C.I.A arms for Syrian rebels supplied the black market

AMMAN, Jordan — Weapons shipped into Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to American and Jordanian officials. Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, F.B.I. officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons thefts, which ended only months ago after complaints by the American and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time after a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera. The thefts, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlight the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades — even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms — including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades — have led to a flood of new weapons available on the arms black market. Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Amman shooting, run by the bureau’s Washington field office, is continuing. But American and Jordanian officials said the investigators believed that the weapons a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, used to gun down two American contractors, two Jordanians and one South African had originally arrived in Jordan intended for the Syrian rebel-training program. The officials said this finding had come from tracing the serial numbers of the weapons.

The specific motives behind the November shooting at the Amman police training facility remain uncertain, and it is unclear when the F.B.I. will officially conclude its investi-gation. The gunman, was killed almost immediately.

Mohammad H. al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, said allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers had been involved in any weapons thefts were “absolutely incorrect.” He called the Jordanian intelligence service, known as the General Intelligence Directorate, or G.I.D., “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.” In Jordan, the head of the G.I.D. is considered the second most important man after the king.

Husam Abdallat, a senior aide to several past Jordanian prime ministers, said he had heard about the scheme from current Jordanian officials. The G.I.D. has some corrupt officers in its ranks, Mr. Abdallat said, but added that the institution as a whole is not corrupt. “The majority of its officers are patriotic and proud Jordanians who are the country’s first line of defense,” he said.

The State Department did not address the allegations directly, but a spokesman said that America’s relationship with Jordan remained solid.

After the Americans and Saudis complained about the thefts, investigators at the G.I.D. arrested several dozen officers involved, among them a lieutenant colonel running the operation. They were ultimately released from detention and fired from the service, but were allowed to keep their pensions and the money they gained from the scheme, according to Jordanian officials.

Two recent heads of the service, also known as the Mukhabarat, have been sent to prison on charges including embezzlement, money laundering and bank fraud. One of them, Gen. Samih Battikhi, ran the G.I.D. from 1995 to 2000 and was convicted of being part of a scheme to obtain bank loans of around $600 million for fake government contracts and pocketing about $25 million. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but the sentence was eventually reduced to four years that were served in his villa in the seaside town of Aqaba.

Gen. Mohammad al-Dahabi, who ran the service from 2005 to 2008, was later convicted of stealing millions of dollars that G.I.D. officers had seized from Iraqi citizens crossing into Jordan in the years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. His trial showed that he had also arranged for money to be smuggled in private cars from Iraq into Jordan and had been involved in selling Jordanian citizenship to Iraqi businessmen. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and fined tens of millions of dollars.

The training program, which in 2013 began directly arming the rebels under the code name Timber Sycamore, is run by the C.I.A. and several Arab intelligence services and aimed at building up forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The United States and Saudi Arabia are the biggest contributors, with the Saudis contributing both weapons and large sums of money, and with C.I.A. paramilitary operatives taking the lead in training the rebels to use the weapons.

President Obama authorized the covert arming program in April 2013, after more than a year of debate inside the administration about the wisdom of using the C.I.A. to train rebels trying to oust President Assad. The decision was made in part to try to gain control of a chaotic situation in which Arab countries were funneling arms into Syria for various rebel groups with little coordination. By late 2013, the C.I.A. was working directly with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other nations to arm and train small groups of rebels and send them across the border into Syria.

The existence of the program is classified, as are all details about its budget. American officials say that the C.I.A. has trained thousands of rebels in the past three years, and that the fighters made substantial advances on the battlefield against Syrian government forces until Russian military forces — launched last year in support of Mr. Assad — compelled them to retreat.

The program is separate from one that the Pentagon set up to train rebels to combat Islamic State fighters, rather than the Syrian military. That program was shut down after it managed to train only a handful of Syrian rebels.

– edited from The New York Times, June 26, 2016
PeaceMeal, July/August 2016

(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.)

