Cables Show CIA Tried to Connect with Hamas Despite U.S. Ban

The US president, Barack Obama, threatened the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, according to the spy cables. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

The US president, Barack Obama, threatened the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, according to the spy cables. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

by IPT News  •  Feb 23, 2015:

Spy cables reveal that the CIA attempted to interact with Hamas, despite U.S. government prohibitions on contact with the designated Palestinian terrorist organization, the Guardian reports.

The cables, obtained by the Al Jazeerah network, indicate that American intelligence was eager to establish connections with Hamas and recruit agents within the Gaza Strip. According to the leaked documents, a CIA officer and South African intelligence agent met in East Jerusalem during fighting between Hamas and Israel. A cable sent to Pretoria on June 29, 2012 revealed that the CIA agent “seems to be desperate to make inroads into Hamas in Gaza and possibly would like SSA [the South African State Security Agency] to assist them in gaining access.”

In return, the South African agency suggested that the SSA would be able to access American intelligence priorities and understand CIA collection methods throughout the proposed interaction between the CIA and Hamas.

The CIA is prohibited from providing material assistance to a terrorist organization; however, attempting to recruit a spy from within a terrorist organization would be within the intelligence agency’s mandate.

“[The] CIA supports the overall US government effort to combat international terrorism by collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence on foreign terrorist groups and individuals. [The] CIA conducts those intelligence activities in compliance with the United States constitution, federal statutes and presidential directives,” a CIA spokesperson said.

Why the CIA Killed Imad Mughniyeh

It was paying back a generation-old blood debt.

The CIA doesn’t assassinate often anymore, so when it does the agency picks its targets carefully. The story uncovered last weekend by the Washington Post and Newsweek the CIA’s reported role in the February 2008 assassination of Hezbollah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh is the stuff of a Hollywood spy thriller. A team of CIA spotters in Damascus tracking a Hezbollah terrorist wanted for decades; a custom-made explosive shaped to kill only the target and placed in the spare tire of an SUV parked along the target’s route home; intelligence gathered by Israelis, paired with a bomb built and tested in North Carolina, taking out a man responsible for the deaths of more Americans than anyone else until 9/11.

And yet, while the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the story shock and amaze, the ‘who’ should not. Most people—including Hezbollah—assumed it was the Israelis, acting alone, who killed Mughniyeh. The Israelis certainly had the motive, given Mughniyeh’s role in acts of terrorist targeting Israelis and Jews around the world, from infiltrating operatives into Israel and shooting rockets into Northern Israel, to terror attacks targeting Israeli diplomats and local Jewish communities in places like Buenos Aires. Speaking by video teleconference at Mughniyeh’s funeral in 2008, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah quickly threatened Israel with “open war” for the killing of Hajj Radwan (aka Mughniyeh).

But the CIA had motive too, and for the many within the agency—indeed, as a matter of institutional memory—the hunt for Imad Mughniyeh was personal. Mughniyeh was behind the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, which took out the entire CIA station there as well as the visiting head of the agency’s Middle East analysis branch. (In fact, word of the CIA’s role in Mugniyeh’s killing first leaked in a biography of that officer, Robert Ames, by Kai Bird, published last year.) Mughniyeh reportedly planned the 1984 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks and watched the attack unfold through binoculars from the top of a nearby building. His hand touched Hezbollah plots from Germany to Kuwait and from Argentina to Thailand.

This bloody history alone would have placed Mughniyeh in a league of his own, but there was something else that made the hunt for Mughniyeh a deeply personal vendetta. There was a reason more than one CIA operative reportedly refused reassignments and passed up on promotions to remain on the Hezbollah account. His name was Bill Buckley.

Long before ISIL’s current kidnapping and hostage spree has swept up a media frenzy, Hezbollah originated the high-profile Middle East hostage crisis. Hezbollah’s kidnapping spree in Lebanon lasted almost a decade, and it was not always a straightforward business. Some kidnappings were carried out by Hezbollah factions or clans—each with its own alias—in an opportunistic fashion to secure, for example, the release of a jailed relative. Others involved poorly trained muscle to grab people off the streets; several people were kidnapped because they were mistaken for American or French citizens. Captors assigned to guard the Western prisoners were often “unsophisticated but fanatic Muslims,” as one captive put it. In contrast, the March 1984 abduction of CIA station chief William Buckley indicated careful target selection and operational surveillance, likely supported by Iranian intelligence. According to one account, some of the intelligence Hezbollah used to identify Buckley as the local CIA chief was provided by Iran based on materials seized during the US embassy takeover in Iran in 1979.

As for Buckley, he was sent to Beirut in 1983 to set up a new CIA station after the previous one had been decimated in the April US embassy bombing. His kidnapping was a devastating blow to the CIA. “Bill Buckley being taken basically closed down CIA intelligence activities in the country,” commented one senior CIA official. But the CIA had adequate sources to determine within six months that Hezbollah was holding Buckley. For CIA director William Casey, finding Buckley was an absolute priority, the CIA official added. “It drove him almost to the ends of the earth to find ways of getting Buckley back, to deal with anyone in any form, in any shape, in any way, to get Buckley back. He failed at that, but it was a driving motivation in Iran-Contra,” the official said. “We even dealt with the devil . . . the Iranians, who sponsored Hezbollah, who sponsored the kidnapping and eventual murder of Bill Buckley.”

Frustrated with its inability to achieve its goals through hijackings and kidnappings, Hezbollah sent pictures of six hostages to several Beirut newspapers in May 1985. “All of the hostages in the photographs looked fairly healthy,” the CIA noted, “except U.S. embassy political officer Buckley who has been held longer than any of the others.”

Read more

CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing

MughniyahWashington Post,  January 30, 2015:

On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.

As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.

The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage.

[Read: Who was Imad Mughniyah?]

“We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” the former official said.

The extraordinarily close cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services suggested the importance of the target — a man who over the years had been implicated in some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular terrorist attacks, including those against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.

The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.

U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.

Mughniyah was targeted in a country where the United States was not at war. Moreover, he was killed in a car bombing, a technique that some legal scholars see as a violation of international laws that proscribe “killing by perfidy” — using treacherous means to kill or wound an enemy.

“It is a killing method used by terrorists and gangsters,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame. “It violates one of the oldest battlefield rules.”

Former U.S. officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, asserted that Mughniyah, although based in Syria, was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting U.S. forces. There was little debate inside the Bush administration over the use of a car bomb instead of other means.

“Remember, they were carrying out suicide bombings and IED attacks,” said one official, referring to Hezbollah operations in Iraq.

