The CIA’s Five Lies

As a number of you have pointed out, the House Intelligence Committee have revealed preliminary results of its investigations into the CIA’s lies and found–wait for it–the CIA lies.

In a hearing of the House Intelligence committee this afternoon, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jan Schakowsky, both Democrats, pointed to at least five instances going back to at least 2001 in which the C.I.A. withheld information from or lied to Congress.

Those five lies are:

  1. Lies about torture (to Pelosi)
  2. The assassination program that started this probe
  3. The Peruvian plane shoot-down that got Crazy Pete Hoekstra on board
  4. The destruction of the torture tapes
  5. ???

So, first of all, I’m wondering where number 5 is–I’ll follow up tomorrow on that. Was this hearing designed to let CIA know that HPSCI was going to reveal number 5, or did they do so today?

But I’m interested in the inclusion of the torture tape destruction. Is HPSCI asserting that CIA lied about the desruction of the tapes … which would imply that the Committee asked about it in the first place? (I’ll remind you that when the tapes were destroyed, Jane Harman was still on the committee making a stink about the CIA’s other lies about torture)? Or is the Committee just including the torture tape destruction as one misrepresentation among others?

Update: Here’s how The Hill describes it (and they, too, list just four lies).

In addition, the CIA may have failed to properly notify Congress about the 2005 destruction of videotapes recording the interrogation of al Qaeda operatives by intelligence officials, Eshoo and Schakowsky said.

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.

46 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    I have a hunch that Panetta and Co. at the CIA are also wondering about #5, but from a different point of view. “OK, they named four lies but claimed five. What’s the fifth lie that they know about that they’re not saying?”

    If the folks wrestling with that question at Langley come up with more than one possible answer — “We lied about X, Y, and Z, so it’s hard to tell which one they know about” — this will not end well for the CIA.

      • emptywheel says:

        I’m guessing it’s this one:

        In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the CIA’s detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the senior Democrat.

        (After all, if they’re treating non-information about the torture tapes as a lie, they must be involving Jane Harman, which would mean the February 2005 lie would be fair game as well.)

        • skdadl says:

          McCarthy also told others she was offended that the CIA’s general counsel had worked to secure a secret Justice Department opinion in 2004 authorizing the agency’s creation of “ghost detainees” — prisoners removed from Iraq for secret interrogations without notice to the International Committee of the Red Cross — because the Geneva Conventions prohibit such practices.

          Has that one been made public yet?

        • WilliamOckham says:

          I would put money on #5 being the lies about efforts to retroactively authorize violations of the CAT. The timeline in the WaPo article (and in every other public reference to this chain of events) is hopelessly confused, but my guess is that the CIA told both Intel Committees that they were abiding by the CAT after they had specifically requested the ‘CAT doesn’t apply’ memo from the OLC.

  2. JasonLeopold says:

    Hey folks. Hope all is well. Here’s something Schakowsky put out this afternoon. She calls it the “road map for intelligence reporting investigation.”

    The investigation is looking into specific instances where Congress was not notified according to the requirements of the National Security Act of 1947. Under the leadership of Rep. Schakowsky, the Intelligence Committee is examining the details of Director Panetta’s June 24th notification, the investigation into the Peru missionary plane shoot down, as well as the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, interrogation of detainees and other secret programs.

  3. Peterr says:

    Works for me.

    Given the use of the very inflamatory word “lie” and noting the firestorm that surrounded Pelosi when she used it earlier, I’d say the the committee probably has some documentation to back up their charges here. It will be interesting to watch the GOP reaction tomorrow, as well as the response from Panetta.

  4. Mary says:

    idle specs for #5 (and for that matter, if they are being lied to all the time, how do they know it’s only 5?)

