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Negroponte Jumps Ship

If you don't have time to read Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker piece, this recap of his appearance on CNN yesterday gets at the main points. In order to counteract rising Shia influence in the Middle East, it seems, the Bush administration has started channeling money to Sunni extremists in the region. (Because that strategy didn't create any problems when the CIA tried it back in the 1970s and 80s...) In at least three instances, U.S. funds have ended up in the hands of Lebanese Sunni groups with ties to Al Qaeda who have promised to take on Hezbollah. And it's all being done without congressional oversight.

But the kicker was Hersh's explanation of why John Negroponte had resigned as head of U.S. intelligence in January: "There was a lot of complaints about him because he was seen as too much of a stickler, too ethical for some of the operations the Pentagon wants to run." So these latest covert ops are making even the guy who once turned a blind eye to death squads in Honduras feel a bit squeamish. That's a nice thought.

--Bradford Plumer