Archive for the 'CIA' Category



Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

I just want to know.

General Petraeus.  Once you get settled in over at the C.I.A., can you check around the closets or under the desks at Langley and see if there are any covert ops people left?   I know we are too high-tech for that sort of thing nowadays, but every so often a job comes up that just can’t be done by the drones or the snooping satellites or wire intercepts.

The Washington Post publishes this article concerning the rising numbers of Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition:

WADI KHALED, Lebanon — A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement.

For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions, a Facebook page and a relatively small number of defected soldiers and officers who have taken refuge on the borderlands of Turkey and Lebanon or among civilians in Syria’s cities.

Many of its claims appear exaggerated or fanciful, such as its boasts to have shot down a helicopter near Damascus this month and to have mustered a force of 10,000 to take on the Syrian military.

But it is clear that defections from the Syrian military have been accelerating in recent weeks, as have levels of violence in those areas where the defections have occurred.

“It is the beginning of armed rebellion,” said Gen. Riad Asaad, the dissident army’s leader, who defected from the air force in July and took refuge in Turkey.

The article goes to great lengths to point out that the group does not have much clout at the moment but also notes:

There are nonetheless signs that the Free Syrian Army is expanding and organizing as reports of violent encounters increase. The group has announced the formation of 12 battalions around the country that regularly post claims on the group’s Facebook page, including bombings against military buses and ambushes at checkpoints.

This type of reporting is to be taken with more than a grain of salt, particularly in light of the lack of any reporters inside of Syria verifying the claims  (Calling Geraldo:  report to your choice of border crossings into Syria).  At the same time, it is only natural that protesters who are regularly attacked, beaten, tortured and killed will want to take up arms and at least try to defend themselves.   Given that the Assad Regime has been a major supplier of insurgents and armaments into Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and actively does the bidding of Iran in Lebanon, the U.S. has a keen interest in seeing him toppled.

What perfect justice for the U.S. to return the favor to Assad tenfold by infiltrating weapons into Syria from western Iraq.

But does the U.S. even have that capability?  And if we do, would this Administration actually follow through?

How does the U.S. influence the future of Syria?  At some point, when the Assad Regime continues to kill and torture its citizens, the U.S. must do more than just offer a rhetorical bone to the opposition.    Connections are made and relationships formed by providing material assistance (even if covert) to the opposition groups in Syria who at least have a willingness to work with the U.S.   How do we know that we will not be supplying weapons and training to Islamist militants?

That requires actual intelligence officers and human sources inside Syria.

General Petraeus, do you have anyone like that around the office?

CIA Operatives Engaged in War on Mexican Cartels

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

From The New York Times:

The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new  C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of  turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.

In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.

Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.

“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling:  we will together succeed or together fail.”

Robert Haddick writing for Foreign Policy observes:

Policymakers responsible for the U.S. assistance effort in Mexico seem to be applying some lessons learned during America’s decade of war. The intelligence analysis centers the U.S. contractors are now setting up in Mexico are innovations developed by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and elsewhere. As described by General Stanley McChrystal in an essay he wrote for Foreign Policy, the centers are deliberately located down at the tactical level and gather collectors and analysts across intelligence agencies together in one room. The goal is to improve collaboration and more rapidly respond to incoming information and adversary activity. A decade of practical experience across the globe has refined this concept, which the United States is now exporting to Mexico.

We’ve heard this before – this notion of shared organic intelligence assets, different perspectives from different agencies working in concert and in real time, the employment of electronic assets and signals intelligence combined with on the spot analysis, all being used by real operators on the ground who know more about their enemies than they know about themselves – and it has become folklore that General McChrystal and his special operators hitting high value targets put an end to the insurgency in Iraq.  It’s a narrative that I reject, and it isn’t born out of good historiography.  It’s just myth that high value target hits won the campaign in Iraq.

Forecast: We shouldn’t oppose high value target hits in the war on the cartels, since they seem to operate with a more centralized focus than classical insurgencies (which tend more towards swarm theory).   But this will not itself end the cartels, or even hold their growth and the increase in terror in abatement.  This will prove to be a failed effort if it is the only point of impact in the campaign.

