Massive Obama Administration Leaks on Covert CIA Program Training Syrian Rebels

Last night, Remi Brulin pointed out on Twitter that Greg Miller’s article in the Washington Post contains a lot of leaks describing a program that is supposed to be covert:

 

Miller even notes the covert nature of the program:

The descriptions of the CIA training program provide the most detailed account to date of the limited dimensions and daunting objectives of a CIA operation that President Obama secretly authorized in a covert action finding he signed this year.

And yet, despite the fact that even the authorization of this operation was supposed to be covert, Miller seems to have no trouble getting folks to talk to him about it. I’ve attempted to list here all the times he mentions things someone told him. I’ve only copied the references here when they relate to the covert training program, not to other information being conveyed to Miller:

U.S. officials said

officials said

officials said

officials said

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said

The CIA effort was described

said a U.S. official familiar with operations in Syria

The descriptions of the CIA training program

U.S. officials said the classified program

a former senior U.S. intelligence official said

Officials said

the former U.S. intelligence official said

Officials said

officials said

officials said

officials said

what some officials have described

senior CIA officials have raised the concern

said a former senior U.S. intelligence official

the former official said

All of those are the anonymous quotes that Miller included. When it came time to get anyone to go on the record:

The CIA declined to comment.

Well, Mike Rogers did go on the record for Miller, but mainly just to bash the Obama administration for not being able to keep up.

At any rate, the message that Miller is giving us is that the Obama administration appears to have chosen a course of providing some training and arms to Syrian rebels, but only enough that is calculated to achieve a stalemate in the civil war, rather than providing enough to tip the balance in favor of the rebels. The motivation ascribed to the administration for this approach is that they are said to favor a negotiated settlement that would come out of the stalemate.

It appears that the CIA is bristling under these restrictions and longs for the good old days of training and equipping death squads in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The training is led by small teams of operatives from the CIA’s Special Activities Division, a paramilitary branch that relies heavily on contractors and former members of U.S. Special Operations forces. Officials said the instruction is rudimentary and typically spans four to six weeks.

/snip/

… There are also legal impediments, including a measure known as the Leahy Law that would require a determination that no recipients of U.S. military assistance had committed human rights abuses.

For the CIA, the constraints in Syria mark a significant departure from the wide latitude the agency was accustomed to over the past decade in the conflict zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other countries patrolled by armed drones, including Pakistan and Yemen.

Mindful of the criticism and investigations that accompanied many of those operations, senior CIA officials have raised the concern that the limits imposed in Syria will do little to shield the agency from criticism if something goes wrong.

“What happens when some of the people we trained torture a prisoner?” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with agency operations in the Middle East. Even if the CIA can produce records to defend its training program, “we’re going to face congressional hearings,” the former official said. “There is no win here.”

Yep, avoiding human rights abuses is hard work, and the CIA really loves its shortcuts.

I’m pretty sure that this entire article is merely an information operation being carried out to cover what is really going on. If we only had a functional Congress, I’d say I’m looking forward to those feared congressional hearings to get to a full understanding of what’s really going on. Instead, we will be stuck with merely following events as they unfold and trying to make sense of how actions fail to mesh with words.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

2 replies
  1. ess emm says:

    Instead, we will be stuck with merely following events as they unfold and trying to make sense of how actions fail to mesh with words.

    Just the way the imperial bureaucrats like it, because they’ll be off doing other stuff which we can then study…judicially as we will. h/t Ron Suskind

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    Great work, Jim. “Officials said…” LOL

    “I’m pretty sure that this entire article is merely an information operation being carried out to cover what is really going on.” – That’s exactly right, and the leaks are in fact vetted for reasons mere mortals like myself are not supposed to understand — except we know it’s hiding the full truth.

    They just can’t let go of tools like the “limited hangout,” misdirections, etc.

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