The authority to kill Mughniyah required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the national security adviser and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department all signed off on the operation, one former intelligence official said.

The former official said getting the authority to kill Mughniyah was a “rigorous and tedious” process. “What we had to show was he was a continuing threat to Americans,” the official said, noting that Mughniyah had a long history of targeting Americans dating back to his role in planning the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

“The decision was we had to have absolute confirmation that it was self-defense,” the official said.

There has long been suspicion about U.S. involvement in the killing of Mughniyah. In “The Good Spy,” a book about longtime CIA officer Robert Ames, author Kai Bird cites one former intelligence official as saying the operation was “primarily controlled by Langley” and it was “a CIA ‘black-ops’ team that carried out the assassination.”

In a new book, “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” former CIA officer Robert B. Baer writes how he had considered assassinating Mughniyah but apparently never got the opportunity. He notes, however, that CIA “censors” — the agency’s Publications Review Board — screened his book and “I’ve unfortunately been unable to write about the true set-piece plot against” Mughniyah.

The CIA declined to comment.

“We have nothing to add at this time,” said Mark Regev, chief spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.

A theory of self-defense

The operation in Damascus highlighted a philosophical evolution within the American intelligence services that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Before then, the U.S. government often took a dim view of Israeli assassination operations, highlighted by the American condemnation of Israel’s botched attempt in 1997 to poison the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, in Amman, Jordan. The episode ended with Mossad agents captured and the Clinton administration forcing Israel to provide the antidote that saved Meshal’s life.

The Mughniyah killing, carried out more than a decade later, suggested such American hesi­ta­tion had faded as the CIA stretched its lethal reach well beyond defined war zones and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where the agency or the military have deployed drones against al-Qaeda and its allies.

A former U.S. official said the Bush administration relied on a theory of national self-defense to kill Mughniyah, claiming he was a lawful target because he was actively plotting against the United States or its forces in Iraq, making him a continued and imminent threat who could not be captured. Such a legal rationale would have allowed the CIA to avoid violating the 1981 blanket ban on assassinations in Executive Order 12333. The order does not define assassination.

In sanctioning a 2011 operation to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen andan influential propaganda leader for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, the Justice Department made a similar argument. Noting that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had targeted U.S. commercial aircraft and asserting that Awlaki had an operational role in the group, government lawyers said he was a continued and imminent threat and could not feasibly be captured.

“It’s fairly clear that the government has at least some authority to use lethal force in self-defense even outside the context of ongoing armed conflict,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law. “The million-dollar question is whether the facts actually support a determination that such force was necessary and appropriate in each case.”

The CIA and Mossad worked together to monitor Mughniyah in Damascus for months prior to the killing and to determine where the bomb should be planted, according to the former officials.

In the leadup to the operation, U.S. intelligence officials had assured lawmakers in a classified briefing that there would be no collateral damage, former officials said.

Mughniyah 2

 

Implicated in multiple cases

At the time of his death, Mughniyah had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut that killed 63 people, including eight CIA officers. Hezbollah, supported by Iran, was involved in a long-running shadow war with Israel and its principal backer, the United States.

The embassy bombing placed Hezbollah squarely in the sights of the CIA, a focus that, in some respects, foreshadowed the targeting of Mughniyah. In his 1987 book “Veil,” Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward reported that CIA Director William Casey encouraged the Saudis to sponsor an attempt to kill a Hezbollah leader. The 1985 attempt on the life of Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah with a car bomb failed, but killed 80 people, and he fled to Iran. Mughniyah’s brother was among those killed.

Former agency officials said Mughniyah was involved in the 1984 kidnapping and torture of the CIA’s station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley. The officials said Mughniyah arranged for videotapes of the brutal interrogation sessions of Buckley to be sent to the agency. Buckley was later killed.

Mughniyah was indicted in U.S. federal court in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 shortly after it took off from Athens and the slaying of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on the plane. Mughniyah was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million reward offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

He was also suspected of involvement by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials in the planning of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.

For the Israelis, among numerous attacks, he was involved in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Argentinians, and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85 people.

“Mughniyah and his group were responsible for the deaths of many Americans,” said James Bernazzani, who was chief of the FBI’s Hezbollah unit in the late 1990s and later the deputy director for law enforcement at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

The Bush administration regarded Hezbollah — Mughniyah, in particular — as a threat to the United States. In 2008, several months after he was killed, Michael Chertoff, then secretary of homeland security, said Hezbollah was a threat to national security. “To be honest, they make al-Qaeda look like a minor league team,” he said.

Beginning in 2003, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, began to train and arm Shiite militant groups in Iraq, which later began attacking coalition forces, according to Matthew Levitt, who recently wrote a book about Hezbollah and is director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

The Hezbollah-trained militias proved to be a deadly enemy, wounding or killing hundreds of American troops. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated and coalition casualties spiked in 2006, the United States decided it had to stanch the losses.

The Bush administration issued orders to kill or capture Iranian operatives targeting American troops and attempting to destabilize Iraq. It also approved a list of operations directed at Hezbollah, officials said. The mandate applied directly to the group’s notorious international operations chief.

“There was an open license to find, fix and finish Mughniyah and anybody affiliated with him,” said a former U.S. official who served in Baghdad.

In January 2007, Bush, in an address to the nation, singled out Iran and Syria, two countries with the closest ties to Hezbollah.

“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Read more with details of the operation

Mughniyah's death

Adam Goldman reports on terrorism and national security for The Washington Post.

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Hezbollah commanders killed in suspected Israeli airstrike 

Hezbollah announced the death of six of its commanders and fighters, including the son of its slain former military chief Imad Mughniyah, in what is believed to be an Israeli airstrike in southern Syria.

The Lebanon-based Iranian proxy claimed “the martyrdom of a number of Mujahideen by the Zionist bombing in Quneitra, Syria,” on Al Manar, the group’s official news outlet. The Hezbollah fighters “came under rocket fire from helicopters” of “the Israeli enemy,” the Hezbollah propaganda outlet noted.

B8sElQ9CEAARE38Among the six Hezbollah operatives killed in the airstrike was Jihad Imad Mughniyah, the son of Imad, who was one of the founders of Hezbollah who served as the group’s military and intelligence commander up until he was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008. Imad, who masterminded some of the most deadly terror attacks against the US, Israel, France, Argentina and Iraq, is believed to have been assassinated by Israeli intelligence.

Jihad Mughniyah is said to have been leading a group of Hezbollah fighters in a reconnaissance operation in Quneitra. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, the Islamic Front, and allied Free Syria Army units are currently operating in and around Quneitra. The jihadist groups have controlled the Quneitra border crossing.