The tools exist to seal the border (Marines deployed to combat outposts on the border, with loosened rules for the use of force, conducting daily patrols and combining their efforts with force multipliers such as drones, increased numbers of border agents and comprehensive searches of all vehicles crossing the border, etc.).  The question is will they ever be put to use, and this is a direct function of the will to win the campaign against the cartels?

Was The CIA Behind Operation Fast And Furious?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Robert Farago has a hard hitting report at The Washington Times.

Why did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) let criminals buy firearms, smuggle them across the Mexican border and deliver them into the hands of vicious drug cartels? The ATF claims it launched its now-disgraced Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 to catch the “big fish.” Fast and Furious was designed to stem the “Iron River” flowing from American gun stores into the cartels’ arsenals. The bureau says it allowed gun smuggling so it could track the firearms and arrest the cartel members downstream. Not true.

During the course of Operation Fast and Furious, about 2,000 weapons moved from U.S. gun stores to Mexican drug cartels – exactly as intended.

In congressional testimony, William Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division, testified that the Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were “full partners” in Operation Fast and Furious. Mr. Newell’s list left out the most important player: the CIA. According to a CIA insider, the agency had a strong hand in creating, orchestrating and exploiting Operation Fast and Furious.

The CIA’s motive is clear enough: The U.S. government is afraid the Los Zetas drug cartel will mount a successful coup d’etat against the government of Felipe Calderon.

Founded by ex-Mexican special forces, the Zetas already control huge swaths of Mexican territory. They have the organization, arms and money needed to take over the entire country.

Former CIA pilot Robert Plumlee and former CIA operative and DEA Director Phil Jordan recently said the brutally efficient Mexican drug cartel has stockpiled thousands of weapons to disrupt and influence Mexico’s national elections in 2012. There’s a very real chance the Zetas cartel could subvert the political process completely, as it has throughout the regions it controls.

In an effort to prevent a Los Zetas takeover, Uncle Sam has gotten into bed with the rival Sinaloa cartel, which has close ties to the Mexican military. Recent court filings by former Sinaloa cartel member Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, currently in U.S. custody, reveal that the United States allowed the Sinaloas to fly a 747 cargo plane packed with cocaine into American airspace – unmolested.

The CIA made sure the trade wasn’t one-way. It persuaded the ATF to create Operation Fast and Furious – a “no strings attached” variation of the agency’s previous firearms sting. By design, the ATF operation armed the Mexican government’s preferred cartel on the street level near the American border, where the Zetas are most active.

Operation Fast and Furious may not have been the only way the CIA helped put lethal weapons into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel and its allies, but it certainly was an effective strategy. If drug thugs hadn’t murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with an ATF- provided weapon, who knows how many thousands more guns would have crossed the U.S. border?

If Robert’s report is accurate, the list of culpability runs from the ATF to the DEA to the FBI and … now … to the CIA as perhaps the ringmaster.  One very astute commenter to one article I wrote about the Mexican cartels adopting military tactics has pressed down on me for details in my recommendation to utilize the U.S. military in response to cartel violence (as he should – I have some of the best readers on the web, and they help keep me honest).  Would I use combat outposts, would I use ex-infantry and role them into the border patrol, would I use invasive techniques, and so on.  I have been struggling mightily to craft a cogent and coherent response, while also keeping in the back of my mind that there are stipulations: Tennessee v. Garner for the use of force, the Posse Comitatus Act, the sovereignty of neighboring nations to consider, the Arms Export Control Act, etc., etc.

It seems that the CIA (and someone higher in the administration?) doesn’t care about the law as much as I do.  We’ve decided to take sides in the Mexican cartel war as a means to keep the current Mexican administration in power.  And this possibly runs to the top of the CIA, and recently confirmed defense secretary Leon Panetta.  This is just a horrible, horrible commentary on the curent U.S. administration and the lengths to which they are willing to go to skirt the law.

UPDATE #1: Agent Terry’s family has been denied crime victim status in Gun Walker case.

Coffey and others wonder if Burke has a conflict. It was his office that led Operation Fast and Furious. The operation, while executed by agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was managed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. Hurley drafted the response to the family’s motion. It was signed by Burke.

Congressional investigators are expected to subpoena both to appear before the House Government and Oversight Committee next month to answer questions about the flawed operation that put some 2,000 weapons in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel.

