John Brennan

Robert Eatinger, Lawyer Who Approved Torture Tape Destruction, Tries to Intimidate Senate Investigators

Dianne Feinstein just gave a barn burner of a speech explaining the CIA/SSCI fight over the Torture Report. There are a lot of details I’ll return to.

But one of the most important issues, in my mind, is the detail that the Acting General Counsel of the CIA, Robert Eatinger, referred the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators to DOJ for investigation. (h/t to DocexBlog for identifying Eatinger) Feinstein correctly interpreted this as an attempt to intimidate her staffers as they complete the investigation.

And, as Feinstein made clear, Eatinger is a key focus of the report. Feinstein revealed that Eatinger (whom she did not name) was named, by name, (if I heard Feinstein’s claim correctly) 1,600 times in the Torture Report.

At least some of those mentions surely describe CIA’s decision to destroy the torture tapes, an act Eatinger sanctioned.

Former CIA clandestine branch chief Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who ordered the destruction of the tapes, has said through his attorney that he based his decision on legal advice from agency lawyers. The lawyers, Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger, did not endorse the tapes’ destruction but rather concluded there was “no legal impediment” to disposing of them, according to sources briefed on their advice.

Hermes and Eatinger, who only recently were interviewed by Durham, continue to work at the agency and have retained counsel, the sources said.

Feinstein described Eatinger’s key role as the Counterterrorism Center’s chief lawyer (presumably after Jonathan Fredman left). Some things CTC lawyers did were:

  • Approved the use of sleep deprivation before DOJ considered the question
  • Altered the record of the original briefing to Nancy Pelosi and Porter Goss
  • Used a John Yoo freelanced memo as the basis of advice to CIA on torture
  • Collaborated with John Yoo to write a “Legal Principles” document that authorized otherwise unauthorized torture techniques

Lawyers probably associated with CTC also lied about the treatment of Hassan Ghul in 2004.

Eatinger also contributed to a CIA cover-up attempt in a key State Secrets case.

There’s a lot that’s amazing about this story. But I find it particularly telling that a lawyer trying to protect his own ass — trying to hide details of the 1,600 mentions of his name in the Torture Report — has targeted Senate Intelligence Committee staffers.

Update: Given that Eatinger is apparently the person who referred the Senate staffers, it is significant that Feinstein started her speech by raising the torture tape destruction.

The origin of this study: The CIA’s detention and interrogation program began operations in 2002, though it was not until September 2006, that Members of the Intelligence Committee, other than the Chairman and Vice Chairman, were briefed. In fact, we were briefed by then-CIA Director Hayden only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.

A little more than a year later, on December 6, 2007, a New York Times article revealed the troubling fact that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of some of the CIA’s first interrogations using so-called “enhanced techniques.” We learned that this destruction was over the objections of President Bush’s White House Counsel and the Director of National Intelligence.

After we read about the tapes’ destruction in the newspapers, Director Hayden briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee. He assured us that this was not destruction of evidence, as detailed records of the interrogations existed on paper in the form of CIA operational cables describing the detention conditions and the day-to-day CIA interrogations.

The CIA director stated that these cables were “a more than adequate representation” of what would have been on the destroyed tapes. Director Hayden offered at that time, during Senator Jay Rockefeller’s chairmanship of the committee, to allow Members or staff to review these sensitive CIA operational cables given that the videotapes had been destroyed.

John Kiriakou’s Prosecution Is an Important Precedent to CIA – Senate Intelligence Committee Spat

On several occasions, I have pointed to the arbitrary system our classification system constructs. It asks government employees to spy on their colleagues. It permits agencies to conduct fishing expeditions into personal information as part of the polygraph process. It permits Agencies to selectively approve propaganda under the guise of pre-publication review (most notably in the case of Jose Rodriguez and John Rizzo). By stripping sensitive unclassified jobs of their Merit Board protection, even lower level staffers who don’t receive a clearance-related income boost are now subject to this arbitrary system. And Congress even tried to use pensions as another leverage point against cleared personnel.

