A few days after the attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership. Like almost every such authorization issued by presidents over the previous quarter-century, this one was provided to the intelligence committees of the House and Senate as well as the defense subcommittees of the House and Senate appropriations committees. However, the White House directed that details about the most ambitious, sensitive and potentially explosive new program authorized by the President—the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives—could only be shared with the leaders of the House and Senate, plus the chair and ranking member of the two intelligence committees.
As always, CIA dutifully followed White House orders, [my emphasis]
Two years ago, at least, when he was trying to diss Congress using demonstrably false claims about the degree to which they had been briefed, John Rizzo claimed that the authority for the torture program all came directly from George Bush (Michael Hayden has said the same).
Not so today, apparently.
Steve Coll reports that Rizzo’s memoir claims Bush knew nothing about the details of torture his authorization provided the legal cover for.
Rizzo’s most remarkable account concerns President Bush. Essentially, Rizzo concludes that Bush has lately invented a memory of himself as a someone who was well informed and decisively in favor of waterboarding certain Al Qaeda prisoners, when, as far as Rizzo can tell, Bush seems not to have known at the time what the C.I.A. was doing.
In “Decision Points,” his 2010 memoir, Bush recalled that George Tenet provided a list of brutal interrogation techniques the C.I.A. proposed to use, and that Bush overruled “two that I felt went too far.” Later, when Tenet asked the President directly if he could employ waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Bush wrote that he answered, “Damn right.”
Yet, according to Rizzo, “The one senior U.S. Government national security official during this time—from August 2002 through 2003—who I did not believe was knowledgeable about the E.I.T.s was President Bush himself. He was not present at any of the Principals Committee meetings … and none of the principals at any of the E.I.T. sessions during this period ever alluded to the President knowing anything about them.”
Some of the chronology of events related to the C.I.A. interrogations that Bush provides in “Decision Points” doesn’t compute, according to Rizzo. Also, Rizzo would certainly have known if Bush had banned two techniques, but Rizzo has “no idea” what Bush might have been referring to in his memoir. Throughout this period, Rizzo, as he remembers it, was in daily contact with George Tenet, who said “nothing about any conversations he had with the president about E.I.T.s, much less any instructions or approvals coming from Bush.”
Rizzo writes, “It simply didn’t seem conceivable that George [Tenet] wouldn’t have passed something like that on to those of us who were running the program.” Rizzo got in touch with Tenet while preparing “Company Man” and Tenet confirmed “that he did not recall ever briefing Bush” on specific interrogation techniques being used at C.I.A. prisons. “I have to conclude that the account in Bush’s memoir simply is wrong,” Rizzo concludes. [my emphasis]
There are, as there always are with John Rizzo’s claims, obvious gimmicks. He apparently discusses the period from August 2002 — the date when DOJ’s OLC authorized torture for Abu Zubaydah, at which point much, if not all of the techniques approved, had already been used on him — through 2003, the year before Bush issued a second authorization for the torture program in Tenet’s last days. The key authorizations from the White House came before August 2002, as the torture was happening (and Coll should review these details if he wants to review Rizzo’s memoir competently). And we know Tenet did record Bush’s authorization for the program — he did it in a document Rizzo handled.
Moreover, there are other public claims that refute Rizzo’s claim, as when Glenn Carle described being told CIA had a letter from the President authorizing it to go beyond SERE with detainees.
“We don’t do that sort of thing,” [Glenn Carle responded to a CIA Counterterrorism Center Deputy about "going beyond SERE" with a detainee].
“We do now,” Wilmington’s voice was flat. The conversation remained quiet.
“What about EO12333? We’ve never done that sort of thing. The Agency’d never do that. We’d need a finding, at least.”
“We have it.” Wilmington’s manner brightened a little. “We have a letter from the president. We can do whatever we need to do. We’re covered.” [my emphasis]
In other words, Rizzo’s claims don’t mean much (except that, goddamnit I’m going to have to read his stinking memoir).
But hey, let’s take him at his word. Because if Bush really was ignorant about the torture program, then it means the entire thing was illegal.
If CIA’s former top lawyer wants to claim the torture program was illegal, who are we to doubt him?
But to give those two background, I want to look at a passage in the Internet dragnet opinion, in which Colleen Kollar-Kotelly describes a fascinating briefing that she received in advance of authoring what Orin Kerr describes as a “quite strange” opinion.
