Posted: 31 Jan 2013 11:17 AM PST
Bad choices in 2013.
David Ignatius has an interesting piece today on the perilous options for the West in countering the “cancerous” spread of al-Qaeda in places like Mali.
“Striking at these local nodes — as the French are doing now in Mali — can disrupt the new terrorist cells," he writes. "But analysts stress that there will be consequences: The cells may metastasize further, drawing new jihadists into the fight and potentially threatening targets in Europe and the United States.”
Indeed, they’re everywhere, and nowhere. They’re not much more than local criminals hoping to honored as al-Qaeda central's ‘made men.”
But the U.S. strategy “is similar to the one adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,” he goes on to say.
“The CIA seeks to build up the security services of regional allies that can help penetrate and disrupt the terrorists in ways that would be impossible for the United States acting alone.”
But the cast of allies has changed since 9/11. The sons of bitches that were our guys in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have been swept away. Monarchies in Jordan and Bahrain are under assault by the same forces that drove the Arab Spring. Pakistan is an unreliable partner, to say the least. Algeria is keeping us at arms length.
At this point, the CIA could be forgiven for looking longingly at the imminent loss of Syria’s as-Assad, a sometime partner in U.S. counterterrorism operations.
What to do? The Obama administration says its policies are adapting.
“Our CT approach is to do things where possible through our partners, and not necessarily by ourselves,” a senior administration official told Ignatius.
But who are they? Israel? France? Britain? Anybody else? Our African “allies” are pathetic.
It’s getting lonely out there.
Posted: 31 Jan 2013 08:26 AM PST
Lisa Monaco is a smart cookie, no doubt about that. And a true-blue Democrat.
The Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School grad, who turns 44 in February, has climbed so steadily through the government’s national security ranks that her new job as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama seems almost preordained. Rumors are flying that she may even replace Bob Mueller at the FBI before too long.
Yet it’s almost certain that few people outside of Washington’s insular national security world will ever have heard of her.
That’s because, unlike her predecessor John Brennan, she’s been an oiler in the machinery room of counterterrorism, not a boss man from one of the alphabet agencies -- CIA, FBI, NSA and the like.
But she has had friends in high places, starting with Joe Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Monaco worked there as research coordinator from 1992 to 1994, according to the questionnaire she filled out during her confirmation process 20 years later to be assistant attorney general for national security.
Indeed, Monaco quickly tired of researching and coordinating, because she quickly moved on to Chicago and law school--where guess who was teaching constitutional law?
A fortuitous turn of events. But she was never away from Washington for long, returning here for summer internships during the Clinton administration.
In the summer of 1995 she held duel internships with the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs and D.C. Superior Court Judge Wendell P. Gardner. In the summer of 1996, she worked in the Clinton White House Counsel’s Office, as well as Hogan and Hartson.
Her connection to Obama had to have hardened when she returned to the Windy City law school and became treasurer of the Chicago Law Foundation, a scholarship vehicle affiliated with the university. Then it was back into Biden’s orbit, clerking for Judge Jane. R. Roth at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Wilmington, Del.
But Monaco’s career really got traction when she came back to the Justice Department, in 1998, as counsel in Attorney General Janet Reno’s office, “provid(ing) information, advice and staff assistance on a range of criminal justice, law enforcement, national security and oversight matters,” she said in her questionnaire.
Three years later, upon the Bush administration's assumption of power, she moved to the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia. As a prosecutor her star soared: She was appointed co-counsel of DoJ’s Enron task force, which won cases against former executives of Enron Broadband Services. For that she was given the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service, the department's highest award.
Then began her ascent through the legal stovepipe of U.S. intelligence, courtesy of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.
“In April 2007, I became Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Director and then Chief of Staff at the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“During this time I ran the day-today operations of the Director's office and provided advice and guidance on national security operations and investigations as well as on criminal and law enforcement matters. I also assisted in the management and oversight of the National Security Branch of the FBI (which is responsible for counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations) and in the development of the intelligence capability of the FBI.
“I assisted the Director of the FBI and other senior executives in advancing the transformation of the FBI into a threat-based, intelligence-driven national security organization,” she continued. “In this capacity, I had regular interaction with representatives of the Intelligence Community, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and congressional staff.”
She was deep in the matrix now.
In 2009 she moved to Main Justice, honing her intelligence chops as associate deputy attorney general in the National Security Division. There, she:
“assisted in the supervision of significant investigations and prosecutions to disrupt national security threats. I worked regularly with prosecutors and agents on issues relating to counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations and prosecutions but I did not have direct responsibility for any cases.”