CIA illegally let the wrong people do intelligence work

The CIA violated federal laws and its own internal regulations by hiring independent contractors for a wide variety of intelligence and national security-related work that was supposed to be performed by government employees, according to a CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The report said the CIA “relies heavily on independent contractors to accomplish important facets of its mission,” particularly at the National Clandestine Service, the arm of the agency responsible for covert operations around the world. The June 2012 report, only declassified in March, raised numerous red flags about the CIA’s use of independent contractors throughout all divisions within the agency and for work performed in areas that included covert operations and protective security services overseas. By law, that work must be done by CIA employees.

The OIG reviewed independent contracts into which the agency enters with individuals, who the report said are made up largely of retired CIA case officers. The use of independent contractors by U.S. intelligence agencies exploded after 9/11. At the CIA, the number of contractors working for the agency at one point surpassed the number of actual agency employees.

The OIG said it examined a redacted number of independent contracts and task orders during fiscal year 2010 and examined whether the CIA complied with federal laws and regulations when it outsourced its work. The OIG found that the CIA did not.

“By using [independent contractors] for these functions, [some divisions within the CIA] have improperly transferred government authorities in violation of federal laws and CIA regulations,” said the report, which was marked SECRET/NOFORN, meaning the secret information could not be shared with foreign nationals.

“To put it another way, contractors have been allowed to usurp authority to which they are not entitled,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Federation of Americans Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “Combined with the diminished oversight and accountability that contractors receive, that is an invitation to misconduct.”

The OIG report singled out two offices within the CIA for using independent contractors to perform tasks that should have been carried out by federal employees — the National Clandestine Service and the CIA’s Human Resources/Recruitment Center. The report said the latter entered into contracts with a redacted number of independent contractors “in part, to conduct phone and in- person interviews of applicants for employment within the [National Clandestine Service’s] Professional Trainee and Clandestine Service Trainee Program, which is not in compliance with applicable federal laws” or the CIA’s own internal regula-tions. Federal law explicitly prohibits “the use of contractors for ‘the selection or non-selection of individuals for federal government employment, including the interviewing of individuals for employment.’ ”

The OIG report said the use of independent contractors by the National Clandestine Service is so widespread that it created the “appearance of an employer-employee relationship” between the CIA and the National Clandestine Service's independent contractors, which is a violation of CIA regulation and procedures and federal laws.

One of the most notable of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service contracts is the sole-source contract to create and manage the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” (i.e., torture) program. That contract was awarded to two retired Air Force psychologists who operated and managed the program and was worth $181 million over five years, according to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that investigated the efficacy of the CIA’s program.

The audit report contains a list (completely redacted) of recommendations to address the issues the OIG raised about the CIA’s reliance on independent contractors. “The OIG made multiple recommendations to various [offices] across the Agency as a result of this audit,” said Ryan Trapani, a CIA spokesperson. “All the OIG’s recommendations have been implemented by CIA, and the OIG has deemed those actions as satisfying the recommendations.”

The exact number of independent contractors who worked for the CIA at the time of the OIG’s review also was redacted from the audit report, as was the monetary value of their contracts. The audit found that the CIA could not document its claims that the money the agency spends to outsource its work is reasonable.

Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, said the report shows that CIA officials “have authority to contract with whomever they want, with no paper trail, and to let these privateers do whatever they choose.”

“From the National Clandestine Service to black ops and on down the line, virtually every part of the CIA hires independent contractors, almost all of them being retired case officers who are getting wealthy in the process,” Shorrock said. “Yet there’s virtually no oversight, admittedly no documentation, and, according to the report, 42 percent of the time contractors start work without a written contract or even a task order. This is not what you would expect of a secret intelligence service supposedly protecting the national interest.”

– edited from VICE News, April 27, 2016
PeaceMeal, May/June 2016

(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.)

