Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steve Kappes

I don't know what it takes to end up on the shortlist of an AP article for top CIA post. But let's assume there's a reason I'm not on it.

Steve Kappes:

"currently Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DDCIA), having
assumed this position on July 24, 2006.

...He has held a variety of operational and managerial assignments at CIA Headquarters and overseas, serving as assistant deputy director to former Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) James Pavitt, and later as DDO after Pavitt stepped down in August 2004. At the time of the September 11 attacks, Kappes was the associate deputy director for operations for counterintelligence.

Kappes was named Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) for the CIA in June 2004 and took office in August 2004 while the appointment of Porter Goss as the next Director of Central Intelligence was still pending in the Senate. Kappes succeeded James Pavitt, who resigned in June 2004..."

Democratic Underground gives us more specific dates:

"March 2002-Abu Zubaydah is captured in Pakistan. George Bush is briefed
regularly by George Tenet on the details of Zubaydah's interrogation (see p. 22,
State of War by James Risen). Cofer Black is in charge of the CIA's
Counterterrorism Center and oversees the CIA's hunt for the terrorists. Zubaydah
is interrogated in Thailand, where the sessions were filmed. He was waterboarded
sometime in the May-June 2002 time frame. Enhanced interrogation methods were
used and approval for them came from Jim Pavitt (see p. 21 of ABC News interview
of former CIA case officer, John Kiriakou). Pavitt was the DDO (i.e., Deputy Director of Operations). Stephen Kappes, who currently serves as the Deputy Director of the CIA, was named Assistant Deputy Director of Operations in June 2002. Ron Suskind confirms Risen's report that the President and his National Security team were regularly briefed on the results of Zubaydah's
torture sessions (see The One Percent Doctrine, pp. 111-115)."

Considering KSM was captured in 2003, and waterboarded, Kappes was obviously intimately involved with that.

Ron Suskind in the "One Percent Doctrine" introduces us to Kappes thusly:

"He was, at that point, associate deputy director for operations - number two in the DO - and being groomed to take Jim Pavitt's job." [p.223]

(You will note the discrepancy in the exact description of Kappes' job - "associate" versus "assistant" deputy. Based on other sources compared to Suskind, I can say they are describing the same position over the same period - Kappes was no.2 to Pavitt from June 2002 onward.)

Now Pavitt is pretty much bottom of the barrel as far as the CIA goes. This is a guy whose job duties literally included approving every single coercive technique used against detainees, as they happened -

"Kirakou made the interrogations sound almost like a game of 'Mother, May I?' He
said, 'It was not up to the individual interrogator to decide 'I'm going to slap
him' or 'I'm going to shake him.' Each one of these, though they're minor, had
to have the approval of the Deputy Director for Operations, who during most of
this period was James Pavitt. 'Before you could lay a hand on him, you had to
send a cable saying, 'He's uncooperative. Request permission to do X.'...There
was, however, no known instance of the supervisors denying a request to use more
force." ["The Dark Side," Jane Mayer, p.167].

It is pretty astonishing that the No.2 to all this is in any way in contention for the top CIA job.

Now, these rumors are not quite as intense as those surrounding John Brennan, and Kappes does not AFAIK have any official role in the Obama transition process as he is currently at the CIA. But Kappes does earn a mention in the Dec 2 Post-Brennan NYT Article by Mazzetti & Shane:

"It is widely expected that Mr. Obama will replace Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A.
director. Among those mentioned as possible candidates for the job are Stephen
R. Kappes, a C.I.A. veteran who is the deputy director; Tim Roemer, a former
congressman from Indiana who was a member of the Sept. 11 commission; Senator
Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who is retiring from the Senate in January;
and Jack Devine, a former head of the agency’s clandestine service who left the
C.I.A. before the Sept. 11 attacks."

Kappes appears not to have left a bloody trail of quotes like Brennan did. Good for him, but his record speaks for itself.

You can get legal clearance from somebody else...but how do you successfully implement a new torture policy? Can you do it if your brass hates it? Something about two to tango?

As Pavitt himself said:

"Pavitt, who declined to talk about specific CIA authorities or legal
memos, said the activities recently in the news were 'done in consultation with
the executive at all levels, the National Security Council and such. . . . Any
impression that we were operating high, wide and handsome, without appropriate
congressional oversight, I think would also be, incorrect.'"

I doubt this will surprise anyone, but John Yoo thinks it's all the CIA's fault:

"In early January 2002, soon after the CIA took custody of Al-Libi, a handful of
CIA officers at a high-level legal meeting in the Situation Room voiced a
problem they were facing. 'The CIA guys said, "We're going to have some
real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees" if the
Agency's interrogators were required to respect the limits for treatment
demanded by the Geneva Conventions," John Yoo told the Washington
. In Yoo's version of events, the impetus to break out of
Geneva's strictures thus came from the CIA." ["The Dark Side," Jane Mayer,

I have little doubt that Yoo's account is a crock of crap. But still, what about this?

"The Pentagon and CIA needed Uzbekistan as a forward base. If that
meant joining forces with a torture regime, known on ocassion to literally boil
political prisoners alive, he [Cheney] was ready...Craig Murray, the former
British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, complained that he tried to warn the CIA
station chief in Tashkent that much of the intelligence out of Uzbekistan was
derived from torture, most of which he said was 'rubbish.'...But he said that
while the station chief did not dispute that intelligence was being obtained
under torture, the CIA did not consider this a problem. 'There was no
reason to think they were perturbed,' Murray said."
"The new way of thinking was reflected by Tenet at a closed-door meeting of
top intelligence officials of the English-speaking world, gathered on March 10,
2002, in Queenstown, New Zealand. 'Gentlemen,' Tenet had reportedly said
with a dramatic pause, 'we are at war.' What this meant, he had gone on to
explain was "As for the CIA, I can tell you this. There's nothing we won't
do, nothing we won't try, and no country we won't deal with to achieve our
goals-to stop the enemy. The shackles, my friends, have to be taken off.'
"Other top American officials in attendance included Lieutenant General
Michael Hayden, then head of the NSA; Mueller, the Director of the FBI; and the
CIA's head of covert operations, James Pavitt. Pavitt evidently amplified
the tough talk, noting, 'We're going to be working with intelligence agencies
that are utterly unhesitant in what they will do to get people to talk.'"
["The Dark Side," Jane Mayer, p.131-132].

Check out the timeline at Torturing Democracy. Though this meeting is after Bush issues his first executive order authorizing denials of Geneva Convention protections, [Feb 7 2002] it is before they capture Abu Zubaydah, the first torture experiment [March 28 2002].

Who started this thing? And why didn't anyone stop it? Clearly some of the top brass in the CIA were willing to go along and to effectively lead. I have issues with any of those people working in an Obama CIA which would simultaneously mean an acceptance of ills past and the ability to haggle your way out of a serious investigation into government-wide torture related wrongdoing ("Who, me? Your CIA head? Look, it's not our fault, let's not make this embarrassing...").

And that's not even addressing the existential, if you will, question of why Kappes' name is even getting thrown around. And what is a centrist intelligence policy after Bush?

I have some questions. I hope that Obama will set up a process to answer them.

No comments: