Silvestre Reyes Announces Investigation into Violations of National Security Act

Reyes announces:

After careful consideration and consultation with the Ranking Minority Member and other members of the Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will conduct an investigation into possible violations of federal law, including the National Security Act of 1947.

This investigation will focus on the core issue of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed. To this end, the investigation will examine several issues, including the program discussed during Director Panetta’s June 24th notification and whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the Committee. 

Three points about this.

First, Reyes says he consulted with Crazy Pete Hoekstra. I look forward to seeing how Crazy Pete spins this.

That’ll be particularly interesting given the scope here. The investigation will include the reported assassination squad. But the core issue is more general–how CIA informs Congress. Which means that, in fact, this should also include whether or not CIA fullly briefed Pelosi and Goss on torture back in 2002.

Finally, the investigation will examine whether there was any "direction" to withhold information from Congress. I do hope they look at the question generally, as well as in the context of the reported assassination squad, because I suspect we’d see a pattern of Cheney instructing the Counterterrorism folks to lie to or withhold information from Congress.

Update: Reyes (and Jan Schakowsky) also announced the appointment of Adam Lurie, formerly an AUSA in NJ’s USA office, as staff director for the Investigations Subcommittee (which Schakowsky Chairs). He’ll be the lead staffer in this investigation.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. fatster says:

    Good news, EW! Let’s just hope it doesn’t get derailed, and I’m sure that activity is already in the works.

  2. alabama says:

    Will the Committee have the resources and the time to do this right? I’d like to know this!

    • emptywheel says:

      Check out my update–they’ve hired a former AUSA to be the staff director of the investigations subcommittee; he will have the lead on the investigation.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    So what happens to Dick when the investigation finds that he ordered folks to lie/withold to congress? Another sternly worded letter?

    We’ll get no satisfaction from congress on BushCo wrongdoing, Obama doesn’t want it pursued and too many senior members of both parties could be implicated.

    We’re going to have to hope the courts come through on this one.

    Boxturtle (Am I the only one worried that SS will back the BushCo expansion of executive power?)

      • NMvoiceofreason says:

        In that respect it is kind of like the toothless “Presidential Records Preservation Act”. Destruction of documents there doesn’t even get you a sternly worded letter.

      • bmaz says:

        There are criminal penalty provisions for violation of several sections of the act, just not this kind of violation, which has no penalty provision (and a weak remedial provision) as I recall.

        • phred says:

          What I’m wondering about is whether in an investigation of this sort, they will find criminal activity underlying the desire to not inform Congress. Will Reyes’ et al., then have the decency to refer that conduct to DoJ for prosecution? One would certainly guess that if the underlying activity wasn’t criminal, there would have been no need to hide it…

          • emptywheel says:

            Reyes is kind of a wildcard, though he is close to Pelosi. On the other hand, Schakowsky, whose subcommittee will do this investigation, is joined at the hip with Obama.

            So flip a coin.

            • phred says:

              Isn’t Reyes also tight with Rodriguez, possible torture tape destroyer? On the one hand, he might be inclined to let crimes slide, on the other he might have a reason to scrutinize Cheney to keep the heat off Rodriguez… Who knows? But I’m hard-pressed to trust anyone in DC these days…

                • phred says:

                  Well that’s certainly encouraging! Thanks for clearing that up for me. So just for a few minutes, I’m going to go wallow in a bit of optimism (just for a change of pace ; )

                • bmaz says:

                  Was that whole report about Reyes and Rodriquez erroneous, or just the part about them or other family members having some business relation. I thought the bit about them being friends and Reyes honoring him with some Texas luncheon or something were still valid. Is that wrong?

        • prostratedragon says:

          Got to run now, but this is the kind of situation, i.e. offenses for which no redress seems to be specified, for which Lawrence Walsh tried to use the fraud against the U.S. statute. In his Iran-Contra report he invokes some things suggesting that that was a suitable use.

      • Mary says:

        But you have to tend to think that violation of the NSA is pretty much evidence of obstruction and/or conspiracy to obstruct Congress.

  4. phred says:

    Why does all the good news come on Friday afternoons? Here’s hoping Reyes et al. does a thorough job and follows up with a public report of their findings…

  5. ghostof911 says:

    a pattern of Cheney instructing the Counterterrorism folks to lie to or withhold information from Congress.

    You typed a few extra letters there, Marcy. The terrorism emanated from the OVP.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Well, apart from the fact that some people may misread the post heading as something along the lines of: “Panic!! Sun to rise in West tomorrow; may set in Southeast!” it’s hard to know how this will go.

