Brennan on CIA – Refutes Report Conclusions, Definitions

Editor’s Note – John Brennan, CIA director had to take to the interview stage thanks to the furor raised over the release of the Senate Select Committee’s one-sided report on the CIA as presented by Chairwoman Diane Feinstein.

It was unprecedented and very rare indeed, but that is the level to which this explosive story had risen and he had to defend his agency and its work force.

What is torture? Why weren’t people at the CIA interviewed? What was the state of our security when the enhanced interrogation techniques were used?

Was any information from these interrogations useful? What is the damage now that the report was made public by Diane Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Is this what you think was used at Guantanamo or at 'black' sites?
Is this what you think was used at Guantanamo or at ‘black’ sites?

These questions and more faced John Brennan, and therefore all of America and our allies, even our enemies. Then we have to consider the state of morale in the CIA and the intelligence community overall?

In addition, what will foreign nations’ intelligence and law enforcement services think, and how will they work with us in the future? These were some of the other question he faced from the press.

Ask yourself, do you really understand how the “trade craft” of the CIA really works? Throw out your Hollywood images and James Bond.

Also consider that only documents were used to create the report – all sans context, frame of mind, and interviews.

No court or self-respecting prosecutor in the land would ever enter this type of so-called evidence into a trial for a jury to decide but Diane Feinstein demands that you, the real jury, consider only her and the Democrats take on the issue.

In our opinion, we watched and came to the conclusion that Brennan comported himself rather well.

He acknowledged failures and mistakes while refuting implausible conclusions and the damage they have caused.

For a good summary on these questions and the speech/interview, please read on:

CIA chief challenges Senate torture report

By KEN DILANIAN – Associated Press/Washington Times

WASHINGTON (AP) – CIA Director John Brennan threaded a rhetorical needle in an unprecedented televised news conference at CIA headquarters Thursday, acknowledging that agency officers did “abhorrent” things to detainees but defending the overall post-9/11 interrogation program for stopping attacks and saving lives.

At the heart of Brennan’s case is a finely tuned argument: that while today’s CIA takes no position on whether the brutal interrogation tactics themselves led detainees to cooperate, there is no doubt that detainees subjected to the treatment offered “useful and valuable” information afterward.

BrennanInterview

Speaking to reporters and on live television- something no one on the CIA public affairs staff could remember ever happening on the secretive agency’s Virginia campus -Brennan said it was “unknown and unknowable” whether the harsh treatment yielded crucial intelligence that could have been gained in any other way.

He declined to define the techniques as torture, as President Barack Obama and the Senate intelligence committee have done, refraining from even using the word in his 40 minutes of remarks and answers. Obama banned torture when he took office.

He also appeared to draw a distinction between interrogation methods, such as water boarding, that were approved by the Justice Department at the time, and those that were not, including “rectal feeding,” death threats and beatings. He did not discuss the techniques by name.

“I certainly agree that there were times when CIA officers exceeded the policy guidance that was given and the authorized techniques that were approved and determined to be lawful,” he said. “They went outside of the bounds. … I will leave to others to how they might want to label those activities. But for me, it was something that is certainly regrettable.”

But Brennan defended the overall detention of 119 detainees as having produced valuable intelligence that, among other things, helped the CIA find and kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

A 500-page Senate intelligence committee report released Tuesday exhaustively cites CIA records to dispute that contention.

The report points out that the CIA justified the torture – what the report called an extraordinary departure from American practices and values – as necessary to produce unique and otherwise unobtainable intelligence. Those are not terms Brennan used Thursday to describe the intelligence derived from the program.

The report makes clear that agency officials for years told the White House, the Justice Department and Congress that the techniques themselves had elicited crucial information that thwarted dangerous plots.

Yet the report argues that torture failed to produce intelligence that the CIA couldn’t have obtained, or didn’t already have, elsewhere.

Although the harshest interrogations were carried out in 2002 and 2003, the program continued until December 2007, Brennan acknowledged. All told, 39 detainees were subject to very harsh measures.