LaJeunesse goes on to speculate that Avila might have cut a deal with prosecutors that would keep him out of jail, a development that would go over especially poorly if Terry’s family was seated in the courtroom, armed with official crime victim status.  The family may also be considering a wrongful death suit against the federal government, which would involve Burke.  Victim status would pump a lot of energy into that case.

Note again.  His own family has been denied crime victim status.  With this threshold, who could have ever met the criteria, whatever it is, for crime victim?

To Act or Not to Act? Libya is the Question

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 9 months ago

Ross Douthat sets forth a thin, but significant piece about the ongoing debate over military intervention in Libya.

First, he remarks that there is surprisingly little residual reluctance to take action in a Arab-muslim nation such as Libya after the U.S. experience in Iraq.

Five years ago, in the darkest days of insurgent violence and Sunni-Shia strife, it seemed as if the Iraq war would shadow American foreign policy for decades, frightening a generation’s worth of statesmen away from using military force. Where there had once been a “Vietnam syndrome,” now there would be an “Iraq syndrome,” inspiring harrowing flashbacks to Baghdad and Falluja in any American politician contemplating an intervention overseas.

But in today’s Washington, no such syndrome is in evidence. Indeed, it’s striking how quickly the bipartisan coalition that backed the Iraq invasion has reassembled itself to urge President Obama to use military force against Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Next he cites the surprising diversity and number of people calling for some form of intervention in Libya.

Now a similar chorus is arguing that the United States should intervene directly in Libya’s civil war: with a no-flight zone, certainly, and perhaps with arms for the Libyan rebels and air strikes against Qaddafi’s military as well. As in 2002 and 2003, the case for intervention is being pushed by a broad cross-section of politicians and opinion-makers, from Bill Clinton to Bill Kristol, Fareed Zakaria to Newt Gingrich, John Kerry to Christopher Hitchens.

Douthat, however, believes that American leadership has not learned the clear lessons of Iraq.   He explains:

In reality, there are lessons from our years of failure in Iraq that can be applied to an air war over Libya as easily as to a full-scale invasion or counterinsurgency. Indeed, they can be applied to any intervention — however limited its aims, multilateral its means, and competent its commanders.

One is that the United States shouldn’t go to war unless it has a plan not only for the initial military action, but also for the day afterward, and the day after that. Another is that the United States shouldn’t go to war without a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.

Moreover, even with the best-laid plans, warfare is always a uniquely high-risk enterprise — which means that the burden of proof should generally rest with hawks rather than with doves, and seven reasonable-sounding reasons for intervening may not add up to a single convincing case for war.

Are these really the lessons to be learned from the war in Iraq?

I don’t think so.

First, Douthat believes that no military action, no matter how small, should be undertaken unless there is detailed planning for every, possible contingency.  This is palpable nonsense.  Clearly there are occasions when military action can be taken– indeed must be taken at times– without volumes of risk assessment and contingency planning.   To harp on just one, the Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden clearly does not require obsessive planning for each and every use of force.  As posted by the Captain before, the only planning needed for dealing with pirates is whether to use an additional drum of ammunition in dispatching them.

Advanced, detailed planning of the sort envisioned by Douthat is not needed in responding forcefully to clear, hostile provocations, such as the Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf in the 1980′s.  Indeed, this obsessive, over-planning mentality is not only a hindrance to effective military action but a danger as it threatens to negate one of America’s greatest tactical military advantages:  the spirit of initiative and innovation of our military commanders and line units.

Moreover, even if it were possible to engage in this kind of obsessive pre-planning, what good would result?  It is axiomatic in war, Bismarck tells us, that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.   If Douthat wants a clear lesson from the Iraq war, surely Bismarck’s advice is one that is conveniently forgotten in the rush to blame and criticize the Iraq campaign.

Secondly, Douthat believes that no military action can be undertaken without “a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.”  Granted, as Sun Tzu said, it is best to know as much about your enemy as possible.  The problem is that Douthat’s fine-sounding advice is of little use outside of the faculty room or the halls of think tanks.   Yes, our nation needs to have an ongoing program that seeks to deepen our understanding of potential adversaries (not to mention allies).  This used to be the province of the C.I.A. and D.I.A.   Perhaps, in light of the sclerotic record, we should no longer take that for granted.  Nevertheless, this understanding must already exist and permeate the counsels of the President as a given when any military action is being considered.

