Leon Panetta and the Pakistani Doctor: Yet More Double Standards on Classified Information

As the Bill Gertz article I reexamined the other day made clear, Leon Panetta became personally involved in the CIA’s efforts to investigate detainee lawyers who were trying to track down their clients’ torturers.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and his chief of staff, Jeremy Bash, a former chief counsel for the House intelligence committee, at first were unaware of both the scope and seriousness of the case.

However, both officials began addressing the matter after inquiries were made from members of Congress. Since then, Mr. Panetta and Mr. Bash are getting regular updates on the dispute, said the officials.

As a result of that investigation, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged last week.

Consider the damage Kiriakou is alleged to have done:

  • Some lawyers with Top Secret clearance submitted a sealed filing naming a covert officer involved in the torture of 9/11 defendants. The lawyers pointedly did not photograph this officer in an effort to shield his identity. And his name was never made public.
  • Using information gained from Kiriakou and around 23 other sources (including former CIA Executive Director Buzzy Krongard), Scott Shane wrote an article detailing Deuce Martinez’ role in the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others. And while Martinez’ association with the torture program was classified, his identity was not. Furthermore, by the time of the article, Martinez was working for Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell’s contracting firm, making it a pretty safe bet that he was involved in interrogation, even interrogations involving torture.
  • Subsequent to this article based on information from Kiriakou and 23 other people, the 9/11 detainees saw pictures of Martinez; assuming Shane’s article is accurate, they had already interacted with Martinez personally.
  • In that article, Shane included details about the “magic box” technology used to locate Abu Zubaydah. Information on that “magic box” technology and similar ones has been publicly available for decades, meaning the only secret here is that CIA uses it (!) and called it something as stupid as “magic box.”

That’s it. That’s the reported outcome of John Kiriakou’s leaks. And for that he faces prison time of up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, tomorrow the above clip will be shown on 60 Minutes, showing Panetta confirming that the Pakistani doctor who conducted fake vaccinations in Abbottabad, Pakistan in order to get a glimpse into Osama bin Laden’s compound was, in fact, working for the CIA.

Panetta also acknowledged that Shikal Afridi, the Pakistani doctor conducting health tests in the village in an effort to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence, was in fact working for the U.S. Afridi was arrested and charged with treason by the government of Pakistan. “I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual…who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” says Panetta. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan…Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism…and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” he tells Pelley.

Not only does this presumably put more pressure on Pakistan to convict Afridi of treason (he remains in custody), but it exacerbates the problem of having used a vaccination campaign as cover in the first place, confirming on the record that similar campaigns in poor countries might be no more than a CIA front.

I presume someone in the White House gave Panetta permission to go blab this on 60 Minutes; I assume he’s in no more legal jeopardy than Dick Cheney was when he insta-declassified Valerie Plame’s identity.

But shit like this discredits every single claim national security experts make about the need for secrecy. I mean, how are CIA officers ever going to recruit any more assets when the assets know that the CIA director may, at some time in the future that’s politically convenient, go on 60 Minutes and confirm the relationship?

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.

37 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    But shit like this discredits every single claim national security experts make about the need for secrecy.

    Of course it does. And to anyone that knows better, that is what makes the charges against Bradley Manning even more ridiculous.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @Phil Perspective: Yup. I was going to bring up Manning and the stupid-ass treatment of the press while Ray Davis was in Pakistani custody.

    As well as about 100 more cases. UK claims that we won’t share information with them anymore bc they admitted publicly what was already clear, that we tortured Binyam Mohamed.

  3. Benjamin Franklin says:

    I’m not so sure there’s a sympathetic drift for Kiriakou, as much as it is a visible record of the inconsistency of the Administration in the effort to create a chilling effect on leaks.

    It’s not even an original idea.

    “Politics is the art of controlling your environment”

    Hunter S. Thompson

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    Just from the surfing viewpoint — my impression of Kiriakou was that his original ABC appearance was approved someplace, that he was as much a part of the media feed as the generals etc who get sent in covertly to make the administration’s case on TV. I assumed that was true for the whole thing, that he thought anything he said was approved, in a command structure where nothing is written down and it’s all winks and nods and plausible deniability. Is it true that he really went rogue after all to shed light on Bush admin. waterboarding?

