The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence produced a 6,300-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that has still not been declassified in some form for the public to read. And, now New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer has reported on an episode involving the confirmation of a former high-ranking CIA lawyer to serve in a similar position at the Pentagon.
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who serves on the intelligence committee and has been openly campaigning for the report to be released, put a “hold” on Stephen W. Preston’s confirmation. He placed the hold to get Preston to answer some questions about a conflict that has been ongoing between the CIA and the committee particularly over the report that addresses the CIA’s use of torture techniques under President George W. Bush.
Mayer obtained a copy of Preston’s answers to seven questions Udall asked. The answers suggest, as of August 9, the CIA had probably still not bothered to read the 6,300-page report.
The CIA has had since December 14, 2012, when the committee provided a copy of the report to the agency, to respond. It was given a deadline of February 15, 2013. However, “no one person at the CIA has read the full 6,300-page Committee Study.” What they have responded to is bullet points in a small 50-page summary within the report and not even a 300-page Executive Summary.
Preston explained to Udall the agency had undertaken a review and responded to to it to the “full extent believed possible given its volume and that of the underlying record material, and given very limited time constraints, imposed originally by the Committee’s 60-day deadline and, once that was exceeded, by the practical imperative to respond expeditiously following the appointment of a new Director”—John Brennan.
The acting director at the time “adopted a team approach, relying on a group of experienced intelligence officers, rather than a single individual, to conduct the review and prepare comments. He deemed it impractical to respond on a line-by-line basis to the 6,300-page report in any reasonable timeframe, so he directed the team to focus on the study’s 20 conclusions and conduct a ‘deep dive’ on a substantial portion of the study viewed as the basis for a number of the study’s central conclusions.”
Is that somehow supposed to excuse the fact that nobody read the entire report? [++]
… [P]erceiving drone opponents as “threats” or even “adversaries” is hardly new. Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.
The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those “with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates”, special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are “peer reviewed” and that every edit made is recorded by user.
One specific entry discusses “threats to unmanned aerial vehicles”. It lists various dangers to American drones, including “air defense threats”, “jamming of UAV sensor systems”, “terrestrial weather”, and “electronic warfare employed against the command and control system”.
But alongside those more obvious, conventional threats are what the entry describes as “propaganda campaigns that target UAV use”.
Under the title “adversary propaganda themes”, the document lists what it calls “examples of potential propaganda themes that could be employed against UAV operations”.
One such example is entitled “Nationality of Target vs. Due Process”. It states:
Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process.”
In the eyes of the US government, “due process” – the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt – is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of “propagandists”. The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, among many other groups, havemade exactly that argument against the US drone targeting program (“the US government’s killings of US citizens Anwar Al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011 violated the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law”).
Another paragraph from the NSA entry complains that the phrase “drone strike” is a “loaded term”, as it “connote[s] mindless automatons with no capability for independent thought” and thus “may invoke an emotional reaction”. This, the document asserts, “is what propaganda intends to do”.
Although the document at one points suggests that some drone opposition may come from “citizens with legitimate social agendas”, the section on “adversary propaganda themes” includes virtually every one of the arguments most frequently made in the US against the US drone policy, including that the threat of terrorism is small when compared to other threats, that drone strikes intensify rather than curb the risk of terrorism by fueling anti-American animus, and that drones kill too many civilians.
Sorry about all the propaganda these last few years. Wait, what’s that?
To most of the world, opposition to drones is the norm, with a 2012 Pew poll finding overwhelming opposition in virtually every country surveyed. But for the US and its loyal servants called “UK officials”, such views are evidently reflective of national security threats or even, in London now, suggestive of “terrorism”.
Snooping on negotiating partners is so rewarding that the NSA engages in this activity around the world, and not just on its home turf. There are secret eavesdropping posts in 80 US embassies and consulates around the world, internally referred to as the “Special Collection Service” (SCS) and jointly operated with the CIA. … The presence of these spying units ranks among the agency’s best-guarded secrets. After all, they are politically precarious: There are very few cases in which their use has been authorized by the local host countries.