Former CIA Directors Haydeon, Tenet, Goss, and Morell
Former CIA Directors Haydon, Tenet, Goss, and Morell refute the report as well.

Former President George H. W. Bush, CIA director in 1976-77, supported the agency.

“I felt compelled to reiterate my confidence in the agency today, and to thank those throughout its ranks for their ongoing and vitally important work to keep America safe and secure,” Bush said in a statement.

Former CIA officials, including George Tenet, who signed off on the interrogations as director, have argued in recent days that the techniques themselves were effective and justified.

Brennan’s more nuanced position puts him in harmony with an anti-torture White House while attempting to mollify the many CIA officers involved in the program who still work for him.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the intelligence committee chairman whose staff wrote the report, conducted a live-tweeting point-by-point rebuttal of Brennan’s news conference, at one point saying that Brennan’s stance was inconsistent with the original justification for the brutal interrogations.

“EIT authority (was) based on vital, otherwise unavailable intel,” she tweeted during Brennan’s remarks. “Not ‘useful information.'”

At the CIA, Brennan spoke next to the stars engraved on a marble wall to memorialize fallen officers. He criticized the Senate investigation, saying, for example, it was “lamentable” that the committee interviewed no CIA personnel to ask, “What were you thinking?”

Seeking to put the controversy in context, Brennan stressed that the CIA after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was in “uncharted territory,” having been handed vast new authorities by a president determined to thwart the next al-Qaida attack.

“We were not prepared,” said Brennan, who was deputy CIA executive officer at the time. “We had little experience housing detainees, and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators.”

In starker terms than CIA officials have used previously, Brennan, a career CIA analyst, acknowledged mistakes when the agency took captured al-Qaida operatives to secret prisons and began using brutal methods in an effort to break them.

“In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all,” he said. “And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes.”

But he also said, “The overwhelming majority of officers involved in the program at CIA carried out their responsibilities faithfully. … They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation.”

Brennan denied that the CIA intentionally misled lawmakers.

“We take exceptional pride in providing truth to power,” he said pointedly, “whether that power agrees with what we say or not and regardless of political party.”

He praised the CIA’s work to prevent terrorism on U.S. soil, and the fact that CIA officers were the first to fight and early to die in the Afghanistan war. The CIA, he said, “did a lot of things right” in a time when there were “no easy answers.”

Brennan said that while he personally believes brutal interrogations result in too much false information, he would not rule out that such tactics being used again.

“We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program using any of those EITs,” he said when asked whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” could again be employed. “So I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.”

___

Associated Press writers Calvin Woodward and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

Feinstein’s Acrimony for the CIA Revealed

By Denise Simon and Scott W. Winchell

On Tuesday, December 9, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Majority leader for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), stood on the Senate floor for almost an hour and delivered a chilling verbal summary of the $40 million dollar investigation into the CIA Torture Report.

She spoke in a measured and assertive tone naming names all the way through. My bet is she delivered this performance for the sake of setting the table to close Guantanamo immediately out of establishing sympathy for detained combatants.FeinsteinSpeechScreenCap

Further, Feinstein put every American in peril, wherever they travel internationally, or are part of the foreign service, or our very own troops.

She has aided and delivered comfort to the enemy as her 500 page summary report has been publicly published for all enemies to read. The summary report also explains sources, methods and locations.

What is worse, several countries friendly to America are formally exposed and will likely hesitate and filter cooperation with U.S. intelligence.

We cannot know the future damage, but the threat assessments have risen dramatically as all foreign U.S. military bases are presently on higher alert and some embassies are in fact closed for an undetermined period of time.

Feinstein denied all evidence that the CIA program saved lives, or stopped terror plots and led us to other terrorists in the global network. But how does this jive perhaps with the fact that over the weekend, Pakistani forces killed the man who was believed to be al-Qaeda’s top operational commander, Adnan el Shukrijumah — a terrorist who was identified thanks to the CIA’s interrogation of two senior al-Qaeda operatives.

