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Profile: ’Team A’
’Team A’ was a participant or observer in the following events:
Richard Pipes. [Source: Mariusz Kubik]After George H. W. Bush becomes the head of the CIA (see November 4, 1975 and After), he decides to break with previous decisions and allow a coterie of neoconservative outsiders to pursue the allegations of Albert Wohlstetter that the CIA is seriously underestimating the threat the USSR poses to the US (see 1965), allegations pushed by hardliners on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Internal Opposition - Bush’s predecessor, William Colby, had steadfastly refused to countenance such a project, saying, “It is hard for me to envisage how an ad hoc ‘independent’ group of government and non-government analysts could prepare a more thorough, comprehensive assessment of Soviet strategic capabilities—even in two specific areas—than the intelligence community can prepare.” (Bush approves the experiment by notating on the authorization memo, “Let ‘er fly!”) The national intelligence officer in charge of the National Intelligence Estimate on the USSR, Howard Stoertz, will later recall: “Most of us were opposed to it because we saw it as an ideological, political foray, not an intelligence exercise. We knew the people who were pleading for it.” But Bush, on the advice of deputy national security adviser William Hyland, agrees to the exercise. Hyland says the CIA had been getting “too much flak for being too peacenik and detentish…. I encouraged [Bush] to undertake the experiment, largely because I thought a new director ought to be receptive to new views.” The neocon team of “analysts” becomes known as “Team B,” with “Team A” being the CIA’s own analytical team. It is unprecedented to allow outsiders to have so much access to highly classified CIA intelligence as Bush is granting the Team B neocons, so the entire project is conducted in secret. CIA analyst Melvin Goodman later says that President Ford’s chief of staff, Dick Cheney, is one of the driving forces behind Team B. The outside analysts “wanted to toughen up the agency’s estimates,” Goodman will say, but “Cheney wanted to drive [the CIA] so far to the right it would never say no to the generals.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 208; Unger, 2007, pp. 53-55]
Political Pressure - Ford’s political fortunes help push forward the Team B experiment. Ford has been a strong proponent of detente with the Soviet Union, but his poll numbers are sagging and he is facing a strong presidential primary challenger in Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA), an avowed hardliner. Reagan is making hay challenging Ford’s foreign policy, claiming that the so-called “Ford-Kissinger” policies have allowed the Soviet Union to leap ahead of the US both militarily and geopolitically. In response, Ford has lurched to the right, banning the word “detente” from speeches and statements by White House officials, and has been responsive to calls for action from the newly reforming Committee on the Present Danger (CPD—see 1976). In combination, these political concerns give Bush the justification he wants to push forward with the Team B experiment.
Three B Teams - According to Carter administration arms control official Anne Cahn, there are actually three “B” teams. One studies Soviet low-altitude air defense capabilities, one examines Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) accuracy, and the third, chaired by Harvard Sovietologist Richard Pipes, examines Soviet strategic policy and objectives. It is Pipes’s team that becomes publicly known as “Team B.” [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993]
Assembling the Team - Pipes fits in well with his small group of ideological hardliners. He believes that the USSR is determined to fight and win a nuclear war with the US, and he is bent on putting together an analysis that proves his contention. He asks Cold War icon Paul Nitze, the former Secretary of the Navy, to join the team. Richard Perle, a core member, has Pipes bring in Paul Wolfowitz, one of Wohlstetter’s most devout disciples. Wolfowitz immediately begins arguing for the need to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The “incestuous closeness” of the members, as Cahn later calls it, ensures that the entire group is focused on the same goals as Wohlstetter and Pipes, with no dissension or counterarguments. Other key members include William von Cleave and Daniel Graham. The entire experiment, Cahn will write, “was concocted by conservative cold warriors determined to bury détente and the SALT process. Panel members were all hard-liners,” and many are members of the newly reconstituted “Committee on the Present Danger” (see 1976). The experiment is “leaked to the press in an unsuccessful attempt at an ‘October surprise’ [an attempt to damage the presidential hopes of Democrat Jimmy Carter—see Late November, 1976]. But most important, the Team B reports became the intellectual foundation of ‘the window of vulnerability’ and of the massive arms buildup that began toward the end of the Carter administration and accelerated under President Reagan.” Team B will formally debate its CIA adversaries, “Team A,” towards the end of the year (see November 1976). [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ; Unger, 2007, pp. 53-55]
