Robert Baer

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Robert Baer was a Central Intelligence Agency operations officer between 1976 and 1997. He is a critic of the Agency's effectiveness in the Middle East, and, in general, with U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia. [1] He is the intelligence columnist for Time; the movie "Syriana" is modeled on his career.

CIA experience and reaction

After his parents separated, he spent much of his boyhood traveling around Europe, with skiing being his principal interest but also gaining language and cross-cultural skills. Eventually, school problems caused his mother and grandfather to send him to a military school in 1968, where the dean suggested he become a Foreign Service Officer. Georgetown University's school of foreign service accepted him, and he took the Foreign Service examination after graduation in 1976, failing by a few points.

He moved to San Francisco, found part-time work, started a Mandarin Chinese course, and applied to the University of California at Berkeley for East Asian graduate studies. When he told a friend that the Foreign Service examination it would not be offered again for a year, it was suggested he apply for the CIA. After taking the exam, and assuming the leftist tendencies of his mother would exclude him, he was surprised to be called in by a recruiter, mentioning both the analytical and operations directorate. Since he did not yet have a graduate degree, the recruiter aimed him toward the Directorate of Operations. He was accepted in July 1976, and entered paramilitary training in 1977.

Initial field experience

He was assigned to India for his first field assignment, the exact date being redacted but in the late 1970s. After three years of reasonable success for a beginner, the Near East Division offered to send him to two years of Arabic language instruction. He was in Tunisia, studying, at the time of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut; after finishing a few months later, and having had some contacts with Palestinian groups, he was assigned to an unspecified Middle East station. At that location, he attempted a penetration of the Abu Nidal group through a personal contact, but his supervisor, whom he described as a no-risk bureaucrat, forbade it.

After the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings, he received a temporary assignment to Lebanon. One of his chief interests was Balabakk, in the Bekaa Valley, where the Shaykh Abdallah barracks were located. In November 1982, a group led by Husayn al-Musawi captured the barracks and gave control of them to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran. Syrian troops ignored the takeover and the Lebanese were unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

Iran, according to Baer, ran its hostage-taking from Balabakk, and, by June 1983, out of the barracks. They had decided, after taking an earlier hostage to Tehran, to keep their captives in Lebanon, to give them plausible deniability. [2] Western hostage rescue forces had long been frustrated, since the inability to locate the places of captivity prevented them from operating.

Baer began talking to locals in the Bekaa Valley. He chatted with a Lebanese police sergeant, "Ali", explaining he was an American student of antiquities, and wanted to see some Roman ruins. They became friendly, and Baer learned he had relatives in the U.S. and would like to move there. Bringing him a visa application, but making no promises, the police sergeant gave him his full name — and Baer learned he was related to Husayn al-Musawi. In January 1984, he warned Baer not to visit in the near term, saying "They're going to kidnap an American in Lebanon."

Returning to his home station, he learned, on March 16, that Bill Buckley, the CIA Beirut station chief, had been kidnapped. He pleaded to be allowed to go back and see Ali. Seven months later, he managed to visit Balabakk, with a Lebanese army captain who took him to the ruins. Pasdaran soldiers cheerfully guided him. As they drove away, he asked about some buildings, which included the Shaykh Abdallah barracks. Years later, he learned Buckley and five other hostages were inside.


In 1986, after he had been transferred to Khartoum, Sudan, Dewey Clarridge recruited him into the Counterterrorism Center. Due to personnel shortages, however, he was transferred back to Beirut.

Before his physical transfer, however, he reviewed the terrorism files relevant to the area, especially that of Imad Mugniyah, whom he suspected may have been the bomber of the Beirut embassy. Baer also believed he was backed by the Pasdaran and Iran, and was involved in hostage-taking.

When he arrived in Beirut in 1987, he was able to do more than in the past. He had, for example, an agent, "Farid", who had extensive contacts except for Hizballah and the Mugniyah Group. Nevertheless, he was able to establish linkage between Muhammad Hammadah, one of the hijackers of TWA Flight 847, and Mugniyah.

With the confusion of the Lebanese telephone system, wiretapping was easy. This gave him more and more information on Mugniyah.

Later, he was able to place an agent, "Hasan", ino Hizballah.

