BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Andrew Cockburn, co-author of "Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship," what's the premise of your book?
ANDREW COCKBURN, CO-AUTHOR OF "DANGEROUS LIAISON: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE U.S.-ISRAELI COVERT RELATIONSHIP": The premise is that there's a side to the relationship between the U.S. and Israel which goes much beyond just the sentimental links and the links forged by supporters of Israel in this country. What we say, what we explain is that there has been since almost the earliest days of the Israeli state and the earliest days of the CIA a secret bond, a secret link between them, basically by which the Israelis -- the Israeli intelligence -- did jobs for the CIA and for the rest of American intelligence. You can't understand what's been going on around the world with American covert operations and the Israeli covert operations until you understand that the two countries have this secret arrangement.
LAMB: Leslie Cockburn, what was the most interesting part of writing this book?
LESLIE COCKBURN, CO-AUTHOR OF "DANGEROUS LIAISON: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE U.S.-ISRAELI COVERT RELATIONSHIP": There are a number of things. For example, one particular part which I found most interesting was we talk about Israeli operations in Colombia and some of the Israeli commandos who trained the hit squads of the Medellin cartel. It turns out that they had trained us in Israel as well when they were between trips to Colombia. These were the same people who also trained most of the top commanders in the Guatemalan military and also trained the Contras. They had a firm that was under license to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and then they'd turn up in the jungles of Puerto Boyac in Colombia. So, we had a lot of adventures, I must say.
LAMB: Did the Israelis cooperate with you at all on this book?
A. COCKBURN: Well, we never made an official approach to the Israeli government or Mossad or anything like that, but we managed to get in the end to talk to all the people we wanted to talk to in Israel. We talked to people like, for instance, David Kimche who had a long Mossad career. He eventually rose to be deputy head of Mossad, the Israeli secret intelligence agency -- the equivalent of the CIA. I remember a wonderful evening we had in his home, in his study, where he was talking in guarded fashion about his career in intelligence. He then went on to be director general of their foreign ministry.
But I certainly noticed around the walls of his study where we were sitting, it was like a history of Israeli covert operations because, for instance, on one wall there were the most beautiful wood carvings, African wood sculptures. I said, "Oh, they're lovely, David. Where did you get those?" "Oh, a present from [Sese-Seko] Mobutu in Zaire." "Oh, that one's nice. Where did that come from?" "[Jean-Bedel] Bokassa of the Central African Empire." Then on another wall beautiful Persian miniatures. "Where did they come from?" "Oh, a present from the Shah for something we did for him."
So, there was this man sitting, this master spook, surrounded by mementos of his career. And so, we talked to him. We spent a lot of time talking -- well, there's a street in Tel Aviv, an avenue called Shaul Hamalekh, which is right across the street from what's called the Kirya, which is the Ministry of Defense compound. It's a huge area in the middle of Tel Aviv. On the other side of Shaul Hamalekh is a row of very fancy high-rises which is basically the headquarters of the Israeli military-industrial complex -- I mean, that area is, so you have offices of all the major arms dealers, the offices of the Israeli representatives of the major American defense corporations. You have Mossad headquarters. Just down one side street you have a very beautiful building which is the headquarters of a man called Shaul Eisenberg, which not many people in the outside world know about, but he's certainly the richest and probably the most powerful man in Israel. He's the master arms dealer. He's behind a lot of political campaigns, behind a lot of politicians. Again, very much involved in this secret world of arms deals and covert operations that we talk about as the link with America.
LAMB: There were two American names early in the book -- Al Schwimmer and Hank Greenspun.
A. COCKBURN: Al Schwimmer is, again, a fascinating character. He, right at the very birth of Israel -- his real name is Adolph Schwimmer, but everyone calls him Al -- was basically an arms smuggler for Israel. He was flying in arms during their war of independence from all over the place. He was originally a TWA flight engineer, in fact, but also a brilliant pilot. So, for example, he was flying arms from Prague because in the early days of Israel, in fact, most of their arms or among their most important single arms supplier was the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, and Schwimmer was part of that. He went on to found Israel Aircraft Industries, in the meantime still sort of flying arms, doing covert arms deals around the world.
Then years later, his energy still undiminished, he was right at the heart of the Iran-Contra business. He was absolutely central at one point to the covert shipments of arms to Iran.
Hank Greenspun was another fascinating guy. He was a U.S. Army veteran at the end of World War II. He had just moved to Las Vegas to set up a radio station when Al Schwimmer suddenly knocked on the door. He didn't know him -- introduced by a mutual friend -- and said, "Hey, drop everything. I want you to come with us and we're going down to Mexico. We need you to go and vet some arms that we've gotten hold of that we're buying illegally, in fact. We need to get to Palestine."
So, Greenspun says, "Oh, OK," drops everything and becomes an arms smuggler, briefly. He disappears from his house for six months, comes back, can't tell his wife where he's been and he's been in Mexico bribing officials. Then he goes back to Las Vegas. He later became very famous as the publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, an early opponent of Joe McCarthy, fought Howard Hughes and, interestingly enough, he was the conduit for many years until the campaign finance laws got tightened up. If candidates, especially Democratic candidates, needed cash in a hurry, Hank Greenspun in Las Vegas was the man to see because in Las Vegas, of course, there's a lot of cash around. And if you are in dire straits -- for instance, Jimmy Carter was saved at a crucial moment of his candidacy in 1976 during the Pennsylvania primary when Hank Greenspun came out with $60,000. So we have characters go all the way through.