In April 2011 she took over the national security division entirely. And that’s where her career track swerved into a dark tunnel.
On Sept. 30, 2011, President Obama ordered a CIA drone to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen. By some accounts, he had been on the kill list since December 2009.
According to the New York Times’ Charlie Savage, the administration’s legal justification for the killing came in a 50-page memo hammered out by every department or agency involved in the operation.
“The memo, written last year, followed months of extensive interagency deliberations and offers a glimpse into the legal debate that led to one of the most significant decisions made by President Obama — to move ahead with the killing of an American citizen without a trial,” Savage reported.
There cannot be any doubt that Monaco had major input into it. What was her input and advice? I haven’t found anybody yet who can say, including among people who have followed the issue very, very closely.
If tradition holds, though, one can assume she was a team player. Too bad the president’s new counterterrorism advisor can’t be asked about that in a confirmation hearing. The job doesn’t require her to be grilled on Capitol Hill.
Likewise, she enthusiastically supported the pursuit of leaks -- a feverish crusade that spun out of control in the espionage prosecution of Thomas Drake, an NSA official who exhausted every legal channel to bring massive cost overruns congressional attention before resorting to the press.
"If I'm confirmed, it would be my priority to continue the aggressive pursuit of these cases, challenging as they may be," Monaco said in her 2011 confirmation hearing, "but those challenges should not slow us down in aggressively pursuing those matters."
A similar area of concern -- for civil libertarians, anyway-- has been the Obama administration’s support for the radical cloak of secrecy thrown over who’s being surveilled, subpoened and why by U.S. intelligence, as facilitated by the so-called Patriot Act.
During her confirmation hearing to be assistant attorney general for national security, “Monaco claimed the right balance had indeed been found,” the blogger Marcy Wheeler noted.
“Agents, analysts and prosecutors who work every day to protect us from national security threats do so pursuant to the authorities Congress has given them under the Constitution,” Monaco told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “I believe these authorities reflect an effort to strike a balance between the imperative of protecting national security interests of the United States on the one hand and the importance of doing so consistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”
But she also seemed sympathetic to the efforts of Sen. Ron Wyden and others to lift the lid on the lock-tight secrecy surrounding the government's arguments for national security wiretaps, as they are presented to the ultra-secret FISA court. Those arguments are classified.
"Well, Senator," Monaco told Wyden, "I absolutely agree that we need to make as much of the types of documents that you're referring to public as possible."
But whatever the pound pressure Monaco lent to the idea, it got nowhere.
“Mind you, Monaco is not the person most responsible for refusing to declassify documents that describe the shreds of the Fourth Amendment in this country–she’s not the Original Classification Authority” Wheeler wrote.
“Nevertheless, we’ve got another fan of massive data mining moving into an oversight free position in the White House," Wheeler added, "without having fulfilled her commitment to tell the American people what they’re doing with that data mining.”
31 January 2013
29 January 2013
US/1; ATTN: HST/2
Spec Ops Chief Says Elite Troops Will ‘Probably Not’ Skip a Generation of Tech
By Spencer Ackerman
01.29.13 - 12:15 PM
Next to their ability to kill people, advanced technology is one of the calling cards of special operations forces. But their top commander doubts their ability to skip an emerging generation of technology in favor of an even wilder future.
“In this budget right now, probably not,” Adm. William McRaven, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told a special operations confab in Washington on Tuesday morning, in response to a question from Danger Room. Keeping the technological edge that defines “SOF” may likely depend on the unexpected, unanticipated gear that defense tech companies present to McRaven’s forces.
“I’d like to say everything is requirements-driven, that we determine a requirement and therefore we go, OK now we’ve got to build towards that and that’s what it should look like,” McRaven said. “A lot of times someone shows up with the iPhone and says, ‘How would you like one of these,’ and you go, ‘I never thought of that.’… If industry brings us an opportunity to leap over the next generation we will absolutely take advantage of it.”
The mission that arguably defines McRaven’s career offered a rare peek into the advanced technologies that special operations forces employ. Raiding the Abbottabad compound that housed Osama bin Laden didn’t just depend on SEALs that trained for the raid through countless night raids in Afghanistan. It also depended on quiet, stealth helicopters to insert and remove them the compound without detection by Pakistani air defense — something very few outside the spec-ops community knew were even developed. Before the raid, a powerful and super-secret stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, repeatedly swooped in and hovered over the compound to gather intelligence on it.
