ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 8 (UPI) — Old pros from America’s secretive world of espionage and counterterrorism emerged temporarily from the shadows to convene for a three-day “Intelligence Summit” in a downtown hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier this week.

They were joined by a handful of allies from friendly countries — mostly from Israel — to discuss what they see as the number one threat facing Western democracies, the ever-increasing form of militant Islam and its indiscriminate use of terrorism.

The summit gathered a mixed bag of spooks, former spooks from a variety of agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a multitude of others with acronyms typically comprehensible only by those in the business.

The object of the “Summit” says John Loftus, the president of the Intelligence Summit, is “to bring together professionals from this non-conformist world and help them compare notes, make new contacts and to learn how to cut through the bureaucracy that often weighs down such elite forces.”

But the man who until recently was the United State’s chief master spy — John Negroponte — and who was given by President George W. Bush the position of Director of Central Intelligence, a prestigious job from where he oversaw the functions of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, sees things very differently. Negroponte tried to prevent federal agents from attending the Florida conference, saying the government would not reimburse those who made the trip, said Loftus.

When asked to comment, Negroponte’s office at the State Department referred the issue to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But a spokesman for the DNI chose not to comment.

Other participants who enjoy lucrative contracts with the U.S. government, such as some of the firms operating in Iraq, told United Press International they were warned the government would deny them future contracts if they participated in the Intelligence Summit, according to several participants.

And it appears the U.S. government may not be alone in trying to prevent its people from attending the Florida conference. Some participants told United Press International that agents from foreign countries had similar intent. Some participants told UPI they received threatening notes slipped under their hotel room doors.

One American who specializes in biological warfare has been paying particular attention to advances in the bio-war arsenal being developed by a Middle Eastern country said she was followed on a trans-Atlantic flight by two agents from the country in question.

While the conference offered interesting insight into the world of terrorist tactics it had its shortcomings; and one can easily name two. First, was the fact that most, if not all panelists seemed to be preaching to the choir. The conference, at times, had an air of a reunion of good ol’ boys; all in sync with the program, rather than a group of very serious professionals out to warn the free world of the dangers facing democracies.

Among the several hundred attendees were a few former spies who were probably retired prematurely, or others who disagreed with the slow bureaucracy of the CIA and other government agencies. These questioned the logic of the U.S. Department of State wanting to negotiate with what they term “rogue countries;” mainly Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Many would rather “not waste time” talking with governments they say will never keep its word. Instead, they would prefer to simply “kick butt,” as one speaker put it, and making realistic plans to enable regime change in Syria and Iran through assassinations and intimidation. His comments were received with applause and cheers from the audience.


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