Al Manar identified the other five Hezbollah commanders and operatives as Mohamed Ahmed Issa (he was identified as a “leader”), Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi, Muhammad Ali Hassan, Ghazi Ali Dhaoui, and Ali Hassan Ibrahim.

The Israeli government and military have not commented on the reported airstrike in southern Syria. But the Israeli Air Force has launched several airstrikes against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah’s network inside Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011. The Israelis have targeted weapons systems that were being transferred to Hezbollah as well as weapons facilities in Damascus, Latakia, and Jamraya [See LWJ report, US officials: Israel struck targets near Damascus and Latakia.]

Senior Iranian and Hezbollah commanders have been killed during the fighting in Syria. In February 2013, Hassan Shateri, a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps who is also said to have served on Hezbollah’s advisory council, was killed in an ambush while traveling from Damascus to Beirut. A senior Iranian official eulogized Shateri, who was listed by the US as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, as “no less than [Imad] Mughniyah.”

After Charlie Hebdo massacre, we must ratchet up policing and intelligence-gathering to catch every possible terrorist

NYPD1

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The horrific terrorist attack in Paris underscores the importance of retaining our focus on preventing attacks here in the United States. This requires a layered, proactive, aggressive and relentless strategy that identifies the attacker before he launches an attack.

A purely defensive strategy of protecting our critical infrastructure, which is what some people would have us settle for, will not be sufficient in our open society.

The search for terrorists at home begins overseas, as they travel to and from the United States, and continues within the homeland.

Overseas, American partnership with local intelligence services have been effective since 9/11. Our CIA station chiefs around the world have been charged with getting intelligence from our partners.

The key to our success here is best understood by the maxim of my partner at NYPD and 35-year career intelligence officer, David Cohen. Cohen says there is no such thing as “intelligence sharing” — there is only “intelligence trading.” Real secrets are traded among serious collectors of intelligence. And our ability to get good actionable intelligence from our partners depends on our ability to provide them with the same.

In my experience, one of the most effective tools we have in this regard is our enormous NSA signals-intelligence collection program. NSA, that recently maligned agency, is one of our nation’s true jewels. Its enormous collection platforms enable us to share vital intelligence with our partners — who are happy to return the favor, often intelligence collected by their human sources.

NSA also passes critical intelligence data collected abroad through the CIA to the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Forces around the country. This enables the FBI to focus its investigations on people identified with connections to terrorist organizations abroad.

This intelligence, in conjunction with human intelligence collected by CIA unilaterally or through its partnership with local intelligence services, informs the no-travel lists that are so crucial to protecting our shores from traveling terrorists. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Charlie Hebdo terrorists had been on the U.S. no-fly list for years.

But these lists are not enough. Aggressive intelligence is required at our border — and within our neighborhoods. At the border, we must increase the use of secondary inspections in our airports and other border crossings. These secondary inspections pull people from security lines and enable trained personnel to conduct brief interviews in separate rooms.

It is hard understate the value of these inspections. “Secondaries” serve multiple purposes. They are a deterrent to terrorists contemplating travel to the U.S., who will never know when they get yanked out a line and questioned.

In addition, secondary inspections are a rich source of future informants — the key to unraveling cells within the United States.

Aggressive, non-politically correct secondary inspections will, in fact, target young men between 18 and 30 years old traveling from certain countries. Indeed this is a form of profiling.

But without profiling travelers it is virtually impossible to get real results. There are simply too many travelers, and not enough inspectors to pick randomly and hope for the best.

Inside the United States, counterterrorism investigations conducted by the FBI terrorism task forces and NYPD intelligence are the most effective way to catch a terrorist before he attacks. Random cars stops or other generic police tactics will not get it done. We need targeted investigations that are managed by the laws of the land and limited by the Patriot Act of 2001.

Unfortunately, it is only the NYPD that conducts counterterrorism investigations outside of the FBI task forces — and it gets plenty of grief from the federal government for doing so.

Other local police forces should expand their counterterrorism activities, coordinated with the FBI to ensure all potential leads and suspects are properly investigated and surveilled if necessary.

It is unconscionable that the two Chechen Boston marathon bombers were not under surveillance based on the threat warnings received by the Russian government. Cops know how to do this; it is not that different from running counter-narcotics investigations.

The two biggest obstacles to finding terrorists within our midst are complacency and political correctness. We must overcome both of these and conduct legal, thorough and aggressive investigations at our border and within our cities.

Fortunately, our terrorist adversaries make many mistakes. If we are alert and on the job, we will identify these mistakes and intercept the vast majority of attacks before they happen. There is no guarantee of course that we will catch every would-be murderer. But we know how to increase the odds in our favor. We need to direct our law enforcement and intelligence services to get to it.

And support them when they conduct their jobs to protect us.

Sheehan, a career Special Forces Army officer, was the former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism at NYPD, the ambassador at large for counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State and most recently the assistant secretary of defense for special operations at the Pentagon. He is currently the distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, N.Y., his alma mater.

Obama Admin Has Made Questioning Terrorists Harder Than Ever

124dd076c9184f638bec51cffbe07073-e1369777220155Daily Caller, by Kerry Picket, Jan. 12, 2015:

It’s never been harder to question a terrorist.

In the midst of tracking where the next terror attack could strike in the West, counterterrorism experts and lawmakers say the Obama administration has made it harder to get fresh intelligence from terrorist sources.

The decision to no longer keep detainees at Guantanamo Bay; the administration’s preference for killing terrorists with drone strikes; and the practice of reading terrorists the American Miranda warning has made obtaining new intelligence very difficult, experts say.

“It’s really unbelievable that these guys say that their position is driven by humanitarian concerns,” former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy told The Daily Caller. “The reason [the administration] drone[s] people, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t drone anybody — rather than capture — is because they’ve so screwed up detention and interrogation. And it’s cleaner for them to kill people — because when you kill them, that’s the end of the story.”

McCarthy, known for leading the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Omar “the Blind Sheik” Abdel Rahman and eleven others, said the Obama administration is confused about where to send detainees.

Additionally, McCarthy said, “There is political baggage as to why we are bringing terrorists into the United States and giving them grade A due process trials. A large way they handled that was to kill a lot of people who we should have been capturing and getting intelligence from, because in this global war,  you’re not fighting a traditional military.”

“I’m not saying intelligence wasn’t important in every war,” McCarthy noted. “But it’s particularly important in a war against a secretive network that attacks in stealth, where intelligence is the only way you can protect yourself. They’ve sold short the intelligence product.”