'Designed to be Prejudiced' - In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will note, “Team B was designed to be prejudiced.” Pipes, the Soviet experts, holds a corrosive hatred of the Soviet Union, in part stemming from his personal experiences as a young Jew in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, and his belief that the Soviet system is little different from the Nazis. When asked why his team is stacked with hardline opponents of arms negotiations and diplomacy of any kind with the USSR, Pipes replies, “There is no point in another, what you might call, optimistic view.” Scoblic will write, “Team B, in short, begged the question. Its members saw the Soviet threat not as an empirical problem but as a matter of faith.” He will add, “For three months, the members of Team B pored over the CIA’s raw intelligence data—and used them to reaffirm their beliefs.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 93-94]
Entity Tags: Richard Perle, Richard Pipes, William Hyland, Paul Nitze, William Colby, J. Peter Scoblic, Paul Wolfowitz, George Herbert Walker Bush, ’Team A’, ’Team B’, Anne Cahn, Albert Wohlstetter, Issuetsdeah, Central Intelligence Agency, Howard Stoertz
Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Neoconservative Influence
A team of young, mid-level CIA and DIA analysts, informally dubbed “Team A,” debates the neoconservative/hardline group of outside “analysts” known as “Team B” (see Early 1976) over the CIA’s estimates of Soviet military threats and intentions. The debate is a disaster for the CIA’s group. Team B uses its intellectual firepower and established reputations of members such as Richard Pipes and Paul Nitze to intimidate, overwhelm, and browbeat the younger, more inexperienced CIA analysts. “People like Nitze ate us for lunch,” recalls one member of Team A. “It was like putting Walt Whitman High versus the [NFL’s] Redskins. I watched poor GS-13s and GS-14s [middle-level analysts with modest experience and little real influence] subjected to ridicule by Pipes and Nitze. They were browbeating the poor analysts.” Howard Stoertz, the national intelligence officer who helped coordinate and guide Team A, will say in hindsight, “If I had appreciated the adversarial nature [of Team B], I would have wheeled up different guns.” Team A had prepared for a relatively congenial session of comparative analysis and lively discussion; Team B had prepared for war.
Ideology Trumps Facts - Neither Stoertz nor anyone else in the CIA appreciated how thoroughly Team B would let ideology and personalities override fact and real data. While CIA analysts are aware of how political considerations can influence the agency’s findings, the foundation of everything they do is factual—every conclusion they draw is based on whatever facts they can glean, and they are leery of extrapolating too much from a factual set. Team A is wholly unprepared for B’s assault on their reliance on facts, a line of attack the CIA analysts find incomprehensible. “In other words,” author Craig Unger will write in 2007, “facts didn’t matter.” Pipes, the leader of Team B, has argued for years that attempting to accurately assess Soviet military strength is irrelevant. Pipes says that because it is irrefutable that the USSR intends to obliterate the US, the US must immediately begin preparing for an all-out nuclear showdown, regardless of the intelligence or the diplomatic efforts of both sides. Team B is part of that preparation. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Unger, 2007, pp. 53-57] Intelligence expert John Prados, who will examine the contesting reports, later says that while the CIA analysts believe in “an objective discoverable truth,” the Team B analysts engaged in an “exercise of reasoning from conclusions” that they justify, not in factual, but in “moral and ideological terms.” According to Prados’s analysis, Team B had no real interest in finding the truth. Instead, they employed what he calls an adversarial process similar to that used in courts of law, where two sides present their arguments and a supposedly impartial judge chooses one over the other. Team B’s intent was, in essence, to present the two opposing arguments to Washington policy makers and have them, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “choose whichever truth they found most convenient.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 98]
Attacking the Intelligence Community - The first sentence of Team B’s report is a frontal assault on the US intelligence community. That community, the report says, had “substantially misperceived the motivations behind Soviet strategic programs, and thereby tended consistently to underestimate their intensity, scope, and implicit threat.” Team B writes that the intelligence community has failed to see—or deliberately refused to see—that the entire schema of detente and arms limitations negotiations are merely elements of the Soviet push for global domination.
