Category Archives: CIA

Gloria Steinem’s Time as a CIA Asset

Dangerous Minds reports:

In late in 2013, [then] 79-year-old feminist icon Gloria Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During her acceptance speech, she graciously declared,“I’d be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement.”  Should you be under the impression that this award is indicative of a tacit endorsement of feminism by either the the Obama administration or even the U.S. Government, allow me to brush you up on a little feminist history.

In 1959, Gloria Steinem attended the communist-sponsored World Youth Festival in Vienna as the head of the Independent Service for Information, a CIA front. The ISI had been set up at Harvard to send young anti-communist Americans to attend the World Youth Festival, where they could defend the US against communist critics and report back on their Marxist counterparts. Steinem was in charge of recruiting those young anti-communists.

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The CIA has been distributing false memos for years to deceive its own workforce

Greg Miller and Adam Goldman report for The Washington Post:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flag is displayed on stage during a conference on national security entitled Senior CIA officials have for years intentionally deceived parts of the agency workforce by transmitting internal memos that contain false information about operations and sources overseas, according to current and former U.S. officials who said the practice is known by the term “eyewash.”

Agency veterans described the tactic as an infrequent but important security measure, a means of protecting vital secrets by inserting fake communications into routine cable traffic while using separate channels to convey accurate information to cleared recipients.

But others cited a significant potential for abuse. Beyond the internal distrust implied by the practice, officials said there is no clear mechanism for labeling eyewash cables or distinguishing them from legitimate records being examined by the CIA’s inspector general, turned over to Congress or declassified for historians.

Senate investigators uncovered apparent cases of eyewashing as part of a multi-year probe of the CIA’s interrogation program, according to officials who said that the Senate Intelligence Committee found glaring inconsistencies in CIA communications about classified operations, including drone strikes.

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Hugh Wilford on America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

John Batchelor talks to Hugh Wilford, a historian at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the author of several books on the CIA and British intelligence during the Cold War. In this interview Wilford discusses information found in his 2013 book America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. (The John Batchelor Show)

How David Petraeus Avoided Felony Charges and Possible Prison Time

Adam Goldman reports for The Washington Post:

Inside a secure conference room on the 6th floor of the Justice Department in early 2014, top federal law enforcement officials gathered to hear what criminal charges prosecutors were contemplating against David H. Petraeus, the storied wartime general and former CIA director whose public career had ended about 15 months earlier over an extramarital affair.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and FBI Director James B. Comey listened as prosecutors did a mock run through the government’s case, a preview of how they would present their evidence to Petraeus’ lawyers in order, they hoped, to force a guilty plea.

The presentation included felony charges: lying to the FBI and violating a section of the Espionage Act. A conviction on either carried potentially years in prison.

They were also considering bringing the same charges against his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The government would never file those charges. Not everyone at Justice shared the prosecutors confidence, and lawyers for Petraeus and Broadwell separately pushed back hard, saying they would fight and beat the charges being considered by the Justice Department. Moreover, with its mix of sex and government secrets, a trial promised to be an uncomfortably tawdry affair, one some in government — as well as the defense — preferred to avoid.

Petraeus, in the end, pleaded guilty early last year to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified material. No charges were ever brought against Broadwell.

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TRAILER – Freeway: Crack in the System

 

Directed by Marc Levin, Freeway: Crack in the System tells the true story of Freeway Rick Ross and the players that tell how crack cocaine destroyed neighborhoods and lives through the CIA Contra connection featuring exclusive interviews with journalist Gary Webb, Jesse Katz, source Coral Baca, former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Robert Juarez, drug trafficker Julio Zavala and many others. (Al Jazeera America)

A Special Relationship: The United States Is Teaming Up With Al Qaeda, Again

Andrew Cockburn, author of Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, writes for Harpers:

Afghan mujahedeen move toward the front line during the battle for Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 1989 © Robert Nickelsberg[…] In the wake of 9/11, the story of U.S. support for militant Islamists against the Soviets became something of a touchy subject. Former CIA and intelligence officials like to suggest that the agency simply played the roles of financier and quartermaster. In this version of events, the dirty work — the actual management of the campaign and the dealings with rebel groups — was left to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It was Pakistan’s fault that at least 70 percent of total U.S. aid went to the fundamentalists, even if the CIA demanded audited accounts on a regular basis.

