Washington Post: Declassify the Senate report on CIA interrogation methods

o13-iconIn an editorial, the Washington Post says: More than a dozen years after the attacks of 9/11, it is time to treat government decisions made in the aftermath as history — to be debated and learned from. This is especially true of the misguided program of interrogation and torture carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. In the years after the attacks, so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” that did not measure up to American values nor international law were brought to bear on detainees. We need to know the full story of how that happened.

In a landmark investigation, comparable in significance to the 9/11 Commission report, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence initiated a full probe of the interrogations in 2009. The investigation was completed in December 2012 and approved by a 9 to 6 vote. The resulting report is roughly 6,300 pages long, with a 300-page executive summary. The CIA, which is the focus of much criticism in the report, submitted a 120-page response to the committee in June, explaining where the agency agreed with the findings and where it disagreed. A long period of discussion between the CIA and committee staff ensued, concluding last September. Since then, the report has been under revision to reflect the comments.

When complete, the full report will go back to the committee for approval and then, perhaps, to the executive branch for declassification. We hope this happens soon. The committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has called for the release of a declassified executive summary and of the findings and conclusions. President Obama, who early in his first term repudiated the legal memos that were used as justification for the interrogations but also announced that he would not seek criminal charges against CIA operatives who participated in the them, has endorsed making public a declassified version.

Clearly, this has been a painful process for the CIA. The report is expected to be highly critical of the agency’s actions. A key issue is whether methods such as waterboarding produced any useful intelligence, as members of the Bush administration and others have claimed. A debate without the facts is hollow. We need to read the report of the Senate committee in order to squarely address it.

There have been some reports in recent days of an investigation by the CIA’s inspector general into whether agents gained access to Senate committee computers, perhaps an effort to interfere with the report’s publication. If this happened, this is terribly inappropriate. The CIA must cooperate with Congress in getting this report published, however unpleasant that may be.

The interrogation methods were part of a covert action program authorized by the president. It is time to examine the program with some historical perspective, learn the lessons and ponder how the United States can best defend itself in a dangerous world without violating dearly held values and principles.

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CIA and senators in bitter dispute over Capitol Hill spying claims

n13-iconThe Guardian reports: Relations between the CIA and the US senators charged with its political oversight were at a nadir on Wednesday after the head of the agency issued a rare public rebuke to lawmakers who accused it of spying on their staff.

John Brennan, the director of the CIA, said the claims by members of the Senate intelligence committee were “spurious” and “wholly unsupported by the facts”, and went as far as suggesting the committee itself may have been guilty of wrongdoing.

The battle stems from a hotly contested report into the use of torture by the CIA in the interrogations it carried out after 9/11, whose conclusions are so explosive that it has yet to be declassified, despite exhortations from the White House that a summary should be published.

Earlier on Wednesday reports surfaced that the CIA inspector general had opened an inquiry, said to have been referred to the justice department, into claims that CIA employees had acted improperly. Suggestions that the CIA had monitored the computer networks of committee staffers had shocked the senators that sit on the panel. Some observers believe that such actions might be criminal. [Continue reading...]

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Obama knew CIA secretly monitored intelligence committee, senator claims

The Guardian reports: A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.

The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.

McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency’s interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee’s findings.

Udall, a Colorado Democrat and one of the CIA’s leading pursuers on the committee, appeared to reference that surreptitious spying on Congress, which Udall said undermined democratic principles.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.

Independent observers were unaware of a precedent for the CIA spying on the congressional committees established in the 1970s to check abuses by the intelligence agencies.

“In the worst case, it would be a subversion of independent oversight, and a violation of separation of powers,” said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s potentially very serious.” [Continue reading...]

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Mole who met Bin Laden killed by Al Qaeda in Bosnia

n13-iconNBC News reports: An FBI mole who provided valuable intelligence on al Qaeda and met with Osama bin Laden was lured away from the FBI to work for the CIA, but was killed by al Qaeda operatives in Bosnia who suspected he was an informant, NBC News has learned exclusively.