“Technology is important for us because we have got to have a comparative advantage over the enemy and there is an expectation from our conventional counterparts that SOF [special operations forces] will have a technological advantage in some areas over the conventional forces because we can afford to put more effort, put more money into buying smaller numbers for an elite SOF force,” McRaven said.
It’s unclear how impending budget cuts will effect McRaven’s technological edge. He seemed more concerned about Congress’ inability to pass a budget than he was about potential across-the-board Pentagon budget cuts slated for March 1, a contrast from nearly every other senior military commander. Special operations have been flooded with cash since 9/11, and have grown dramatically — but so has the pace of their deployments, and that’s likely to continue as the shadow wars that largely depend on elite troops proliferate and entrench.
McRaven didn’t want to look at his forces’ ability to innovate solely in terms of tech. “There’s an automatic default to go towards technology: ‘Let’s find a way to, instead of taking a squad out there, let’s put one remotely piloted vehicle out there or let’s put one robot over here,’” he said. “Right now we’re learning how to be innovative organizationally.” That is, flattening the structure of special operations forces;
expanding their integration with the regional military commands that use them around the world; and pushing information to low-level special operators rapidly, even over the public internet using secured connections.
It also depends on “persistent presence,” McRaven said — something he pointedly noted special operations forces lacked in Mali ahead of last year’s military coup, which supposedly cut off partnership with the Malian military. McRaven demurred from discussing support to the French war in Mali. But overhanging his remarks was the news that the U.S. had inked a deal with the neighboring government of Niger to provide a new hub for U.S. drones to monitor extremist activity in west Africa — and, quite possibly, the ability to strike them directly. Persistent spec-ops presence in west Africa is likely on deck.
McRaven also copped to a certain amount of personal technological unfamiliarity. “I’m 57 years old, I don’t have a Facebook account, I don’t Twitter,” he said. Not that he needs to tweet about the far-out tech that his elite forces will likely still develop and use.
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25 January 2013
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By Spencer Ackerman
01.24.13 -- 6:30 AM
The last people you might expect to want to see the CIA’s secret torture prisons kept intact are the people who were tortured there. But the defense lawyers for the 9/11 co-conspirators are arguing that the CIA’s so-called “black sites” need to remain open, untouched and exactly as they were when top al-Qaida operatives were abused.
The CIA torture program isn’t on trial at Guantanamo Bay. The five accused 9/11 conspirators are, and they face the death penalty. But the legal maneuver brings to light an irony of post-9/11 justice: The military tribunals that remain the bane of civil libertarians might be one of the last venues to investigate torture.
On Monday at Guantanamo, Army Col. James Pohl, the judge in the 9/11 tribunal, will hear a longstanding motion filed by the defense team to “preserve any existing evidence of any overseas detention facility used to imprison any witness in this case.” The gambit, explains James Connell, a Defense Department civilian who represents defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, seeks to treat the black sites like crime scenes — something the Justice Department has been reluctant to do.
It’s not that the defendants want others taken to the black sites. It’s that, as Connell tells Danger Room, “If a site is still open, it’s evidence.”
Some of the treatment experienced at the black sites by the five defendants, which include the confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, include being doused with water for the simulated drowning known as waterboarding; being kept in contorted “stress positions”; and being deprived of sleep for extended periods, sometimes as a result of the stress positions. But the defense hasn’t been able to review any official material about what went on inside the black sites — something crucial to its legal strategy, since the military commissions are supposed to exclude evidence obtained through “the use of torture, or by cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” (.PDF)
Emphasis on supposed to. “The government has not yet provided any discovery or information about our clients’ treatment at the black sites,” Connell says. “If the trial were tomorrow, I would have no way of introducing it.”
The CIA sent 14 detainees from the black sites to Guantanamo in 2009. President Obama forbade the CIA in 2009 from holding any other detainees. But the CIA didn’t build the black sites, it rented them, in places like Romania, Poland and Thailand. And since they’ve been closed, they’re at risk of being destroyed or modified by their host countries in such a way that will prevent anyone outside of the torture program from ever knowing what exactly went on there.
Connell isn’t even asking for documentation from inside the black sites. That’s likely to come later this year, he says. For now, the defense team is looking to preserve the architecture of the sites, which it contends can reveal information about his clients’ treatment. “If a person is in isolation,” Connell argues, “how that isolation is enforced is a relevant legal factor as to whether they’ve been illegally punished, and the building design is relevant to that.”
