Archive for category CIA
If you missed Cenk Uygur’s interview with Julian Assange yesterday on MSNBC, watch it now.
Transcript here: My Exclusive Interview with WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange
If you want to know more about the off-the-charts hypocrisy and governmental malfeasance associated with the WikiLeaks revelations, I recommend two recent posts by Glenn Greenwald:
Finally, I learned on Rachel Maddow’s show last night that the CIA has a task force on WikiLeaks, which they have named the “WikiLeaks Task Force.” Known in the agency (and now everywhere) by its acronym, WTF.
UPDATE: FDL is asking everyone to add their name to a letter to the Commanding Officer at Quantico Brig to end the inhumane conditions of PFC Bradley Manning’s detention as he awaits trial. Private Manning has been in solitary confinement for more than seven months. Last July he was charged with leaking a highly classified video of American forces killing unarmed civilians in Baghdad and secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.
UPDATE: Jane Hamsher: Bradley Manning and the Convenient Memories of Adrian Lamo
How can we miss Blackwater (Xe) if they won’t go away? Spencer Ackerman on Danger Room:
Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.
Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.
Apparently the State Department thought nobody would notice that Blackwater (Xe) used a cutout so that their company’s name never came up in the process of awarding the Worldwide Protective Services contract. The deal includes protection for U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.
Late last year, there were reports that Blackwater (Xe) is a key element in the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan. The U.S. and Pakistan governments, as well as Xe, deny the company operates in Pakistan.
The independent, non-profit journalists at ProPublica recently reported a milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare. This year, more contractors than military personnel died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AFP via Raw Story:
A former senior executive of the top secret National Security Agency (NSA) who allegedly leaked classified information to a newspaper reporter via email has been indicted on multiple charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Thomas Drake, 52, was charged in a 10-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Maryland, the department said in a statement.
…He faces one charge of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and four charges of making false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Drake apparently was a source for a series of articles by Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman, outlining violations of privacy, waste and mismanagement in the NSA’s $1.2 billion “Trailblazer” program. Government contractors ran up the costs, while ignoring the law.
Glenn Greenwald comments on the extreme hypocrisy of the Obama administration:
It’s true that leaking classified information is a crime. That’s what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous. That’s why Daniel Ellsberg — who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War — is one of the 20th Century’s genuine American heroes. And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect. But that’s not the situation that prevails.
Instead, here you have the Obama DOJ in all its glory: no prosecutions (but rather full-scale immunity extended) for war crimes, torture, and illegal spying. For those crimes, we must Look Forward, Not Backward. But for those poor individuals who courageously blow the whistle on oozing corruption, waste and illegal surveillance by the omnipotent public-private Surveillance State: the full weight of the “justice system” comes crashing down upon them with threats of many years in prison.
Meanwhile, it appears that the DOJ is wrapping up the criminal investigation into the 2005 destruction of CIA torture tapes. How much you want to bet that NO ONE is going to be prosecuted for torturing detainees and then destroying the evidence?
Worst of all, how are we going to find out about crimes committed in secret by our government if talking to the news media is regarded as a worse crime than torture?
Whenever I start to think that the Obama administration is essentially the same as a McCain administration would have been… our President decides to do something worse. Now the CIA has an official list of people targeted for assassination, with the name of at least one American citizen on it. It’s legal, they say, because President Obama OK’d it. Well alright, then.
Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S. citizen marked for death by order of President Obama
George Bush’s decision merely to eavesdrop on American citizens without oversight, or to detain without due process Americans such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, provoked years of vehement, vocal and intense complaints from Democrats and progressives. All of that was disparaged as Bush claiming the powers of a King, a vicious attack on the Constitution, a violation of Our Values, the trampling on the Rule of Law. Yet here you have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping on or detaining Americans without oversight, but ordering them killed with no oversight and no due process of any kind.
…Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of the Obama presidency: to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what (until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism
I hope it’s not really necessary to point out that the Constitution doesn’t allow the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen.
Although President Obama has so far offered no justification, some have argued that the U.S. government can legally kill Anwar al-Awlaki because of the September 18, 2001 AUMF. Spencer Ackerman points out that the mere accusation that al-Awlaki had something to do with the 9/11 attacks does not equal proof.
UPDATE: Right-wing blogger Connor Boyack:
Obama, like many tyrants before him, has taken it upon himself to disregard the clear laws of the land in order to be able to kill citizens of his own country. In doing so, he has modeled himself as supreme dictator—the man who, on his command alone, can end the life of a fellow countryman. This is a power not even King George could boast.
UPDATE: On HuffPo, Jason Linkins suggests that Dawn Johnsen’s 14-months as President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice may have come to an end due to Obama’s outrageous assassination order.
This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” I watched a war of words between former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen and Lawrence O’Donnell. O’Donnell won.
In the course of arguing that Obama, by ending torture, has dismantled the most successful interrogation system in the history of the world, Thiessen made an interesting assertion:
“You gotta think back to the period after 9/11. We didn’t even know who hit us. We didn’t know that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the mastermind of 9/11 or the operational commander of Al Qaeda. And then we started rounding up these terrorists…”
Lawrence O’Donnell heatedly disputed this assertion, pointing out that the Bush administration had been warned before 9/11 that a Bin Laden attack might be coming:
“Isn’t it true that the President you worked for invited the first attack by having no idea what was going on with Al Qaeda?…You just said, `We didn’t know who hit us.’ You were told who was going to hit you before 9/11. And your administration invited the first attack, for which you should live in shame.”
