Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Strange Headlines


A Happy New Year's to all...

Perjury by Gates

Andy Worthington:

"Sullivan also ordered the Justice Department to secure an affidavit from
Gates. The defense secretary swore under penalty of perjury that all exculpatory
evidence in Mohamed’s case — including evidence relating to the alleged 'dirty
bomb' plot — had been provided to Mohamed’s lawyers.

'I will say that I am extremely disappointed in the declaration that was
filed on behalf of Secretary Gates on Friday,' Stafford Smith wrote, adding,
'There is no question but that it is false.' He said he couldn’t conclude
'whether I would categorize Mr. Gates’ statement as outright perjury, or as a
misguided consequence of his reliance on an erroneous definition of the legal

'The vast majority of material (almost the entirety of the substantive
evidence) submitted against Mr. Mohamed consists of statements attributed to
him,” and therefore 'would qualify as "exculpatory" under Sullivan’s order,' he

Stafford Smith says it’s apparent that a wealth of material has not yet
been turned over.

'Without going into anything that is classified, the Government has at
no point in this case even acknowledged that Mr. Mohamed was rendered by the US
to Morocco on July 21, 2002, or that he was held there for 18 months, or that he
was abused there,' he wrote. 'Nor has the government breathed a word about the
five months he subsequently spent being abused and tortured in the Dark Prison
in Kabul.'"

Rendition is not a "vital tool."

More on Chain of Command issues

Another glimpse of the range of duties at the top of the CIA. Nora Slatkin is the former Executive Director of the CIA. Her duties are described in this press release and also in this Business Week article.

One of the things I found most disturbing (speaking as someone with a background in sociology) in Jane Mayer's book, aside from the more obvious stuff, was the description of the "bureaucratization of brutality." To quote from Mayer's book "The Dark Side" -

"Some insiders feared that the network of CIA prisons had spawned a corrosive new subculture, eating away at the ideals that America's intelligence service had been created to protect. 'Brutalization became bureaucratized,' said one former CIA officer. 'I mean, were there career paths in this now? What are the criteria for evaluation and promotion? That's how bureaucracies work. Do you really want to be building these skill sets?'" (p.271)

It is a very good question. It will take a fair amount of leadership and moral authority to stamp out this process at all levels of the CIA. Do you want someone who promoted a torturer yesterday in charge today of ensuring torturers are appropriately censured and punished inside the CIA? When it comes to promoting serious obedience to the law & Obama interrogation policy, how does that work? The page I refer to above from "The Dark Side" also refers to a "corrosive new subculture" in the CIA. Tackling that will be among the jobs handled by an incoming CIA Director.

My post on Jack Devine addresses the tactical value of such pro-human rights shifts in the CIA. Bringing in someone who understands the value of that "soft power" seems important to me. If you choose someone for CIA who doesn't believe torture works, I think you end that discussion. And if Obama means to implement an anti-torture policy, hiring someone who has his back on that would only be a good thing for him. There are qualified people who believe (rightfully) that torture does not work.

In other news, Stephen Soldz wrote up my post "The Broader CIA Critique" a few days ago at his blog, Psyche, Science and Society. Soldz's letter to the Obama transition team was key to drawing attention to John Brennan in the media. I am very happy that he found the post worth reading.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Jeff Stein has a weird piece up on CQ.

"In contrast, the president-elect’s national security team has had trouble finding an appropriate candidate to become the CIA’s next chief.

One knowledgeable source said that the Obama team was “back to zero” on finding a CIA chief, an assertion rejected by a transition official.

Running the spy agency has become less attractive to personalities who once might have sought the position, sources say, ever since it was subsumed by the new national intelligence directorate (ODNI), set up after the surprise 9/11 attacks.

'A lot of people don’t want the job,' said the source, because the CIA chief is no longer top dog in the fractious, 16-agency intelligence community, and no longer gives the President his daily briefing. The Obama team has gone down “some blind alleys” in finding the right person, the source said.

Whereas in pre-9/11 times the job might have been a springboard to bigger things, now “it’s a career ender” because it requires direct supervision of such contentious policies as renditions and interrogations.

'You’ve got to just really love it,' a former top CIA official said, 'because it’s too painful otherwise.'”

It's true that candidates like Gannon and Devine have their reservations about the ODNI.

Spencer Ackerman comments:

You’d think that Obama could just tell people “We’re not going to torture anymore.” But who knows? Maybe that’s because he’s reserving the right to torture people. In fairness, there’s a long tradition of people not wanting to be CIA director, as it’s a thankless job that often ends in being blamed for policy failure.

Fun fact: John Deutch thought the position was rinkydink when Bill Clinton offered it to him after a certain neocon know-nothing proved to be a crappy director. Deutch wanted to be defense secretary. It didn’t happen. CIA director is rarely a stepping stone to anything, Bob Gates notwithstanding.

I have a feeling the source in Stein's article is being a little cynical. And it's extremely funny to think that now people are upset at overseeing rendition and torture. At one point did it bother Kappes, Hayden, McLaughlin or Brennan at the CIA? Are they all to the left of Obama now?

On the other hand, one wonders how effective an intelligence transition team featuring the likes of John Brennan could be. Trial balloon? Petulant source? Bad journalism on the part of Stein?

You be the judge.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who is John Gannon?

This is a rather interesting exchange, from the Greenfield At Large program. October 22, 2001:

GREENFIELD: Mr. Thomas, speaking of risk aversion, we talked about this the last time I think you were with us. One of the issues that's come up is whether or not the tactics used to attempt to gain intelligence from people who might know something and might be willing to talk may have to be the kind of tactics that would have greatly offended us and may still.

And that is specifically, should the United States be prepared to take some of these suspects who it believes to have knowledge and perhaps turn them over to the less-than-tender mercies of other intelligence agencies, whose methods of information extraction might be considered a bit rough?

THOMAS: Well, actually right now that's prohibited by law. There's a specific case about this. The FBI arrested somebody they thought was involved with the Khobar Tower bombings in Canada. And they thought they were being very clever.

They said: We'll give you a choice here, you can cooperate with us, or we'll send you back to Saudi Arabia, where you'll get your head cut off. The guy hired himself a lawyer. And the lawyer found a statute that says the United States can't turn over people to foreign countries where they know their human rights are going to be abused.

Now, that's the law. I think as a practical matter what's going to happen on the ground is we're going to look the other way. We're going to have -- we're going to let foreign security services do our dirty work for us. We're going to let them arrest people and torture them and extract information, and we're going to want to know the take, as they say, the results, but we're not going to know about the methods. We're just going to look the other way.

GREENFIELD: Mr. Gannon, you know, the Hollywood version of the agency you worked in is filled with pictures of tactics that would be considered pretty brutal. Do you think in real life that it's going to be necessary for the United States to either by officially or by looking the other way to simply accept methods of interrogation that it might not want to in regular times?

GANNON: I think there's, Jeff, there's wide latitude for what intelligence folks can do in the field, that can be done within the rule of United States law.

I think one of the most encouraging things that our case officers would have heard in recent days is the statement from the president of the United States that he, in fact, is willing to share the risk of people in intelligence and in the field. I think that is the most important message to case officers out there who have to take the risks. It isn't a matter of paper documents that they have to fill out. It is a sense that at the political level of our government they are going to be supported in taking the risks. They're going to be supported if, in fact, there are failures. And they're going to be supported, in fact, as we hope there will be successes.

But that support at the political level has to be sustained. And I think you're going to find that the behavior of our intelligence officers, based on the leadership the president has shown, I think is going to be very positive in this regard.

GREENFIELD: Well, I think I'm going to ask you a somewhat blunter question. Apparently, the Philippine intelligence community got some pretty important information out of one of the people it was interrogating, but the methods of interrogation included, you know, physical torture. The same -- we got information about one of the original World Trade Center bombers the same way. Is that something we're going to have to accept as part of the cost of combating terrorism?

GANNON: Well, what I say to you, Jeff, is that, you know, let's look back on history, dealing with the issues like terrorism, like narcotrafficking, like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, like international organized crime. You invariably get involved with characters who are undesirable. You get involved with intelligence systems and services that don't behave the way we do. You have to find ways to achieve our goals working within those systems, but also working in accordance with U.S. law. I don't believe that we have found that impossible to do.

GREENFIELD: Mr. Bremer, I've got about 30 seconds for you to get the last word on this particular subject. Are we going to have to either shut our eyes or open our eyes to methods of getting information that we would not have thought about six weeks ago?

BREMER: I think we probably will have to be somewhat more open to receiving information from wherever it comes and however it comes to us.