After describing some declarations she received (including one from a person whose title remains redacted) and some questions she posed, she describes this briefing.
The Court also relies on information and arguments presented in a briefing to the Court on [redacted] which addressed the current and near-term threats posed by [redacted reference to Al Qaeda and others], investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) to counter those threats, the proposed collection activities of the NSA (now described in the instant application), the expected analytical value of information so collected in efforts to identify and track operatives [redacted] and the legal bases for conducting these collection activities under FISA’s pen register/trap and trace provisions. 4
4 This briefing was attended by (among others) the Attorney General; [redacted] the DIRNSA; the Director of the FBI; the Counsel to the President; the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel; the Director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC); and Counsel for Intelligence Policy.
That is, right at the beginning of her opinion, Kollar-Kotelly tells us that she had a briefing with:
On page 30, Kollar-Kotelly seems to refer to the same redacted person again, which in the context of the reference to CIA v. Sims in that footnote, seems to suggest this is a reference to CIA Director George Tenet, which suggests the redacted author of the brief she relied on was authored by Tenet. (I leave open the more tantalizing possibility that it’s someone like Dick Cheney, but highly doubt it.)
So before she approved the use of FISA’s Pen Register to collect much of the Internet metadata in the US, she had a meeting with at least one of the villains — Alberto Gonzales — of the hospital confrontation at which DOJ refused to reauthorize the Internet metadata program that was part of the President’s illegal wiretap program, and at least three of its “heroes:” Ashcroft, Mueller, and Goldsmith.
Interestingly, this meeting does not appear — at least not described as such — in the Draft NSA IG Report description of the transition to a FISC order.
After extensive coordination, DoJ and NSA devised the PRITT theory to which the Chief Judge of the FISC seemed amenable. DoJ and NSA worked closely over the following months, exchanging drafts of the application, preparing declarations, and responding to questions from court advisers. NSA representatives explained the capabilities that were needed to recreate the Authority, and DoJ personnel devised a workable legal basis to meet those needs. In April 2004, NSA briefed Judge Kollar-Kotelly and a law clerk because Judge Kollar-Kotelly was researching the impact of using PSP-derived information in FISA applications. In May 2004, NSA personnel provided a technical briefmg on NSA collection of bulk Internet metadata to Judge Kollar-Kotelly. In addition, General Hayden said he met with Judge Kollar-Kotelly on two successive Saturdays during the summer of 2004 to discuss the on-going efforts.
Was this “briefing” one of the Saturday meetings Hayden had with FISC’s Presiding Judge?
More broadly, it is important to consider the context in which the FISA Court initially approved the bulk collection. Unverified media reports (discussed above) state that bulk telephony metadata collection was occurring before May 2006; even if that is not the case, perhaps such collection could have occurred at that time based on voluntary cooperation from the telecommunications providers. If so, the practical question before the FISC in 2006 was not whether the collection should occur, but whether it should occur under judicial standards and supervision, or unilaterally under the authority of the Executive Branch.
The briefings and other historical evidence raise the question whether Congress’s repeated reauthorization of the tangible things provision effectively incorporates the FISC’s interpretation of the law, at least as to the authorized scope of collection, such that even if it had been erroneous when first issued, it is now—by definition—correct. [my emphasis]
The Internet dragnet was illegal. At least 3 of the people who conveyed the importance of authorizing this program had said so — in very dramatic fashion — less than four months before she would do so.
And yet she wrote a memo saying it was legal.
In the passage of David Kris’ paper that address more public transparency, he included on paragraph on covert action.
For example, the covert action statute 221 could be interpreted and applied in ways that may be extraordinarily important, but about which very, very few Members of Congress, let alone the American People, ever learn.222 The statute defines covert action to exclude “traditional” military and law-enforcement activities,223 provides that a covert action finding “may not authorize any action that would violate the Constitution or any statute of the United States,”224 and specifically warns that “No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”225 Without making any comment, express or implied, on any actual or hypothetical covert action, or even acknowledging that any covert action of any kind has ever actually taken place, it is quite obvious that each of those elements of the statute could raise enormously difficult and complex interpretive questions, some of which might affect many Americans.226 Yet it might be impossible, in many cases, to explain those interpretations without revealing the most sensitive classified information. 227 
In other words, in a passage explaining the challenges and limits to making information available to the public, he implies (“without making any comment, express or implied, on any actual or hypothetical covert action, or even acknowledging that any covert action of any kind has ever actually taken place”) that CIA may have:
And while he very studiously avoids confirming these things that have all been confirmed elsewhere, his argument about the transparency of the matter has more to do with our treatment of covert ops than with transparency per se.