The arbitrary nature of this system is perhaps most clear, however, when it comes to prosecutions.

Which is a point John Kiriakou made in an op-ed yesterday. In it, he suggests Leon Panetta and James Cartwright could be sitting next to him in Loretto Prison.

The [Espionage Act] states: “Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any … information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates … the same to any person not entitled to receive it … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

A transcript obtained by the organization Judicial Watch shows that, at a CIA awards ceremony attended by Boal, Panetta did exactly that. The CIA seems to acknowledge that Panetta accidentally revealed the name of the special forces ground commander who led the operation to kill Osama bin Laden, not knowing that the Hollywood screenwriter was part of an audience cleared to hear him speak. But intent is not relevant to Espionage Act enforcement.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled in my case that evidence of the accidental release of national defense information was inadmissible, and she added that the government did not have to prove that a leak of classified information actually caused any harm to the United States. In other words, the act of disclosing the kind of broad information covered by the Espionage Act is prosecutable regardless of outcome or motive.

The sensitivity of what Panetta revealed is not in question. The spokesman for the former CIA director said Panetta assumed that everyone present at the time of the speech had proper clearance for such a discussion. When the transcript of the speech was released, more than 90 lines had been redacted, implying that Panetta had disclosed a great deal more classified information than the name of an operative.

[snip]

If an intent to undermine U.S. national security or if identifiable harm to U.S. interests are indeed not relevant to Espionage Act enforcement, then the White House and the Justice Department should be in full froth. Panetta should be having his private life dug in to, sifted and seized as evidence, as happened to me and six others under the Obama administration.

[snip]

If Panetta and Cartwright aren’t accountable while Drake, Kim and I have been crucified for harming U.S. national security — all of us accused of or investigated for the same thing: disclosing classified information to parties not authorized to know it — then what does that say about justice in America or White House hypocrisy?

Kiriakou goes on to call for changes in the Espionage Act to focus on issues of intent and harm.

Kiriakou is, of course, correct that he got punished for things that Panetta and Cartwright have (so far, at least) escaped such levels of punishment for. (I’d also add the unnamed real sources for the UndieBomb 2.0 leak, who are being protected by the scapegoating of Donald Sachtleben.)

But I’d go even further. Given reports that FBI is investigating whether Senate Intelligence Committee staffers violated the law for obtaining proof the Agency they oversee was hiding evidence from it, it’s crucial to remember how Kiriakou’s prosecution came about, which I laid out in this post.

It started when CIA officers claimed that when Gitmo defense attorneys provided photos of their clients torturers to them–having independently discovered their identity–the torturers were put at risk. DOJ didn’t believe it was a security risk; CIA disagreed and went to John Brennan. And after Patrick Fitzgerald was brought in to mediate between DOJ and CIA, the prosecution of John Kiriakou resulted.

As a reminder of where this all started, it’s worth reading this March 15, 2010 Bill Gertz article which was, AFAIK, the first public report of the investigation into the John Adams Project. It describes a March 9, 2010 meeting between Fitzgerald and the CIA.

The dispute prompted a meeting Tuesday at CIA headquarters between U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald and senior CIA counterintelligence officials. It is the latest battle between the agency and the department over detainees and interrogations of terrorists.

[snip]

According to U.S. officials familiar with the issue, the current dispute involves Justice Department officials who support an effort led by the American Civil Liberties Union to provide legal aid to military lawyers for the Guantanamo inmates. CIA counterintelligence officials oppose the effort and say giving terrorists photographs of interrogators has exposed CIA personnel and their families to possible terrorist attacks.

[snip]

According to the officials, the dispute centered on discussions for a interagency memorandum that was to be used in briefing President Obama and senior administration officials on the photographs found in Cuba. Justice officials did not share the CIA’s security concerns about the risks posed to CIA interrogators and opposed language on the matter that was contained in the draft memorandum. The memo was being prepared for White House National Security Council aide John Brennan, who was to use it to brief the president.