Evan Thomas, Paul Bremer, and John Gannon.

Strange to look back and hear the chorus that thought torture wasn't a problem. When Greenwald talks about talking heads being macho, I think this is what he means.

It's difficult to determine Gannon's committment to US Law. His comments stand in contrast to the others' comments. Bremer suggests we will have to be "more open." Greenfield appears extremely excited at the prospect we might emulate the barbaric tactics of other intelligence agencies. Thomas is odd - he understands that rendition is against the law, but doesn't think that matters much. While our government spends a fair amount of resources ascertaining how well human rights are respected in countries around the world, it is a bit ingenuous to think we will not know beforehand the "methods" used on detainees in X or Y country.

Gannon is actually the sanest person on the panel. He notes that the CIA must abide by US law, and suggests that the law as it stands (in October 2001 aka pre-torture memos) is sufficient.

Points to Gannon there.

And he comes off well in the Dec. 30 2007 New York Times article about the torture tape destruction:

"The investigations over the tapes frustrate some C.I.A. veterans, who say they believe that the agency is being unfairly blamed for policies of coercive interrogation approved at the top of the Bush administration and by some Congressional leaders. Intelligence officers are divided over the use of such methods as waterboarding. Some say the methods helped get information that prevented terrorist attacks. Others, like John C. Gannon, a former C.I.A. deputy director, say it was a tragic mistake for the administration to approve such methods.
Mr. Gannon said he thought the tapes became such an issue because they would have settled the legal debate over the harsh methods.

'To a spectator it would look like torture,' he said. 'And torture is wrong.'”

Too bad Shane and Mazzetti did not provide more info on this conversation with Gannon.

Gannon is against the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency:

"Finally, I would argue strongly against the creation of a new, stand-alone domestic intelligence agency. When asked why we have not had a terrorist attack on US soil since 9.11, I give three reasons. First, the President's early decision to go after the terrorists wherever they could be found in the world weakened their capabilities and served as a powerful disincentive to strike us again. Second, the preventative and protective security measures taken by our Federal, state, and local governments--coordinated and not--have made it harder for terrorists to operate here. And, third, I believe that the hard-won Constitutional freedoms enjoyed by Americans, along with our unparalleled commitment to civil liberties embedded in law, work against the development of domestic terrorist networks that could be exploited by foreigners. In this context, America stands in marked and magnificent contrast to many of the regimes I covered daily and experienced on the ground as a CIA analyst. When I think through the implications of a nation-wide domestic intelligence service under the control of the Executive Branch, I conclude that it is neither needed nor desirable in our society. At best, the proposal is premature."

Again, coming from a CIA guy, the emphasis on American civil liberties is notable. Here Gannon discusses the importance of Congressional oversight and strengthening the relationship of Congress/CIA. Gannon is also a coauthor of the Global Trends 2015 report.

He liked Haydenthough.

Open Letter

From AfterDowningStreet.Org, an open letter written by Ben Davis of Toledo. I especially like this section:

"I urge criminal prosecution of these high-level civilians and generals because their conduct broke U.S. federal law, U.S. international law obligations, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and state laws.

I urge these criminal prosecutions because U.S. soldiers have been convicted for doing the bidding of these persons.

As has been recounted in numerous places, the soldiers who did these horrendous things were told that this torture was approved on high - whether in Gitmo, in Iraq, or in Bagram. We know that this torture was done with the aid of many allies in many countries around the world. Even here in Toledo we know this.

These soldiers were rightly convicted for betraying their oaths but it does not end there. Even after leaving prison, they are serving a life sentence because of those convictions.

Those persons who put in place the policy of cruelty should not be allowed to not face a jury of their peers also for the crimes committed. Allowing them not to face a jury of their peers would mean that the life sentences for these awful acts are only to be born by the low-level non-general officers - the Americans from places like Toledo who make up the backbone of our services.

Sir, when the four top uniformed military lawyers asked the head lawyer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do a full review of the detainee policy, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers blocked that effort at the request of then General Counsel William Haynes. That, I submit, is conspiracy to torture and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman by General Myers. It is conspiracy to torture by William Haynes.

Sir, when John Yoo wrote those memos where he made up from thin air definitions of torture, that was not legal analysis, that was conspiracy to commit torture.

Sir, when the National Security Principals sat around and approved specific torture techniques that was conspiracy to torture."

Mr. Davis then provides an extensive list of people that "are the persons of interest that should be referred for investigation and criminal prosecution. Some may become defendants, all are witnesses to the conduct that is the crime":

• Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency George Tenet,
• Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Porter Goss,
• Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden
• Former Executive Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, A.B. Krongard
• Former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John C. Gannon
• Former Director of the National Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency, Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr.
• Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency, John L. Helgerson
• Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Rizzo
• Former General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, Scott W. Muller
• Secretary of Homeland Security and former head of the Criminal Division, Department of Justice Michael Chertoff
• Director of National Intelligence John Mike McConnell

I question Gannon's involvement as he left the agency before 9/11. A bio of Gannon can be found below his testimony here.

Hayden ...

It wasn't so long ago that Hayden staying on as CIA Director was a joke. It may still be, but it is getting a lot of play from various corners. There was the report from ABC News that Obama "felt comfortable" with Hayden. And today Paul Bedard of "Washington Whispers" writes of a CIA holiday celebration "The giving came with a broader Christmas message sent out by CIA Director Mike Hayden-said to be in line to stay on in the Obama administration." This is a bit of a departure from his report on Dec 15th that begins "We still don't know if CIA boss Michael Hayden will stay on as Barack Obama's top spy."

Is it odd that Hayden might stay, as McConnell departs? Beats me. Obviously Obama is interested in shaking up the intelligence community to some degree - I would think Hayden staying on would make that more difficult.

Melvin Goodman has written another article on the intelligence community for all to enjoy at The Public Record. He has been excellent and aggressive on intelligence issues - and I think his early op-ed in the Baltimore Sun really helped get the ball rolling against John Brennan's potential nomination to DNI/DCIA. He offers Richard Holbrooke or Thomas Pickering as promising DCIA candidates.

Lee Hamilton, apparently offered the no.2 position at the State Dept., has written an editorial as well.

The intelligence community is causing noted people to pick up their pens. Add Thomas A. Schweich to the list of op-ed writers.

The tea-leaf reading continues. But at least Barack Obama knows that the American people are extremely interested in who he chooses for DCIA and understand the importance of his choice.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who is Jack Devine?

Former CIA Jack Devine has been widely reported as a possible candidate to head Obama's CIA. He is seen as one of the "clean" guys, with no attachment to the agency in the post 9/11 years.

Dana Priest from the Washington Post describes him thusly:

"...Jack Devine, the former head of the Directorate of Operations who left the
agency back in the 1990s. He gets lots of respect from agency insiders and
Congress, and did some work with the transition team."

A bio from "Future Intel":

"Jack Devine is a founding member and President of The Arkin Group LLC,
which specializes in international crisis management, strategic intelligence,
investigative research and business problem solving.

A 32 year veteran of the CIA, Mr. Devine served as both Acting Director and
Associate Director of CIA's operations abroad (1993-1995). Between 1990 and
1992, he headed the CIA's Counternarcotics Center (CNC) establishing close ties
to key foreign officials, especially in the security and intelligence fields.
From 1985-1987, Mr. Devine headed the CIA's Afghan Task Force, which
successfully countered Soviet aggression in the region.

Mr. Devine's international experience with the U.S. government included
postings to the United Kingdom, Italy, Argentina, Venezuela, The Dominican
Republic, Mexico and Chile. During his more than 30 years with the CIA, Mr.
Devine was involved in organizing, planning and executing countless sensitive
projects in virtually all areas of intelligence, including analysis, operations,
technology and management. He is the recipient of the Agency's Distinguished
Intelligence Medal and several meritorious awards."

Finding quotes from Jack Devine on current interrogation and rendition issues has been a little difficult. But here is a quote from Stephen Grey's book, Ghost Plane, that give us some insights into Jack Devine:

"When President Carter took office in 1977, the CIA was ordered to become a
global advocate of human rights. CIA officers deployed in Central and
South America, and at training schools in the United States, were now advised to
start teaching their police and intelligence liaisons that illegal arrests and
torture were unacceptable. Many in the agency agreed with the switch of
tactics. As Jack Devine, a former acting head of the agency's worldwide
operations, told me: 'It caused a bit of surprise with some of those we were
dealing with; but it was a real and important turning point not just for the
agency but for U.S. policy in general.' President Carter promoted human
rights out of a genuine belief in their merits, said Devine, but the switch of
policy also gave the United States a new ideological advantage. 'Communism
could be beaten because our ideas and our society were better. We didn't need to
descend to their level.' That ultimately, both then and after 9/11, became
one of the strongest arguments against methods like torture." Ghost Plane,
p. 13

Unless Jack Devine is completely lacking in self-awareness, one suspects he understands that today's conflicts must be handled the same way.

