Tag: Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA Thinks the CIA Did Nothing Wrong

Last year, we found out that the CIA was spying on members of Congress in an effort to find out if the torture report included information from their internal Panetta Report. It was unauthorized, illegal and outside of their authority. It’s worse than the spying that was at the heart of the Watergate scandal. It was the kind of action you would expect in a dictatorship, not a constitutional Republic.

You’ll be pleased to know that a CIA panel — staffed entirely with people picked by Brennan — has concluded that the CIA did nothing wrong.

A CIA panel Wednesday cleared agency officials of any wrongdoing when they accessed the computers of a Senate committee investigating the agency’s involvement in torture. The finding ended a yearlong dispute marked by angry accusations of “hacking” and criminal misconduct.

Instead, the panel — whose members were appointed by CIA Director John Brennan — faulted the agency’s own outgoing inspector general for suggesting in a report that there may have been grounds to discipline five officials at the agency.

The findings by the so-called CIA accountability board drew sharp objections from some Senate staffers who were involved in the torture report, citing it as yet another example of the CIA’s own inability to police itself.

Their conclusion was that the five people who spied on the Senate and who were recommended by the Inspector General for punishment should be let off because they were, in essence, just following what they thought might be orders. Said orders supposedly came from Brennan, who initially lied about the spying on the Senate but insists he’s telling the truth now. So Brennan isn’t accountable because he says he didn’t give the order. And the people who did the spying aren’t accountable because they thought Brennan had told them to do it. And the real villain is the IG for having the temerity to suggest that spying on your own government might be a crime.

It reminds me of every cover-up we’ve enjoyed from government since forever. No one ever gives orders to spy on Senators, target Tea Party groups for audits or illegally look into political opponents’ FBI files. The idea to do these things just … appears … out of nowhere. Like a sort of mass hysteria, only focused on political enemies for some strange reason.

So … let’s sum up. The CIA tortured people. They covered it up by destroying the torture tapes and lying. They spied on the Senate committee that was investigating them, then lied about that. And the only people who did anything wrong, according to them, are John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the torture program, and David Buckley, the inspector general who determined that they had spied on the Senate after their repeated denials. All of this has come with the approval and support of President Obama.

So our national security is the hands of an unaccountable agency headed by a serial liar under the command of a “look forward, not backward, unless you cross me” Commander-in-Chief. Feeling safe yet?

As Andrew Sullivan pointed out, the President may have “ended” torture. But by refusing to hold anyone accountable, he has made it inevitable that it will come back. And it will probably be a lot worse. When you don’t punish people who do wrong, you only encourage more wrong-doing.

Update: The White House knew.

The Torture Report

The Senate has release their report on the CIA torture program:

The CIA’s harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees during the Bush era didn’t work, were more brutal than previously revealed and delivered no “ticking time bomb” information that prevented an attack, according to an explosive Senate report released Tuesday.

The majority report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a damning condemnation of the tactics — branded by critics as torture — the George W. Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The techniques, according to the report, were “deeply flawed” and often resulted in “fabricated” information.

The CIA immediately hit back at the report, saying in a statement that the program was “effective” and substantially helped its understanding of Al Qaeda’s tactical operations and goals.

I am disinclined to believe the CIA on this, given their desperate attempts to cover it up, which included the destruction of video tapes of interrogations and attempts to spy on members of Congress. The report was trimmed down from more than 6000 pages to the current 480 and large parts were redacted at the behest of the CIA. And it’s still pretty damning. The initial reporting is that it included weeks of waterboarding and sleep deprivation, usually used almost immediately after capture.

I’ll post more as commentary comes in and I get a chance to read some of the report. The report itself is here.

Update: NYT:

Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some C.I.A. prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings.”

The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt Pit — a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”

The report also addresses the CIA’s list of terror attacks they claim were prevented by torture, noting that in most cases the torture information was either inaccurate or confirmed information they already had.

You can read the response of ex-CIA directors here.

