CIA lied over 2001 downing of missionary plane

The Central Intelligence Agency repeatedly lied to Congress and the Justice Department in their investigations of the 2001 shoot-down of a Peruvian plane carrying U.S. missionaries, according to findings of an internal CIA probe released Nov. 20, 2008. The agency’s inspector general concluded that CIA officers in Peru consistently ignored rules of engagement in connection with the downing of more than 10 aircraft suspected of carrying narcotics over Peru. Yet, CIA managers covered up the violations and knowingly gave false accounts to government officials investigating whether CIA employees had committed crimes.

Excerpts of the inspector general’s report were released by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee. He called for a new criminal inquiry, as well as congressional hearings, into what he described as a “startling” attempted coverup by the spy agency. “These are the most serious and substantial allegations of wrongdoing I’ve seen in my time on the committee,” said Hoekstra, in whose Michigan district the two Americans killed in the 2001 incident lived.

As part of a joint U.S.-Peruvian anti-drug program that began in the mid-1990s, CIA officers helped Peruvian air force pilots identify aircraft suspected of carrying illegal drugs through the country’s airspace. The program had downed numerous suspected planes when, in April 2001, a Peruvian pilot mistakenly shot into a small plane carrying U.S. missionaries. Two of the Americans on board, Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter, Charity, were struck by bullets and killed. The pilot, although wounded, managed to land the plane. Bowers’ husband and their 6-year-old son were not injured.

Multiple investigations at the time found that the CIA had been lax in its oversight of the program and had failed to ensure that strict rules were followed in identifying the plane before opening fire. But, according to Hoekstra, agency officials had repeatedly described the 2001 incident as an aberration, insisting that CIA officers had closely followed the rules in other cases. In 2005, the Justice Department concluded its probe after deciding against filing criminal charges against any of the U.S. officials involved.

Hoekstra, citing the findings of a seven-year inspector general’s investigation, said the CIA’s program was “actually operating and being implemented outside the law,” as agency officers routinely ignored strict rules requiring that the suspicious planes be carefully identified and given multiple warnings. Those rules were ignored in “more than 10” previous downings investigated by the inspector general, Hoekstra said. He did not give specific examples because most of the report’s contents remain classified.

The investigators found that CIA managers “knew of, and condoned” the violations and failed to properly oversee the program. Later, when asked about the problems by Justice officials and congressional overseers, CIA officials knowingly distorted the facts, Hoekstra said.

A CIA spokesman said the agency’s current director, Michael V. Hayden, learned of the then-incomplete inspector general’s report in August and “recognized the seriousness” of the findings, though he had not yet reached a decision about how to respond. Hayden is “seeking input from a cleared outside expert — one who knows the complex issues involved in an air interdiction program — before making any decisions,” the spokesman said.

– edited from The Washington Post, Nov. 20, 2008
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2008

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Political dissent targeted by FBI

The FBI’s so-called anti-terrorism efforts have intensely focused on political dissent since the resurgence of the U.S. social justice and peace movement. The big lie being foisted on the public is that these are post-September 11 counter-measures, when in fact Amnesty International has uncovered in litigation that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as the District of Columbia police department have been conducting illegal domestic spying operations against political groups and activists since well before September 11, 2001, according to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild. The PCJ and NLG are litigating First Amendment cases against the FBI, Secret Service and Washington DC police, as well as other law enforcement authorities, for their unconstitutional disruption actions against political demonstrators.

“The way the ‘war on terror’ has been pursued represents a real threat to emerging human rights improvements in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula,”Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard saids In recent years governments in the region began to show positive response to demands for human rights improvements and a departure, albeit slow, away from decades plagued by large scale, systematic and gross human rights violations. The ‘war on terror’ has revived the old practices. Governments in the region are using it as a pretext for restricting freedom of expression and political dissent in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, generating fear among journalists, government critics and generally people known or perceived to have militant religious views. The forms of retaliation against such people include arrest and detention, forcible retirement from their jobs or denying them employment with no real opportunity of challenging the decisions of security forces in this regard.