L. COCKBURN: One point about doing this kind of story about covert operations with U.S. and Israel is that because Israel is such a young country, some of these people who were there are the very beginning, who were making the deals in the '50s, are still alive. We went to see Isser Harel, who is really a towering figure in covert operations. He was chief of Mossad at a crucial time in the '50s when this secret relationship we're talking about was just getting going. There was a deal made in 1951. Ben-Gurion came to Washington and offered the CIA the services of Israeli intelligence.
LAMB: Who was Ben-Gurion?
L. COCKBURN: Ben-Gurion is the father of Israel.
A. COCKBURN: He was prime minister for many years. He really steered the state to independence, steered his people to independence, wrote the Israeli declaration of independence, was prime minister all the way through, with a brief interval, until 1963. The Israel you see today is really the creation of David Ben-Gurion.
LAMB: Originally from what country?
A. COCKBURN: He was originally from what's now Poland but was then Russia, a part of the territory that's changed hands.
LAMB: Let me go back to Leslie Cockburn and ask her who your favorite character was in your book.
L. COCKBURN: Favorite character . . .
LAMB: Most interesting person.
L. COCKBURN: Well, let's see. It's a very tough choice, as you've seen. You even have the original Uzi in the book -- the man called Uzi that all Uzis are named after.
LAMB: What's his name?
L. COCKBURN: His name is Uzi Gal, and he lives in the United States. He lives in Pennsylvania.
LAMB: How did the Uzi gun get its name? What is it?
A. COCKBURN: I spent a lot of time talking to Uzi, we both did, but he explained to me -- actually, I'm no engineer -- and he explained to me what his idea was. Uzi's a guy who thinks about guns a lot -- not in any kind of obsessive way. He's not interested in killing people.
LAMB: Where did you find him?
A. COCKBURN: He lives in the United States. He asked me not to be too specific about where he lives, but it's on the East Coast. I found him through other people who shared his interest, which is the engineering of guns. I asked him, in fact, at the end of a long conversation, "Well, you know, Uzis have sort of killed a lot of people. You're very famous for what Uzis do to the human body." He said, "Yes, I read in the paper, it's entered the language. People talk about Uzi-ing a house." I expected him then to say, "I'm sorry about that," and he said, "I don't deserve such fame. I just made a good gun." So he's got pride in his creations.
LAMB: Where was he when he invented the Uzi, and what is it, for people who have never seen an Uzi?
A. COCKBURN: Well, it's an automatic. It's basically a submachine gun.
A. COCKBURN: It's small. Its great virtues are that it's very stable. When you fire it, it doesn't -- a lot of these kinds of guns, the recoil will pull it all over the place. Because of some design features he thought of, it's a very, very stable gun. You can hold it and pull the trigger and it won't jerk around. It's also very reliable, won't jam, it's easy to maintain, and the basic model he designed in a British jail was where he had the original idea. He was living on a kibbutz when the British still owned Palestine, and the British came and raided the place for arms, of which they found a lot, and carted Uzi off. He started to have this idea about what a really good gun would consist of. He came out and he actually started to work on the prototype in this farm machine shop where they repaired the tractors. Then it was bought by the Israeli army, and they decided to name it after him.
LAMB: Does the American Secret Service use it?
A. COCKBURN: The American Secret Service use it, as we point out in the book. Right here in Washington, you've got the Secret Service guarding the president at the White House with Uzis and a few blocks down the street you've got the dope dealers guarding their patch and eliminating rivals with Uzis. So, it's the universal gun of choice.
LAMB: How did you two meet?
L. COCKBURN: We met in London, years ago. We met at a club called Zanzibar, actually, in London.
LAMB: What were you doing?
L. COCKBURN: At the time I was finishing graduate school over there at SOAS, which is the School of Oriental and African Studies. I had also just started working at NBC News.
LAMB: Where is home originally?
L. COCKBURN: San Francisco.
LAMB: And what is your relationship?
L. COCKBURN: Well, we're married and we work together. We make films together for PBS "Frontline" and we write books together. So it's a very close relationship.
LAMB: What other books have you written?
L. COCKBURN: This is our first together, but I wrote a book called "Out of Control," which was about the Reagan administration activities in Central America. It was about covert operations down there, and I wrote a book called "The Threat" which was about the Soviet military.
LAMB: "Out of Control" had what impact on our body politic?
L. COCKBURN: Well, it was interesting because I had actually spent a long time covering Central America, the North operation, for CBS News in New York where I was working at the time. I broke the story for CBS about the North operation in Central America, so then wrote a book which was basically about our adventures in finding out about this stuff in Honduras, in Washington bars and restaurants, in Costa Rica. It got into the seamier side of what was going on down there with operations.
LAMB: Where did you get your original interest in this kind of a story?
L. COCKBURN: Well, I think it jelled for me when -- years ago in London there was a very famous arms dealer called Sam Cummings who did a lot of work for the CIA. He's one of the biggest private arms dealers in the world. He fascinated me. What fascinated me was his ability to go into a situation and supply arms in little wars. He had no problem at all with supplying both sides. That kind of mentality of the arms dealer coming in into a little war just got me very fascinated with little wars. I'd also lived in Africa while I was at Yale. I'd spent a lot of time in the Third World even then.
LAMB: Can you go back to your early childhood somewhere or your high school or college years and point to a parent or somebody that gave you the kind of boost to get into this kind of work?
