Category Archives: CIA

GCHQ’s Rainbow Lights: Exploiting Social Issues for Militarism and Imperialism

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

GCHQ lit up in rainbow coloursOver the weekend, the British surveillance agency GCHQ — the most extremist and invasive in the West — bathed its futuristic headquarters with rainbow-colored lights “as a symbol of the intelligence agency’s commitment to diversity” and to express solidarity with “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.” GCHQ’s public affairs office proudly distributed the above photograph to media outlets. Referring to Alan Turing, the closeted-and-oppressed gay World War II British code-breaker just memorialized by an Oscar-nominated feature film, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office celebrated GCHQ’s inspirational lights.

This is so very moving. Gay Brits are now just as free as everyone else to spy on people, covertly disseminate state propaganda, and destroy online privacy. Whatever your views on all this nasty surveillance business might be, how can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality?

This is all a stark illustration of what has become a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic. Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.

The CIA loves this strategy.’

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CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Speaks Out Upon Sentencing to 3.5 Years in Prison

‘On Monday former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 42 months in prison for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Risen later exposed how the risky operation could have actually aided the Iranian nuclear program. In January Sterling was convicted of nine felony counts, including espionage. He becomes the latest government employee jailed by the Obama administration for leaking information. Since he was indicted four years ago, Jeffrey Sterling’s voice has never been heard by the public. But that changes today. We air an exclusive report that tells his story, “The Invisible Man.” We are also joined by Norman Solomon, who interviewed Sterling for the piece and attended both his trial and sentencing. Solomon is a longtime activist, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, co-founder of RootsAction.org, and coordinator of ExposeFacts.org.’ (Democracy Now!)

When the Student Movement Was a CIA Front

Aryeh Neier writes in a book review of Patriotic Betrayal for The American Prospect:

In its March 1967 issue,  Ramparts, a glossy West Coast muckraking periodical that expired in 1975, and that strongly opposed American involvement in the war in Vietnam, published an exposé of the close relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Student Association. This other NSA—not to be confused with the National Security Agency—was then the leading American organization representing college students, with branches on about 400 campuses. Its ties with the CIA were formed in the early years of both institutions following World War II, as the Cold War was getting under way.

According to  Ramparts, the CIA had been providing much of the funding for the NSA through various “conduits.” NSA officers, many of them wittingly, had served the interests of the CIA by participating actively in international youth and student movements. The NSA’s activities were financed by the Agency both to counter communist influence and also to provide information on people from other countries with whom they came in contact. The disclosures about the CIA’s ties to the NSA were the most sensational of a number of revelations in that era that exposed the Agency’s involvement in such institutions as the Congress for Cultural Freedom; the International Commission of Jurists; the AFL-CIO; Radio Free Europe; and various leading philanthropic foundations. Karen Paget’s new book, Patriotic Betrayal, is the most detailed account yet of the CIA’s use of the National Student Association as a vehicle for intelligence gathering and covert action.’

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Former CIA Chief in Pakistan Faces Murder Charges for Drone Killings

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Former CIA station chief for Islamabad Jonathan Bank is to face charges of murder and waging war against Pakistan, according to a ruling by the high court.

The charges are related to a December 2009 drone strike against North Waziristan in which three civilians were killed. Banks is no longer in the country, and will be tried in absentia.

The CIA has launched scores of drone strikes against Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing countless civilians, of course, but the Pakistani government has shown only vague opposition to the strikes and little interest in identifying the slain.’

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When the C.I.A. Duped College Students

Louis Menand writes for The New Yorker:

[…] “Patriotic Betrayal” is an amazing piece of research. Karen Paget has industriously combed the archives and interviewed many of the surviving players, including former C.I.A. officials. And Paget herself is part of the story she tells. In 1965, her husband, a student-body president at the University of Colorado, became an officer in the N.S.A. [National Student Association], and, as a spouse, she was informed of the covert relationship by two former N.S.A. officials who had become C.I.A. agents.

She was sworn to secrecy. The penalty for violating the agreement was twenty years. Paget describes herself back then as “an apolitical twenty-year-old from a small town in Iowa,” and she says that she was terrified. Fifty years later, she is still angry. She has channelled her outrage into as scrupulous an investigation of the covert relationship as the circumstances allow.

One circumstance is the fact that a good deal of material is classified. Paget was able to fish up bits and pieces using the Freedom of Information Act. But most of the iceberg is still underwater, and will probably remain there. So there is sometimes an aura of vagueness around who was calling the tune and why.