~ Amnesty International
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2008

Political clashes underline the limits to intelligence reform

As head of analysis for all U.S. spy agencies, Thomas Fingar was making final edits last summer on a long-awaited intelligence report on Iran. The draft concluded that Tehran was still pursuing a nuclear bomb, a finding that echoed previous assessments and would have bolstered Bush administration hawks. Then, just weeks before the report was to be delivered to the White House, new intelligence surfaced indicating that Tehran’s nuclear weapons work had stopped.

Fingar was acutely aware of the stakes. Five years earlier, grave errors helped start a war in Iraq that most Americans now regret. “This was a WMD issue in the country adjacent to Iraq,” Fingar said of the Iran intelligence. “We wanted to get this right.” But Fingar would learn that getting it right did not mean he could avert the ongoing conflict between politics and intelligence in the nation’s capital, and his Iran report only underscored the limitations of urgent efforts to reform the U.S. spy system.

In several interviews, Fingar offered new insight into the last-minute reversal of the Iran intelligence estimate, and the controversy that has continued to reverberate. The report kicked the legs out from under the administration’s hard-line Iran policy and stunned the diplomatic world, touching off a political maelstrom that has barely abated after five months. Were it not for the new intelligence that surfaced last summer, Fingar acknowledged, a key piece of the Iran report would have been wrong. “We didn’t have the dismissal of dissenting views. We didn’t have a ‘Curveball,’” Fingar said, referring to the discredited source behind much of the prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Fingar, 62, served as a German linguist in the Army and was a professor of political science at Stanford University before being lured away in the mid-1980s to serve as a China expert at the State Department. According to Richard Clarke, who was one of Fingar’s first bosses before becoming a top counter-terrorism adviser to Presidents Clinton and Bush, “He was more open, honest and user-friendly than the intentionally obtuse analysts we sometimes get.”

Fingar rose to become head of analysis at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR. The bureau is tiny compared with the CIA, and has a reputation for analytic independence, if not obstinacy. INR was almost alone in voicing any skepticism of the prewar claims that Iraq had stockpiles of banned weapons. As a result, the bureau had new clout when the intelligence community came in for sweeping reform. Fingar was picked to fix the system’s shattered credibility. He went from overseeing a few hundred analysts at the State Department to head of nearly 20,000 analysts across more than a dozen spy agencies. Nearly half of those analysts have joined the government since 2001. To speed their development, Fingar required new hires to take a six-week course called Analysis 101. Dissent was encouraged and attempts to goad students into policy debates were rebuffed.

The controversy over the Iran report is likely to linger. The first line in the report said analysts judged “with high confidence” that Tehran had halted nuclear weapons work in 2003. The finding was based in part on captured journals that recorded Iranian decisions to stop weapons work. But a footnote at the bottom of the page explained that analysts meant only that Tehran had halted warhead design work, not its efforts to enrich uranium, which experts regard as the most difficult hurdle to making a bomb.

Democratic lawmakers and liberal columnists cast the document as evidence that fed-up spies were finally striking back against their political masters, while Iran hawks accused Fingar of subverting the president’s policy. “They wanted to forestall any possible military action by the Bush administration against Iran’s nuclear program,” said John R. Bolton, Bush’s former U.N. ambassador. Bolton and others said that Fingar had surrounded himself with State Department colleagues who were hostile to the Bush administration and its approach to Iran. There is some evidence to support that view. Richard Immerman, a former academic hired as an ombudsman and to enforce quality control, published a paper before joining the government in which he called the Bush foreign policy team “cognitively impaired.”

Fingar said the Iran intelligence report emphasized the halt in warhead work because that was the newest finding. He attributes the attacks to anger among hard-liners that the report didn’t conform to their preconceived views. “The unhappiness with the finding — namely that the evil Iranians might be susceptible to diplomacy — adroitly turned into an ad hominem assault,” Fingar said. “Why do we have an intelligence community if all you want are cheerleaders?”

But even while brushing aside the complaints from hard-liners, Fingar said the reactions of those on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who welcomed the report’s findings still ring in his ears. “We briefed a lot of committees and members,” Fingar said. “In every session, one or more people reached across the table and said, ‘Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your integrity.’ I began to resent this, treating integrity and professionalism as if it is an unusual and courageous act. I frankly was dismayed.”

