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History > 2009 > USA > CIA (II)




Brian Fairrington


1 September 2009














C.I.A. Drops a Contractor: Blackwater


December 12, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has terminated a contract with the security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide that allowed the company to load bombs on C.I.A. drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday.

The contract gave employees with the company an operational role in one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most significant covert programs, which has killed dozens of militants with Predator and Reaper drones. The company’s involvement highlighted the extent to which the C.I.A. had outsourced critical jobs to private companies since the 9/11 attacks.

The contract with the company, now called Xe Services, was canceled this year by Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, according to a C.I.A. spokesman. In August, The New York Times first revealed the existence of the contract, which was run by a division of the company called Blackwater Select, which handles classified contracts.

George Little, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that Mr. Panetta had ordered that the agency’s employees take over the jobs from Xe employees at the remote drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that Mr. Panetta had also ordered a review of all contracts with the company.

“At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any C.I.A. operations other than in a security or support role,” Mr. Little said.

The disclosure about the terminated contract comes a day after The Times reported that Blackwater employees had joined C.I.A. operatives in secret “snatch and grab” operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater’s role in the raids grew out of contracts that the company had with the spy agency to provide security for the C.I.A. in Kabul and Baghdad.

The company had a dual role in the drone program, said current and former employees and intelligence officials. Contractors on the secret bases assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto drones, and they also provided security at the C.I.A. bases.

The C.I.A. did not allow contractors to select targets for the drone attacks or pull the trigger on the strikes. That work was done at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va.

But Blackwater’s direct role in the drone operations sometimes led to disputes between the contractors and C.I.A. employees, as the spy agency sometimes accused Blackwater employees of poor weapon assembly if the missile or bomb missed a target. In one instance last year, a 500-pound bomb dropped off a Predator before the drone had launched its payload, leading to a frenzied search along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A company employee said the bomb was eventually found not far from the intended target.

    C.I.A. Drops a Contractor: Blackwater, NYT, 12.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/12/us/politics/12blackwater.html






C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery


October 17, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Is the Central Intelligence Agency covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy?

Probably not. But you would not know it from the C.I.A.’s behavior.

For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The C.I.A. says it is only protecting legitimate secrets. But because of the agency’s history of stonewalling assassination inquiries, even researchers with no use for conspiracy thinking question its stance.

The files in question, some released under direction of the court and hundreds more that are still secret, involve the curious career of George E. Joannides, the case officer who oversaw the dissident Cubans in 1963. In 1978, the agency made Mr. Joannides the liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations — but never told the committee of his earlier role.

That concealment has fueled suspicion that Mr. Joannides’s real assignment was to limit what the House committee could learn about C.I.A. activities. The agency’s deception was first reported in 2001 by Jefferson Morley, who has doggedly pursued the files ever since, represented by James H. Lesar, a Washington lawyer specializing in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

“The C.I.A.’s conduct is maddening,” said Mr. Morley, 51, a former Washington Post reporter and the author of a 2008 biography of a former C.I.A. station chief in Mexico.

After years of meticulous reporting on Mr. Joannides, who died at age 68 in 1990, he is convinced that there is more to learn.

“I know there’s a story here,” Mr. Morley said. “The confirmation is that the C.I.A. treats these documents as extremely sensitive.”

Mr. Morley’s quest has gained prominent supporters, including John R. Tunheim, a federal judge in Minnesota who served in 1994 and 1995 as chairman of the Assassination Records Review Board, created by Congress to unearth documents related to the case.

“I think we were probably misled by the agency,” Judge Tunheim said, referring to the Joannides records. “This material should be released.”

Gerald Posner, the author of an anti-conspiracy account of the Kennedy assassination, “Case Closed” (Random House, 1993), said the C.I.A.’s withholding such aged documents was “a perfect example of why nobody trusts the agency.”

“It feeds the conspiracy theorists who say, ‘You’re hiding something,” ’ Mr. Posner said.

After losing an appeals court decision in Mr. Morley’s lawsuit, the C.I.A. released material last year confirming Mr. Joannides’s deep involvement with the anti-Castro Cubans who confronted Oswald. But the agency is withholding 295 specific documents from the 1960s and ’70s, while refusing to confirm or deny the existence of many others, saying their release would cause “extremely grave damage” to national security.

“The methods of defeating or deterring covert action in the 1960s and 1970s can still be instructive to the United States’ current enemies,” a C.I.A. official wrote in a court filing.

