The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Far from condemning the AP or other outlets reporting on the story, the White House sent then-adviser John Brennan onto ‘Good Morning America’ to talk about the operation. Even so, the AP was targeted by the Justice Department in an unprecedented fashion. On Tuesday, former intelligence official and current CBS reporter John Miller said the leak had likely been ‘embarrassing’ for the CIA and had gotten it into trouble with its international partners (the Saudis). AP Scoop That Prompted DOJ Probe Only Ran After CIA Signed Off

“A Full Two Month Period” that Covers John Brennan’s Entire Drone Propaganda Campaign | emptywheel

AP’s most recent story on the seizure seems to suggest that “full two-month period” spanned April and May of last year.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012.

If so, it means the government grabbed phone records for Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo, Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan, and Alan Fram for three weeks after (and five weeks before) the UndieBomb 2.0 story Goldman and Apuzzo by-lined.

That would mean they’d get the sources for this Kimberly Dozier story published May 21 which starts,

White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in guiding the debate on which terror leaders will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure to vet both military and CIA targets.

The move concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones at the White House.

The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the list, making a previous military-run review process in place since 2009 less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government targets terrorists.

Within 10 days of the time Dozier published that story, John Brennan had rolled out an enormous propaganda campaign — based on descriptions of the drone targeting process that Brennan’s power grab had replaced, not the new drone targeting process — that suckered almost everyone commenting on drones that drone targeting retained its previous, more deliberative, targeting process, the one Brennan had just changed.

And that propaganda campaign, in turn, hid another apparent detail: that UndieBomb 2.0, a Saudi sting had actually occurred earlier in April, and that UndieBomb 2.0 preceded and perhaps justified the signature strikes done at the behest of the Yemenis (or more likely the Saudis).

April 18: Greg Miller first reports on debate over signature strikes

Around April 20: UndieBomb 2.0 device recovered

Around April 22: John Brennan takes over drone targeting from JSOC

April 22: Drone strike that–WSJ reports, “Intelligence analysts [worked] to identify those killed” after the fact, suggesting possible signature strike

April 24: Robert Mueller in Yemen for 45 minute meeting, presumably to pick up UndieBomb

April 25: WSJ reports that Obama approved use of signature strikes

April 30: John Brennan gives speech, purportedly bringing new transparency to drone program, without addressing signature strikes

May 6: Fahd al-Quso killed

May 7: AP reports on UndieBomb 2.0

May 8: ABC reports UndieBomb 2.0 was Saudi-run infiltrator

May 15: Drone strike in Jaar kills a number of civilians

Now, frankly, I think the witch hunt response to the UndieBomb 2.0 plot was mostly just an excuse to start investigating the AP, though it did lead John Brennan to make it clear that it was a Saudi-manufactured plot in the first place.

But the response to that Dozier article, which provided the final piece of evidence for the timeline above showing Brennan grabbed control of drone targeting at roughly the moment we started signature strikes in Yemen, was more dramatic, at least in terms of the breathtaking propaganda the White House rolled out to pretend the drone strikes were more orderly than they actually were.

I’m guessing, but when [AP’s President Gary] Pruitt says this,

These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.

I’m guessing he might have other AP stories in mind.

I know I’m as least as worried about DOJ targeting Dozier’s sources, who revealed a critical detail of how illegal the drone program was, as I am about the original UndieBomb 2.0 story.

CIA selects new head of clandestine service, passing over officer tied to interrogation program | The Washington Post

For background, here’s a post I put together on this topic about a month ago.

Here’s where we are now:

A CIA officer who was the first woman to lead the agency’s clandestine service, but was also closely tied to the agency’s interrogation torture program, will not get to keep that job as part of a management shake-up announced Tuesday by CIA Director John “the priest” Brennan, U.S. officials said.

The woman had served as director of the National Clandestine Service on an interim basis over the past two months and was seen by many in the agency as a front-runner to keep the post, which involves overseeing the CIA’s spying operations around the world.

But the woman, who remains undercover, faced opposition from senior lawmakers over her ties to an interrogation torture program that critics have said employed torture to get information from “al-Qaeda” captives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Instead, Brennan has given the job to a 57-year-old veteran male officer who served multiple overseas tours in Pakistan, Latin America and Africa, according to public records. He is also undercover, U.S. officials said.

[…] The female officer, who is in her 50s, had broad support within the agency and had previously served as deputy director of the clandestine service. But her background posed significant political [not moral, ethical, or legal, obvy] problems for Brennan.

She had run one of the so-called “black site” secret prisons that the CIA set up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and was one of just two officials who signed off on the controversial decision to destroy a collection of videotapes, some of which depicted detainees being subjected to brutal interrogation measures torture.

and, regarding the SSCI report on the torture program, expect more pushback:

[…] It was unclear whether the female officer would be moved into a new position. The transition comes at a time when the agency is assembling what is said to be a defiant response to a recently completed report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that is sharply critical of the interrogation torture program and its results.

