Vincent Cannistrano

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Vincent Cannistrano is President of Cannistrano Associates, a security consultancy, with Philip Giraldi as a partner, and a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was head of operations and analysis for the Counterterrorism Center, leaving in 1991. He was Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council in the Ronald Reagan Administration and Special Assistant for Intelligence in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

Contemporary counterterrorism

He has commented on worldwide counterterrorism capabilities, as well as supporters of terrorism. With respect to the 2008 Mumbai bombings, he said India was "caught completely unaware." [1] Referring to an October 2009 bombing of the Indian Embassy to Afghanistan, he said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has helped protect the Haqqani network, considered responsible for the attack.[2]

Questions of judgment

Steven Emerson, a controversial commentator at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, criticized Cannistrano as an apologist for terrorism, because he gave a sympathetic explanation for Nada Prouty, who joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation under false pretenses, for Sami al-Arian, associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and offering to testify for the defense in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial. [3]

Iraq War

With respect to the justification for the Iraq War, origins of invasion, he was critical of the analysis of the weapons of mass destruction threat. "It was at least incorrect and at the worst fraudulent...The real story is the politicization of intelligence."[4]

At the Democratic Policy Committee in 2003, he testified, with regard to Valerie Plame Wilson,

We had a pattern of pressure directed at CIA analysts for a long period of time beginning almost immediately after September 11th in those disastrous events. The pressure was directed at providing supporting information data for the belief that Saddam Hussein was, one, linked to global terrorism and, two, was a clear danger not only to his neighbors but to the United States of America. And in support of that argument assertions were made that he was about to renew a nuclear program and was attempting to acquire uranium ore in Africa for which he was going to be exploiting it for an enriched weapons program.

Toward December of 2001, intelligence report was received in Washington that alleged that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire yellow cake uranium ore in Niger and two other African countries. The vice president of the United States and other senior officials in the administration seized on this information as a proof that Saddam was that clear and present danger and needed to be addressed immediately in order to eliminate that danger.

The vice president and his chief of staff went out to CIA headquarters on a number of occasions -- at least on two occasions -- specifically to address the questions of weapons of mass destruction and the attempt to acquire a nuclear capability. These meetings, I'm told secondhand, were contentious, but the vice president insisted that there must be some support for this reporting of the yellow cake acquisition attempt. CIA analysts, I'm told, didn't have any independent data to verify that, but as a result of the insistent pressure being applied to the analysts and particularly to the nonproliferation center, the CIA did send, as they've said publicly, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger.[5]

Wilson's findings did not support the claim of yellowcake procurement. "the leak against Valerie Plame Wilson took place in July of this year and gratuitously, his wife and her status as a clandestine officer of the CIA was exposed. There were, in my view, two purposes in that. One was to trash Ambassador Wilson and to undermine the findings that he had in Africa, which were that there was no evidence that the uranium attempt was true. And secondly, to demonstrate an underlying contempt for the professional intelligence community -- CIA in particular."