It is not the kind of thing that exists in its own sphere.   To Douthat, it seems as an either-or proposition:  we either understand Libya, for example, or we do not.   In reality, we understand some things about Libya and its people and do not understand others (just as we understand some things about everything under the sun– with the possible exception of liberals who appear incomprehensible, even among themselves).   There is no point at which leaders can say, we understand everything about this nation.  There are gaps.   There are cultural blinders.  We must act within these parameters, not wait until we have achieved some mystical level of enlightenment.

Thirdly, Douthat argues for a rule that the “hawks” have the overwhelming “burden of proof” in any consideration for military action given the inherent risks and costs of war.

Certainly there is some sense in this.  Particularly as the scale of the action increases.  But Douthat’s rule here is more a reflection of his own predilections than an objective measure.   In other words, he argues that those advocating military intervention be forced to prove the merits of it, presumably beyond either a shadow of a doubt (the criminal standard of proof) or at least by a preponderance of the evidence (the civil legal standard).   But this is because, to Douthat, the costs and risks of acting far outweigh the costs and risks of inaction.  That is his preference (and likely that of most on the Left and in the Democrat party).   But a strong argument can be made that the costs and risks of inaction are no less than that of taking action and there is an abundance of historical examples too numerous to cite.

The Iraq war does not teach us that the so-called “hawks” should have been forced to prove their case beyond all doubt or debate.   Just the opposite.  Iraq is an example of action being taken where many of the risks were unknown and unknowable.   We can be fairly certain that inaction would have resulted in Saddam remaining in power, continuing to evade sanctions and increasing his capacity for mayhem, including WMDs. Thankfully, we took action and there is, at the very least, a struggling democracy with the hope of progress and of no threat to the U.S. or U.S. allies.

Applying Douthat’s rules to Libya is a foregone conclusion for inaction and timidity.  Here is Douthat’s conclusion:

Advocates of a Libyan intervention don’t seem to have internalized these lessons. They have rallied around a no-flight zone as their Plan A for toppling Qaddafi, but most military analysts seem to think that it will fail to do the job, and there’s no consensus on Plan B. Would we escalate to air strikes? Arm the rebels? Sit back and let Qaddafi claim to have outlasted us?

If we did supply the rebels, who exactly would be receiving our money and munitions? Libya’s internal politics are opaque, to put it mildly. But here’s one disquieting data point, courtesy of the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum: Eastern Libya, the locus of the rebellion, sent more foreign fighters per capita to join the Iraqi insurgency than any other region in the Arab world.

And if the civil war dragged on, what then? Twice in the last two decades, in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, the United States has helped impose a no-flight zone. In both cases, it was just a stepping-stone to further escalation: bombing campaigns, invasion, occupation and nation-building.

None of this means that an intervention is never the wisest course of action. But the strategic logic needs to be compelling, the threat to our national interest obvious, the case for war airtight.

“Airtight” ?  That is a standard that will never be met in the real world.

I do not advocate direct military intervention in Libya, necessarily.  But the arguments by Douthat are spurious ones, designed to throw impossible obstacles in the way of action while seeming to be reasonable and leaving open the possibility for the use of force.

What I do advocate, however, is an American foreign policy that pursues American interests first.  Not the E.U.  Not the U.N.   Not the cheese-eaters and wine-tasters of the D.C. Beltway or that nebulous “world opinion.”

When I look at Libya I see, first and foremost, a dictator that has been a constant enemy of America; someone who ordered the bombing of a civilian airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland and still has innocent American blood on his hands to account for; someone who has toyed with nukes in the past and funds all manner of terrorists abroad.   If an opportunity arises to rid the earth of such a person, then serious consideration must be given.

This need not mean land invasion or no-fly zone.  There was a time when the U.S. possessed covert resources that could tip the scales in our favor in time of need.   If the U.S. lacks those covert resources now, that is to our everlasting shame and cannot be tolerated.  At one time, if I recall, the mujaheddin in Afghanistan found themselves in possession of Stinger anti-air missiles that were crucial in negating Soviet air power, leading eventually to a humiliating retreat by the Soviets.  With our advanced electronics assets, is it impossible for us to track down Qaddafi’s whereabouts and put an anonymous J-DAM into his bathroom window?