Stephen Lendman in "Obama's War Cabinet":

Jack Devine, a 32-year CIA veteran, now retired, and former head of clandestine
service; he describes himself as "a covert action person (who believes) we
should be out there pushing US policy wherever we can, covertly and overtly."

Covert ops can include a variety of things; one hopes that Devine does not mean rendition - secret kidnappings and a ticket to a state that tortures. He seems to be very focused on the CIA penetrating terrorist organizations - he asks whether we're there yet (the answer is no) in a Washington Post column of his own here, and according to a 2001 transcript Devine believes the only way to get bin Laden "is to penetrate his cells with agents willing to pass his loyalty tests."

Devine also believes in a North American security perimeter.

Update: From CNN May 1 2003.

ENSOR: As retired General Jay Garner, the American coordinator, draws together Iraqi notables to plan the future, analysts warn against holding elections soon. Putting Iraq on the right stable, ultimately democratic path will require patience, they say, and many years.

Take intelligence. It's a dangerous neighborhood. Iraq will need a strong intelligence agency purged of the likes of Farouk Hijazi, once operations chief in Saddam's brutal Mukhabarat. Former senior CIA official Jack Devine says the U.S. needs to train an entirely new group of spies to respect human rights.

JACK DEVINE, PRESIDENT, THE ARKIN GROUP: We cannot use the same techniques or draw on the same people that were used during Saddam Hussein. It would be a cancerous thing, which would make it -- rather than a source of strength for the new government, it would go a long way to undermining it if it became an instrument of fear.

If Iraq hadn't led to such wholesale hypocrisy amongst the babblers, I would say that we could extrapolate from this statement that Devine is anti-torture. Unfortunately things are not so clear.

Update 2: Jack Devine at Colby College:

"The conference’s panel discussion, "Counterterrorism Tactics: Balancing Effective Policy and Human Rights,” delved deeper into the policy dilemmas surrounding national security. The discussion featured four experts, all of whom agreed that coercive interrogation should never be the first resort. “The best way to get intelligence [regarding] terrorism is not to use torture but to find a source that provides continuing information,” said Jack Devine, a 32-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Rand Beers, who worked as a counterterrorism advisor to President George W. Bush before quitting in protest of White House policies, was pessimistic. “Today, guidance as to intelligence has become more muddy, and we don’t have an oversight organization to rectify that,” he said.

Another little tidbit.

Germany May Take Guantanamo Inmates

From Spiegel Online:

Two weeks after Portugal's foreign minister said his country would be
willing to give residency permits to innocent prisoners held at the Guantanamo
Bay prison camp for suspected terrorists, German officials are saying they would
consider the same move.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has ordered his staff to study
the legal implications of taking in former prisoners who have become stateless
or run the risk of prosecution, torture or execution if they return to their
home countries.

The overwhelmingly supportive "word on the street" in Germany follows.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Morale Myths

Fun glimpses into the CIA's "morale" from various perspectives over the past 8 years.

Ken Silverstein - Harper's:

This former senior officer said there “seems to be a quiet conspiracy by rational people” at the agency to avoid involvement in some of the particularly nasty tactics being employed by the administration, especially “renditions”—the practice whereby the CIA sends terrorist suspects abroad to be questioned in Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and other nations where the regimes are not squeamish about torturing detainees. My source, hardly a softie on the topic of terrorism, said of the split at the CIA: “There's an SS group within the agency that's willing to do anything and there's a Wehrmacht group that is saying, 'I'm not gonna touch this stuff'.”

Scott Horton, a human rights activist who has become a principal spokesman for the New York City Bar Association in evaluating the Bush Administration's tactics, said that he's also hearing stories of growing dissent at the CIA. “When the shit hits the fan,” he explained, “the administration scapegoats lower-level people. It doesn't do a lot in terms of inspiring confidence.”

Jeff Stein, CQ:

CIA spokespeople will not discuss Castelli or Lady. They don’t exist, in the CIA’s fantasy.
“Leaders used to protect those below from the top as they went up,” Lady groused. “It’s a way of harnessing the loyalty of those they led.”
He is bitter. “Now they protect the top. They manage down and step on anyone below.”

Walter Pincus, WaPo:

Hayden has also said he would emphasize the CIA's importance as home to the largest number of "all-source" analysts within the U.S. intelligence community. He plans to remind them, an associate said, that the "CIA's primary customer remains the president" and they are still the "major," if not the only, contributor to the PDB, the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified intelligence report provided to Bush each morning.

Greg Miller, LATimes:

“Relations between the CIA and the office of the DNI have been rocky,” said John Brennan, who until last year served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, a clearinghouse for terror threat information. “In my view, the agency was reluctant to understand that the NCTC had primary responsibility on the analytic front, and therefore did not adapt the way it needed to.”
Brennan also said morale at the CIA had suffered over the last two years. “A lot of the agency’s responsibilities and capabilities have withered in some respects because they were unsure of their role in the community,” he said.


"Sadly, what I saw was demoralization in the senior ranks, quizzical looks on the faces of new recruits, and a lot of people deployed in the far reaches of the world who could not describe what the mission of their agency was,” said the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman of Venice. [regarding former CIA Director Goss]

Kevin Whitelaw and David E. Kaplan, USNews:

When Goss arrived at the CIA, he brought with him four longtime Republican aides from the House Intelligence Committee to make up his inner circle. Led by his former staff director, Patrick Murray, the group was notorious at the CIA, where many viewed them as arrogant, partisan, and caught up in micromanaging marginal programs. At CIA headquarters, the Goss aides soon acquired a nickname: "the Hitler youth."

NYT Editorial (2006):

It also seems ill advised to put an Air Force general at the helm of the C.I.A., a civilian agency, at a time when it is fending off the Pentagon's efforts to expand its own spying operations. Morale at the C.I.A. is at an all-time low, and the choice of General Hayden sends a politically tone-deaf signal to the men and women in the field who themselves are fending off encroachment from the Pentagon.

Scott Horton, No Comment:

A senior intelligence figure recently told me he had resolved to retire. Hayden, he said, is the major reason why. “After the dismal experience with Porter Goss, we were very upbeat about a career military man coming to the helm. We thought it would be an end to sleazy politics and an infusion of upright military values. Hayden is better than Porter Goss, but he’s more like Porter Goss than most of us expected. On the issues that are key to our reputation and morale, Hayden is every bit the equal of Alberto Gonzales—a spineless toady who gives the Addingtons and Cheneys what they want, without giving a second’s thought to our values or long-term institutional interests.” He went on to say, rather ominously, that Hayden was damaging morale by relying too much on fear and intimidation as management tools.

Update: Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, Washington Post:

Yet the nation's next intelligence leaders will face far more vexing demands. At the top of the list are improving intelligence collection and analysis, and streamlining an unwieldy structure -- all without further damaging morale.

Prominent voices in the intelligence community and the Obama camp have argued that a seasoned professional is needed when the country is waging two wars and a campaign against terrorism, and that a newcomer would face an excessively steep learning curve.

"An outsider will get eaten alive," said Amy Zegart, an associate professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and a former security adviser to both the Clinton administration and President Bush's 2000 transition team. "The next CIA director has to walk a fine line between taming the building and transforming it. He's got to be part cheerleader and part skull-cracker. There is just no room for on-the-job learning."

Morale is a many-splendored thing. There is no reason why Obama can't give someone who believes in the American criminal justice system a try.

Quick Links

Some reading for you... Bill O'Reilly is a moron, but you know that ...of interest is his description of Eric Holder as an "anti-agency attorney general." Tom Burghardt wrote an article on future DNI Dennis Blair for the Dissident Voice. And, inspired by Jeff Stein's long and somewhat oddball list of suggestions for CIA Director, I give you this oldie-but-goodie on CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, from Think Progress. The CIA is often discussed in terms of its morale - but in all honesty, I do not see how the status quo - Hayden inspecting his Inspector General - is good for morale at all.

Small wonder that "No Drama Obama" hasn't picked a CIA Director yet. Whoever believes the CIA is free of internal politics (and it's only us liberals who politicize it) is full of it.