That is, it’s not so much that the US doesn’t and can’t know about the drone strikes, US person assassinations, and really bad propaganda the CIA has been involved in. It’s just that the government keeps the law on covert operations on the book, pretending it abides by it, while telling just the Gang of Four it doesn’t.
That is, it’s not about transparency, it’s about the legal sanction to lie about actions that everyone knows the Executive undertakes.
None of that is shocking (though it’s an interesting argument). But it’d be nice if Kris wanted to hint whether these covert actions included more politicized spying on American people.
[Tenet] called for initiating intelligence contact with some rogue states such as Libya and Syria that he said might be helpful in trying to destroy al Qaeda. For the CIA to obtain helpful information against the terrorists, they might have to get their hands dirty. — Bob Woodward, Bush at War
On September 15, 2001, George Tenet presented Cofer Black’s plan to respond to 9/11 to George Bush. It included rendering suspects to allied torturers including Egypt, partnering with rogue regimes including Bashar al-Assad’s, and ultimately capturing and torturing suspects ourselves.
On September 17, 2001, George Bush implemented that plan by signing a Memorandum of Notification reflecting vague outlines of it.
George Bush’s signature on that document led directly the torture of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi in Omar Suleiman’s hands and Binyam Mohammed’s torture in Pakistani custody, both before DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel gave its sanction to torture. In addition, it led to Maher Arar’s torture in Assad’s hands outside the terms permissible in our rendition program.
Yet as these details of George Bush’s personal implication in torture became clear, President Obama hid it, both with repeated state secrets invocations and by hiding official confirmation of the existence of that document with Bush’s signature on it. The Administration succeeded in hiding that official confirmation by arguing — just last year! — that it was still relying on that document that also endorsed partnering with Assad. (There’s reason to believe that that document which authorized partnering with Assad also served to authorize some of our drone assassinations, including at least the first attempt against Anwar al-Awlaki.)
Meanwhile, the most independent assessment of the August 21 chemical weapons strike — from Human Rights Watch — still has the same gap as every other case does: while it concludes the CW were launched by Assad’s regime, it provides no evidence that it was launched on his orders.
The evidence examined by Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that the August 21 chemical weapon attacks on Eastern and Western Ghouta were carried out by government forces. Our basis for this finding is:
- The large-scale nature of the attacks, involving at least a dozen surface-to-surface rockets affecting two different neighborhoods in Damascus countryside situated 16 kilometers apart, and surrounded by major Syrian government military positions.
- One of the types of rockets used in the attack, the 330mm rocket system – likely Syrian produced, which appear to be have been used in a number of alleged chemical weapon attacks, has been filmed in at least two instances in the hands of government forces. The second type of rocket, the Soviet-produced 140mm rocket, which can carry Sarin, is listed as a weapon known to be in Syrian government weapon stocks. Both rockets have never been reported to be in the possession of the opposition. Nor is there any footage or other evidence that the armed opposition has the vehicle-mounted launchers needed to fire these rockets.
- The August 21 attacks were a sophisticated military attack, requiring large amounts of nerve agent (each 330mm warhead is estimated to contain between 50 and 60 liters of agent), specialized procedures to load the warheads with the nerve agent, and specialized launchers to launch the rockets
Obviously Assad has not yet publicly named — much less condemned — anyone within his regime for doing this (but then, only about 14 Americans have ever paid a price the systematic torture authorized by that Bush signature). If this deal with the Russians actually happens, naming and prosecuting the persons responsible for the August 21 attack should be part of the agreement.
But there is a fundamental problem with America launching a war against Assad for the August CW attack based on chain of command arguments (or “common sense,” as its most recent incarnation has it). That’s because, with all the legal problems surrounding any intervention on our part (especially without UN sanction, which may change under the Russian deal), there are such clear and ongoing instances where, even with clear evidence of human rights violations done under nothing but Presidential authorization, the US doesn’t hold its own responsible.
There was a time when US violations of human rights norms weren’t so clearly documented (though the definitely existed). But now that they are, to claim we have the moral authority to hold Bashar al-Assad responsible based on a chain of command argument when we won’t even hold our own responsible for partnering with him in human rights crimes is particularly problematic.
