It is hard to imagine two more distrusted and reviled professions. One has been accused of torturing detainees and failing to track down Islamist terror suspects; the other is widely perceived to be responsible for the worldwide recession.
Now, in a move likely to provoke a perfect storm of opprobrium, the two have joined forces: enterprising CIA officers who want to earn a little extra have been given the green light to moonlight for Wall Street firms.
According to a forthcoming book by US reporter Eamon Javers and confirmed by the CIA, financial firms have recruited spooks on active service to help determine if colleagues are telling the truth.
According to Javers, Business Intelligence Advisors (BIA), a Boston-based investment research firm that boasts links to the US intelligence apparatus, employed workers with backgrounds in interrogation and interviewing to train hedge fund managers in a technique called tactical behaviour assessment. This purports to allow practitioners to tell if someone is being dishonest by reading verbal and behavioural clues, such as fidgeting or qualifying statements with words like "honestly" and "frankly".
One case described by Javers shows how veteran CIA workers helped hedge fund clients to make enormous investment decisions by assessing the veracity of a company's financial presentation.
First of all, you'd have to convince me there was no collaboration between them in the first place, what with drug smuggling, money laundering, etc. But to have them work there, out in the open?
No possible conflict there! I mean, if bankers start waving million-dollar bonus checks around, asking them to do "special" clandestine projects, why, I'm sure those agents will have the integrity to say no. God bless America!
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.
These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Mr. Karzai has enriched himself by helping the illegal trade in poppy and opium to flourish. The assessment of these military and senior officials in the Obama administration dovetails with that of senior officials in the Bush administration.
Now the fact that Mr. Karzai is profiting both from the drug trade and from supporting the CIA's operations is not in and of itself particularly amazing or outlandish to most people who understand the Afghani culture and who have to demonstrate short-term progress against the Taliban. A former CIA intel officer is quoted in the article:
“Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade,” he said. “If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”
The CIA has a long record of supporting bad actors in the name of getting intelligence or achieving progress against other countries whose goals are inimical to US interests, and that may be understandable in some situations, except when that practice runs counter to official US policy in those particular regions. The brother to the president of Afghanistan uses his position to profit from the drug trade and also is a prime suspect in trying to fix the election (in a disappointingly transparent and amateurish fashion). That might be acceptable except for the fact that he's not helping the US government advance its efforts to stabilize the country.
Our government's goals do not align with the brothers Karzai's goals. Mr. Karzai's interests are to protect the drug lords in the south provinces, who in turn pay and rely on the Taliban for protection. Those are the same provinces where US, British, and other forces are fighting and dying every day. Until the current Afghani government is replaced by a legitimate group which has a real desire to advance the Afghani people's needs and interests, there is no way that a strategy based on COIN tactics will work. And if there is no way that COIN tactics will work, then there is no reason to support Gen. McChrystal's request for 40,000+ additional troops.
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not capture or kill any terrorist suspects.
The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
Officials said that the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.
Unsurprisingly, his friends are now eager to make us all forget this. Tim Carney's remembrance omits any mention of it whatsoever. And then there was Fred Barnes on Fox this morning, who simply followed in his friend's footsteps and flatly lied about the Plame case:
Barnes: Bob -- you know, Bob was unruffled by the whole thing. He had to get a lawyer, but, ah, you know, it was no problem to him.
Of course, it turned out that he was the first one to hear from anybody in the Bush administration about Valerie Plame, uhm, being a part, and her husband, you know, helping her husband get this, go to this trip to Africa, and then say that President Bush had -- what President Bush had said about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa was wrong.
They're still discussing it. It turns out that President Bush was right.
But anyway, Bob was caught up in this scandal, he'd heard about it first, and reported it in his column, and then was perfectly comfortable being the center of attention in a legal case that went on for years and years.
WTF? It's long been an established fact that Novak's reportage was wrong, and in fact was just a propaganda-driven smear on behalf of the Bush administration, since Plame in fact had nothing to do with Joe Wilson getting the Niger assignment. (George Tenet himself explained: "Mid-level officials in CPD [The CIA’s Directorate of Operations Counterproliferation Division] decided on their own initiative to [ask Joe Wilson to look into the Niger issue because] he'd helped them on a project once before, and he'd be easy to contact because his wife worked in CPD.")
And since when has it "turned out" that "Bush was right" about the Niger yellowcake? Not only was the report on which he based the claim he made in the State of the Union built from set of hoax documents, but the White House ignored warnings that this was likely the case. Moreover, there has been no subsequent evidence to suggest that Saddam indeed sought yellowcake from Niger.