A Valuable Tidbit

Digby quotes an exchange on CNN that is pretty interesting

TODD: Analyst says, if Brennan didn't support harsh interrogation, his
overall ties to the post-9/11 era at the CIA, with the prewar intelligence flap
and all the controversial tactics in the war on terror, would have made him
tough to confirm.Human rights officials are throwing down their gauntlet.
ELISA MASSIMINO, CEO AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: It really is incumbent on the incoming administration to choose people for those slots who don't have any baggage from the previous policies and can demonstrate a clear break from those policies.
TODD: Elisa Massimino says that doesn't mean everyone who served in the CIA then should be automatically disqualified. But analysts say it will be hard to find a really qualified spy chief who doesn't have some tie-in to that period.A former CIA officer says, if the Obama team can find someone like that:
: They have a unique opportunity to make changes now in the agency, the way the agency fits in to the intelligence community, get back to the real core mission of the service, to recruit agents and have -- collect
intelligence through classic espionage.(END VIDEOTAPE)
TODD: Tyler Drumheller says the ideal person for that would be, not a former analyst, but someone from the operations side of the CIA, the division that actually carries out missions in the field. So, the challenge right now for Obama's team, find someone like that who is not associated with the controversies of the past eight years. Suzanne, it's going to be a very tall order. That really narrows the
MALVEAUX: OK, Brian Todd, thank you so much.

As I wrote in the comments of digby's post, this is actually kind of a good sign - a veteran CIA operative like Drumheller backing up a liberal group like Human Rights First.

I wonder how widespread Drumheller's thinking is. After all, the CIA was not always a jailer & principal interrogator - and Drumheller has made this point before (from Jane Mayer's article The Black Sites):

The C.I.A. knew even less about running prisons than it did about hostile
interrogations. Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of European operations at the
C.I.A., and the author of a recent book, “On the Brink: How the White House
Compromised U.S. Intelligence,” said, “The agency had no experience in
detention. Never. But they insisted on arresting and detaining people in this
program. It was a mistake, in my opinion. You can’t mix intelligence and police
work. But the White House was really pushing. They wanted someone to do it. So
the C.I.A. said, ‘We’ll try.’ George Tenet came out of politics, not
intelligence. His whole modus operandi was to please the principal. We got stuck
with all sorts of things. This is really the legacy of a director who never said
no to anybody.”

Having someone as CIA Director who really believes the CIA needs to redefine its mission and get out of the business of breaking the Geneva Conventions would certainly be positive. Drumheller's criticism is a substantial one - let's remake this place. It synchs up nicely with the stated aims of Obama's administration (end torture, shut down Guantánamo) and the general tendency of his thinking. I would imagine that getting away from his crap would be a relief to a lot of people in the CIA.

Maybe Drumheller is auditioning for the positon. I hope not - like Brennan, he believes renditions have their purpose - they are a "vital tool." This is an interesting interview with Drumheller from Spiegel Online:

SPIEGEL: The renditions program saw the kidnapping of suspected Islamist
extremists to third countries. Were you involved in the program?
Drumheller: I would be lying if I said no. I have very complicated feelings about the whole issue. I do see the purpose of renditions, if they are carried out properly.
Guys sitting around talking about carrying out attacks as they smoke their pipes
in the comfort of a European capital tend to get put off the idea if they learn
that a like-minded individual has been plucked out of safety and sent elsewhere
to pay for his crimes.

SPIEGEL: We disagree. At the very least, you need to be certain that the
targets of those renditions aren't innocent people.
Drumheller: It was Vice President Dick Cheney who talked about the "dark side" we have to turn on. When he spoke those words, he was articulating a policy that amounted to "go out and get them." His remarks were evidence of the underlying approach of the administration, which was basically to turn the military and the agency loose and let them pay for the consequences of any unfortunate -- or illegal -- occurences.

SPIEGEL: So there was no clear guidance of what is allowed in the so called
"war on terrorism"?
Drumheller: Every responsible chief in the CIA knows that the more covert
the action, the greater the need for a clear policy and a defined target. I once
had to brief Condoleezza Rice on a rendition operation, and her chief concern
was not whether it was the right thing to do, but what the president would think
about it. I would have expected a big meeting, a debate about whether to proceed
with the plan, a couple of hours of consideration of the pros and cons. We
should have been talking about the value of the target, whether the threat he
presented warranted such a potentially controversial intervention. This is no
way to run a covert policy. If the White House wants to take extraordinary
measures to win, it can't just let things go through without any discussion
about their value and morality.

It is unfortunate that Drumheller believes this, especially in light of his comments elsewhere regarding the countries we rend suspects to - "You can say we asked them not to do it, and they do say that, but you have to be honest with yourself and say there's no way we can guarantee they are not going to do that."

Um, at least his eyes are wide open, I guess.

Ideally the CIA Director will not be trying to incorporate the failures of the Bush administration into the Obama administration. If we insist upon playing by our own rules, it becomes much harder to play with others. Drumheller references this issue in his Spiegel interview - "The guys who attacked the World Trade Center didn't fly from Kabul to New York. They came from Hamburg. So the value in befriending the local intelligence services in Europe instead of alienating them is clear: We need to ensure that they are telling us everything they know."

Again, this is why we need fresh leadership that American citizens and our many allies can trust. If we continue to jeopardize our allies by carrying out illegal renditions on their soil, we are not going to have that trust. As I wrote in yesterday's article, important intelligence leaders in Italy were arrested for kidnapping Abu Omar. Do you think if our guys are never punished, and our "host country" is, that we will continue receiving their help?

The answer - from Michael Hayden of all people - is NO.

From John Prados at

General Michael V. Hayden, the current CIA director, was asked a few months ago
about the agency’s foreign intelligence partnerships, given the mounting
investigations of CIA activities. Without touching the controversial U.S.
operations at all, his response was, “If an ally believes—fears—that we can’t
keep such activities private, then that ally is going to be much more reluctant
to deal with us.”

The EU has condemned rendition. It is evidently important to our interests that we condemn it as well.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Stephen Kappes & The Rendition of Abu Omar

It has been reported (here and here) that Stephen Kappes, current Deputy Director of the CIA, is a leading candidate for Director of the CIA under President-Elect Barack Obama. The NY Daily News goes so far as to say that "Some Democrats on Capitol Hill have strongly advocated" the nomination of Kappes.

Critics of the bloggers who were against John Brennan's nomination to a top intelligence position frequently whined that he was getting a bad rap (see Greenwald's article "The CIA and its reporter friends: Anatomy of a backlash"). One critic goes so far as to say "Brennan’s hands were not very dirty at all. He was apparently thrown under the bus because some ill-informed bloggers thought they were [dirty] and the transition folks didn’t have the will to explain that they were wrong.” (as quoted by Greenwald from Jeff Stein's CQ article).

Let's see how they choose to defend Stephen Kappes. There can be no vague denials that Kappes had dirty hands - at his feet rests the responsibility for the bungled and unnecessary rendition of Muslim cleric Osama Mustafa Hasan Nasr aka Abu Omar.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Under guidelines established after Sept. 11, each proposed rendition must be
approved at several levels within the CIA, but not by the White House itself.
The veteran senior CIA official said one of those who signed off on the Abu Omar
abduction was Stephen Kappes, at the time the agency's associate deputy director
for operations and currently its No. 2 official.

The Abu Omar rendition is among the few renditions we know quite a few details about (Jeralyn covered aspects of his rendition here and here). That Kappes' signed off on the rendition of Abu Omar suggests he may've signed off on other renditions - which contradicts the rather strange and weak defense his "backers" granted him in Newsweek, that he "was working on counterintel issues—uncovering moles—when the CIA set up its 'secret prison' network."

If Kappes' signature is on the rendition approval, he may have a lot of explaining to do to our allies in the European Union.

According to Matthew Cole in GQ [PDF], at the time of Abu Omar's abduction, the CIA was working alongside Milan's antiterrorism police - known as DIGOS - to collect enough evidence to arrest and convict Abu Omar. CIA officer Bob Lady, then Milan's CIA station chief, believed they would be able to accomplish this in a few months.

But a rendition plan was pushed forward by Bob Lady's superior, Rome's CIA Chief of Station officer Jeff Castelli. According to Cole, Castelli moved ahead with the rendition even against the recommendations of Bob Lady and the Counterterrorist Center, and the plan "was approved by the brass at Langley and SISMI, the CIA's Italian counterpart." In other words, approved by Stephen Kappes.

