Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spies Gone Wild II: CIA has 3000+ Detainees and no Oversight

Yesterday , Condi, eyes flashing, jaw set in semi-steely pose emphatically claimed US personnel are (and have always been) forbidden from inflicting  "inhumane, cruel or degrading" treatment on detainees;

Well. that Settles that then.  

 Except, well, while I hate to be impolite, I feel compellled to bring up this account of the CIA's "Snatch and Grab squads: that appeared in Sunday's WaPo:

 Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip.

Now If Condi doesn't call getting your clothes cut off, a tube jammed up your ass, and stuffed into a Depends for 12 hours "degrading", I'd hate to ask what she DOES call it.  (mostly because I'm afraid the Answer is:  "foreplay")

That Condi is lying isn't exactly news.   But What IS important is what the Masri Scandal tells us about what's become of the CIA since the BushCo cowboys co-opted it:
For those who may have come in late to this story;  a brief recap of how the US  got caught with its proverbial testicles in the national zipper courtesy of the CIA:

In May 2004, the White House dispatched the U.S. ambassador  in Germany, [Daniel R. Coats] to pay an unusual visit to that country's interior minister.  ...Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public.

You think they drew straws at the embassy to decide who got to deliver   that message?   Maybe they just went ahead and hired This guy:

Um yeah, listen, we've gone ahead and kidnapped and tortured one of your citizens, by mistake,  so we're going to  need you to betray him and pretend the whole thing never happened, yeah, that'd be great, thanks so much"

But of Course we had solid if, mistaken evidence identifying Masri as a dangerous terrorist that justified this extraordinary kidnapping torture episode,  Right? Right? Well, in point of technical fact: No:

Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit "believed he was someone else," one former CIA official said. "She didn't really know. She just had a hunch."

SO how the hell did we get in a Situation where the "hunches" of an over-eager CIA agent can blossom into an international scandal that severely strained the US relationship with its oldest allies?  

Welcome to the Brave New world of the BushCo CIA.

and there are MANY more potential Masri's being held by US waiting to blow up in our faces:

The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions,"...One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; ...The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade,

"Erroneous Renditions", Such a lovely term for kidnapping and torturing someone by mistake.  Whoopsie.  Our Bad. Sorry about those beatings, and that waterboarding and all.  

And That 3 Dozen Figure is only the tiny top of VERY large Iceberg:

The CIA, working with other intelligence agencies, has captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several { Alleged -ed} key leaders of al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. It is impossible to know, however, how many mistakes the CIA and its foreign partners have made....there is no tribunal or judge to check the evidence against those picked up by the CIA. The same bureaucracy that decides to capture and transfer a suspect for interrogation-- a process called "rendition" -- is also responsible for policing itself for errors.

The WH also announced a massive new hiring of Foxes to guard our nation's vulnerable henhouses....

But to  Say the CIA has little oversight is a massive understatement.   It comes closer to the truth to say that Since the 9/11 they've gone Rogue. They've been given unlimited funding, a carte blanche on methods, zero oversight, and are accountable to no one,:

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CTC was the place to be for CIA officers wanting in on the fight. The staff ballooned from 300 to 1,200 nearly overnight.

"It was the Camelot of counterterrorism," a former counterterrorism official said. We didn't have to mess with others -- "and it was fun."

Yeah, beating the hell out innocent people is such hoot. I must have missed the bit in the Arthurian legends where Lancelot and the boys kidnapped random peasants and worked them over in the backroom with rubber hoses; silly me.

Of course, in this Golden Age of counterrorism, who can be blamed if the quality of the work product itself was allowed to slip a tad?

Thousands of tips and allegations about potential threats poured in after the attacks. ...CIA officers passed along every tidbit. The process of vetting and evaluating information suffered greatly, ..

{ you know that boring stuff that's the CIA's actual job and all}

 "Whatever quality control mechanisms were in play on September 10th were eliminated on September 11th," a former senior intelligence official said.

As with nearly everything else wrong with this country, this change in culture at the CIA started at the direction of the WHIG Cowboys, and their simple-minded boss at the WH:

Bush ...signed a top secret presidential finding six days after the 9/11 attacks. It authorized an unprecedented range of covert action, including lethal measures and renditions, disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks against the al Qaeda enemy.

W wanted him some "bad guys" gotten by whatever means necessary; and unfortunately he found himself a kindred Spirit in a particularly wacky CIA operations chief who had apparently OD'ed on too many Spy movies:

J. Cofer Black, a professorial former spy who spent years chasing Osama bin Laden, was the CTC's director. With a flair for melodrama, Black had earned special access to the White House after he briefed President Bush on the CIA's war plan for Afghanistan....

Colleagues recall that he would return from the White House inspired and talking in missionary terms

 And that as we all now know is never a good thing, particularly when the Missionary has Guns, Planes, and Secret prisons at his disposal. (Recall that this is also the guy who famously ordered CIA Agent Gary Shroen to bring him Osama's head in a box of Dry ice (scroll down, this being CNN it runs after the Missing White Girl story).  