As human rights hypocrites ourselves, that makes us not even global policemen, but rather simple enforcers when it serves our geopolitical interests.
In a piece making the obvious comparison between fugitive spy Robert Seldon Lady and accused Espionage fugitive Edward Snowden, Tom Englehardt writes off the press silence about presumed American assistance to Lady in fleeing an international arrest warrant as the reality of being the sole superpower.
It’s no less a self-evident truth in Washington that Robert Seldon Lady must be protected from the long (Italian) arm of the law, that he is a patriot who did his duty, that it is the job of the U.S. government to keep him safe and never allow him to be prosecuted, just as it is the job of that government to protect, not prosecute>, CIA torturers who took part in George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror.
So there are two men, both of whom, Washington is convinced, must be brought in: one to face “justice,” one to escape it. And all of this is a given, nothing that needs to be explained or justified to anyone anywhere, not even by a Constitutional law professor president. (Of course, if someone had been accused of kidnapping and rendering an American Christian fundamentalist preacher and terror suspect off the streets of Milan to Moscow or Tehran or Beijing, it would no less self-evidently be a different matter.)
Don’t make the mistake, however, of comparing Washington’s positions on Snowden and Lady and labeling the Obama administration’s words and actions “hypocrisy.” There’s no hypocrisy involved. This is simply the living definition of what it means to exist in a one-superpower world for the first time in history. For Washington, the essential rule of thumb goes something like this: we do what we want; we get to say what we want about what we do; and U.N. ambassadorial nominee Samantha Powers then gets to lecture the world on human rights and oppression.
This version of how it all works is so much the norm in Washington that few there are likely to see any contradiction at all between the Obama administration’s approaches to Snowden and Lady, nor evidently does the Washington media.
Englehardt doesn’t mention Sabrina De Sousa’s claims about the CIA’s kidnapping of Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr (Abu Omar) and Italy’s subsequent prosecution of those involved. Adding her in the mix makes it clear how closely immunity for the Commander in Chief and his top aides is part of this superpower big-footing.
De Sousa, who says she served as an interpreter for the kidnappers on a planning trip, but not in the operation itself, was convicted and sentenced in Italy in part because the government refused to invoke diplomatic immunity (she admits she worked for CIA, but was under official cover).
The kidnapping did not meet US standards for renditions, but Station Chief Jeff Castelli wanted to do one anyway, and pushed through its approval even without Italian cooperation.
Despite concerns with the strength of Castelli’s case, CIA headquarters still agreed to move forward and seek Rice’s approval, De Sousa said. She recalled reading a cable from late 2002 that reported that Rice was worried about whether CIA personnel “would go to jail” if they were caught.
In response, she said, Castelli wrote that any CIA personnel who were caught would just be expelled from Italy “and SISMi will bail everyone out.”
Of her CIA superiors, De Sousa said, “They knew this (the rendition) was bullshit, but they were just allowing it. These guys approved it based on what Castelli was saying even though they knew it never met the threshold for rendition.”
Asked which agency officials would have been responsible for reviewing the operation and agreeing to ask Rice for Bush’s authorization, De Sousa said they would have included Tenet; Tyler Drumheller, who ran the CIA’s European operations; former CIA Director of Operations James Pavitt and his then-deputy, Stephen Kappes; Jose Rodriguez, then the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and former acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo.
De Sousa says the Italians and Americans colluded to protect the highers up, while prosecuting her and other lower level people.
De Sousa accused Italian leaders of colluding with the United States to shield Bush, Rice, Tenet and senior CIA aides by declining to prosecute them or even demanding that Washington publicly admit to staging the abduction.
Calling the operation unjustified and illegal, De Sousa said Italy and the United States cooperated in “scape-goating a bunch of people . . . while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.”
Note, she doesn’t say this, but some of the people in the chain of command for this kidnapping — in both the US and Italy — were also involved in planting the Niger forgeries used to start the Iraq War. And, of course, a number of the Americans were involved in the torture program and its cover-up.
Since then, De Sousa has used all legal avenues to blow the whistle on this kidnapping.
De Sousa said that she has tried for years to report what she said was the baseless case for Nasr’s abduction and her shoddy treatment by the CIA and two administrations.