The beneficiaries, however, have not always been content to play along with the official story. Asked by the ABC News team whether he remembered Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman later immortalized in print and onscreen as the patron saint of the mujahedeen, Hekmatyar fondly recalled that “he was a good friend. He was all the time supporting our jihad.” Others expressed the same point in a different way. Abdul Haq, a mujahedeen commander who might today be described as a “moderate rebel,” complained loudly during and after the Soviet war in Afghanistan about American policy. The CIA “would come with a big load of ammunition and money and supplies to these [fundamentalist] groups. We would tell them, ‘What the hell is going on? You are creating a monster in this country.’ ”

American veterans of the operation, at the time the largest in CIA history, have mostly stuck to the mantra that it was a Pakistani show. Only occasionally have officials let slip that the support for fundamentalists was a matter of cold-blooded calculation. Robert Oakley, a leading player in the Afghan effort as ambassador to Pakistan from 1988 to 1991, later remarked, “If you mix Islam with politics, you have a much more potent explosive brew, and that was quite successful in getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan.”

In fact, the CIA had been backing Afghan Islamists well before the Russians invaded the country in December 1979. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, later boasted to Le Nouvel Observateur that the president had “signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul” six monthsprior to the invasion. “And that very day,” Brzezinski recalled, “I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” The war that inevitably followed killed a million Afghans.

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A New Biography Traces the Pathology of Allen Dulles and His Appalling Cabal

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

As I read The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, a new book by Salon founder David Talbot, I couldn’t help thinking of an obscure corner of 1970s history: the Safari Club.

Dulles — the Princeton man and white shoe corporate lawyer who served as CIA director from 1953 to 1961, still the longest tenure in agency history — died in 1969 before the Safari Club was conceived. And nothing about it appears in The Devil’s ChessboardBut to understand the Safari Club is to understand Allen Dulles and his milieu.

Any normal person would likely hear the Safari Club saga as a frightening story of totally unaccountable power. But if there’s one thing to take away from The Devil’s Chessboard, it’s this: Allen Dulles would have seen it differently — as an inspiring tale of hope and redemption.

Because what the Safari Club demonstrates is that Dulles’ entire spooky world is beyond the reach of American democracy. Even the most energetic post-World War II attempt to rein it in was in the end as effective as trying to lasso mist. And today we’ve largely returned to the balance of power Dulles set up in the 1950s. As Jay Rockefeller said in 2007 when he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Don’t you understand the way intelligence works? Do you think that because I’m chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say ‘I want it, give it to me’? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time.”

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Former Head of GCHQ David Omand on the CIA, spying on Parliament, Snowden and James Bond

Afshin Rattansi speaks to David Omand, the former head of GCHQ (1997-2000), about the CIA and spying on our members of Parliament, Snowden and James Bond. (Going Underground)

Drones, IBM, and the Big Data of Death

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

Last week The Intercept published a package of stories on the U.S. drone program, drawing on a cache of secret government documents leaked by an intelligence community whistleblower. The available evidence suggests that one of the documents, a study titled “ISR Support to Small Footprint CT Operations — Somalia/Yemen,” was produced for the Defense Department in 2013 by consultants from IBM. If you look at just one classified PowerPoint presentation this year, I recommend you make it this one.

Like a good poem, the ISR study has multiple meanings, and rewards careful attention and repeated reading. On its surface, it’s simply an analysis by the Defense Department’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force of the “performance and requirements” of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism kill/capture operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia and Yemen. However, it’s also what a former senior special operations officer characterized as a “bitch brief” — that is, a study designed to be a weapon in a bureaucratic turf war with the CIA to win the Pentagon more money and a bigger mandate. The study was also presumably an opportunity for IBM to demonstrate that it can produce snappy “analysis” tailored to the desires of its Defense Department clients, as well as for current Defense employees to network with a potential future employer.

But the presentation’s most compelling meaning is much deeper: It’s a rare, peculiar cultural artifact that opens a window into the deep guts of the military-industrial complex, where the technologies of assassination and corporate sales converge, all described in language as dead as the target of an ISR platform kinetic engagement.

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David Talbot on Allen Dulles’ Reign as CIA Director: From Guatemala to Cuba to JFK’s Assassination

Amy Goodman recently spoke to author David Talbot about his new book on former CIA director Allen Dulles: The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. (Democracy Now!)

The Deadly Legacy of Former CIA Director Allen Dulles: Interview with David Talbot

Editor’s Note: You can watch an extended interview with David Talbot here.

