Bill Keller Blames Leak Arrests that Preceded WikiLeaks on WikiLeaks

Bill Keller has another narcissistic column attacking Julian Assange. The whole thing is rubbish not worth your time, but I did want to unpack the complaint with which Keller ends his column.

“A lot of attention has been focused on WikiLeaks and its colorful proprietors,” Aftergood told me. “But the real action, it turns out, is not at the publisher level; it’s at the source level. And there aren’t a lot of sources as prolific or as reckless as Bradley Manning allegedly was.”

For good reason. The Obama administration has been much more aggressive than its predecessors in pursuing and punishing leakers. The latest case, the arrest last month of John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. terrorist-hunter accused of telling journalists the names of colleagues who participated in the waterboarding of Qaeda suspects, is symptomatic of the crackdown. It is this administration’s sixth criminal case against an official for confiding to the media, more than all previous presidents combined. The message is chilling for those entrusted with keeping legitimate secrets and for whistleblowers or officials who want the public to understand how our national security is or is not protected.

Here’s the paradox the documentaries have overlooked so far: The most palpable legacy of the WikiLeaks campaign for transparency is that the U.S. government is more secretive than ever. [my emphasis]

The Obama Administration has charged 6 people with some kind of espionage charge for leaking:

  • Thomas Drake was indicted on April 10, 2010, just days after the release of the Collateral Murder video and before Bradley Manning first contacted Adrian Lamo; he was charged for purported leaks going back to February 2006
  • Shamai Leibowitz was first investigated in mid-2009, before Manning leaked anything to WikiLeaks; he was charged on December 4, 2009 and sentenced on May 24, 2010, the day the government was first learning about Lamo’s conversations with Manning
  • Stephen Jin-Woo Kim was indicted on August 19, 2010, around the time DOD first started trying to figure out what Manning allegedly sent to WikiLeaks; he is alleged to have leaked in June 2009
  • Manning was arrested on May 29, 2010 and will be formally charged this week for leaks allegedly starting in November 2009
  • Jeffrey Sterling was indicted on December 22, 2010, around the time the government was trying to pressure Manning into testifying about Assange; his leaks allegedly started in 2001
  • John Kiriakou was charged on January 23, 2012 for leaks dating back to 2007

All the non-WikiLeaks leaks allegedly took place before Manning’s. All were formally charged before Manning, and all but two men were arrested before Manning.

And yet Bill Keller, in a demonstration of his typical reporting skill though not Newtonian physics, suggests that WikiLeaks caused the crackdown on leaks.

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The Anonymous DOJ Handmaiden of Political Whim

Adam Liptak has an odd story on the increasing use of technology to pursue leaks.

I find it odd for two reasons. In spite of the fact that he nods to technology and has Lucy Dalglish relate the same story I described here, in which a national security representative told her “they know” who journalists are talking to:

“I was told in a rather cocky manner” by a national security representative, Ms. Dalglish recalled, that “the Risen subpoena is one of the last you’ll see.”

She continued, paraphrasing the official: “We don’t need to ask who you’re talking to. We know.”

He doesn’t talk about the means to get that information–neither the internet based collection methods nor the FBI’s new Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide rules which allow the government to get journalist call records without a subpoena in some cases. It seems important to explain that the new circumstances involve not just technology, but also a unilateral change in legal policy with regards to the communications of  journalists (albeit one that mirrors a similar change for all other Americans).

The government can prosecute more leaks now because the technology has enabled them to change the rules on journalists without, thus far, any significant outcry.

The other funny part of the Liptak story is this anonymous lie from a DOJ official explaining DOJ’s selective enforcement of leaks.

“The Justice Department has always taken seriously cases in which government employees and contractors entrusted with classified information are suspected of willfully disclosing such classified information to those not entitled to it,” a department official explained. “As a general matter, prosecutions of those who leaked classified information to reporters have been rare, due, in part, to the inherent challenges involved in identifying the person responsible for the illegal disclosure and in compiling the evidence necessary to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This statement is, of course, utter horseshit. Take the Nicholas Schmidle story revealing key, top secret details of the Osama bin Laden raid, or the example of John Brennan speaking on the record about a topic that the government has told courts is a state secret. Those sources are pretty easy to find. The sources involved are pretty clearly John Brennan, James Cartwright, Ben Rhodes, Marshall Webb and … John Brennan again. All those men have Top Secret clearances which would make it easy for the government to get their call records. From there, the government would have the same kind of evidence they’ve got tying Jeffrey Sterling to James Risen.

Only, the government is not going to prosecute those violations of secrecy. Not because they don’t have the evidence or couldn’t prove their case. But because these leaks serve a political purpose that people high up enough in the Administration has apparently deemed more valuable than all the claims they make–occasionally with good reason–about the importance of keeping national security information secret.

And that, I suspect, is why this DOJ official has said this anonymously. Because it’s the other part of the equation, the one that undermines DOJ’s claim to be enforcing rule of law, that gets really embarrassing. DOJ won’t or can’t describe its full approach to leaks–which is to pursue those it can that are deemed embarrassing by the political powers that be, but to ignore those that are deemed useful.

