CIA: Money Is Fungible, Except When It Is Our Money

Keep in mind as you read these four paragraphs from WaPo’s follow-up on NYT’s story on Mohammed Zia Salehi that the person quoted is almost certainly from the same CIA that profiles terrorist organizations that, regardless of the charitable work they do, may not legally receive money.

U.S. officials did not dispute that Salehi was on the CIA payroll, which was first reported by The New York Times. But officials sought to draw a distinction between agency payments and corruption probes.

“The United States government had nothing to do with the activities for which this individual is being investigated,” the second U.S. official said. “It’s not news that we sometimes pay people overseas who help the United States do what it needs to get done. . . . Nor should it be surprising, in a place like Afghanistan, that some influential figures can be both helpful and – on their own, separate and apart – corrupt to some degree.”

The flow of CIA money into the region dates to the agency’s support for mujaheddin fighters who ousted Soviet forces three decades ago.

The spigot was tightened during the 1990s but reopened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Much of the money went to support warlords whose militias helped to overthrow the Taliban regime, which had provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda training camps. Salehi had served as an interpreter for one of the most prominent of those warlords, Abdurrashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek whose forces played a critical role in the campaign against the Taliban.

The unnamed “second US official” almost certainly is at the CIA or it’s close vicinity. And this person wants to claim that the money CIA pays to Salehi has absolutely nothing to do with the corruption of which he stands accused. The story elsewhere details the alleged corruption to include sheltering New Ansari (a money transfer firm used to drain aid money out of Afghanistan), doling out cash and cars to Hamid Karzai supporters, and negotiating with the Taliban. So the CIA actually wants to claim that the money it pays to Salehi is not then laundered into payments to Karzai supporters or cooperative Taliban members.

You know, the Taliban? The guys we claim to be fighting, since there are no more al Qaeda members in Afghanistan?

And you have to love the understated irony of the passage, the way Greg Miller and Joshua Partlow remind readers that the CIA has funded a lot of Islamic extremists, including some who loosely cooperated with other mujahadeen groups like those that would become al Qaeda. It’d be nice, mind you, if they also reminded readers that Rashid Dostum is the creep behind the Convoy of Death massacre, but that might just be too much irony for this short passage.

It’s bad enough that the CIA openly admits funding this guy, yet claims their payments could have nothing to do with the deep corruption of which he is accused.

But on top of that there’s this blind belief that these kind of payments never, ever, have blowback.

  1. Mary says:

    It’s not even just the laundering of CIA money out to others.

    We have the CIA paying money to an Afghan Govt official, Salehi, to pursue the CIA’s interests rather than to provide his “honest services” to the Afghan people.

    Salehi is being investigated for being corrupt for doing the very same thing – taking money from people to advance their interests rather than provide his honest services to Aghanistan – with others that he is doing with the CIA.

    How are the CIA payments to Salehi to be a fixer for them different than someone else’s payments to Salehi to be their fixer?

    Let’s face – an official taking payoffs from a foreign intel service to specifically push their interests is a helluvalot better case than the one against Blago. And, for that matter, one that might matter to Afghan citizens, who might think that their official should work for them and not the CIA – or Taliban – or Uzbek interests – or…

  2. bobschacht says:

    Bribes? Oh, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. These are *investments* in the future of Afghanistan! There’s a big difference! Besides, Our euphemisms are better than their euphemisms! /s

    Bob in AZ

  3. Leen says:

    ot /all

    Iraq Body count is demanding that the U.K. conduct a full judicial inquiry to the number of Iraqi people who have died as a direct consequence of our illegal and immoral invasion. Heard it on the BBC this morning. Put up a post over at Seminal.

  4. Mary says:

    Actually- makes you wonder why the US backed investigative forces are wasting time with arrests and subpoenas – wouldn’t Salehi qualify for a Military Commission? ;)

    This, from the article, was pretty good info I thought:

    U.S. and Afghan officials said the CIA is not the only foreign entity using secret payments to Afghan officials to influence events in the country.

    A prominent Afghan with knowledge of the inner workings of the palace said it operates a fund that rewards political allies with money that flows in from the Iranian government and foreign intelligence services as well as prominent Afghan companies eager to curry favor with Karzai. The source said the fund distributes $10 million to $50 million a year.