CIA naked photos scandal is a wake-up call

Trevor Timm

Just as the ugly specter of torture has reared its head once again in the U.S. presidential race, the Guardian has revealed shocking new details of the U.S. government’s brutality during the George W. Bush era. The CIA took photographs of its prisoners while they were naked, bound and some bruised, just before they were to be shipped off to some of the world’s worst dictators at the time — which included Assad, Mubarak and Gaddafi — for torture. The photos were described by a former U.S. official as “very gruesome.”

The report is a stark reminder that the U.S. continues to keep secret, to this day, some of the worst actions of the Bush administration. And it’s all the more relevant given that, after the tragic terrorist attack in Brussels, torture has once again become central to the U.S. political debate.

On national television immediately following the attacks, the Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump again called for waterboarding — a war crime Japanese soldiers were prosecuted for after the Second World War. Trump has also repeatedly claimed he would do “much worse” than waterboarding to captives as president.

Almost worse is the fact that the U.S. media is again feeding into the idea that this should even be up for debate. Today Show anchor Savannah Guthrie, in an interview with Trump, said “some people think that kind of harsh interrogation technique” — the GOP’s cowardly euphemism for illegal torture — “works … and others say that it doesn’t work.” Really? Can she — or anyone — point to a single interrogation expert who thinks torture “works,” besides Bush administration hacks who have never interrogated anyone in their lives?

But let’s put aside the immoral question of “does torture work” for a minute, because it’s essentially like asking “does slavery work.” Waterboarding and other forms of torture used by the U.S. during the Bush administration are blatantly illegal — by statute, by treaty and by the constitution.

But because the Obama administration shamefully refused to prosecute the architects of the torture program — and the Justice Department lawyers who gave them legal cover — war crimes are now merely portrayed as a policy dispute between the two political parties.

Right now, the full Senate CIA torture report, which may shed more light on the photographs that the Guardian reported on, remains locked in a Justice Department safe, where it has sat untouched and unread by investigators in a cynical attempt to prevent it from being made available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.

Separately, the Obama administration has been fighting the ACLU tooth and nail over the release of another set of photos showing how the U.S. military tortured prisoners in overseas prisons shortly after 9/11. A judge has repeatedly ordered the government to release them, but they have been dragging their feet for months.

And so it falls to courageous whistleblowers and investigative journalists to expose the truth. And it’s a truth that all Americans need to hear. Stripping suspects, taking humiliating photographs of them, sending them around the world into the hands of torturers: these sound like the actions of a crazed dictatorship. They should be the stuff of nightmares. In fact, they’re the stuff of American policy in the 21st century. This is the latest in a series of wake-up calls. We ignore it at our peril.

– The Guardian (U.K.), March 28, 2016
PeaceMeal, March/April 2016

(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.)

CIA photographed detainees naked before sending them to be tortured

The CIA took naked photographs of people it sent to its foreign partners for torture, The Guardian can reveal. A former U.S. official who had seen some of the photographs described them as “very gruesome.” The naked photographs from rendition targets are distinct from previously identified caches of torture photos from the U.S. military and the CIA.

The naked imagery of CIA captives raises new questions about the seeming willingness of the United States to use what one medical and human rights expert called “sexual humiliation” in its post-9/11 captivity of terrorism suspects.

In some of the photos, which remain classified, CIA captives are blindfolded, bound and show visible bruises. Some photographs also show people believed to be CIA officials or contractors alongside the naked detainees.

It is not publicly known how many people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively men, were caught in the CIA’s web of so-called “extraordinary renditions,” extra-judicial transfers of detainees to foreign countries, many of which practiced even more brutal forms of torture than the U.S. came to adopt.

The rationale for the naked photography, described by knowledgeable sources, was to insulate the CIA from legal or political ramifications stemming from their brutal treatment in the hands of its partner intelligence agencies. Stripping the victims of clothing was considered necessary to document their physical condition while in CIA custody, distinguishing them at that point from what they would subsequently experience in foreign custody — despite the public diplomatic assurances against torture that the U.S. demonstrably collected from countries with a record of torturing detainees.