Oh, and torture never produced any actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda. Thiessen lied about that. The Bush Administration never publicly documented a single case in which torture produced intelligence that saved a single life.
UPDATE: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wants the U.S. government to punish the perpetrators of torture and detainee abuse… in Iran.
Like a lot of people, I’m still scratching my head wondering what President Obama wants to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been proven that counterinsurgency won’t work, at least not without approximately double the resources the USA can possibly commit. What the president gave us on Tuesday in his West Point speech was simply counter-intuitive. In brief, he wants to deploy another 33,000 American troops and 7,000 additional NATO troops, while at the same time planning a withdrawal to begin in 18 months.
In a matter of weeks, a Marine Regimental Combat Team will be heading to Afghanistan’s Helmand province, to reinforce the thousands of marines already patrolling the sparsely-populated poppy-growing province. Follow-on units will be sent at a rapid pace.
Here are some possible interpretations. Commenters are invited to add more.
1. It’s a cynical, Iraq-style “surge.” General McChrystal enlisted allies among the same right-wing think tank people (e.g. Fred Kagan) who were behind President Bush’s Iraq gambit. He demanded 40,000 troops, which is the maximum effort possible given the continuing deployment of 20 combat brigades in Iraq. Like the so-called “surge” in Iraq, this is more than we can afford to send, and not enough to make a strategic difference. Casualties will peak, as they did in Iraq. Like the so-called Iraq “surge,” it could work in domestic political terms by staving off defeat and fooling the media. A real exit strategy can be postponed until after 2012. As in Vietnam, the goal is to create a “decent interval” so that the other side can’t immediately declare a triumph when we go.
2. It’s a renewed push for nation-building. After many broken promises and failed efforts, there is a case to be made for Afghanistan 3.0 — a re-boot that finally brings help to the Afghan people. This means circumventing the corrupt Karzai regime and following through on direct provincial-level efforts targeted to local economic development. It also means an open-ended aid commitment, which Secretary of State Clinton is promising. Another objective of the new U.S. strategy is to “buy space and time” to strengthen the Afghan army and police. But the administration is only sending a single brigade to focus on that mission.
3. It’s a backstop for the main effort in Pakistan. What if the Pakistan-U.S. attack on Taliban safe havens across the border in South Waziristan is actually intended as the decisive engagement? That’s the strategic center of gravity. Recent reports indicate far greater U.S. combat participation in Pakistan than has been openly acknowledged.
I’ve been watching my “Battlestar Galactica” DVDs. It could be that President Obama is “rolling the hard six” (as Admiral Adama would say). Making an all-out, win-or-lose decisive attack to get the Taliban leadership where they live, and force them to the peace table.
UPDATE: Danger Room has a list of hard questions that Congress ought to ask General McChrystal when he tesitifies this week.
UPDATE: For those of us confused about the goals of the Afghan escalation, the Pentagon offers this simple, easy-to-understand chart.
UPDATE: Today on Capitol Hill, General McChrystal identified one fairly large problem: the Taliban pays its fighters more than the Afghan Army pays theirs.
Via Glenn Greenwald:
Yesterday, the British High Court reversed a previous decision to go along with the cover-up of torture in the Binyam Mohamed case. Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, and held by the United States without charges until being charged with conspiracy in 2005. The charge was dropped on October 21, 2008. On February 23, 2009, almost seven years after his arrest, Mohamed was repatriated from Guantánamo to the UK, where he was released after questioning.
While Mohamed was in American custody, the CIA told British intelligence agents exactly what was done to him. These facts were recorded in official memos. Until now, by court order, seven paragraphs have been kept secret.
The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.
Because the Obama administration has decided to continue hiding the documentation of the Bush torture regime, as Greenwald notes:
American citizens are forced to rely on the institutions in foreign countries — British courts and Spanish prosecutors — to learn about what our own government has done. War crimes can never stay hidden for long. It’s only a matter of time before all of this evidence comes out one way or the other, and when it does, those who worked so vigorously to keep it concealed will be rightly judged to have been complicit in its cover-up.
Via Glenn Greenwald. His whole post is worth reading.
I don’t think so. However, seven former CIA directors have sent a letter to President Obama and they “urge [him] to exercise [his] authority to reverse Attorney General’s August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations.” What so-called “authority” are they talking about?
The President doesn’t order specific people to be prosecuted or shielded from prosecution. Only Justice Department officials, assessing purely legal factors, make those determinations.
President Obama has acknowledged this fact.
What criminal investigations do the former CIA directors want to stop? Greenwald cites a report in the Washington Post (from anonymous DOJ sources) and concludes (emphasis in original):
The only thing Holder wants investigated — what has provoked all of this intense Beltway uproar — is “two or three cases” where detainees were killed. Contrary to how this has been debated, what Holder has ordered is not a “torture investigation.” To the contrary, he said explicitly that those who tortured in good faith compliance with Yoo’s torture memos will be immunized. It isn’t torture techniques which are being considered for prosecution. All Holder has ordered are basically just garden-variety murder investigations…
…But even that is too much for our political class. Apparently, not only should executive branch officials and their agencies be allowed to institute a torture regime, spy on Americans illegally, and commit war crimes , but they should also be allowed literally to get away with murder.
How far will Obama administration’s Department of Justice ignore the rule of law in order to condone U.S. government lawlessness? We’ll find out in the coming months.