– edited from the Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2008
PeaceMeal, May/June 2008

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

sibel_edmonds.jpg (2547 bytes)Supreme Court turns down case of FBI translator

Refusing to take hold of a political hot potato, the Supreme Court on Nov. 28, 205, declined to consider the case of a former FBI translator who contends she was fired after accusing the bureau of misconduct in the handling of intelligence related to terrorism. The justices refused without comment to take the case of Sibel Edmonds, who was a wiretap translator for the FBI, translating material in Turkish, Persian and Azerbaijani, immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, until April 2, 2002, when she was dismissed for being disruptive.

Ms. Edmonds had raised serious allegations of lax security and mismanagement among those who translate and oversee some of the FBI’s most sensitive, top-secret wiretaps in counterintelligence and counterterrorist investigations. (See PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2005.) She complained repeatedly that other bureau linguists produced slipshod and incomplete translations of important intelligence before and after the attacks of 9/11. She also accused a Turkish linguist in the bureau’s Washington field office of blocking the translation of material involving acquaintances who had come under FBI suspicion. She said, too, that the bureau had allowed diplomatic sensitivities to impede the translation of some intelligence.

Justice Department officials had complained that allowing the suit to proceed could expose intelligence-gathering methods and disrupt diplomatic relations. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft initially invoked a rarely used power and declared that the case fell under the “state secret” privilege. Mr. Ashcroft’s declaration persuaded a federal district judge to dismiss Ms. Edmonds’ suit in July 2004. The dismissal was upheld by the D.C. federal court of appeals last May, and the rejection by the Supreme Court apparently puts an end to legal recourse.

Ms. Edmonds’ allegations had caused great discomfort and embarrassment to the FBI, raising questions about the bureau’s treatment of whistle-blowers and focusing yet more attention on the bureau’s handling of terrorism-related intelligence. A classified investigation of her allegations was undertaken by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice.

In an unclassified summary report of the investigation released January 14, 2005 — almost three years after Ms. Edmond’s firing, the Inspector General verified her shocking allegations of official misconduct and issued a sharp rebuke to the FBI over its handling of the affair. The IG found that many of Ms. Edmonds’ accusations “were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services.” The Justice Department had sought for months to keep the report classified.

– edited from The New York Times and The Washington Post
Peacemeal, Jan/February 2006

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Life in the CIA: Once clandestine, now read all about it

by Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor staff writer

WASHINGTON - Gary Schroen's mission was spelled out succinctly: Put together a small team of CIA operatives, drop into northern Afghanistan, pave the way for the U.S. military to topple the Taliban, and bring Osama bin Laden's head back to the U.S., packed in dry ice. It was three days after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and Mr. Schroen's boss said President Bush wanted evidence of Mr. bin Laden's demise — a testament to the depth of emotions at the time. It was the first time in Schroen's 35 years as a CIA operative that he had been asked explicitly to kill someone, according to his just- published memoir: "First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan." It is also the kind of detail about life in the shadowy world of American espionage that used to remain secret.

Once the derring-do of clandestine operatives was revealed only in press leaks, or via hints in the hedged memoirs of senior officials, decades after the fact. Those days, like James Bond's heyday, are now long gone. Today, former and current employees of the Central Intelligence Agency are almost elbowing each other in a rush to book agents.

Some spooks-turned-writers say they do it because the CIA has been the recipient of unwarranted criticism and they want to set the record straight. Others are unhappy with the way their superiors operate and profess to want to make the agency stronger. Still others are clearly part of a younger generation in which they think it appropriate to air their grievances.

"There's definitely a change in culture," says Michael Scheuer, a former CIA official who published two books — in 2002 and 2004 — under "Anonymous," while he still worked at the agency. "[Former director George] Tenet did a tremendous job hiring a younger, more articulate, multilingual workforce. They come to see if they like it. And if they don't, they move on — and sometimes write about their experiences. When people came in my generation, they came because they wanted to be an officer until they retired."

Common thread: failures of leadership

Two newer books written by women dissatisfied with their careers fall in the latter category. Lindsay Moran, a former undercover spy, penned "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy," and Melissa Boyle Mahle wrote "Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11."