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is frustrated with the current system of Mirandizing detainees who are captured overseas, pointing out that some detainees are being presented with Miranda rights while aboard ships coming back to the U.S., or as they are about to touch U.S. soil.

“Under criminal law, you provide somebody a right to counsel and the right to remain silent so they don’t jeopardize their criminal case,” Graham said. ”The purpose of military law is to win the war. The purpose of criminal law is to prosecute a case. I don’t look as these guys as common criminals. I look at them as warriors—enemy combatants subject to being detained under the law of war.”

Counterterrorism and Middle Eastern expert Patrick Poole says the intelligence community is “absolutely” getting less information from terrorist networks.

“The first thing the Justice Department does is Mirandize them,” Poole said. “If we drone somebody or we throw them into the legal system, we’re losing valuable opportunities to gather intel.  We just don’t know how much we’re losing because of the drone program, and they never have a chance to find out.”

Poole points to the Somali pirate involved in taking the captain of an American ship — the Maersk Alabama — hostage in 2009.

“The Somali pirate who was captured ended up being transported back to New York where he was charged and had his Miranda rights read to him,” Poole lamented. “His intelligence about the pirate network was lost.”

One year later, five Somali pirates attacked the American warship U.S.S. Nicholas in the Indian Ocean. Part of the controversy of the case was whether or not these foreign nationals were properly Mirandized at sea.

National Security Law Brief states the problem of military personnel reciting Miranda rights to detainees:

“Almost universally, the suspects are detained by military personnel, a fact which leads to questions concerning their training in the use of Miranda procedures. American service members are not typically trained to inform prisoners of their Miranda rights like law enforcement officers are. This lack of training, further complicated by language barriers immediately following arrest, led to Miranda rights being a key issue of the case at hand.”

Republican Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told TheDC that terrorists are given “too many rights” by the United States.

“I know, for instance, they can’t claim Miranda right away, but they can claim it earlier than they should be able to claim it,” King said. “That was the whole issue of the Boston Bomber and with the Times Square Bomber and also the guy they captured—bin Laden’s son in law. He was kept on a ship for a while, but then they ended up Mirandizing him.”

President Obama promised to close the U.S. compound in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at the beginning of his administration in 2009. A number of detainees have already been released and many have returned to the battlefield. Right now, 127 detainees remain at Gitmo and are awaiting release or transfer.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul said that recent intelligence has been “sort of stale.”

“We got a lot of fresh information after 9/11,” McCaul told TheDC. “What’s left down there is the worst of the worst in terms of terrorists — and releasing them like we did the Taliban five is a very dangerous exercise.”

During the Bush administration, the U.S. took prisoners to top secret “black sites,” in Romania or other countries, Poole said. “So they were never officially in the U.S. system–guys like Abdel Hakim Belhadj who the CIA renditioned back in Libya in 2004. They caught him in Thailand and the CIA renditioned him. And he ended up being the guy we backed who overthrew Gaddafi.”

In fact, the Washington Times reports the Pentagon has ordered judges who oversee military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay to stop handling cases in other countries and deal exclusively on closing the cases of detainees charged with terrorism.

“Because of the legal maneuvers to try and free these guys in Gitmo, there are other various problems,” Poole said. “The Obama administration has openly embraced droning these guys. And now there are some reports that nearly 2000 people have been killed in these drone strikes. The number of people they were actually targeting is in the dozens.”

“So that’s the flip side into all this law-fare that’s been waged to get these guys released,” Poole went on. ”It’s now been the position of the Obama administration, ‘We’re just gonna kill ‘em.’”

“From a public safety stand point, where are we going to put them?” Rep. McCaul wondered. “We know they return to the battlefield to kill Americans. They’re going to return to conduct terrorist plots in America and Western Europe. Frankly, I don’t think we should be shutting [Gitmo] down.”

Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told TheDC that the government does what it can to pull information from detainees.

“As a general rule,” Price said. “The government will always seek to elicit all the actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects taken into our custody.”

Senate ‘Torture’ Report Used Documents Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege

2961604612CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 5, 2015:

I wrote last week in a Breitbart.com article that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program – a program its critics claim amounted to torture – is a flop with the American people. Three major polls issued after the release last month of the report’s 499-page declassified summary indicate most Americans reject the report since they believe this program was effective in keeping our country safe from further terrorist attacks after 9/11.

A major point of contention over the report concerns the use in the investigation by the committee’s Democratic staff of restricted CIA documents they were not supposed to have and their removal from a CIA facility by the staff, a violation of an agreement between the committee and the Agency. The committee staffers brought the restricted documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s secure offices without telling CIA officials.

The documents are known as “the Panetta Review, a draft account of the enhanced interrogation program that reportedly differs from the Agency’s official account. It is unclear how the Democratic staff acquired these documents. After CIA officials realized the Democratic staff had them, it audited Agency computers in an Agency facility made available to the staff for the investigation and made a referral to the Justice Department. Feinstein and other members of Congress reacted angrily to the Agency’s actions and accused it of spying on Congress.

The Justice Department declined to act on resulting misconduct claims made by both sides. The New York Times reported on December 19 that a five-member CIA review panel headed by former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh reportedly will recommend against punishing any CIA personnel for wrongdoing, although it will criticize missteps by the Agency that contributed to the fight with Congress.

Further complicating this affair, we now know the restricted Agency documents are covered by attorney-client privilege.

In late December, CIA revealed in response to an FOIA request that each of the restricted documents are stamped “DELIBERATIVE PROCESS PRIVILEGED DOCUMENT” at the top and has this language on the first page:

“This classified document was prepared by the CIA Director’s Review Group for Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (DRG-RDI) for DRG-RDI’s internal discussion purposes and should not be used for any other purpose, nor may it be distributed without express permission from DRG-RDI or CIA’s Office of General Counsel. This document contains [certain classified information]. This document also contains material protected by the attorney-client and attorney work-product privileges. Furthermore, this document constitutes deliberative work product, protected by the deliberative-process privilege, and is not a final, conclusive, complete, or comprehensive analysis of DRG-RDI or CIA. Rather, it was created to suit the needs of DRG-RDI, in support of informing senior Agency officials about broad policy issues. While every effort was made to ensure this document’s accuracy, it may contain inadvertent errors. For this reason, and because this document selectively summarizes, draws inferences from, or omits information from the sources it cites, it should not be relied upon by persons outside DRG-RDI.”

I spoke with an experienced Washington attorney about this. He told me that when a lawyer comes across a document during a lawsuit or investigation that belongs to the other side marked “deliberative process privileged document” or “protected by the attorney-client and attorney work-product privileges”, he or she cannot use the document and is ethically bound to immediately return it to the other side.