“Photographing or videotaping detainees in U.S. custody unrelated to the processing of prisoners or the management of detention facilities can constitute a violation of the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions, in some cases,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and an expert on detainee abuse. “Any evidence that the CIA or any other U.S. government agency intentionally photographed naked detainees should be investigated by law enforcement as a potential violation of domestic and international law,” he added.

The CIA is known to have employed nudity in other aspects of its custody of terrorism suspects. The Senate’s 2014 report revealed that the CIA “routinely” stripped its own detainees nude, although Justice Department officials did not formally approve the practice until 2005. Often the nudity occurred in tandem with other torture techniques, such as shackling and frigid conditions, leading in at least one case to a detainee’s death.

– edited from The Guardian (U.K.), March 28, 2016
PeaceMeal, March/April 2016

(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.)

88 Days to Kandahar’: The CIA in Afghanistan

Book review by Steven Aftergood

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency was tasked to lead the campaign against Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. There were some initial successes, as the Taliban was driven from its strongholds and a new Afghan government rose to power. Yet the process was often chaotic, confused and haphazard.

“Operating at full throttle, constantly improvising, we seldom had occasion to stop and consider what we were doing, or how.”

That statement by Robert L. Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, from his new Afghanistan War memoir, 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary, could serve as a summary of much of the book published by Simon & Schuster.

Although Grenier claims to find romance in the profession of intelligence, there is little or nothing romantic about the exper-iences he describes. Instead, it’s one damn thing after another, often coming at an excruciating cost. Far from clandestinely orchestrating events, he and his fellow CIA operatives are mostly at the mercy of circumstances beyond their ability to control.

“The truth was that I was caught, once again, in the fog of mutual incomprehension between Washington and Islamabad.”

Miscommunication, petty jealousy, equipment failures, manipulative colleagues, bureaucratic rivals and fickle allies all make an appearance in this blow-by-blow account of the opening CIA campaign in Afghanistan.

Mr. Grenier himself seems like a decent sort — competent and well-intentioned. But his story is mostly sad and disturbingly fatalistic. “As I look back, I fail to see how the history of the past dozen-plus years could have been different,” he writes.

Those initial successes against the Taliban were both fortuitous and easily misunderstood. “There was hardly any genius at work in defeating a primitive army, employing primitive tactics, with [our] uncontested airpower and precision-guided munitions.”

With the Bush Administration’s subsequent decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003, U.S. policy making became ever more incoherent and misguided, in Grenier’s telling. As the CIA representative to the National Security Council Deputies’ Committee, “I had a front-row seat on some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in our history. It was a deeply disillusioning experience. ... The meetings I attended at the pinnacle of the foreign policy bureaucracy were notable for what wasn’t said, rather than what was: mendacity and indirection were the orders of the day,” Grenier writes.

It only got worse as operations in Afghanistan dragged on. Yet the Obama Administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces on a fixed, predetermined schedule regardless of other strategic considerations is a fateful mistake, in his opinion.

“The whole enterprise, in my view, was criminal: Hundreds of U.S. servicemen lost their lives, their limbs, or suffered debilitating head injuries to IEDs while on patrol in Kandahar or Helmand, taking territory that their superiors should have known could never be held by Afghan forces.”

“After a span of a dozen years, the longest war in American history, we had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden and degrading the organization responsible for the attacks on our shores. But regarding arguably our most important objective — to deny South-Central Asia as a future safe-haven for international terrorists — a combination of unwise policies, inept execution, and myopic zeal had produced a situation arguably worse than the one with which we started.”

“For all the billions spent and lives lost, there is little to show, and most of that will not long survive our departure.”

Mr. Grenier’s relentlessly grim tale provides a passing portrait of the newly appointed director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, identified only as “Greg V.,” who remains undercover.

– edited from Federation of American Scientists, Feb. 3, 2015
PeaceMeal, March/April 2015

(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.)