France and Morocco

He was reassigned from Beirut to Paris in 1988. Six months after his arrival, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed, and he regretted not being in Lebanon to chase leads about possible Iranian involvement. While Libya has accepted responsibility for the bombing, Baer's theory was based on an assumption that the Iranians had decided to take revenge for the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes (CG-49). Baer says there were reports that Iran had contacted officials, in Lebanon, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which had experience with airliner bombings. The Palestinians involved were Muhammad Hafiz Dalqamuni and Nabil Makhzumi (Abu Abid).

He was able to establish links between Germany, France, and Iran. Makhzumi spoke Farsi and may have been the courier. France, in particular, was focusing intelligence resources on North Africa, a traditional sphere of influence, after a 1991 military coup overthrew a democratically elected Islamic government. The French concern was that there could be spillover, from the resulting Algerian civil war,[3] into the Algerian immigrant population in France.[4]

In general, he found, the CIA was shutting down its European agents. After Pan Am 103, there was not a single source at the Frankfurt Airport, the busiest in Europe, to provide manifests. When he took over an existing agent, a French arms dealer, from another case officer, he was questioned, then greeted with enthusiasm: the agent had said the previous officer, a convert to a new religious movement, had spent the last year trying to proselytize him rather than conduct espionage. When Baer told the station chief, who discovered there were several other members of the church, headquarters told him that he could not interfere with their First Amendment rights. He was unable to get permission for a variety of operations, as technical means of collection became more popular in Washington.

After his assignment to the Paris station, he spent three years in Morocco, attempting to follow the Western Sahara insurgency. He found the 1989-1991 assignment frustrating, as all decisions of consequence were made in the inaccessible royal court.

Central Asia

He was assigned to Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 1992, arriving just as it was being evacuated while being overrun by Islamic radicals.

Return to Tajikistan

On its recapture by the ex-communists in January 1993, he returned, only mildly surprised to find that he now had to pass through the KGB station to reach the CIA station, both being in the same hotel. Since the Russian 201st Division was the only external force in contact with the insurgents, it became clear to him that he had to befriend Russians to get information, and did so through skiing. His first Russian ski visit required parachuting to the site, which was promptly banned by CIA headquarters.[5]

He did, however, get a friendly Russian contact about a week later. Thinking that Baer was the American military attache, the colonel invited him for a visit. First, the group picnicked at the Russian military range, made toasts to GEN H Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., and then the Russians demonstrated equipment. The equipment included silenced assassination weapons, which a Russian captain told him was how they dealt with the "Vahabis" — their pronunciation of Wahabbi. This was the first confirmation that the Russians were executing fundamentalists in Tajikistan. He continued to build friendship, learning to drive a T-72 (tank) and being rather annoyed when CIA banned tank driving; as he rather enjoyed it.

A Russian senior officer invited him to see something that would be of interest: the weekly shipment of tons of opium, from Afghanistan, to Moscow, by collaboration of the Tajik Minister of the Interior, Yaqub Salimov, and Russian generals.[6] He and the U.S. Ambassador visited Salimov and informed him that the U.S. could not tolerate involvement in the heroin trade. Two weeks later, Salimov responded by detonating a bomb in Baer's house. Sympathetic Russians offered to lend him a tank to flatten Salimov's house.

More significantly, his Russian friend began to talk about Russian nationalism, and a possible new (after 1993) Russian military coup against Boris Yeltsin. Washington, however, told him that it fully supported the Yeltsin government.


His Russian contact, on 9 August 1993, first told him of the killing of CIA officer Fred Woodruff in Tblisi, Georgia,[7] blaming it on elements from Moscow. Woodruff had been in a car driven by Eldar Gogoladze, head of personal security for Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, and two women with ties to Russian intelligence. The Georgians claimed he was shot by a drunken soldier, but he had been shot with ammunition unlikely, according to the FBI investigation team, for an ordinary soldier to have had. They also found the ballistics unlikely, and hypothesized a second shooter.[8]

Subsequently, it was found that the Russian mole in the CIA, Aldrich Ames, had met with Woodruff shortly before, and had an argument. Much later, a Russian military officer was arrested in an undisclosed nearby country, in possession of a suppressed assassination rifle; he claimed to have been part of a team that shot Woodruff.