    There are structural issues of which Cheney’s insolence is a symptom.
    If they only stay at the superficial he-said, she-said level this will be a disaster. If they can get to the more structural issues, then maybe it’ll do some good.

    I’m far from celebrating, but the fact that someone finally has enough cajones to open an investigation is a glimmer of hope.

    • bobschacht says:

      someone finally has enough cajones to open an investigation is a glimmer of hope.

      Dept. of pedantry responds:
      I think you mean cojones

      And does “enough c[o]jones” mean 1, 2, or more?
      Two should be sufficient, but one might suffice.

      Bob in HI
      who is thoroughly in accord with the sentiment

  7. MadDog says:

    And btw, a wee bit OT – I know bmaz was the firstest with the mostest on EFF’s Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment (41 page PDF) last week on the Al Haramain v. Bush case, but I hadn’t yet seen the additional declarations and exhibits that EFF now has up:

    Belew declaration (3 page PDF)
    Eisenberg declaration (3 page PDF)
    Exhibit A-I (44 page PDF)
    Exhibit J-S (53 page PDF)
    Exhibit T-Z (38 page PDF)
    Exhibits AA-BB (58 page PDF)
    Ghafoor declaration (3 page PDF)

  8. BoxTurtle says:

    Don’t know Lurie, but the idea of someone close to Pelosi and someone close to Obama running the show does not give me much hope. On the democrat side, those two seem the most interested in killing BushCo investigations.

    Boxturtle (Obama has been upfront about his reason, at least)

  9. Styve says:

    Wayne Madsen published a very damning investigative report on Cheney’s extracurricular activities, and the 2 day hold has elapsed, so I am free to repost it. Don’t want to overwhelm this board, but I would like the FDL team to have this information. If you would like to verify the origin of this material, it is on a “members-only” section of the site (so I cannot just link to the piece), but the website is http://www.waynemadsenreport.com, and there is an email address to use to contact Wayne Madsen.
    ————————
    July 15, 2009 — SPECIAL REPORT. Cheney secret team involved saboteurs as well as assassins

    WMR has learned from U.S. and foreign intelligence sources that Dick Cheney’s super-secret clandestine operations team, primarily made up of Department of Defense Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel, in some cases worked closely with their Israeli commando counterparts to carry out sabotage against Iranian and Pakistani nuclear facilities, as well as assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, other individuals who were knowledgeable about the role of Israelis in supplying nuclear materials to Pakistan and Iran, and commit terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft.

    Although the CIA decided against working closely with the Cheney-directed JSOC team, agency officials were well-aware of its operations and special relationship with Mossad “Kidon” department, which is responsible for conducting assassinations and kidnappings. “Kidon” is the Hebrew word for bayonet.

    During the time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in charge of the Pentagon, his neo-conservative subordinates, including Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, authorized the entrance into the Pentagon of top Israeli Defense Force and Mossad officers, including Kidon personnel, according to information obtained by WMR. There were no records maintained of the Israel visits or the identities of the visitors in what was described by Pentagon officials as a complete violation of Pentagon security procedures.

    The operations of the JSOC-Mossad team were coordinated by the Office of Special Plans, a unit that operated as a CIA rival under the direction of Feith and other pro-Israeli elements within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, including Feith’s deputy, William Luti, a close adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich recently called for stepped up U.S.-led sabotage against Iranian targets. The JSOC-Mossad team also utilized the services of the Iranian terrorist organization, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, to coordinate sabotage and assassinations inside Iran.

    Because of the rift between the CIA under George Tenet and the Department of Defense under Rumsfeld and his neocon deputies, the CIA backed off the operation for two major reasons: the CIA did not trust the Mossad and Langley saw Cheney as a major threat to more legitimate CIA operations.

    In February 2007, Radio Farda, a neocon contrivance operated under the aegis of the State Department, broadcast a news item that Dr. Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, a nuclear scientist at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, died from “mysterious causes.” Hassanpour died on January 18, 2007, and it is believed by many that the scientist was one of many “enemies” assassinated by the joint U.S.-Israeli assassination and sabotage team operating under the aegis of Cheney’s office in the White House.