  5. allan says:

    Now this is what I call aiding the enemy. Panetta is sending a clear message to anybody who might
    think of working with the US that they need to have their heads examined.
    If caught, not only will the US not disavow their actions, but it will, if useful for domestic PR purposes,
    throw them to the wolves.

  6. Clark Hilldale says:

    It should be clear to everyone that this is complete bullshit. For the person who was director of CIA to confirm that someone – someone still alive and in “enemy” custody – was acting in behalf of the agency would be a pretty unforgivable thing to do.

    The likely story is that Pakistan assisted the U.S. in the killing of UBL and much of the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the PAKs about sovereignty and the American narrative that we didn’t tell them we were coming was part of a long pre-arranged cover story.

    Syed Saleem Shahzad just prior to his murder by the ISI got much of the cooperation angle right.

    The CIA is far from perfect, but a fuckup of this magnitude by Panetta is inconceivable.

  7. Bob Schacht says:

    @Clark Hilldale: “…a fuckup of this magnitude by Panetta is inconceivable. ”

    Therefore, I conclude that it was not a fuckup, but was done for some particular reason. What that reason might be, I have no idea.

    Bob in AZ

  8. Frank33 says:

    The CIA is far from perfect

    Yes, it is a Gestapo that is unaccountable. These liar spies murder, torture and put innocent people into their Gulag. And that is just American citizens.

    There is the never ending war against American citizens, COINTELPRO who are not corrupt enough to accept their wars. Buzzy Krongard’s hedge fund was betting on airlines just before 9-11. And the Anti-Nuclear-Proliferation Division of the CIA gives Iran Nuclear Weapon assistance. Who else got this “classified” WMD bonus?

    And of course my favorite False Flag Op, Undie Bomber! Worst False Flag ever? I think not. Operation Merlin is still number one worst. Oh yes, the Bin Laden Family, fighting for the Oil Empire for decades. And Usama was safe and sound in Pakistan presumably financing terror with his own hedge fund and financial network. His financial network remains secret by the CIA, so the new #2 can take over the Al Qaeda network. Maybe Buzzy Krongard should try for the new #2.

    And the newest weapon against the ultra left is to declare that they have a psychiatric disorder, such as Bradley Manning. And any dissenter can be classified as mentally ill and force fed CIA drugs.

    These spies are dangerous psychos. Bradley Manning is far more sane and moral than these goons.

    FREE BRADLEY MANNING NOW!

  9. PeasantParty says:

    I listened to the Panetta clip twice. The reason is because I kept getting this qut feeling he was trying to say something to Pakistan. I’m in my mid fifties, but I remember my Dad’s lectures when I did something wrong or that he didn’t like. He would calmly tell me how disappointed he was, and then remind me of all the things he does on my behalf, even the stuff I liked as a kid like the car on Saturdays.

    That clip sounded like a lecture to Pakistan.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @Bob Schacht: Lots of folks, including some who likely know, are saying it’s an attempt to pressure Pakistan to free him.

    And if it doesn’t work? If that’s a poor judgment?

    And regardless, doesn’t that still make the vaccination problem worse?

  11. Bob Schacht says:

    @emptywheel: Sometimes I wonder if the CIA does much thinking about the long-range results of an action. And even if they do think about those consequences, it’s likely to be a territorial thing– e.g., valuing consequences for your agency (CIA) vs detriments to another dept (Dept of State), which is probably regarded as “collateral damage.”

    Bob in AZ

  12. PeasantParty says:

    @emptywheel: I’m probably wrong, but didn’t Pakistan indiscretely ask the US to help them with the military at one time? I understood that there are factions of the military that are or were against the government and causing problems.

    If that is right and my memory is not jumbled, then Panetta was probably sending that message to them to let him go or else! Panetta may reverse some of the more secretive support. Ugh. I say Panetta, but it really should be Betrayus.

  13. Bob Schacht says:

    @PeasantParty:

    …didn’t Pakistan indiscretely ask the US to help them with the military at one time? I understood that there are factions of the military that are or were against the government and causing problems.