L. COCKBURN: I don't think so. I think it was a series of things. I think living in Africa when I was a student was very helpful.
LAMB: Where did you live?
L. COCKBURN: I was living in a village in Kenya up in the mountains, a place where they'd never seen a white woman before. It was quite an interesting experience.
LAMB: Why were you living there?
L. COCKBURN: Because I was very adventurous, in fact. I've done a lot of things like this. As well as covering Central America, I covered the war in Cambodia, this recent situation. I went to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I was in Israel under the scuds. This is what I like to do.
LAMB: What do you remember about meeting Leslie? What were you doing?
A. COCKBURN: I was at this party, sitting at the bar. What I was working at -- sorry; I was thinking of the precise moment.
LAMB: What year?
A. COCKBURN: This was 1976. What was I doing? I was working for a British investigative show called "World in Action." In Britain, the networks have a lot of documentaries on television. It's a much more routine thing. It was a weekly show. Actually, it was a wonderful operation. We used to be sent off and you could basically do almost what you wanted, provided it was a good story.
I think at that time I was working on a story about how -- there was a huge argument going on then, as I suppose is now, as to whether nuclear power is safe. There were these rumors I'd heard that there'd been a nuclear accident in the Soviet Union -- this was long before the days of glastnost and so forth -- that was very mysterious. No one knew much about it, but something terrible was supposed to have happened 20 years before. I set out to dig into this, and it was the first contact I had with Israel. I found someone in Israel who was a witness to this accident who had somehow been allowed to emigrate. I tracked him down and tracked other people down. I just remember a sort of happy time of life because I met Leslie and also was working on this terrific story.
LAMB: Where were you from originally?
A. COCKBURN: I was from Ireland. I grew up in Ireland. My father is Scottish, but...
LAMB: Where in Ireland?
A. COCKBURN: County Cork, East Cork.
LAMB: What was life like growing up there? When did you leave there?
A. COCKBURN: Life was interesting. Actually, in the early years we didn't have a car or a telephone or a fridge. We went everywhere by horse. I grew up in a 19th century way. There was no difference between the way we were living and someone a hundred years before. Communicated by telegram. I can tell people under the age of 110 that it's a perfectly viable way to live. I left there, I guess, when I was 17 and went to work in London.
LAMB: Went to school where?
A. COCKBURN: In the American sense, I went to Oxford.
A. COCKBURN: "Studied" is probably exaggerating it a bit. Was listed as studying history.
LAMB: Back to the book. What do you think of Israeli people from what you've learned over the years in being close to them?
L. COCKBURN: Both of us love working in Israel. I've been going back every year -- not every year -- but have made numerous trips to Israel since 1980- 1981. Israelis are very interesting people, also. The fact is, Israelis love to talk and tend to be, at least in this business -- in the arms business and in intelligence -- fairly gregarious, and also they have a lot of feuds with each other, very strong personalities. It's a very interesting group of people to work with.
LAMB: Are they tough? Are they effective? Do you like them?
A. COCKBURN: Yes, really, I've got to say I do. They're very tough. They have an engaging cynicism about them. I did. How could you not like it -- this may sound bizarre -- but for example, we were talking to an executive -- this was some years back -- an executive of Israel Aircraft Industries, which is the huge Israeli defense aerospace. It's the biggest business in Israel, in fact -- biggest single firm. This was a time -- this was the early '80s -- when there'd been a row, a big argument, here in Washington because the United States had wanted to sell F-15 fighters to Saudi Arabia.
The Israeli lobby here had kicked up a huge fuss saying, "You shouldn't be selling these planes, but if you must, you shouldn't can't sell them with the extra fuel tanks that will enable them to reach Israel and bomb Israel should the Saudis get that idea." So the Carter administration had agreed that the F-15s would not have the extra fuel tanks. A few years later we were talking to this gentleman from Israel Aircraft Industries who said, "Do you remember those fuel tanks that weren't allowed to go to Saudi Arabia?" We said, "Yes." And he said, "Do you remember how that ban got dropped?" which it had by that point. I said, "Yes." He said, "Do you know where those fuel tanks get made?" I said, "Where?" He said, "Tel Aviv. We make them." So, he was delighted. He thought that was a great joke and great business coup that his firm was making the fuel tanks which would, theoretically at least, allow Saudi Arabia to bomb Israel.
L. COCKBURN: For example, we got to know quite well a man who we refer to in the book as "the Colonel," who is an American intelligence official working in Israel, spying on Israel, spying on the Israelis. Of course, the Israelis knew he was doing it. He knew they knew he was doing it. When he got to the end of his term in Israel, the chief of Israeli military intelligence threw him a big going-away party and said, "We like you. You're more Israeli than the Israelis. Now get out of here and don't come back." So, it's such an interesting interplay between these people.
LAMB: You tell a story early in the book -- you know, I've never heard anyone pronounce his full name so I don't even know if this is right -- James Jesus Angleton -- or do they call him Jesus [pronounces Hesus]?
A. COCKBURN: Although it should be Jesus [Hesus] because that was in recognition of the Mexican half of his family, everyone always pronounced it Jesus.
LAMB: You tell an early story about a monument to him near Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. Explain that story.
