CIA and DOJ’s Different Ideas of Accountability on Khost

I wanted to return to yesterday’s report on the investigation in the Khost bombing. As I noted, the CIA had advance warning that Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi might be a double agent. The report also found a number of other operational problems in al-Balawi’s treatment. But Leon Panetta decided not to hold anyone responsible for the attack.

Now let’s return to another curious detail about the Khost bombing.

The CIA is not holding anyone responsible.

But DOJ is.

As I noted last month, DOJ is using Hakimullah Mehsud’s involvement in the Khost bombing–the DOJ has videos of Mehsud talking about the attack with al-Balawi in advance of the bombing–as its basis for indicting him on conspiracy charges.

It’s not that I mind DOJ indicting Mehsud. They say they’ve got evidence linking him to Faisal Shahzad’s attempted Time Square bombing. And if they do, I’d love to see them indict and try Mehsud on that count.

But it’s a tremendous stretch to argue that Mehsud’s conspiracy with al-Balawi to strike the CIA officers who were targeting Pakistan with drone strikes was illegal. Either the CIA officers must be treated as civilians, in which case they should not be launching drones at people like Mehsud’s brother, whom they killed in a drone attack. Or they are legitimate military targets, in which case any involvement from Mehsud seems to have been a legitimate act of self-defense (hell, regardless of their civilian status, he could probably legitimately claim self-defense in any case).

Mind you, they’ll probably end up taking Mehsud out the same way the took his brother, with a drone, making any indictment moot. But it all seems to suggest that at its higher levels, at least, we’re running this war on terror motivated primarily by our own insecurities, latching onto things that most shame us, rather than any consistent approach. We’ve got to avoid accountability at CIA for some obvious failures because we don’t want to be critical of the dead (or note the mistakes of more senior officers). But we’ve got to use the same event as reason to label the self-defense of an opponent as a crime.

Which seems to be the same thing going on with Fox’s story that Anwar al-Awlaki dined at the Pentagon after 9/11 (at a luncheon in Jim Haynes’ Office of General Counsel!). The fear-mongerers seem to want to suggest this was another big lapse in our vetting system (and maybe it was), as if to suggest that al-Awlaki in 2001 is in the same place he allegedly is now. The FBI was investigating this lunch subsequent to Nidal Hasan’s Fort Hood attack (the 302 is dated November 23, 2009, so at about the time when Yemen asked us to take out al-Awlaki, but probably before he was reportedly put on JSOC’s kill list, which may have happened in December). And leak of this news seems to be part of an effort to suggest the government missed an obvious threat long before Fort Hood. But that’s not at all clear.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t believe this is the first time this thought has been out there. Maybe not so much that they were running Awlaki as they wanted to, and he just wasn’t that into them. Who knows…..

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Oh yes. Something is very crooked here. So, the FBI agent “vetted” him. And no one believes that Awlaki, after coming to the verge of indictment because of connections to terrorist figures, didn’t have an FBI file? And this agent didn’t do the one thing that any agent would do and look at the file? I’m sorry, that’s not believable.

      Awlaki then shows up as a major figure connected to every significant terrorist “incident” in the United States in the past few years???

      We know the U.S. runs double agents, provocateurs, we just don’t know who they are. I think the “Right Perspective” blog author set forth a very compelling case.

      • MadDog says:

        I admit that a CIA-run Anwar al-Awlaki makes for an interesting, and to us peons, an unknowable possibility, but I also find such a belief in CIA acumen less than probable.

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          I wouldn’t know who ran him. CIA? FBI? Military intelligence? Some combination? Nor if his later association with terrorists were even connected with his being an asset earlier (if he was). But his whole story sounds awfully fishy. Also those arrests for prostitution, by the way. Were those vetted by the FBI before the invite as well? Simple police record there.

          The U.S. has a pattern of setting up false flag terrorist attacks. That’s much of what the history of Operation Gladio was about. Cointelpro also had its agents, provocateurs, etc. According to Judge Griesa, ruling on the SWP’s lawsuit against the government some years back, 10% of the membership of the SWP during the 1960s were FBI informants.

          This is how they work. This is a truth, and we would be remiss in our analysis of any situation such as that of Awlaki not to consider any possibility of such activities, if there is any indication that the government might be up to such shenanigans.

        • bmaz says:

          First off, I have no clue in the world. But if I was guessing out my butt, it would be that they tried to do something with him and he was having none of it. And I have no idea even why I say that really; it is totally bogus speculation.