The point being that there exist an array of options, short of outright ground troops or decades-long air patrols, that can be employed to take out the dictator.   What happens next is a job for our diplomatic corps and the contingent of spooks that can be sent in to help things along toward a favorable outcome.   But people like Douthat only want to deal in terms of extremes.  If we can’t invade, we can’t do anything.  Nonsense.  Douthat is doing nothing more than providing a fig leaf to Obama’s congenital indecisiveness.   The heat is on for Obama to do something and Douthat wants to give Obama some cover.   Nothing new there.

But as an argument, it does not stand up.   To be sure there are risks to taking action.  There may be unintended consequences.  But, if worse comes to worse and Libya, however improbably, sinks lower than Qaddafi’s vile government, there are always options.  Always.

CIA Involved in Climate Change Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

So you say that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has become a joke?

With United Nations climate negotiators facing an uphill battle to advance their goal of reducing emissions linked to global warming, it’s no surprise that the woman steering the talks appealed to a Mayan goddess Monday.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

She called for “a balanced outcome” which would marry financial and emissions commitments from industrialized countries aimed at combating climate change with “the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.”

“Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.”

One would think that the revelations about the shysters at the University of East Anglia would have at least held the hoax in abatement or slowed it a little.  Not if the CIA has anything to do with it.

Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial “Copenhagen accord”, the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.

Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries’ negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental “treaty circumvention” and deals between nations.

Rather than seeking out ways to effect regime change in Iran, the CIA is spending time on AGW.  Is it even possible at this point to rebuild the edifice of national intelligence that has been dismantled over the last three administrations?  Is it too far gone at this point?  Have we lost entirely the capability to do covert information gathering and warfare in our focus on things like AGW and … ahem … [wink] … domestic extremists?

New York Times to Release Names of Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

From Brad Thor:

I have just received word that the New York Times is preparing to go public with a list of names of Americans covertly working in Afghanistan providing force protection for our troops, as well as the rest of our Coalition Forces. If the Times actually sees this through, the red ink they are drowning in will be nothing compared to the blood their entire organization will be covered with. Make no mistake, the Times is about to cause casualty rates in Afghanistan to skyrocket. Each and every American should be outraged.

As chronicled here, here, here, and here the Central Intelligence Agency via the New York Times has been waging a nasty proxy war against the Department of Defense over its use of former military and intelligence personnel to do what the CIA is both incapable and unwilling to do: gather the much needed intelligence that keeps our troops safe.

Here Brad is referring to the con job that Robert Young Pelton and Eason Jordan did on the NYT to assist them in their fight against the DoD for usurping what they saw as their own dollars.  Continuing with Brad’s comments:

… thanks to the beating the folks on the 7th floor at Langley and the New York Timeshave taken in the blogosphere, they are about to go for broke and to do so in a fashion so grotesque that every American should be moved to action.

These morbidly conjoined twins have entered dangerous territory. They are not only putting at risk the lives of the brave men and women working day and night to keep our troops safe (who, along with their families, will surely be targeted for retribution by al Qaeda and the Taliban), but they are also calling down a host of legal woes via the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (made famous in the Valerie Plame affair under the George W. Bush Administration) as the intelligence gathered and reported on by the Defense Department operatives in question is most definitely classified.

So while the New York Times stands ready to once again put American lives at grave risk in order to sell a few more papers, the Central Intelligence Agency appears committed to its misguided “Kappes Doctrine”, (so named for Leon Panetta’s number-two man, who many in the intel game blame for being the “hidden hand in many of the nation’s intelligence failures”). Per the Kappes Doctrine, which was so disastrously tied to the F.O.B. Chapman attack, the Agency is happy to pay foreign intel services to take the risks as long as the CIA can take the credit (and in this case, continue to claim that what the Department of Defense is doing every day on the ground in Afghanistan can’t be done).