Stein said Michael Pullara, a Woodruff family friend, had investigated, and found links to a murder-for-hire organization in the Caucasus. Pullara found that the Tajik head of domestic security questioned it, and was fired. Pullara's theory was based on Shevardnadze's fight with pro-Russian insurgencies and partnering up with the Clinton administration:

Russian Defense Ministry officials connected with the heroin trade wanted to make a bloody point to American intelligence by killing Woodruff: Stay out of Georgia.

Georgian security forces, helped by the United States, were monitoring the transshipment of southwest Asia heroin across the region. Interdictions that threatened a multitude of ex-Russian KGB and Georgian gangsters involved in the trade were on the rise.

Woodruff was also pushing a Black Sea Basin intelligence consortium to rope the spy services of other former Soviet republics into a pro-U.S. network.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse only two years earlier, the CIA, the Pentagon and American oil companies were pushing aggressively into the newly free Black Sea nation...Delta Force operatives were active in the Pankisi Gorge, adjacent to Chechnya, which was in full rebellion against Moscow. Other highly classified U.S. intelligence programs were under way there.[7]

According to Baer, Washington did not want confrontations with Russia at the time, even when they fired a rocket-propelled grenade, on September 13, 1995, into the side of the Moscow embassy.

Pamirs and Yaghnob Valley

Invited for a trip to the Pamir area of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border by his Russian friend, he accepted, both wanting to learn about the civilization in the Yaghnobi Valley,[9] and also about the Pamir cooperation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in setting up a base in Taloqan, Afghanistan. The first trip was too dangerous, but he tried again in the spring. They gave a ride to two Afghans to Kalai-khum, the first town in Afghanistan, across the Panj River. Before they crossed, a Russian lieutenant threatened them when they stopped to change a tire, lecturing them that it was forbidden to visit this part of the Soviet Union, ignoring entreaties that the Soviet Union no longer existed. They gave up for the night, then drove to Khorog the next day, along the Chinese border. Eventually, he found a guide to take him to visit the Yaghnobi Valley, whose culture was indeed that of the time of Alexander the Great.[10]


He asked for Dari or Pashto speakers to debrief, and possibly recruit, refugees from the civil war in Afghanistan, but told there were none available.

While in Tajikistan, he continued to study Arabic and Farsi, and also studied Islam. He recruited a source close to the Tajik Islamic fighter against the Russians and their allies, Abdullah Nuri, head of the United Tajik Opposition.[11] Russia and Tajikistan asked for help against them, saying he was subsidized by Saudi Arabia; the CIA independently confirmed Nuri received money and weapons from the World Islamic League of Saudi Arabia. In 1996, Nuri brokered at least one meeting between Osama bin Laden and an Iranian intelligence officer.

Senator Claiborne Pell visited in March 1994, and tried to tell him about what he had learned about Russian nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism. Pell, he said, was more interested in his scenic travels to the Yaghnob Valley.

Iraq resistance

He said the CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq via one of the resistance organizations, Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein's rule. During this time, he also worked with Ahmed Chalabi, concluding that he was a charlatan.

According to Baer, the bombing campaign against Baghdad included both government and civilian targets. The civilian targets included a movie theater and a bombing of a school bus and schoolchildren were killed. No public records of the secret bombing campaign are known to exist, and the former U.S. officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. "But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then."[12]


For more information, see: Roger Tamraz.

In 1995, he was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the request of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Anthony Lake, on suspicion of having attempted to engineer a plot to assassinate Saddam Hussein. He concluded that the allegations came from Ahmed Chalabi, and agreed to a polygraph examination. [13]

The 1995 investigation, he believes, was also triggered by complaints from from Sheila Heslin, Director of Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs at the National Securitity Council, who believed the CIA was protecting American oilman Roger Tamraz, in a complex deal in which the White House favored a consortium of oil companies over Tamraz's project for oil production in Central Asia. Heslin, according to a report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, "resisted inappropriate and possibly unlawful attempts by senior officials to change U.S. Government policy in pursuit of Tamraz’s money." The Committee report said that Lebanon and France, in June 1995, had Interpol warrants on Tamraz.[14]

After passing a March 1995 FBI polygraph test, Lake's concerns were blocked. The United States Department of Justice, on April 4, 1996, sent the CIA a "declination letter", saying there were no grounds to prosecute Baer. While the CIA was officially apologetic, Baer knew that he would be on unstable bureaucratic grounds for several years. [15]