The CIA insisted on keeping its language describing the case and wanted the memorandum sent forward in that form.

That meeting, of course, would have taken place the day after Fitzgerald was appointed. So immediately after Fitzgerald got put in charge of this investigation, he presumably moderated a fight between DOJ, which didn’t think detainee lawyers pursuing their clients’ torturers via independent means threatened to expose the torturers’ identity directly, and CIA, which apparently claimed to be worried.

What happened with Kiriakou’s sentencing today is many things. But it started as–and is still fundamentally a result of–an effort on the part of CIA to ensure that none of its torturers ever be held accountable for their acts, to ensure that the subjects of their torture never gain any legal foothold to hold them accountable.

Continue reading

DOJ’s Leaky SCIF Double Standards

McClatchy’s latest in the CIA-Seante Intelligence Committee fight reports that FBI is now investigating Senate Intelligence Committee staffers for unauthorized removal of classified information from CIA’s SCIF.

The FBI is investigating the alleged unauthorized removal of classified documents from a secret CIA facility by Senate Intelligence Committee staff who prepared a study of the agency’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in secret overseas detention centers, McClatchy has learned.

[snip]

The FBI investigation stemmed from a request to the Justice Department by the CIA general counsel’s office for a criminal investigation into the removal last fall of classified documents by committee staff from a high-security electronic reading room that they were required to use to review top-secret emails and other materials, people familiar with issue told McClatchy. The existence of the referral was first reported online Thursday afternoon by Time magazine.

[snip]

The investigation request by the CIA general counsel’s office is one of two criminal referrals sent to the Justice Department in connection with the committee’s 6,300-page report, which remains unreleased nearly 15 months after the panel voted to approve its final draft, according to those familiar with the case.

The second was made by CIA Inspector General David Buckley, they said. It relates to the monitoring by the agency of computers that the committee staff used to review millions of classified documents in the electronic reading room set up inside a secret CIA facility in Northern Virginia, they said.

Wow. This removal of a document from a SCIF containing torture documents sure escalated quickly.

Which is particularly remarkable given DOJ’s past response when torture documents walk out of a SCIF, even their own one.

Recall that sometime between 2005 and 2009, at least 10 and possibly as many as 31 documents critical to discussions over the legality of torture disappeared from the Office of Legal Counsel’s very own SCIF.

Some of the documents that went into the production of the torture memos–and should have been reviewed by OPR over the course of its investigation–disappeared some time in the last 5 years.

As I reported last September, after some delay in a FOIA response, Acting head of OLC, David Barron confessed that OLC could not find all of the documents that it had first listed on a 2006 FOIA response.

The problem, as Barron explained in his declaration, seems to stem from three things: CIA, not OLC, did the original FOIA search in 2005 and at that time did not make a copy of the documents responsive to FOIA; for long periods OPR had the documents, lumped in with a bunch of other torture documents, so it could work on is investigation; the documents got shuttled around for other purposes, as well, including other investigations and one trip to the CIA for a 2007 update to the FOIA Vaughn Index. [Here's the 2007 Vaughn Index and here's the Vaughn Index that accompanied Barron's declaration last September.]

And, somewhere along the way, at least 10 documents originally identified in 2005 as responsive to the FOIA got lost.

Poof!

Not only did DOJ apparently do nothing about their own leaky SCIF, they took some time to even tell the ACLU about it. What’s a few sensitive torture documents escaping from their SCIFs after all?

But now, when it’s the CIA being compromised rather than the CIA doing the compromising, things quickly escalate to potentially criminal investigations.

DOJ seems to have a remarkably inconsistent standard response when torture documents disappear from SCIFs. I wonder why that is?

If CIA Pwned SSCI’s Segregated Shared Drive, the Torture Report Should Be FOIA-able

As reader Tom has helpfully reminded me, both Mark Udall’s follow-up questions for Stephen Preston and the CIA’s declaration in ACLU’s FOIA to liberate the Torture Report describe the arrangements CIA required of the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers as they were working on the Torture Report.

