Are CIA Agents out of Control (Again)?

By Ian Allen* | intelNews | 02.05.2009
CIA Floor Mural
WHAT’S GOING ON AT THE CIA? As the corruption trial of Kyle “Dysty” Foggo, the Agency’s no. 3 under former CIA Director Porter Goss, continues this week, news has emerged that the Agency’s station chief in Algeria has been unceremoniously recalled back to Washington after being accused of drugging and raping two Algerian women at his residence. Meanwhile, an unidentified “former CIA station chief in Baghdad, allegedly ‘notorious’ for womanizing and the licentious behavior of his aides, is in line to become chief of the spy agency’s powerful Counterterrorism Center”. One might be excused for wondering what’s next for the troubled agency.

Dusty Foggo’s corruption trial can be described as a “collateral casualty” of the scandal that led to former US Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s fall from grace. Foggo was the CIA’s Executive Director until 2006, when FBI agents served him with a warrant and raided his office and home in search of information linking him to the bribery syndicate run by the disgraced Cunningham. The FBI, which had been investigating Foggo since 2004, charged him with repeatedly accepting bribes from his childhood friend Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor who is currently appealing a 12-year prison sentence for bribing Cunningham. Wilkes was interested in having a multi-million CIA contract steered his way and even promised Foggo a job after the latter’s retirement from the Agency, in return for his assistance. Foggo apparently sent an email to Wilkes promising to apply “grease” to steer the contract to Wilkes’ way. After FBI agents handed Foggo a list containing “over two dozen […] charges against him, including money laundering and conspiracy”, he was forced to resign from the CIA. Yet his CIA background continues to shield his disgraceful behavior from public accountability. Last week, the district judge in charge of Foggo’s secret trial denied a request by the prosecution to release the grand jury transcripts, in order to “allow the public to see a fuller measure of the crimes”. Consequently, as ABC News reporter Justin Rood notes, “[t]he American public may never learn the full extent of fraud and abuse committed by [the] former top CIA official”.

A similar degree of secrecy, denial and related arts, should be expected to conceal the details in the case of CIA’s station chief in Algeria, who has been ordered to return to Langley “amid allegations that he drugged and raped two women at his Algiers residence”. The women filed written statements describing how they “became unconscious after receiving what they believed were knockout drugs served to them in drinks” allegedly prepared by the accused CIA officer. ABC News quoted unnamed “US officials” who said that videotapes showing the semiconscious women being raped were found at the home of the accused CIA officer. Observers haven’t failed to notice that the CIA, who has been aware of the two women’s allegations for several months, failed to initiate an official investigation until the women’s written statements were publicized, and that the officer in question was finally recalled to the US by the Justice Department, not the CIA (note: although the agent in question has been named in several US media reports, intelNews will not publish his name here for legal reasons related to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act).

In fact, the Agency has refused to comment on the two women’s accusations. It should. And while at it, it should also address the increasing lawlessness and lack of discipline within its ranks. In reporting on the rape allegations, The Washington Post quotes Mark Zaid, a private attorney with strong CIA connections, who notes that, although it is mandatory for all CIA agents to report all unofficial contacts with foreign nationals, in reality the Agency tends to “look the other way when its employees engage in romances overseas”. ABC News quotes former CIA operative Robert Baer, who questions how the CIA failed to notice the alleged criminal behavior of their station chief. He also observed that “[f]rom a national security standpoint” the rapes would “not only be morally wrong but could open him up to potential blackmail and that’s something the CIA should have picked up on […]. This is indicative of personnel problems of all sorts that run through the Agency”, said Baer.

Indeed. Excessive partying and hard drinking are among these “personnel problems”. Former US Army Intelligence case officer Jeff Stein quotes an ex-CIA officer who was until recently stationed in Baghdad, and found the “out-of-control party atmosphere […] worse than [(s)he] expected”. So extensive was the hard drinking culture at CIA’s Baghdad station that it virtually “set the tone [for] the 80 per cent of the employees who were there for just one reason, and a bad one: to get their ticket punched”, (s)he added.

This problem was aptly described by former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht, shortly before 9/11. Writing for The Atlantic Monthly, Gerecht described the CIA’s counterterrorism powers as “a myth”, and quoted a former Agency spy who said “[t]he CIA probably doesn’t have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer […] who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ’s sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don’t do that kind of thing”.

The recent cases of Dusty Foggo and the Agency’s Algiers station chief appear to corroborate the view of the CIA as a party club whose members are concerned less with national security and more with womanizing and taking care of their own fortunes and careers. At the core of this depressing situation is what 25-year CIA veteran Art Brown recently described as a “ladder-climbing” ethos under which “newly minted CIA managers, six months into their assignments, [routinely plan] how they might climb that next run”. What’s worse, the Agency appears to lack a mechanism of disciplining CIA employees who thrive in mediocrity and failure, as is demonstrated by the case of CIA’s Baghdad station’s former chief, who is tipped to head the Agency’s Counterterrorism Center despite his notorious “womanizing and the licentious behavior of his aides”. In fact some CIA insiders believe that the Algiers station chief accused of rape will be promoted, instead of disciplined, by the Agency.