The informant, a Sudan-born driver and confidante to “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim cleric who allegedly masterminded the first attempt to take down the World Trade Center, had been the sole human asset providing first-person information about al Qaeda in the mid-1990s as the terror group gained strength around the globe.

According to sources familiar with the management of the mole, the FBI recruited him in 1993 because he was a known associate of the Blind Sheikh. [Continue reading...]

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Lawyers, judge hold secret Guantánamo hearing on CIA black sites

n13-iconCarol Rosenberg reports: A military judge held a secret war court session Saturday on defense lawyers’ efforts to uncover evidence of what the CIA did to the alleged USS Cole bomber across years in the agency’s clandestine overseas prison network.

Both the public and the alleged terrorist were excluded from the 111-minute hearing in the case that seeks the execution of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri as mastermind of the Oct. 12, 2000 terror attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors off Aden, Yemen.

Only prosecutors and defense lawyers attended the hearing with the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, and a court recorder creating a classified transcript of the proceedings.

Nashiri, 49, spent four years in secret CIA prisons where, according to declassified reports, agents waterboarded him and interrogated him nude with a hood on his head and handcuffs on his wrists. One U.S. agent threatened to kill the Saudi with a power drill and handgun, and threatened to have his mother raped. [Continue reading...]

Meanwhile, AFP reports: Five former Guantanamo detainees are seeking damages for what they say were years of sexual, mental and physical abuse at the US detention center, where they were held without charge or trial.

The men from Turkey, Uzbekistan and Algeria, who are now settled in other countries, alleged Friday at a US appeals court that they were subjected to torture that included forced nudity, sexual harassment and beatings, first in Afghanistan and then at the military jail in Cuba.

Justices will make their ruling in several weeks, but one of them, Judge David Tatel, said military and civilian officials at the Pentagon had failed in their duty.

“Their job is to protect the detainees from abuse, they failed to do so,” he said.

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Tom Engelhardt: Thug state U.S.A.

Documenting darkness
By Tom Engelhardt

Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many secret files National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he headed for Hong Kong last June. Brace yourself: 1.7 million.  At least they claim that as the number he or his web crawler accessed before he left town.  Let’s assume for a moment that it’s accurate and add a caveat.  Whatever he had with him on those thumb drives when he left the agency, Edward Snowden did not take all the NSA’s classified documents.  Not by a long shot.  He only downloaded a portion of them.  We don’t have any idea what percentage, but assumedly millions of NSA secret documents did not get the Snowden treatment.

Such figures should stagger us and what he did take will undoubtedly occupy journalists for months or years more (and historians long after that).  Keep this in mind, however: the NSA is only one of 17 intelligence outfits in what is called the U.S. Intelligence Community.  Some of the others are as large and well funded, and all of them generate their own troves of secret documents, undoubtedly stretching into the many millions.

And keep something else in mind: that’s just intelligence agencies.  If you’re thinking about the full sweep of our national security state (NSS), you also have to include places like the Department of Homeland Security, the Energy Department (responsible for the U.S. nuclear arsenal), and the Pentagon.  In other words, we’re talking about the kind of secret documentation that an army of journalists, researchers, and historians wouldn’t have a hope of getting through, not in a century.

We do know that, in 2011, the whole government reportedly classified 92,064,862 documents. If accurate and reasonably typical, that means, in the twenty-first century, the NSS has already generated hundreds of millions of documents that could not be read by an American without a security clearance.  Of those, thanks to one man (via various journalists), we have had access to a tiny percentage of perhaps 1.7 million of them.  Or put another way, you, the voter, the taxpayer, the citizen — in what we still like to think of as a democracy — are automatically excluded from knowing or learning about most of what the national security state does in your name.  That’s unless, of course, its officials decide to selectively cherry-pick information they feel you are capable of safely and securely absorbing, or an Edward Snowden releases documents to the world over the bitter protests, death threats, and teeth gnashing of Washington officialdom and retired versions of the same.