Mr. Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, first wrote "Through Our Enemies' Eyes," a look at everything up to 2002 that bin Laden and his top acolytes had said and done. Later, in the summer of 2004, he authored "Imperial Hubris," a personal, critical look at the government's execution of the war on terror, still under "Anonymous." Soon after, though, by mutual agreement, he left the CIA and his identity became known.

Robert Baer is probably the one who kicked off this most recent wave of tell-alls. He wrote "See No Evil," which was published shortly after 9/11 and not long after his retirement (and has been made into a movie starring George Clooney that will be released this summer). In the book, he describes his escapades in dark corners of the globe and at the same time criticizes policymakers for degrading the kind of human intelligence work he performed.

John MacGaffin, former associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, sees a connection in all the books. "I see a common thread among all of them as a failure of leadership, a determination to avoid conflict within administrations, and an unwillingness to take broader risks at a political level," says Mr. MacGaffin.

Elements of James Bond romanticism

Schroen, for his part, says he wrote his book because he had been directed to tell most of his story already to two Washington Post reporters who were writing books about the war on terror. First, he and the head of the CIA's public-affairs office were interviewed by Bob Woodward in his Georgetown home for "Bush at War." Later, he and the public-affairs official talked with Steve Coll for his book, "Ghost Wars." "We were told by the 7th floor [director's office] that Woodward was going to do a book, and we were authorized to talk to him," Schroen says. "Coll got the same open-door treatment."

Schroen's book, according to the CIA's Publications Review Board, is the most detailed account of a covert operation ever told by a clandestine officer. Judging by the amount of press attention lavished upon it — his son tells him he's now on TV more than Seinfeld — the new nonfiction spy tales may be replacing John LeCarré.

It does convey an element of James Bond romanticism — missions carried out with $3 million packed in cardboard boxes. But it also depicts unglamorous moments — like how the operatives disposed of human waste in the rugged mountains of northern Afghanistan.

Fixing the record and moving forward

The book also tries to set the record straight on a number of issues surrounding the CIA's Afghan adventure. For example:

       • When Schroen put his team together, the U.S. military did not send anyone in with him because they thought the operation was too dangerous.

       • US military personnel — Special Operations teams — did not arrive in Afghanistan until some three weeks after Schroen's team set up camp.

       • It was a CIA-led operation that captured Mir Amal Kasi — the man who killed two CIA employees and wounded three others outside the agency's entrance in Pakistan in 1993. Previously, many had believed the FBI led the raid. The FBI was involved, Schroen says, but didn't lead it.

In addition to relating the unglamorous, Schroen exposes the infighting and occasional ineptitude of U.S. officials. For example, two members of his team were nearly killed by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone. Fortunately, Schroen says, he received a call from the Predator's mission manager in Washington. The man told Schroen they had a Predator loitering above an airstrip and could see two men, obviously not Afghans, walking along it. One, he said, was tall and lean and could be bin Laden himself. Schroen checked the coordinates with his aide and got back on the line: "I ... told the young man that he was to stand down on the attack, that the two men were CIA officers, part of our team, and they were walking on a CIA-constructed airstrip."

It's clear that Schroen liked his work and those whom he worked with — both those on his team and his Afghan counterparts — and he left the agency at a natural retirement age.

Mr. MacGaffin, for his part, is concerned about the exodus of operatives from the CIA, including the young spies-turned-authors. But he also sees a new opportunity here. He says that all the commissions that studied the 9/11 failures pointed out the same problems with leadership that he has enumerated.

"My hope now is that we got one last chance to fix it — the lack of leadership," MacGaffin says. "[Recently appointed director of national intelligence] John Negroponte is there to fix it — that's the end of the thread or the end of us."

– The Christian Science Monitor, May 20, 2005
PeaceMeal, May/June 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

WMD commission whitewashes Bush's intelligence

In a scathing report released March 31, the commission to evaluate intelligence failures prior to President Bush's war of aggression in Iraq concluded that "the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." The complete absence of any such weapons in Iraq, verified by U.S. weapons inspectors following the invasion, is labeled "a major intelligence failure."

The formation of a commission to investigate prewar intelligence failures was opposed by President Bush. He was forced to do so after the revelation of false assumptions behind claims that Saddam Hussein rebuilt his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs following the departure of U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998.