Ex-CIA chief Petraeus to plead guilty in affair-related case

David Petraeus.jpg (5073 bytes)Former Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge relating to mishandling classified information in a case arising from the ex-U.S. Army General’s extramarital affair with a female Army Reserve officer, the Justice Department said on March 3. The retired four-star general agreed to plead guilty to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

Petraeus faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison. But under the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed not to oppose a sentence calling for no prison time. The government and his lawyers are recommending the court impose a $40,000 fine and two years of probation.

Petraeus quit his post as CIA director in Nov. 2012 after the extramarital affair became publicly known. A Justice Department investigation had focused on whether he gave his mistress, Paula Broadwell, access to his CIA email account and other highly classified information. Broadwell was writing his biography, titled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, along with another author at the time of the affair.

The Petraeus case is studded with departures from usual practice. By choosing not to file a criminal complaint against Petraeus, the Justice Department avoided airing even more embar-rassing details about what was contained in his “black books”, personal diaries that contained highly sensitive information. But the department’s statement of facts was revealing. In a taped August 4, 2011 interview with Broadwell, Petraeus can be heard saying of his black books, “They’re really — I mean they are highly classified, some of them. They don’t have [top secret] on it, but I mean there’s code word stuff in there.”

Persistently implored by Broadwell, Petraeus later delivered the diaries to a house where she was staying in Washington, D.C. When FBI agents showed up with questions for the former general, according to the government’s statement of facts in the case, Petraeus “stated that (a) he had never provided classified information to his biographer, and (b) that he had never facilitated the provision of classified information to his biographer.”

However, according to Justice Department documents filed with his plea agreement, Petraeus admitted not only that he kept highly classified information in his unsecured home after he resigned from the CIA, but he also shared with Broadwell several of his personal “black books”. When questioned by the FBI, he admitted that he had lied — a felony — but he was only charged with a misdemeanor.

The prosecutors and FBI special agents who worked on the case reportedly wanted Petraeus charged with a felony. But the administration put on the brakes, according to some close observers, in order to keep Petraeus from joining other top former officials in criticizing the president’s handling of foreign policy.

In spite of lying to the FBI and having his CIA security clearance revoked, Petraeus remains a trusted White House adviser. A White House official recently confirmed that Petraeus has been advising the National Security Council on Iraq and the Islamic State (ISIS) since last summer.

A hearing on Petraeus’s plea deal is set for April 27 in Charlotte, N.C., the hometown of Broadwell. While judges routinely rubber-stamp such deals between prosecutors and defendants, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler could decide to ditch the lenient arrangement Petraeus’s attorneys negotiated in favor of something stiffer. The judge could sentence him to up to a year in prison, a $100,000 fine and five years’ probation.

 – compiled from Reuters and Newsweek
PeaceMeal, March/April 2015

(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.)

Senate Intelligence Committee chair moves to suppress CIA torture report

The new Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, sent a letter dated January 14 to the White House demanding the Obama administration return all copies of the full report on CIA torture, whose executive summary was made public in December. The request is unprecedented in relations between the legislative and executive branches, where historically it is usually the legislature seeking more information and the executive branch declining to provide it.

In this case, the legislative branch is seeking to recall — and likely suppress — copies of a report which the new majority in the Senate regards as too critical of the CIA and too revealing of the methods employed by the intelligence agency in its brutal interrogations of prisoners at secret “black site” facilities in Europe and Asia, as well as at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Senate Intelligence Committee produced a 6,963-page report on the CIA torture program, which still remains completely secret. The 512-page executive summary was released December 9, albeit with extensive redactions and with dissenting opinions by the Republican minority on the panel and by the CIA itself.

Even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency, the summary is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach. The summary says that the torture by CIA interrogators and private contractors was “brutal and far worse” than the agency has admitted to the public, to Congress and the Justice Department, even to the White House. Techniques used included waterboarding, sadistic beatings, sodomizing prisoners through “rectal rehydration”, and lengthy sleep deprivation lasting for days. Videotapes of some waterboarding sessions were destroyed upon the order of Josť Rodriguez, the CIA official who oversaw the torture program.