[Read more...]

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Sen. Levin’s bid to boost drone oversight falters in Congress

n13-iconThe Los Angeles Times reports: An effort by a powerful U.S. senator to broaden congressional oversight of lethal drone strikes overseas fell apart last week after the White House refused to expand the number of lawmakers briefed on covert CIA operations, according to senior U.S. officials.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, held a joint classified hearing Thursday with the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA and military drone strikes against suspected terrorists.

But the White House did not allow CIA officials to attend, so military counter-terrorism commanders testified on their own.

Levin’s plan ran aground on the Washington shoals of secrecy and turf, according to congressional aides and other U.S. officials, none of whom would be quoted by name discussing classified oversight matters. [Continue reading...]

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Judge orders Pakistani intelligence services to produce missing drone victim

n13-iconReprieve: A Pakistani judge today ordered the country’s intelligence services to produce a victim of CIA drone strikes who has been missing since being seized from his Rawalpindi home a week ago.

Kareem Khan, who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to Europe to discuss his experience with parliamentarians in a number of countries later this month. However, he has not been heard from since being detained by a group of men in police uniforms and plain clothes in the early hours of February 5.

The Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court was today hearing a Habeas petition brought by Mr Khan’s lawyer and Reprieve fellow, Shahzad Akbar. Mr Akbar argued that the intelligence services must have been responsible for Mr Khan’s arrest, as responses filed by the police indicated that they were unaware of the incident. As a result, the judge ordered the various intelligence services overseen by Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior to produce Mr Khan by Thursday February 20.

Mr. Khan was due to travel to Europe this Saturday (February 15), where he was scheduled to speak with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his personal experience with drone strikes and and his work as a freelance journalist investigating other strikes in the region. [Continue reading...]

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What the CIA learned from the Nazis

f13-iconAnnie Jacobsen writes: It was 1946 and World War II had ended less than one year before. In Top Secret memos being circulated in the elite ‘E’ ring of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preparing for ‘total war’ with the Soviets—to include atomic, chemical, and biological warfare. They even set an estimated start date of 1952. The Joint Chiefs believed that the U.S. could win this future war, but not for reasons that the general public knew about. Since war’s end, across the ruins of the Third Reich, U.S. military officers had been capturing and then hiring Hitler’s weapons makers, in a Top Secret program that would become known as Operation Paperclip. Soon, more than 1,600 of these men and their families would be living the American dream, right here in the United States. From these Nazi scientists, U.S. military and intelligence organizations culled knowledge of Hitler’s most menacing weapons including sarin gas and weaponized bubonic plague.

As the Cold War progressed, the program expanded and got stranger still. In 1948, Operation Paperclip’s Brigadier General Charles E. Loucks, Chief of U.S. Chemical Warfare Plans in Europe, was working with Hitler’s former chemists when one of the scientists, Nobel Prize winner Richard Kuhn, shared with General Loucks information about a drug with military potential being developed by Swiss chemists. This drug, a hallucinogen, had astounding potential properties if successfully weaponized. In documents recently discovered at the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Pennsylvania, Loucks quickly became enamored with the idea that this drug could be used on the battlefield to “incapacitate not kill.” The drug was Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.

It did not take long for the CIA to become interested and involved. Perhaps LSD could also be used for off-the-battlefield purposes, a means through which human behavior could be manipulated and controlled. In an offshoot of Operation Paperclip, the CIA teamed up with Army, Air Force and Naval Intelligence to run one of the most nefarious, classified, enhanced interrogation programs of the Cold War. The work took place inside a clandestine facility in the American zone of occupied Germany, called Camp King. The facility’s chief medical doctor was Operation Paperclip’s Dr. Walter Schreiber, the former Surgeon General of the Third Reich. When Dr. Schreiber was secretly brought to America—to work for the U.S. Air Force in Texas—his position was filled with another Paperclip asset, Dr. Kurt Blome, the former Deputy Surgeon General of the Third Reich and the man in charge of the Nazi’s program to weaponize bubonic plague. The activities that went on at Camp King between 1946 and the late 1950s have never been fully accounted for by either the Department of Defense or the CIA.