The bipartisan commission was led by Republican Laurence Silberman, a retired federal appeals court judge, and Democrat Charles Robb, a former senator from Virginia. After more than a year of work — done largely in secret — the Silberman-Robb commission's final report exceeds 600 pages in the classified version and 400 pages in the unclassified version. (The latter can be found online in HTML or PDF format at:

Even though the commission's report acknowledges distortions of the intelligence data, it shifts the blame for the debacle from the Administration to the intelligence agencies. The report singles out three agencies for serious errors contributing "crucially to the Iraq WMD debacle." The three agencies are the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), the Pentagon's Defense Humint Service (DHS) — which specializes in "human intelligence," and the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC).

The NGIC was "completely wrong" in concluding that aluminum tubes were not useful for rockets, thereby supporting the subsequently discarded theory that Iraq acquired them to build uranium centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program. NGIC "did not pursue basic information" that could have prevented the misjudgments, the commission report says, even though the subject was "at the core of [its] assigned area of expertise."

The DHS, which handles foreign-agent reports, "inexcusably failed" to rescind information provided by an Iraqi defector, according to the report, after learning he was a "known fabricator" — that is, liar! The defector, nicknamed "Curveball," provided information — later disproved — that Iraq had mobile biological weapon production facilities. DHS disseminated that information "while taking little or no responsibility for checking the accuracy of his reports." DHS then "compounded that error" by failing to notice that the liar's information was in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council.

Concerns over Curveball had been floating around the CIA for more than three years before Secretary Powell shared his claims with the world. No CIA officer even met Curveball before the war, but the more his credibility came into question, the more his allegations were used to bolster the case for war, according to the commission report.

WINPAC disseminated incorrect information on the aluminum tubes and Curveball's claims about the biological production facilities. WINPAC "showed great reluctance to correct these errors, even long after they had become obvious," the report says.

The commission also found that WINPAC analysts were forced out after they pushed for circulation of reassessments because of doubts about the veracity of Curveball's information. One analyst who spoke out about Curveball told the commission he was "read the riot act" and accused of "making waves" and "being biased."

There were many other examples of fruitless dissent on the accuracy of claims against Iraq. Already during the summer of 2002, CIA analysts complained that their evaluations of alleged Iraqi WMD were being distorted for political purposes. Up until the days just before U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq, the report says. The views of analysts who accepted at face value data supporting the existence of illegal weapons and discounted counter-evidence as nothing but skillful Iraqi deception are the ones which were accepted.

And in an assault on George Tenet, who was CIA director in the run-up to the Iraq war and gave the president his daily intelligence briefing, the commission found that "the daily reports sent to the president and senior policymakers discussing Iraq over many months proved to be disastrously one-sided. Through attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD programs."

Seeking to build his case against Saddam Hussein, President Bush put forth one of his own distortions on September 7, 2002, when he cited a 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He claimed the report said Saddam could be six months away from developing an atomic bomb and added, "I don't know what more evidence we need." What the IAEA report actually said is that Iraq had been six to 24 months away from such capability before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the subsequent U.N. weapons inspections that completely dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

Various published reports indicate that the Administration decided to "take out" Saddam Hussein first and then presented to Congress and the public the "intelligence" that would win support for an invasion. According to last year's book Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward, President Bush secretly started planning with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for war with Iraq in November 2001, and with General Tommy Franks, then-head of Central Command, the following month. Existence of their plans was leaked to The New York Times and disclosed in April 2002.

 During subsequent months, President Bush repeatedly stated that he had not made the decision to go to war. All the while, his every action prepared for the "shock-and-awe" attack that came on March 19, 2003. Times columnist Maureen Dowd observed: "Just as the Democratic president ducked behind the parsed line, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman,' so the Republican president ducked behind the parsed line, ‘I have no war plans on my desk.'"

But the Silberman-Robb report virtually exonerates President Bush and Vice President Cheney from the charge that they cooked the intelligence in order to sell a war they were already determined to launch. "In no instance did political pressure cause [analysts] to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments," the report says — notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cheney virtually set up camp at the CIA while they were drawing up those judgments.