    Cheney’s team reportedly struck earlier, on December 23, 2002, when a Russian-built Antonov An-140 crashed into the side of a mountain in central Iran while on its final approach to Isfahan airport. Between 44 and 48 people aboard the aircraft were killed, including 6 Russians and a number of Ukrainian engineers. A woman and child were also on board. The plane was en route to Isfahan from Kharkiv after making a refueling stop in Turkey. Although press reports stated that on board the aircraft were Ukrainian and Russian engineers, the fact that the plane was heading to Isfahan, a major Iranian nuclear research and engineering site raised eyebrows at the time.

    The Iranian newspaper, Jam-e-Jam, reported that Mossad agents operating in Turkey had sabotaged the aircraft while it was being refueled in Turkey.

    In February 2002, Iran AirTour flight 956 a Tupolev Tu-154, crashed into the side of a mountain near Khorramabad, 270 miles southwest of Tehran, killing all 119 passengers and crew on board. Residents of a village near Khorramabad said they heard a “big explosion.”

    On January 9, 2006, a Falcon jet carrying 11 members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) crashed Orumiyeh, capital of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. The ground commander for IRGC’s forces, General Ahmed Kazemi, was one of the victims. The joint JSOC-Mossad team, operating from neighboring Azerbaijan, where the Mossad and CIA have major stations, is suspected of being behind the crash. WMR is aware that JSOC personnel, some ex-Delta Force contractors operating under journalistic cover, had already been in Iran to identify “soft targets” for assassinations and sabotage. These personnel allegedly reported directly to Colonel Steven Bucci, the personal military assistant to Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

    On February 19, 2003, another plane, a Russian-built Ilyushin-76, carrying elite IRGC soldiers crashed into a mountain in central Iran. The plane was transporting 302 members of the IRGC from Zahedan in southeastern Iran to Kerman, 500 miles southeast of Tehran.

    On November 27, 2006, an Antonov-24 of the IRGC crashed at Meharabad International Airport in Tehran after its engines caught fire on take-off. 36 IRGC members and the crew died. The plane was en route to Shiraz on a “military mission.”

    On December 8, 2005, an Iranian C-130 military aircraft transporting a number of journalists from Meherabad Airport to Bandar Abbas crashed into a 10-story building after take-off from the airport. 108 passengers and crew were killed as well as 34 on the ground. The plane was attempting to make an emergency landing when it crashed. The Iranian journalists and photographers, 68 in total, were en route to Chabahar to cover a military exercise. The JSOC-Israeli team is also suspected of being behind the crash of the journalist plane.

    On May 30, 2009, a bomb was found in board Kish Air flight Y9-7030 MD-82 with 131 passengers. The bomb on the plane, which was en route from Ahvaz, Khuzestan to Tehran, was successfully defused after the plane made an emergency landing. The bomb incident took place just prior to the Iranian presidential election.

    And in what may represent a warning by the special U.S.-Israeli assassination and sabotage unit not to probe too deeply into its past clandestine work, a Caspian Airlines Tupolev-154 crashed today 75 miles northwest of Tehran after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran en route to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Iran and Armenia maintain close relations. All 168 people on board the plane were killed. Caspian Airlines is an Iranian-Russian joint venture airline. An eyewitness is reported by the AP as saying the tail section of the plane burst into flames as it circled for a place to make an emergency landing prior to crashing near the city of Qazvin.

    There are also suspicions that the JSOC-Israeli team, with the then-involvement of the CIA, was operational under Cheney’s aegis prior to 9/11. On July 11, 2001, Ali Mahmudi Mimand, the “father of Iran’s missiles,” including the Shihab III medium range missile, was reportedly killed in a mysterious explosion at the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group, south of Tehran. Mimand was chief of Iran’s secretive “Zelzal” missile development group. The JSOC-CIA-Mossad team is believed to have been behind the assassination of Mimand.

    The JSOC-Mossad team is also strongly believed by some U.S. intelligence sources to have been behind the February 12, 2008, car bombing assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus and the poisoning deaths of a number of targets, including Palestinian President Yasir Arafat who was reportedly blood poisoned at his headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank.

    Poisoning with a later conclusion of “death by natural causes” was a favorite method employed by the JSOC-Mossad team. Their fingerprints are suspected in the May 11, 2007, poisoning of Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Almaz Atambayev when he declared in the same month that the U.S. airbase at Manas could not be used in any attacks on Iran. The poison team may have also been behind the sudden death in December 2006 of Turkmenistan’s dictator Saparmurat Niyazov or “Turkmenbashi.” Niyazov maintained a position of strict neutrality and forbid the U.S. from using Turkmenistan territory for military operations in Afghanistan or the use of Turkmen airspace in operations against Iran. Fast cancer agents, courtesy of the JSOC-Mossad team, also reportedly took the life of Tajikistan’s Islamic opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri who died from cancer on August 7, 2006 at 59. Nuri favored establishing an Islamic state in Tajikistan and was seen as close to Iran.

