More than 40 years after the JFK assassination, the Central Intelligence
Agency is refusing to release certain assassination-related records
that it holds.
"We are asking for discovery of JFK assassination records related to
the late George Joannides, chief of the Psychological Warfare Branch
of the CIA's Miami Station in 1963," said Jefferson Morley, a
researcher and Washington Post writer who is pursuing the CIA records.
"The CIA has acknowledged that it has an unspecified number of
documents about Joannides' activities in the summer and fall of 1963
but says it will not release any of them for reasons of 'national
security'," he explained.
The Washington Post's extraordinary piece on the secret prisons declined to name names, a decision that got my eyebrows raised. I'd be happy to hear differing opinions but the more I think about the more I wonder about the Post's decision. The paper explained:
The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.
I can't speak to how, or how not, disclosing the countries "might disrupt counterterrorism efforts." My guess: What they're suggesting is that disclosure of the countries would result in political pressure from their citizens to shut down the prisons. That would "disrupt counterterrorism efforts"; it would also be democracy in action.
Of course, the notion that these prisons are, in any larger sense, ultimately helpful for "counterterrorism efforts" is debatable on all sorts of grounds. I'm not talking about just morally, I'm talking about efficacy. It's a cost-benefit thing: The cost of having them, in a PR sense, is big and as more info comes out, is getting bigger. Meanwhile, the benefits, well, the benefits of being able to, say, waterboard a guy in secret are unclear.
As for the argument that publishing the names of the countries might make them terrorist targets, I'm reminded of a judge's recent ruling that the Pentagon must turn over unpublished Abu Ghraib photos despite Pentagon warnings that the photos will prompt riots and, perhaps, terrorist attacks.
"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command," the judge wrote.
"Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."
There is another reason why the "but terrorists might attack them" argument is bogus, and it's actually what I meant to write about from the beginning of this post. Human Rights Watch is about to name names. Two European countries are apparently hosting CIA prisons: Poland and Romania
Want to know something else about Poland and Romania? They both have troops in Iraq. Should we keep that secret too? Perhaps we should keep all decisions that might drive terrrorism hush-hush. A hundred-thirty-five thousand GIs in Iraq? Eh, can't discuss that. It might let the terrorists win.
In what experts say is a welcome nod to common sense, the CIA, having
spent billions over the years on undercover agents, phone taps and the
like, plans to create a large wing in the spookhouse dedicated to
sorting through various forms of data that are not secret—such as
research articles, religious tracts, websites, even phone books—but yet
could be vital to national security, TIME’s Timothy J. Burger reports.
Senior intelligence officials tell TIME that CIA Director Porter
Goss plans to launch by Oct. 1 an “open source” unit that will greatly
expand on the work of the respected but cash-strapped office that
currently translates foreign-language broadcasts and documents like
declarations by extremist clerics.
The scary part, of course, is that it's taken the CIA so long to figure this out. After all, so-called open source intelligence has been all the rage for, oh, say, a decade. The reasons it's been become so popular are obvious: It's useful to read what your enemy puts out and the stories about them--and with the advent of the Internet it's become much easier.
So why hasn't the CIA put many resources into it? Like many other institutional flaws in this world, it's about values--which ones the CIA holds in high esteem and which ones it doesn't. In other words, it's a cultural thing. Time explains:
Critics have charged in the past that despite the proven value of
open-source information, the government has tended to give more
prominence to reports gained through cloak-and-dagger efforts. One glaring example: the CIA failed in 1998 to predict a nuclear test
in India, even though the country’s Prime Minister had campaigned on a
platform promising a robust atomic-weapons program.
“If it doesn’t have the secret stamp on it, it really isn’t treated
very seriously,” says Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s Osama
bin Laden unit. The idea of an open-source unit didn’t gain traction
until a White House commission recommended creating one last spring,
and utilizing it will require “cultural and attitudinal changes,” says
the senior DNI official.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Two Yemeni men say they were held in solitary confinement in secret, underground U.S. detention facilities in an unknown countryand interrogated by masked men for more than 18 months without being charged or allowed any contact with the outside world, Amnesty International charged Wednesday.
Amnesty and human rights lawyers argued that the report added to long-standing claims that the United States has held "secret detainees" in its war on terror...
Navy Lt. Commander Flex Plexico, noting that it was difficult to respond to a report he hasn't seen said, "We have said many times that the Department of Defense does not engage in the practice of renditions" --the transfer of terror suspects to third countries without court approval.
What struck me is the non-denial denial: "The Department of Defensedoes not engage in the practice of renditions." Nobody has ever said it did. The CIA is in charge of renditions. And it's the CIA that in charge of the secret prisons.
It's worth recalling that as the administration embarks on an effort to downsize Gitmo and remove it as a lightening rod for criticism. The administration certainly doesn't like to chat about it , but the worst parts of the detainee system aren't Gitmo but the ones we know the least about--CIA secret prisons included.
Law Prof. Marty Lederman nails the larger point about the relevations in the Wash Post that an Iraqi general was tortured by a series of interrogators, including GIs as well as a CIA-led unit of Iraqi exiles:
[T]his was a concerted, planned, systematic and
extended series of brutal interrogations, carried out by numerous
persons and entities, within the military and the CIA, in a manner that they all considered to be authorized. No rotten apples. No nightshift.