Camp King was strategically located in the village of Oberursel, eleven miles northwest of the United States European Command (EUCOM) headquarters in Frankfurt. Officially the facility had three names: the U.S. Military Intelligence Service Center at Oberursel, the 7707th European Command Intelligence Center, and Camp King. In 1945, the place housed captured Nazis but by 1948 most of its prisoners were Soviet bloc spies. For more than a decade Camp King would function as a Cold War black site long before black sites were known as such—an ideal facility to develop enhanced interrogation techniques in part because it was “off-site” but mainly because of its access to Soviet prisoners. [Continue reading...]

Annie Jacobsen’s new book, Operation Paperclip, is published this week.

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Bin Laden death images subject to purge, emails reveal

n13-iconThe Associated Press reports: Eleven days after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US military’s top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder’s corpse or turn them over to the CIA, according to a newly released email.

The email was obtained under a freedom of information request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. The document, released on Monday by the group, shows that Admiral William McRaven, who heads the US Special Operations Command, told military officers on 13 May 2011 that photos of Bin Laden’s remains should have been sent to the CIA or already destroyed. Bin Laden was killed by a special ops team in Pakistan on 2 May 2011.

McRaven’s order to purge the bin Laden material came 10 days after the Associated Press asked for the photos and other documents under the US Freedom of Information Act. Typically, when a freedom of information request is filed to a government agency under the Federal Records Act, the agency is obliged to preserve the material sought – even if the agency later denies the request. [Continue reading...]

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Mark Danner: Still living in Cheney’s world

Rest assured of one thing: he was the only American vice president ever to travel regularly with “a duffel bag stocked with a gas mask and a biochemical survival suit” in the back seat of his car.  You could say that he took his weapons of mass destruction seriously, and perhaps even infer from Jane Mayer’s account of his anxieties back in September 2001 that he had something of a paranoid view of a world he believed wanted to do him harm in a weapons-of-mass-destructive way.

It was in this mood that he and the president he served decided to show that world just who was who and leaped, post-9/11 — not to put the matter too modestly — to create a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.  (At home, they were planning for a Pax Republicana coast to coast until hell froze over.)  In their imaginations, and some of their official documents as well, they dreamed of reorganizing the whole planet in ways that would more than rival any imperial power since Rome went down amid mad emperors and barbarian invasions. In the fabulous future they didn’t hesitate to document, no power or bloc of powers would be allowed to challenge the United States for years, decades, eons to come.  And their means of doing this?  The U.S. military, which the president took to calling “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” That high-tech force, romanticized and idolized by administration fundamentalists, turned out to be the only tool in their toolkit, all they believed was necessary to transform Earth into a first-class American protectorate.

Give credit to George W. Bush and his more-than-right-hand man, Dick Cheney, the vice president who essentially nominated himself: there’s never been a duo like them in the White House.  Cheney, in particular, was a geopolitical visionary, his planet-encompassing vision fueled by his experiences in the energy trade and by a Cold Warrior’s urge to roll back ever further the remnants of the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation.  He was also, as Mark Danner illustrates, mad in his vision and desperately wrong.  But again, give him and his president credit: before they were done mistaking military for economic power, they had punched a gaping hole through the heart of the Middle East and, as Arab League head Amr Moussa warned at the time, had driven directly through “the gates of hell” dreaming of a path strewn with “sweets and flowers” and lined with grateful Iraqis who would greet them as liberators on their way to Tehran.