Udall described how the CIA insisted on an “unnecessary multi-layered” process that added significantly to the time and cost of the report.

The CIA declined to provide the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with access to CIA records at the Committee’s secure office space in the Hart Senate Office Building. Instead, the CIA insisted that the Committee review documents at a government building in Virginia. Once the CIA produced relevant documents related to the CIA detention and interrogation program, the CIA then insisted that CIA personnel—and private contractors employed by the CIA—review each document multiple times to ensure unrelated documents were not provided to a small number of fully cleared Committee staff. What role did you play in the decision to employ these unnecessary multi-layered review steps that delayed CIA document production to the Committee at significant governmental expense?

And the CIA declaration emphasizes how SSCI retained complete control over the materials in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in which its staffers had been required to work.

One key principle necessary to this inter-branch accommodation, and a condition upon which SSCI insisted, was that the materials created by SSCI personnel on this segregated shared drive would not become “agency records” even though this work product was being created and stored on a CIA computer system. Specifically, in a 2 June 2009 letter from the SSCI Chairman and Vice Chairman to the CIA Director, the Committee expressly stated that the SSCI’s work product, including “draft and final recommendations, reports or other materials generated by Committee staff or Members, are the property of the Committee” and “remain congressional records in their entirety.” The SSCI further provided that the “disposition and control over these records, even after the completion of the Committee’s review, lies exclusively with the Committee.”

[snip]

Based on this inter-branch accommodation, SSCI personnel used the segregated shared drive to draft the document that is the subject of this litigation. As sections of the report reached a certain stage, the SSCI worked with the CIA information technology and security personnel to transfer these drafts from the segregated shared drive to the SSCI’s secure facilities at the U.S. Capitol complex so that the Committee could complete the drafting process in its workspaces.

Here’s the thing. The purported control SSCI had over the materials in this SCIF is central to CIA’s claim that the Torture Report is not an Agency document and therefore is immune from FOIA.

If SSCI did not have complete control over this material — if CIA could spy on SSCI at will (if, as seems to be the case when viewed in retrospect) — then it guts their argument that the Torture Report is a Congressional document.

If CIA pwned SSCI in that SCIF, then it should make this material (at least the draft reports, before they got moved over to SSCI’s own SCIF) FOIA-able.

So either CIA should be prosecuted for hacking SSCI. Or it should hand over the last draft of the report that resided on servers it felt free to hack into.

Operation Stall

McClatchy has now posted an update to the tale of the CIA-SSCI spat.

It appears the following happened: Sometime around August, SSCI staffers working on a database at CIA discovered the internal CIA report, started under Leon Panetta, that corroborated the SSCI report. It also contradicted CIA’s official response to the SSCI Report.

Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

So having discovered even the CIA disagreed with the CIA’s response, the SSCI staffers took a copy with them.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings which they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

Mark Udall raised the report in a December hearing. In January, CIA accused SSCI of absconding with the document.

After the CIA confronted the panel in January about the removal of the material last fall, panel staff concluded that the agency had monitored computers that they’d been given to use in a high-security research room at the CIA campus in Langley, Va., a McClatchy investigation found.

In response, the CIA asked DOJ to start an investigation.

Then there’s this weird question about the document. I’m not sure whether the issue is how the document first got included in the database at CIA, or whether it’s how it migrated to SSCI.

White House officials have held at least one closed-door meeting with committee members about the monitoring and the removal of the documents, said the first knowledgeable person.

The White House officials were trying to determine how the materials that were taken from CIA headquarters found their way into a data base into which millions of pages of top-secret reports, emails and other documents were made available to panel staff after being vetted by CIA officials and contractors, said the knowledgeable person.

My favorite part of this passage, though, is that contractors are helping choose with documents CIA’s overseers are allowed to see.

Because contractors should surely have more visibility into what the CIA does than CIA’s overseers, right?

All of which is to say the SSCI busted the CIA for lying in their official response to the Committee. And as a result, CIA decided to start accusing the Committee of breaking the law. And now everyone is being called into the Principal’s office for spankings.