Udall Urges President to Engage in Review of Report on CIA's Detention, Interrogation Program | Senator Mark Udall (CO)

Dear Mr. President:

I write with regard to the report recently completed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program.

I know you believe in the importance of correcting the public record if it is determined that inaccurate information has been conveyed to the American people by the U.S. government. In the case of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, inaccurate and misleading information was conveyed by the CIA to the public, the Congress, the Department of Justice, the Department of State — and to the White House itself.

I know this is true as a result of the 6,000-page report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, based on a documentary review of over six million pages of CIA and other records. As you are aware, the Committee voted in December to report out the Study and to send it to the CIA, other Executive Branch agencies, and the White House for review and comments. The comments were due to the Committee on February 15, 2013. As of today, no comments have been received.

Meanwhile, there have been media reports that the CIA is planning an “aggressive response” and is objecting to a “majority” of the Committee’s Study. While I find these reports hard to believe, I am concerned that despite my request — and requests from Chairman Feinstein and other colleagues on the Committee — Director Brennan and his staff have shown little to no interest in engaging collaboratively and constructively with the Committee on a path forward on the Committee’s Study. In fact, despite repeated requests by Members, the CIA has declined to meet or discuss the Study with Committee staff.

It is my understanding that the comments from your administration will reflect not only the views of the CIA, but also other Executive Branch agencies impacted by the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. I believe the views of other government agencies and the White House are absolutely essential in order to engage in a constructive, lessons-learned dialogue.

In 2009, you made it clear that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program and its “enhanced interrogation techniques” had no place in an Obama administration. I deeply appreciate your stand on these important issues. I also applaud the recent comments of Vice President Biden about the need to “excise the demons” and acknowledge what was done under the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Only by acknowledging and correcting the false public record can the CIA — with your support — credibly institute the necessary reforms that are essential for the CIA to be its best. I strongly believe — and trust that you agree — that publicly acknowledging the truth of this program, regardless of how uncomfortable, is necessary, consistent with our country’s history and ideals, and in the long-term interests of the CIA and the American people.

Recall, when JSOC killed almost an entire Bedouin clan in al-Majala, David Petraeus claimed that only the alleged targets immediate family had been killed, well after people had been to the site to document the carnage. Immediately after Abdulrahman [al-Awlaki’s] death, the Administration immediately, almost boisterously, claimed the boy was 21, either based on crappy intelligence or in an attempt to justify a ‘military aged male’ claim. This is why it is so important to declassify the documents on targeted killing. Even according to the Moral Rectitude Drone Assassination Czar, this kid was set up. He just won’t tell us by whom. Marcy Wheeler, John Brennan’s Review of How He Killed an American Teenager

Where Were These Dems Asking about CIA-on-the-Hudson During Brennan’s Confirmation? | emptywheel

I have always been a huge fan of what Thomas Perez has done in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. But this sentence, from Adam Serwer’s query on what happened to DOJ’s review of the CIA-on-the-Hudson, ought to give pause.

Since taking office, the special litigation section of the civil rights division has investigated more local police departments for unconstitutional policing than ever before, but never on behalf of American Muslims profiled by law enforcement.

But the rest of Serwer’s piece barely touches a big missed opportunity — and, potentially, an explanation for why DOJ has slow-walked its investigation of the profiling of Muslims in NYC. Serwer notes that Brennan complimented the program, in contrast to Eric Holder’s stated concerns about it.

Although Holder referred to the reports of the NYPD’s actions as “disturbing,” that’s not the view of everyone in the Obama administration. CIA Director John Brennan, formerly a top White House counterterrorism adviser, praised the NYPD’s surveillance program in April 2012. “I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, and it’s something that again has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade,” Brennan said.

Brennan is not just the former White House counterterrorism [and homeland security] czar, but he’s also the guy who, when CIA-on-the-Hudson was being set up in the days after 9/11, was in charge of logistics and personnel at the CIA. Which means there’s a pretty decent chance he had a role in dual-hatting the CIA guy who operated domestically to help NYPD spy on Americans.

But Brennan’s role in finding a way to use CIA tactics domestically barely came up in his confirmation hearings. As I noted, he was asked whether he knew about the program (and acknowledged knowing about it), but he was not asked — at least not in any of the public materials — whether he had a role in setting it up.

Sort of a key question for the guy now in charge of the entire CIA, whether he thinks the CIA should find loopholes to get around prohibitions on CIA working domestically, don’t you think?