Tamraz's background

In his first job, Tamraz, working for the investment firm, Kidder, Peabody, was part of a 1966 project to rescue Lebanese IntraBank, and found a document important to Kamal Adham, then chief of Saudi intelligence. Tamraz called Adham and gave it to him without cost, but establishing a valued contact. [16]

According to the Washington Post, Tamraz organized, with Adham's assistance in the 1970s, a project to build a pipeline from the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean Sea. [17] An oilman contact of Baer's told him this was Tamraz's start in the industry.[18] Later, he arranged a $300 million contract between Japanese companies and the Saudi government. [17]

While Tamraz failed to obtain White House access with political contributions to the Republican Party during the Reagan Administration, he contacted the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 1995, "Hoping to promote his pipeline project — and finally to be able to 'play a role which I aspire to” in U.S. policy making' — Tamraz contacted the DNC. As a result, Tamraz had an initial meeting with the DNC’s Ari Swiller in July 1995." Swiller introduced him to DNC Chairman Donald Fowler, and Tamraz made contributions in or around July 1995. [19] The date of the first contact is not clear, but Tamraz had been in intermittent contact with the CIA before then. Tamraz had never been paid by the CIA, which, by their definition, meant he had never been an agent.

Baer questions legalities

At first, Baer thought Heslin was making an illegal request, under an 1981 executive order that forbade the CIA to gather information on Americans. There was, however, a 1977 agreement between the Secretary of State and the Director of Central Intelligence that the CIA was obligated to tell U.S. policy-makers when they are in contact with a U.S. agent. National Security Council staff were considered policy-makers. Heslin was only partially correct, according to Baer; Tamraz had been in contact with CIA in the 1970s and had provided non-official cover, in a U.S. bank he controlled. The bank, however, was linked to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which had sufficient criminal connections to poison any relationship. Baer, however, did not understand how Heslin knew about the past relationship. On May 19, they sent Heslin a memo, which, in part, mentioned he was wanted for embezzlement in Lebanon.

According to Baer, a week later, Heslin called back, annoyed that the Directorate of Operations (DO), did not have the same details of Lebanese violations that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) had sent. He explained that the DO file would contain only operational contacts while the DI would keep more general information, and she hung up. Heslin gave a different version to the Senate, saying she had received several calls from a DO officer identified only as "Bob", who seemed positive about Tamraz. "Bob"'s identity was redacted by the Committee, but was identified as a subordinate of William Lofgren, chief of the Central Eurasian Division. [20] Baer mentions briefing Lofgren about Tamraz, after a December 1995 meeting with him, and, the next day, brought Tamraz to meet with Lofgren. Lofgren contacted the Rome Station and confirmed two contacts that Tamraz claimed to have met were in Rome at the time. Lofgren then called Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch, whose assistant denied Tamraz's claim that he was about to meet with Bill Clinton.[21]

There is yet a third version of events, from Tim Weiner, who covered the CIA for the New York Times. Weiner said Lofgren, whose identity had just been revealed by the Washington Post,[22] sent the supportive memos to Heslin. [23]

Was Robert Baer "Bob", and which story is correct? The Washington Post story said Bob's lawyer, Victoria Toensing, was independently wealthy, which Baer is not; some additional details could fit Baer, but others do not.

Baer meets Tamraz

On May 30, the deputy chief of operations in New York called Baer and asked him if the Near East Division was interested in a human asset in the Caspian, who turned out to be Roger Tamraz. Baer agreed to meet Tamraz, "...the fact that a staffer at the NSC hated him was enough for me to meet him," and the DO had no agents in the Caspian. The phone number passed to Tamraz was identified as belonging to the CIA.

When they met, Tamraz was accompanied by Ed Pechous, a retired CIA officer. Tamraz explained his plan: run an oil pipeline from the Caspian oilfields to Turkey, via Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. His company, Oil Capital Limited, was to be financed by China.