The vagueness was also there by design. It was baked into the covert relationship. There was a lot of winking and nodding; that’s what helped people believe they were on the same page. But it means that much of the history of what passed between the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. is irrecoverable. Still, “Patriotic Betrayal” is a conscientious attempt to take the full measure of an iconic piece of Cold War subterfuge.’

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George W. Bush Honored By CIA Foundation

‘The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation has awarded former President George W. Bush with the Ambassador Richard M. Helms Award, named after the Cold War-era CIA director. The honor appears somewhat odd as the president and the CIA, along with the National Security Agency, had a rather troubled relationship during the president’s administration.’ (RT America)

In Washington, the Real Power Lies With the Spooks, Eavesdroppers and Assassins

Matthew Harwood reviews Michael Glennon’s “National Security and Double Government” for Medium:

[…] If you’ve noticed that the national security policies of Pres. Barack Obama’s administration are almost indistinguishable from those of the previous Republican administration and wondered why, Glennon has a “disquieting explanation” for you.

There are two governments — a double government — operating today in the realm of national security. There’s the one the voting public thinks they control when they go to the polls — what Glennon refers to as the “Madisonian institutions.” Congress, the courts and the presidency.

And there’s the “Trumanite network,” the labyrinthine national security apparatus that encompasses the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities that Pres. Harry Truman created when he signed the National Security Act of 1947.’

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Convicted Leaker David Petraeus Still Advising White House

‘William Doyle who interviewed Petraeus discusses how Petraeus’ career came to a halt when he was caught leaking classified information to his mistress.’ (CNN)

The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

‘Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked “specific information” on “many key aspects” of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.

Congress eventually concluded that the Bush administration had “overstated” its dire warnings about the Iraqi threat, and that the administration’s claims about Iraq’s WMD program were “not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.” But that underlying intelligence reporting — contained in the so-called National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to justify the invasion — has remained shrouded in mystery until now.’

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A Double Standard on Leaks? As Whistleblowers Jailed, Petraeus Escapes Prison and Advises White House

Editor’s Note: Jesselyn Radack is the National Security and Human Rights director at the Government Accountability Project. She is former ethics adviser to the U.S. Department of Justice and is the lawyer for Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou. This is a 10 minute excerpt. You can watch the full 30 minute interview here.

CIA Director: US does not want to see Syrian regime “collapse”

AFP report:

CIA Director John Brennan said Friday the United States does not want to see a chaotic collapse of the Syrian regime as it could open the way to Islamist extremists taking power.

The spy agency chief said Washington had reason to worry about who might replace President Bashar Al Assad if his government fell, given the rise of the Daesh terror group and other jihadists in Syria.

“I think that’s a legitimate concern,” Brennan said when asked if the US government feared who might succeed Assad.

Speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations, he said that “extremist elements” including Daesh terror group and Al Qaeda veterans are “ascendant right now” in some parts of Syria.’

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How The CIA Gave Al-Qaeda $1 Million, And What That Money Was Used For

Tyler Durden reports for Zero Hedge:

As the US and key stakeholders in the Middle East debate the best way to leverage the fight against ISIS in the service of a larger geopolitical agenda, a NY Times piece out today serves as a reminder (in case recent events haven’t made it clear enough) of just how pervasive examples of Western foreign policy blowback have become. As The Times reports, some $1 million in cash funnelled to the Afghan government by the CIA ended up in the hands of al Qaeda who, after consulting with Bin Laden, promptly used the money to purchase weapons.

[…] This appears to be further proof that in addition to funding insurgents on purpose when it suits Washington’s foreign policy agenda, the agency also funds such groups accidentally, even as they simultaneously spend billions in taxpayer dollars firing Hellfires from the stratosphere in a failed attempt to destroy the very same weapons they just inadvertently bought. As The Times notes, this kind of thing happens all the time:

The C.I.A.’s contribution to Qaeda’s bottom line, though, was no well-laid trap. It was just another in a long list of examples of how the United States, largely because of poor oversight and loose financial controls, has sometimes inadvertently financed the very militants it is fighting. 

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iSpy: The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets

Jeremy Scahill and Josh Beglet report for The Intercept:

‘Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.’

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We’re All Spies Now: CIA Director Announces Major Restructuring

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

The director of the CIA announced this week a major overhaul of the agency’s organizational structure ending the traditional separation between spies and analysts, while also creating a new division to handle cyberwarfare.