A. COCKBURN: Right. Well, if you're going on the outskirts of Jerusalem on the western side at least, you have Yad Vashem, which is the very moving memorial to the Holocaust. If you take the road past there out of town, you down the hill and you wind through a pretty village and eventually come to what's called the Jerusalem Forest, which is full of memorial groves, if you like, to people who get honored in this way -- war heros or simply people who have been killed in war or people recognized by the state of Israel.
We were driving through this one day, and the reason we were doing this was we were looking for the memorial grove, memorial forest, to James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was a CIA man, a senior CIA official, very famous for a number of reasons but he was of interest to us because he was the link for many years between the CIA and the Mossad. The Israelis had all said to us, his old intelligence friends had said, "Oh, yes, we love Jim and Jim was a good friend to Israel and we liked Jim a lot. In fact, after he died" -- which was in 1987 -- "we created a memorial forest for him. It's out there. I suppose it's a bit hard to find. You might not want to look for it, but I can tell you that it's there." So, we thought we would go and take a look. We drove out, and there were all these nice groves with nice plaques carved in stone to various people, and we can't find the Angleton memorial.
Eventually we decided to give up, thinking we had taken the wrong direction or something. We were looking for a place to turn and there is an open space, or it looks like an open space, and we drive up, but it isn't. It's basically a garbage dump with a few stunted, dying little trees poking up and a plaque actually on plastic screwed to the stone to James Jesus Angleton. So this was the memorial forest. It's kind of hard to explain, but in a way it was an Israeli joke. It was, "Look, we're supposed to like you a lot. We're supposed to owe you a lot, but we don't owe anyone anything, so here's what we really think of you," and it's a garbage dump.
LAMB: Mr. Angleton is dead?
A. COCKBURN: He is dead but not forgotten.
LAMB: Isn't there a new book just out about him?
A. COCKBURN: Yes, but it doesn't really go into the Israeli side, which is what interests us. Angleton did a number of things. He's been most written about because he was head of CIA counter-intelligence and got obsessed about a Soviet mole in the CIA. Although that may be the most publicized role he had, he did other things, too, and his most important job really -- and this is the role that the agency has always been very keen to obscure. In fact, the prevented one former colleague of his in the agency from writing a book about him because they said, "Oh, my God, if he writes that book, he'll talk about this particular job," which was Angleton's role as a liaison with foreign intelligence services, including the Israelis -- particularly the Israelis, in fact. This was an absolutely key role. There's a lot of bodies buried there. What Angleton was able to do were things the CIA couldn't do or didn't want to be seen doing or wanted to do in this country, in which it's legally precluded from doing. As liaison, Angleton could go to his buddies in foreign intelligence services, and particularly the Israelis, and say, "Help us out." Angleton was really the point man for the connection that we explain in the book.
LAMB: What would happen if all American aid to Israel was stopped and the Israelis had to shut down their arms business? What would happen to that country?
L. COCKBURN: It would be a disaster.
L. COCKBURN: Because the arms business is the engine that drives the economy of Israel. It's the biggest export. At this point it's such a huge part of the economy that they have to continue shipping arms, which is one reason why you get a situation where they're shipping all over the world, and particularly unattractive situations like shipping to South Africa. So it's all driven by money, by the desperate need to keep this business going. People will say to you, "Well, we had to go into the arms business in a big way because we wanted to become self-sufficient because there's always the possibility of a next war." But, in fact, because they're very military-aid dependent on the U.S., what's happened is that they're more and more dependent on American components, on American research and development and hardly self-sufficient.
A. COCKBURN: There is another element to that which is they have this huge arms industry that they have to keep going and is the major provider of employment in the country, especially of well-paying jobs. Their market, as wars are tailing off around the world, they see as their principal future growth market the Pentagon here. They're becoming, or trying to be, in fact, more dependent on getting more business out of the U.S. military, which certainly doesn't make them self-sufficient. If your economy depends on selling stuff to the Pentagon or tending that way, then that makes that connection even greater.
L. COCKBURN: But there's also on the intelligence side of things -- when I say their need for this military industry is desperate, you have a whole intelligence branch that was set up called LAKAM to get high-tech military technology around the world by any means, and that includes stealing it. So you've had a lot of cases over the years of LAKAM operations, including in this country, going around to different companies and getting a hold of the blueprints and carting away boxes to bring back to Tel Aviv, because they have to say ahead of the curve.
LAMB: Do the Israelis lie to the public?
L. COCKBURN: In talking about this kind of stuff -- covert operations, national security subjects -- there is censorship in Israel. So a lot of these things can't even be discussed. We talk about in the book the Israeli nuclear program and break some ground on this. We talk about the Israeli chain of command, that it takes the prime minister, the head of Mossad and the defense minister to make the decision to push the nuclear button.
LAMB: Is this the nuclear facility at Dimona?
L. COCKBURN: That's correct.
LAMB: Is that the only nuclear facility they have?
L. COCKBURN: It's an enormous nuclear facility. But what we've discovered . . .
LAMB: Did you try to go there?
L. COCKBURN: Oh, I've been to Dimona, yes.
L. COCKBURN: No, no, no. That's very difficult.
LAMB: Where is it?
L. COCKBURN: It's down in the Negev. It's out in the middle of nowhere, and what happens is when you go to Dimona, if you happen to stop the car and take a picture of it or film it or whatever, you're out of there very quickly. One defense intelligence agency friend of ours said that he had more flat tires in front of Dimona than anywhere else in Israel. But what we also have discovered was that Israel not only has nuclear weapons, but sophisticated tactical nuclear weapons just like we do. Remember the American Army used to have nuclear land mines, for example, all over Germany.