Codename ‘Apalachee’: How America Spies on Europe and the UN
The $52.6 billion ‘black budget’ for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress. … Spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The figure vastly exceeds outside estimates and is nearly 50 percent above that of the National Security Agency, which conducts eavesdropping operations and has long been considered the behemoth of the community.
‘Black budget’ summary details U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives
It has been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.
CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran | Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid
August 22, 2013
9/11 Trial Lawyer: CIA Had Its Finger On Guantanamo’s Mute Button
August 23, 2013
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Mystery solved, if there was any doubt: It was the CIA that hit the mute button in the war court earlier this year when a defense lawyer for the accused 9/11 mastermind began talking about the CIA’s secret overseas prisons, the lawyer said Monday.
The Jan. 28 episode so embarrassed Army Col. James Pohl, the judge in the Sept. 11 terror case, that he ordered the kill switch unplugged, an order the agency apparently honored because no outside entity has censored the court since.
Prosecutors had only allowed the kill-switch operator to be identified by the codename “OCA,” short for Original Classification Authority.
But Monday, attorney David Nevin, representing Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom the CIA waterboarded 183 times, unmasked the OCA in open court while describing to the judge the slow pace of discovery in a Defense Department investigation of whether anyone else has the power to listen in on the war court, specifically their confidential attorney-client conversations.
“We recently learned that was the CIA, that CIA was controlling that location of the feed,” Nevin told the judge.
And this time nobody muted him for uttering the initials of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The strange censorship episode occurred in January just as Nevin was asking the judge to issue a protective order on whatever remnants exist of the CIA’s secret overseas prison network. Pohl’s the judge who similarly declared the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a crime scene in 2004.
Pentagon officials at the time refused to confirm that the CIA controlled the audio from the court to the spectator’s gallery and several closed-circuit TV sites. Since unplugged, only the judge and a security officer at his elbow can silence the court — by hitting a button that triggers white noise and a red spinning light.
Instead, the prosecutor in charge of classified information, Joanna Baltes of the Justice Department, provided the court a carefully crafted written statement that called the hidden-hand controlling the court audio system “the OCA,” an acronym for Original Classification Authority.
Mohammed and his four co-defendants were held in secret overseas prisons until 2006, when President George W. Bush ordered them brought here for a variation on this death-penalty terror tribunal alleging they orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed 2,976 people. The Guantánamo war court functions like no other, with spectators listening behind soundproofed glass or on a secured video feed with a 40-second audio delay to make sure the public never hears about the alleged terrorists’ capture or CIA interrogations in a secret prison network President Barack Obama shut down on taking office.
Still unclear was whether the hidden-hand censor was reaching into the court to silence it from somewhere on this U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, headquarters in Langley, Va., or elsewhere.
Nevin made the disclosure in a day of mostly dry arguments in the Sept. 11 case that sought to have the case itself dismissed on a series of legal grounds, including one that said Congress created an illegal court at Guantánamo by limiting it only to foreign nationals.
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—A high-ranking Libyan official has told to Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan authorities have opposed “intense American pressure” to allow the US to use military drones in eastern Libya. The requests are based on US intelligence that organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda are operating in the area.
“American authorities requested an agreement with us over operations to target extremists on Libyan territory,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “But until now, no decision has been made.”
Speaking from the Libyan capital during a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, he added that “there are currently military and political communications between Tripoli and Washington to this end, but we have not given our consent until now. It is hard to arrive at a decision, especially as the Americans do not share their information and intelligence sources.”
The source added that a bilateral agreement that would allow the US to perform drone strikes in the eastern Libya would not be an easy one, because the Libyan people would not tolerate any government that approved such strikes, regardless of the context.
The former Libyan minister of defense Mohamed Al-Barghathi confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat before his resignation last month that his country would not grant permission for US drones to launch attacks against extremist bases within Libyan territory, adding that he believed this was the task of the Libyan security forces.