An earlier version of the military commissions insisted the government not mess with the shuttered black sites. In April 2009, Army Col. Stephen R. Henley, another military judge, ordered the government to “maintain the status quo” at any facility where the 9/11 defendants were held. (.PDF) But in 2010, the Obama administration voided the military commission for the five accused 9/11 conspirators in a failed bid to try them in civilian courts, only to start over with a different commission — one that may not be bound by Henley’s order. “Unlike a civilian court, the authority of a military commission ends when it is dissolved,” Connell clarifies.
If it seems strange that the black sites’ building design should be a factor for disclosure about the treatment that took place inside them, consider that there’s been practically no official disclosure about what did. The Senate intelligence committee recently completed a report into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program,” but for the time being, it remains a secret. The Justice Department declined to prosecute CIA officers involved in the torture program. Nearly everything else known about the treatment of detainees kept in black sites has been pieced together from references in declassified legal documents or from journalism.
The secrecy surrounding the commissions prevents Connell from saying if he has specific reason to fear that the black sites are at risk of destruction. (“I can neither confirm nor deny that,” he says.) But it’s not a hypothetical fear. The former chief of the CIA Counterterrorism Center destroyed nearly 100 videotapes documenting brutal interrogations.
Observers of the military commissions are reluctant to predict how Pohl will rule on the black-site preservation. But Daphne Eviatar, who monitors the commissions for Human Rights First (disclosure: a former journalistic colleague of mine), isn’t optimistic after seeing Pohl kill the audio feed in the courtroom last October when it seemed like one of the lawyers was about to use the word “torture.”
And even if Pohl orders the government to preserve evidence from the black sites doesn’t mean he’ll allow that information to be disclosed in open court. A victory for Connell isn’t the same as a victory for openness about torture. And if that’s the way Pohl rules, it may be a long time before the public has a better chance to learn even a little more about what the CIA torture program entailed.
“War crimes trials are often about a public presentation of what happened at some historical point,” Eviatar says. “Here, although what happened [before] 9/11 is the primary subject of the trial, how the U.S. responded to 9/11, through these five defendants, is also important, and the trial out to be able to bring out all of that.”
“If the government wants to go forward with a case seeking the death penalty against these men, it has to make the evidence which may still exist available to them,” Connell says. “If they will not make relevant evidence available, the law suggests the prosecution cannot go forward with the case. ” Unless Pohl decides otherwise.
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24 January 2013
Here are the major questions, coupled with the answers suggested by the Justice Department’s management of the case:
(1) Who drives the prosecutorial decision-making in Espionage Act cases involving whistleblowers?
It seems clear, as has been suggested in several prior reports, that the Kiriakou prosecution sprang directly out of an investigation, launched by the CIA hierarchy, into efforts by Guantánamo defense counsel to probe the use of torture techniques on their clients. The CIA, fearing exposure of the identities of personnel involved in its torture programs, sought to use shield legislation (the Intelligence Identities Protection Act) to strike back against its critics, and to impose blinders on legal proceedings. Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney who oversaw the highest-profile and most successful prosecution involving the IIPA to date (that of Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby), was tapped to handle this probe. Fitzgerald had credibility with the intelligence community, but he also appears to have been appropriately skeptical about the idea of using the IIPA to go after lawyers and organizations involved in the Guantánamo proceedings; ultimately, he departed the case. But the leads developed while Fitzgerald was managing the probe revealed Kiriakou to have been an important source for journalists covering Guantánamo.
While Fitzgerald pushed back against the intelligence community, it does not appear that his successors at Justice had either the backbone or the will to do so.
Every year, Washington witnesses thousands of similar disclosures of classified information, prompting questions about who makes the call on when to prosecute cases, and about how these decisions are made. In the Kiriakou case, it is plain enough that whatever the formalities, the choices to open the investigation, to bring charges, and to pursue those charges aggressively were made not by the Department of Justice, but by the CIA. Former CIA general counsel John Rizzo has acknowledged that such requests regularly flow from his office, and that they reflect consultations with the CIA hierarchy.
During the Bush years, remarkably little evidence existed to show that Justice Department lawyers exercised independent judgment in matters surrounding torture and extraordinary-renditions programs. This relationship does not appear to have changed under Obama. Instead, the DOJ remains in the thrall of the intelligence community in general, and of the torture program’s architects and their protectors in particular.
(2) What provides the ratio decidendi for whistleblower prosecutions? Is there a corollary for cases involving torture?
DOJ spokespeople regularly tell us that thousands of breaches of secrecy take place in any given year. But only one or two of these cases actually leads to prosecution — so how are these cases selected? This is an important question, but one for which the DOJ has consistently failed to provide meaningful guidance beyond self-serving and generally inscrutable pronouncements about threats to national security.