    This is ALWAYS happening in Pakistan. Our government has been involved in just about every change of government in Pakistan since it became independent. The early pattern was that something would happen, and then a *military* man, usually a General, took power “temporarily,” so as not to destroy the fiction of Pakistan’s democracy. But in recent decades, the Pakistani democracy has been getting stronger, so now they do hold elections and elect presidents and such. As a general rule, power in Pakistan has been a revolving triangle between the ISI, the Military, and the Government. Oops, we probably have to add their Courts as a fourth power now. Figuring out who’s doing what in Pakistan is one of the most complicated challenges in the world of politics. Cheney tried to manage the Pakistan Desk from his office. They probably played him like a fish on the line. I don’t think Cheney knew what he was doing. I suspect Holbrook had better luck, because he’d dealt with Eastern Europe. But who knows? I suspect that the person at State managing the Pakistan Desk keeps a low profile. I can’t remember that he got involved with the Ray Davis fiasco– Hilary did the PR on that.

    Our State Department has a Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan. The head of that Bureau is…. can you guess? Of course our ambassador to Afghanistan is Ryan Crocker, but who knows who our ambassador to Pakistan is? His expertise was European History, but he’s also had a tour of duty in Baghdad. He served there first as Political-Military Minister-Counselor in 2009, then as Deputy Chief of Mission for the first half of 2010. I think he got his start at State under Bill Clinton. But who’s our man at the Pakistan Desk in the Dept of State? He’s a career worker bee, and has been a leading figure in the Department on U.S. security strategy in the Middle East and South Asia. His area of expertise was Middle Eastern Affairs (M.A.) and he’s ABD is in U.S. Foreign Policy in Asia. No mention of language skills for either of these gentlemen, but I hope that one or both are fluent in Urdu, and have staff who can read Urdu well enough to give him a daily brief.

    That may seem like an obvious qualification, but just remember, when Russia was occupying Afghanistan, our brilliant light bulb at the Embassy in Kabul had NO ONE who could speak Russian. This was an issue on several occasions.

    Bob in AZ

  14. blueskybigstar says:

    We have to call it for what it is. How long can we go on living this way? It’s all lies. You have to be stupid, really stupid, to believe this b.s. Marcy, veteranstoday.com has the best stuff I’ve read about Pakistan. Benazir told us he was dead and who killed him which you can see on Youtube. After she revealed this, all of a sudden, these fabulously trained, extremely well equipped group of people in this country where it has been long exposed that the CIA has 3000 operatives, take her life and we hear nothing of them since? Nothing makes sense with liars. Panetta should quit or stop lying. How ridiculous! Where’s that body?

  15. Nescio says:

    “But shit like this discredits every single claim national security experts make about the need for secrecy. I mean, how are CIA officers ever going to recruit any more assets when the assets know that the CIA director may, at some time in the future that’s politically convenient, go on 60 Minutes and confirm the relationship?”

    As was mentioned above I am more troubled by the prospect of physicians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9decins_Sans_Fronti%C3%A8res), and other health personel, now being seen as potential CIA-agents. Already it is exceedingly difficult to overcome local superstitions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS_denialism#Impact_in_South_Africa) while promoting medical interventions. By abusing the status of physicians for opportunistic politics the world has become much more dangerous for all of us now it might be impossible to adequately counter infectious diseases.

  16. orionATL says:

    @Shoobie Doobie:

    and that is of far more important immediate consequence than many might imagine.

    i understand that the cdc and the who are undertaking a worldwide polio eradication program that will inevitably require working in villages with local political and religious leaders.

  17. PeasantParty says:

    @Bob Schacht: EGADS!

    Thank you, Bob. You just connected more dots. Is it any wonder that our foreign relations is always a target zone? To hell with diplomatic strategy. The more I see of these things the more I understand why there is no real substance to the allied nations garbage. No wonder I kept thinking Panetta was sending the Paks a message, because in reality HE WAS!

    Now, how do we fix the problem of using the most trusted of care givers that are no longer going to be seen as an independent client in society?

  18. PeasantParty says:

    @blueskybigstar: I’ve mentioned that issue many times before, especially on Jim’s blog. Ya know, we are blacked out on the media end of things here in the US. I just could not imagine there were no real coverage of what the ME thought of Obama getting Osama bin forgotten and their views on it.

    I keep thinking the reason Benaziar was assasinated was because the US was not ready to let go of the boogedy man front, and the Paks did have a lot of support for her. It would have ruined their plans had she been placed into power.