The legal troubles resulting from this rendition have been widely reported. 26 Americans, most CIA employees, among them Bob Lady, went on trial in absentia in Italy for kidnapping in April of 2008 (source: Jeff Stein, CQ). As reported by Tim Shorrock and Frank Naif the trial has now halted over secrecy privilege issues and the "CIA kidnapping trial [is] expected to resume in March." Reports of the trial's halt made it all the way to page A16 of the NYT.

What exactly prevents Stephen Kappes from being sucked into this trial? He was the one who approved this rendition. Will he even acknowledge the legal & diplomatic issues surrounding it - which the CIA has yet to do? Would Kappes be able to earn the trust of other crucial allied intelligence agencies as head of the CIA with this behind him? High-level intelligence officials in Italy, including Marco Mancini, the head of the SISMI anti-terrorism and counterespionage efforts, and Gustavo Pignero, SISMI chief for Northern Italy, were arrested for their involvement in the rendition[see also wiki]. But Kappes and Jeff Castelli remain in positions of power, with no consequences for their actions.

Shamefully enough, according to Stein and Matthew Cole, the CIA has not provided Bob Lady with a lawyer nor helped him pay for one. Lady's wife left him and his house in Italy stands to be confiscated if he is convicted. Cole reports in his GQ article:

"Yet another former CIA officer, who knows Lady well, says the agency threw Lady
under a bus. 'Bob got screwed because he was a good soldier, a perfectly
subservient CIA officer. The agency could have given him some funds so he could
get his own lawyer. He’s retired, so they didn’t have to do anything. But they
could have done something. He got f***** big-time.'”

Pretty big morale-booster, huh? That is some great CIA leadership!

As I have done before, I echo Shorrock and Naif's message:

"Ignoring allied complaints about heavy-handed renditions is not an
option--senior career and appointed officials who greenlighted these operations
should step forward for the inevitable reckoning on behalf of their country, and
on behalf of the brave men and women whose intelligence careers and personal
lives have been turned inside out by foreign indictments."

The lead prosecutor in Milan, Armando Spataro, described the rendition of Abu Omar as follows:
"'The kidnapping of Abu Omar was not only a serious crime against Italian
sovereignty and human rights, but it also seriously damaged counterterrorism
efforts in Italy and Europe,'" said Armando Spataro, the lead prosecutor in
Milan. "'In fact, if Abu Omar had not been kidnapped, he would now be in prison,
subject to a regular trial, and we would have probably identified his other

Contrast what Matthew Cole writes:

"'After we grabbed Omar, senior management went around the seventh floor of
Langley bragging about this op,' the former senior CIA official involved told
me. 'They’re not bragging anymore.'"

Even though this completely embarrassing rendition can be laid at Kappes' feet, when it comes to Kappes, prepare to be triangulated. Again, even though he signed off on arguably one of the most disastrous renditions of the entire Bush administration, Newsweek's Mark Hosenball tells us:

"Democratic sources have indicated nonetheless that a leading candidate still
being considered by Obama for CIA chief is the agency's current deputy director,
Stephen Kappes--a veteran but media-shy spy who almost certainly was
involved in the agency's handling of terrorist suspects while serving as Number
Two in the Operations Directorate between 2002 and 2004
. Kappes was
driven out of the agency when Republican Congressman Porter Goss and a coterie
of hyper-partisan Capitol Hill aides took control at Langley in 2004; he was
invited back after Goss and his team were forced out by John Negroponte, then
serving as Intelligence Czar. Kappes' willingness to stand up to the Republicans
may well have endeared him to Democrats who follow intelligence issues closely,
and may be why Kappes' candidacy for CIA chief hasn't yet foundered on the same
shoals that damaged Brennan's prospects. One person close to the
transition said that Kappes' overall qualifications for CIA chief were so
formidable that confronting left-wing critics over him was a fight that Obama
not only ought to join but that the new president would have little difficulty

Watch the defenders of Brennan, who upheld his moral goodness, find new reasons to defend Kappes - a guy whose hands are without question dirty.

Kappes is a very troubling candidate. My hope is that he does not get tapped for CIA Director and gets flushed away with the rest of the status quo leadership responsible for implementing our abuse of terror suspects. But perhaps the only way we will be able to prevent his appointment is by drawing attention to his record, and forcing people to examine his involvement in the rendition of Abu Omar and countless others. And to continue demanding prosecutions and Congressional investigations of our torture regime. Investigations of the CIA by Congress will obviously be damning to Kappes...and if he is the head of Obama's CIA, they will in turn be embarrassing for Obama.

For more info on renditions, please check out the Human Rights Watch report here on suspects rendered to Jordan (h/t The Moderate Voice). For more info on Abu Omar, check out Peter Bergen's Mother Jones reporting here that describes Abu Omar's treatment in Egypt.

[crossposted at TalkLeft]

The Washington Times

Why bother debating the editorial section at the Washington Times? I don't really know. But there are some pretty amazing statements in today's Washington Times editoral from Morton Kondracke that I thought I would highlight anyway.

"But there's no need to investigate whether Mr. Bush - or Mr. Cheney -
authorized the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques or warrantless
terrorist wiretapping or renditions ("snatching") of terrorist suspects. They
have admitted it and defended it as being necessary to defend the nation in the
aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - and justified it by pointing out that
the homeland has not been attacked since."
"In an interview with The Washington Times on Dec. 17, Mr. Cheney said, "There were a total of about 33 [persons] who were subjected to enhanced interrogation. Only three of those who were subjected to waterboarding," including Sept. 11's top planner, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Intelligence officials claim his subjection to simulated drowning produced important information about the al Qaeda organization and future plans."

Wow. No need to investigate whether it was right or wrong. No need to investigate the numbers given by Cheney, which I believe are gross underestimates. No need to wonder what Cheney's "enhanced interrogation" means compared to what others think it means. And even worse, no need to investigate to see if the claims that it works are true. Many intelligence officials say torture does NOT work. And anyone familiar with KSM's case knows that under torture he said an astonishing amount of untruths. One of the reasons we need an investigation is to put to bed once and for all the idea that torture works. It does not. We need to commit against torture on legal, moral, and practical levels.

Of course Kondracke has no problems at all with torture, rendition, etc.:

"The fact is, Mr. Obama does have "many problems to solve." Among them is the
possibility raised by a congressionally mandated commission - that terrorists
will use a nuclear or biological weapon somewhere in the world by 2013."
"To prevent that catastrophe, Mr. Obama might well want to order an "enhanced
interrogation," wiretap a terrorist or even kill one. If he issues the order, he
will want someone to carry it out."

Note how in support of his ideology Kondracke can summon up his own Obama. Here is the leader the conservatives are willing to like, at least when the fates of their war criminal heroes are uncertain:

"Mr. Obama should make it clear right now that he opposes such action - and also
that he opposes the "compromise" idea of a "truth commission" to investigate
alleged Bush-era wrongdoing.
The main reason has less to do with "turning the page," uniting the country and letting bygones be bygones - all good Obama impulses - than with preserving the morale of intelligence professionals in wartime.
Were a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate possible
criminality involved in detainee interrogations, "extraordinary renditions" or
terrorist surveillance, it's not only Bush-era top officials who would have to
hire lawyers to defend themselves but lower-down intelligence operatives as

Some of these "lower-down intelligence operatives" have already hired lawyers to defend themselves against the consequences of discovered renditions (ref: the case against Abu Omar). Their superiors of course have not - they have actually been promoted. One of them is currently the Deputy Director of the CIA and a candidate for CIA Director.

The country needs and deserves prosecutions and intelligence commissions. We hold our leaders accountable.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The broader CIA critique

In Glenn Greenwald's recent Salon article, "Some observations after being involved in a Fox News report," he discusses his attempt to set the record straight when it comes to the left blogs' John Brennan critique. I believe he is mostly right when he says:

"Specifically, the case against John Brennan as CIA Director - from the
beginning - was based almost exclusively on comments he made on television,
after he left the CIA, in which he supported rendition and what he called
'enhanced interrogation tactics.'
" [bolding Greenwald's]

That was indeed the basis for the Brennan critique. John Brennan, basically, did this to himself - he was the one who stood up and acted as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration's tactics. The mass media doesn't understand this for some reason. Despite the fact that Brennan's statements are out there for the world to see, the MSM did little to present them to their viewers/readers. But even if Brennan hadn't put his foot in his mouth, I believe he would've been, by virtue of his former place in the chain of command, disqualifed for the CIA Director position.

No blogger I've read is demanding a massive purge of CIA staff. But I personally think it is important to both make and accept as legitimate a broader critique of Obama's CIA candidates based on chain of command.