In this case, Daniel Jones and Alissa Starzak, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democratic staff members who headed the enhanced interrogation program investigation – both of whom are attorneys – did not inform the CIA they had acquired these documents, retained them for several years (they acquired them in 2010), and used these documents as part of their investigation. The Democratic staff attorneys also did not share the restricted CIA documents with the committee’s Republican staff, a violation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s rules.

Jake Gibson and James Rosen reported in a December 24, 2014 FoxNews.com article that controversy over the restricted CIA documents has endangered the nomination of Starzak to be the next U.S. Army general counsel. Rosen and Gibson reported that Senate Republicans claim Starzak was one of the Democratic staffers who “stole” these documents from the CIA.

Starzak was nominated for the Army post over the summer. Although the Senate Armed Services Committee approved her nomination on December 9 without a recorded vote, it expired at the end of the last Congress since the full Senate did not vote on the nomination. The Obama administration has not said whether Starzak will be renominated.

Some Congressional Republicans and conservative groups want to punish Starzak over the CIA restricted documents by denying her the Army general counsel post. In my view, this appears to be a serious ethical violation that should kill the Starzak nomination. However, I also believe this is a scandal that goes beyond Starzak since the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former Democratic majority are experienced legislators who obviously understand what “attorney-client privilege” and “deliberative work process” means. Moreover, three of these senators are attorneys, including Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee member who was the most aggressive in pushing the enhanced interrogation investigation.

What did these Democratic senators know about CIA documents used in the enhanced interrogation investigation covered by attorney-client privilege and when did they know it? These are questions that other members of the Senate and the news media need to be asking.

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Five Reasons Why the Senate ‘Torture’ Report Became a Flop

914916800CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Dec. 29, 2014:

Congressional Democrats, leftwing groups, and the mainstream media were certain this month’s Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program (which they call torture) would spark a groundswell of anger against Bush administration officials and the CIA that would change the subject from the president’s growing unpopularity and the Democratic Party’s poor showing in the mid-term elections.

The left had every reason to be hopeful about the so-called “torture” report.  It was written entirely by Senate Democratic staffers who cherry picked CIA documents and emails with the most salacious and gruesome accounts of the enhanced interrogation program.  No interviews were conducted to prevent CIA officers familiar with the program from introducing exculpatory information into the investigation.

To promote media interest in the report, classified details of the investigation’s findings were leaked to the press by Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (and possibly Democratic Senate staff) over the last few months.  Embargoed copies of the 499-page declassified summary were provided to major news outlets in advance of its official release to ensure extensive press coverage.

Despite these efforts to foist the enhanced interrogation report on the American people, three polls indicate most Americans reject the report’s findings.  An ABC/Washington Post poll found 59% of Americans believe the enhanced interrogation program was justified while only 31% said it was unjustified.  A Pew Research poll had similar numbers: 51% justified, 29% not justified.  So did a CBS News poll by a margin of 49%-36%.

Why did the enhanced interrogation report turn out to be a flop?  I believe there are five reasons.

  1. The American people are not stupid. Most Americans realize the enhanced interrogation program was initiated in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was only used against terrorist suspects.  They believe this program was justified and have little sympathy for liberal partisans trying to score political points by claiming al Qaeda members with possible knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks may have been treated roughly.  Most Americans also know there is no comparison between the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA against terrorist suspects and actual torture.
  1. Americans believe the war on terror continues. With this year’s beheadings and other atrocities by the Islamic State and the recent execution of 122 Pakistani children by the Taliban, Americans do not want to deny the U.S. government counterterrorism tools that could stop future terrorist attacks and atrocities.  Many Americans also believe releasing the declassified summary of the report was a mistake since it may play into the hands of radical Islamists.
  1. Former CIA officers fought back hard against the Senate report. Former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden and other CIA officials conducted a media blitz defending the enhanced interrogation program and Agency personnel with lengthy op-eds in major newspapers and dozens of TV interviews.  Unnamed CIA officers who worked on the enhanced interrogation program created a well-designed website, ciasavedlives.com, which tells their side of the story and is a resource of information about the program’s actual record.  The former CIA officials were joined by several Bush administration officials in countering the Senate report, including Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Even former President George W. Bush, who usually avoids commenting on political questions, spoke out in defense of the program and the CIA officers who ran it.
  1. The left overreached. Most Americans strongly reject claims made by the report’s supporters that the enhanced interrogation program hurt America’s moral standing in the world.  Americans have also been turned off by demands by some on the left that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, CIA officers and other officials be put on trial for war crimes over this program and regard those making such demands as moonbats.  Not surprisingly, the New York Times is leading the moonbat chorus on this issue and recently doubled down on its call for prosecutions of Bush officials and CIA officers in a December 21 editorial titled “Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses.”
  1. The Obama administration provided lukewarm support for the Senate report. Although President Obama endorsed the findings of the Senate report, he seemed to be going through the motions when he discussed its release and has shown little interest in doing anything about the program since 2009.  The president’s remarks also were undermined by the efforts his administration made to prevent the report from being issued because of concerns it would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.

The bottom line: the Senate report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program flopped with the American people because they believe this program was a justifiable and effective effort to protect the United States against terrorist attacks in the aftermath of 9/11.  Americans also refused to go along with attempts by congressional Democrats, leftwing groups and the mainstream media to use this issue to score political points.

I believe the American people’s rejection of the Senate report means the debate over this issue is over.  But the effect of the report may linger due to the damage it did to congressional oversight of intelligence and with U.S. military and intelligence partners.  While I believe the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups could use the report in the short term as an excuse to stage new terrorist attacks or atrocities, I am hopeful that any increased threat level will dissipate in 2015 as interest in the report fades and is eventually forgotten.

Man Who Interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Speaks Out

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Watch Megyn Kelly’s 12/15 interview James Mitchell. The interview will be continued on tonight’s Kelly File.

The CIA interrogation ‘architect’ reacts to interrogation report (part 1)

 

The CIA interrogation ‘architect’ reacts to interrogation report (part 2)

 

The CIA interrogation ‘architect’ reacts to interrogation report (part 3)

 

Day 2 Of Megyn Kelly Interviews James Mitchell Who Interrogated KSM

 

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No Tears For Terrorists

CIA (1)By Justin O. Smith:

The recently released Senate Intelligence report on the CIA detention and interrogation program, created after 9/11, is a poorly done partisan attack on the Agency, and it is marred by errors of fact and questionable motives, as Americans note that this story moved Dr. Gruber, ACA architect, and his “Americans are too stupid to understand Obamacare” remark from the front page of the New York Times to page twenty; however, since the Democrats have mischaracterized the effectiveness of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program and alleged that Islamic terrorists/ “enemy combatants” captured on foreign battlefields were “tortured” through waterboarding and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT), let’s put this topic to rest, as we also note that waterboarding was prohibited seven years ago.