An agency spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said the C.I.A. had opened to Judge Tunheim’s board all files relevant to the assassination and denied that it was trying to avoid embarrassment. “The record doesn’t support that, any more than it supports conspiracy theories, offensive on their face, that the C.I.A. had a hand in President Kennedy’s death,” Mr. Gimigliano said.

C.I.A. secrecy has been hotly debated this year, with agency officials protesting the Obama administration’s decision to release legal opinions describing brutal interrogation methods. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, came under attack from Republicans after she accused the C.I.A. of misleading Congress about waterboarding, adding, “They mislead us all the time.”

On the Kennedy assassination, the deceptions began in 1964 with the Warren Commission. The C.I.A. hid its schemes to kill Fidel Castro and its ties to the anti-Castro Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil, or Cuban Student Directorate, which received $50,000 a month in C.I.A. support during 1963.

In August 1963, Oswald visited a New Orleans shop owned by a directorate official, feigning sympathy with the group’s goal of ousting Mr. Castro. A few days later, directorate members found Oswald handing out pro-Castro pamphlets and got into a brawl with him. Later that month, he debated the anti-Castro Cubans on a local radio station.

In the years since Oswald was named as the assassin, speculation about who might have been behind him has never ended, with various theories focusing on Mr. Castro, the mob, rogue government agents or myriad combinations of the above. Mr. Morley, one of many writers to become entranced by the story, insists he has no theory and is seeking only the facts.

His lawsuit has uncovered the central role in overseeing directorate activities of Mr. Joannides, the deputy director for psychological warfare at the C.I.A.’s Miami station, code-named JM/WAVE. He worked closely with directorate leaders, documents show, corresponding with them under pseudonyms, paying their travel expenses and achieving an “important degree of control” over the group, as a July 1963 agency fitness report put it.

Fifteen years later, Mr. Joannides turned up again as the agency’s representative to the House assassinations committee. Dan Hardway, then a law student working for the committee, recalled Mr. Joannides as “a cold fish,” who firmly limited access to documents. Once, Mr. Hardway remembered, “he handed me a thin file and just stood there. I blew up, and he said, ‘This is all you’re going to get.’ ”

But neither Mr. Hardway nor the committee’s staff director, G. Robert Blakey, had any idea that Mr. Joannides had played a role in the very anti-Castro activities from 1963 that the panel was scrutinizing.

When Mr. Morley first informed him about it a decade ago, Mr. Blakey was flabbergasted. “If I’d known his role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath — he would have been a witness, not a facilitator,” said Mr. Blakey, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. “How do we know what he didn’t give us?”

After Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “J.F.K.” fed speculation about the Kennedy assassination, Congress created the Assassination Records Review Board to release documents. But because the board, too, was not told of Mr. Joannides’s 1963 work, it did not peruse his records, said Judge Tunheim, the chairman.

“If we’d known of his role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all his records,” Judge Tunheim said.

No matter what comes of Mr. Morley’s case in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Tunheim said he might ask the current C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, to release the records, even if the names of people who are still alive must be redacted for privacy.

What motive could C.I.A. officials have to bury the details of Mr. Joannides’s work for so long? Did C.I.A. officers or their Cuban contacts know more about Oswald than has been revealed? Or was the agency simply embarrassed by brushes with the future assassin — like the Dallas F.B.I. officials who, after the assassination, destroyed a handwritten note Oswald had previously left for an F.B.I. agent?

Or has Mr. Morley spent a decade on a wild goose chase?

Max Holland, who is writing a history of the Warren Commission, said the agency might be trying to preserve the principle of secrecy.

“If you start going through the files of every C.I.A. officer who had anything to do with anything that touched the assassination, that would have no end,” Mr. Holland said.

Mr. Posner, the anti-conspiracy author, said that if there really were something explosive involving the C.I.A. and President Kennedy, it would not be in the files — not even in the documents the C.I.A. has fought to keep secret.

“Most conspiracy theorists don’t understand this,” Mr. Posner said. “But if there really were a C.I.A. plot, no documents would exist.”

    C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery, NYT, 17.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/17/us/17inquire.html






Report: CIA Interrogation Harmed Inmates' Recall


September 21, 2009
Filed at 12:01 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new scientific paper asserts that the CIA's harsh interrogation program likely damaged the brain and memory functions of terrorist suspects, diminishing their ability to provide the detailed information the spy agency sought.

The paper, published Monday in the scientific journal ''Trends in Cognitive Science: Science and Society,'' says the harsh techniques used by the CIA under the Bush administration were biologically counterproductive to eliciting quality information.