A Pakistani man holds a match box with picture of Adnan Shukrijumah who is wanted in connection with possible terrorist threat attacks against the US, in Peshawar, 15 July 2006.  The US government has announced a 25 million USD reward for information leading to the capture of Shukrijumah in their Rewards for Justice Program. AFP PHOTO/ Tariq MAHMOOD
A Pakistani man holds a match box with picture of Adnan Shukrijumah  – AFP PHOTO/ Tariq MAHMOOD

The enhanced interrogation program was terminated several years ago, when in fact it began under the Clinton administration and several measures were passed to ensure they were never applied them again.

For Feinstein to say her only motivation was to ensure this never happened again, is misguided at best and violates OPSEC.

What is worse, the DOJ said they will not prosecute any participants of the program but the United Nations is saying otherwise. That places many contractors and CIA operatives in jeopardy of being bought up on charges under international law.

This matter is by far from over, as we have people in media that are outing names of countries that cooperated and they are posting names of CIA operatives that had a hand in the program.

Feinstein crossed the Rubicon and in the wake of destruction, damage, injury, or loss of life may still yet to be realized. Presently, the Taliban and al Qaeda factions are calling for an increase in attacks of the West already because of this speech and report.

We will never know exactly how many more, but it is certain that more people will be radicalized than she and others thought Guantanamo Bay lured into radicalization.

As a last note, this CIA Torture Report is highly partisan – no former or still active CIA operative were interviewed during this process nor was the top lawyer at CIA, John Rizzo interviewed. Rizzo formally asked to be interviewed and was denied and he then formally asked for a copy of the report and was denied.

If you think that George Soros did not have a hand in the Feinstein investigation, you need to think again. Feinstein, in her last act as Chairmen of the SSCI, had no support from the Republicans on her committee and it is clear she did this out of spite because of her well documented hatred for the CIA. Since that speech, many have responded, and most are none-to-pleased, especially our CIA and its former leadership.

The former deputy director of the CIA is ripping the torture report released by Democrats on Tuesday, calling it “deeply flawed.”

“Many of its main conclusions are simply not correct,” Mike Morell, who is a CBS News contributor, told “CBS Evening News.” “And much of the context of the times and much of the discussion that took place inside the executive branch and with the Congress about this program is not in this report.”

Former CIA Directors Haydeon, Tenet, Goss, and Morell
Former CIA Directors Hayden, Tenet, Goss, and Morell

In addition to Mike Morell, the Wall Street Journal posted a responses from his predecessors:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its majority report on Central Intelligence Agency detention and interrogation in the wake of 9/11. The following response is from former CIA Directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden (a retired Air Force general), and former CIA Deputy Directors John E. McLaughlin, Albert M. Calland (a retired Navy vice admiral) and Stephen R. Kappes :

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Central Intelligence Agency detention and interrogation of terrorists, prepared only by the Democratic majority staff, is a missed opportunity to deliver a serious and balanced study of an important public policy question. The committee has given us instead a one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation—essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.

Examining how the CIA handled these matters is an important subject of continuing relevance to a nation still at war. In no way would we claim that we did everything perfectly, especially in the emergency and often-chaotic circumstances we confronted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. As in all wars, there were undoubtedly things in our program that should not have happened. When we learned of them, we reported such instances to the CIA inspector general or the Justice Department and sought to take corrective action.Guantanamo-Bay_KG4EM1

The country and the CIA would have benefited from a more balanced study of these programs and a corresponding set of recommendations. The committee’s report is not that study. It offers not a single recommendation.

Our view on this is shared by the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Republican minority, both of which are releasing rebuttals to the majority’s report. Both critiques are clear-eyed, fact-based assessments that challenge the majority’s contentions in a nonpartisan way.

What is wrong with the committee’s report? (Read the rest here.)