This reminds me of what happened when Gitmo defense lawyers tried to independently identify the identities of their clients torturers. The lawyers got too close to the torturers, which set off a process that ultimately led to John Kiriakou, as the sacrificial lamb, going to jail.

But it seems that this is part of a larger CIA effort to stall. As McClatchy notes, CIA took 3 extra months to provide their initial response to SSCI. Then this erupted 2 months later. It has now been almost 3 months since Udall first revealed the existence of the Panetta report. Which brings us just 8 months away from an election in which the Democrats stand a good chance of losing the Senate, and with it, the majority on the Committee that might vote to declassify the report in defiance of CIA’s wishes. Which may be why Saxby Chambliss is fanning the CiA’s flames for them.

“I have no comment. You should talk to those folks that are giving away classified information and get their opinion,” Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said when asked about the alleged intrusions.

Stall, stall, stall. It’s what CIA did with the OPR report, it’s what they did with the torture tape investigation, and now this.

CIA may well suck at doing their job — getting intelligence that is useful to the country. But they sure are experts at outlasting any oversight onto their real activities.

Imran Khan, Samuil Haq State US Does Not Want Peace Negotiations in Pakistan

As Pakistan traverses a difficult path, trying to negotiate peace with militant groups under a shaky ceasefire, provocative statements have come out this week from leading figures in the process accusing the US of not wanting the talks to succeed and even suggesting that the US would actively try to undermine them.

Today, we have this very provocative statement from Maulana Samiul Haq, who has played a prominent role in getting the peace talks under way:

Attempts will be made to sabotage the efforts of the intermediary committees with regards to the peace talks, stated Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq while speaking to the media in Nowshera on Wednesday.

He said that “the third enemy” will definitely do something to create obstacles, adding that USA, India and Afghanistan do not want the peace negotiations to be successful.

Dawn’s coverage of the press conference describes Haq’s statement in this way:

Haq, chief of the Taliban negotiating committee, told reporters after the meeting that the Taliban committee was seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He praised the Taliban for announcing the ceasefire and said he had asked the militants to track down whoever was responsible for the recent violence.

Moreover, he also said that the announcement of a ceasefire from both sides was a major progress and that the Taliban had been asked to probe into those responsible for recent attacks.

The chief Taliban mediator added that Afghanistan, India and the United States wanted the dialogue process to fail.

He further said that the government and Taliban should jointly unveil the enemy.

It would seem that Haq is following his own advice here, because in the aftermath of Monday’s attack on the court in Islamabad, Haq had said this:

The government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) should not blame each other for any attack and  should look for “the third enemy,” stated Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq while talking to the media in Islamabad.

So on Monday it appears that Haq called on Pakistan to identify the “third enemy” and then today he stated that the US, India and Afghanistan fill that role.

I had missed it in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s attack, but Imran Khan did not wait to identify the US as the enemy of peace in Pakistan:

Imran Khan, chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, said on Monday that some elements, including the United States, were against peace in the country and an operation in Waziristan region was not in favour of Pakistan, DawnNews reported.

I’m guessing that John Brennan’s drone trigger finger is getting very itchy about now and that he is looking into how he can break the current lull in US drone strikes. Especially considering that the DOJ has now been asked to investigate CIA spying on Senate Inteligence Committee staff computers and Brennan’s known history of using drone strikes in Pakistan as a political retaliation tool, I don’t see how he can keep himself in check any longer.

CIA Hacks Its Overseers

In January, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall suggested that CIA was hacking into US computers.

Wyden asked (43;04) John Brennan whether the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applied to the CIA.

Wyden: Does the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA?

Brennan: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for and its applicability to CIA’s authorities. I’ll be happy to get back to you, Senator, on that.

Wyden: How long would that take?

Brennan: I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible but certainly no longer than–

Wyden: A week?

Brennan: I think that I could get that back to you, yes.

Minutes later, Mark Udall raised EO 12333′s limits on CIA’s spying domestically (48:30).