Well, the Israelis, we've discovered, have nuclear land mines seated on the Golan Heights and at one point Ariel Sharon, who is, of course, famous for the invasion of Lebanon and whatnot, went to [Menachem] Begin and said, "Look, you're busy," and had a terrible relationship at the time with the chief of Mossad. He wanted to take over sole control of the nuclear button, and Begin, fortunately, said no. But this kind of thing -- I mean this is why the Israelis have gone wild for the book and they've serialized it in Ma'ariv and written about it in Ha'aretz because they can't talk about this sort of stuff unless it's been printed abroad before.
LAMB: Ma'ariv and Ha'aretz are what?
L. COCKBURN: They're two very large Israeli papers. Ha'aretz is the kind of New York Times of Israel and Ma'ariv is the conservative paper.
LAMB: You point out in your book that one of the things you did differently with this book is you've had a lot of translations of a lot of Hebrew in Israeli newspapers. Why?
A. COCKBURN: Because there's an amazing amount of information that appears in Hebrew -- the Israelis feel comfortable about this because if it's in Hebrew it's like it's among themselves -- that doesn't get translated into English. They are very conscious of the feeling that Hebrew is like a code. Not many people outside Israel actually speak it. So if you can say something in Hebrew, it's almost like saying it in secret. We discovered that, for instance, the Hebrew press in Israel is very, very good, and there are a lot of good journalists. There are very good newspapers. An amazing amount of information that never finds its way into the dispatches of foreign correspondents from Israel, very few of whom actually speak Hebrew, nor does it appear in the English-language Israeli papers like the Jerusalem Post.
Someone said to us, "Do you know what the function of the Jerusalem Post is?" We said, "What?" He said, "It's to give the American ambassador a happy breakfast." So they're very conscious of, "Hebrew is for us and English is for everyone else." We also found with books and also some diaries and documents there was a treasure trove. The Israelis, of course, are good at keeping secrets. It's not like they spill everything out and they have to have a freedom of information. But there is still a wealth of detail and information and color and a lot of what you need to know to understand the connection we're talking about in Hebrew.
LAMB: How did you get it translated? Was it expensive?
A. COCKBURN: Yes, but we thought it was worth the investment.
LAMB: Can you give us an example of something that you learned that was in Hebrew that we never saw in English?
A. COCKBURN: Sure. The '67 war, for example. The people's general view of the 1967 war was all the Arabs sort of ganged up on Israel and may have even attacked Israel and the Israelis fought them off and won the great victory which got them the West Bank that people are arguing about today.
In fact, let me give you a quick background. Let me put it this way: We found a book of memoirs written by a guy who was the military aide to the then-prime minister of Israel. It was a guy called Israel Lior. He gives an account in this book which has never been translated into English. It's available only in Hebrew; in fact, wasn't even a bestseller there. He gives an account how on June 3, 1967 -- two days before the war broke out -- he was at the home of the prime minister and they were waiting for the head of Mossad to come back from Washington. The head of Mossad had been sent to Washington to get permission, to get the green light, to launch the war. He explains, "We knew we could win" -- he's explained already in the book -- " The generals were hot to go. They weren't really scared of the Egyptians or anyone else, but they wanted to go ahead with this and the prime minister had been saying, 'No, we can't do it. We can't attack until we have American permission.'"
He gives this very vivid description of how Meir Amit, the head of Mossad, comes back into the room at midnight. The high command is sitting around, and this being an Israeli meeting the air is thick with cigarette smoke. Amit walks back in and they say, "Well, what is it? Is it war or no war? Will they let us go?" Amit says, "Well, I've been given to understand, the Americans have told me that they will bless us if we crush Nassar, and that's it." They started the war on Monday morning. He'd been to Washington and he'd seen Richard Helms, the head of the CIA, and a very few other very senior officials, also including, certainly, James Jesus Angleton, and they got permission to do it. So that was something that had never been in English. Once you've read that, you understand that things are a bit different from the kind of histories you read in English.
LAMB: Where do you two live now?
L. COCKBURN: Washington.
LAMB: And where do you two work besides doing books like this now?
L. COCKBURN: We lead a busy life. We make programs for ABC News. I made two big programs during the Gulf War for them, a big hour on Cambodia. Together we make films for PBS "Frontline" and have for some years now.
LAMB: But you operate as outside consultants in this case, or outside producers -- not on the payroll every day of these organizations?
L. COCKBURN: Oh, absolutely. I was on the payroll of one of the big networks for years, CBS News, and found that if you're on the payroll all the time, then you can't do anything else. Because we like to go back and forth between films and books and also we like to go back and forth between two different -- PBS and ABC or one of the networks are quite different.
LAMB: How do you get "Coburn" out of "Cockburn?"
A. COCKBURN: It was some idea that happened back in Scotland several hundred years ago. I'm not responsible, but all Cockburns carry this mission through life. Your name is spelled Cockburn, but you pronounce it "Coburn." There are people who give up the struggle and change the spelling to C-O-B-U-R-N, but we regard them as backsliders.
LAMB: Who is Alexander Cockburn?
A. COCKBURN: He's my brother.
LAMB: Who's older?
A. COCKBURN: He is.
LAMB: Do you still have a relationship with him?
A. COCKBURN: Sure.
LAMB: What does he do for a living? We don't see him in the Wall Street Journal anymore.