Amy Goodman speaks with David Talbot, author of The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, about how Allen Dulles’ time at the CIA helped shape today’s national security state. Dulles resigned as director of the CIA nearly 50 years ago but his legacy lives on. During his time at the head of the agency, between 1953-61, the CIA overthrew the governments of Iran and Guatemala, invaded Cuba, and was tied to the killing of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected leader. (Democracy Now!)

You Think the NSA Is Bad? Meet Former CIA Director Allen Dulles

Aaron Wiener recently interview David Talbot for Mother Jones about his new book:

“What follows,” David Talbot boasts in the prologue to his new book The Devil’s Chessboard, “is an espionage adventure that is far more action-packed and momentous than any spy tale with which readers are familiar.” Talbot, the founder of Salon.com and author of the Kennedy clan study Brothers, doesn’t deal in subtlety in his biography of Allen Dulles, the CIA director under presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, the younger brother of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and the architect of a secretive national security apparatus that functioned as essentially an autonomous branch of government. Talbot offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship, in which everyone is either a good guy or a bad guy. Dulles—who deceived American elected leaders and overthrew foreign ones, who backed ex-Nazis and thwarted left-leaning democrats—falls firmly in the latter camp.

Mother Jones chatted with Talbot about the reporting that went into his 704-page doorstop, the controversy he invited with his discussion of Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories, and the parallels he sees in today’s government intelligence overreach.

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CIA Director John McCone Was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up

Philip Shenon, author of A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, writes for Politico:

John McCone came to the CIA as an outsider. An industrialist and an engineer by training, he replaced veteran spymaster Allen Dulles as director of central intelligence in November 1961, after John F. Kennedy had forced out Dulles following the CIA’s bungled operation to oust Fidel Castro by invading Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. McCone had one overriding mission: restore order at the besieged CIA. Kennedy hoped his management skills might prevent a future debacle, even if the Californian—mostly a stranger to the clubby, blue-blooded world of the men like Dulles who had always run the spy agency—faced a steep learning curve.

After JFK’s assassination in Dallas in November 1963, President Lyndon Johnson kept McCone in place at the CIA, and the CIA director became an important witness before the Warren Commission, the panel Johnson created to investigate Kennedy’s murder. McCone pledged full cooperation with the commission, which was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, and testified that the CIA had no evidence to suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, was part of any conspiracy, foreign or domestic. In its final report, the commission came to agree with McCone’s depiction of Oswald, a former Marine and self-proclaimed Marxist, as a delusional lone wolf.

But did McCone come close to perjury all those decades ago? Did the onetime Washington outsider in fact hide agency secrets that might still rewrite the history of the assassination? Even the CIA is now willing to raise these questions. Half a century after JFK’s death, in a once-secret report written in 2013 by the CIA’s top in-house historian and quietly declassified last fall, the spy agency acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.

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US Intelligence Is More Privatized Than Ever Before

Tim Shorrock writes for The Nation:

Almost 14 years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks drove intelligence spending into the stratosphere, two of the largest business associations in the spying industry held a “summit” meeting to discuss the current state of national security. Two realities were immediately apparent.

First, US intelligence is more privatized than ever before, with for-profit corporations operating as an equal partner with the surveillance state at nearly every level. The situation was neatly summarized by James Clapper, the director of the Office of National Intelligence (ODNI) in his keynote address.

“If you can’t get a job in the IC, then sign on with one of our contractors,” he told the crowd of 500 people, 75 percent of whom came from the private sector. “Industry is absolutely crucial to our continued viability and success.” It was the first time in my memory I had heard a high-ranking official be so blatant about the stunning degree of contracting in US intelligence that I first exposed in 2007.

In an interesting twist, the former Air Force general even urged the 16 agencies he oversees to expand the revolving door as an incentive for a younger generation of people who “desire mobility” along with their government jobs “We must facilitate their ability to join the community, go to industry, get refreshed technologically, and then come back,” Clapper said. As most people in the room knew, this was the exact path he followed before jumping from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to take his job as President Obama’s intelligence chief.

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The UN Says US Drone Strikes in Yemen Have Killed More Civilians Than al Qaeda

Samuel Oakford  reports for VICE News:

American drones strikes may have killed as many as 40 Yemeni civilians over the past year, the UN reported on Monday, offering a tally of the human cost of the long-running US campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, which has continued amid the chaos of country’s current war.