And nowhere in the 400-page unclassified report is there any mention of Douglas Feith or the Office of Special Plans.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the White House took the unprecedented step of setting up its own special "intelligence" unit on Iraq, known as the Office of Special Plans (OSP), under Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. The OSP was created to put a pro-war spin on the official intelligence estimates coming out of the CIA and State Department. The Bush Administration bypassed the usual channels in the intelligence community in order to expedite the flow of "raw" information, not corroborated by traditional intelligence sources, and used only selected bits of information that supported the President's plans for war. Senator Carl M. Levin (D-MI), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Feith's work "reportedly involved the review, analysis, and promulgation of intelligence outside of the U.S. intelligence community."

The OSP was also reportedly working closely with Ahmad Chalabi, a silk-suited self-promoter who helped organize the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group. Chalabi had developed relationships with a number of influential figures in the Pentagon, including Feith, and was involved in the Administration's plans in Iraq well before the war began. The White House relied heavily on the INC for information about Saddam's alleged illegal weapons and paid the group $27 million over four years.

As an exile group seeking power in Iraq, the INC had a clear interest in convincing the U.S. to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. Not surprisingly, much of the information it provided helped make the case to do just that. Most of the information from the group was later found to be useless, misleading, and, in some cases, completely fabricated.

Chalabi's status with the Administration was such that he sat behind First Lady Laura Bush during the President's 2004 State of the Union address. And it was Chalabi who funneled false information from Curveball to the Administration.

The information provided by Curveball was included in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a document the White House used to argue for invading Iraq. The NIE alleged that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, but it glossed over or omitted dissenting views. Dissent was included only in the form of cautionary footnotes from the State Department's intelligence bureau, the Energy Department, and the Air Force. A senior Administration official acknowledged in July 2003 that President Bush and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice did not read footnotes in the 90-page document.

The October 2002 NIE was also the basis for Secretary of State Colin Powell going to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 to lobby for military action, carrying with him a dossier of supposed evidence against Iraq that turned out to contain a plagiarized college thesis with 12-year-old information. Erroneous as Colin Powell's now infamous speech was, it had already been toned down at his insistence. When he read the first draft — prepared by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff — he became so alarmed at the level of intelligence distortion that he lost his temper, threw pages into the air, and declared, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit!" (US News and World Report, June 9, 2003)

Regardless of its pro-Administration bias, the Silberman-Robb commission report serves as a jarring reminder that nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and their alleged threat to the United States — not the spread of democracy — was the main pretext for President Bush's unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq.

Nothing will change the fact that this war was begun on a lie.

~ Jim Stoffels, Editor
with information from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Common Cause, MSNBC, and Newsweek
PeaceMeal, March/April 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

sibel_edmonds.jpg (2547 bytes)

FBI whistle-blower vindicated

Almost three years after FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds was fired, the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice has verified her shocking allegations of official misconduct. Sibel Edmonds worked for the FBI as a wiretap translator immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, until March 2002, when her services were terminated. Ms. Edmonds translated material in Turkish, Persian and Azerbaijani. Before her termination, she had raised serious allegations of mismanagement and lax security among those who translate and oversee some of the FBI’s most sensitive, top-secret wiretaps in counterintelligence and counterterrorist investigations — including security concerns about a co-worker related to potential espionage.

In an unclassified summary report of its investigation released January 14, the Inspector General issued a sharp rebuke to the FBI over its handling of the affair. The IG found that many of Ms. Edmonds’ accusations "were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services." The Justice Department had sought for months to keep the report classified.

The IG’s summary report also criticizes the agency for not investigating Edmonds’ allegations more thoroughly, comparing the FBI’s mishandling of them to the mishandling of the case involving former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen, who pled guilty to spying for the Soviet Union. The report states that Edmonds’ allegations "raised serious concerns that, if true, could potentially have extremely damaging consequences for the FBI." Nevertheless, the IG concluded that the FBI still has not adequately investigated them.

Edmonds charged, "The way that [translation] unit was run was just terrible. Some of the people they’d hired couldn’t even speak English, and a lot of material was being mistranslated — or not translated at all, just marked ‘not relevant’ and ignored. I couldn’t believe it."