While official Washington and the corporate-controlled media have largely shelved the report after an initial flurry of publicity, the executive summary has become a best seller with the American public. The entire 50,000-copy first printing released as a paperback book on December 31was sold out the first day.

Senator Burr did not give any public explanation for seeking the return of copies of the full report, but press accounts suggested that he was seeking to put the document out of reach of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, which applies to the executive branch but not to Congress.

Burr has defended the brutal practices employed by CIA interrogators. He has also denounced the Intelligence Committee report’s conclusion that CIA officials lied to both Congress and the White House about the torture program and its results.

The Republican senator has adamantly opposed any investigation into CIA crimes since he joined the Intelligence Committee. He was once quoted saying that he opposed any public hearings of any kind on the activities of the United States intelligence apparatus on grounds of “national security.”

In opposition, North Carolina Republican Representative Walter Jones issued a statement that there are “many crimes worthy of prosecution” detailed in the Senate report on the CIA’s use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other harsh treatment of detainees after 9/11.

The report sparked controversy all over the world, prompting President Barack Obama to say that the CIA’s rights violations “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, said that senior U.S. officials who authorized and tortured prisoners in agreement with former President George W. Bush’s security policy after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks should be made accountable for com-mitting crimes against humanity. “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy ... must be brought to justice and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes,” Emmerson said. International law prohibits granting immunity to government officials who allow the use of torture.

The Senate report reveals that the CIA spent “well over” $300 million on its covert detention and interrogation program. The money funded an elaborate operation including the detention centers themselves. Additional cash was used to “show appreciation” to host countries that housed the black sites. But many specifics, such as the names of countries and precise costs, are redacted from the grisly report. Media reports suggest that the CIA had secret prisons in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand.

Several Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee publicly opposed Burr’s actions. Senator Diane Feinstein issued a statement January 20 saying, “I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary.” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said returning the document would “aid defenders of torture who are seeking to cover up the facts and rewrite the historical record.”

These Democrats, however, all accepted the countless redactions demanded by the CIA in the executive summary, with the support of the White House, and have rubber-stamped Obama’s decision that neither the CIA torturers nor the George W. Bush White House and Justice Department officials who approved the torture program would be prosecuted. They agreed from the very beginning to focus the investigation solely on the CIA itself, and leave out President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top officials who ordered and sanctioned torture and created the spurious “legal” rationales for it.

– compiled and edited from Global Research, The New York Times, Associated Press, News & Observer (Raleigh N.C.) and CNN Money
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2015

(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.)

‘No American is proud’ of CIA tactics, State Dept. says

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks, a report that accuses the agency of brutally treating terror suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document.

“This report tells a story of which no American is proud,” says the four-page White House document, which contains the State Department’s preliminary proposed talking points in response to the classified Senate report, a summary of which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

“But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud,” adds the document. “America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.”

The Senate report concludes that the CIA’s techniques on al-Qaida detainees captured after the 2001 attacks were far more brutal than previously understood. The tactics failed to produce life-saving intelligence, the report asserts, and the CIA misled Congress and the Justice Department about the interrogation program.

Current and former CIA officials hotly dispute those findings, as do some Senate Republicans. The fight over the report has poisoned the relationship between the CIA and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee and left the White House in a delicate position. President Barack Obama has branded some CIA techniques torture and ordered them stopped, but he also relies heavily on the spy agency, which still employs hundreds of people who were involved in some way in the interrogation program.

The report does not draw the legal conclusion that the CIA’s actions constituted torture, though it makes clear that in some cases they amounted to torture by a common definition.

The Senate report, the State Department proposes to say, “leaves no doubt that the methods used to extract information from some terrorist suspects caused profound pain, suffering and humiliation. It also leaves no doubt that the harm caused by the use of these techniques outweighed any potential benefit.”