    WMR previously reported that the JSOC team carried out the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalapindi on December 27, 2007.

    The Cheney joint Pentagon-Israeli team goes to the heart of covert activities conducted by the Bush-Cheney administration. The Obama administration has shown every indication of protecting Cheney and other top Bush administration officials from scrutiny. Obama recently extended Cheney’s Secret Service protection by six months, an indication that the White House is concerned that international arrest warrants for homicide may soon be issued against the former Vice President.

    • lysias says:

      Karen Kwiatkowski, who was a lieutenant colonel working in the same spaces as Luti in the Pentagon in 2002-3, writes about Israeli officers visiting Luti in his office at the time.

      • valletta says:

        It’s also come out recently that the Israeli handling of the Olympics assassins was a model for the Neocons like Feith and Wolfowitz…. Sheesh, “24″ and “Munich” is where these dolts get their best ideas….

        • lysias says:

          As I recount in one of Emptywheel’s more recent threads, this kind of stuff by the Israelis didn’t start with the response to Munich. As Michael Karpin writes in The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World (p. 207), in 1962-3, Mossad killed and intimidated a bunch of German scientists assisting Nasser’s missile program.

    • Rayne says:

      Interesting, thanks for that. It had occurred to me a couple days ago that the Iranian crash was a hit, especially after checking on the aircraft type (a Tupolev, not an Airbus which lately seem prone to problems).

      And the death of Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov looked iffy, particularly since there had been an ongoing dispute about gas pipelines between Russia and Ukraine putting Turkmenistan’s pipeline at a premium. At the time I leaned towards Russian involvement, will have to re-read past news stories.

      Keep in mind the Po-210 hit on Alexander Litvinenko; has always been blamed on Putin’s allies, but now that we know about a bunch of other killers running around, who knows?

        • Styve says:

          From the WMR thing I posted earlier…

          Poisoning with a later conclusion of “death by natural causes” was a favorite method employed by the JSOC-Mossad team. Their fingerprints are suspected in the May 11, 2007, poisoning of Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Almaz Atambayev when he declared in the same month that the U.S. airbase at Manas could not be used in any attacks on Iran. The poison team may have also been behind the sudden death in December 2006 of Turkmenistan’s dictator Saparmurat Niyazov or “Turkmenbashi.” Niyazov maintained a position of strict neutrality and forbid the U.S. from using Turkmenistan territory for military operations in Afghanistan or the use of Turkmen airspace in operations against Iran. Fast cancer agents, courtesy of the JSOC-Mossad team, also reportedly took the life of Tajikistan’s Islamic opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri who died from cancer on August 7, 2006 at 59. Nuri favored establishing an Islamic state in Tajikistan and was seen as close to Iran.

          • yellowsnapdragon says:

            Now that was some fascinating information. My suspicion was that the assassination squads were related to coups, but three of leaders of the “stans” dying in such circumstances is astounding.

  10. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Oh, wait. Maybe I did know Turkmenbasi died. *reaching back into vague memories*

  11. MrCleaveland says:

    I really hope people aren’t impressed by this announcement. It’s going to be a charade.

    1. The committee will hold hearings, many/most in executive session because of “national security” concerns.

    2. They’ll issue a final report saying that “procedures were not followed.”

    3. They’ll say they have taken “bold and decisive action” to make sure this never, ever happens again.

    4. They’ll stick the report in a drawer.

    5. Twenty-five years later, they’ll do it all again.

    As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, amen.

  12. Badwater says:

    I wonder if the investigations will show that the Decider had so much free time for bike rides and vacations because Cheney was really in charge? When Reagan left office, there were stories floated to show how he was more involved than he seemed. So far, no one’s telling such tales about the Decider. Perhaps pretending to be Reagan only gets you a brush ranch.

  13. JohnDoe says:

    Notice all of the plane crashes they set up. One has to wonder how many of them were brushed off as having been caused by “bad weather” like Wellstone’s was?

    • yellowsnapdragon says:

      Or how about that computer guy who got a restraining order for Karl Rove because he was about to talk about election fraud? Plane crash.

      • JohnDoe says:

        Don’t forget all of the odd “suicides” of individuals that were a thorn in the side of the Cheney administration or were about to be a political embarrassment ( Jeanne Palfrey, Bruce Ivins, Cliff Baxter, James Hatfield, David Kelly, John Kokal, Gary Webb and others).