There are a number of questions raised by this report.  Who are the operatives to which Brad refers?  It cannot possibly be military contractors, who now outnumber our own troops in Afghanistan.  It would seem unlikely that the operatives are CIA employees, since the NYT has indeed been assisting the CIA in its war against the DoD.  It would also seem unlikely that the operatives are U.S. special operations forces.  Not even the NYT would be privy to that information.  Who is covertly working in Afghanistan supplying force protection?  Force protection is a very overt affair, but Brad may mean force protection via intelligence gathering and assessment.

If so, then apparently the NYT is still embroiled in the same tired and absurd war against DoD intelligence contractors.  What’s so ironic about this is that the NYT is allowing itself to become a pawn in an internecine fight between the CIA and DoD.  Finally, I hope that Brad’s information is good.  I can see this information being a ruse.  On the other hand, if it’s true, leave it to the NYT to harm national security.  They have the experience to do it right.

The War Against the CIA

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

I have been loath to weigh in on the issue of torture, waterboarding, the intelligence gleaned from such methods, and in general the whole issue of detainees in the war on terror.  I feel that there are too many people weighing in who don’t know enough information to be useful, and I don’t need to add to that number.  Regarding waterboarding I must rely on friends of mine who have undergone the procedure in SERE training.  One friend in particular informs me that it is terrifying, but in his opinion, not torture.  As those who go through SERE training know, you spend some time doing not only that, but also spend some time in a 55 gallon barrel.

But as my friend also informs me, “I would tell them anything they wanted to hear in order to stop the process.”  So the question naturally arises as to the usefulness of the procedure and whether actionable intelligence is really gleaned.  But we can add to this knowledge with the experience of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

After enduring the CIA’s harshest interrogation methods and spending more than a year in the agency’s secret prisons, Khalid Sheik Mohammed stood before U.S. intelligence officers in a makeshift lecture hall, leading what they called “terrorist tutorials.”

In 2005 and 2006, the bearded, pudgy man who calls himself the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks discussed a wide variety of subjects, including Greek philosophy and al-Qaeda dogma. In one instance, he scolded a listener for poor note-taking and his inability to recall details of an earlier lecture.

Speaking in English, Mohammed “seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of al-Qaeda and the group’s plans, ideology and operatives,” said one of two sources who described the sessions, speaking on the condition of anonymity because much information about detainee confinement remains classified. “He’d even use a chalkboard at times.”

These scenes provide previously unpublicized details about the transformation of the man known to U.S. officials as KSM from an avowed and truculent enemy of the United States into what the CIA called its “preeminent source” on al-Qaeda. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques.

“KSM, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete,” according to newly unclassified portions of a 2004 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general released Monday by the Justice Department.

The debate over the effectiveness of subjecting detainees to psychological and physical pressure is in some ways irresolvable, because it is impossible to know whether less coercive methods would have achieved the same result. But for defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear: Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture March 1, 2003, as the inspector general’s report and other documents released this week indicate.

Over a few weeks, he was subjected to an escalating series of coercive methods, culminating in 7 1/2 days of sleep deprivation, while diapered and shackled, and 183 instances of waterboarding. After the month-long torment, he was never waterboarded again.

“What do you think changed KSM’s mind?” one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding. “Of course it began with that.”

Mohammed, in statements to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said some of the information he provided was untrue.

“During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time,” he said.

So we have learned that on the most significant targets in the history of using this method it caused poor information to be gleaned at first, but much more significant information to be gleaned later due to a change in attitude.  It was the change in attitude that was important.

Whatever an individual decides concerning the issue of specific procedures, I still believe that far too many people now know far too much about U.S. black operations.  Bill Clinton eviscerated the CIA human intelligence capabilities, and Obama is finishing the job.

Obama intended from the beginning to target the CIA with investigations.  Leon Panetta, who is said to be opposed to certain CIA programs in which high value targets are assassinated, is making matters worse.  In fact, the damage may have already been done and the situation made irreversible.

I would never compare my few years as an Army Intelligence Special Agent to the careers of committed CIA operatives, but I harbor no doubt that if I were one of them, I would be looking for a way out.  My immediate focus would be on protecting myself, my family and the identities of the foreign nationals with whom I worked.  I would be operating as if secrets no longer exist.  Risk taking would cease.  My reports would be gleaned from newspaper articles.

