Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa made a dramatic announcement this month that almost nobody in America paid any attention to. Grassley released a statement saying that four years ago, he asked the Intelligence Community Inspector General to release two “Congressional Notifications” written by former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Grassley had had his requests to declassify the documents ignored repeatedly throughout the last two years of the Obama administration. He decided to try again because all of the Obama people at the CIA and DNI are gone now. This time, his request was approved.
So what was the information that was finally declassified? It was written confirmation that John Brennan ordered CIA hackers to intercept the emails of all potential or possible intelligence community whistleblowers who may have been trying to contact the Congressional oversight committees, specifically to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Simply put, Brennan ordered his people to hack into the Senate email system—again. Grassley is the longtime chairman of Judiciary Committee, and he was understandably appalled.
First, let me explain what a Congressional Notification is. The CIA is required by law to inform the Congressional oversight committees whenever one of its officers, agents, or administrators breaks the law, when an operation requires Congressional approval because it is a “covert action” program, or whenever something happens at the CIA that’s potentially controversial and the Agency wants to save itself the embarrassment of explaining itself to Congress later.
Brennan apparently ordered his officers to spy on the Senate. Remember, back in 2014 his officers spied on Intelligence Community investigators while they were writing the Senate Torture Report. This time, he decided to inform Congress.
But Brennan and Clapper classified the notification. It was like a taunt. “Sure, I’m spying on Congress, which is illegal. But it’s classified, so what are you going to do about it?”
Grassley went through the proper channels. And even though Brennan and Clapper essentially gave him the middle finger, he didn’t say anything until the documents were finally declassified. He’s a bigger man than I.
A would-be “underwear bomber” involved in a plot to attack a US-based jet was in fact working as an undercover informer with Saudi intelligence and the CIA, it has emerged.
The revelation is the latest twist in an increasingly bizarre story about the disruption of an apparent attempt by al-Qaida to strike at a high-profile American target using a sophisticated device hidden in the clothing of an attacker.
The plot, which the White House said on Monday had involved the seizing of an underwear bomb by authorities in the Middle East sometime in the last 10 days, had caused alarm throughout the US.
It has also been linked to a suspected US drone strike in Yemen where two Yemeni members of al-Qaida were killed by a missile attack on their car on Sunday, one of them a senior militant, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso.
But the news that the individual at the heart of the bomb plot was in fact an informer for US intelligence is likely to raise just as many questions as it answers. (Read more)
the speaker is the author of Family of Secrets.
The anti-Rand Pauls, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took to the Senate floor this morning to defend killing American citizens at presidential discretion. Graham is doing so live on C-SPAN2 right now, saying that everything you do is a danger to America no matter who or where you are, as long as the U.S. government has decided you have “joined al-Queda,” whatever the hell that means. (Read more)
Sen. Rand Paul took to the floor of the U.S. Senate just before noon Wednesday and vowed to stay there “at length” in order to filibuster John O. Brennan, whom President Obama has nominated to be the next CIA director.
The Kentucky Republican said he will hold up the nomination until he gets more information about the U.S. drone execution program, which has become a major sore point for many lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“I will speak today until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’” Mr. Paul said early on in the filibuster, that began at 11:47 and showed no signs of slowing more than four hours later.
Five hours into the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the floor to try to end it. He asked if Mr. Paul would agree to limit himself to another half-hour of remarks, and then the chamber would vote on the Brennan nomination — which likely has majority support.
Mr. Paul said he would be glad to end his filibuster immediately, but only if the administration would promise not to make Americans in the U.S. the subject of targeted killings.
Mr. Reid said he wasn’t in a position to speak for the administration and stalked off the floor.
“We’re through for the night,” he said, releasing senators who had stuck around thinking they might still vote on the Brennan nomination.
Speaking from his corner desk Mr. Paul, in red tie and gray suit and with a glass of ice water — within reach but rarely touched — spoke about political history and the origins of key constitutional precepts.
I resent the James Bond image of CIA agents. An organization with the ability to hide its mistakes and escape consequences is bound to be a circus of depravity and abuse.
BERLIN: A German man who was mistaken for a terrorist and abducted nine years ago has won a measure of redress when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his rights had been violated and confirmed his account that he was seized by Macedonia, handed over to the CIA, brutalised and detained for months in Afghanistan. (Read more)
Hmmm…. the original story seems to have vanished from the internet, but many references to it remain.
Time to sit down with the studio execs and remind them that you guys are on the same side.
The CIA must still be smarting from its portrayal as torture-happy thugs in the critically acclaimed/declaimed “Zero Dark Thirty.” Not only did acting CIA director Michael Morell take the time to claim that *shock* a Hollywood film took “significant artistic license,” but the agency’s website has published a supposedly myth-busting piece that aims to portray the CIA as a bunch of good guys (and girls) who always play by the rules. I suppose being a secretive agency that’s frequently linked with torture, assassinations, indefinite detention and round-the-clock surveillance isn’t as much fun as it used to be.