Before they could complete their global damage, however, the adults were brought in, among them Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  At his congressional nomination hearings in December 2006, Gates put the vice president, his ever-endangered heart still pounding, in his political grave by describing the particular nightmare that would ensue from any U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.  The signal was clear enough.  If Dick Cheney couldn’t pull the trigger on Iran, no one else would (despite much talk in the years to come about all “options” remaining on “the table”).  In fact, 2007 should probably be considered the beginning of the Obama years, a time when top officials with no vision at all of how the planet should function raced like so many overworked firemen from the scene of one global blaze to another (many originally set by Cheney and Bush).

Today, Mark Danner reminds us, as he did in his remarkable three-part series at the New York Review of Books on Bush-era Secretary of Defense Donald (“stuff happens”) Rumsfeld, that if the cast of characters from those first post-9/11 years is gone, we still live in the ruins they created and the special darkness they embraced.  In an essay that focuses on Cheney’s memoir, a movie about the former vice president, and a book by his surgeon, Danner takes us deep into that darkness.  Thanks to the kindness of the editors of the New York Review of Books, it’s an honor to be able to post Danner’s latest piece for the first time online.  The start of a three-part series on Cheney, it will appear in that magazine’s March 6th issue.  Tom Engelhardt

In the darkness of Dick Cheney
The smile of secret power
By Mark Danner

[This essay appears in the March 6th issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine. The film and two books under review in this piece are listed at the end of the essay.]

If you’re a man of principle, compromise is a bit of a dirty word.
— Dick Cheney, 2013

1.  “We Ought to Take It Out”

In early 2007, as Iraq seemed to be slipping inexorably into chaos and President George W. Bush into inescapable political purgatory, Meir Dagan, the head of the Israeli Mossad, flew to Washington, sat down in a sunlit office of the West Wing of the White House, and spread out on the coffee table before him a series of photographs showing a strange-looking building rising out of the sands in the desert of eastern Syria. Vice President Dick Cheney did not have to be told what it was. “They tried to hide it down a wadi, a gulley,” he recalls to filmmaker R.J. Cutler.

“There’s no population around it anyplace… You can’t say it’s to generate electricity, there’s no power line coming out of it. It’s just out there obviously for production of plutonium.”

The Syrians were secretly building a nuclear plant — with the help, it appeared, of the North Koreans. Though the United States was already embroiled in two difficult, unpopular, and seemingly endless wars, though its military was overstretched and its people impatient and angry, the vice president had no doubt what needed to be done: “Condi recommended taking it to the United Nations. I strongly recommended that we ought to take it out.”

[Read more...]

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The NSA’s secret role in the U.S. assassination program

f13-iconJeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald report: The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. [Continue reading...]

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CIA confirms agency obliged to follow federal surveillance law

n13-iconThe Guardian reports: The CIA has confirmed that it is obliged to follow a federal law barring the collection of financial information and hacking into government data networks.

But neither the agency nor its Senate overseers will say what, if any, current, recent or desired activities the law prohibits the CIA from performing – particularly since a section of the law explicitly carves out an exception for “lawfully authorized” intelligence activities.

The murky episode, arising from a public Senate hearing on intelligence last week, illustrates what observers call the frustrations inherent in getting even basic information about secret agencies into public view, a difficulty recently to the fore over whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance partners.

Last Wednesday, in a brief exchange at the hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked CIA director John Brennan if the agency is subject to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a three-decade-old law intended to protect computer systems, like those of financial and government networks, from unauthorized access.

Brennan demurred, citing the need to check on the legal complexities posed by Wyden’s question, and pledged to give the senator an answer within a week.

The answer, agency spokesman Dean Boyd told the Guardian, is: “Yes, the statute applies to CIA.”

Wyden gave no indication of what prompted his query. His office would not elaborate, citing classification rules, and neither would the CIA. [Continue reading...]

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Leaked Pakistani official document records details of 330 drone strikes

FeatureThe Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports: The Bureau is today publishing a leaked official document that records details of over 300 drone strikes, including their locations and an assessment of how many people died in each incident.

The document is the fullest official record of drone strikes in Pakistan to have yet been published. It provides rare insight into what the government understands about the campaign.