Local residents in the eastern city of Benghazi have witnessed unidentified aircraft flying at low altitude over the past few weeks. This has increased speculation that the United States is conducting surveillance of suspected extremist sites in the region.
A report from CNN’s Jake Tapper has reintroduced “Benghazi-Gate” to the US media spotlight. The report claims that “dozens” of CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi on the night of the attack, and the CIA is going to great lengths to suppress details of them and their whereabouts being released. The report alleges that the CIA is engaged in “unprecedented” attempts to stifle employee leaks, and “intimidation” to keep the secrets of Benghazi hidden, allegedly going as far as changing the names of CIA operatives and “dispersing” them around the country.
One suspects this has a single and defined purpose – to hide the CIA’s culpability in supplying arms to known extremists in Libya and Syria. Moreover, the CNN report alludes to the CIA supplying “surface-to-air missiles” from Benghazi to rebels in Syria, but this may only be the tip of the iceberg. The report goes on to state: (PG emphasis)
Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret. CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.
Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings. The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress. It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.
Although Saudi Arabia have recently been kindly given “the Syrian card” by the United States – with Prince Bandar once again becoming “Prince of the Jihad,” it has become common knowledge that since the onset of the Syrian crisis, it was Qatar at the forefront of supplying arms and funds to both the political and militant elements of the so-called “opposition”. This has undoubtedly included tacit support of the dominant radical elements among the plethora of brigades on the ground in Syria; with Jabhat al Nusra being the most obvious beneficiary of Qatari largesse. Earlier this year it was reported that the CIA had been in direct “consultation” with the Qatari Monarchys’ network of arms smugglers – run primarily from the Emir’s palace in Doha. Accordingly, it seems certain that both the CIA and Qatari intelligence were involved in an operation to ship arms stockpiles from “rebels” in Libya; to the “rebels” in Syria: both varieties of which are inextricably linked to Al Qaeda affiliates and radical Salafi-Jihadi militants.
A New York Times report from 30 March 2011 reveals that the CIA had been active in Libya “for weeks”, to “gather information for [NATO] airstrikes, and to contact and ‘vet’ the rebels battling “Gaddafi’s forces”. The New York Times report also states that Obama had signed a presidential finding in the weeks previous, which gave authority to the CIA to arm and fund the rebels. Furthermore, the Independent revealed in March 2011 that Obama had requested Saudi Arabia supply arms to the Libyan militants. Obama had also given his blessing for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to ship arms into Benghazi, urging them to supply non-US manufactured arms to avert suspicion – in violation of the No-Fly Zone and arms embargo he helped to enforce, and all in total violation of the US Constitution and International Law. [must read]
John Brennan will hang on to his “latitude” to continue signature strikes. It seems likely that he also will keep his death squads active in Afghanistan, but they will be operating out of fewer bases. International laws and treaties are just immaterial if you have enough moral rectitude. … It appears that Brennan and the Obama administration just don’t care any more about maintaining secrecy on their war crimes. After all, who is going to stop them?
Jim White, CIA Death Squads in Afghanistan to Have Fewer Bases
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan interpreter for U.S. special forces arrested on accusations of torturing and killing civilians has denied involvement in the murders to Afghan investigators, and said he was always acting on orders from his U.S. military handlers.
Afghan authorities detained Zakeria Kandahari six weeks ago following allegations he was involved in atrocities against civilians in Wardak, a strategically important province close to Kabul.
In a record of the interview being prepared by military investigators and obtained by Reuters, Kandahari said he had worked for U.S. special forces across Afghanistan for nine years, most recently in Wardak’s Nerkh district, where the allegations surfaced in February.
“I was a low-rank translator and had no access to roam around inside the base, or in interrogation rooms,” Kandahari told the investigators, according to the three-page document which carried his photograph on the front page, dressed in camouflage fatigues and a hat.