A. COCKBURN: No, he's very nomadic. Among his many interests is collecting classic American cars. I think he now has 12 of them. These are the big monsters from the late '50s and early '60s, and he has them distributed around the United States. So he basically moves around the U.S. in a great circle route and he has cars everywhere. But he lives most of the time, actually, out West. Incredibly busy and incredibly productive. I have a younger brother, too, who spent the recent Gulf War in Baghdad. He is the Middle East editor for an English newspaper, The Independent.
LAMB: Your brother was very opinionated and very visible, especially when he was in the Wall Street Journal. Does that give you a problem? Do people automatically ascribe his views to you?
A. COCKBURN: Sometimes. Not really. He often gets confused with me, as well. I just get used to it. "Are you Alexander?" "No, I'm Andrew," or whatever.
L. COCKBURN: He also gets confused with Patrick, of course, who is most of the time in the Middle East.
LAMB: How about politics? Do either one of you consider yourself strong political people?
L. COCKBURN: I don't.
LAMB: You get accused of that, though.
L. COCKBURN: Well, look, whenever you're looking into this kind of stuff, whenever you spend your life collecting frequent flyer miles to go to places like Cali, Colombia, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand, and when you're actually going out and finding out stuff, the world doesn't fit into a neat little package. It's always a little different from what people expect it to ge. So, of course, it's always controversial. The truth is controversial.
A. COCKBURN: People have trouble sometimes making Leslie out. We were talking to a master Israeli arms dealer called Shapik Shapiro who looks the part, too. He wears very expensive dark glasses and silk shirts and smokes big cigars. We were sitting talking to him in his very elegant office opposite the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, and Leslie was explaining what she'd been doing. We were talking like we're talking now and Leslie was saying, "Oh, I've done this and done that," and Shapik took a cigar out of his mouth and said, "Oh, I see. You're a spy."
L. COCKBURN: It's happened more than once. But there was another, again a master Israeli intelligence operative who we were with in Manhattan. It was late at night. We were in a hotel room grilling this guy for information and he turned to us and he said, "You're SHABAK," which is domestic Israeli intelligence. It's as I say, it's always more confusing than it seems.
LAMB: Another quick question: How many times have each of you been to Israel? You list a whole bunch here, like '81, '82, '83, '84 -- like every year. Do you travel together?
A. COCKBURN: Sometimes together, sometimes separately.
L. COCKBURN: We've been for different things. We did an hour for "Frontline" about three years ago where we traveled several times together.
A. COCKBURN: It was four or five times for me, at least.
LAMB: When they see you coming into the country, do they do anything special like trail you?
L. COCKBURN: Oh, no. I feel very comfortable working there. As I say, I was there during the Gulf War under the scuds and had absolutely no problem at all. In fact, I broke the story about the patriots misfiring. It was very interesting because in a situation like that it's pretty scary, and most people whipped on their gas masks and went into their sealed rooms. But, of course, you can't see anything in a sealed room and there's no telephone. You're completely in the dark. You may as well be in Washington. So we sat up on the l4th floor balcony of the Tel Aviv Hilton where we got a brilliant view of what was going on and then could rush down and go see what the damage was.
But one night four patriots -- there was a battery of patriots very close to us and the first one flew up and exploded in mid-air. The second two flew so low over Tel Aviv that they were going under some of the larger apartment blocks. And the fourth took off, went up and did a hairpin turn and came down in front of us and I said, "That's it." I got on the phone to New York and said, "This is really a very bad situation," because the population of Tel Aviv was suddenly in a position of not only having scuds raining down on them but patriots, too.
A. COCKBURN: On the question of being trailed in Israel, Israel -- if you're not Palestinian, at least -- is quite an easy country to get into. On the way out is when they talk to you. As in most airports, they want to do a security check and see that you haven't got a bomb in your baggage. But they also there give you a prolonged interrogation as to where you've been, want to see your hotel room, want to know who you've talked to. As international flights tend to leave Israel at 4 o'clock in the morning, you've gotten up at 2 a.m. or not gone to bed or you're groggy and then to be interrogated as to everyone you've talked to in the last month can be quite a trying experience.
LAMB: You tell the story about a group from Philadelphia -- Jews, I believe -- making the pilgrimage to Israel, and then you also at one point talk about one of you or the other or maybe both of you together were with Arik [Ariel] Sharon...
L. COCKBURN: I was.
LAMB: . . . traveling near the green line, the West Bank. What I'm getting at here is there was some cynicism coming through all this about what the Israelis do about American Jews coming to Israel on the pilgrimage. Who wants to tell that? And the Golan Heights trip and Mr. [Yitzhak] Rabin coming in with his helicopter and landing and all that, if I remember it correctly.
L. COCKBURN: Yes, there is cynicism, and it's very interesting because, frankly, you have a situation where American Jews come over and they're donors. I had the experience of being with a group of very big donors. We went up to a spot on the West Bank overlooking what's called the coastal plain. I was with Ariel Sharon, and he was making the point to them of how dangerous it was to give up the West Bank because, of course, then you could have missiles flying in from Jordan that could hit Tel Aviv or whatever.