The data on drone strikes came from the latest report on Yemen issued by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR), which compiled accounts of human rights violations from July 1, 2014 to June 30 of this year.

The US first launched armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Yemen in 2002, but the bulk of strikes carried out by the aircraft have taken place since since 2011. According to figures maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Drone War program, at least 101 people have been killed by confirmed drone strikes in Yemen, plus 26 to 61 others killed by “possible extra drone strikes.” Between 156 and 365 civilians have also been killed in other covert missions since 2002, according to the group.

If accurate, the UN’s estimates would represent a significant rise in confirmed civilian casualties in the country as a result of drone strikes.

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Tequila, Painted Pearls, and Prada: How the CIA Helped Produce ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Jason Leopold and Ky Henderson report for VICE News:

On April 21, 2011, Mark Boal called the CIA to tell them he was going to Afghanistan.

The previous year, the screenwriter had been at a dinner when CIA director Leon Panetta asked Boal to alert the agency if he ever traveled to the country. At the time, Boal was working on a movie called Tora Bora, about the CIA’s failure to capture Osama bin Laden in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The title referred to the region in eastern Afghanistan where the US felt it had let bin Laden slip through its fingers during a battle in December 2001.

But less than two weeks after Boal made the call, a team of Navy SEALs raided the al Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan and killed him. Boal would not be going to Afghanistan after all.

Instead, he stopped writing the script for Tora Bora and began writing a different screenplay about what one lawmaker called “the most classified mission in history” — the killing of bin Laden. That movie, which Boal would work on with director Kathryn Bigelow, would become the 2012 Oscar-winning film Zero Dark Thirty. And the CIA would play a huge role in the creation of the script.

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David Petraeus’ bright idea: Give terrorists weapons to beat terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

The latest brilliant plan to curtail Isis in the Middle East? Give more weapons to current members of al-Qaida. The Daily Beast reported that former CIA director David Petraeus, still somehow entrenched in the DC Beltway power circles despite leaking highly classified secrets, is now advocating arming members of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an offshoot of al-Qaida and a designated terrorist organization. Could there be a more dangerous and crazy idea?

Petraeus was forced to respond on Tuesday, the day after his article provoked a firestorm, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that he doesn’t want to arm al-Nusra itself, just “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra”. He thinks the US could somehow “peel off” these fighters and convince to join the much weaker rebel army that al-Nusra recently decimated. Oh okay, then. He’s in favor of arming only the “moderate” members of al-Qaida: that sounds so much better.

Let’s put aside for a second that there’s not much difference between arming al-Nusra and arming “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra.” How the US can possibly “peel off” fighters from a terrorist group is a complete mystery. In Iraq – Petraeus is apparently using part of the largely failedIraq “surge” as his blueprint here – he convinced some Sunni tribes to switch sides temporarily, but that was with over 100,000 US troops on the ground to do the convincing. Does Petraeus think we should invade Syria to accomplish the same feat?

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CIA Running Anti-ISIS Drone Campaign in Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

[…] The CIA has been involved in various operations against ISIS for years, of course, and has also been doing all sorts of different things in Syria, mostly arming dubious rebel factions. That they are escalating this to a drone war concurrent with an actual war must inevitably raise eyebrows, as previously the US has been very careful to keep CIA drone wars distinct from Pentagon-run wars.

The war is targeting ISIS so far, but officials say that they are also authorized to attack al-Qaeda militants or any other “operatives” suspected of advancing ISIS goals to expand their caliphate further across Syria, a nation they already control more than half of.

But officials say that the CIA war, at least in Syria, is comparatively small, and that they’ve launched relatively few strikes compared to the military. That the two are both launching strikes in the same theater will only add to complications about investigating civilian casualties, as it will allow each side to deny being the one behind a particular incident.

Officials are also insisting that the Syria war won’t be using the same model as the Pakistan and Yemen drone wars, but rather that the Syria CIA war, in which they are working closely with special forces, could itself be a model for even more drone wars elsewhere around the world.

This plan to expand CIA war-making comes amid some pushes from the Pentagon, which believes that as the military wars should sort of be their thing exclusively. Running wars concurrently only adds to the confusion, and seems to reflect an intention by the Obama Administration to keep the CIA running wars of its own outside of traditional military purview.

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CIA Plans Huge Release of Top Secret Reports From the 1960s

Jeff Stein reports for Newsweek:

CIALogoThe Central Intelligence Agency is set to release 2,500 previously top secret briefings it gave to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s, a private pro-CIA group announced on Wednesday.