    *deaths from interrogation tactics (like the Afghan death of the guy who wasn’t a member of al-Qaeda)

    *CIA knowledge that specifically named and described detainees at GITMO were not al Qaeda or Taliban or even mujahadeen

    *al-Libi and Zubaydah being “high value al-Qaeda”

    * KSM’s role in the Pearl kidnap/torture/murder (he had one, but not the one that Gonzales tried to sell)

    * CIA solicitation of foreign torture (including Syrian torture) in the renditions to torture programs, including maybe originally selling a fib on the Binyam Mohamed front

    *CIA participation in coercing Khadr at GITMO to “corroborate” Maher Arar’s status as a terrorist to justify shipping him via Jordan to Syria

    *CIA payment programs with ISI to have people, without cause or probable cause, kidnapped and shipped to black sites

    *Zubaydah’s mental state and/or the CIA role in shipping juvenile Noor al-Deen to Syria to cover up his conflicting story on Zubaydah

    *al-Libi’s torture based coercion regarding the Iraqi sites and the CIA role in disappearing al-Libi to Libya to prevent him and his story from being available to Congress and America

    Damn – we’re just looking for one more?



  5. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Here’s a minor correction:

    Jane Harman was still on the committee making a stink about the committeeCIA’s other lies about torture

  6. Mary says:

    Oh yeah – there is todays NYT revelations too, about the CIA having Karzai’s brother on the payroll for the past 8 years. CIA employee, drug warlord – interchangeable.

    @11 – I basically spend most days thinking it doesn’t do any good, other than giving me a steam valve release. Shirley you didn’t really pick the wrong week?

  7. bobschacht says:

    It has long been known that Pakistan’s ISI operates outside of the control of the Pakistani government. We used to look condescendingly on the Pakistani government for being unable to rein in the ISI.

    Well, looky here. It’s beginning to look like the CIA is just as unmanageable as the ISI. It seems to me that its not that the whole CIA is rogue, but there is a rogue element within it that needs to be cleaned out. It is clear that the CIA is out of control.

    Bob in AZ

  8. alinaustex says:

    Wonder how much of this directly relates to the abrupt departure of Goss and his Goslings? Wonder how much info Dusty Foggo was made to give up for a potentially lighter sentencing for his kickback scheme ? Wonder how much of this HIC investigation is on a parallell track with the Durham grand jury especially regarding destruction of evidence/ obstruction of justice – re destroying media that depicted illegal torture ? And will the HIC hearings impede the Durham investigation ?

  9. Jim White says:

    What’s the clearance, Clarence?

    If we’re looking for CIA lies, we are in what is commonly called a “target-rich” environment.

    What’s the vector, Victor?

  10. tjbs says:

    That #4 is deep. If you destroy 95% of the tapes could you claim they were destroyed?
    Were the tapes destroyed after they were transferred to electronic records ?
    If there were live feeds from the torture chambers to the top government officials in progress, why the need for tapes?
    Will any heads roll or just a couple heads be blown off for asking the wrong questions??

  11. Jim White says:

    Rut roh. UN Special Rapportuer on Extrajudicial Executions speaks out on the drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. See my diary. Violations of international humanitarian law and international civil rights law? Strong accusations!

    • Rayne says:

      And now on Obama’s watch, too.

      Have had a nasty feeling the ramped up use of drones after January 21 was a set-up.

      And I’ll bet you Obama didn’t sign off on the appointment of another dude to work on drones — happened about 2-3 months ago.

      • Jim White says:

        My diary ties this directly to McChrystal. He ran JSOC when it was Cheney’s hit squad and now that he runs Afghanistan the strikes are targeted assassinations. Too big a coincidence for me.

        • Rayne says:

          Joint Task Force set up and possibly operating under terms of a special access program — that’s my take. And yes, agreed, McC is integral to the program.

          The terms would have been established under previous administration and continuing now; may be virtually no way to halt the program unless the highest ranking official read into program terminates it. But who is that?

  12. freepatriot says:

    come on people

    only FIVE fookin lies ???

    we’re talkin bout the CIA

    if this committee only found five lies, they wasn’t really trying very hard, were they ???

    Mary came up with NINE in one comment

    and I’ll bet Mary’s comment didn’t take MONTHS to write

    jes sayin, is all

    *off topic disclaimer: I love ActBlue, an bluestate an all that stuff, but I’m going with the RED team tonight, fuck the yanqis

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I’m with you. Only five lies? Nonsense.

      But here’s an interesting thought: What if Congress, in closed session, was made aware of 4 of Mary’s list of lies above? And then they kept quiet while the CIA lied in public, in open session of congress, and to the courts. You can see why they might not want to dig too far into the CIA’s lies beyond a specially selected 5.