Finding capable and trustworthy translators has been a special challenge in the terrorism war. One problem was the difficulty in running background checks on linguists born outside the United States. FBI officials told government auditors in January 2002 that translator shortages had resulted in "the accumulation of thousands of hours of audio tapes and pages" of untranslated material. But Edmonds alleged that, in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, personnel in the unit were urged by the manager to slow down their work. He wanted the backlog to get worse, he told his staff, so that he could make a better case for a bigger budget.

Sibel Edmonds said she became particularly alarmed when she discovered that a recently hired FBI translator was saying that she belonged to the Middle Eastern organization whose taped conversations Edmonds had been translating for FBI counter-intelligence agents. Officials asked that the name of the target group not be revealed for national security reasons. Edmonds said that on several occasions, the translator tried to recruit her to join the targeted foreign group.

Edmonds would not identify the other translator, but it was learned from other sources that she is a 35-year-old U.S. citizen whose native country is home to the target group. Both Edmonds and the other translator are U.S. citizens who trace their ethnicity to the same Middle Eastern country — Turkey.

The FBI confirmed that Edmonds’ co-worker had been part of an organization that was a target of top-secret surveillance and that the same co-worker had "unreported contacts" with a foreign government official subject to the surveillance.

"These are investigations we’d never do anything about," Edmonds said, "because it would hurt certain foreign relations abroad, of course … and they don’t want that. So even after 3,000 people lost their lives on 9/11, those behind these very lucrative illegal activities get a free pass. And they refuse to continue important investigations because of certain diplomatic relations that 99.9 percent of Americans gain no benefits from."

Of her firing, Edmonds said: "I was literally thrown out of the building. ... I’m 5 foot 4 and 100 pounds, and you had all these big burly guys forcibly taking me out of the building. ... This guy, one of my superiors, tried to act tough and threatened me that if I said anything to the press, the Congress, or even a lawyer, "The next time I see you will be in jail." I replied, "Well, I may be in jail, but I won’t be the one behind bars."

Sibel Edmonds first gained wide public attention in October 2002 when she appeared on 60 Minutes on CBS and charged that the FBI, State Department, and Pentagon had been infiltrated by Turkish individuals suspected of ties to terrorism. On October 18, 2002, at the request of FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General John Ashcroft imposed a gag order on Ms. Edmonds, citing possible damage to diplomatic relations or national security.

Ms. Edmonds is a key witness in a pending class-action suit filed by 9/11 families against the government. She also brought her own whistle-blower lawsuit against the government. In July, her suit was dismissed after Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked a rarely used power of "state secret privilege." The Justice Department then retroactively classified a 2002 Congressional briefing about her case.

The American Civil Liberties Union has now entered the fray, asking an appellate court on January 12 to reinstate Ms. Edmonds’ whistle-blower lawsuit. In its brief, the ACLU sharply criticized the government’s "radical theory" that every aspect of the case involves state secrets and therefore cannot go forward. In accepting the government’s theory, the ACLU said, the district court relied on the government’s secret evidence but denied Edmonds the opportunity to prove her case based on non-sensitive evidence. That approach, the ACLU said, "made a mockery of the adversarial process and denied Ms. Edmonds her constitutional right to a day in court."

In an interview with in July (, Ms. Edmonds stated that government agencies are afraid of the truth coming out and the whole accountability issue that will arise. "If they were to allow the whole picture to emerge, " she said, "it would just boil down to a whole lot of money and illegal activities." She added, "Certain elected officials will stand trial and go to prison."

– compiled from The Washington Post, The New York Times, United Press International, and
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2005

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

How the CIA breaks prisoners

by T. Trent Gegax

In war, the law of the jungle is a constant lure, especially for soldiers trying to distinguish between detainees who are common criminals, cases of mistaken identity, terrorists, or intelligence subjects. The "rendering" techniques of the CIA, who often assist in Army interrogations, are fuzzy in hewing to Geneva Convention rules. It’s easy to see how a line could be crossed. The long hours can be as rough on the interrogators as it is on the interrogated. The enemy prisoner of war (EPW) must be broken out of his defenses without being blown out of his psyche.