Update: A look at claims made by the CIA that torture worked. None of them stand up to scrutiny … according to the CIA’s own documents.

The CIA Lies … Again

I’m away again this week, but thought I’d pop and note that the CIA, which previously pretended they weren’t spying on the Senate, did recently admit that they were spying on the Senate as the Senate prepared their report on the CIA’s torture program. This confirms my earlier judgement that the CIA is yet another rogue agency with a lying director, a distinction it now share’s with Obama’s NSA, IRS, DHS, ATF and Justice Department. I thus expect him to respond with the same lack of action.

The refusal of Obama to hold the members of these agencies accountable for their abuses tells you all you need to know about what he thinks of their actions.

Update: Sullivan:

Either the rule of law applies to the CIA or it doesn’t. And it’s now absolutely clear that it doesn’t. The agency can lie to the public; it can spy on the Senate; it can destroy the evidence of its war crimes; it can lie to its superiors about its torture techniques; it can lie about the results of those techniques. No one will ever be held to account. It is inconceivable that the United States would take this permissive position on torture with any other country or regime.

The Surveillance State Advances

We continue to find out more and more about the encroaching surveillance state. In the UK, the GCHQ surveillance agency is collecting images from people’s webcams. In this country, they’ve talked about ways to disinform the public through comment boards and bogus conspiracy theories. The latter seems a bit much. Why would they need to go online to defend the surveillance state when there are plenty of genuine boot-licking government worshippers who will do it for them?

But now, the surveillance state may finally have gone too far:

The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.

The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.

The development marks an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers amid an extraordinary closed-door battle over the 6,300-page report on the agency’s use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons. The report is said to be a searing indictment of the program. The CIA has disputed some of the reports findings.

The Senate was preparing a report on the CIA’s torture program that is expected to be devastating. Not only was the torture program worse than we were lead to believe, but the CIA misled Congress and President Bush about the extent and severity of it. In compiling this report, Congressional staffers went to the CIA to review documents. During that time, their computers were monitored.

Actually, it gets worse:

Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

You see that? The CIA is mad because Congressional staffers took documents showing that the CIA was lying its ass off to the committee, disputing things that it damn well knew were true.

I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg and the the CIA’s surveillance of Congress goes beyond just a few computers. They have every reason to try to downplay their complicity in the torture program and the President — you remember him? — seems more than happy to let them do so.

The Plot Thickens in Benghazi

Hmmm:

U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, provided reporters Thursday with the most detailed explanation yet of the CIA’s presence in Benghazi, Libya, and the agency’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, while also identifying the two former Navy SEALs killed that night as being employed by the CIA.

But some news organizations, including the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post, already knew that the two former SEALs — Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty — were working for the CIA and had agreed not to publish the information at the government’s request.

While AP, the Times and the Post held back this detail following an official request, reporters at other news outlets may also have known or assumed the men were not security contractors given the nature of their work in Libya. ABC News, for example, reported that Doherty had been working to “round up dangerous weapons” in the country. One national security reporter told The Huffington Post that it was an “open secret” in national security circles that the former SEALs were working for the CIA.

Apparently, only 7 of the 30 consulate employees were actually working for the State Department. All the rest were CIA. What precisely they were doing in Benghazi, whether this screwed with the chain of command, what role this played in the confusion in those critical seven hours — that has yet to be determined.

The latest from David Ignatius also dispels a few rumors, claiming there was no “stand down” order, that the drone in question was an unarmed drone that was diverted to provide a view of events and also that fighting appeared to stop at 1 am. Then this:

5:15 a.m.: A new Libyan assault begins, this time with mortars. Two rounds miss and the next three hit the roof. The rooftop defenders never “laser the mortars,” as has been reported. They don’t know the weapons are in place until the indirect fire begins, nor are the mortars observed by the drone overhead. The defenders have focused their laser sights earlier on several Libyan attackers, as warnings not to fire. At 5:26 the attack is over. Woods and Doherty are dead and two others are wounded.