      I wonder if they’re doing to the CIA what my father used to do to me. Without really knowing anything, he’d tell me out of the blue “This is your only chance to come clean about what you did before you get in real trouble”. Sometimes he knew something, but most times he was bluffing. He’d sometimes list what he did know, and imply he knew much more.

      Is the Intelligence committee bluffing with a “non-existant” 5th lie to see what the CIA confesses?

      Boxturtle (Executive branch employees should not be permitted to testify, except on record and under oath)

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I am only aware of three catagories of lie. Most all of the CIA lies are catagory 2.

      Boxturtle (Lies, damn lies, and statistics – Twain)

  13. fatster says:

    Bit of an update:

    “Robert Litt, chief counsel for the Director of National Intelligence, “testified before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday that the spies didn’t tell Congress about a small number of operations.”
    . . .
    “Litt added, “I think that when some of the agencies went back and looked at their records, they found a couple of matters where they had determined not to brief. And they relooked at it and decided probably ought to be briefed. But those were a few isolated instances.”’


    • Rayne says:

      A-yup. Bet they were ops which were titled and run out of DOD, but as JTF ended up with resources which require Congressional oversight.

      “Oh, oops, we forgot to tell you about that part…”

  14. johnhkennedy says:

    WHEN will Congress get control of this rogue agency.

    Are our congressmen so afraid of their own assassination that they refuse to do it?

    By pushing Congress to prosecute the crimes of the Bush Administration
    perhaps we can get to the bottom of the
    CIA’s complicity in the WMD Lies and Torture.

    calling for Prosecution


  15. 1boringoldman says:

    Rogue CIA lying or were they told to lie? Given the level of involvement of the OVP and the OLC-DOJ in these programs, coupled with Tenet’s obsession with CIA/CYA, I would bet they were told to lie to Congress by a great big fish – one who says things like:

    … to call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program’s legal underpinnings and safeguards. Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well, in our country’s name and in our country’s cause.

  16. Mary says:

    Thanks for the links fatster. I’ve been tied up all day, but I’ll be interested to see what Dostum is up to – campaigning for Karzai I guess. The shipping container vote. blech.

    Here’s my cynical take on “the” fifth one – since there were and are so many things out there, it makes the most sense if it is one that the CIA has basically been forced by current circumstances to cough up. Based on that, I’m thinking it ties to something where there may be revelations come out that the CIA can’t control. So I’d vote for something like maybe Binyam Mohamed torture info – maybe CIA failed to inform about the Moroccan trip or their knowledge, or maybe they failed to advise on the pictures (Ghost Plane details that the CIA liked to take nude pics of their detainees and in Mohameds case that included pics of him when picked up from Morocco when they might have included evidence of his mutilations – – and remember, it was AFTER that the military/et al(likely including CIA) worked to send Errachidi to Morocco too.

    This “forced into the open” is also makes the Aug 2002 CIA memo detailing the innocence of detainees at GITMO an option, especially sense in addition to the books and articles referencing it which Congress seems to ignore, there is now the recent decision by Kollar-Kotelly that pretty much seems to reference that memo and CIA interviews of the Kuwaiti man who the CIA and military and DOJ conspired on to make sure he wouldn’t leave GITMO “innocent.”

    There is also what might be a knotty problem on Aafia Siddiqui. I haven’t read it yet, but Harper’s has story on renditions that talks about, in part, her case and certain elements in Pakistan keep raising it with the US and the court in Pakistan has threatened to order PakGov to petition the UN for her transfer to Pakistan, etc. So there are very possibly some things that may be coming out there that are not quite what anyone has fessed up to

    There are so many things, but for a lot of them, you have to figure the CIA didn’t lie to Congress, it’s just that Congress didn’t bother to do it’s job asking or didn’t want to know, what with it being so much more convenient and politically safe to rant on about not bringing terrorists into American than it is to ask what happened to Siddiqui’s and KSM’s children.

    All fwiw.

  17. Palli says:

    Lies acknowledge the actions were wrong- legally & morally. Doesn’t matter if the lie is: “the dog ate my homework” or “we do no torture”.

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