  19. Bob Schacht says:

    @PeasantParty: But the State Department is where our relationship with Pakistan belongs. I’m just arguing for a more competent State Department.

    I forgot one other dimension of our relationship with Pakistan: the relationship between our Military and theirs, which similar to the Egyptian situation. It is based of course on all the millions of $$$ we give their military. In fact, because PAK has nukes, that’s even more important. So, in effect, DOD has its own state department. Under Bush, Cheney favored DOD over State, and the two were often in conflict in achieving foreign policy goals. Under Obama, DOD and State have a much better relationship, but we seldom hear anything about that part of the Great Game.

    Bob in AZ

  20. PeasantParty says:

    @Bob Schacht:

    But the State Department is where our relationship with Pakistan belongs. I’m just arguing for a more competent State Department

    I’m with you. After reviewing the links you gave us, that is why I say the military side of the State Department makes them a hammer. Everything, everywhere looks like a nail to them. Where is traditional diplomacy?

    I forgot one other dimension of our relationship with Pakistan: the relationship between our Military and theirs, which similar to the Egyptian situation. It is based of course on all the millions of $$$ we give their military. In fact, because PAK has nukes, that’s even more important. So, in effect, DOD has its own state department. Under Bush, Cheney favored DOD over State, and the two were often in conflict in achieving foreign policy goals.

    This spider of ours has grown far more than eight legs. As Marcy says above, you can go in all directions with this issue from Manning to those willing to co-operate and beyond. The importance of the Pak’s having Nukes is one tiny piece of the puzzle IMO. I think Bush totally pissed them off when he traded Nuke info with India for Mangos. On that foreign aid and military involvement issue makes me believe Panetta was lecturing them to be aware of what the US does do that they very much like and how easily that nice situation could be ended.

  21. PeasantParty says:

    @PeasantParty: In other words, “Nice leadership you have in your country. It’d be a shame if something happened.”

    Plus, Benizair or however the spelling is of her name, along with the remaining members of her family were specifically targeted to keep her away from bringing the country into a more Democractic society. You know how much the US likes to prop up dictators to do their bidding.

  22. JTMinIA says:

    @Bob Schacht: Thanks for the link. I’ll read it carefully after the kids go to sleep. But even after a skim, I’m not happy. She tells a story that includes the claim of being a “long time vegetarian” in 1991. Well, maybe some people use “long time” differently than I, but she wasn’t a vegetarian a few years before that.

  23. P J Evans says:

    @JTMinIA:
    I get the impression that she was using that claim to get out of eating strange foods, more than that she was really a vegetarian at that time. She should have been briefed on the food she’s be served at formal dinners, though.

  24. JTMinIA says:

    I read that speech and Q&A carefully and it comes across to me as relatively straight-forward, team-player, Dip-Corps stuff. Maybe I’m being naive, tho’. But thanks.

  25. Jeff Kaye says:

    Re use of distribution of health vaccines as a cover for US CIA or military-intelligence activities, it may not surprise some to know that this was done during the Vietnam War.

    In testimony before Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, part of the Committee on Human Resources, 95th Congress, September 1977, Dr. Charles Geschickter of Georgetown University told Sen. Edward Kennedy about a CIA project where phosphorescent material (“related to pheno-phthalms”) was added to anticholera vaccinations being given to Vietnamese civilians. It was discoverable under ultraviolet light, and this means of surveillance by injected biological marker (under cover of giving “health shots”) was used to determine who was going back and forth over “enemy” lines, so they could find “turncoats.”

    See pgs. 92-93 of the document. Btw, Sen. Kennedy thought this an example of a “good project.”

  26. orionATL says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    thanks for that cite, jeff.

    is there a more short-sighted, immoral, fuck-the-consequences-to-others group of individuals among our fellow citizens than those in the operations section of the cia?

    and democratic party lion ted kennedy thought this was a good project?

  27. Jeff Kaye says:

    @orionATL: On my first read through this material, I thought, how great a job Sen. Kennedy did. Upon subsequent reads, I realized that he was facilitating a limited hangout, and like Sen. Levin in the recent SASC investigations, there were obvious places where he could and should have followed up questions, and didn’t. (By the way, I know for a fact that major Pentagon figures were interviewed for the SASC report, but their names or testimony was never aired in the final report, nor was the fact of their testimony ever made public.)

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