Many progressive Democrats have conflated the issue by stating that Japanese soldiers were hung in 1947 for “waterboarding” U.S. soldiers, when what they actually did is more accurately described as “water-torture”, forcing water into the stomachs of prisoners, our U.S. soldiers, until osmosis ruptured their blood-cells, ending in death. This is not in any manner similar to the minor dunkings that Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists received at the hands of CIA interrogators, which merely gave the subject the illusion of drowning.

At the cost of $40 million, the Senate intelligence report, a 524 page declassified executive summary of the 6300 page classified report, accuses the CIA of torture, however, the CIA repeatedly consulted the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel about methods it intended to use. Legal opinions __ later discredited and withdrawn due to political pressure from the Obama administration __ assured the Agency that ALL of its Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) were lawful and did not constitute torture.

It is worth noting here that tens of thousands of U.S. Armed Forces members, Rangers, Special Forces, SEALs, Pathfinders and Recon have voluntarily subjected themselves to waterboarding in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) classes. All intelligence and military personnel exposed to a high risk of capture take SERE training.

Now, the very same Democrats, who once fully supported the EIT program, clearly didn’t include any information that did not fit their predetermined conclusions, and these same Democrats charged the CIA with immoral ineffectiveness, after they cherry-picked their way through six million pages of documents in the program that they in fact enabled; in their questionable endeavor, they ignored credible evidence that information gathered in this program led to Osama bin Laden.

In a joint response, former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden and former CIA Deputy Directors John McLaughlin, Albert Calland and Stephen Kappes rebut the Senate Intelligence report in a December 10th Wall Street Journal editorial that states: “The (EIT) program in its totality formed an essential part of the foundation from which the CIA and the U.S. military mounted the bin Laden operation. For instance, the CIA never would have focused on the individual who turned out to be bin Laden’s personal courier without the detention and interrogation program.”

Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and five other Republicans wrote a 100 page dissent of the report, which was written solely by Democratic committee staff members. Chambliss, in a later statement, contradicted the principal findings of the Democrats, calling them “erroneous and inflammatory.”

Senator Chambliss also presented 766 known cases that represented “sole sourced” intelligence extracted through EIT, which gave advanced warning of terrorist attacks on Heathrow airport and London’s Canary Wharf. Chambliss stated, “There is no telling how many lives this program saved.”

Jose Rodriguez Jr., a former CIA official, rejects the Senate Intelligence report’s conclusions that EITs weren’t useful in saving American lives, and he stated: “… that the interrogation program brought no intelligence is an egregious falsehood; it’s a dishonest attempt to rewrite history … I’m bemused that the Senate could devote so many resources to studying the interrogation program and yet never once speak to any of the key people involved in it, including the guy who ran it, that would be me.”

One report from the twelve month period in 2004 showed a 92% success rate when EITs were used at GITMO, and even the Senate Intelligence report had to admit that some intelligence was gathered from 82% of detainees subjected to EITs, while in CIA custody. The effectiveness was shown to be only 57.5% with detainees when soft-sell techniques (polygraphs) were used.

Since the creation of the detention and interrogation program, the CIA has reported any allegation of abuse to the Justice Dept. Twenty cases have been forwarded to Justice in all these years, with only one meriting prosecution.

On December 11th, CIA Director John Brennan put this topic in its proper context as he stated: “The events of 9/11 will be forever seared into the memory of Americans … those 77 minutes in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Our Nation ached … It prayed. In Our pain, We pledged to come together … We vowed, NEVER AGAIN.”

Americans are now being forced by this report to reflect and ask themselves, “Was America wrong to use these Enhanced Interrogation Techniques?”

The Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamofascist groups that now comprise the Islamic State have routinely tortured, maimed and murdered their prisoners over the last several decades, just as America witnessed nineteen U.S. soldiers dismembered in Somalia and hung from utility poles in 1993 and, more recently, four young Christian children beheaded in Iraq for refusing to convert to Islam. And during this time, they have consistently and routinely worked towards successfully striking America in the most destructive and lethal fashion; the bomb plots, the biological and chemical attack plans and their search for nuclear weapons have all increased, and all of this was in the making long before the EIT program, as illustrated by the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Americans reflect on what has brought us to this discussion, and we remember ___ We remember Islamic terrorists followed the Koran’s mandate to murder non-believers, the infidels, in order to purify the world ___ taking the lives of 3000 innocent Americans. This is their life’s calling, and America reacted by making it our mission to capture or kill every Islamofascist meaning to bring Her harm, a mission we took seriously; if an Islamic terror suspect or known terrorist gets slapped a few times or has a little water poured over his face, I’ll not be shedding any tears.

CIA saved lives

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The Feinstein Report Is Going to Cost Us

pic_giant_121314_SM_Dianne_FeinsteinNational Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy, DECEMBER 13, 2014:

Jihadists are still waging their war against the civilized world. Check that: Jihadists are currently winning their war against the civilized world. Thank Barack Obama, who fails to grasp the difference between being “the president who ends wars” and the president who retreats from wars, and thus surrenders while the enemy is on the rise.

What is the response of Senate sages to this predicament? Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Democrats saw it as the perfect time to savage the CIA, further burn America’s bridges with anti-terrorism allies, and hand jihadists a huge propaganda victory.

The Islamic State had a response, too: They beheaded four Christian children for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.

You see where this is going, no?

The Democrats’ “torture” report is a gratuitous hit job — brought to you by the same party that, out of political calculation, aggressively undermined the American war effort in Iraq — only after voting to send our men and women into grave danger there, also out of political calculation.

To be sure, the report is a highly disturbing document. It graphically illustrates the severity of enhanced interrogation tactics used against a small group of top-tier terrorists — terrorists who were responsible for brutally murdering thousands of Americans and who, at the time of their capture, were actively plotting to kill thousands more.

Still, notwithstanding the revelation of a few new gory details, this is old news and its disclosure serves no useful purpose — it is just a settling of scores.

“Old news” is not used here in the familiar Clinton/Obama sense of acknowledging a few embarrassing scandal details on Friday night to pave the way for dismissing scandal coverage as stale by Monday morning. The CIA’s interrogation program happened over a decade ago. It was investigated by Justice Department prosecutors for years — and not once but twice. The second time, even Eric Holder, the hyper-politicized, hard-Left attorney general who had promised Obama’s base a “reckoning,” could not help but concede that the case against our intelligence agents should be dropped because the evidence was insufficient to warrant torture prosecutions.