        • bobschacht says:

          In that shadowy world, people often make false representations to each other about who they are and what they are trying to do. Awlaki may have been recruited on false pretenses, and then later, in a different environment, upon reflection, decided that he could not trust them, and so opted for a different course.

          I could not live in such a world of cross and double-cross. Some people think that world is exciting, and maybe it is, but it is also high-risk.

          Bob in AZ

  1. Frank33 says:

    Collins said he believed the event was sponsored by the office of the Secretary of Defense.

    Rummy and the neo-cons were palin’ around with terrorists. But it is okay if you are recruiting double agents to commit more terrorism. Then you can have a Global War Against Terrorists and also use that war to have a Global War Against Leftists.

  2. RonBrynaert says:

    Uh oh, tin foil hat time. The guy whose office the meeting seems to have taken place at is apparently dead.

    Avon Williams III, 45, a former diplomat who served as acting general counsel of the Department of the Army, died after a severe asthma attack July 9 while visiting a tourist site in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. He lived in Arlington and Brentwood, Tenn.

    Mr. Williams was appointed by President Bush on Sept. 17, 2001, to serve as principal deputy general counsel of the Department of the Army. He had completed a second term as acting general counsel June 30 and was principal deputy at the time of his death.

    • MadDog says:

      While I have an entire collection of tin foil hats myself, and wear them frequently *g*, in this case none is required.

      The last part of the Fox article corrects the FBI 302 document with this:

      …After repeated requests for comment on the vetting process beginning on October 13th, an Army spokesman insisted Wednesday that the lunch was not an Army event. “The Army has found no evidence that the Army either sponsored or participated in the event described in this report,” spokesman Thomas Collins said.

      Collins also noted that the FBI document referred to the “Office of Government Counsel” but should read “Office of General Counsel…”

      As EW notes, the luncheon was run by DOD’s Jim Haynes’ Office of General Counsel, and not the Army’s Office of Government Counsel.

  3. MikeD says:

    Okay so let’s say the CIA are legitimate military targets in Afghanistan. It doesn’t follow that just anyone can try to kill them legally, or conspire with just anyone to do so. In fact, terrorists are not allowed to kill anyone legally. I have a hard time imagining that we’d say this Jordanian was engaging in a legitimate act of armed conflict vis-a-vis resistance to an occupier in his country. He was engaging in an act of international terrorism against a party to an armed conflict, the particular parties we are for the moment recognizing as legitimate. Even if Baitullah Mehsud would have been in a position to engage in legal resistance against these occupiers (or combatants in a civil war he is a party to, however you want to frame it), it seems to me that in conspiring in this act of terrorism with someone who is not a legitimate party to that conflict, he is (I would say clearly) engaging in international terrorism, or at least conspiracy thereto, himself. I don’t even think there’s even anything to make it a confusing case. Of course, if what you really want to say is that the CIA is not legitimately involved as active combatants in this conflict, that is probably a very convincing argument (though the CIA has been involved in approximately this hands-on a way in every war we’ve fought since it exited, but..), but it doesn’t make it any more or less legal for Mehsud to have conspired with an international terrorist to kill them.

    • emptywheel says:

      Um, no.

      Neither Balawi nor Mehsud were “terrorists” when this happened (though Mehsud has since been designated as one). WE brought Balawi to the region, thereby making him a party to the conflict. ANd Mehsud was having drones rained down on him, killing his brother. He conspired in killing the people who were targeting those drones in one of the only ways he effectively could. The government has thus far advanced no evidence that before we started shooting Mehsud’s family members with drones, he was officially included among our enemies in this war.

      And as a reminder, Mehsud is in Pakistan. The war? It’s supposed to be in Afghanistan.

      • MikeD says:

        The 2001 AUMF authorizes this war, does it not? Does it mention Afghanistan? If the funding bills are the authorization, then fair enough.

        And your argument is that because we “brought” Balawi to the region, we made him a legitimate party to the conflict? Are you referring to our desire to have a meeting with him, or his desire to come to Afghanistan to wage jihad against us? Again – anyone cannot just go to Afghanistan because they are enraged about our occupation, join the opposition, and start killing our legitimate combatants legally. What process did he undergo to make him a legitimate combatant? And if he was not legitimate, it doesn’t matter how legitimate Mehsud would otherwise be; it is still not legal for him to conspire with an illegitimate combatant to commit terrorism.