Among their rationalizations is that such cases are difficult to prosecute. But Columbia scholar David Pozen demonstrated very persuasively in an important recent study of whistleblower prosecutions that this claim is false. Indeed, the Kiriakou case tends to support Pozen’s thesis, showing how easy it is for investigators to develop a case by subpoenaing a suspect’s phone and email records.
The Kiriakou case, like the Jeffrey Sterling and Thomas Drake cases before it, suggests strongly that DOJ prosecutors defer to senior figures in the intelligence community. These cases also indicate that those senior figures are permitted to target those who have embarrassed them by exposing incompetence, corruption, or criminal wrongdoing — the precise outcomes it is in the public interest to expose.
Kiriakou shows that protection of the authors and executors of the torture and extraordinary-renditions programs constitutes a particularly high national-security priority in the estimation of the intelligence community, and that this view is accepted and endorsed by the DOJ. In effect, the Espionage Act prosecution of Kiriakou amounts to a new DOJ torturer-protection program, designed to signal that the DOJ will intimidate those who give up information about people involved in torture.
It didn’t seem to matter in this case that Fletcher and Martinez’s identities were well known to persons investigating the torture program, and that Kiriakou’s confirmation of their names was hardly consequential. The prosecution of Kiriakou is confirmation of an official policy of omertà: those who rat on torturers and program masterminds will be treated ruthlessly.
(3) Should the IIPA be used to prosecute those who disclose the identities of operatives involved in the Bush-era torture and enforced-disappearance programs?
In the DOJ’s view, a covert-intelligence operative is entitled to the protections the IIPA is designed to preserve, so the exercise of the act is mechanical, and leaves no reason to probe whether its invocation is appropriate. But this points to the department’s misunderstanding or ignorance of the law governing torture and enforced disappearances. There is a commanding public interest in the disclosure of how these programs work and who is involved in them, and in the investigation and prosecution of related criminal acts. The use of the IIPA to thwart disclosure, investigation, and prosecution is not only perverse, it may itself constitute a criminal act of obstruction.
The real issue is not whether intelligence operatives are entitled to be protected from exposure because of the risk of criminal prosecution abroad. In fact, much of what covert operatives do in the course of their official duties (espionage, surreptitious entry, and wiretapping, for instance) may very well be criminal acts in the foreign jurisdictions in which they are acting. The IIPA may very reasonably be invoked to protect agents in such circumstances. But the situation is different when the criminal conduct rises to the level of a jus cogens crime — a rarified category of internationally recognized, universally enforced offenses that includes such crimes as slavery, torture, and enforced disappearances. In this case, the obligation to declare the conduct criminal, investigate, and prosecute it, is absolute. The United States has failed to discharge this obligation; in fact, the Attorney General has effectively flouted it by proclaiming a policy of impunity even for those guilty of torture-homicides.
It strikes me as quite implausible that the CIA fears that figures like Martinez or Fletcher will be targeted by terrorist organizations for their earlier actions. Rather, the Agency’s fear is very different: that covert operatives or former operatives will be sucked into pending criminal investigations into torture prisons, most notably a probe under way in Poland. It would indeed be surprising if Fletcher and Martinez were not already persons of interest in that investigation. Langley is likely also concerned about last month’s El Masri v. Macedonia ruling, which saw Europe’s highest court castigate Germany and Macedonia for failing to fully investigate and prosecute a team led by the head of the CIA’s international-jihad unit, Alfreda Frances Bikowski, involved in the sodomizing and torture of a German greengrocer in a horrendous case of mistaken identity.
The IIPA serves legitimate purposes, but the obstruction of pending criminal probes into torture and enforced disappearances is not among them. There is little doubt that this is the purpose the Kiriakou prosecution serves. The DOJ is claiming victory in the case when it should be ashamed. The prosecution raises fundamental questions about the department and its infamous role in American torture and enforced-disappearances programs, and demonstrates once more that the DOJ is aligning itself on the wrong side of the law — for torturers and against their victims; for deceivers and against the truth. To protect those involved in systematic torture and disappearances, the Justice Department is willing to put behind bars a decorated, dedicated intelligence officer, because he dared to speak the truth.
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23 January 2013
SPEAK DEVIL-Washington 'Accountability Project' is 'Unveiling" LinkedIN's New BlackLIST GROUP Member John KIRIAKOUS with a 'Rogue Rendering'
The Devil's Advocate?
In 1991, [the late former Secretary of State Lawrence 'Just call me George'] Eagleburger explained to The Post why all of his sons were named Lawrence.
“First of all, it was ego,” he said. “And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.”