As I have frequently argued here over the years, there is a world of difference between what is couched in political rhetoric as “torture,” a conversation stopper that the Left cavalierly applies to every instance of prisoner abuse, and the federal crime of torture, which has a strict legal definition and is a difficult offense to prove, precisely to ensure that torture is not trivialized. Not surprisingly, then, the fact that the interrogations investigation was terminated has never been regarded as a clean bill of health.

To the contrary, disclosure was made to the public, through congressional investigations as well as through the criminal probe, that the tactics used were troubling. The treatment of a bare fraction of the tens of thousands of detainees held for a time raised concerns about abuse — far less than the norm in previous wars. The abuses that did occur, however, became notorious. And they were not trivial. Indeed, two detainees died: one under suspicious circumstances in Iraq, another of hypothermia in Afghanistan.

But we’ve known this for years. In conjunction with the Left’s shameful “Bush lied, people died” Iraq war meme — along with the Bush administration’s peculiar decision not to defend itself from scurrilous allegations — the “torture” narrative helped propel Democrats to decisive victories in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Feinstein’s report similarly serves no useful purpose when it comes to the ostensible rationale for its release, namely: the quest to corroborate the strictly ideological — and demonstrably false — claim that coercive interrogation does not yield vital intelligence.

On this score, it is almost not worth pointing to the averments of current and former CIA directors and operatives that the techniques employed produced essential wartime intelligence. It is even tempting to omit mention of the fact that the 9/11 Commission Report — lauded by members of both parties as the definitive account of the 9/11 attacks and the foundation of American counterterrorism policy — is largely the product of intelligence culled from top terrorists subjected to waterboarding and other indignities.

These are time-wasting exercises because the Feinstein report, as a piece of government investigative work, is laughably incompetent — at least as much as a taxpayer can laugh at a $50 million political stunt. An investigation that, as Rich Lowry notes, neglects to interview a single participant in the relevant events is a fraud. There is no other word for it.

This one will cost us dearly — and I’m not just talking about the $50 mil. The allies we need to prosecute a global anti-terror campaign — the ones from whom Obama’s election was supposed to win us renewed respect and affection — despise us for what Senate Democrats have done. As someone who has been around the block as many times as Feinstein must be aware, the report embarrasses governments that cooperate with the United States and raises their vulnerability as terror targets.

And just as our allies are reminded that America is an unfaithful friend, so, too, have American national-security officials, intelligence agents, and warriors been given a cautionary lesson: If you take actions to protect the American people — in wartime, in the heat of the moment amid a palpably justified fear of mass-murder attacks after nearly 3,000 of your fellow citizens have been slaughtered — better prepare to be hounded as a war criminal for the succeeding decade or more.

Jihadists, meanwhile, will go on beheading teenagers and planning massive attacks.

It has been one thing to tell our ascendant enemies — in actions and omissions that speak louder than words — that we have no stomach to fight them where they must be fought: on the ground where, we know, given time and space, they plot to kill Americans. It is quite another thing to buoy them with the assurance that a major party in this country has a bottomless appetite to fight Americans whose major allegiance is to America.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

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CIA saved lives

Former CIA Officer Gary Berntsen talks reactions to the Agency’s report

Published on Dec 11, 2014 by CCTV America

CCTV America interviewed Gary Berntsen for an inside perspective on the report. Berntsen is a former CIA Senior Operations Officer.

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Brennan Disappoints Again

2866529523CSP, by Fred Fleitz:

CIA Director John Brennan did some good in his unprecedented CIA press conference on the report released this week by Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the enhanced interrogation program. He defended the Agency and its employees from unfair attacks on its efforts to stop further terrorist attacks after 9/11. He disputed claims in the report that the CIA lied to Congress about the enhanced interrogation program. He noted that the Agency stayed in regular contact with Congress and the Justice Department about this program and self-reported when things went wrong. He stressed how unfair it was that the investigation failed to interview any CIA officials. Brennan also decried the investigation’s failure to consider that the enhanced interrogation program was initiated in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when U.S. officials were fearful of further al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.

I was glad to hear Brennan say these things. However, he undermined his message by also straddling the fence on the value of the enhanced interrogation program in an attempt to win political support from congressional Democrats when he said that that although detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation produced “useful information,” he claimed the cause and effect relationship between the interrogations and obtaining useful information “is unknowable.” Senator Feinstein quickly praised these statements but added that she disagreed “that it is ‘unknowable’ whether information needed to stop terrorist attacks could be obtained from other sources.”

Last August I called for John Brennan to resign after he mishandled an incident when Democratic Senate staff improperly removed classified documents from a CIA facility during the enhanced interrogation investigation. Senator Feinstein misrepresented the CIA’s actions as spying on Congress. I suspect Brennan is trying to win back the support of Feinstein and other Senate Democrats after this incident by his comments that hedged on the value of the enhanced interrogation program.

Brennan could have served the interests of the CIA and U.S. national security better by firmly standing behind this program like former CIA Directors Goss, Tenet, and Hayden did and not engaging in a strange epistemological argument on what is “knowable.”   Goss, Tenet, and Hayden, who worked more closely on this program than Brennan, believe it is “knowable” that the enhanced interrogation program produced unique, time-sensitive intelligence on terrorism threats that could not have been obtained through other means.

This also used to be Brennan’s position. According to the Wall Street Journal, a March 2009 memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee signed by Brennan said: “CIA assesses that most, if not all, of the timely intelligence acquired from detainees in this program would not have been discovered or reported by any other means.” Brennan also didn’t make this “unknowable” argument when he presented the CIA’s rebuttal to the Senate report last year.

Brennan’s hedging on the enhanced interrogation program’s reflects an unfortunate trend toward watered-down analysis and risk aversion by CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies due to the firestorm of criticism it faced in the 2000s after intelligence failures related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs. To avoid being wrong or alienating anyone in Congress, intelligence analysis since the mid -2000s on controversial issues such as Iran’s nuclear program became increasingly bland and consensus-based.   Pressure has been put on intelligence analysts and agencies to support a consensus corporate line in their analysis to avoid being wrong and attracting congressional criticism.

Intelligence officials have tried to discredit any agencies or analysts who break from the corporate line on analysis. This happened in April 2013 when Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) inadvertently revealed a classified finding from a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report that he said “assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however the reliability will be low.” Senior U.S. intelligence officials immediately dismissed the DIA report cited by Lamborn as an outlier as did the Obama administration. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper read a statement that said the DIA report “is not [his emphasis] an Intelligence Community assessment.”