It’s a very sparse selection of myths, attached to even sparser “debunkings.” Sadly, the CIA’s debunkings can be easily debunked simply by taking a few quick peeks into the past, along with even briefer peeks into its present actions.
he CIA has dismissed as “baseless” and “uninformed” claims made by the former lover of ex-agency chief David Petraeus that Libyan militants were held in secret US prisons prior to the deadly Benghazi consulate attack.
Paula Broadwell, the biographer whose affair with Petraeus led to his abrupt resignation Friday, alleged that the assault, in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed, was an attempt to free men being detained in a covert CIA annex. (Read more)
There have been three major developments in this fast-moving story since my last column on this subject: 1) The stunning revelation by Broadwell in a speech given at the University of Denver that there were detainees in the Benghazi “consulate” — really a CIA station — and that the attack may have been an attempt to free them, and 2) the rising visibility of the “shirtless guy,” the Tampa FBI agent whose impatience with the progress of the investigation led him to go to the House GOP leadership, an act that sealed Petraeus’s fate — and, perhaps, Gen. Allen’s. Which brings us to 3) the ensnaring of Gen. Allen in the Broadwell-Petraeus net, which adds much fuel to an already raging fire.
The Benghazi angle may help bring the “why” of this whole imbroglio into sharper focus. First, let’s set the context: Fox News and the Republicans had been making a full-bore effort to turn the Benghazi attack into a “scandal” that would bring down the Obama administration, an “October surprise” that would make short work of the anti-colonialist Kenyan. They spun a narrative that had the President of the United States — and his CIA Director — ordering a rescue team to “stand down” while Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three others, were murdered by Islamists. Broadwell’s “by the way there were detainees in there” remark, uttered almost offhand, was pushback, no doubt encouraged by Petraeus.
The “shirtless guy,” who earned this description because he reportedly sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley — the recipient of Broadwell’s “harassing” emails — enters the picture as the key catalyst who set the anti-Petraeus coup in motion. We are told he is a friend of someone with a connection to Rep. Reichert (R-WA), who brought the matter to Rep. Cantor’s office. But hold on, wait a minute here …
Since when does the FBI investigate “harassing” emails sent to an ordinary American citizen? Sure, Kelley had a friend in the FBI — the Shirtless Guy — but the question is why did the FBI’s cybercrimes section agree to launch a lengthy and costly investigation into emails that, by some accounts, weren’t that big a deal? The Shirtless Guy, who is said to have become so obsessed with the case that he was taken off it, must have developed some suspicion of who was behind the emails, and the nature of Broadwell’s connection to Petraeus. Whose instrument was he?
I gave my own view of the answer to this question in my last column, and the attempt to take down Gen. Allen seems to confirm my analysis. Who, you ask, would want Allen’s scalp? Well, consider the General’s comments after the latest blue-green attack in Afghanistan:
“ISAF commander General John Allen told US 60 Minutes program in an interview recorded before the latest incident, and scheduled to be aired today, that insider attacks were unacceptable.
“’I’m mad as hell about them, to be honest with you,’ he said. ‘We’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign, but we’re not willing to be murdered for it.’
“Gen. Allen said that just as homemade bombs had become the signature weapon of the Iraq war, he believed that in Afghanistan, “the signature attack that we’re beginning to see is going to be the insider attack.”
Insider attacks make up the great majority of US casualties in Afghanistan, these days, and with the Obama administration about to undergo a general review of our troop levels in that country, Allen’s open hostility to the mission would not sit well with the more hawkish faction in the national security apparatus, i.e. the neocons and their fellow travelers. So, he had to go, too — and it’s a “nice” touch that they managed to get him in the course of the same investigation, without having to bother cooking up another scandal. Good work, boys!
One aspect of the Great Pentagon Purge that has gone almost completely unnoticed is this offhand little tidbit in a Washington Post story about the scandal,
“Prominent members of conservative, Washington-based defense think tanks were given permanent office space at [Petraeus’s] headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.
“Some of Petraeus’s staff officers said he and the American mission in Afghanistan benefited from the broader array of viewpoints, but others complained that the outsiders were a distraction, the price of his growing fame.”
So the neocons were right there looking over Petraeus’s shoulder, and his successor’s shoulder, giving “advice” that went against orders from the top, i.e. they were undermining the mission as conceived by the Pentagon, and no doubt actively subverting the planned withdrawal. Did Gen. Allen throw them out? That he’s been caught in the honey trap along with Petraeus should come as no surprise.