Her pleas and letters, however, were ignored by successive U.S. intelligence leaders, the CIA inspector general’s office, members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Rice, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, said De Sousa.
Assuming De Sousa’s story is correct (and an anonymous source backs its general outlines), then it adds one more reason why Lady quietly got to return to the US while Snowden will be loudly chased around the world.
What Americans are buying off on — along with superpower status that may defund schools in exchange for empire — with their silence about the disparate treatment of Sady and Snowden, then, is not just the ego thrill of living in a thus far unrivaled state.
It’s also, implicitly, the kind of immunity for the Commander in Chief and executive branch that shouldn’t exist in democratic states.
As Charlie Savage reports, the CIA’s IG report on CIA-on-the-Hudson has finally been released. It finds that the decision to put CIA personnel at NYPD was ill-advised and poorly managed by CIA’s executives who oversaw the arrangement.
While negative public perception is to be expected from the revelation of the Agency’s close and direct collaboration with any local domestic police department, a perception that the Agency has exceeded its authorities diminishes the trust placed in the organization. This has the added potential of impeding our ability to effectively support law enforcement at both the local and federal level. Additionally, the risk that CIA officers could become involved in law enforcement matters exists if implementing procedures and policies to designed such collaboration are not clearly understood. A lapse in any one of these components has the potential to make Agency officers vulnerable and could jeopardize the vital mission the Agency performs.
The revelation of these issues, as discussed in more detail in the Executive Summary, leads me to conclude that the risks associated with the Agency’s relationship with NYPD were not fully considered and that there was inadequate direction and control by the Agency managers responsible for the relationship. [my emphasis]
Amid descriptions of violations of protections for Americans, the report describes basic personnel problems with the arrangement.
In addition, there appears to have been no documentation between CIA and NYPD addressing specifically the employee’s role concerning access to NYPD records and the practices to be followed with respect to the sharing of lead information.
… better documentation of the arrangement, practices, and appropriate approvals was warranted.
Unfortunately, the report does not name all the “senior CIA managers” who first implemented such an ill-considered program — it only says the first CIA officer was sent under George Tenet’s authority.
In early 2002, senior CIA management received requests for increased Intelligence Community (IC) support from federal, state, and local law enforcement, to include the NYPD. A Concept of Operations (CONOP) was developed by senior Agency officers in April 2002 for a temporary duty assignment (TDY) of a seasoned Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analyst to New York City for a six to nine month period under Director of Central Intelligence Authorities. 1
1 … DCI Tenet directed [redacted--AP reported this as Larry Sanchez] to New York City in 2002 under his DCI authorities as manager of the intelligence community.
Sanchez would be there from June 4, 2002 to March 2004, after which he took Leave without Pay and served at the NYPD full time until May 2009.
Sanchez believed he had “no restrictions” as to what he could and couldn’t do at NYPD.
The report makes it clear Sanchez served as a cop during the 5 years he was at NYPD while on LWOP. It doesn’t explain what he did in the first 2 years there, when he was still officially at the CIA, during which time — the report makes clear — serving as a cop would have violated restrictions on CIA officers serving as law enforcement.
Now, the report provides more details about how two of the other three CIA officers shared with the NYPD got sent. It names titles — Associate Deputy Director, Director of National Clandestine Services, Senior Deputy General Counsel as being involve d in the later decisions. It decides a Memorandum of Notification and warnings against engaging in domestic law enforcement (though that didn’t stop the person in question from filtering up to 12 reports a day up to CIA). For the third (whose transfer didn’t have that kind of guidance), names are named, including that of Deputy Director Mike Morell and Director/NCS John Bennett.
In short, Sanchez’s assignment may or may not have been as bad when, for a period in 2008, CIA was getting direct access to NYPD’s domestic intelligence reports. But at least from this review it seems like his assignment was one of the biggest clusterfucks from a management perspective.
You know? From the period when John Brennan was Deputy Executive Director at the CIA, “focused on administrative and workforce issues.” The same John Brennan who, after these practices were exposed, insisted he was “intimately familiar” with the program but that the CIA “knew what the rules were” — rules that, particularly for Sanchez while Brennan was still DExDir, simply weren’t in place.
Brennan’s potential role in this clusterfuck is all the more interesting given the timing of the report. It was written while he was the President’s top counterterrorism advisor. EPIC FOIAed the document March 28, 2012. CIA denied it expedited processing. So EPIC sued on December 20, 2012. CIA asked for one one week delay a few weeks after Brennan was confirmed Director.
