In the New York Times, Mark Landler reports about a new biography a legendary CIA operative titled The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird.
Mr. Bird explores Mr. Ames’s shadowy path in the Middle East, where he formed an unlikely friendship with the intelligence chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization and used it to try to draw the Israelis and Palestinians together in peace negotiations.
The book comes complete with what looks like a bona fide scoop about the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people, 17 of them Americans. Among them were eight CIA officers, including Ames himself. Landler writes that
… in sifting through the long-dead embers from the embassy bombing, Mr. Bird makes a startling assertion: that an Iranian intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 2007 and is still living here under C.I.A. protection, oversaw the 1983 bombing, as well as other terrorist attacks against Americans in Lebanon.
… “This is a classic intelligence dilemma,” he continued. “When do you deal with bad guys? When do you agree to give them asylum? In my opinion, this goes over the line.”
Who knew that terrorists had their own Operation Paperclip? Conducted by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner to the CIA, it granted asylum to 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians. Not only did the United States make use of their expertise, but sought to keep Germany from rebuilding its military capacity, as well as deny the Soviet Union their services. For his part, Iranian intelligence officer Ali Reza Asgari was granted asylum by the George W. Bush administration because he had knowledge about Iran’s nuclear program. Author Bird tells Landler:
“This is a classic intelligence dilemma. … “When do you deal with bad guys? When do you agree to give them asylum? In my opinion, this goes over the line.”
What makes it more ironic — as well as destructive to the integrity of the state — Iran had no nuclear-weapons program on which to provide intelligence.