Jose Rodriguez, the agent who ran the rendition/interrogation program had his own response to Feinstein:

WASHINGTON – The Central Intelligence Agency officer who headed the agency’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program calls a damning Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation activities a “totally egregious falsehood.”

Jose Rodriguez, former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, told WTOP in an exclusive interview, “For those of us who were there, who read the reporting coming out of our black sites and who acted upon that intelligence, the conclusions by the SSCI report that the program brought no value, and the CIA mislead the Congress is astounding.”

The committee, in a scathing, 600-page summary of a five-year, $40 million investigation into the now defunct Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program, says the agency of misled Congress about a program that essentially brought no value to U.S. efforts to track down the al-Qaida operatives responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The program included waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques that have been classified as torture.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture

The Senate Committee report cited several key findings:

  • The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
  • The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  • The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  • The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

But Rodriguez says the value of the program was clear and convincing. He says the program produced connective intelligence that led U.S. authorities to the key players in al-Qaida’s hierarchy. (Read the rest here.)

This story will burn in the eyes and hearts of the professionals and troops for a long time and we are sad that a person who was often referred to as “the adult in the room” full of her fellow Democrats, Diane Feinstein’s career will be remembered for an act much more infantile and petulant because of her own ego couched as an act of Patriotism.

She has reopened wounds and poured salt on them for what gain for America?

At SUA, we have a real hard time worrying about the way non-citizens who wanted to kill us all and Feinstein along with many in America have forgotten that in the months and years following 9/11/01, we had to act under a “clear and present danger” none of us could fully know or predict.

Hindsight is usually 20/20, but in this case, it reverted to a myopic, personal, and political lens in a tunnel.

She would feel bad if the report caused harm…Somehow that just does not cut it Senator.

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Editor’s Note – The article was adapted from an initial blog post after yesterdays events. We have adjusted it and added to it as events have unfurled. As time goes by, updates may be added as new information and responses develop. For more information, please click here to download a PDF from the Open Society Policy Center.

The 500 page report can be downloaded here. In addition, the video of the speech can be viewed here on CSPAN.

Fast & Furious – Mexico still waiting for answers

Editor’s Note: We have a State Department, a CIA, and a DoJ that have ignored any and all responses to Mexico and their leadership when it comes to running guns and murders south of the border as a result of the broken and ill-managed operation known as “Gunwalker”, also named “Fast and Furious”. The DoJ is at the core of this operation and has been under Congressional investigation due to at least two murders of Border Agents and perhaps up to as many as 250 murders of innocent Mexican victims. It is a curious wonder why there has been no criminal investigation launched as this is, in fact, murder on an international landscape. What is more puzzling is the United Nations has not asked any questions. Fast and Furious is/was a program financed by Stimulus money, which is managed by Vice President Joe Biden and requires the full support and attention of citizens is aiding the Commission chairperson, Congressman Darrel Issa of the Oversight Committee.

Sacramento Bee

By KEN ELLINGWOOD, RICHARD A. SERRANO AND TRACY WILKINSON

Last fall’s slaying of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of a Mexican state prosecutor, shocked people on both sides of the border. Sensational news reports revealed that cartel hit men had tortured Gonzalez, and forced him to make a videotaped “confession” that his high-powered sister was on the take.

Mario Gonzalez - Tortured Brother of Former Mexican Atty. General

But American authorities concealed one disturbing fact about the case from their Mexican counterparts: U.S. federal agents had allowed AK-47 assault rifles later found in the killers’ arsenal to be smuggled across the border under the notorious Fast and Furious gun-trafficking program.

U.S. officials also kept mum as other weapons linked to Fast and Furious turned up at dozens of additional Mexican crime scenes, with a reported toll of at least 150 people killed or wounded.

Months after the deadly lapses in the program were revealed in the U.S. media – prompting congressional hearings and the resignation of the acting chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – top Mexican officials say American authorities have still not offered them a proper accounting of what went wrong.

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told the Los Angeles Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

“At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted,” Morales, Mexico’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. “In no way would we have allowed it because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans.”

Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons “walk” into Mexico would represent a “betrayal” of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Concealment of the bloody toll of Fast and Furious took place despite official pronouncements of growing cooperation and intelligence-sharing in the fight against vicious Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. The secrecy also occurred as Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other senior Mexican officials complained bitterly, time and again, about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the U.S.

Patricia Gonzalez, the top state prosecutor in Chihuahua at the time of her brother’s 2010 kidnapping, noted that she had worked closely with U.S. officials for years and was stunned that she did not learn until many months later, through media reports, about the link between his death and Fast and Furious weapons.

“The basic ineptitude of these officials (who ordered the Fast and Furious operation) caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims,” Gonzalez said.

Fast and Furious weapons have also been linked to other high-profile shootings. On May 24, a helicopter ferrying Mexican federal police during an operation in the western state of Michoacan was forced to land after bullets from a powerful Barrett .50-caliber rifle pierced its fuselage and armor-reinforced windshield. Three officers were wounded.

Authorities later captured dozens of drug-gang gunmen involved in the attack and seized 70 weapons, including a Barrett rifle, according to a report by U.S. congressional committees. Some of the guns were traced to Fast and Furious.

Email traffic and U.S. congressional testimony by ATF agents and others make clear the existence of a determined, yearlong effort by American officials to conceal from Mexico’s government details of the operation, launched in November 2009 by the ATF field offices in Arizona and New Mexico.

In March 2010, with a growing number of guns lost or showing up at crime scenes in Mexico, ATF officials convened an “emergency briefing” to figure out a way to shut down Fast and Furious. Instead, they decided to keep it going and continue to leave Mexico out of the loop.

Communications also show that the U.S. Embassy, including the ATF office in Mexico, at least initially, was also kept in the dark.

In July 2010, Darren Gil, the acting ATF attache in Mexico City, asked his supervisors in the U.S. about guns in Mexico, but got no answer, according to his testimony before a U.S. congressional committee investigating the matter.

“They were afraid that I was going to either brief the ambassador, or brief the government of Mexico officials on it,” Gil said.

Part of the reason for not telling Mexican authorities, Gil and others noted, is widespread official corruption in Mexico that has long made some U.S. officials reluctant to share intelligence. By late last year, however, with the kidnapping of Mario Gonzalez and tracing of the AK-47s, some ATF officials were beginning to tell their superiors that it was time to come clean.

Carlos Canino, an ATF agent at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, warned headquarters that failure to share the information would have dire consequences for the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

“We need to tell them (Mexico) this, because if we don’t tell them this, and this gets out, it was my opinion that the Mexicans would never trust us again,” Canino testified to congressional investigators in Washington.

Attorney General Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.

In March, after disgruntled ATF agents went to congressional investigators, details of Fast and Furious began to appear in the Times and other U.S. media. By then, two Fast and Furious weapons had been found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. border agent near Rio Rico, Ariz., and a second agent had been killed near the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

The latter death, of federal ICE agent Jaime Zapata, sent ATF hierarchy into a “state of panic,” ATF supervisor Peter Forcelli said, because of fears the weapons used might have arrived in Mexico as part of Fast and Furious. So far, all the U.S. government has said in the Zapata case is that one of the weapons was traced to an illegal purchase in the Dallas area.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Attorney General Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez’s captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

“I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government,” he testified.

Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.

“Hijole!” he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, “Oh no!”

Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at a total of nearly 200 crime scenes.

Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.

A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a “failure,” but said it did not spell collapse in the two nations’ shared fight against organized-crime groups.

“It was a bad business that got out of hand,” he said in an interview.

Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75 percent come from the U.S.

“Yes it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?” a senior official in Calderon’s administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. “But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?”

Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.

“The evidence is over there (north of the border),” Morales said. “I can’t put a pistol to their heads and say, ‘Now give it to me or else.’ I can’t.”

(Los Angeles Times staff writers Ellingwood and Wilkinson reported from Mexico and Serrano from Washington.)