There are still some very big questions to answer, especially why security was not beefed up in the weeks before when it became clear the consulate was a danger point, why Stephens was put in a place that was mostly CIA with such a tiny State Department contingent and why military assets were not used to secure the area, even after the fighting stopped. (As far as I can tell, there is no current information on what our military assets were doing at the time.)

It’s also becoming clear that a lot of our response depended on local cooperation from the Libyan government. This cooperation happened but was often delayed, confused or incompetent. In fact, there are indications that this may have been an inside job by some of those Libyan resources.

So, yes, this dismisses some of the more egregious accusations. But we continue to circle back to the big question: why was a United States ambassador put in harm’s way without the kind of protection he would have in a peaceful country? And why were our military assets not deployed? Why did this remain a CIA op when it become obvious that they were in over their heads?

The cooperation of the media in keeping the CIA’s presence (and, presumably, continued involvement) is a bit concerning. It might have clarified things a lot earlier. But I really don’t have a problem with it. I prefer that the press be discrete about some things. There’s no evidence that the CIA was torturing people or disappearing dissidents. Revealing their presence prematurely could only endanger our operations there.

As I said on Twitter last night, we now have some answers to our questions. But we also have a lot more questions.

Update: More from the LAT:

Senior intelligence and Defense officials say there was some coverage by unarmed surveillance drones during part of the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack, but no feed was available for the president. The Special Operations team arrived on the Italian island of Sicily hours after the attack was over. And “no AC-130 was within a continent’s range of Benghazi,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

That begs the question, of course: why weren’t they there?

The Disgrace Ends

In prior threads I have praised Obama for putting on his big boy pants, trashing all those silly promises he made on the campaign trail, and growing a pair wrt protecting the nation. Say what you will about his lack of economic chops (we certainly have on this blog) but turning into a true blue John Wayne terror warrior, who saw that coming?

We have already chronicled most of his about faces:

1) increased funding for Special Forces
2) Re instituting military tribunals
3) Not abandoning Iraq
4) Gitmo still open for business
5) Continuing with the policies of rendition
6) Surging in Afghanistan
7) indefinite detention
8) Patriot Act and continued surveillance practices
9) the use of drones in killing terrorists

And now, finally, that shameful investigation to prosecute CIA operatives has been brought to an end:

The education of the Obama Administration on antiterror policy has been remarkable to behold, and the latest installment is Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to pull the plug on the investigation into most CIA interrogations. The disgrace is that this probe was ever undertaken.

In 2009, Mr. Holder appointed prosecutor John Durham to look into the possible mistreatment of some 100 detainees by the CIA, with an eye toward possible prosecution. On Thursday, Justice said it would proceed with investigations in two cases where prisoners died in CIA custody, but that any more investigation of the others “is not warranted.”

The Administration might have concluded that from the start if it had listened when seven former CIA directors urged President Obama to stop the probe. Reopening investigations into cases that had already been reviewed by career prosecutors at Justice “creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy” for agents who were operating under the legal guidance of the Bush Administration, the former directors wrote. Then-CIA director Leon Panetta objected on similar grounds.

Not doubt it was the advice of Panetta that finally killed this thing, and none to soon. This was a travesty from the get go, a blatant pandering to the anti war anti Bush crowd of his base. And even though they finally came to their senses, who knows what damage has occurred, operatives in the field saying ,”Screw this, you think I’m going to put my neck on the chopping block? I hear and see nothing”.

The last several CIA director’s have already made clear that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about AQ. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks. These detainees also, according to the directors, played a role in nearly every capture of AQ members and associates since 2002. The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by AQ to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions. Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, were all ill conceived political moves that were not well thought out. These folks were acting within the law, they deserve better then what they got.

The probe has still done considerable harm by creating a culture of second-guessing and political retribution that CIA operatives must now consider as they try to protect against terror threats. We’ll never know what actions in the future won’t be taken, because of this culture, that might have saved lives.

You can bet that when Patreaus takes the helm, instilling some confidence and a blanket of security will be first on the agenda. We need these folks to stay vigilant and alert.