And now this comes out, the day before Brennan heads to the Senate Intelligence Committee to tell them their 6,000 page report on torture is wrong.
It sure sounds like a report held to avoid embarrassing Brennan.
But don’t worry. We didn’t need to have any public airing of Brennan’s role — aside from his vague admission he knew about the program — before he got the authority to replicate the program elsewhere.
In superb news, late last night, the NYC City Council passed, with veto proof majorities, two bills that would provide real oversight for the NYPD.
Stephen Cambone was the first ever Under Secretary of Defense for something called “Intelligence.”
In that role, he oversaw a domestic spying program that targeted hippies and made GOP cronies rich. And then he went on to profit off that domestic spying program at a company called QinetiQ.
Which is why I’m having a hard time summoning much grief that Chinese hackers have pwned another US Defense Contractor — none other than QinetiQ (George Tenet, another noted “intelligence” figure, was there until 2008)!
Here are the kinds of things the hackers accessed, almost unimpeded.
The lengthy spying operation on QinetiQ jeopardized the company’s sensitive technology involving drones, satellites, the U.S. Army’s combat helicopter fleet, and military robotics, both already-deployed systems and those still in development, according to internal investigations.
And here is the kind of access QinetiQ allowed both Chinese and Russian hackers.
In 2008, a security team found that QinetiQ’s internal corporate network could be accessed from a Waltham, Massachusetts, parking lot using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. The same investigation discovered that Russian hackers had been stealing secrets from QinetiQ for more than 2 1/2 years through a secretary’s computer, which they had rigged to send the data directly to a server in the Russian Federation, according to an internal investigation.
Read the whole thing — you won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Meanwhile, the government seems more intent on violating my privacy to fix this kind of wholesale hacking, rather than blackballing those contractors who are incapable of securing their networks.
The State Department, which has the power to revoke QinetiQ’s charter to handle restricted military technology if it finds negligence, has yet to take any action against the company.
In May 2012, QinetiQ received a $4.7 million cyber-security contract from the U.S. Transportation Department, which includes protection of the country’s critical transport infrastructure.
The same company that let China hack at will for years is being paid millions for cybersecurity.
That about says it all.
As part of the discussion in his book explaining how the CIA shifted from torture to killing, Mark Mazzetti tells the story of how the CIA balked at engaging in further torture after the Detainee Treatment Act.
After President Bush signed the bill into law, then-CIA Director Porter Goss wrote the White House saying the CIA would refuse to torture unless and until they got a guarantee they wouldn’t be prosecuted for doing it. In response, the Bush Administration sent Andy Card to the CIA to try to calm them down.
Card drove out to Langley intending to soothe the fears at CIA headquarters, but his visit was a disaster. Inside a packed conference room, Card thanked the assembled CIA officers for their service and their hard work but refused to make any firm declarations that agency officers wouldn’t be criminally liable for participating in the detention-and-interrogation program.
The room became restless. Prodded by his chief of staff, Patrick Murray, Porter Goss interrupted Card.
“Can you assure these people that the politicians will not walk away from the people who carried out this program?” Goss asked. Card didn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he tried to crack a joke.
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “Every morning I knock on the door of the Oval Office, walk in, and say, ‘Pardon me, Mr. President.’ And of course, the only person the president can’t pardon is himself.”
Card giggled after he said this, but his joke landed with a thud. The White House chief of staff, when asked whether President Bush would protect CIA officers from legal scrutiny, had suggested that the most they might be abel to rely on is a presidential pardon after the indictments and convictions were handed down. (127-128)
Goss effectively repeated a request the CIA had made, unsuccessfully, as early as July 13, 2002 (when, it should be said, Goss was ostensibly in charge of overseeing the program at the House Intelligence Committee, though there’s no reason to believe he knew about the earlier request): for an Administration guarantee that everyone involved in the torture program would be shielded from criminal consequences for kidnapping and torturing.
And in response, Card implied to these CIA officers and executives two things:
Now, Card wouldn’t have even tried such a joke unless he knew his audience knew that the torture program was based on a Presidential Finding — what we know to be the September 17, 2001 Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification.
There’s fairly clear evidence that CIA’s officers did know about it.