Udall: I want to be able to reassure the American people that the CIA and the Director understand the limits of its authorities. We are all aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of US citizens within our borders. Can you assure the Committee that the CIA does not conduct such domestic spying and searches?

Brennan: I can assure the Committee that the CIA follows the letter and spirit of the law in terms of what CIA’s authorities are, in terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this country safe. Yes Senator, I do.

It appears the target of this hacking was the Senate Intelligence Committee itself.

The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.

The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.

[snip]

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 9 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”

NYT adds that CIA started spying on SSCI after learning it had accessed documents they didn’t want them to.

The action, which Mr. Udall did not describe, took place after C.I.A. officials came to suspect that congressional staff members had gained unauthorized access to agency documents during the course of the Intelligence Committee’s years-long investigation into the detention and interrogation program.

This is effectively the same treatment the CIA extends to Gitmo lawyers and defendants, where it spies to see what they’re saying about its torture methods.

But I bet it will be treated with more seriousness.

Mark Udall: CIA Took “Unprecedented Action” Against SSCI on Its Own Torture Report

Mark Udall just wrote Obama a sometimes cryptic letter asking him to commit to declassifying the Senate Intelligence Report torture report. In it, he:

  • Asserts a significant amount of what has been declassified about the torture program is “misleading and inaccurate”
  • Asks for more information about what led to the development of the CIA report
  • Asks why the findings of the CIA report were not included in CIA’s (John Brennan’s) response to the torture report
  • Suggests CIA is withholding the final version of the internal CIA report that corroborates many of SSCI’s report (it has provided a draft)
  • Says he will hold Caroline Krass’ nomination to be CIA General Counsel

But I’m particularly interested in this oblique comment:

As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find those actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy. It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.

“Unprecedented” is a pretty strong word.

Senator Udall’s office was unable to offer more clarity about this unprecedented action.

Updated: Changed the title because it implied Udall was saying this unprecedented action was about covering up torture, which is more than he said.

The (Other Possibility) Inert UndieBomb 2.0

I’m cleaning up my desk so I wanted to return to something in this transcript from John Brennan’s May 7, 2012 conference call with his predecessors at White House czar in attempt to pre-empt the AP’s reporting on UndieBomb 2.0.

Fran Fragos Townsend suggested something that was clear at the time: the Saudis were leaking about the “thwarted plot.”

TOWNSEND: John, we’ve got a source telling us that the tip, like sort of with the cartridge plot, came from the Saudis. All the statements reference international partners in cooperation. You obviously may not want to confirm that, but it would be an opportunity, if it absolutely wrong, to wave us off it.

Brennan doesn’t so much wave her off it — indeed, he admits that some of our friends watch AQAP very closely — but he emphasizes international partners and services enough that, in retrospect, looks like a possible hint of British involvement too.

BRENNAN: What I will say is that we have nested this within the international cooperation among intelligence and security services, and I’m not going to get more specific than that. But as you can imagine, there are certain services that are involved in watching very carefully what AQAP is doing. This was close cooperation with them. But some of the operational sensitivities are of an international dimension. And so, therefore, I really cannot go into anything specific about which country or which service was involved.

Townsend then presses on why the Administration claimed this was not a threat.

TOWNSEND: Very early stages, which is why you’re all saying that it was never a threat to the United States?

This is where Brennan uses his inside control line, while trying to strike back against the legitimate questions why the Administration mobilized the Air Marshals if the bomb was never a threat.

BRENNAN: The device itself, as I think the FBI statement said quite clearly, never posed a threat to the American public or to the public. And again, this is sort of wrapped up in the way that we became aware of this device, and the way it was managed, so that it was, again, as far as this device was concerned, it was not a threat. As you all know, one of the real struggles we have is what we don’t know, and so, I see that there was, you know, a press piece that just took issue with, well, if this device was never a threat, why did the President direct, you know, Department of Homeland Security and others to take appropriate measures Well, as we well know, al-Qaeda has tried to carry out simultaneous types of attacks, and so we were confident that we had inside control over the — any plot that might have been associated with this device. But again, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Then Townsend floated something remarkable — and it appears she was doing no more than floating it and didn’t really want an answer: the notion that the bomb was inert.