The Afghan government has in the past said that Kandahari is Afghan-American, although his exact background remains unclear.
In the document, Kandahari identified three U.S. special forces soldiers as “Dave, chief of the operations, Hagen and Chris” and told Afghan military interrogators that the trio had been fluent in both of Afghanistan’s major languages, Dari and Pashto.
“Kandahari rejects all allegations leveled to him and links the three soldiers to the killings,” the interview document said, citing Kandahari, whose case threatens relations between the government and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), already tense over the issue of civilian deaths.
U.S. military officials have consistently denied special forces participated in, or turned a blind-eye to, torture and illegal killings by Afghans working with them in Nerkh.
[…] Atrocities against civilians have been a flashpoint in relations between the government and NATO-led forces since an American soldier was accused of murdering 16 civilians in Kandahar province in March last year, complicating negotiations on a U.S. military presence in the country beyond NATO’s 2014 combat exit.
Afghan authorities have already arrested an Afghan army colonel who allegedly handed prisoners over to Kandahari. That arrest came after the bodies of three men detained in joint U.S.-Afghan raids since November were last month found close to the Nerkh military base.
Reuters has seen a list compiled by the Ministry of Defense of 18 men allegedly detained in Nerkh. The three whose bodies were found in June were among 10 listed as missing, villagers and officials said. The other eight were listed as dead.
More on Kandahari from the archives.
Robert Seldon Lady, convicted in Italy of kidnapping an Egyptian Muslim cleric, has been arrested in Panama, Italian judicial sources told Reuters news agency.
Italy’s highest court last year upheld a guilty verdict against Seldon Lady for the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who was snatched from a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt for interrogation, where he says he was tortured for seven months. The imam, also known as Abu Omar, was a resident in Italy at the time of the abduction.
The Italian trial was the first of its kind against the ”rendition” flights practised by the administration of former US President George W. Bush, which have been condemned by human rights groups.
Asked if Italy was seeking Lady’s extradition, the ministry said Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri was away on a visit in Lithuania and could not immediately say if such a request had been initiated.
A 2006 amnesty in Italy shaves three years off all sentences meted out by Italian courts, meaning if Lady is brought back to Italy, he would face six years in prison.
Afghan officials confirmed Sunday that they had arrested and were questioning Zakaria Kandahari, whom they have described as an Afghan-American interpreter responsible for torturing and killing civilians while working for an American Special Forces unit.
The arrest of Mr. Kandahari, who had been sought on charges of murder, torture and abuse of prisoners, was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Manan Farahi, the head of intelligence for the Afghan Defense Ministry. He said Mr. Kandahari, who escaped from an American base in January after President Hamid Karzai demanded his arrest, had been captured in Kandahar by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence service. There had been speculation for the last three weeks that Mr. Kandahari was in custody.
Afghan officials had accused the American military of deliberately allowing Mr. Kandahari to escape, a claim that American officials rejected. American officials said Mr. Kandahari had no longer been working for them at the time and was not an American citizen.
Since his arrest, Mr. Kandahari has not been in contact with the United States Embassy, an American official said.
Some human rights advocates believe Mr. Kandahari is being held in the National Directorate of Security’s Unit 124, which they have denounced as a prison where torture is routine. Unit 124, across the street from the American and NATO military headquarters in Kabul, is one of the Afghan detention sites on a proscribed list by the American military, which is not allowed to transfer prisoners to facilities where torture is believed to be used. However, that ban does not apply to the Central Intelligence Agency, which often has personnel in Unit 124, activists say.
Mr. Kandahari is wanted in connection with the disappearances and deaths of many of 17 Afghan civilians who were detained by an American Special Forces A Team for which he worked. Afghan investigators said they uncovered a videotape showing Mr. Kandahari torturing one civilian, Sayid Mohammad, who was later found dead, and said there was substantial evidence to prove that American personnel had been involved in the detentions of the missing civilians.