Anyway, he gave a very good demonstration. He had the charts. Everyone was listening. Then they all got back up on the bus, and he turned to me and he said, "Don't you love it here? Isn't it a beautiful spot for a summer house?" You have to understand that obviously Sharon takes security seriously. I mean, this guy is a general and has been involved in numerous wars in Israel. However, he is Israeli and there is a sense of "we're here and you're not. You live in New York or you live in Philadelphia. We're here." There's also a certain snobbism that we talk about as well. There is a group in Tel Aviv who are called "Wasps." What "Wasps" mean is not the same connotation, but it's White Ashkenazi Sabras with Proteksia, which means that you were born in Israel and you've got the right connections.
A. COCKBURN: You're from the ruling class.
LAMB: Go back to the group from Philadelphia. What is the tour? When an American Jew comes to Israel and they're donors, where do they take them?
A. COCKBURN: There are a number of set routes, but the tour we talk about here is the security tour where they're taken to see, like the one Leslie described, the spot on the green line to show how vulnerable Israel is.
LAMB: What is the green line?
A. COCKBURN: The green line is the old border with the West Bank. Now it's a notional. It's the border of the West Bank from Israel proper. So they'll be taken to places like that, to Masada, maybe.
LAMB: What's Masada?
A. COCKBURN: Masada is a very interesting place. It's this fortress, sort of a rock rising out of the desert in the south. On the top are the ruins that have been excavated in the last few years. It's where the last Jewish rebels against the Romans held out in A.D. 70. The Romans built these enormous ramps, a tremendous amount of effort to get sort of siege engines up this sheer rock to take the place, and just before the Romans broke in they all committed suicide. So it's a very holy spot for Israelis. Masada and to the Golan Heights, for example, which again is very vivid. If you want to covey a sense of Israeli vulnerability you say, "Well, in the Golan Heights before '67 the Syrians were up here looking down on Israel and they could shell us," and indeed did and attacked settlers and so forth.
We describe in the book the scene where all these Philadelphians arrived to witness an Israeli army fire-power demonstration. We really tell it through the eyes of an Israeli who is watching, a correspondent for Ha'aretz, the big paper, because he reacted to it. He said, "This is ludicrous. How demeaning for us that we have to put on this circus for these Americans who don't understand us." He basically describes the Israeli soldiers having to perform like seals just for the gratification of the American donors in order to wait for the handout. He said it's very demeaning for Israelis to have to do this. It's a very cynical piece he wrote.
LAMB: Does the handout come eventually?
A. COCKBURN: Oh, well, the overall handout, of course, for one reason or another is many billions of dollars a year. Although the private donations aren't as big as the U.S. taxpayer donations, they're still very large -- Israel bonds or direct contributions -- so it's something the Israelis pay a great deal of attention to.
LAMB: Was it the former defense minister, Rabin, that came in on a helicopter?
A. COCKBURN: Yes, in the Golan. In the middle of it all, there was an announcer. It's like at a fairground. There's an announcer crackling announcements in English. They were saying, "We're showing you the Israeli army in training," except all the signs were in English, which would be odd since Israelis speak Hebrew, and all the commands that were issued were in English, too, which is, again, odd for a real demonstration. In the middle of all this -- putt, putt, putt -- in comes the helicopter with Yitzhak Rabin, who made a stirring speech and everyone presented medals and awards to each other and then the IDF, the Israeli army, went on to attack the "Syrians," which was a pile of barrels and blew them all apart.
LAMB: Do you think that this group of leaders, meaning everybody in the intelligence community and the military and in the government, are sitting behind the scenes laughing at the Americans coming over and giving the money?
L. COCKBURN: No, that's much too strong. The reason why we put that anecdote in the beginning of the book about the demonstration that wasn't a real demonstration was because that's one side of Israel. But we immediately asked people to take a tour down this street that Andrew mentioned before, Shaul Hamalekh, next to the Ministry of Defense, which is the real Israel for the security system.
LAMB: But they didn't take the Philadelphians down the street where the defense ministry is located.
L. COCKBURN: No, and they don't get to spend time with these kinds of people. Absolutely not.
LAMB: Why not?
L. COCKBURN: First of all, because if you're not in the business in some way or meddlesome journalists like us, why go there? They would have nothing in common. They would have nothing to discuss. These are very tough, seasoned operators we're talking about here. They can't be bothered with seeing a tour group unless they happen to be a politician.
LAMB: I asked you earlier whether or not the Israelis lie about what they're doing, and I want to ask you the same question about the American government. Do you catch the American government in a lie when you're covering them about things like arms and drugs?
A. COCKBURN: Why, sure. There's a number of lies on the record. It's of continuing embarrassment. One of the great lies of the '80s was, for instance, that we weren't selling arms to Iran. Well, we were. We were doing it through our Israeli proxy. In fact, as we reveal in the book, we were doing it from Day One of the Reagan administration. We have someone we spoke to, actually, on the record, a Gen. Avraham Tamir, who is like this sort of Brent Skowcroft, sort of a shadowy back room figure, a high-level adviser to the Israeli governments through the 1980s. He told us how Al Haig gave them permission to sell arms to Iran from Day One of the administration. He also described to us, again, a lie. It was the lie that we weren't involved in any way in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He described how he and Arik Sharon came to Washington in the spring of 1982 to get the green light to invade Lebanon. He lays it all out and he explains why Haig wanted them to do it. He said Haig sort of said, "OK, we want a minor operation," and then Tamir went like this and he said, "It's a big word, minor," because they went into this huge war.
LAMB: Does the American government lie?