“The vast majority of the documents have never been previously released,” an informed official said, although a number of CIA presidential briefings have surfaced in heavily redacted form over the years. Intelligence officials from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations have also discussed their private conversations with the presidents in memoirs and other books.

The reports, customarily provided personally to the president each morning by a senior CIA officer, if not the director himself, will almost certainly show much of what the spy agency was telling Kennedy and Johnson about Vietnam, Cuba, the Soviet Union, China and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. They may well also include the CIA’s private assessments of world leaders.

But expectations should be low for the new materials, says Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Kai Bird. “I bet they are on the whole surprisingly dull [and only] occasionally insightful,” cautioned Bird, the author of a biography of McGeorge and William Bundy, brothers who held top national security posts in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

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The Google Search That Made the CIA Spy on the US Senate

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

John Brennan was about to say he was sorry.

On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel’s ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.

The letter was notable in part because Brennan initially denied the January 2014 search of the Senate’s computer network even took place. And later, when it became clear that it had — and that he had known of it while publicly denying that it happened — he refused to acknowledge that it was wrong. For months, Feinstein and other committee members were clamoring for a written apology to make part of the official record.

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Is the ‘military option’ on Iran off the table?

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, writes for the Baltimore Sun:

[…] Looking for changes in official public statements was my bread and butter during a long tenure as a Kremlinologist. So on Wednesday, as I watched Mr. Obama defend the deal with Iran, I leaned way forward at each juncture — and there were several — where the timeworn warning about all options being “on the table” would have been de rigueur. He avoided saying it.

“All options on the table?” The open-ended nature of this Bush/Cheney-esque bully-type warning is at odds with Western international understandings spanning more than three and half centuries — from the treaties of Westphalia (1648), to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) to the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal to the UN Charter (1945). Try raising that with Establishment Washington, though, and be prepared to be dismissed as “picky-picky,” or as quaint and as obsolete as the Geneva Conventions. Undergirding all this is the chauvinism reflected in President Obama’s repeated reminders that the U.S. “is the sole indispensable country in the world.”

But in the wake of last week’s accord with Iran in Vienna, it is possible now to hope that the “military option” is finally off the table — in reality, if not in occasional rhetorical palliatives for Israel.

Most Americans have no idea of how close we came to making war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. Nor do they know of the essential role played by courageous managers of intelligence who, for the first time on the Iran nuclear issue, supervised a strictly evidence-based, from-the-bottom-up National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.’

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CIA and Mandela: Can the Story Be Told Now?

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting wrote in December 2013:

Back in 1990, FAIR (Extra!, 3/90) noted that the media coverage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison failed to mention there was strong evidence that the CIA had tipped off South African authorities to Mandela’s location in 1962, resulting in his arrest.

So with coverage of Mandela’s death dominating the media now, can the story of the CIA’s role in Mandela’s capture be told? Mostly not.

The link between the CIA and Mandela’s capture–reported by CBS Evening News (8/5/86) and in a New York Times column by Andrew Cockburn (10/13/86)–was almost entirely unmentioned in media discussions of his death.

There were a few exceptions. MSNBC host Chris Hayes mentioned it on December 5 (“We know there’s reporting that indicates the CIA actually helped the South African police nab Mandela the first time he was captured”). On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show (12/7/13), Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman brought it up.’

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SEAL Team 6, the CIA and the secret history of U.S. kill missions in Afghanistan

Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post:

As the U.S. military focused heavily on the Iraq war in 2006, the general in charge of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) noticed something alarming: The Taliban was regrouping in Afghanistan, and the United States didn’t have the manpower there to stop it.

That commander, then-Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, responded by unleashing the Naval Special Warfare Development Group — popularly known as SEAL Team 6 — on a variety of missions in which the unit wouldn’t have typically been involved, according to an investigative report published by the New York Times on Saturday. Some of those operations resulted in civilians being killed, several former SEALs said in interviews, according to the report.

“No figures are publicly available that break out the number of raids that Team 6 carried out in Afghanistan or their toll,” the Times reported. “Military officials say that no shots were fired on most raids. But between 2006 and 2008, Team 6 operators said, there were intense periods in which for weeks at a time their unit logged 10 to 15 kills on many nights, and sometimes up to 25.”

The report, long-rumored in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence world, details the evolving use for the elite force that is one of America’s most revered but least understood. It also notes the lack of oversight team members receive.’