Through Pechous, Heslin met with Tamraz on June 2. [24]

In October, Tamraz contacted Baer to tell him that he had had dinner with Vice President Al Gore. Baer was told that Bill Clinton had called Heydar Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, following a script from Heslin, whom Baer knew hated Tamraz. Baer traveled to Azerbaijan to assess the situation. [25]

Tamraz, however, could bring his own pressure to bear as a Democratic donor. He gave Baer's CIA phone number to Don Fowler, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), even though Vice President Al Gore's office sent a message to the DNC, in October, that he did not want to meet again with "an American citizen with a shady and untrustworthy reputation.", donor or not. [17] Direct CIA contact with party organizations was taboo, and, after getting advice from a friend in the FBI, Baer told his manager of the call, then a CIA lawyer who sent out an internal email documenting it. In December, the Office of the General Counsel ruled that the CIA did not send derogatory information on American citizens to any government agency, and Deputy Director of Operations Dave Cohen faxed this policy to Heslin on December 26. Lofgren told Baer to document the entire history with Tamraz, which he put into the file on December 28, 1995.[26]

Aftermath with Lake

Baer wrote that he called Lofgren in March 1997, concerned with campaign financing involving the Democratic Party and White House. Lofgren was retired, and indeed had Tamraz as a client, but, when Baer told him he was going to "blow the whistle", Lofgren, after a moment, said "do it."

To blow the whistle, he first contacted the office of Senator Richard Shelby of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but received no reply. He then called John Millis, a former CIA officer who was now chief of staff of the House intelligence committee; Millis warned him of consequences and said he would pass it on. Baer did not hear anything, so called the Justice Department task force that was investigating campaign finance, volunteering to testify. He then told his manager,and the Office of the General Counsel cancelled Baer's meeting.

Some time later, material on Tamraz was leaked to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Frisby. [27] When Frisby ran a story, Shelby called Baer. Baer, along with General Counsel Mike O'Neill, testified before the SSCI. One of the SSCI staff members, Chris Straub, was a former CIA colleague of Baer, who trusted him. Lake's nomination for Director of Central Intelligence was withdrawn the next day.

On March 18, 1997, he was called to the office of the CIA Inspector General, to be met by two interrogators. They accused him of destroying the December 28 document on Tamraz, which was in the safe of the deputy director of counterintelligence, Paul Redmond. They insisted he had pressured Heslin to remove Tamraz's name from the Secret Service list of people denied access to the White House. Eventually, Baer found out they worked for the Secret Service, not the CIA. The next day, seven auditors sealed Baer's offices and interviewed his staff. In early June, he met with Laura Ingersol, head of the Justice Department task force, and gave her a detailed briefing on Tamraz, including the possibility that some of Tamraz's money might be coming from the KGB. When she questioned him before a grand jury, she cut off his comments about Tamraz, but, as her last question, asked "Did Tamraz ever offer you a job?" Baer said his televised Senate testimony was no different; the interest was in a "CIA officer who fronted for a shady oilman of Middle Eastern descent." Baer speculated that since Tamraz also had contributed to the Republicans, it was not in the interest of either side to get into the details. [28]

Career end

Before Baer left, he wanted to tie up several loose ends, above all the bomber of the Beirut Embassy. Still having access to the files, he considered a new connection to Iran. When they released their hostages in March 1991, two Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officer, Feridoun Mehdi-Nehzad and Hossein Mosleh, directed the process. They then flew to Damascus and met with 'Imad Mughinayah, whom Baer suspected in the bombing. He found those two men, and an organization called the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), involved in every Iranian terror operation to which he had access. He decided the IJO was merely a cover name for the IRGC. A colleague showed him a March 1982 report, 13 months before the bombing, that Iran was in touch with a group capable of destroying the embassy. Mosleh was involved. That material was kept in the Hostage Task Force and never shared with the Beirut Station. [29] The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) identified Mosleh with an IRGC group called the Mohammad Rassoul-Alah brigade, which entered Lebanon in June 1982. They blamed it for acts including the embassy bombing and, later, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. [30] NCRI identifies itself as a Parliament in Exile for Iran, but is listed by the US as an anti-Iranian terrorist group.[31]

Another open issue was related to the Iran-Contra affair: who was the second Iranian who worked with Ali Hashemi-Bahramani, President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's nephew, after Manucher Ghorbanifar proved to be a fraud. Baer said he cannot give the evidence, but it was Feridoun Mehdi-Neezhad, who is now allied with Mohammad Khatami.