Whatever else one might conclude about the state of the CIA and the unecessary public investigations, they are effecting a disembowelment of the very intelligence agency that is supposed to protect American interests.  And it appears to be all by design.

Gates on Release of the Interrogation Memos

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

The administration has recently pressed for the release of both the interrogation memos and the associated photographs.  Regarding this information:

“They should have fought it all the way; if they lost, they lost,” said Lowenthal, who retired from the Agency in 2005. “There’s nothing to be gained from it. There’s no substantive reason why those photos have to be released.”

Lowenthal said the president’s moves in the last week have left many in the CIA dispirited, based on “the undercurrent I’ve been getting from colleagues still in the building, or colleagues who have left not that long ago.”

“We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they’ve been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong,” Lowenthal says. “They don’t believe they have that cover anymore.” Releasing the photographs “will make it much worse,” he said.

Setting aside the issue of whether water-boarding is torture or whether certain interrogation techniques should be used, the release of detail concerning the same is bound to continue to undermine a CIA that lost much of its capability in human intelligence in the Clinton years.  Secretary of Defense Gates’ reaction to the release of the memos is interesting on multiple levels.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed concerns on Thursday that the release of Justice Department memorandums on harsh interrogation techniques might be used by Al Qaeda and other adversaries and put American troops at risk.

But Mr. Gates said that the public release of graphic, detailed information on American interrogation techniques for terrorists was inevitable and that he had focused his efforts in cabinet-level discussions on how the United States should deal with the expected international backlash.

Mr. Gates declined to say whether his private advice to President Obama was to release or withhold the documents and instead said he urged careful attention to dealing with the consequences of their disclosure.

“Pretending that we could hold all of this and keep it all a secret, even if we wanted to, I think was probably unrealistic,” Mr. Gates said. “My own view was shaped by the fact that I regarded the information about a lot of these things coming out as inevitable.”

The central question he posed in lengthy, intense debate among the president’s senior advisers, Mr. Gates said, was, “How do we try and manage it in the best possible way?”

Mr. Gates’s comments on the release of the documents by the administration were the first since they were made public. He spoke on a visit to Marines training here for a deployment to Afghanistan, and he expressed apprehensions that the release of the information “might have a negative impact on our troops” and that the “disclosures could be used by Al Qaeda and our adversaries.”

Mr. Gates said he had argued that Central Intelligence Agency officers who were following legal guidelines for interrogation be protected. He said he was concerned “first and foremost” that protection be guaranteed for “C.I.A. officers who were involved in the interrogations — and who performed their duties in accordance with the legal guidance they had been given by the Justice Department.”

Gutsy move.  Let’s translate the statement[s] above into a something more usable by giving the less political version that Gates doubtless wanted to say.

“Look.  You and I both know that this is stupid.  Whatever you might think of what was done, those involved should be protected.  It was inevitable, which means that I am alone on the Cabinet.  I did all that I could do, which is to argue for protecting the fidelity of our intelligence community and managing as best as possible the release of the information.  They were hell bent on doing it, and it was unrealistic to think that I could stop it.  Be glad you have me there – I am the lone voice of reason on the Cabinet.”

By the way, it appears as if Gates has recovered nicely from his broken arm.

Sex for Information in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

In an interesting twist on intelligence-gathering, the CIA has found a new tool in its arsenal of weapons.

In an effort to win over fickle warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan and get information from them, CIA officials are handing out Viagra pills in exchange for their cooperation, the Washington Post reports.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people – whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” an agency operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the agency to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders, including Taliban movements and supply routes.

CIA operatives use everything from toys and school equipment to tooth extractions to their advantage and note that if Americans don’t offer incentives, others, including Taliban commanders, will.

Afghan veterans told the Post that the usual bribes of choice – cash and weapons – aren’t always the best options because they can garner unwanted attention and fall into the wrong hands.

“If you give an asset $1,000, he’ll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone,” Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told the Post.

So rather than shiny junk, what’s better?

The ageing chieftains of rural villages, many of whom have wives who are much younger than them, have proved keen to accept the anti-impotency drug and in exchange give a mass of information on rebels’ movements and supply routes …

Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told a newspaper: “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century. So you look for those common things that motivate people everywhere.”