The bodies of 10 victims were found near the Special Forces base beginning in April, after the Americans left; the last was discovered on June 4, according to Afghan forensic investigators and relatives of the victims. They had disappeared between November and February.
The American military did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, but in May, an American official insisted that the A Team was not to blame for the disappearances and deaths. “We have done three investigations down there, and all absolve I.S.A.F. forces and Special Forces of all wrongdoing,” the official said, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “It is simply not true.”
An important point to keep in mind while reading the accounts of Kandahari and the US personnel he worked with is that a strong case can be made that Kandahari most likely was affiliated with the CIA, either directly as an agent or as a contractor. US denials of Kandahari working for Special Forces then become a ruse, since even if Special Forces were present with him, they likely would have been tasked to CIA for those particular missions, providing deniability for the entire group with respect to the missions being carried out by US Special Forces, ISAF or NATO.
Before there was Edward Snowden, William Binney and Thomas Drake … before there was Bradley Manning, Sibel Edmonds and Jesselyn Radack … there was Philip Agee. What Agee revealed is still the most startling and important information about US foreign policy that any American government whistleblower has ever revealed.
Philip Agee spent 12 years (1957-69) as a CIA case officer, most of it in Latin America. His first book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, published in 1974 – a pioneering work on the Agency’s methods and their devastating consequences – appeared in about 30 languages around the world and was a best seller in many countries; it included a 23-page appendix with the names of hundreds of undercover Agency operatives and organizations.
Under CIA manipulation, direction and, usually, their payroll, were past and present presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, “our minister of labor”, “our vice-president”, “my police”, journalists, labor leaders, student leaders, diplomats, and many others. If the Agency wished to disseminate anti-communist propaganda, cause dissension in leftist ranks, or have Communist embassy personnel expelled, it need only prepare some phoney documents, present them to the appropriate government ministers and journalists, and – presto! – instant scandal.
Agee’s goal in naming all these individuals, quite simply, was to make it as difficult as he could for the CIA to continue doing its dirty work.
A common Agency tactic was writing editorials and phoney news stories to be knowingly published by Latin American media with no indication of the CIA authorship or CIA payment to the media. The propaganda value of such a “news” item might be multiplied by being picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America who would disseminate it through a CIA-owned news agency or a CIA-owned radio station. Some of these stories made their way back to the United States to be read or heard by unknowing North Americans.
Wooing the working class came in for special treatment. Labor organizations by the dozen, sometimes hardly more than names on stationery, were created, altered, combined, liquidated, and new ones created again, in an almost frenzied attempt to find the right combination to compete with existing left-oriented unions and take national leadership away from them.
In 1975 these revelations were new and shocking; for many readers it was the first hint that American foreign policy was not quite what their high-school textbooks had told them nor what the New York Times had reported.
“As complete an account of spy work as is likely to be published anywhere, an authentic account of how an ordinary American or British ‘case officer’ operates … All of it … presented with deadly accuracy,” wrote Miles Copeland, a former CIA station chief, and ardent foe of Agee. (There’s no former CIA officer more hated by members of the intelligence establishment than Agee; no one’s even close; due in part to his traveling to Cuba and having long-term contact with Cuban intelligence.)
In contrast to Agee, WikiLeaks withheld the names of hundreds of informants from the nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents it released.
In 1969, Agee resigned from the CIA (and colleagues who “long ago ceased to believe in what they are doing”).
While on the run from the CIA as he was writing Inside the Company – at times literally running for his life – Agee was expelled from, or refused admittance to, Italy, Britain, France, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. (West Germany eventually gave him asylum because his wife was a leading ballerina in the country.) Agee’s account of his period on the run can be found detailed in his book On the Run (1987). It’s an exciting read.
In a memo to the CIA workforce this week, Brennan says the ‘Honor the Oath,’ campaign is intended to ‘reinforce our corporate culture of secrecy’ through education and training. The Associated Press obtained the memo Wednesday, marked unclassified and for official use only.
CIA cracks down on its own to stop leaks