 Now not suprisingly some veteran CIA types questioned whether he was the right guy to provide sober, thoughful stewardship of the CIA's extraordinary new powers:(heretics and unbelievers all!)

Others criticized Black's CTC for embracing a "Hollywood model" of operations, as one former longtime CIA veteran called it, eschewing the hard work of recruiting agents and penetrating terrorist networks. Instead, the new approach was similar to the flashier paramilitary operations that had worked so well in Afghanistan,{ or at least so it appeared at the time-ed}

But Black had the approval of the only people whose opinion really mattered:

[his tactics].. played well at the White House, where the president was keeping a scorecard of captured or killed terrorists.

You read that Right, apparently Little Georgie was keeping score of how many bodies the CIA was bringing back.  It appears in his simple-minded worldview; it actually meant something when current AQ members  were captured and killed.  He was apparently completely misunderstood the cellular nature of modern terrorist organizations, and their potential to recruit new members (greatly enhanced by these self-same ham-handed tactics by the US no less)

and Black himself, a professional who should have known better, how does he defend his actions?:

 Black, now in the private security business,{Vice President of Blackwater} declined to comment.

But while Cofer may be thankfully gone from the agency (forced out when he crossed Darth Rummy)  his legacy lives on in the equally fanatic underlings he left behind.

The woman behind the "hunch" that Snatched up an innocent man?:

The person most often in the middle of arguments over whether to dispatch a rendition team was a former Soviet analyst with spiked hair that matched her in-your-face personality who heads the CTC's al Qaeda unit,.. Her name is being withheld because she is under cover....She earned a reputation for being aggressive and confident, just the right quality, some colleagues thought, for a commander in the CIA's global war on terrorism. Others criticized her for being overzealous and too quick to order paramilitary action.

Ya think?

That's right.  The person now in charge of destroying AL-Qaeda isn't someone from a Middle Eastern desk, not a terrorism expert, or even an analyst who has spent years immersed in the nuances of the Muslim mind.  Nope.   Instead we got a genuine dinosaur Cold Warrior for that job (and we know what a fantastic job those folks did in predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union).

And the Masri case proves that the " Snatch `em all and let God sort `em out, mentality at the top took very little time to filter down the ranks:. When Macedonian police detained a man whose name was similar to a 9/11 Hijacker's that's all a local Junior agent needed:

the deputy chief, a junior officer, was excited about the catch and about being able to contribute to the counterterrorism fight, current and former intelligence officials familiar with the case said.

"The Skopje station really wanted a scalp because everyone wanted a part of the game," a CIA officer said

Who knew  Verucah Salt grew up to be a CIA agent? ("daddy, I want a terrorist. NOW".)

Thanks to the leadership from the WH our national security  Went from a deadly serious busines to a contact sport. "Playing the Game" and running up the score took priority of such real world concerns as gathering useable intelligence, respecting our diplomatic relations with other countries, or actually stopping the bad guys.

Guys like Masri?  Eh. just unfortunate collateral damage:

there was no evidence Masri was not who he claimed to be -- a German citizen of Arab descent traveling after a disagreement with his wife.

{However the CTC Director)ordered Masri captured and flown to a CIA prison in Afghanistan.

 This Cowboy Culture also led the CIA to believe it could simply "erase" any mistakes it made, and avoid unpleasant international repercussions.  When the CIA got around to figuring out they had the wrong guy-- all these brave,  macho sooper-cool spies suddenly started behaving  like drunk 16 year olds trying to sneak their parent's car back into the garage after they'd wrecked it.  

At the CIA, the question was: Now what? ... Someone suggested a reverse rendition: Return Masri to Macedonia and release him. "There wouldn't be a trace. No airplane tickets. Nothing. No one would believe him," one former official said.

It took the combined efforts of the last remaining grown up in the CIA (George Tenet- now gone) and Colin Powell's State Department (now in the hands of Yes-bot Condi)  to force the CTC  to reluctantly admit  the operation even to Masri's own government; thus avoiding a potential  diplomatic disaster ten times large than the one they'd already created.:

Once the mistake reached Tenet, he laid out the options to his counterparts, Rice and Dept. Sec. State Armitage..[Armitage and tenant]...argued [the Germans] had to be told,...

"You couldn't have the president lying to the German chancellor" "


now There's an odd notion:  the President obligated to tell the truth? Why that's just crazy talk!.  

And apparently admitting it even happened was hard enough. no Way was the CIA gonna say sorry  :

The CIA argued for minimal disclosure of information. The State Department insisted on a truthful, complete statement. The two agencies quibbled over whether it should include an apology, according to officials.

probably for the best,  I'm not sure  Hallmark even makes a "So Sorry I Kidnapped and Tortured your Citizen" Line of Cards

And if the Masri case is everything that's wrong with the CIA in a microcosm, then Mr. Masri's closing statement on the ordeal could also stand in for the current state of world opinion about the US:

"I have very bad feelings" about the United States, he said. "I think it's just like in the Arab countries: arresting people, treating them inhumanly and less than that, and with no rights and no laws."

Should We Cue up Lee Greenwood Now?


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