Ah, but such things as facts and truthfulness matter little to people like Robert Novak and Fred Barnes. All they care about is covering their tracks. Lying is what they do, right up to their final breaths.
WASHINGTON -- Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon E. Panetta has told lawmakers that CIA officials misled Congress "for a number of years" since 2001, according to a letter released Wednesday from seven Democratic lawmakers.
The lawmakers say the CIA also withheld information about unspecified "significant actions."
The letter didn't identify when Mr. Panetta made the statements or to what they referred.
"This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods," the letter continued.
CIA spokesman George Little said "it is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress." Mr. Little said the CIA itself "took the initiative to notify the oversight committees" about the lapses.
The release of the letter is the latest twist in a tussle between House Democrats and the CIA. Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her in briefings about the agency's use of waterboarding, an allegation refuted by the agency and challenged by Republicans.
It also comes one day before the House is scheduled to debate an intelligence bill. President Barack Obama issued a veto threat on Wednesday over provisions that would require more expansive briefings of intelligence committee members on sensitive matters.
I'd love to tell you that I'm so erudite and cosmopolitan that I eagerly gobble up The New Yorker cover to cover every month. But it would be a lie. The honest truth is that I read The New Yorker occasionally when articles come up through keyword searches for research for the site and when other bloggers I respect recommend an article.
But this article on Leon Panetta at the CIA was sent to me by one of my Iranian friends (living abroad) who has been filling my inbox with reports of protests and the rumors flying around Tehran. This article has filled her with dread of American interference in Iran.
No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)
During his tenure at the C.I.A., John Helgerson, the former inspector general, forwarded the crucifixion case, along with an estimated half-dozen other incidents, to the Justice Department, for possible prosecution. But the case files have languished. An official familiar with the cases told me that the agency has deflected inquiries by the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking information about any internal disciplinary action. (Helgerson told me, “Some individuals have been disciplined. And others no longer work at the agency.”)
Panetta acknowledges that there are some people still at the C.I.A. who may be tainted by the torture program. Nevertheless, he says, “I really respect the people who say we shouldn’t have gotten involved in the interrogation business but we had to do our jobs. I don’t think I should penalize people who were doing their duty. If you have a President who exercises bad judgment, the C.I.A. pays the price.”
Excuse me? We're literally crucifying detainees (who have not had the right to even know what they're charged with, much less any other legal right) and there's been NO accountability, NO investigation and Panetta's worried about the CIA paying the price?
That House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has badly bungled the imbroglio over what she knew and when about the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture is hard to dispute. Seemingly snatching PR defeat from the jaws of victory, Pelosi should have instead simply called the Republicans' bluff and insisted on investigations of torture architects, perpetrators and "accomplices" alike, letting the bipartisan chips fall where they may. But by savaging Pelosi for her statement that the CIA "misled" Congress, Bush's Republican water carriers are again exhibiting selective amnesia. After all, just two years ago it was the same raging right which insisted the CIA was an "anti-Bush cabal" behind a "bureaucratic coup d’état" seeking to "undermine" the President.
To be sure, the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband's revelations regarding President Bush's bogus claims that Iraq sought uranium in Niger prompted right-wing calls of betrayal by the agency. In March 2007, California Republican Darrell Issa accused Plame of perjury, insisting "She has not been genuine in her testimony before Congress." For his part, former Fox News host John Gibson argued that ending the classified career of CIA agent deeply involved in critical nuclear proliferation work and compromising her global network was essential because "this was about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA" that needed to be "rooted out."
"I'm the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. And if it was Karl Rove, I'd pin it on him myself."
Among Speaker Pelosi's interlocutors now is former Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Pete Hoekstra (R-MI). But as ThinkProgress detailed, years before he claimed Pelosi was "blaming the CIA," Hoekstra blasted "an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress." And when it came to the 2007 NIE which asserted Tehran halted its nuclear program in 2003, Hoekstra insisted the agency was holding back:
Similarly, in 2007, Hoekstra described a closed-door briefing by representatives from the intelligence community (including CIA) on the National Intelligence Estimate of Iran's nuclear capability, saying that the members "didn't find [the briefers] forthcoming."
For his part, Newt Gingrich, who claimed that Nancy Pelosi had "disqualified herself" from the same Speaker's position he once held, took to the op-ed pages to make his case for her to "step down" and to the airwaves to defend Hoekstra. But while Gingrich today redefined what the meaning of "is" is by claiming Hoekstra "did not say the CIA routinely lies," back in December 2007 he accused the CIA of precisely that over the Iran NIE:
"[The NIE] is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.