Mel Goodman did this a little bit regarding John Brennan in his Democracy Now! appearance. From the transcript:

"MEL GOODMAN: OK. John Brennan was deputy executive secretary to George Tenet
during the worst violations during the CIA period in the run-up to the Iraq war,
so he sat there at Tenet's knee when they passed judgment on torture and abuse,
on extraordinary renditions, on black sites, on secret prisons. He was part of
all of that decision making."

Goodman is right to hold Brennan accountable for decisions made in and by the CIA. Brennan was one of the leaders - as were Steve Kappes and John McLaughlin, both of whom have been floated for the CIA Director position. I don't think we should punish the lower-level officers in the CIA who carried out specific operations - the Kirakous of the intelligence world. But we do need to ensure that the honchos of the Bush administration's CIA are held accountable for the decisions they made and that they will not now lead Obama's CIA.

To construct this critique, we need to understand the chain of command in the CIA (esp. before the 9/11 commission report and the establishment of the DNI position). According to :

The "director of Central Intelligence (DCI) oversees the four directorates
(Administration, Intelligence, Science and Technology, and Operations), as well
as numerous other offices."
"Under DCI is the deputy director of Central
Intelligence (DDCI), who assists DCI as head of the CIA and of the Intelligence
Community. DDCI also exercises the powers of the DCI when the holder of that
position is absent or disabled. Within the CIA and the Intelligence Community as
a whole, the offices of the DCI and the DDCI are intended to function virtually
as a single unit."

The very top. The buck stops with the DCI and the DDCI. In other words, these two guys, both floated as Obama administration CIA Directors, DCI Hayden and DDCI Steve Kappes, are literally in this together.

Continuing from

"By far the largest chain of command within the CIA, however is the one
that runs through the offices of the Executive Director (EXDIR) and Deputy
Executive Director (D/EXDIR).

The EXDIR oversees five centers that collectively enable the CIA to
carry out its mission: the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer,
Global Support, Human Resources, and Security, each of which have numerous
subordinate offices and bureaus. Also under the EXDIR aegis are several
independent functions, including the Center for the Study of Intelligence,
Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Ombudsman/Alternative Dispute
Resolution, and the Executive Secretary. Finally, the Executive Director's
office is in the line of authority between DCI/DDCI and the four

The Wall Street Journal also has a chart that lays out these relationships nicely. Note this chart is not the same as the current CIA chart which takes into account the various reforms made in 2004 and onward.

The EXDIR's office has authority over Operations. You know, that directorate where particular rendition and interrogation plans are hatched and carried out. And those in charge of Operations are the Deputy Director of Operations and the Associate Deputy Director of Operations. Pertinently, from June 2002 on Kappes was the Associate Deputy Director of Operations (for more on Kappes, please see here).

Considering that John Brennan served as the Deputy Executive Director, his line about not being "involved in the decisionmaking process for any of these controversial policies and actions" is a little weak. Until March 2003 (when he left) he had authority and oversight over Operations. Based on the job description alone he was involved in the implementation of these controversial policies. And I think that is fair game.

Why is it fair game? Because we hold our leaders accountable for their actions. If people are kidnapped, if people are held in black site cells without a clue as to why, if someone is tortured, we look to those leaders for an explanation as to why - and why these things continued.

Based on their positions of authority alone, I find Kappes and McLaughlin unfit to serve in the CIA - and Brennan too. I would find Jim Pavitt, former Deputy Director of Operations until June 2004, unfit as well.

Why is all this important? How about this - a point of Tim Shorrock's and Frank Naif's. Their point is in response to the bundles of international legal trouble the CIA's rendition and interrogation policies have gotten the agency into. To quote Shorrock and Naif:

"Ignoring allied complaints about heavy-handed renditions is not an
option--senior career and appointed officials who greenlighted these operations
should step forward for the inevitable reckoning on behalf of their country, and
on behalf of the brave men and women whose intelligence careers and personal
lives have been turned inside out by foreign indictments."

By virtue of their place in the chain of command, the Brennans and Kappes of the intelligence world need to offer an explanation for how these renditions happened, how they went so wrong, and why they were allowed to happen at all. They will be able to offer either useful testimony or they will themselves be targets of these international investigations. Because whether we think it's legal or not, other countries have discovered our operations in their territory, and have found them illegal.

In the domestic arena, the logic is similar. As Senator Levin said on the Rachel Maddow Show on Dec 17, 2008:

LEVIN: "What I think is our role to do is to bring out the facts which we
have to state our conclusions, which we have, which is where the origin of these
techniques began. And then to turn over to the Justice Department of the next
administration - because clearly this Justice Department is not willing to take
an objective look - to turn over to the next Justice Department all the facts
that we can, and we have put together, and get our report, the rest of it

But then it seems to me it is appropriate that there be an outside
commission appointed to take this out of politics, that it would have the clear
subpoena authority to get to the parts of this which are not yet clear, and that
is the role of the CIA.

We looked at the role of the Department of Defense, but the role of the
CIA has not yet been looked at
, and let an outside commission reach the kind of
conclusions which then may or may not lead to indictments or to civil action.
But it is not our role, it's not appropriate for us to make those kinds of -
reach those kinds of conclusions." [bolding my own]

By virtue of their positions alone, we know who had responsibility. Now is the time to find out what happened, from them. Keeping these officials in the CIA is not an option. We need them to take responsibility for the decisions they made, and the policies that we as a nation need to leave behind.

[crossposted at TalkLeft]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why Change Is Needed

from Rachel Maddow:

LEVIN: What I think is our role to do is to bring out the facts which we have to
state our conclusions, which we have, which is where the origin of these
techniques began. And then to turn over to the Justice Department of the next
administration - because clearly this Justice Department is not willing to take
an objective look - to turn over to the next Justice Department all the facts
that we can, and we have put together, and get our report, the rest of it
But then it seems to me it is appropriate that there be an
outside commission appointed to take this out of politics, that it would have
the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this which are not yet
clear, and that is the role of the CIA.
We looked at the role of the
Department of Defense, but the role of the CIA has not yet been looked at, and
let an outside commission reach the kind of conclusions which then may or may
not lead to indictments or to civil action. But it is not our role, it's not
appropriate for us to make those kinds of - reach those kinds of conclusions.

Yep. The role of the CIA has not been looked at. And that is why no one involved with the high-level logistics or policy-making of torture, rendition, or warrantless wiretapping in the CIA can be placed in charge of an Obama CIA. We need to know what happened, and they are the only ones that can tell us. Put someone clean in charge of the CIA so that we can do this investigation of Bush era officials without destroying the morale of the CIA.

Biden on Prosecutions

From Dec 21st ABC News "This Week":

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Senate Armed Services Committee last week had a unanimous report that said that the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, at prisons around the world is a direct and indirect result of decisions made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials. Should they be prosecuted for that?
BIDEN: First of all, that's a judgment, remember, four years ago on your program I made, so I haven't changed my mind. And this confirms.
But the questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is -- is something the Justice Department decides.
Barack Obama and I are -- President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future. Obviously, that if the Justice...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But should the cases be reviewed?
BIDEN: Well, that's a decision I'd look to the Justice Department to make.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not ruling it out at this point?
BIDEN: I'm not ruling it in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.

I guess it's off to find out what Eric Holder thinks...since of course the President and Vice President have no involvement, none whatsoever, with the Justice Department... (sarcasm)

Update: Contrast the language Michael Ratner uses in this article from The Nation:

"Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights says that one of Barack Obama's first acts as president should be to 'instruct his attorney general to appoint an independent prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation of former Bush Administration officials who gave the green light to torture.'"

Biden has left the door open on this one. But it's curious that he used language that made it sound like the Obama administration will have nothing to do with what the Justice Department decides.

Update: I expanded upon this quote in a diary at Talkleft.

CIA: the Chain of Command

The CIA has a mania for titles and a rather complicated chain of command. Figuring out accountability in the CIA means figuring out who reports to who, and what responsibilities those positions have. This info is taken from

[Zoom on up to my other post ("The Broader CIA Critique") to learn more about the chain of command - complete with official CIA charts! This post has been trimmed in light of the more comprehensive recent post.]

The DCI/DDCI are accountable for three separate chains of command. (NB - this info predates the Sept 11 commission/intelligence reorganization. I think it is still of value considering it helps us evaluate candidates for Obama's administration and potential future criminal investigation).

The third chain is the largest and of most interest for this article.