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The Story of America’s Very First Drone Strike

Chris Woods reports for The Atlantic:

‘“Who the fuck did that?” The words greeting the first-ever combat strike by a remotely piloted aircraft were uttered not in praise but in anger. A botched Hellfire-missile attack by a CIA Predator had just cost the United States a likely chance to kill Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Mohammed Omar. In response, the U.S. Air Force general in charge of airstrikes in Afghanistan was about to threaten to call off the entire opening campaign of the War on Terror, unless he was given control of the CIA’s secret weapon.

It was the night of October 7, 2001, less than a month after 9/11, and from the United States’ new Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Saudi Arabia, it was the job of Lieutenant General Chuck Wald and his deputy Dave Deptula to coordinate every aspect of the unfolding Afghan air war. Operation Enduring Freedom—the campaign to rid Afghanistan of al-Qaeda and its Taliban hosts—was the first offensive of a global conflict that would eventually consume many tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, and see more than two and a half million U.S. personnel sent into battle.

In the autumn of 2001, however, the United States was unwilling to launch a full-scale land invasion in a region 7,000 miles from home. Instead, a plan evolved to send into Afghanistan a small number of CIA agents and Special Forces in support of anti-Taliban militias, with the aid of the U.S. Air Force. That first October night was a powerful display of coordination involving laser-guided munitions dropped from the air and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the sea. General Tommy Franks, who then led the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the military command overseeing operations in Afghanistan, wrote in his memoir American Soldier that the assault involved in total some 40,000 personnel, 393 aircraft, and 32 ships.

But one aircraft did not feature at all in the Air Force’s complex planning: a tiny, CIA-controlled, propeller-driven spy plane, which had crept into Afghanistan some hours earlier. Predator tailfin number 3034 now hangs suspended in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., its place in history assured. Yet its actions that first night of the war—in which numerous agencies in the vast U.S. military-intelligence machine each played sharply contradictory roles—remain steeped in controversy.’

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America’s drone policy is all exceptions and no rules

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

droneThe Obama administration is again allowing the CIA to use drone strikes to secretly kill people that the spy agency does not know the identities of in multiple countries – despite repeated statements to the contrary.

That’s what we learned this week, when Nasir ­al-Wuhayshi, an alleged leader of al-Qaida, died in a strike in Yemen. While this time the CIA seems to have guessed right, apparently the drone operators didn’t even know at the time who they were aiming at – only that they thought the target was possibly a terrorist hideout. It’s what’s known as a “signature” strike, where the CIA is not clear who its drone strikes are killing, only that the targets seem like they are terrorists from the sky.

Signature strikes has led to scores of civilians being killed over the past decade, including two completely innocent hostages less than two months ago. It’s a way of killing that’s been roundly condemned by human rights organizations and that some members of Congress have tried to outlaw. The incredible dangers behind such a policy are obvious.’

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FBI Agent: The CIA Could Have Stopped 9/11

 

Jeff Stein reports for Newsweek:

world tradeMark Rossini, a former FBI special agent at the center of an enduring mystery related to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, says he is “appalled” by the newly declassified statements by former CIA Director George Tenet defending the spy agency’s efforts to detect and stop the plot.

Rossini, who was assigned to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) at the time of the attacks, has long maintained that the U.S. government has covered up secret relations between the spy agency and Saudi individuals who may have abetted the plot. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a failed effort to crash into the U.S. Capitol, were Saudis.

A heavily redacted 2005 CIA inspector general’s report, parts of which had previously been released, was further declassified earlier this month. It found that agency investigators “encountered no evidence” that the government of Saudi Arabia “knowingly and willingly supported” Al-Qaeda terrorists. It added that some CIA officers had “speculated” that “dissident sympathizers within the government” may have supported Osama bin Laden but that “the reporting was too sparse to determine with any accuracy such support.”

Over 30 pages relating to Saudi Arabia in the report were blacked out. The Obama administration has also refused to declassify 28 pages dealing with Saudi connections to the hijackers in a joint congressional probe of the attacks.’

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CIA torture appears to have broken spy agency rule on human experimentation

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

cia human experimentation illustrationThe Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation” – before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees – that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house and contracted medical research.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.

CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

But the revelation of the guidelines has prompted critics of CIA torture to question how the agency could have ever implemented what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – despite apparently having rules against “research on human subjects” without their informed consent.’

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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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