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.

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