This chain runs through the Executive Director (EXDIR) and Deputy Executive Director (D/EXDIR). [During important periods in the Bush Administration, formerly Buzzy Krongard EXDIR and John Brennan D/EXDIR] To quote espionageinfo:
The EXDIR oversees five centers that collectively enable the CIA to carry out
its mission: the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer,
Global Support, Human Resources, and Security
, each of which have
numerous subordinate offices and bureaus...Finally, the Executive
Director's office is in the line of authority between DCI/DDCI and the four directorates
So John Brennan's line - "I was not involved in the decisionmaking process for any of these controversial policies and actions" - is a little difficult to understand. His office was in the line of authority between Operations and the DCI.

Here is a glimpse of the kind of trouble you can get into as Executive Director of the CIA. From Laura Rozen:
As court documents laid out in 28 charges, the man known to
colleagues as "Dusty," a former logistics officer, served as the CIA's number
three official and effectively day to day manager when he badgered the Agency to
hire one of his mistresses, identified in the indictment as "E.R.": "On or about
March 19, 2005," the indictment reads, "Foggo sent the CIA Acting General
Counsel an email stating, in part, that his staff would tag E.R.'s conditional
offer of employment as 'ExDir Interest' in order to 'zip her to the top of the
pile.'" (E.R. was indeed hired, to a position in the CIA general counsel's
office. "ExDir" refers to Foggo's position as CIA Executive Director.)
But former Executive Director Kyle Dustin Foggo is involved in more ominous affairs than that:
No, what truly worried Agency brass were the darker secrets their former top logistics officer was threatening to spill had his case gone to trial as scheduled on November 3. They included the massive contracts Foggo was discussing with Wilkes, estimated by one source at over $300 million dollars. "Wilkes was working on several other huge deals when the hammer fell," a source familiar with Foggo's discussions with Wilkes told me. What kinds of deals? According to the source, they included creating and running a secret plane network, for whatever needs the CIA has for secret planes now that the network it used for extraordinary rendition flights has been outed. "In or about December 2004," the Foggo indictment says, "Foggo discussed with Wilkes and J.C. the idea that Foggo might be able to get Wilkes a classified government contract to supply air support services to the CIA…. In or about January 2005, Wilkes directed various ADCS employees to begin developing an air support proposal that would be designed to answer the CIA's classified needs as outlined by Foggo." The indictment continues: "On or about February 3, 2005, an employee of Wilkes' corporation emailed J.C. with an offer to update him on their work developing the air support proposal. …" (J.C.,
the indictment explains, is Wilkes' nephew, whom I've identified as Joel G.
, the nominal head of a Wilkes' front company, Archer Logistics.) The
"classified air support contract" and its implied purposes for renditions are
among the truly damaging national security secrets, along with the methods the
CIA uses to create front companies and dole out black contracts, that the CIA
and Bush White House would have been anxious not to have exposed, especially in
a trial set to take place the day before the election in a suburban DC courtroom
within a ten-minute drive of the entire national security press corps.
And here is a glimpse of the tricky legal manuveurs a senior official can make if they do not get their way:

"Greymail" is the term of art for an old legal defense technique employed by
those in possession of classified information: The accused and his lawyers will
demand the revelation of so many government secrets in order to get a fair trial
that prosecutors come under pressure to make the case go away. And in
Foggo, the official responsible for the logistics of much of the
administration's war on terror, federal prosecutors met their greymail match. Foggo threatened "to expose the cover of virtually every CIA employee with whom he interacted and to divulge to the world some of our country's most sensitive programs—even though this information has absolutely nothing to do with the charges he faces,"
prosecutors howled in an early September court filing, before they were evidently compelled to extend Foggo the lenient plea deal; Foggo's lawyers, the filing continued, were attempting to "portray Foggo as a hero engaged in actions necessary to protect the public from terrorist acts."
Now Brennan did not have any record of such wildly irresponsible abuse of power. But it is really remarkable/galling, again, that he was no doubt involved in the logistics of rendition and interrogation and yet he claims to have clean hands.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is it just me, or did we have a mandate?

Over the past two days I spent a lot of my internet time arguing about and decrying the choice of Rick Warren for President-Elect Obama's invocation. Aside from being a truly offensive choice to many of his most loyal supporters, the choice of Warren seems like a concession to people who don't need any concessions. The right lost - we won big-time, remember?

Obama wants us to believe that choosing Warren is a way of starting dialogue and representing multiple viewpoints. We are supposed to believe that secret progressive Obama is doing this to make everyone happy, and he will then advance our line. I'm sorry, but I don't see how offering one of the "highest honors" an American religous figure might receive to a homophobic bigot is deceptive lip service. It is truly a huge honor. Do you think it will make passing gay rights legislation in Congress any easier? Do you think it will make conservatives rethink their "gays are icky and if they marry I'll have to marry my hamster!!" position when Warren has received this honor without even taking any steps to rethink his? Sorry, embracing a conservative pastor for who he is is not how you start a progressive conversation. Unless really angering the gay community is Obama's idea of starting a grassroots movement to create change. Which the "Obama has a masterplan" people might argue.

The same goes for the extended media slow dance between Obama and the worst elements of the CIA. As I documented elsewhere, the Obama transition team quickly shut down rumors that he would head rightward on net neutrality - but they haven't done anything near that when it comes to the CIA. We went from John Brennan to now Obama feeling "comfortable" with Michael Hayden.

Ya think that FISA law is going to change anytime soon? What sort of ideas do you think Hayden is sharing with Obama that Obama is so comfortable with?

Catching Up

Looks like Retired Adm. Blair is set to take over for McConnell as DNI...hopefully this leads to some important improvements in among other things, the official intelligence community's suspect chumminess with contractors although his history suggests conflict of interest is a foreign concept to him...

From the Washington Post:
While Blair is generally well regarded, his career has occasionally been marked
by controversy. He was forced to resign as president of the Institute for
Defense Analysis because of possible conflicts of interest after it was revealed
that he simultaneously served on the boards of defense contractors whose
products were being evaluated by the board.

This definitely requires further analysis and investigation. It is important to make sure Blair encourages, or at least doesn't impede, increased oversight over defense contractors in his tenure as DNI. At least, I guess, this experience didn't work out well for him and he had to step down from his government job. He certainly doesn't have the same intimacy that Brennan as chairman of the INSA had with McConnell as DNI and vice versa. So he is in that way a pick outside the status quo. I'm thankful for that.

The downside is that the same article forwards Kappes as the guy being most closely looked at for CIA chief right now.

While Obama has settled on Blair, there is far less certainty about his choice
for CIA director. Recent speculation has focused on Stephen R. Kappes, the CIA's
deputy director since 2006. Popular with the agency's rank and file, the former
Marine and longtime Soviet specialist was in charge of the agency's operations
division from 2002 to 2004 and would have presided over some of the CIA's most
controversial programs of the Bush era.

Since the Obama team is now pushing the line that they want to make a sharp break with Bush admin policies - particularly waterboarding (which is being used to innoculate Hayden against charges that he represents Bush admin policies). Hayden doesn't need to waterboard anyone to nonetheless be a symbol of all the terrible crap of Bush intelligence - destruction of CIA tapes, warrantless wiretapping, being a mess at Congressional hearings...oh yes.

So glad Obama feels "comfortable" with him.

Add: David Rose has written a great article for Vanity Fair. Torture doesn't work. And there's no ticking time bomb...take it from the CIA.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Envisioning Intelligence Post-Bush

Tim Shorrock is one of the most well-informed and fascinating writers on the intelligence world (check out his interview with Glenn Greenwald here). His recent book, "Spies for Hire," uncovers the extremely cozy relationship between the official CIA and its corresponding "trade association," the INSA (Intelligence and National Security Alliance). You can read some more about that relationship, especially as it relates to John Brennan, in a diary I wrote here. Brennan was until mid-Nov of this year the chairman of the INSA.

Shorrock and Frank Naif recently wrote two really excellent articles for the Huffington Post that describe the problems a post-Bush intelligence agency is going to face as well as the skills and attitudes that are going to be needed to face them.

First, as found in "Top Intelligence Picks a No-Win for Obama," the problems of intelligence contracting:

Installing Brennan as a senior intelligence leader would have flown in the face
of Obama's campaign promise to roll back the Bush administration's heavy
reliance on contractors. In an October 2008 mass mailing to federal workers,
Obama pledged to scale back government outsourcing and boost the power of
federal agencies in regulation and oversight. "We plan specifically to look at
work that is being contracted out to ensure that it is fiscally responsible and
effective," Obama told workers at one agency. "It is dishonest to claim real
savings by reducing the number of [government] employees overseeing a program
but increase the real cost of the program by transferring oversight to
contracts. I pledge to reverse this poor management practice."