Those methods included slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold, sleep deprivation, and the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The White House document lists a series of questions that appear to be designed to gauge what reporters, members of Congress and others might ask about the Obama administration’s response to the Senate report: “Doesn’t the report make clear that at least some who authorized or participated in the RDI program committed crimes?” the document asks, referring to the program’s formal internal name, the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. “Will the Justice Department revisit its decision not to prosecute anyone?

And: “Until now the (U.S. government) has avoided conceding that the techniques used in the RDI program constituted torture. Now that the report is released, is the White House prepared to concede that people were tortured?”

The document also says, “Isn’t it clear that the CIA engaged in torture as defined in the Torture Convention?”

It also sheds new light on what the Senate report says about the State Department’s role in the CIA interrogation program. It concludes that the CIA initially kept the secretary of state and some U.S. ambassadors in the dark about harsh techniques and secret prisons. The report also says some ambassadors who were informed about interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at so-called black sites in their countries were instructed not to tell their superiors at the State Department, according to the document.

A former senior CIA official said the secretary of state at the time, Colin Powell, eventually was informed about the program and sat in meetings in which harsh interrogation techniques were discussed. But Powell may not have been read in when the techniques were first used in 2002. Ambassadors in countries in which the CIA set up black sites to interrogate prisoners were usually told about it, said the official, who, like others interviewed for this story, would not be quoted by name because some of the information remained classified.

– edited from The Associated Press, July 31, 2014
Peacemeal, Sept/October 2014

(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 CIA’s moral black hole

Editorial by The Baltimore Sun, April 3, 2014

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted April 3 to declassify portions of its report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to extract information from terrorist detainees, but portions of the work that have been leaked appear to confirm Americans’ worst fears about the secret program. Committee investigators found that the brutal treatment of prisoners was far more widespread than the agency has admitted and that CIA officials deliberately misled Congress about the effectiveness of methods that brought shame on the nation and amounted to little more than torture by another name.

Indeed, the greatest irony of the interrogation program was precisely that it failed to uncover the kind of useful intelligence in the war on terror that the agency claimed as its main reason for being. In fact, Senate investigators couldn’t find a single instance in which information gained through torture led to the capture or killing of high-ranking terrorist operatives or helped thwart a major attack on the American homeland by al-Qaida and its affiliates. On the contrary, whatever useful intelligence the agency did glean from the suspects it captured was obtained by more traditional means before they were ever tortured — and ceased as soon as they were.

The Senate committee investigators also charged that to cover up the fact that the interrogation program wasn’t working as advertised, CIA officials repeatedly lied to Congress about the real sources of their information. In one case, for example, the agency went so far as to take credit for intelligence that was actually generated by an FBI agent who interviewed the suspect before the CIA started torturing him. Even so, CIA officials later reported that the U.S. couldn’t have gotten such useful information had it not been for its secret interrogation program.

That the agency continued to torture detainees long after it became evident that no useful information was forthcoming — and despite it being plainly immoral and a violation of international law — raises questions about its true purpose and the motives of those who ordered it and carried it out. That’s bad enough, but what was worse was that, as a result, the agency put itself in a position that forced it to routinely inflate the significance of the alleged terrorist plots it claimed to have thwarted as well as the importance of enemy combatants captured on the battlefield. It’s hard not to conclude that the agency’s resistance to ending the program or to holding anyone accountable for its abuses was based more on a desire to save its own skin rather than to serve the country.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Intelligence Committee chairwoman, is leading the effort to release the 480-page executive summary of her committee’s report, which runs some 6,300 pages in total. It now goes to President Obama for review and possible redaction. Mr. Obama entered office in 2009 on a pledge to rein in the CIA’s use of torture, and we urge him to promptly make public the evidence of this most shameful episode in our history. It’s necessary not only to galvanize Congress and the White House to greater oversight of intelligence community operations but also because the American people deserve to know the grisly details of the crimes committed in their name so that they will never be allowed to happen again.

– PeaceMeal, May/June 2014

(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.)