TOWNSEND: I say this not for a response. I mean, look, the other possibility is that you’re confident because it was inert. So I mean, I’m not looking for you to confirm it but I understand what you’re saying about it was not a threat to the U.S. Thanks. Thanks for your help.

Kind of a notable suggestion from the former Homeland Security Czar.

How Will Pakistan Implement New Security Policy?

Earlier in the week, I wondered whether John Brennan had helped to shape the new counterterrorism policy that Pakistan is rolling out and whether it might be a ploy by Pakistan to capture some of the US counterterrorism dollars that would suddenly become available after a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Under such a scenario, the key event to watch for would be any action taken by Afghanistan against the Haqqani network or other groups that find haven in Pakistan but carry out their attacks only in Afghanistan. More details of the policy are now being revealed, and with them come some suggestions that the Haqqanis might not be targeted, but other major developments suggest that tighter cooperation with the US is occurring.

Tom Hussain of McClatchy seems to have been first to break the news (on Wednesday) that Pakistan may still choose not to go after the Haqqani network:

Pakistan announced Wednesday that it was ending its 7-month-old policy of trying to reconcile with its Taliban insurgents and vowing to answer each terrorist attack with military strikes on the militants’ strongholds in northwest tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

But the government stopped short of abandoning its attempts to engage willing Taliban factions in a peace dialogue, underlining that Pakistan’s national security policy remains focused on restricting attacks within its borders, rather obliterating the militants altogether.

That means that militants who use Pakistan for a staging base to attack U.S. and Afghan forces in neighboring Afghanistan will still be allowed to operate, as long as they observe a cease-fire in Pakistan.

He continues:

Political analysts said the national security policy unveiled Wednesday offered an easy way out for militant factions that wanted to disassociate themselves from the TTP, however: They simply have to stop attacking Pakistani government forces.

That makes it likely that Pakistan won’t take any military action against the Haqqani network, an ally of the Afghan Taliban that controls significant territory in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal agencies.

The network is a major source of friction between Pakistan and the United States, which previously has accused Pakistan’s security services of complicity in several of the network’s high-profile attacks on Afghan government and U.S. targets in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Widely viewed as a projector of Pakistan’s influence into Afghanistan, the Haqqani network has distanced itself from the TTP during the Taliban group’s six-year insurgency by signing peace agreements, fronted by the local Wazir tribe, that predate the 2009 launch of counterterrorism operations.

Accordingly, it won’t be targeted by the Pakistani military as long as it doesn’t side with the TTP.

A very similar interpretation was offered by AFP on Thursday: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV @ffein Thanks, we're hoping but very sad.
3mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @joanneleon And one of his favorite things to do was to patrol the barn roof. That would have made him a very tempting target.
4mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @joanneleon Yeah, we had gone to daylight only to protect, but they suddenly started logging prime owl habitat less than quarter mile away.
4mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @kurtopsahl What's worse is that the Roberts Cpourt might just prop this bullshit up.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @DelWilber @ryanjreilly His personal phone number!
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JimWhiteGNV Nature is unspeakably cruel. Riker missing since Tues afternoon. Suspect owl displaced by logging. Best. Cat. Ever. http://t.co/yzmsWpnCyv
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emptywheel @onekade BREAKING: Some of the victims weren't American. (Then again, the JCC victims weren't Jewish)
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emptywheel @MicahZenko He forgot the other important "no" question: Are they willing to pay for it.
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emptywheel Also: Alexander and Clapper have told that VERY SAME LIE, bc they do a lot of listening outside of FISC.
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emptywheel I really do look forward to all the people beating up Putin for lying abt surveillance as if Clapper and Alexander didn't do so, too.
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bmaz @BenjaminDooley @SenatePress @SCOTUSblog And not only is SB not a traditional print/broadcast media, but Goldstein's law firm are advocates
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April 2014
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