It also provides details about exactly when and where strikes took place, often including the names of homeowners. These details can be valuable to researchers attempting to verify eyewitness reports – and are often not reported elsewhere. But interestingly, the document stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, even omitting details of well-documented civilian deaths and those that have been acknowledged by the government.

Last July the Bureau published part of the document for the first time. This documented strikes, which hit the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan between 2006 and late 2009, and revealed that the Pakistani government was aware of hundreds of civilian casualties, even in strikes where it had officially denied civilians had died.

The reports are based on information filed to the FATA Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents – senior officials in the field. These agents gather the information from networks of informants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area bordering Afghanistan.

Now the Bureau has obtained an updated version of the document, which lists attacks up to late September 2013. [Continue reading...]

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Hollywood figures spied for CIA, book asserts

The Los Angeles Times reports: It’s well known that Hollywood loves a good spy story. But what is also true, according to a new memoir by a former senior CIA official, is that movie makers regularly do some real-life spying.

“The CIA has long had a special relationship with the entertainment industry, devoting considerable attention to fostering relationships with Hollywood movers and shakers—studio executives, producers, directors, big-name actors,” John Rizzo, the former acting CIA general counsel, wrote in his new book, “Company Man: Thirty Years of Crisis and Controversy in the CIA.”

People might assume that since Hollywood leans to the political left, the CIA’s relationships “would be with the sort of conservative picket of Hollywood,” Rizzo said in an interview. “Well, that’s not true. People one would normally associated with liberal causes have assisted CIA.”

Alas, Rizzo is prohibited from naming names. They are classified. The CIA declined to comment.

He did, however, provide some detail about the types of help the agency has solicited from Hollywood. At times, Rizzo said, film makers will be asked to allow a CIA operative to pose as a member of their crew, particularly if a movie is being filmed in a country where the spy agency has difficulty operating.

The CIA also recruits actors to give more visibility to propaganda projects abroad, such as a documentary secretly produced by the agency, Rizzo said. And the agency sometimes takes advantage of the door-opening cachet that movie stars and other American celebrities enjoy. A star who met a world leader, for example, might be asked for details about that meeting.

The CIA has officials assigned full time to the care and feeding of Hollywood assets, Rizzo wrote. Other former CIA officials added that some of those operatives work in the Los Angeles office of an agency department called the National Resources Division, which recruits people in the U.S. to help America spy abroad.

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Would NSA surveillance have stopped 9/11 plot?

Peter Bergen writes: The Obama administration has framed its defense of the controversial bulk collection of all American phone records as necessary to prevent a future 9/11.

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on June 18, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander said, “Let me start by saying that I would much rather be here today debating this point than trying to explain how we failed to prevent another 9/11.”

This closely mirrors talking points by the National Security Agency about how to defend the program.

In the talking points, NSA officials are encouraged to use “sound bites that resonate,” specifically, “I much prefer to be here today explain these programs, than explaining another 9/11 event that we were not able to prevent.”

On Friday in New York, Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that NSA’s bulk collection of American telephone records is lawful. He cited Alexander’s testimony and quoted him saying, “We couldn’t connect the dots because we didn’t have the dots.”

But is it really the case that the U.S. intelligence community didn’t have the dots in the lead up to 9/11? Hardly.

In fact, the intelligence community provided repeated strategic warning in the summer of 9/11 that al Qaeda was planning a large-scale attacks on American interests.

Here is a representative sampling of the CIA threat reporting that was distributed to Bush administration officials during the spring and summer of 2001:

– CIA, “Bin Ladin Planning Multiple Operations,” April 20
– CIA, “Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent,” June 23
– CIA, “Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays,” July 2
– CIA, “Threat of Impending al Qaeda Attack to Continue Indefinitely,” August 3

The failure to respond adequately to these warnings was a policy failure by the Bush administration, not an intelligence failure by the U.S. intelligence community. [Continue reading...]

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