Fighting and Winning a Nuclear War - Team B writes that the Soviets have already achieved measurable superiority in nuclear weaponry and other military benchmarks, and will use those advantages to cow and coerce the West into doing its bidding. The Soviets worship military power “to an extent inconceivable to the average Westerner,” the report asserts. The entire Soviet plan, the report goes on to say, hinges on its willingness to fight a nuclear war, and its absolute belief that it can win such a war. Within ten years, Team B states, “the Soviets may well expect to achieve a degree of military superiority which would permit a dramatically more aggressive pursuit of their hegemonial objectives.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 94-95]
Lack of Facts Merely Proof of Soviets' Success - One example that comes up during the debate is B’s assertion that the USSR has a top-secret nonacoustic antisubmarine system. While the CIA analysts struggle to point out that absolutely no evidence of this system exists, B members conclude that not only does the USSR have such a system, it has probably “deployed some operation nonacoustic systems and will deploy more in the next few years.” The absence of evidence merely proves how secretive the Soviets are, they argue. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Unger, 2007, pp. 53-57] Anne Cahn, who will serve in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Carter administration, later says of this assertion, “They couldn’t say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn’t find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, ‘we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.‘… [The fact that the weapon doesn’t exist] doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it yet.” Cahn will give another example: “I mean, they looked at radars out in Krasnoyarsk and said, ‘This is a laser beam weapon,’ when in fact it was nothing of the sort.… And if you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong.… I don’t believe anything in Team B was really true.” [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Common Dreams (.org), 12/7/2004; BBC, 1/14/2005]
Soviet Strike Capabilities Grossly Exaggerated - Team B also hammers home warnings about how dangerous the Soviets’ Backfire bomber is. Later—too late for Team A—the Team B contentions about the Backfire’s range and refueling capability are proven to be grossly overestimated; it is later shown that the USSR has less than half the number of Backfires that B members loudly assert exist (500 in Team B’s estimation, 235 in reality). B’s assertions of how effectively the Soviets could strike at US missile silos are similarly exaggerated, and based on flawed assessment techniques long rejected by the CIA. The only hard evidence Team B produces to back their assertions is the official Soviet training manual, which claims that their air-defense system is fully integrated and functions flawlessly. The B analysts even assert, without evidence, that the Soviets have successfully tested laser and charged particle beam (CPB) weapons. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ] (The facility at Semipalatansk that is supposedly testing these laser weapons for deployment is in reality a test site for nuclear-powered rocket engines.) [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 96]
Fundamental Contradiction - One befuddling conclusion of Team B concerns the Soviets’ ability to continue building new and expensive weapons. While B acknowledges “that the Soviet Union is in severe decline,” paradoxically, its members argue that the threat from the USSR is imminent and will grow ever more so because it is a wealthy country with “a large and expanding Gross National Product.”
Allegations 'Complete Fiction' - Cahn will say of Team B’s arguments, “All of it was fantasy.… [I]f you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong.” The CIA lambasts Team B’s report as “complete fiction.” CIA director George H. W. Bush says that B’s approach “lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy.” His successor, Admiral Stansfield Turner, will come to the same conclusion, saying, “Team B was composed of outsiders with a right-wing ideological bent. The intention was to promote competition by polarizing the teams. It failed. The CIA teams, knowing that the outsiders on B would take extreme views, tended to do the same in self-defense. When B felt frustrated over its inability to prevail, one of its members leaked much of the secret material of the proceedings to the press” (see Late November, 1976). Former CIA deputy director Ray Cline says Team B had subverted the National Intelligence Estimate on the USSR by employing “a kangaroo court of outside critics all picked from one point of view.” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says that B’s only purpose is to subvert detente and sabotage a new arms limitation treaty between the US and the Soviet Union. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993; Common Dreams (.org), 12/7/2004; BBC, 1/14/2005; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ; Unger, 2007, pp. 53-57]
Costs of Rearmament - In 1993, after reviewing the original Team B documents, Cahn will reflect on the effect of the B exercise: “For more than a third of a century, assertions of Soviet superiority created calls for the United States to ‘rearm.’ In the 1980s, the call was heeded so thoroughly that the United States embarked on a trillion-dollar defense buildup. As a result, the country neglected its schools, cities, roads and bridges, and health care system. From the world’s greatest creditor nation, the United States became the world’s greatest debtor—in order to pay for arms to counter the threat of a nation that was collapsing.” [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 4/1993] Former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) will agree: “The Pro-B Team leak and public attack on the conclusions of the NIE represent but one element in a series of leaks and other statements which have been aimed as fostering a ‘worst case’ view for the public of the Soviet threat. In turn, this view of the Soviet threat is used to justify new weapons systems.” [Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ]
Entity Tags: Howard Stoertz, Henry A. Kissinger, Stansfield Turner, Richard Pipes, J. Peter Scoblic, Ray Cline, George Herbert Walker Bush, Craig Unger, Defense Intelligence Agency, ’Team A’, Gary Hart, Anne Cahn, ’Team B’, Carter administration, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Paul Nitze, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Neoconservative Influence
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