But not everyone is so happy.

I was disheartened and disgusted by Joby Warrick’s lighthearted coverage of the CIA’s Viagra bribes ["Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan," front page, Dec. 26].

Is the U.S. government “wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society,” as first lady Laura Bush stated on April 6, 2005? Or will women in Afghanistan continue to be sexual chattel to fickle aging and ailing warlords who can be bribed by American operatives so they can feel “back in an authoritative position”?

It seems that this operation spits in the face of every effort to advance the position of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world. Alas, maybe the CIA will continue to do “whatever it takes to make friends and influence people,” regardless of how many people have to be hurt in the process.

So this reader believes that sex hurts the woman to the very core of her ontological being, and therefore opposes the deal.  Whatever the case, it’s surely true that the CIA has undergone organizational learning from the days of the Clinton administration’s destruction of the HUMINT.

A Battleground for Intelligence Services

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Iraq’s defense minister has weighed in with some interesting insights concerning the future of Iraq.

Iraq’s defence minister warned on Saturday that the Gulf would be infested by pirates and Iraq left at risk of attack by its neighbours if US forces leave the country too soon.

“Coalition forces are currently protecting the Gulf, and our navy will not receive its first ships until April 2009,” Abdel Qader Jassem Mohammed al-Obeidi told a press conference in Baghdad.

If those forces “withdraw precipitously, our gulf will become like the Gulf of Aden, where there have been 95 acts of piracy,” he said.

Obeidi was addressing journalists on his support for the controversial military pact that would allow US troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011, a deal now being considered by the Iraqi parliament.

The minister did not enlarge on his remarks or explain how the Gulf would become prey to pirates when one of its littoral states, Bahrain, is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The Gulf, which supplies the bulk of world oil imports, is also bordered by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, all of whose navies patrol the waterway.

Somali-based pirates have in recent months been plaguing shipping in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.

Obeidi also said Iraqi territory risks being attacked by neighbouring states, referring to Turkey’s bombing of Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels in their mountain hideaways of northern Iraq.

“Today, Iraq is the target of bombing from abroad but it is limited because the (US-led) coalition represents a dissuasion force,” he said.

“If it not there any more, the whole country risks being the target of shooting, even (the southern port of) Basra, and they will justify their actions by referring to information on a PKK base there,” the minister said.

Obeidi also said his country has turned into “a battleground for different foreign intelligence services,” without naming any countries.

“Iraqi security forces, backed by the coalition, must impose a limit on their activities, of which Iraqis are the victims,” the defence minister added.

Iranian Quds, Syrian intelligence, and so on, are in Iraq battling for preeminence – and the Iraqi Defense Minister knows it and makes it clear that there is more that must be done in Iraq. The roles filled by U.S. forces going forward will be fundamentally different that before, with focus on border security (e.g., the Marines in Anbar have their eyes trained on the Syrian border), training, backup of ISF, sea and air space security.

But there is a very real need to continue the high value target campaign that has been going on for months now in Iraq. Whereas in Afghanistan we have incorrectly attempted to employ a strategy of high value targets rather than counterinsurgency, in Iraq the counterinsurgency campaign has now given way to a campaign against high value targets, which is the right order.

This campaign won’t simply employ the U.S. military. The Captain’s Journal has made it clear that U.S. intelligence will engage Iranian intelligence or we will lose the region regardless of what happens in Iraq. Iraq is the primary battleground at the moment as noted by the Iraqi Defense Minister. But the covert war has been going on for years, and we must be willing to play “hard ball” in order to be in the same league with the Iranians.

And what would such U.S. engagement look like? We mustn’t forget Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, who is the primary commander of the Iranian covert war with the U.S., and to whom General Petraeus had to turn to request that the summer 2008 artillery shelling of the green zone be halted.

Bullying, arrests, much better human intelligence and targeting of people like General Suleimani must be employed or the covert war will be lost. The Israeli Mossad understands that they are engaged in a deadly serious effort for self-preservation and behaves accordingly. Thus far in Iraq, the effort has also been deadly for U.S. warriors. The full engagement of all U.S. resources is necessary to finalize the gains in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and this means actions that make some squeamish. But the squeamish should find other things to occupy their attention, and we must do what needs to be done.


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