It took McClatchy 21 paragraphs to illustrate why it was such a big conflict of interest for Director of National Intelligence General Counsel to lead negotiations over how much of the torture report would be declassified, as he currently is doing.
According to reports in The Washington Post, Litt previously represented a CIA analyst, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, who played a central role in the bungled rendition of Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri, who was revealed to be innocent, claimed to have been tortured by the agency.
As the rest of the article explains, Litt reviewed his role brokering the declassification process with ODNI’s Ethics officer — who is his subordinate — and she approved his participation.
But it still probably conflicts with Litt’s promises, made during his confirmation process, to recuse himself from matters affecting his former clients. And given the centrality of CIA’s absurd demand to hide even the pseudonyms making clear that the same woman who got El-Masri tortured also went out of her way to watch Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be tortured (among a fairly substantial list of other things — here’s a reminder of details on how she got promoted after the El-Masri debacle), it is a problem that Litt is brokering this process.
Don’t worry, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden insists (fresh off insisting it’s a good thing that the White House cybersecurity czar doesn’t have a technical background), Bob Litt — the same guy hiding known dates in Internet dragnet documents, almost certainly to avoid legal repercussions — is one of the administration’s strongest proponents of what it calls “transparency.”™
“Bob Litt is one of the administration’s strongest proponents of transparency in intelligence, consistent with our national security, and he and we are fully committed to ensuring there is no conflict of interest as the administration continues to work to see the results of the committee’s review made public,” Hayden said in a statement.
Calling Bob Litt a proponent of “transparency”™ is itself cause for concern.
WaPo has a biting profile of Robert Litt, ODNI’s General Counsel who made one more failed attempt to rationalize James Clapper’s lies to Congress last week.
One of the most newsworthy bits is that WaPo published the name of Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, the analyst who got Khaled el-Masri kidnapped and tortured by mistake, for the first time.
A far more subtle but equally important detail comes in its description of why House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers banned Litt from appearing before the Committee last summer.
Some lawmakers have found Litt’s manner off-putting at best. Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made clear to the DNI’s office last summer that Litt was no longer welcome before his panel.
“The committee has not found Bob to be the most effective witness to explain complex legal and policy issues,” said a U.S. government official familiar with the falling-out. Rogers was also bothered that Litt faulted the committee for not doing more to share information about the surveillance programs with other members, unaware that doing so would have violated committee rules. [my emphasis]
For what it’s worth, I suspect Rogers is not worried as much about Litt’s honesty (Rogers hasn’t objected to James Clapper or Keith Alexander’s lies, for example, and has himself been a key participant in sustaining them), but rather, for his usual candor and abrasiveness, which the article also shows inspiring members of Congress to want to repeal the dragnet. Litt couches his answers in legalese, but unlike most IC witnesses, you can often parse it to discern where the outlines of truth are.
But I am acutely interested that Litt blames Rogers for not “doing more to share information about the surveillance programs with other members.”
That refers, of course, to Rogers’ failure to make the Administration’s notice on the phone dragnet available to members in 2011, before the PATRIOT Reauthorization. As a result of that, 65 Congressmen voted to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act without full notice (perhaps any formal notice) of the phone dragnet — a sufficiently large block to make the difference in the vote. In spite of that fact, the Administration and even FISA Judges have repeatedly pointed to Congress’ reauthorization of the phone dragnet to explain why it’s legal even though it so obviously exceeds the intent of the Section 215 as passed.
Apparently Litt blames Rogers for that. And doing so got him banished from the Committee.
Frankly, Litt is right in this dispute. Rogers’ excuse that committee rules prevented him from sharing the letter the Administration stated they wanted to be shared with the rest of Congress rings hollow, given that just one year earlier, Silvestre Reyes did make the previous letter available. If committee rules prevent such a thing, they are Rogers’ committee rules, and they were fairly new at the time. (Ironically, by imposing those rules, Rogers prevented members of his own party, elected with strong Tea Party backing, from learning about intelligence programs, though he may have just imposed the rules to increase the value of his own special access.)
So it is Rogers’ fault the Administration should not be able to claim Congress ratified the FISA Court’s expansive understanding of Section 215.