L. COCKBURN: Oh, of course. All the time. We saw it in spades in the '80s, particularly what we know of now as Iran-Contra. But interestingly enough, as part of that on the Central America side of things, for example, we were not given a very good picture of what Israel's involvement was in Central America during that war. In fact, what we reveal in the book, not only did you have an operation like Tipped Kettle where William Casey turned to the Israelis and said, "We want hundreds of tons of weapons for the Contras," which he did, which they delivered. You had Israeli advisers running around Honduras as early as l981. You had one of the guys on the Contra directorate who would go and regularly brief the Israeli consulate in Tegucigalpa in Honduras about how the war was going.
In Panama, Manuel Noriega -- no one wants to touch him anymore but he was certainly great friends with people in the White House and in the agency as part of the whole Contra effort. At his right hand was Mike Harari, known as "Mad Mike" in Panama, who was former chief of clandestine operations for Mossad, for Israeli intelligence. This was Noriega's business partner. This was a guy who imported half a billion dollars worth of Israeli arms into Panama and was intimately involved with the secret side of the operations, of training and supplying the Contras that were coming out of Panama.
LAMB: Where did you get all the intricate knowledge that you have of the Mike Harari departure from Panama on that night of the invasion?
L. COCKBURN: Well, that's interesting, because there were a few very good journalists there at the time -- Americans. The Hebrew press has some excellent -- I mean, there are people over there who really tried to track that down because they were very interested to see Mike Harari suddenly back in Tel Aviv. At a time when the U.S. military controlled the ground, the air -- all exit points -- this guy suddenly disappears. Also the Panamanians have come up. The guy who became the chief of staff of the Panamanian military said that the U.S. officials told him to stay away from Harari -- not to ask questions, just stay away from him.
LAMB: You say he got out in a C-130?
L. COCKBURN: Well, we don't know exactly how he got out.
A. COCKBURN: We think he did, yes.
LAMB: Whose C-130?
A. COCKBURN: Well, I think there's only one country that has C-130s in that neighborhood, and that's the United States.
L. COCKBURN: But we don't actually know how he left the country, how he left Panama. But he left at a time when he shouldn't have been able to get out.
LAMB: Where is he now?
A. COCKBURN: He's still building his new house in Tel Aviv, right?
L. COCKBURN: Yes, that's right.
LAMB: And Mike Harari was involved originally in the Olympic massacre?
A. COCKBURN: Well, he wasn't involved in the massacre itself.
LAMB: I mean the after-hunt.
A. COCKBURN: Right. He was in charge of a hit squad that was set up by Mossad, personally ordered by the then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, to go around assassinating, killing, the Palestinians who had been involved in the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972. They had some success, and then it all crashed to earth when they went off to Norway, he and his team, to deal with a guy known as the "Red Prince," a very sort of important Palestinian. There was their man and they got ready and then they killed him, and it turned out to be a poor Moroccan waiter.
LAMB: When you find out things that are new and different and revealing about governments that lie, do you get mad or do you get excited when you find it out? In other words, what's your personal reaction?
L. COCKBURN: No, I don't get mad. I get very excited. I got very excited while we were working on this book when we got a hold of some documents, a lot of FBI files and others, that had been secret which were released under Freedom of Information about the cover-up of a series of White House administrations of Israeli nuclear espionage in the United States, and sitting there, poring over those documents, reading accounts of White House meetings, reading memos. For example, when Nixon came into office, the second thing he asked J. Edgar Hoover to do for him was, "Get me the files on Israeli nuclear espionage."
Likewise the Johnson administration, when CIA director Dick Helms briefed Johnson on what was going on with the Israeli nuclear program, Johnson said, "Don't tell anybody, not even Rusk or McNamara," who were, of course, his two very senior people. So, being able to find out, getting a glimpse of what's happening in the real world, what's happening on the inside is great.
LAMB: Do you get mad or do you get excited?
A. COCKBURN: Sometimes I must say the enormity of some crime takes my breath away. Yes, I do get indignant sometimes. But, like Leslie and I think like most journalists, I think when you actually find out or figure out "Ah, that's what they were up to," that's a great surge of excitement you get when you have that feeling.
LAMB: Here's who the book is dedicated to -- Chloe and Olivia. Who are they?
L. COCKBURN: Our children.
LAMB: How old are they?
L. COCKBURN: Seven and 12.
A. COCKBURN: They typed that dedication themselves. They wanted to make sure it got in. They didn't trust us to do it, so they went up to the typewriter and did it.
LAMB: How did you both have time to have two children in the middle of all this running around?
L. COCKBURN: Well, when I was pregnant with the first one I was -- let's see, when I was eight months pregnant, I think I was working on a story in West Africa at the time, in Liberia. When I was pregnant with the second one I was working in Israel. I was working on various stories. You just keep going.
LAMB: What's next?
A. COCKBURN: We're headed back to the Middle East. Not to Israel right now, although since the Israelis are very interested in the book, we probably should go there. But no, we're going to other countries in the Middle East. We're working on another "Frontline" film.
LAMB: Do you want to write another book?
L. COCKBURN: Oh, sure.
LAMB: If you could do it today, what would you write it about?
L. COCKBURN: I couldn't say. There are ideas that are already starting to jell for us, but we won't do another one probably for another year -- either of us, I don't think.
A. COCKBURN: Yes. Writing a book is an intense experience which you don't want to repeat too often.
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like. It's called "Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship," and our guests have been co-authors Andrew and Leslie Cockburn. Thank you both.
A. COCKBURN: Thank you.
L. COCKBURN: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1991.
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