Here’s how a "rendition" — short for "rendering" the enemy unto justice — works, according to a 20-year CIA agent who operates in Iraq. The EPW’s vision is obscured or blinded as they’re taken through yelling and bumping to the interrogation cell. Falls down stairs are common. Once in the cell, he receives a physical to establish a baseline from which to calculate what his body can endure. The CIA agent said that in his experience he was always amazed at how quickly EPWs could fly into their cover stories. They were so good that it was common for U.S. military interrogators to disagree with CIA agents about an EPW’s identification. They admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter accusations. One day, the agent received an Al Qaeda member with two fresh bullet wounds. Before he was medically treated, the suspect sang like bird. After treatment, he gathered his head and shifted his identity.

In the interrogation cell, there’s no day and no night. In addition to an interrogation team of two (they check each other’s temper), a supervisor oversees the session along with an Arabic speaker. Always in a hood, the idea is to keep the EPW as disoriented as possible. He’s kept awake and stood in awkward positions for as long as 24 hours at a time. They kneel or stand, with hands and legs tied, in various states of dress, although the agent doesn’t recall EPWs beingstripped naked. They’re kept from using a toilet until they soil themselves.

Ultimately, the idea is to ingrain a sense of hopelessness. They’re told things like, "You aren’t going to see a lawyer or the courts, you’re not going anywhere anyway, and Osama’s in Syria with your wife who he’s taken as his own wife." Through a variety of methods, the EPWs are left to wonder whether they’ll be killed. Force isn’t used as much as one might assume, the CIA agent said.

Middle Eastern EPWs’ sociability is used against them; they’re more susceptible to isolation than most people. To an Arab or Middle Easterner, according to the CIA agent, the very definition of torture is being alone. They’re accustomed to extended families. Interrogators also play on greed, avarice, pride, and jealousy.

In extreme cases, they use "honey traps" — the lure of sex, which can work even on the most devout Muslims. When deprived of their rituals and plunged into isolation, they often give in to any kind of companionship. At least, that’s what used to be thought of as the extreme cases.

T. Trent Gegax served as an embedded reporter with an Army battalion during the major combat phase of the war in Iraq. His article is edited from, May 8, 2004.

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2004

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

"The issue is that, since 9/11, we’ve changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism,
and created conditions where the ends justify the means."

– unidentified Pentagon consultant, commenting on the abuse of prisoners in Iraq

"The Christian in me says it’s wrong, but the corrections officer in me says,
‘I love to make a grown man piss himself.’"

– Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., Army MP and a prison guard in civilian life,
identified as a leader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
The statement was alleged by Spec. Joseph M. Darby, who first reported the abuse to his superiors.

The guards "treated us like animals, not humans. ... No one showed us mercy."

– Abu Ghraib prisoner, who told investigators he was among those forced to lay in a pile of naked men.

Ex-CIA urge probe of agent outing

A group of ten former CIA intelligence officers is pressing Congressional leaders to open an immediate inquiry into the disclosure last summer of the name of an undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame. Their request, presented in a January 20 letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others, reflects discontent and unrest within the intelligence services about the affair, along with concern that a four-month-old Justice Department investigation may never identify who was behind the leak.

"The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was an unprecedented and shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, has damaged U.S. national security, specifically the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence-gathering using human sources," the group wrote.

The disclosure of the agent’s identity in The Washington Post on July 14 by columnist Robert Novak came shortly after her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, undermined President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. Mr. Novak identified his sources as "two top White House officials."

Current and former intelligence officials say the unmasking of Ms. Plame is an unforgivable breach of secrecy that risks the lives of colleagues and contacts and possibly erases years of intelligence work. It is also a crime that must be investigated and prosecuted.

Anger over the matter is especially acute because of suspicion that the disclosure was made to punish Ms. Plame’s husband for publicly opposing the war in Iraq. An administration official told the Post it was done "purely and simply for revenge."

Critics of the White House, including Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee, have said they fear the administration may eventually call a halt to the Justice Department inquiry by announcing that investigators have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Rep. Holt and several other Democrats introduced legislation on January 21 that would authorize an independent inquiry by the House.

– compiled from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and MSNBC
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2004

"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust
by exposing the name of our sources.
They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."

– George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, April 26, 1999
speaking at the dedication ceremony for the CIA’s George Bush Center for Intelligence

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)