Lederman wonders how soldiers could have possibly thought torture was OK. One likely explanation: The Pentagon--following the White House--redefined torture downward, such that "abusive and "degrading" treatment could be OK, so long as it wasn't "unhumane." Get it? Abusive treatment is not neccesarily inhumane and thus A-OK.
The White House--and later the Pentagon--obviously seems to have followed a policy of strategic ambiguity, not explicitly ruling out torturous tactics and leaving it to local commanders to 'get the job done.' The exact details of who ordered what, when, and where are still murky. But one thing that's clear is that the U.S. needs to uncover those details. That's what a democracy does, or at least should do. Which is why for me the most depressing part of the whole torture scandal is that the White House--aided by top Republicans--have succesfully opposed an independent commission to investigate abuses.
"No President has ever done more for human rights than I have," Bush once told the NYer. I'm sure he thinks that.
Swopa and Josh Marshall both flag the following from a Wash Post piece about the White House's counter-attack against Joseph Wilson:
Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to have remained in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not believe Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
It reminded me of Tenet's actual "apology," which is something of a classic. Tenet takes the fall in the first paragraph, concluding it, "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President." Then Tenet takes remaining dozen paragraphs to stick a shiv in the White House's back. For instance:
In October, the Intelligence Community (IC) produced a classified, 90
page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's WMD programs. There
is a lengthy section in which most agencies of the Intelligence
Community judged that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons
program. Let me emphasize, the NIE's Key Judgments cited six reasons
for this assessment; the African uranium issue was not one of them.
An unclassified CIA White Paper in October made no mention of the
issue, again because it was not fundamental to the judgment that Iraq
was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and because we had
questions about some of the reporting. For the same reasons, the
subject was not included in many public speeches, Congressional
testimony and the Secretary of State's United Nations presentation in
This is mostly just a fun run down memory lane, but there's a media angle to this all. Reporters should stop being--or playing--stupid: Tenet's apology wasn't really one. To simply call it one--rather than give a nod to the fact that it was half-hearted at best (and actually implicates the WH)--is...lame.
"They've not only
told us who the bad guys were, they've gone out and gotten them for us," a U.S. source familiar with Sudan's cooperation said. "Hell, we can't get the French to do that."
Silverstein spends most of his ink detailing the relationship, and simply raises the possibility that U.S. might go soft on Darfur as a kind of thank-you note. But Silverstein is missing something: The U.S. has already softened its stance on Darfur.
An April 25 letter from the White House’s Office of
Management and Budget to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis
obtained by the Prospect, the administration signaled its
desire to strike the Darfur Accountability Act from the supplemental.
Couching its reservations in a suggestion that the act may impede a
separate peace accord reached between Khartoum and the rebels in south
Sudan, the administration is now leaning on its congressional allies to
scuttle the bill. "We are hearing that House Republicans will try to
pull it out of conference," a well-placed congressional source told the
Here's the Prospect's summary of the Accountability Act, which has already passed the Senate:
Led by Republican Sam Brownback of
Kansas and Democrat John Corzine of New Jersey, the act appropriates
$90 million in U.S. aid for Darfur and establishes targeted U.S.
sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand
the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands
the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of
civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls
for a presidential envoy to Sudan.
Not all that radical, right? So why is the administration opposing it?
You can argue that this all worth it: Ignoring genocide is just the price you might have to pay for fighting terrorism.* I'd welcome that debate.
*Assuming there really is a cause and effect here. It's possible that the administration is going soft on Darfur for other reasons. Or a mix of them. Who knows.
WASHINGTON - CIA operatives held a
German citizen in a prison in Afghanistan for six weeks even
after determining he was not an Osama bin Laden associate and
despite an order from then-U.S. national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice, NBC News reported on Thursday.
Authorities in Germany have been investigating complaints
by Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who says he was
abducted in Macedonia on New Year's Eve in 2003 and flown to
Masri said he was beaten and injected with drugs by
interrogators, who suspected he had ties to bin Laden's al
Qaeda network. He was released in May 2004 in Albania.
The network, citing unnamed senior U.S. officials, said
CIA officers concluded Masri was the wrong man after his
passport proved legitimate. The network said then-CIA Director
George Tenet had been alerted to the error.
But Masri was held at a CIA-run prison dubbed the Salt Pit
for another six weeks "while officials debated how to handle
the mistake," NBC said.
1) When it comes to detention of al-Qaida suspects, the administration has long told international observers, such as Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross to fuck off please keep their distance. That is, they have not granted any access.
Remember the whole kerfuffle about ghost detainees in Iraq? Well, all al-Qaida suspects in the CIA's secret prison--including Afghanistan, Diego Garcia, and elsewhere--are effectively ghost detainees. In other words, there are few institutional safegauards or accountability mechinisms to ward off bad shitting happening, like say the CIA holding an innocent guy incommunicado for six weeks while it works the P.R. angle.
2) The story was broken yesterday afternoon. How come nobody is picking it up, including blogs?