Serwer names several House Democrats — Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Judy Chu — who have been asking about this investigation. Obviously, they didn’t get a vote on Brennan’s nomination. But it seems the nomination period would have been a very good time to ask questions about how and why, at a time when Brennan played a key role in logistics and personnel at the agency, the government decided to set up this workaround. Asking at that time might have clarified why it is that the Administration seems uninterested in investigating this program.

As it is, we’re now left with a guy who publicly applauded such work-arounds — and CIA involvement through cooperation in fusion centers — in charge of the entire CIA.

Back when Brennan’s boosters were promising he’d be a controlling figure at CIA, they suggested he’d make these decisions based on a priest-like moral compass. Yet, just weeks into the job, he has instead asked those who benefitted from this woman’s cover-up to bless her promotion, thereby dodging the responsibility himself. I warned that this ‘moral rectitude’ thing was just a myth when Brennan was nominated. It sure didn’t take long to be proven right. The Moral Rectitude Torture Cover-Up Promotion Czar | emptywheel

The destruction and deliberate ‘misplacing’ of evidence from the Bush era’s torture programs has been both massive and illegal, attempting to cover up torture by and orders for torture stemming from the highest officials in the nation at the time. Now, the decision on whether to allow one of the worst perpetrators of this crime against humanity to lead the nation’s clandestine service is in the hands of John Brennan, keeper of Obama’s ‘kill list’ and a man who during the Bush administration was either fully complicit in illegal rendition and ‘enhanced interrogation’ or at minimum looked the other way. … ‘Moving forward’ Steve Hynd

Mafia Political Calculus

From the Washington Post 3/27/2013, CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment:

As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.

… To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.

… She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

Sure she took part in torture and then destroyed the evidence, crimes no matter who committed them, but she’d “be a home run from a diversity standpoint.” The Post doesn’t bother to question the “former senior official’s” rather obvious signs of sociopathy.

Continuing:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, she took on a senior assignment at the Counterterrorism Center, which put her in the chain of command on the interrogation and detention program, former officials said.

… [T]he CIA set up a video camera at its secret prison in Thailand shortly after it opened in the months after the attacks. The agency recorded more than 90 tapes of often-brutal interrogations, footage that became increasingly worrisome to officials as the legal basis for the program began to crumble.

When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose [the torturing tape melter] Rodriguez, was promoted to head of the clandestine service in 2004, he took the female officer along as his chief of staff. According to former officials, the two repeatedly sought permission to have the tapes destroyed but were denied.

In 2005, instructions to get rid of the recordings went out anyway. Former officials said the order carried just two names: Rodriguez and his chief of staff.

At the end of the piece, an anonymous asshole chimes in to disparage public calls for the release of the 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee torture investigation (which names and implicates the woman in question):

“But at the end of the day John is going to have to choose, even if his choice isn’t [the panel’s] number one choice,” a former senior CIA official said. “Some people’s demands for archaeology should not influence the director’s decision going forward on what’s best for the agency.”

Yes. What’s best for the agency is “looking forward”, promoting those that carried out or oversaw the torture/rendition program and covered it up, and punishing anyone that breaks omertà. But is the promotion of a torturer to clandestine service director politically safe, the Obama administration asks through their mouthpiece, the Washington Post? Sadly, in the current stage of American necrosis, it’s virtually guaranteed that few will even notice.

Norman Pollack sums it up:

In today’s Washington Post (Mar. 27) Greg Miller and Julie Tate report on John Brennan’s facing “a quandary over clandestine service appointment,” the term “quandary,” in this case, ordinarily signifying perplexity or doubt, is really not quite accurate, because a) he knows who and what he wants already, b) he is engaged in damage control, knowingly advancing a candidate directly associated with torture, which might give The Agency (shades of Kafka) a bad name and antagonize Senate Intelligence, and c) he least of all wants to bring the clandestine service into public view, the secretive division within the secretive agency presiding over, among other questionable activities (i.e., violations of international and national law) the secretive armed drone program for targeted assassination.

Not unusual for the Obama administration: Three layers of secretiveness, and that just for starters in this one realm. One would almost think here of children’s games, except that we are speaking of the core of lethality in the conduct of American foreign policy. Again, not surprising, the candidate is nameless, faceless, the record out of reach, just like the video records of torture she helped to destroy (without authorization from above, obviously, because CIA higher-ups will do everything to ensure deniability, especially where war crimes are concerned); all we know is that she is a woman, and that senior officials have used the prospective appointment—she is presently temporary director of NCS—as evidence of diversity, a “two-fer” for CIA, both a woman and very much respected for her activities in torture, thus, as the new Agency Director, a feather in Brennan’s cap.

Obama chose wisely. Halfway through the First Term, we learned that Brennan had become his closest adviser, not only on national security, but with that central, how this feeds into the wider geopolitical strategy of USG. One could not ask for a more competent adviser, given Obama’s attunement to the doctrine and practice of permanent war, most clearly foreshadowed by and then embodied in the drone program of assassination.