The last item, where he found nothing but suggestions, is a linkage between Mughniyah and [[Osama bin Laden]. Bin Laden had been suspected in the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, and there was evidence of communications between associates of both — nothing more specific.

While he is most angry at the Bill Clinton administration, he also said Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush followed the same mantra: "Get through the term. Keep the bad news from the newspapers. Dump the naysayers. Gather money for the next election — gobs and gobs of it — and let some other administration down the line deal with it." The CIA went along.

He went to the Deputy Director of Operations, Jack Downing, and resigned. Baer said Downing tried to talk him out of it, but promised him a medal. Ironically, when he was awarded the Career Intelligence Medal on 11 March 1998, it was kept secret from him for two years. Friends eventually told him, and he most appreciates &mdash "Maybe, after all, someone had noticed" — the part of the citation that reads,

He repeatedly put himself in personal danger, working the hardest targets, in service to his country.

Saudi Arabia

As mentioned aboved, he became concerned with Saudi influence while serving in Central Asia, and has continued that interest at book length. In his book on Saudi Arabia, he sees three key questions:[32]

  1. Can the Wahabbis, the Shi'as, the Muslim Brothers, and everyone else in Saudi Arabia who wants to bring down the Al Aa'ud lay their hands on enough firepower to do so? That might sound easy, but believe me, it isn't.
  2. Is the House of Sa'ud beyond redemption or protection as a ruling authority?
  3. Does Washington have the capacity to see the Saudi kingdom for what it is? Or does it have its hand so deep in the Saudi wallet that it won't see and won't act?

Role as critic describes him as part of a loose grouping of dissident ex-CIA personnel,[33] including Reuel Marc Gerecht, Howard Hart and the pseudonymous Edward G. Shirley.[34]

In an August 2009 PBS interview, he responded to Dick Cheney's comment on a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace,

It's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say. I'm very proud of what we did in terms of defending the nation for the last eight years successfully

Baer responded that Cheney was wrong in several ways.

  1. ..."no one until now has demonstrated with any good evidence at all that torture works. The whole body of literature, inside our military, inside the CIA, is it doesn't work.
  2. "The documents that have been released don't show that it worked; we got information from arrestees in this, so he can't say we defended the nation."[35]

He contrasted Cheney's objection to investigation with the thorough investigation of the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. Asked to explain Cheney's vehemence, he said

Cheney invented this program in the first place. He put his political reputation at stake, he thought that torture worked, he forced it on the CIA, and now there's no evidence that it did. This man is trying to protect his reputation. Maybe he's running for office again, I don't know. But I know that he's damaged the CIA more than anybody has, including the press or the Department of Justice.

In a way, he defended the CIA, saying the Obama administration is dealing with CIA demoralization that goes back through several administrations. Cutbacks in CIA human-source intelligence going back to the Carter administration. T"I understand they're paying for lawyers for the CIA officers, and a lot of the abuses occurred with contractors and the CIA is trying to weed them out as well."

I think one thing you have to do is get a culture in the CIA and go back to the basics. The CIA doesn't collect information by coercion. That's never been its role. It needs to go back and do it the way it used to do work, recruit sources, and the rest of it. A classical intelligence service, and it'll be just fine and the morale will return. But not denying this happened.

Reporting on Iraq

In 2007, he wrote that the Bush administration had realized that there was current diversion of Iraqi oil; the General Accountability Office confirmed the losses but not the source. Baer said he has been told that it is being approprited by militias, primarily in Basra, and principally by Fadhila, a Shi'a militia. [36] This was analyzed at much greater length in a paper from the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. [37]

During the Smiley interview, he put Iraq and al-Qaeda into his perspective, commenting "When we invaded Iraq we spread the CIA too thin. We got in involved in a war. What we have to focus on is capturing bin Laden or killing him, and once we lost sight of our goals, that's where we all went wrong, the CIA as well."[35]

Current reporting on Iran

I first visited Iran in October 1978, only months before Ayatollah Khomeini would return from exile and take power. I was twenty-four, on my way to my first CIA posting, in India, and had only the vaguest ideas about the Middle East. The kamikaze taxi driver who drove me into Tehran from the airport that night taught me my first lesson: Iranians can't drive. The way he swooped and darted between the army patrols, I was convincedhe was trying to draw fire. And was it legal to drive down the sidewalk to get around traffic? My one-week stopover in Tehran did little to clear things up. I left not having the slightest idea what Khomeini would do with the mess when it was his. As I'd find out much later, Khomeini didn't know either.[38]