DOJ needs to keep this a secret, because admitting it would be to admit they are now the handmaiden of not the law, but political whim.

Political whim, backed by intrusive new technologies and unilateral rule changes about the deference shown to journalists.

Honorable Military Whistleblower: Why Daniel Davis Is and Bradley Manning Is Not

One of the hottest, and most important, stories of the last week has been that broken by Scott Shane in the New York Times, on February 5th, of Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis’ stunning report on the unmitigated duplicity and disaster that characterizes the American war in Afghanistan. It painted the story of a man, Davis, committed to his country, to his service and to the truth but internally tortured by the futility and waste he saw in Afghanistan, and the deception of the American public and their Congressional representatives by the Pentagon and White House.

And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general — and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.

Concurrent with Shane’s NYT article, Davis himself published an essay overview of what he knew and saw in the Armed Forces Journal.

The one thing that was not released with either Shane or Davis’ article was the actual Davis report itself, at least the unclassified version thereof. The unclassified Davis report has now been published, in its entire original form, by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone in The Afghanistan Report the Pentagon Doesn’t Want You to Read.

The report is every bit as detailed, factually supported and damning as the articles by Shane and Davis portrayed. It is a must, but disturbing, read. If the American people care about economic waste and efficacy and morality of their foreign military projection, both the Obama Administration and the Pentagon will be browbeat with the picture and moment of sunlight Daniel Davis has provided. Jim White has penned an excellent discussion of the details of the Davis report.

My instant point here, however, is how Davis conducted himself in bringing his sunlight, and blowing the whistle, on wrongful US governmental and military conduct. Davis appears to have attempted to carefully marshal his evidence, separated the classified from the unclassified, released only unclassified reportage himself and to the press, taken the classified reportage to appropriate members of Congress and the DOD Inspector General, and notified his chain of command. Davis insured that, while the classified information and facts were protected from inappropriate and reckless release, they could not be buried by leveraging his unclassified press publication. In short, Daniel Davis is the epitome of a true military whistleblower, both in fact, and Read more

William Welch Probably NOT One of the Attorneys Who Engaged in Gross Prosecutorial Misconduct in Stevens Case

As Ryan Reilly reported, Judge Emmet Sullivan is moving forward with his plan to release the scathing report on the Ted Stevens prosecution showing the prosecution was “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence.”

Back when descriptions of this report first surfaced, I asked, “Why Is William Welch, Whose Team Is Accused of Intentional Prosecutorial Misconduct, Still at DOJ?

Given Sullivan’s latest order, I think the answer must be that Welch is not one of the four DOJ lawyers most badly implicated in the report. That’s because DOJ, which after all still employs Welch to prosecute whistleblowers, had no objection to the report being released on March 15.

The Department of Justice’s Notice advised the Court that it “does not intend to file a motion regarding Mr. Schuelke’s report” and that “[t]he government does not contend that there is any legal prohibition on the disclosure of any references in Mr. Schuelke’s report to grand jury material, court authorized interceptions of wire communications, or any sealed pleadings or transcripts that have now been unsealed.” Notice of Dep’t of Justice Regarding Materials Referenced in Mr. Schuelke’s Report, at 1-2 (“DOJ Notice”). In addition, the Department of Justice informed the Court that it was not asserting any deliberative process or attorney-work product privilege with respect to the information contained in Mr. Schuelke’s Report.

Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer has already proven himself more than willing to hide the misconduct of his prosecutors; I have no doubt he’d do so here if it badly implicated any of his current attorneys.

So I’m guessing–though that is a guess–that Welch is not one of the four fighting to prevent this release.

Leon Panetta and the Pakistani Doctor: Yet More Double Standards on Classified Information

As the Bill Gertz article I reexamined the other day made clear, Leon Panetta became personally involved in the CIA’s efforts to investigate detainee lawyers who were trying to track down their clients’ torturers.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and his chief of staff, Jeremy Bash, a former chief counsel for the House intelligence committee, at first were unaware of both the scope and seriousness of the case.

However, both officials began addressing the matter after inquiries were made from members of Congress. Since then, Mr. Panetta and Mr. Bash are getting regular updates on the dispute, said the officials.

As a result of that investigation, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged last week.

Consider the damage Kiriakou is alleged to have done:

  • Some lawyers with Top Secret clearance submitted a sealed filing naming a covert officer involved in the torture of 9/11 defendants. The lawyers pointedly did not photograph this officer in an effort to shield his identity. And his name was never made public.
  • Using information gained from Kiriakou and around 23 other sources (including former CIA Executive Director Buzzy Krongard), Scott Shane wrote an article detailing Deuce Martinez’ role in the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others. And while Martinez’ association with the torture program was classified, his identity was not. Furthermore, by the time of the article, Martinez was working for Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell’s contracting firm, making it a pretty safe bet that he was involved in interrogation, even interrogations involving torture.
  • Subsequent to this article based on information from Kiriakou and 23 other people, the 9/11 detainees saw pictures of Martinez; assuming Shane’s article is accurate, they had already interacted with Martinez personally.
  • In that article, Shane included details about the “magic box” technology used to locate Abu Zubaydah. Information on that “magic box” technology and similar ones has been publicly available for decades, meaning the only secret here is that CIA uses it (!) and called it something as stupid as “magic box.”