The military is quite a distinct entity from the War Party, and this should be obvious to anyone who has been alert to the internal debates in the national security bureaucracy over the course of the past decade or so. (Read more)
he New York Times reported that the CIA “in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program.” Documents obtained when the ACLU asked a federal judge to hold the CIA in contempt of court — for destruction of evidence which that judge had ordered be produced — subsequently revealed that the agency had actually “destroyed 92 videotapes of terror-suspect interrogations.” The videotapes recorded interrogations of detainees who were waterboarded and otherwise tortured. The original NYT article, by Mark Mazzetti, reported that “the decision to destroy the tapes was made by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who was the head of the Directorate of Operations, the agency’s clandestine service” (the NYT later reported that some White House officials had participated in the deliberations and even advocated the tapes’ destruction).
Destruction of these tapes was so controversial because it seemed so obviously illegal. At the time the destruction order was issued, numerous federal courts — as well as the 9/11 Commission — had ordered the U.S. Government to preserve and disclose all evidence relating to interrogations of Al Qaeda and 9/11 suspects. Purposely destroying evidence relevant to legal proceedings is called “obstruction of justice.” Destroying evidence which courts and binding tribunals (such as the 9/11 Commission) have ordered to be preserved is called “contempt of court.” There are many people who have been harshly punished, including some sitting right now in prison, for committing those crimes in far less flagrant ways than was done here. In fact, so glaring was the lawbreaking that the co-Chairmen of the 9/11 Commission — the mild-mannered, consummate establishmentarians Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean — wrote a New York Times Op-Ed pointedly accusing the CIA of “obstruction” (“Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation”).
In 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a Special Prosecutor to determine if criminal charges should be filed. When I was writing my last book about the legal immunity bestowed on political elites even for egregious crimes, I actually expected that Rodriguez would be indicted and that his indictment would be an exception to the rule of elite immunity which I was documenting. As I wrote in my book, “even our political class, I thought, couldn’t allow lawbreaking this brazen to go entirely unpunished.” But I was quite wrong about that.
In November, 2010, the Obama DOJ — consistent with its steadfast shielding of Bush-era criminals from all forms of accountability — announced that the investigation would be closed without any charges being filed. Needless to say — given how subservient federal judges are to the Executive Branch in the post-9/11 era — the federal judge who had ordered the CIA to preserve and produce any such videotapes, Alvin Hellerstein, refused even to hold the CIA in contempt for deliberately disregarding his own order. Instead, Hellerstein — who, like so many federal judges, spent his whole career before joining the bench as a partner for decades in a large corporate law firm serving institutional power — reasoned that punishment for the CIA was unnecessary because, as he put it, new rules issued by the CIA “should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction.”
In other words, as I put it in a Guardian Op-Ed about Hellerstein’s CIA-protecting decision: the CIA has promised not to do this again, so they shouldn’t be punished for the crimes they committed. Aside from how difficult it is, given the agency’s history, to make that claim without triggering a global laughing fit, it is also grounded in a principle of leniency rarely applied to ordinary citizens. After all, most criminal defendants caught up in the life-destroying hell of a federal prosecution are quite unlikely to repeat their crimes in the future, yet that fact is no bar to punishing them for the illegal acts they already committed. But the CIA, of course, operates under a different justice system: one in which they are free to deliberately break laws and violate court orders with impunity.
Protected by the DOJ and Judge Hellerstein from any and all accountability for what he did, the CIA official who ordered the videotapes’ destruction, Jose Rodriguez, is now enjoying the fruits of his crimes. He just published a new book in which he aggressively defends his decision to destroy those tapes (“The propaganda damage to the image of America would be immense. But the main concern then, and always, was for the safety of my officers . . .I was just getting rid of some ugly visuals that could put the lives of my people at risk”). He also categorically justifies the CIA’s use of torture (“I am certain, beyond any doubt, that these techniques … shielded the people of the United States from harm and led to the capture of killing of Usama bin Ladin”) as well as the agency’s network of black sites (“Why not bring the detainees to trial?,” asks The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest in a review today of the book; Rodriguez’ answer in the book: “because they would get lawyered up, and our job, first and foremost, is to obtain information”). The title of the book: “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”
Rodriguez thus joins a long line of Bush officials — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, et. al — who not only paid no price for the crimes they committed, but are free to run around boasting of those crimes for profit. (Read more)
7 April 2012 UPDATE: Fifty-one years after the failed attempt to invade Cuba, the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Justice continue to claim that releasing the final volume of a CIA history of the debacle would “confuse the public” and should therefore remain withheld. The National Security Archive originally requested the document in 2005. Last year, the Archive filed a FOIA lawsuit to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bay of Pigs debacle. That prompted the release of three volumes of the five volume history (one volume was already available at the Johnson Presidential Library); the CIA and DOJ have continued to fight the release of the fifth volume. Judge Kessler, of the US District Court in Washington DC, is expected to soon rule on the case.
In late 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency explained to Judge Kessler of the US District Court in Washington DC that releasing the final volume of its three-decade-old history of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle would “confuse the public,” and should be withheld because it is a “predecisional” document. Wow. And I thought that I had heard them all. (Read more)