had refined as a Marine “0202,” an intelligence officer. Born in Gainesville, Fla., and schooled in Turkey and Germany during his father’s Air Force career, he had helped police one of the last Cold War pacts as a 27-year-old lieutenant assigned to monitor intermediate-range nuclear forces in the former Soviet Union. According to Marine Corps records, Ritter received a classified commendation from the Central Intelligence Agency for his work in Votkinsk, the kind of letter that is presented to a young officer for perusal and returned to a vault at Langley.

Largely on the strength of that experience, government sources said, the CIA twice recruited him for employment, in 1991 and 1996. The agency rebuffed him in the end each time when questions arose about his marriage to a former Soviet interpreter.

Yet a Marine who once had and then lost the highest U.S. security clearances became entangled, at UNSCOM, in some of the more sensitive work of the U.S. intelligence community.

The Clinton administration saw itself as fighting valiantly, and with skill, to stave off UNSCOM’s defeat. Ritter, disillusioned, read acquiescence in Washington’s policy choices. His angry departure from the job made him a celebrity, wooed by congressional Republicans and talk show hosts and a speaker’s bureau now trying to market his public appearances.

To others, his behavior harmed his reputation and his cause. Stung by criticism she thought unjust, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright charged that Ritter “doesn’t have a clue” about the broader horizons of American policy, and she speculated privately that he must be planning to run for office, like Oliver North. His former boss, Richard Butler, accused him of unspecified errors of fact and of breaking the law by revealing confidential UNSCOM data.

See BooMan’s fp story – Ritter Really is a Perv

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

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