Secret C.I.A. arms cache most likely kept in Texas

In passing references scattered through once-classified documents and cryptic public comments by former intelligence officials, it is referred to as “Midwest Depot,” but the bland code name belies the role it has played in some of the C.I.A.’s most storied operations. From the secret facility, located somewhere in the United States, the C.I.A. has stockpiled and distributed untraceable weapons linked to preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of rebels and resistance fighters from Angola to Nicaragua to Afghanistan.

Yet despite hints that the “Midwest” was not actually where it was located, the secrecy surrounding the C.I.A. armory has survived generations of investigations. But three years ago, it became public that the C.I.A. had some kind of secret installation at Camp Stanley, an Army weapons depot just north of San Antonio and the former Kelly Air Force Base, though its purpose was unclear. And now, a retired C.I.A. analyst, Allen Thomson, has assembled a mosaic of documentation suggesting that it is most likely the home of Midwest Depot.

“I have worried about the extent to which the U.S. has spread small arms around over the decades to various parties it supported,” Mr. Thomson said. “Such weapons are pretty durable and, after the cause du jour passed, where did they go? To be a little dramatic about it, how many of those AK-47s and RPG-7s we see Islamists waving around today passed through the Midwest Depot on their way to freedom fighters in past decades?”

There is no outward indication of what would be one of the C.I.A.’s three known facilities in the United States, along with its headquarters in Langley, Va., and Camp Peary, a military base near Williamsburg, Va., known by its code name, “The Farm,” that is believed to be used for training. Camp Stanley has a low-key gated entrance, and a few nondescript warehouses are visible from its perimeter fence. Satellite images reveal rows of storage bunkers nestled deeper into the base.

The New York Times identified Camp Stanley as the C.I.A. site in 2011, based on court records from an insurance lawsuit brought by a C.I.A. official who had lived with his family in a government-owned house there a decade earlier. His family grew severely ill from exposure to a toxin in the house and all their possessions were destroyed.

The 2011 Times article caught the eye of Mr. Thomson, who worked for the C.I.A. from 1972 to 1985 and now lives in San Antonio. He searched through declassified documents and old articles, accumulating clues. Several of the documents he found traced Midwest Depot’s role without identifying its location, including a 1967 C.I.A. memo linking it to paramilitary training of Cuban exiles before the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and a 1987 State Department memo showing that equipment bound for the Nicaraguan contras passed through it.

The Times separately identified a 1963 C.I.A. memo discussing 300 tons of C-4 plastic explosives that were available in the “Midwest Depot stocks.” There were no restrictions on its use “because the items have world-wide distribution and are consequently deniable.”

In a 2009 interview, a former C.I.A. logistics officer said AK-47 rifles sent to the Northern Alliance after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks came from the C.I.A.’s Midwest Depot stockpiles. Arms funneled to anti-Marxist fighters in the Angolan civil war in the 1970s did, too, another former C.I.A. official said this month, while emphasizing that he was never told its location.

Mr. Thomson found an explicit reference in a 1986 memo by Col. Oliver North, a chief figure in the Iran-contra affair. It said the C.I.A. would truck missiles bound for Iran from a military arsenal “to Midwest Depot, Texas,” for preparation, then fly them out of Kelly Air Force Base. Connecting Midwest Depot to yet another historical episode, it added that some missiles would go to “Afghan resistance” fighters battling the Soviets.

Just last July, according to another document Mr. Thomson spotted, the Army sought to purchase two million rounds of ammunition of the caliber that fits AK-47 rifles, which American soldiers do not use. The delivery address: Camp Stanley.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the C.I.A. declined to comment, but a March 2010 solicitation for environmental cleanup at Camp Stanley emphasized that workers needed security clearances. “The installation stores large quantities of arms and ammunition and has sensitive missions, thus access to the installation and security clearance requirements for long-term personnel are much more restrictive than most military installations,” it said.

– edited from The New York Times, May 4, 2014
Peacemeal, May/June 2014

(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.)