    A U.S. official said Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among the other countries funneling money into Afghanistan.

    emph added

    It sounds as if there’s no way you can investigate Afghan politicians participating in corruption without falling over the CIA making the same kind of corruption payments to them as everyone else is –

    The CIA bankrolled Afghanistan’s intelligence service, and its financial ties to government officials has proliferated in recent years.

    “There are probably not too many officials we haven’t met and contacted and paid,” a former CIA official said.

    Worth remembering for Dostum isn’t just that he was the Convoy of Death guy – but also that a bit over a year ago he was in exile in Turkey and Obama was promising to investigate the shipping container killings. Risen had published a piece earlier in July of 2009 about the killings and Obamaco made some promises that the UN Refugee Agency took seriously,45865eec2,4654665d2,4a82b6f5c,0.html

    And you have Dostum mentioned in several pieces now, from several sources, and his connection with Salehi, without anyone ever asking point blank whether the CIA has been funding him recently. Bc, despite the former exile and Obama’s promises, almost immediately after Obama’s Opromises, Dostume makes a pretty triumphal return to Afghanistan.

    Dostum was seen then as being necessary to keeping Karzai in power and strengthening his hand – so a) what happened to the investigation and b) why wouldn’t the CIA be paying him, too?

    Oh well – I think it helps to read WaPo’s/Miller’s “sequel” piece to the NYT piece together with his “prequel” piece from June

    It sure seems like, after the January raid of New Ansari, Dubai became the intersect for a lot of different streams.

  5. phred says:

    So there are no legal restrictions on how the CIA spends their money. Got it.

    Given the way the federal government has decided to treat charitable organizations that may inadvertently fund activities the government doesn’t like, perhaps such organizations need to modify the way they distribute funds slightly. Rather than funding individuals and organizations directly, they just need to hire the CIA as their disbursing agent.

    After all, if the CIA pays for it, it’s not illegal! (h/t Richard M. Nixon ; )

  6. Mary says:

    Nonsequitor – but here’s why I’m not chomping at the bit to re-elect Dems – From Brad Ellsworth’s re-election crew:

    This morning, Dan Coats launched a false and gallingly hypocritical television ad attacking Brad Ellsworth.

    The ad is a transparent attempt to distract voters from the fact that Dan Coats’ own lobbying firm is defending not one, not two, but SIX Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of terrorist activity against the United States.

    And that’s what I’m supposed to donate to and encourage people to go vote for?


  7. fatster says:

    Vietnam Veterans Want CIA Sanctioned

    “The Vietnam Veterans of America asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Central Intelligence Agency, for failing to produce documents on the CIA’s testing of hundreds of kinds of drugs – including sarin and phosgene nerve gas and LSD – on thousands of soldiers. 
    “The Vietnam Veterans of America sued the CIA in January 2009, claiming the agency had experimented on soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Md., testing the effects of mind-controlling drugs.”


    If anybody runs across Jeff Kaye, pls tell him about this (he probably already knows, but just in case. Thnx.)

  8. fatster says:

    Top U.S. Commando Says War Demands Hinder Global Hunt for Nuclear Weapons

    “Fewer elite commandos are available for the hunt and their expertise has been degraded by “the decreased level of training,” Admiral Eric Olson said. They now have only a “limited” capability for this mission, he said.”


    Outing a CIA agent involved in the hunt for WMDs doesn’t help, either.

  9. Mary says:

    Way EPU’d, but it’s a little of note that, in the midst of all the leaking and reporting on the CIA payments to buy Afghan politians so that the CIA agenda is promoted at the highest Afghan political levels – – the Senate Foreign Relations Chair, Kerry, goes to see Karzai.

    If he’s all on board with the CIA and Obamaco, it’s not so significant, but if he’s not – it is. The Foreign Relations committee is going to see itself as the branch primarily handling the targeting of foreign aid – if a lot of black money from the CIA budget is going to buy foreign policy outside of the oversight and review of the Foreign Relations committee, they might get a bit peeved. Not that I can see Kerry effecting any result, no matter how peeved. Still, it’s interesting which congresscritters are showing up.

    And Karzai just fired one of the corruption prosecutors (who should, I guess, be happy he was fired and not disappeared, permanently).