This Mark Hosenball story is getting a lot of attention. It repeats earlier assertions–from Dianne Feinstein among others–about whether or not John Brennan opposed torture or not, with anonymous sources (one, a senior Administration official, who might not have means to know firsthand) arguing both sides.
Some former officials familiar with deliberations about the program said they don’t recall Brennan voicing objections to the use of harsh interrogation techniques.
But other former officials say Brennan was among agency officials who were uncomfortable with the use of physically coercive tactics, despite the legal opinions that supported their use. He expressed concern, according to these officials, that if details of the program became public, it would be CIA officers who would face criticism, rather than the politicians and lawyers who approved them.
“Mr. Brennan had significant concerns and personal objections to many elements of the EIT (enhanced interrogation techniques) program while it was under way,” a senior administration official said in response to Reuters’ inquiries. “He voiced those objections privately with colleagues at the agency.”
But I’m most amused by one of the only on-the-record quotes in the piece, from George Tenet’s Deputy, John McLaughlin.
“If John says he expressed reservations about some techniques, I believe him because he’s an honest guy,” said John McLaughlin, who was deputy CIA director at the time.
John Brennan’s an honest guy. Sure.
The guy who said there were no civilian drone casualties.
The guy who implied all drone strikes are targeted at known people, pretending none are targeted at patterns of people whose identity remains unknown.
The guy who said Osama bin Laden shot at the team that ultimately killed him.
I’ve got my concerns about John Brennan’s knowledge of–even his logistical involvement in–torture. But a far bigger concern, in my book, is that–like John McLaughlin’s boss, George “Slam Dunk” Tenet–he has lied to the American people, all the while hiding behind a claim of secrecy.
And so not only is it absurd to believe John Brennan opposed torture because he says so. It’s that–just 10 years after being lied into an illegal war–we’re even considering confirming a guy who has engaged in the same kind of lying that George Tenet used to help get us into that war.
There’s one question I haven’t seen anyone ask but which seems utterly critical to John Brennan’s fitness to be CIA Director.
Back when the AP was first exposing how the CIA set up a spying program for the NYPD, they asked John Brennan about it. He professed to be “intimately familiar” with the program.
President Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser, John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director the CIA when the NYPD intelligence programs began, said he was intimately familiar with the CIA-NYPD partnership. He said that agency knew what the rules were and did not cross any lines.
As the program got more attention last year, Brennan even went to NYC to personally give the domestic spying program his seal of approval.
The White House added its stamp of approval a month later when President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan visited police headquarters.
“I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, and it’s something that again has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade,” he said.
Remember, this program is offensive not just because it spies on so many Americans and in such incompetent fashion. It’s offensive because it involved the CIA in training NY Police Officers in CIA spy techniques.
These operations have benefited from unprecedented help from the CIA, a partnership that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying.
David Cohen arrived at the New York Police Department in January 2002, just weeks after the last fires had been extinguished at the debris field that had been the twin towers. A retired 35-year veteran of the CIA, Cohen became the police department’s first civilian intelligence chief.
Cohen had an exceptional career at the CIA, rising to lead both the agency’s analytical and operational divisions. He also was an extraordinarily divisive figure, a man whose sharp tongue and supreme confidence in his own abilities gave him a reputation as arrogant. Cohen’s tenure as head of CIA operations, the nation’s top spy, was so contentious that in 1997, The New York Times editorial page took the unusual step of calling for his ouster.
Among Cohen’s earliest moves at the NYPD was making a request of his old colleagues at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. He needed someone to help build this new operation, someone with experience and clout and, most important, someone who had access to the latest intelligence so the NYPD wouldn’t have to rely on the FBI to dole out information.
CIA Director George Tenet responded by tapping Larry Sanchez, a respected veteran who had served as a CIA official inside the United Nations. Often, when the CIA places someone on temporary assignment, the other agency picks up the tab. In this case, three former intelligence officials said, Tenet kept Sanchez on the CIA payroll.
When he arrived in New York in March 2002, Sanchez had offices at both the NYPD and the CIA’s station in New York, one former official said. Sanchez interviewed police officers for newly defined intelligence jobs. He guided and mentored officers, schooling them in the art of gathering information. He also directed their efforts, another said.
There had never been an arrangement like it, and some senior CIA officials soon began questioning whether Tenet was allowing Sanchez to operate on both sides of the wall that’s supposed to keep the CIA out of the domestic intelligence business.