Director John Brennan officially announced the restructure to agency employees on Friday. Thousands of spies and CIA analysts will be reassigned to new posts, marking one of the most significant changes to the agency’s core structure in its 67-year history.

“Never has the need for the full and unfettered integration of our capabilities been greater,” Brennan said in a declassified statement to his employees.’

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Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

Peter Maass writes for The Intercept:

David PetraeusDavid Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime lover and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and girlfriend.’

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CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Wake Up, You’re Next

Setting people on fire is barbaric and uncivilised… unless you’re doing it with drone missiles

Burning Victims to Death: Still a Common Practice

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Unlike ISIS, the U.S. usually (though not always) tries to suppress (rather than gleefully publish) evidence showing the victims of its violence. Indeed, concealing stories about the victims of American militarism is a critical part of the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining support for its sustained aggression. That is why, in general, the U.S. media has a policy of systematically excluding and ignoring such victims (although disappearing them this way does not actually render them nonexistent).

One could plausibly maintain that there is a different moral calculus involved in (a) burning a helpless captive to death as opposed to (b) recklessly or even deliberately burning civilians to death in areas that one is bombing with weapons purposely designed to incinerate human beings, often with the maximum possible pain. That’s the moral principle that makes torture specially heinous: sadistically inflicting pain and suffering on a helpless detainee is a unique form of barbarity.

But there is nonetheless something quite obfuscating about this beloved ritual of denouncing the unique barbarism of ISIS.’

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The U.S. Media and the 13-Year-Old Yemeni Boy Burned to Death Last Month by a U.S. Drone

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

"Militants": media propagandaOn January 26, the New York Times claimed that “a CIA drone strike in Yemen. . . . killed three suspected Qaeda fighters on Monday.” How did they know the identity of the dead? As usual, it was in part because “American officials said.” There was not a whiff of skepticism about this claim despite the fact that “a senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the names of the victims” and “a C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.”

That NYT article did cite what it called “a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP), who provided the names of the three victims, one of whom was “Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi, a Yemeni teenager whose father and brother were previously killed in American drone strikes.” The article added that “the Qaeda member did not know Mr. Jahmi’s age but said he was a member of the terrorist group.”

In fact, as the Guardian reported today, “Mr. Jahmi’s age” was 13 on the day the American drone ended his life. Just months earlier, the Yemeni teenager told that paper that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother.” It was 2011 when “an unmanned combat drone killed his father and teenage brother as they were out herding the family’s camels.” In the strike two weeks ago, Mohammed was killed along with his brother-in-law and a third man.’

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Obama: Transparency Helps Terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

gitmo prisonersThe Obama administration, self-described Most Transparent Administration in History™, is currently engaged in a multi-pronged legal battle to prevent an iota more transparency related to illegal torture. If there was any lingering hopes that the President might use the last two years of his final term in office to bring some accountability to the despicable actions of the CIA or the US military, it appears that he will instead continue to use the power of the office to fight to keep them hidden.

Later today [Feb 4th], the government will showcase its latest suppression effort, as the Justice Department will urge a federal judge in New York to keep secret hundreds of photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison from almost a decade ago. President Obama once promised to release the photos, only to reverse himself months after coming into office – and he’s since been fighting for years to keep them secret.’

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Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says “I Would Do It All Again” to Expose Torture

Editor’s Note: Below are excerpts from John Kiriakou’s interview with Democracy Now! You can listen to the full 45 minute interview here.

Exiles from Chagos Islands given hope of returning soon to their lost paradise

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

‘It is a scandal stretching across six decades: the forced removal of hundreds of native people from a British overseas territory to make way for a US military base. That Diego Garcia, the main island in the Chagos archipelago – seven atolls in the Indian Ocean – has played a part in the CIA’s torture programme has only added to Britain’s sense of shame.

However, after myriad legal battles – and now that more than half of the 1,800 Chagossian people who were removed from their homeland between 1967 and 1973 have died – there is a real possibility that the survivors and their children will finally be allowed to go home.’

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War Is the New Normal: Seven Deadly Reasons Why America’s Wars Persist

William J. Astore writes for Tom Dispatch:

It was launched immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when I was still in the military, and almost immediately became known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT.  Pentagon insiders called it “the long war,” an open-ended, perhaps unending, conflict against nations and terror networks mainly of a radical Islamist bent.  It saw the revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, buried in the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, and a reinterpretation of that disaster as well.  Over the years, its chief characteristic became ever clearer: a “Groundhog Day” kind of repetition.  Just when you thought it was over (Iraq, Afghanistan), just after victory (of a sort) was declared, it began again.