U.S. intelligence analysis should be written the way Director William Casey insisted it be written: analysts must provide their best assessment and dare to be wrong. Intelligence analysts shouldn’t be pulling their punches because of how their work might be received by the White House or Congress. Brennan’s hedging on the value of the enhanced interrogation program is the latest indication that American intelligence analysis is being driven by political considerations and has a long way to go to return to the high standard demanded by Director Casey so it produces the incisive and bold assessments needed to protect our country in a dangerous world.

Brennan: Claim That Detainees Didn’t Provide Valuable Intel After EITs ‘Lacks Any Foundation at All’

 

PJ Media, By Bridget Johnson, December 11, 2014:

WASHINGTON — CIA Director John Brennan stepped to the podium at Langley today for a rare press conference to respond to a report accusing the agency of torture, launching into a passionate defense of the men and women who work there.

Brennan began by walking everyone back to the dark days of 9/11, and reminded all that the first combat death in Afghanistan — Johnny “Mike” Spann, killed on Nov. 25, 2001 — was CIA. Since then, he said, 20 more CIA officers “have lost their lives around the world at the hands of terrorists.”

But he also stressed that the Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats’ report, which said enhanced interrogation techniques were not effective in gleaning useful intelligence, ”lacks any foundation at all” in its conclusion.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Brennan said, “Our government and our citizens recognized the urgency of the task to find and stop al-Qaeda before it could shed the blood of more innocent men, women and children, be it in America or be it in any other corner of the world.”

The EIT program was “uncharted territory for the CIA and we were not prepared,” he added. “We had little experience housing detainees and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators… As concerns about Al Qaeda’s terrorist plans endured, a variety of these techniques were employed by CIA officers on several dozen detainees over the course of five years before they ended in December of 2007.”

“The previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al-Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country while facing fears of further attacks and carrying out the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life. There were no easy answers. And whatever your views are on EITs, our nation and, in particular this agency, did a lot of things right during this difficult time to keep this country strong and secure.”

Brennan said the CIA views Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) report as “flawed” in its execution, noting that CIA officers were not interviewed by committee investigators.

“In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent, and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes,” he said. “It is vitally important to recognize, however, that the overwhelming majority of officers involved in the program at CIA carried out their responsibilities faithfully and in accordance with the legal and policy guidance they were provided. They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation.”

Brennan stressed that detainees who were subjected to EITs did yield valuable intelligence, including in finding Osama bin Laden, but he cannot say whether it was the EITs that led the detainees to talk.

“The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable,” he said.

He added that the record “simply does not support the study’s inference that the agency repeatedly, systematically and intentionally misled others on the effectiveness of the program.”

“Primarily, however, the study’s contention that we repeatedly and intentionally misled the public and the rest of the U.S. government rests on the committee’s view that detainees subjected to EITs did not produce useful intelligence, a point on which we still fundamentally disagree.”

The longtime CIA veteran — who joined in 1980 and was deputy executive director when al-Qaeda struck the homeland on 9/11 – said one of the “most frustrating aspects” of the study is that it “conveys a broader view of the CIA and its officers as untrustworthy, that the institution and the workforce were willing to forego their integrity in order to preserve a program they were invested in and supposedly believed to be right.”

“This in no way comports with my experience in the CIA. While the agency has a traditional bias for action and a determined focus on achieving our mission, we take exceptional pride in providing truth to power, whether that power likes or agrees with what we believe and what we say or not and regardless of whether that power is affiliated with any particular political party.”

Feinstein was live-tweeting Brennan’s speech, responding to his statements with the hashtag #ReadTheReport.

The senator said in a statement after the speech that Brennan’s uncertainty of which techniques led to actionable intelligence substantiated her report’s claims. “This is a welcome change from the CIA’s position in the past that information was obtained as a direct result of EITs,” Feinstein said.

Yet Brennan also said: “But for someone to say that there was no intelligence of value of use that came from those detainees once they were subjected to EITs, I think that is — lacks any foundation at all.”

Feinstein disagreed that it’s “unknowable” whether the EITs led to the intelligence.

“The report shows that such information in fact was obtained through other means, both traditional CIA human intelligence and from other agencies,” she said. “…The president, Congress and other policymakers must get the facts and intelligence assessments without them being colored by policy views or an effort to hide embarrassing facts.”

“As one who received CIA briefings in 2006 and 2007 about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, I know that the CIA did not ‘speak truth to power,’ and that the descriptions of interrogations that were finally provided to the committee did not accurately reflect reality.”

President Obama refused to talk about Brennan today when asked at an Export Council meeting.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Obama still has confidence in his CIA director.

“The president is pleased to have — to count him as one of the people who has been a senior member of his national security team since the very beginning of his tenure in office, and the president continues to rely on his advice to this day,” he said.

Earnest said Brennan was at the White House this morning only to participate in the president’s daily briefing. “It’s not particularly unusual for him to do that,” he added.

When asked at the CIA press conference about whether reporters will be back in the same room in several years, faced with a similarly damning report about the Obama administration’s use of drones and civilian deaths, Brennan said he couldn’t talk about current operations.

“I will tell you, though, that during my tenure at the White House, as the president’s assistant for counterterrorism, that the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles that you refer to as drones in the counterterrorism effort has done tremendous work to keep this country safe,” he said. “The ability to use these platforms and advanced technologies, it has advanced the counterterrorism mission and the U.S. military has done some wonderful things with these platforms.”

“And in terms of precision of effort, accuracy and making sure that this country, this country’s military does everything possible to minimize to the great extent possible the loss of life of noncombatants, I think there’s a lot for this country and this White House and the military to be proud of.”

VICE News Exclusive: The Architect of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Program

 

Published on Dec 10, 2014 by VICE News

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a blistering, 500-page report on the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program, a document that committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said represents the most significant oversight effort in the history of the US Senate.

The $40 million, five-year study concluded that CIA officials exaggerated the value of the intelligence they gleaned from dozens of “high-value detainees” held at black site prisons, where they were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The committee reviewed more than 6 million pages of top-secret CIA documents and found that the architect of the interrogation program was a retired Air Force psychologist named James Mitchell, an agency contractor who — according to news reports — personally waterboarded alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Senate report does not identify Mitchell by name.

Mitchell has a signed a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA and was unable to discuss his alleged role in the agency’s enhanced interrogation program, but VICE News met up with him in suburban Florida to discuss the Senate’s report and one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror. This is the first time Mitchell has ever appeared on camera.

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