Intelligence contracting IS a huge and troubling area and it is good that Obama sees it as a problem to be fixed. It is unclear how John Brennan, in a role as CIA chief or DNI, would've been able to offer much assistance to Obama, coming straight out of the INSA. As I wrote in my previous diary, quoting Shorrock, the DNI has allowed the INSA to "contribute directly to those who are doing the strategic planning and outlining the priorities for the DNI for the next five-to-ten years" and holds regular discussions with INSA members holding security clearances, under precious little oversight.

Shorrock and Naif also discuss how intelligence contracting has led to a brain drain (as contractors make a great deal more money than agency people) and how it has led to "setbacks in the field" [link from Pajamas Media provided in the Shorrock and Naif article] -

Pajamas Media is the first to report that the CIA station is all but
motionless-as meetings with informants and Iraqi government officials have been
hastily cancelled.
What caused the shut down? Following a firefight between
Iraqi insurgents and a Blackwater USA protection detail on Sunday (12:08 PM
Baghdad time), Iraqi officials suspended the operating license of the North
Carolina-based government contractor. While the Iraqi government is yet to hold
a formal hearing on the matter, Blackwater and all it protects remain frozen.
“By jamming up Blackwater, they shut down the movements of the embassy and
the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not
cleared to talk to the press.

Holy crapballs. Aside from just being outlandish and immoral, Blackwater impairs the ability of the CIA to do its job. The contracting structure prevents work from getting done. That is really terrible, and ensuring that these problems do not happen is certainly going to be a task for the new CIA Director.

Shorrock and Naif also lay out the potential fiasco of dealing with the international legal consequences of Bush's rendition policies in "Reckoning Renditions to America's Allies":

The legal mess resulting from two US terrorist rendition cases have been in the
news in recent weeks, emphasizing the need for the incoming Obama administration
to reverse rendition policy and start undoing the damage these high-profile,
botch-prone intelligence operations have caused for US prestige.

weeks ago, an Italian trial into the alleged 2003 CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian
cleric from the streets of Milan was
because prosecutors and defense attorneys are in dispute over Italian
government claims to secrecy privileges. Italian intelligence officials and 26
US government employees--mostly CIA officers, on trial in absentia--stand
accused of kidnapping Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr (AKA "Abu Omar"),
and spiriting him back to his home country of Egypt, where he was very likely

The Italian supreme court is expected to rule on the secrecy
dispute this spring, with the CIA kidnapping trial expected to resume in March.

This is on top of the more well known issues pertaining to Maher Arar's rendition. Read the Matthew Cole GQ article [warning: PDF] on the rendition of Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr/Abu Omar cited by Shorrock and Naif here. It describes the rendition procedure, which was opposed by Bob Lady, the CIA's Milan chief (he believed it to be unnecessary). Along with other CIA officers, Lady is on trial (in absentia) for the rendition in Italy. The CIA has not provided him with a lawyer, or helped him pay for one (see the Jeff Stein link below). A quote from Matthew Cole:

“The responsibility for this operation [the rendition of Abu Omar] falls on COS
[chief of station] Rome. This was Jeff Castelli’s operation from the beginning.
He ran a very good station, but he had a history of not paying attention to
details.” This former official also said that Castelli, a rising star and a
skilled bureaucratic infighter, knew the rendition team was being sloppy with
the phones but never alerted anyone in Langley. Of course, this operation was
one that he—and CIA leadership—had been pushing for all along, to “show the
wimps in the NSC and the House Intelligence Committee that the agency didn’t
need help from foreign governments,”said the former official.

The phones, and their inappropriate usage, helped Italian law enforcement officials trace the movements of CIA officers involved with the rendition team. In line with other accounts of CIA promotion practices, Cole writes:

In the wake of this debacle, the CIA has promoted Jeff Castelli twice in three
years, deep into senior management.

And Jeff Stein adds:

While Lady suffers, the official who concocted the Milan caper is moving on up.

As I reported
last February
, Jeff Castelli got only a rap on the knuckles from the CIA’s
Accountability Board and is being groomed to take over the agency’s New York
station, a hugely important post.

This is a really depressing state of affairs. Shorrock and Naif characterize the Bush administration's reaction to these problems as a "tangled web of ineptitude, cowardice, and naïve wish-thinking." I think we are all assuming the Obama administration will want to improve on that.

Here is Shorrock and Naif's prescription:

The toughest tasks for repairing the damage from renditions fall to Attorney
General-designate Holder and the new intelligence community leadership. They
must be prepared to craft a meaningful strategy for addressing the prerogatives
of foreign justice while not ravaging the spy ranks. It will not suffice to
throw some mid- and low-level intelligence officers (or contractors) under the
bus for political or diplomatic expediency, as the Bush administration did with
low-ranking part-time soldiers in response to the Abu Graib atrocities.

Rogue or careless intelligence officers could not carry out a rendition
on their own initiative--any of us who have worked in intelligence know that
even simple intelligence operations are subject to a dizzying queue of review
and second guessing that rivals the credit roll at the end of a Pixar movie.
Senior management, legal counsel, and echelons of other bureaucrats all had a
hand in the planning and execution of these high-stakes renditions.

Ignoring allied complaints about heavy-handed renditions is not an
option--senior career and appointed officials who greenlighted these operations
should step forward for the inevitable reckoning on behalf of their country, and
on behalf of the brave men and women whose intelligence careers and personal
lives have been turned inside out by foreign indictments.

It's the right thing to do, and it's what makes us better than

I very much agree with this. The issue of "torture as taint" that has been bandied about in some circles is about more than just liberals drawing a line for their moral comfort. It is about making sure that important operational policy fixes can be made when it comes to intelligence. If you were one of the senior staffers pushing for renditions during the Bush-era, and another country comes a callin' for an explanation as you lead Obama's intelligence agency, are you really going to have the guts to turn yourself in? Should Obama appoint someone who he is going to have to defend in that way? Having a hand in the implementation of renditions is a huge deal and a giant potential distraction from the duties of the CIA Director. Not to mention that it would jeopardize the Agency's interests if its senior officials were focused on protecting their own interests.

No small wonder Obama is taking his time appointing his intelligence staff. In this case, personnel appointments are of extreme importance. Watching incompetents climb the management ranks while others foot the bill for their poor judgments is not my idea of change I can believe in.

And if it is also not your idea of change, I suggest you hop over to and register your disapproval of any step that would lock the Obama CIA into maintaining the status quo.

Net Neutrality vs. Torture Policy

Something struck me today while catching up on my blog headlines. Remember the WSJ article BTD blogged about that set off an online firestorm? We were all supposed to sit tight and dismiss the article until Obama appointed someone like Brennan to the CIA. Then we could complain. Then we would find out if Obama had changed his policy.

It strikes me that today's WSJ article on net neutrality shared some of the characteristics of the WSJ article on the CIA: advisors less keen on Obama's positions than Obama seems to be, and ominous suggestions that Obama won't follow through on campaign promises relating to issues that are pretty much cut and dry.

But h/t kos, we find that the Obama team has responded the very same day to the net neutrality WSJ article, to reaffirm their committment to net neutrality:

The Obama transition team is reaffirming his complete commitment to net
neutrality and is disputing a much-discussed report today claiming that the
President-elect is softening his support for it or shifting his position on it.

Obama transition spokesperson Nick Shapiro told us moments ago that Obama's
position -- strong support for net neutrality -- hasn't changed.

We now know that according to Obama's transition team, his positions haven't

- TPM/Greg Sargent

Perhaps the issue is that nobody asked the Obama transition team for comment following the publication of an article entitled "Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact" (though I do not think that is actually the issue). Sargent writes:

The Journal story (which was strongly disputed by Google and many others) also
suggests, based on scant evidence, that Obama's position may have softened. But
the paper didn't appear to contact the Obama team for any comment.

So we did. Asked if the Obama camp had shifted its stance in any way on net neutrality or softened its commitment to it, Shapiro answered: "No." Even limited public declarations (such as this one) from the Obama transition team about the
incoming administration's priorities have been few and far between.

The Obama transition team nipped this one in the bud. Good for them. I hope we will receive the same level of clarity from Obama in the coming weeks when he appoints his intelligence agency heads. Compared to today's net neutrality flap management, it is remarkable that they allowed the ambiguity re: their intelligence policy to stand. We will certainly need Obama to take the lead, especially as our leaders in Congress have been willing to blur the lines when it comes to their former strong anti-torture stances.