[The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government by suggesting that Iran no longer poses a serious threat to U.S. national security because we apparently have credible reports that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003."
"The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’état, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal." (Applause)
Back in December 2007, Americans learned that then-head of the CIA's clandestine service Jose Rodriguez two years earlier ordered the destruction of at least two videotapes of detainee interrogations. Today, government lawyers revealed the number of tapes destroyed was much higher, totaling almost 100.
That shocking revelation prompts two questions. First is the issue of whether the videos might have revealed enhanced interrogation techniques constituting torture, actions which might have both jeopardized detainee prosecutions and led to legal action against CIA and Bush administration officials themselves. A second, less serious question goes out to conservative propagandists and Bush apologists: do you still believe Jose Rodriguez deserves a medal?
As ThinkProgress relayed this morning, the AP is now reporting that the effort to conceal the interrogations of Zacarias Moussaoui and another suspected Al Qaeda operative was far broader than originally thought. That news came in a March 2 letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein as part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU:
"The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed," said the letter by Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. "Ninety two videotapes were destroyed."
The letter also reports that "the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit, including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or possessed the recordings before they were destroyed."
Which is the last thing that likes of conservative commentator and failed Bush Labor nominee Linda Chavez wants to see happen.
In her Decemeber 21, 2007 column titled "Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You," Chavez argued that the 2005 decision by Rodriguez should be lauded. Chavez expressed her gratitude that Rodriguez destroyed evidence of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, acts which may have violated U.S. law and American treaty commitments:
In the next few months, his name will likely be dragged through the mud, and he will be vilified as a rogue official engaged in a massive cover-up. I think he deserves a medal...
Even though he is likely to become a scapegoat, what he did was right. He protected not just his men but all of us. I, for one, thank him.
Of course, Chavez is far from alone in wanting to reward those concealing the criminality of the Bush administration.
Such murky stuff, as is typical with the CIA. How do you begin to untangle criminal actions like this? When does spying for the opposition outweigh participation in genocide? Does one cancel out the other?
These aren't rhetorical questions, because we have a web of similar interests all over the world:
For eight years, Stanisic was the CIA's main man in Belgrade. During secret meetings in boats and safe houses along the Sava River, he shared details on the inner workings of the Milosevic regime. He provided information on the locations of NATO hostages, aided CIA operatives in their search for grave sites and helped the agency set up a network of secret bases in Bosnia.
At the same time, Stanisic was setting up death squads for Milosevic that carried out a genocidal campaign, according to prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which was established by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 to try those responsible for serious human rights violations in the Balkan wars.
Now facing a trial at The Hague that could send him to prison for life, Stanisic has called in a marker with his American allies. In an exceedingly rare move, the CIA has submitted a classified document to the court that lists Stanisic's contributions and attests to his helpful role. The document remains sealed, but its contents were described by sources to The Times.
The CIA's Lofgren, now retired, said the agency drafted the document to show "that this allegedly evil person did a whole lot of good." Lofgren, however, doesn't claim to disprove the allegations against Stanisic.
"But setting the indictment aside," he said, "there are things this man did that helped bring hostilities to an end and establish peace in Bosnia."
We can't allow the CIA to hold the country hostage. We just can't. Too many horrors in the last eight years to let it go, and Panetta better make it clear to his employees. I do feel for the people who were caught in the middle of the White House and their jobs, but it doesn't excuse torture:
WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee is completing plans to begin a review of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program, another sign that lawmakers are determined to have a public accounting of controversial Bush administration programs despite White House concerns about the impact of unearthing the past.
The review, Congressional officials said, will focus in part on whether harsh interrogation procedures authorized by President George W. Bush actually succeeded in extracting important intelligence, as Mr. Bush and his advisers have asserted. The full scope of the inquiry is still being debated on the panel, but it is expected to address broader questions of whether the steps taken by the Central Intelligence Agency to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects were properly authorized.
The Obama administration has been cool to proposals by Democrats to investigate the previous administration, fearing that any protracted inquiry could alienate some within the C.I.A. and have a chilling effect on operations at the spy agency. On Wednesday, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, said he opposed a blanket investigation into the C.I.A. program, saying agency operatives had been carrying out orders and acting with approvals from the Justice Department.
Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill have given little evidence that they will heed White House concerns.