Now, as we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, what better way to memorialize the post-9/11 American way of war than through repetition.  Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for TomDispatch on the seven reasons why America can’t stop making war.  More than four years later, with the war on terror still ongoing, with the mission eternally unaccomplished, here’s a fresh take on the top seven reasons why never-ending war is the new normal in America.  In this sequel, I make only one promise: no declarations of victory (and mark it on your calendars, I’m planning to be back with seven new reasons in 2019).’

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CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou released from prison, torture practitioners yet to enter

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower who exposed the agency’s use of torture and the only person to have gone to prison for the scandal, was released from a federal corrections facility on Tuesday. Government transparency advocates have long blasted the former spy’s sentence as the persecution of a hero who exposed massive agency wrongdoing, while also pointing out the hypocrisy of those who actually undertook the torture remaining free. Jesselyn Radack, author of “Traitor,” discusses with RT’s Ben Swann.’ (RT America)

Almost 2,500 now killed by covert US drone strikes since Obama’s inauguration six years ago

Jack Serle reports for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

A ground creman walks in front of a US Air Force Reaper as it sits on the tarmac in the desert lanscape of an air base in AfghanistanAt least 2,464 people have now been killed by US drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones (Afghanistan and Iraq) since President Barack Obama’s inauguration six years ago, the Bureau’s latest monthly report reveals.

Of the total killed since Obama took his oath of office on January 20 2009, at least 314 have been civilians, while the number of confirmed strikes under his administration now stands at 456.

Research by the Bureau also shows there have now been nearly nine times more strikes under Obama in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than there were under his predecessor, George W Bush.

And the covert Obama strikes, the first of which hit Pakistan just three days after his inauguration, have killed almost six times more people and twice as many civilians than those ordered in the Bush years, the data shows.’

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This is how a police state protects “secrets”

Marcy Wheeler writes for Salon:

This is how a police state protects "secrets": Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA and up to 80 years on circumstantial evidenceThe participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.’

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Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.’

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Ex-spies infiltrate Hollywood as espionage TV shows and movies multiply

Ian Shapira reports for The Washington Post:

‘[…] The career afterlife of a CIA official has typically followed well-known paths: Work for a private military contractor. Launch an “intelligence-driven” LLC. Join a law firm. Consult for the CIA. Write a memoir. But the hunger for espionage on TV and movies in recent years is cracking open new career opportunities for ex-CIA personnel with a flair for drama, the kind that’s less clandestine.

“Hollywood tends to be a destination spot for a lot of Washingtonians,” said David Nevins, the president of Showtime, which produces the spy juggernaut “Homeland.”

“There was the ‘West Wing’ crowd of former politicos. I’ve met with more than one former Navy SEAL. And now, certainly the intelligence community has been the most recent in a long line of Washingtonians trying to come out and tell their stories.”’

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The “Humanitarian” Weapon: Drones and the New Ethics of War

Never Gordon writes for CounterPunch:

theoryofdroneThis Christmas small drones were among the most popular gift under the tree in the U.S. with manufacturers stating that they sold 200,000 new unmanned aerial vehicles during the holiday season. While the rapid infiltration of drones into the gaming domain clearly reflects that drones are becoming a common weapon among armed forces, their appearance in Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Amazon serves, in turn, to normalize their deployment in the military.

Drones, as Grégoire Chamayou argues in his new book, A Theory of the Drone, have a uniquely seductive power, one that attracts militaries, politicians and citizens alike. A research scholar in philosophy at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Chamayou is one of the most profound contemporary thinkers working on the deployment of violence and its ethical ramifications. And while his new book offers a concise history of drones, it focuses on how drones are changing warfare and their potential to alter the political arena of the countries that utilize them.’

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Yemen Chaos Throws a Wrench in US Drone War

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Obama Administration had pretty much unconditional support from the Saleh government in Yemen throughout its early years, going to the trouble of covering up botched airstrikes for them.

When long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh faced growing unrest, the US orchestrated the “election” of another military strongman, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a single-candidate election in 2012. Since then, Hadi’s been the go-to guy for rubber stamping US airstrikes.

The US backed dictators of a country constantly being pounded by US drones aren’t near as stable as officials had hoped, however, and amid growing chaos, Hadi resigned on Thursday, throwing the drone campaign into uncertainty.’

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