Panetta: We Do Not Share Anything Inappropriate with Anybody … Except Our Assets’ Identities

When Leon Panetta confirmed that Shakeel Afridi was working with the CIA when he used a vaccination program to collect intelligence on Osama bin Laden, he likely made it much harder for Pakistan to release the doctor, or even give him a light sentence. Had the Pakistanis gone easy on Afridi after that confirmation, it would have amounted to the government admitting it had ceded the government’s sovereignty to the war on terror.

While I’m sure he had authorization to confirm the ties, there are a whole bunch of reasons it was stupid to do so (including the delegitimization of public health programs).

Panetta’s own role in increasing the likelihood Afridi would face harsh punishment from Pakistan didn’t prevent him from complaining about Afridi’s fate on ABC’s Sunday show, however, claiming he just couldn’t understand why a country would punish one of its citizens working as a spy for an ally.

“It is so difficult to understand and it’s so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist in our times,” Panetta told me in a “This Week” interview.

“This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al Qaeda,” Panetta added. “And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that, because what they have done here … does not help in the effort to try to reestablish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

I sort of wish Jake Tapper had asked Panetta if he’s ever heard of Jonathan Pollard, who we’ve imprisoned, thus far, for 25 years, for spying for an ally. Even more, I’m, um, disappointed that Tapper didn’t ask Panetta WTF he confirmed Afridi’s work for the US, particularly since Tapper himself commented on Panetta’s earlier comments this morning.

Panetta in January was first US official to on-the-record confirm the doctor’s help

More curious still, when Tapper asked Panetta why the Administration shared so much information with Hollywood about the Osama bin Laden raid–and Panetta claimed the Administration “do[es] not share anything inappropriate with anybody”–Tapper didn’t ask the obvious follow-up.

“Nothing inappropriate was shared with them, Jake.  You know, we get inquires everyday from the entertainment industry.  We get inquiries from people writing articles, from people writing books, people doing television shows,” he said. “And the process that we’ve established is that you know, we will work with those individuals.”

The White House has come under fire from Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King. R-N.Y., who said Wednesday that the filmmakers, who worked together on “The Hurt Locker,” received “extremely close, unprecedented and potentially dangerous” assistance from the Obama administration. Panetta dismissed these claims.

“We’ll try to make sure that we give them accurate information so that the historic record is protected.  But you know, we do not share anything that is inappropriate with anybody,” he said.

If the Administration believes it is appropriate to confirm the identities of our assets on national TV, then does it also believe–for example–that John Kiriakou appropriately (and allegedly) shared information on the identities of the people involved in our torture program?

Is it now the official stance of our Administration that sharing sources and methods on the Sunday shows is “appropriate”?

OK then.

14 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    The fishing was great the last few days, but even so, the bugs scored more than I did.

    Anyways, I’m just starting to catch up here. From a transcript of the ABC This Week interview with Panetta, I found this tidbit of Jake Tapper cheerleading on the War in Yemen:

    “…TAPPER: Let’s move to Yemen right now. We saw this past week a suicide bombing that killed 100 soldiers. The Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has attempted at least twice to bring down a U.S. plane. You’ve said Al Qaeda in Yemen poses the greatest threat to the United States. But you’ve also said you will not send American troops into the country.

    We only have, I think, about 20 U.S. advisers right there. First of all, why so few U.S. forces in the country? And second of all, if this is the biggest threat to the U.S., why would we not try to play a bigger role?…”

    Tapper goes on some more in the same fashion. Are his earnings dependent on expanding the number of US forces involved in the War in Yemen?

    Jake, your pom-poms are showing!

  2. OSheaman says:

    There’s a reason the White House and DoD chose to do an interview with Jake Tapper (as opposed to, say, Spencer Ackerman or even Christiane Amanpour), and it’s because they know Tapper specializes in the day-to-day politics of Washington and wouldn’t have the wherewithal to question Panetta closely about his foreign policy blundering when it comes to post-ObL Pakistan.

    Those press offices aren’t stupid; they know exactly what they’re doing.

  3. P J Evans says:

    It’s okay when the White House does it – or authorizes a cabinet official to do it. Otherwise it’s a crime and they’ll do everything they can, including perjuring themselves, to make sure the ‘leaker’ does the time.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: The whole thing was unmitigated cheerleading for warmongering. Which is, I guess, the agreement you make to get a big guest on a quiet holiday weekend Sunday show: feed the narrative that Memorial Day is abut the need for more men and women to die protecting this country, rather than about the need to try to avoid it in the future.

  5. emptywheel says:

    @Ainslie Place: It’s not news that Panetta confirmed the identity of one of our assets and now is complaining that, partly as a result, he got thrown in prison?

    THe post is not about the OBL movie. It’s about Panetta’s hypocrisy on Afridi.

  6. Jeff Kaye says:

    Whenever an intelligence agency “reveals” something, one must view it through a counterintelligence lens. I do not accept any of this story, re anybody revealing identities, or even the vaccination story, on face value.

    There are many angles to be considered. And it is not without precedent that one agent or asset is sacrificed to defend another, or to examine the reaction of certain others, or because the usefulness of that asset is used up and its a convenient way to dispose of the “problem,” etc.

    Hence, Panetta is not lying when he says, “we do not share anything that is inappropriate with anybody.” This was a deliberate burning of a purported source, the reasons for which is left for those who have a “right to know.” The CIA, a law unto itself, decides what is appropriate or not. The whole Bin Ladin “capture” is so fraught with misinformation that there’s not much one can actually say about it.

    If one really wishes to guess, I’d say Afridi was sacrificed to protect someone else. The whole argument is now about “appropriateness.” Misdirection, see?

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Having thought a bit more, and prone to speculation this Sunday AM, I’d further guess that the burning of Afridi (who is no one to them) was a gift to a person or group of people within the Pakistani military and/or intelligence apparatus, the better to prop up their nationalist bona fides. (“I told you, we must rein the Americans in!”)

    How would I know that? I don’t. It just smells like it.

  8. CK MacLeod says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    I doubt anyone posting here will be in a position to assess your speculation, but it seems like a nice (or misdirecting?) way to accuse the blogger of superficiality and pretentiousness on this subject.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @CK MacLeod: I don’t think that’s what Jeff is doing. He’s simply saying not everything is as it seems, particularly when dealing with spies.

    He’s right. That doesn’t change the fact that Panetta’s actions are contradictory. Just reminds us to ask why he confirmed Afridi’s role in the first place.

  10. mzchief says:

    { This is the first time I’ve seen this database behavior and I think it’s related to the changes made to use javascript with the WordPress engine. }

  11. mzchief says:

    @emptywheel on May 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm: For most people in the “first world,” the word “war” has been turned into a meaningless mental event (like video games) and signals an non-actionable item. But, “war” is not what Panetta et al are actually engaged in anyway. What they are doing is “extermination”– extermination of whole peoples, most often indigenous who refuse to be colonized by corporations, and of bioregions. Once folks, especially moms, are clued into this with the shift of our languaging and the correlate medical reality for humans, then these people are fierce and active proponents working to Shut.It.Down whatever it takes. Here are sample progressions of the points I find need to be made (here and here).

  12. mzchief says:

    Just for you (and I put in the fully expanded link leading you to Sergei Skorobogatov’s webpage on the University of Cambridge’s server instead of a shorten one in case you’d like to inspect it):

    Stun ‏@57UN
    Backdoor found in a ‪#US‬ military ‪#China‬-made chip. Is anyone really surprised this happened?
    3:22 PM – 27 May 12 via web · Details

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