The report says extreme stress, the kind caused by the extended use of waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning used on three CIA prisoners -- can also cause suspects to make up and believe false memories, a phenomena known as confabulation.

    Report: CIA Interrogation Harmed Inmates' Recall, NYT, 21.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/21/us/politics/AP-US-CIA-Interrogation-Study.html






C.I.A. Chiefs Ask Obama to Stop Abuse Inquiry


September 19, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency asked President Obama on Friday to shut down the new Justice Department inquiry into past abuses during interrogations of terrorism suspects, arguing that it “will seriously damage” the nation’s ability to protect itself.

In a letter to Mr. Obama, the former C.I.A. chiefs said the cases under study had already been examined by career prosecutors who found that no criminal charges were warranted. To reopen cases based on a change in which political party controls the government, they wrote, will make it harder for intelligence officers to take risks without worrying that some future attorney general might investigate them.

“Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions,” the men said in their letter.

They argued that the new inquiry would result in the disclosure of information about past operations that “can only help Al Qaeda” elude capture, and would convince foreign intelligence agencies that they could not trust the United States to protect secrets.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. assigned a career prosecutor, John H. Durham, to look into the cases last month after concluding that intelligence agents might have gone beyond the legal guidance they were given during the Bush administration. Although Mr. Obama had expressed a desire to move on and not dwell on the past, he left the decision to Mr. Holder.

Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said the department “will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

The letter to Mr. Obama was signed by Michael V. Hayden and Porter J. Goss, who served under President George W. Bush; George J. Tenet, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and kept on by Mr. Bush; John M. Deutch and R. James Woolsey, who served under Mr. Clinton; William H. Webster, who served under President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush; and James R. Schlesinger, who served under President Richard M. Nixon.

    C.I.A. Chiefs Ask Obama to Stop Abuse Inquiry, NYT, 19.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/world/19intel.html

    Related > http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/Letter%20to%20President%20Obama%20from%20Former%20DCIs%20and%20DCIAs.pdf







Dick Cheney’s Version


September 3, 2009
The New York Times


After the C.I.A. inspector general’s report on prisoner interrogation was released last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney settled into his usual seat on Fox News to express his outrage — not at the illegal and immoral behavior laid out in the report, of course, but at the idea that anyone would object to torturing prisoners. He was especially vexed that the Obama administration was beginning an investigation.

In Mr. Cheney’s view, it is not just those who followed orders and stuck to the interrogation rules set down by President George Bush’s Justice Department who should be sheltered from accountability. He said he also had no problem with those who disobeyed their orders and exceeded the guidelines.

It’s easy to understand Mr. Cheney’s aversion to the investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered last week. On Fox, Mr. Cheney said it was hard to imagine it stopping with the interrogators. He’s right.

The government owes Americans a full investigation into the orders to approve torture, abuse and illegal, secret detention, as well as the twisted legal briefs that justified those policies. Congress and the White House also need to look into illegal wiretapping and the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured.

Mr. Cheney was at the center of each of these insults to this country’s Constitution, its judicial system and its bedrock democratic values. To defend himself, he offers a twisted version of history:

He says Mr. Bush’s Justice Department determined that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” ordered by the president were legal under American law and international treaties like the Geneva Conventions.

In reality, those opinions were based on a corrupt and widely discredited legal analysis cooked up after the White House had already decided to use long-banned practices like waterboarding. Mr. Cheney was an architect of the decision to “get tough” with prisoners, as the bureaucrats often say to soften the outrage of this policy.

He insists the inspector general’s findings were “completely reviewed” by the Justice Department and that any follow-up investigation would be improper and unnecessary.

In reality, Mr. Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, did not appoint an independent investigator after receiving the inspector general’s report, which was completed in 2004. The Justice Department decided there was only one narrow case worth pursuing, involving a civilian contractor — hardly a surprise from a thoroughly politicized department whose top officials set the very rules they were supposed to be judging. Mr. Gonzales’s team did not look into allegations that some interrogators broke those rules. Mr. Cheney may not care about that, but Mr. Holder rightly does.

Mr. Cheney claims that waterboarding and other practices widely considered to be torture or abuse “were absolutely essential” in stopping another terrorist attack on the United States after Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Cheney is right when he says detainees who were subject to torture and abuse gave up valuable information. But the men who did the questioning flatly dispute that it was duress that moved them to do so.