It is high time for the embattled agency to pick up his pieces and begin to reassemble itself by reigning in its undisciplined officers and reaffirming its mission statement, which is a commitment to protect US national security. At the same time, the incoming CIA Director, Leon Panetta, needs to re-examine the constitutional immunity that the Agency has traditionally enjoyed ever since its inception. If it continues to prove unable to police itself, then the mechanisms of our democratic state are constitutionally obligated to address the CIA’s continuing inefficiencies.

* Ian Allen has spent nearly twenty-five years working in intelligence-related fields, and is now active in intelligence consulting. He has worked in North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He is currently living and working in South Korea. He is co-founder and Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here.

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7 Responses to Are CIA Agents out of Control (Again)?

  1. analyst says:

    Interesting. The man makes a good point. That kind of behavior would easily get you blackmailed. I do believe CIA should follow the law.

    However flirting and drinking shouldn’t be a problem as long as they can keep it under control.

  2. Dude says:

    Um, I’m pretty sure that the real story is that an “Al Qiaeda” camp suffered totaly mortality just east of Algiers only two weeks before this guy was outed as a serial-rapist. This serial rapist stuff is a classic move for taking a rogue intelligence asset out of their professional position without publically discussing the damage that they did to the agency’s mission. God bless America.

  3. intelNews says:

    Interesting point. You won’t be surprised to know that plenty of folks have been suspecting a connection between the CIA station chief’s ouster and the purported al-Qaeda unconventional weapon experiment. There are some insiders, however, who have hinted in private that the unconventional weapons story was in fact concocted by some over-imaginative US PsyOps officers. I tend to lean towards the latter view. [IA]

  4. Chas Ward says:

    They’ve been rotten to the core since the OSS was wound up. Time to sack the lot and start again, this time with more positive security checking.

  5. Peter Wallerberger says:

    The particular serious accusation against the high ranking individual is at this time yet to be proven.
    You have to give such persons the benefit of doubt.I.E: did it occur to anyone that the so called ‘rogue intelligence assett’ was in fact
    so professional in his job that the enemy
    needed him neutralised and removed from
    his position and his future credibility destroyed ?
    As for the comment that the Agency has been
    rotten to the core since the OSS was wound up
    – surely the submitter of such a random statement is getting (historically) confused between the
    Agency in question and the FBI ??

  6. Bingoz says:

    This is my first visit here, but I will be back soon, because I really like the way you are writing, it is so simple and honest

  7. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Am I too believe that the ex Algiers CIA Station Chief is to be convicted in a U.S Court for rape based on evidence supplied by way of ‘written testimony’ of two unidentified Algerian women ??

    Such testimony coming from two foreign nationals domiciled in a country whos population is totally dominanted by (Sunni) Islamic Religion is somewhat surpriseing to say the least.

    It’s rather odd that the women involved were actively consumeing hard liqour, were wearing western clothing and associating with a foreigner.
    I wasn’t aware their religion allowed such freedom of expression – perhaps Algiers
    (the former base of the Barbary Pirates)
    is an exception to the strict Islamic rules of conduct ??

    As for the accused – Well I guess being Tazered ‘twice’ will not help his selective memory recall one iota when he gets to court.
    (Lucky he dosen’t come from Texas!!)
    Of course the ‘knock of the head’ trick
    probably worked wonders although I see that comeone did that to a chap in Malta and the end result was rather tragic.
    Not a good advertisement for aspiring CIA interns.

    Leon Pannetta may well be trying his best to
    clean up some well overdue ‘issues’ I just hope
    he dosen’t get too clever as if this all gets out of control he is going to spend more time in PR damage control mode than actually sorting these problems out and right now it is important Pannetta dosen’t let his focus be “distracted” from the important aspects of running the business he is in.
    Other countries will make political capitol out of all this as will other agencies (I.E: FBI) Although Pannetta is takeing firm action on outstanding issues I am somewhat surprised that he is allowing these problems to feature so publicaly.I.E: Is it wise to hang out the dirty washing in full veiw of the public ??

    I also cannot understand why the Agency dosent back up their staff. They have all the systems in place – they have the staff – the doctors – the Pysch’s the investigators the staff welfare – the means of ‘early intervention’ – so why are these senior staff not receiving guidance or ‘help’ if there are strong indications of problems such as alcoholisim or worse ??After all ‘prevention is better than cure”.(Is this suggestion so simple that no one can understand it ??)

    Seems to me there are endemic systematic failures in the Structure that were evident long before Mr Pannetta assumed command ??

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