His current writings and concerns focus on Iran. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, he suggested that the election may have been "a coup d'etat by the Revolutionary Guard against the clerics."[39]

Baer interpreted pictures from the June election as coming from upper-class districts, not the poorer ones that support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "Before we settle on the narrative that there has been a hard-line takeover in Iran, an illegitimate coup d'état, we need to seriously consider the possibility that there has been a popular hard-line takeover, an electoral mandate for Ahmadinejad and his policies."[40]

In 2007, he wrote of a potential U.S. attack on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which did not happen although rumors might have been a deterrent. [41]


  1. Robert Baer (2002), See no evil: the true story of a ground soldier in the CIA's war on terrorism, Thorndike Press
  2. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 73-74
  3. Justin Dargin (17 November 2008), Algeria’s Liberation, Terrorism, and Arabization, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  4. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 133-136
  5. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 146-154
  6. Glenn E. Curtis, ed. (March 1996), Tajikistan Internal Security, Tajikistan: a country study, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jeff Stein (12 October 2007), "Who Killed Fred Woodruff?", CQ [Congressional Security] Homeland Security - Spytalk
  8. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 154-156
  9. Brian Arnett Bird (15 October 2007), History of the Yaghnobi People, The Yaghnobi
  10. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 159-164
  11. Linda M. Buyers, ed. (2003), Central Asia in Focus: Political and Economic Issues, Nova Science Publishers, ISBN 1590331532, p. 32
  12. Joel Brinkley (2004-06-09), "Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks", The New York Times
  13. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 3-7
  14. The Saga of Roger Tamraz, U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, p. 1
  15. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 217-218
  16. "The return of Roger Tamraz", The Middle East, February 1995
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 David B. Ottaway and Dan Morgan (9 September 1997), "For DNC Donor, 'Resistance' Was Overcome", Washington Post
  18. Baer, See No Evil, p. 226
  19. The Saga of Roger Tamraz, p. 6
  20. The Saga of Roger Tamraz, p. 9-11
  21. Baer, See No Evil, p. 249
  22. Walter Pincus (1997), "`Bob of the CIA' Told a Story, Then Became One", Washington Post
  23. Tim Weiner (21 March 1997), "C.I.A.-Democratic Link Still Under Scrutiny", New York Times
  24. The Saga of Roger Tamraz, p. 7-8
  25. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 238-241
  26. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 244-247
  27. Peter Kobrak (2002), Cozy politics: political parties, campaign finance, and compromised governance, L. Rienner Publishers, ISBN 1588260674, pp. 189-190
  28. Baer,See No Evil, pp. 257-261
  29. Baer, See No Evil, pp. 262-265
  30. Revolutionary Guards Corps and its role in international terrorism, National Council of Resistance of Iran, 8 November 2007
  31. Office of Foreign Assets Control (15 August 2003), The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has now also been listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), including its U.S. representative offices and all other offices worldwide, United States Department of the Treasury
  32. Robert Baer (2007), Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, Crown, ISBN 1400050219, p. xxx
  33. Laura Miller (15 January 2002), "I was a cowboy for the CIA",
  34. Edward G. Shirley (pseudonym) (February 1998), "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?", Atlantic Monthly
  35. 35.0 35.1 Tavis Smiley (31 August 2009), "Robert Baer", KCET, Public Broadcasting Service
  36. Robert Baer (17 May 2007), "Who Is Stealing Iraq's Oil?", Time
  37. Phil Williams (June 2009), Criminals, Militias and Insurgents: Organized Crime in Iraq, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
  38. Robert Baer (excerpt, 3 October 2008), The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Oil Superpower, Crown
  39. Aimee Kligman (28 June 2009), "Ex-Cia agent: 'We have no clue what's going on in Iran'",
  40. Robert Baer (16 June 2009), "Don't Assume Ahmadinejad Really Lost", Time (magazine)
  41. Robert Baer (18 August 2007), "Prelude to an Attack on Iran", Time (magazine)