Deuce Martinez, the C.I.A. officer who interrogated Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, engineer of the 9/11 mass murders, said he used traditional interrogation methods, and not the infliction of pain and panic. And, in an article on the Times Op-Ed page, Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who oversaw the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, another high-ranking terrorist, denounced “the false claims” about harsh interrogations. Mr. Soufan said Mr. Zubaydah talked before he was subjected to waterboarding and other abuse. He also said that “using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions.”

Every week, it seems, new disclosures about this sordid history dribble out. This week, Physicians for Human Rights analyzed what the inspector general’s report said about the involvement of C.I.A. physicians and psychiatrists in the abuse of prisoners. It said they not only monitored torture, like waterboarding, but also kept data on the prisoners’ reaction in ways that “may amount to human experimentation.”

Getting at the truth is not going to be easy. The C.I.A. destroyed evidence — videotapes of interrogations — and is now refusing to release its records of the questioning of its prisoners. It also is asking the courts to keep secret the orders Mr. Bush gave authorizing the interrogations, and the original Justice Department memos concluding that they were legal.

Americans need much more than glimpses of the truth. They should not have to decide whether to believe former interrogators, whom they do not know, or Mr. Cheney, who did not hesitate while in office to mislead them when it suited his political aims.

    Dick Cheney’s Version, NYT, 3.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/opinion/03thu1.html






C.I.A. Resists Disclosure of Records on Detention


September 2, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to make public hundreds of pages of internal documents about the agency’s defunct detention and interrogation program, saying such disclosures would jeopardize national security by revealing classified intelligence sources and operations.

The C.I.A.’s argument to withhold the material, laid out Monday in a declaration to a federal court in New York, comes a week after the Obama administration declassified documents about abuses in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons and the Justice Department began investigating the actions of C.I.A. operatives.

Among the documents the agency is trying to keep classified are President George W. Bush’s September 2001 authorization for the C.I.A. to begin secretly holding terrorism suspects; cables between C.I.A. officers in the secret prisons, known as black sites, and their bosses in Washington; and assessments by C.I.A. lawyers about the legality of the detention program.

The C.I.A.’s 33-page court declaration, made public on Tuesday, said that releasing C.I.A. interrogation procedures “is reasonably likely to degrade the U.S.G.’s ability to effectively question terrorist detainees and elicit information necessary to protect the American people.” (The abbreviation “U.S.G.” refers to the United States government.)

“These interrogation methods are integral to the U.S.G.’s interrogation program” and are therefore considered top secret, said the C.I.A. declaration, written by Wendy M. Hilton, an officer in the agency’s clandestine service who reviews documents for public release.

President Obama signed an executive order on Jan. 22 banning the harsh interrogation methods used by the C.I.A. during the Bush administration. The procedures, called “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the C.I.A., included waterboarding and “wall slamming.”

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the reference in Ms. Hilton’s declaration was to questions that were asked of detainees “and the procedures used to ask them, not to enhanced interrogation techniques, which are no longer employed.”

Lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the government in 2003 for release of the detention documents, said the C.I.A.’s declaration undercut the Obama administration’s pledges of greater transparency.

“There’s really no distance at all between this declaration and the declarations the C.I.A. was filing during the Bush administration,” said Jameel Jaffer, an A.C.L.U. lawyer.

Mr. Jaffer said the A.C.L.U. would petition the judge in the case, Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court, to get the documents declassified.

Last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed a federal prosecutor to investigate abuses enumerated in a 2004 report by the C.I.A.’s inspector general, including a number of cases involving the deaths of detainees in C.I.A. custody.

The decision brought a stinging rebuke from some Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who contended that the abuse cases had already been investigated and that Mr. Holder had appointed a prosecutor to placate liberals.

“It’s clearly a political move,” said Mr. Cheney, appearing on “Fox News Sunday.” “I mean, there’s no other rationale for why they’re doing this.”

The C.I.A. declaration is similar to a court filing in June by Leon E. Panetta, the agency’s director. For months, Mr. Panetta had been urging the Obama administration not to reveal classified operational details about the program, and in July he sent the C.I.A.’s top lawyer to the Justice Department to try to persuade Mr. Holder’s aides not to begin a criminal investigation into the detention program.

Although Mr. Obama banned the C.I.A. interrogation methods and Mr. Panetta later ordered that the secret prisons be closed, the agency has sought to protect some still-classified aspects of the program, including the exact locations of the prisons and the help that the C.I.A. received from foreign spy services.

According to the C.I.A. declaration, the agency put these classified details into a top secret program “to enhance protection from unauthorized disclosure.”

C.I.A. Resists Disclosure of Records on Detention, NYT, 2.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/us/02intel.html