That’s it. That’s the reported outcome of John Kiriakou’s leaks. And for that he faces prison time of up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, tomorrow the above clip will be shown on 60 Minutes, showing Panetta confirming that the Pakistani doctor who conducted fake vaccinations in Abbottabad, Pakistan in order to get a glimpse into Osama bin Laden’s compound was, in fact, working for the CIA.

Panetta also acknowledged that Shikal Afridi, the Pakistani doctor conducting health tests in the village in an effort to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence, was in fact working for the U.S. Afridi was arrested and charged with treason by the government of Pakistan. “I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual…who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” says Panetta. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan…Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism…and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” he tells Pelley.

Not only does this presumably put more pressure on Pakistan to convict Afridi of treason (he remains in custody), but it exacerbates the problem of having used a vaccination campaign as cover in the first place, confirming on the record that similar campaigns in poor countries might be no more than a CIA front.

I presume someone in the White House gave Panetta permission to go blab this on 60 Minutes; I assume he’s in no more legal jeopardy than Dick Cheney was when he insta-declassified Valerie Plame’s identity.

But shit like this discredits every single claim national security experts make about the need for secrecy. I mean, how are CIA officers ever going to recruit any more assets when the assets know that the CIA director may, at some time in the future that’s politically convenient, go on 60 Minutes and confirm the relationship?

The Evolution of Patrick Fitzgerald’s Investigation into Torturer Disclosures

Back in the CIA Leak Investigation days, we learned some interesting things from the changes in Patrick Fitzgerald’s authority to serve as Special Counsel. So when the Jon Kiriakou complaint the other day mentioned that Fitzgerald’s authority for that investigation had been changed twice…

By letter dated March 8, 2010, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, was appointed Special Attorney to supervise the investigation pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 515, subject to the supervision of the Deputy Attorney General.

The March 8, 2010 letter, as supplemented and amended on July 14, 2010 and clarified by letter dated May 27, 2011, delegates authority to conduct an investigation and any related prosecutions in connection with any matter arising out of the Department of Defense seizures of certain photographs from Guantanamo Bay detainees.

…It made me wonder whether those authorization letters would explain how this investigation moved from targeting detainee lawyers to targeting a former CIA officer, Jon Kiriakou. I also wondered whether it would tell us anything about whether Fitzgerald used the new DIOG guidelines to get reporter contacts with National Security Letters.

Alas, the letters–March 8, 2010; July 14, 2010; May 27, 2011–don’t answer the latter question. But they do show an interesting evolution over time.

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.

At that point in the investigation, Fitzgerald’s mandate was very preliminary.

You are hereby appointed as a Special Attorney to the United States Attorney General pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 515. In this capacity, you will investigate and determine whether criminal charges are appropriate in connection with any matter arising out of the Department of Defense seizures of certain photographs from Guantanamo Bay detainees.

By July 14, however, it appears that Fitzgerald determined there might be something worth prosecuting.

This letter supplements and amends your appointment as Special Attorney to the United States Attorney General and specifically authorizes you to conduct in the District of Columbia or any other judicial district of the United States any kind of legal proceeding, civil or criminal, including grand jury proceedings and proceedings before committing magistrates, which United States Attorneys are authorized to conduct.

This supplement, note, was issued slightly more than 18 months ago (some grand jury terms are 18 months long).

So Fitzgerald identified a potential crime 18 months ago and only now is charging (but not yet indicting) someone? That might suggest, by the way, that Fitzgerald got this authority to use a grand jury to force people–perhaps the detainee investigators–to cooperate.

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CIA Ousts Another Officer Working on Iran because of Political Shitstorm

Remember how Dick Cheny outed Valerie Plame and in the process hurt our efforts to prevent Iran from getting nukes?

And since then, Iran has just been working away, allegedly, to get nukes?

Well, at a time when much of the national security establishment is drumming up war against Iran, they’ve done it again.

A senior CIA analyst resigned Tuesday amid accounts that she had been pressured to step down after her husband — a former agency employee — was charged with leaking classified information to the press.

Heather Kiriakou had served as a top analyst on some of the most sensitive subjects that the agency tracks, including leadership developments in Iran. Her husband, John, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison after being accused of disclosing details about secret CIA operations as well as the identities of undercover officers.

Two sources in direct contact with the Kiriakous said that Heather had submitted her resignation under pressure from superiors at the CIA.

Because in this government, it’s far more important to prosecute someone for publishing information about the “magic box”–technology which has been publicly available for years–than it is to ensure we have sound analysis about what Iran is doing.

Or maybe that’s the whole point.

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