        • yellowsnapdragon says:

          Jeanne Palfrey. That’s a good one.

          Really, though, if Cheney and Bush weren’t so nefarious and secretive we wouldn’t be tempted to pin every odd death and disaster on their powers. I have to remind myself how incompetent they were at everything else.

    • esseff44 says:

      They are blaming the crashes on the lack of spare parts for the US and Euro made planes because of the sanctions/embargo which forces them to use old, poorly maintained Russian planes for which they also have a hard time getting parts. Maybe, maybe not.

      • JohnDoe says:

        That’s quite a line of coincidences. The Iranians are suggesting these crashes are due to a lack of spare parts? It sounds like a face-saving way of denying that the U.S. and Israel are capable of penetrating their security. The Bushies bragged outright that they were going to send in covert teams to undermine Iran (why isn’t the World Court up in arms about that?) and it appears that they did just that. As twisted and wrong headed as that was, I’m even more concerned about the things that they *didn’t* brag about, particularly with regards to their domestic “enemies”.

        • esseff44 says:

          Iran has suffered a number of high-profile aircraft crashes in recent years. Many civilian and military aircraft currently in use are either ancient U.S. jets or Soviet-era relics.

          Iran has placed some of the blame for its poor aviation safety record on sanctions imposed by the United States, claiming they have hampered efforts to perform maintenance and obtain spare parts.

          The crash is Iran’s worst since February 2003, when a Russian-made Ilyushin 76 carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people aboard. That crash was a sign of how maintenance problems have also affected Iran’s military.

          from Yahoo news

  14. MadDog says:

    Per Reuters:

    US House launches investigation into CIA program

    …Republicans have been trying to keep the heat on Pelosi who became embroiled in controversy over when she knew the CIA was using waterboarding on terrorism suspects.

    “At no time will the Republicans of this committee agree to or take part in congressional Democrats’ efforts to tear down the CIA to provide cover for Speaker Pelosi,” said Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the committee.

    Republicans also took issue with Democrats saying the investigation would look into violation of the National Security Act, which could lead to criminal charges.

    “In the absence of substantiated facts, to even speculate on potential criminal behavior shows that this is little more than partisan, political theater and continues the politicization of important intelligence matters by Democrats,” Hoekstra said…

    Crazy Pete off his meds again.

    • MadDog says:

      And per the AP:

      …Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said the hit team plan, which was never carried out, is among several intelligence operations that will be investigated as part of a broad inquiry into the CIA’s handling of disclosures to Congress about its secret activities…

      …The House Intelligence Committee will examine concerns that the CIA failed to inform the Senate and House Intelligence committees about former President George W. Bush’s wiretapping program, harsh interrogation techniques and the destruction of interrogation videotapes, according to a committee aide.

      The inquiry will also focus on the how the CIA handled disclosures about the 2001 downing of a small plane carrying American missionaries over Peru and on other cases, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly…

      …Separately from the committee’s inquiry, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., will head an investigation into the details of the CIA plan to send out teams of killers, she said Friday…

  15. JohnDoe says:

    if Cheney and Bush weren’t so nefarious and secretive we wouldn’t be tempted to pin every odd death and disaster on their powers. I have to remind myself how incompetent they were at everything else.

    For however incompetent they were/are, the assassins that would be ordered to do their bidding are (theoretically, at least) professionals. When I reflect on the nightmare that was that administration, I can’t help but recall just how small and petty they were, with a sense of hyper-Nixonian entitlement (”If the President does it, it’s not illegal”). If one were to travel back in time two years and tell people about the things that have since been revealed, you’d be called a nutcase paranoid and laughed out of the room.

    Given the things that are being uncovered, it has become prudent to assume (if one is going to make any assumptions at all) the worst about Cheney and company. Given the curiosities surrounding the cases I listed, it’s really just sensible to wonder why they are as curious as they are.

  16. Brian77 says:

    Philosophical question:

    If you kill someone who needs killing, is that called really “assassination”?

    • dakine01 says:

      If you kill someone who needs killing, is that called really “assassination”?

      Yes, because it begs the question, who determines that “someone needs killing?” You? Me? Pat Buchanan? Dick Cheney? Joe Biden? John Yoo? Greg Craig? Eric Holder?

      Whomever makes that determination will surely feel they are justified in their belief that so and so is better off dead.

      The ends do NOT justify the means, no matter how many times and ways folks might try to make the justification.