[…] Our Lady-in-Waiting, at National Clandestine, will probably get the permanent appointment, and Brennan also will probably keep the Senate Report on the [CIA’s torture program], with Sen. Feinstein’s cooperation, secret. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Except that it’s not the same thing. At first, a year in, I thought of Obama as Bush II, but, still in the first term, I realized that he has introduced a qualitative change, a more tightly integrated (i.e., systemic) militarized capitalism, not simply, capitalism at a higher or more mature stage, conventionally thought of as the monopolistic consolidation of industry and banking, but that along with an authoritarian formation enshrouded in secrecy, all accountability out the window.

Mafia Political Calculus

From the Washington Post 3/27/2013, CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment:

As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall.

A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.

… To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.

… She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

Sure she took part in torture and then destroyed the evidence, crimes no matter who committed them, but she’d “be a home run from a diversity standpoint.” The Post doesn’t bother to question the “former senior official’s” rather obvious signs of sociopathy.

Continuing:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, she took on a senior assignment at the Counterterrorism Center, which put her in the chain of command on the interrogation and detention program, former officials said.

… [T]he CIA set up a video camera at its secret prison in Thailand shortly after it opened in the months after the attacks. The agency recorded more than 90 tapes of often-brutal interrogations, footage that became increasingly worrisome to officials as the legal basis for the program began to crumble.

When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose [the torturing tape melter] Rodriguez, was promoted to head of the clandestine service in 2004, he took the female officer along as his chief of staff. According to former officials, the two repeatedly sought permission to have the tapes destroyed but were denied.

In 2005, instructions to get rid of the recordings went out anyway. Former officials said the order carried just two names: Rodriguez and his chief of staff.

At the end of the piece, an anonymous asshole chimes in to disparage public calls for the release of the 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee torture investigation (which names and implicates the woman in question):

“But at the end of the day John is going to have to choose, even if his choice isn’t [the panel’s] number one choice,” a former senior CIA official said. “Some people’s demands for archaeology should not influence the director’s decision going forward on what’s best for the agency.”

Yes. What’s best for the agency is “looking forward”, promoting those that carried out or oversaw the torture/rendition program and covered it up, and punishing anyone that breaks omertà. But is the promotion of a torturer to clandestine service director politically safe, the Obama administration asks through their mouthpiece, the Washington Post? Sadly, in the current stage of American necrosis, it’s virtually guaranteed that few will even notice.

Norman Pollack sums it up:

In today’s Washington Post (Mar. 27) Greg Miller and Julie Tate report on John Brennan’s facing “a quandary over clandestine service appointment,” the term “quandary,” in this case, ordinarily signifying perplexity or doubt, is really not quite accurate, because a) he knows who and what he wants already, b) he is engaged in damage control, knowingly advancing a candidate directly associated with torture, which might give The Agency (shades of Kafka) a bad name and antagonize Senate Intelligence, and c) he least of all wants to bring the clandestine service into public view, the secretive division within the secretive agency presiding over, among other questionable activities (i.e., violations of international and national law) the secretive armed drone program for targeted assassination.

Not unusual for the Obama administration: Three layers of secretiveness, and that just for starters in this one realm. One would almost think here of children’s games, except that we are speaking of the core of lethality in the conduct of American foreign policy. Again, not surprising, the candidate is nameless, faceless, the record out of reach, just like the video records of torture she helped to destroy (without authorization from above, obviously, because CIA higher-ups will do everything to ensure deniability, especially where war crimes are concerned); all we know is that she is a woman, and that senior officials have used the prospective appointment—she is presently temporary director of NCS—as evidence of diversity, a “two-fer” for CIA, both a woman and very much respected for her activities in torture, thus, as the new Agency Director, a feather in Brennan’s cap.

Obama chose wisely. Halfway through the First Term, we learned that Brennan had become his closest adviser, not only on national security, but with that central, how this feeds into the wider geopolitical strategy of USG. One could not ask for a more competent adviser, given Obama’s attunement to the doctrine and practice of permanent war, most clearly foreshadowed by and then embodied in the drone program of assassination.

[…] Our Lady-in-Waiting, at National Clandestine, will probably get the permanent appointment, and Brennan also will probably keep the Senate Report on the [CIA’s torture program], with Sen. Feinstein’s cooperation, secret. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Except that it’s not the same thing. At first, a year in, I thought of Obama as Bush II, but, still in the first term, I realized that he has introduced a qualitative change, a more tightly integrated (i.e., systemic) militarized capitalism, not simply, capitalism at a higher or more mature stage, conventionally thought of as the monopolistic consolidation of industry and banking, but that along with an authoritarian formation enshrouded in secrecy, all accountability out the window.