And Rogers and Litt’s spat about it make it clear they both know the significance of it: claims of legislative ratification fail because Congress did not, in fact, know what they were voting on, at least in 2011.
Unsurprisingly, that has not prevented the Administration from making that claim. Litt himself made a variety of it before PCLOB in November, months after he had this fight with Rogers.
[NSA General Counsel Raj] DE: So in other words, and some of this is obviously known to you all but just to make sure members of the public are aware, not only was this program approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every 90 days, it was twice, the particular provision was twice re-authorized by Congress with full information from the Executive Branch about the use of the provision.
MR. LITT: I just want to add one very brief comment to Raj’s in terms of the extent to which Congress was kept informed. By statute we’re required to provide copies of significant opinion and decisions of the FISC to the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of both Houses of Congress and they got the materials relating to this program, as we were required to by law.
Now, Litt’s intejection here is particularly interesting. He doesn’t correct De. He shifts the claim somewhat, to rely on Judiciary and Intelligence Committee notice. But even there, his claim fails, given that the Administration did not provide all relevant opinions to those Committees until after the first dragnet reauthorization in 2010. Litt probably thinks that’s okay because he didn’t qualify when Congress got the materials.
But it’s still a blatant lie, according to the public record.
More significantly, the Administration repeated that lie to both the FISC and, more significantly still, the 3 Article III Judges presiding over challenges to the dragnet generally.
The Administration keeps running around, telling everyone who is obligated to listen that Congress has ratified their expansive interpretation of the phone dragnet. It’s not true. And the fact that Litt and Rogers fought — way back in the summer — over who is responsible makes it clear they know it’s not true.
But they still keep saying it.
Although many people have been long familiar with her name and career, there seems to be new buzz about the [possible] identity of the female CIA operative lionized in the bin Laden killing and talk of the town movie “Zero Dark Thirty“.
The Twitters are abuzz this morning, but this article from John Cook at Gawker last September tells the tale:
Her name is Alfreda Frances Bikowsky and, according to independent reporters Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy, she is a CIA analyst who is partially responsible for intelligence lapses that led to 9/11. The two reporters recently released a “documentary podcast” called “Who Is Richard Blee?” about the chief of the agency’s bin Laden unit in the immediate run-up to the 9/11 attacks and featuring interviews with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, former CIA agent Bob Baer, Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright, 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Keane, and others. In it, Nowosielski and Duffy make the case that Bikowsky and another CIA agent named Michael Anne Casey deliberately declined to tell the White House and the FBI that Khalid al-Mihdhar, an Al Qaida affiliate they were tracking, had obtained a visa to enter the U.S. in the summer of 2001. Al-Mihdhar was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77. The CIA lost track of him after he entered the U.S.
Bikowsky was also, according to Nowosielski and Duffy, instrumentally involved in one of the CIA’s most notorious fuck-ups—the kidnapping, drugging, sodomizing, and torture of Khalid El-Masri in 2003 (El-Masri turned out to be the wrong guy, and had nothing to do with terrorism). As the Associated Press’ Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo reported earlier this year, an analyst they described only by her middle name—”Frances”—pressed for El-Masri to be abducted even though some in the agency weren’t convinced he was the terrorist that Frances suspected he was. Instead of being punished or fired for the error, “Frances” was eventually promoted to running the Global Jihad Unit by then-CIA director Michael Hayden. According to Goldman and Apuzzo’s story, “Hayden told colleagues that he gave Frances a pass because he didn’t want to deter initiative within the counterterrorism ranks.”
My, my, the CIA does have problems keeping secrets lately, don’t they? A point saliently noted by Marcy in relation to both Matt Bissonnette and the Mexican “trainers” who were involved in in an ambush. I guess the de rigueur Obama Administration leak prosecution will be along any second.
It is fairly amazing Bikowsky’s name has been kept out of the real limelight surrounding [speculation on] Zero Dark Thirty this long, considering her known involvement in the other issues, especially the one about gleefully horning in on the torture show viewing [which Bikowsky did in regards to KSM]. An attitude that speaks volumes as to →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading