War alone will not defeat Islamists, says US ex-military intel chief

Lieutenant General Michael FlynnBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The former chief of military intelligence in the United States has warned that military force cannot defeat Islamic-inspired militancy without a broader strategic plan. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn led the US Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 until August of this year, serving essentially as the most senior intelligence official in the US Armed Forces. He stepped down amidst rumors that he had been asked to resign because his plans to modernize military intelligence operations were “disruptive”. On Wednesday, while addressing the annual Maneuver Conference at the US Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia, General Flynn addressed the issue of Sunni militancy and how to counter groups like the Islamic State. Responding to a question from the audience, the former DIA director said “what this audience wants [to hear] is ‘kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out, get the T-shirt [and] go down to Ranger Joe’s” (a military clothing retailer). And he added: “we can kill all day long, but until we understand why there are [such large] numbers of [fundamentalist] believers globally, [groups like the Islamic State] will not be defeated”. Flynn went on to say that America is losing initiative in the war of ideas with Islamic radicalism, as the latter is spreading rapidly across the world, especially in regions such as Africa and South Asia. Responding to another question from the audience, the former DIA director dismissed the view that there is an ideological split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, saying: “there is no tension; they hate us equally; it is an expansion”. Last month, Flynn gave an interview in which he said the international environment was “is the most uncertain, chaotic and confused” he had witnessed in his three-decade career. Read more of this post

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Senate report: CIA misled US government about torture

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A United States Senate report on the use of torture to extract intelligence from terrorism detainees accuses the Central Intelligence Agency of severely overstating the usefulness of the information gained. Details of the long-awaited report, produced after a four-year investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have been leaked to The Washington Post. The paper reports that the probe is a damning indictment on the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program, implemented during the administration of President George W. Bush. The report contains over 20 different conclusions. But the most critical are that the CIA misled the government and the American public by: (a) understating the severity of the interrogation methods used; and (b) overstating the actionable intelligence extracted through torture. The Post cites unnamed “US officials” who have reviewed the Senate report as stating that the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program “yielded little, if any, significant intelligence”. According to one source, in some cases the Agency proceeded to waterboard terrorism detainees after recognizing that all actionable intelligence had already been extracted from them. In one instance, says the paper, nearly all valuable intelligence gained from al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida was extracted by CIA interrogators before he was subjected to waterboarding nearly 100 times. Notably, the Senate report also highlights deep divisions within the CIA, as many units protested the practices employed under the Agency’s interrogation program. But The Post also quotes “current and former officials” who are critical of the Senate report for containing “factual errors” and “misguided conclusions”. One CIA veteran told the paper that the 6,300-page document reflected “Federal Bureau of Investigation biases”, and that CIA officials are critical of the fact that one of the report’s main authors is a former FBI analyst.
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Ex-CIA officer seeks Italian pardon for role in abduction operation

Giorgio Napolitano By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who has been convicted in absentia in Italy for his role in an abduction operation, has contacted the Italian president seeking a formal pardon. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Earlier this week, Lady wrote a letter to the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, saying he had never intended to “disrespect Italy’s sovereignty” and asking for the President’s “personal forgiveness and pardon”. In his letter, Lady argues that he operated “under orders from senior American officials” with the aim of protecting lives, adding that US intelligence activities had been able to “stop numerous plans and targets of terrorists operating in Milan and elsewhere in Italy”. The former CIA officer also claims that the 2003 kidnapping of Nasr had taken place “in liaison with senior members of the Italian government”. He concludes by expressing his “regret” for his “participation in any activities which could be viewed as contrary to the laws of Italy”. Read more of this post

Former CIA station chief arrested in Panama ‘has been released’

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, who was detained in Panama last week for his alleged role in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Italy, returned to the United States on Friday. The US Department of State said Robert Seldon Lady had been released by Panamanian authorities 24 hours after he was detained near Panama’s border with Costa Rica. Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Lady was crossing from Panama into Costa Rica at a remote jungle border crossing early on Thursday, when, according to Costa Rican authorities, “a check on his passport triggered an INTERPOL alert”. Following negotiations between Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities, Lady was detained by Panamanian border guards, who alerted INTERPOL and Italy. Late on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to offer details on the case, but confirmed that Lady was “either en route or back in the United States”. A Panamanian foreign ministry source told Reuters that Lady was released because “Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Italy and because documentation sent by Italian officials was insufficient”. Read more of this post

Panama arrests ex-CIA chief of station wanted by INTERPOL

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A retired 21-year veteran of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who is wanted by INTERPOL for participating in the abduction of a Muslim cleric in Italy, has been detained by police in Panama. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA officers, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, known also as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. On February 17, 2003, Nasr was seized in dramatic fashion by a group of CIA operatives in broad daylight in Milan. He was stuffed into an unmarked white van and eventually ended up in Egypt, where he was tortured before being released. Nasr’s case helped raise awareness of the US government’s extraordinary rendition program. Under the controversial program, suspected terrorist operatives were secretly taken to third-party countries where they were subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques. Italian authorities were irritated by Nasr’s kidnapping, which they claimed took place without the consent of the Italian government. There are also reports that the Italian intelligence services were monitoring Nasr at the time and were trying to recruit him as a source, which might explain why they were incensed when the Egyptian was snatched by the CIA without their authorization. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #838 (analysis edition)

Predator droneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Delisle spy case barely caused ripples between Canada and Russia. The arrest of Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer spying for Russia, did little to discourage Canada from welcoming that country’s defense chief to a Newfoundland meeting of Arctic nations last year. The visit underscored the puzzling lengths to which the Canadian government went to carry on a business-as-usual relationship with the one-time Cold War adversary. Most other planned military contacts between the two nations last year —including participation in the anti-terrorism exercise Operation Vigilant Eagle— also remained curiously normal.
►►Don’t believe the hype on Chinese cyberespionage. Within a day of each other, The Washington Post published a shocking list of US defense programs whose designs have reportedly been stolen by Chinese cyberattacks, and ABC news said the plans for Australia’s spy headquarters were also stolen by Chinese hackers. It makes China sound like a secret-sucking cyber espionage machine, but is that really the case? The knee-jerk interpretation to this disclosure (and others) is that China is a powerhouse of cyber espionage capable of stealing whatever secrets they want and that the US is powerless to stop them. This seems very unlikely.
►►US Predator drone program quietly shifted from CIA to DoD. The White House has quietly shifted lead responsibility for its controversial armed drone program from the CIA to the Defense Department. In a landmark speech last week at National Defense University in Washington, US President Barack Obama offered some clues into the status of the program, opaquely signaling it will now primarily be conducted by the United States military.

CIA bankrolling Afghan government officials ‘on a vast scale’

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite, but there is little evidence that such bribes have helped promote Washington’s interests in the country, according to a new exposé published over the weekend in The New York Times. The paper cites “current and former advisers to the Afghan leader” Hamid Karzai, who allege that, for over a decade, the CIA has secretly delivered to the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul monthly payments ranging “from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars”. According to Khalil Roman, who was President Karzai’s Chief of Staff for four years until 2005, Afghan officials called the CIA funds “ghost money” because “it came in secret [and] left in secret”. The article suggests that the cash given to the Afghan government appears to be handled outside the CIA’s standard financial assistance programs, which are typically subject to restrictions and oversight from administrators both inside and outside the Agency. Some American officials, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the CIA’s goal in funding the inner circle of the Afghan government is to maintain access to its members and to “guarantee the Agency’s influence at the presidential palace”. But there is little evidence that the funds, which are handled exclusively by a “small clique at [Afghanistan’s] National Security Council” have bought the CIA the political influence it seeks. Read more of this post

Growing number of US officials believe al-Qaeda is finished

Al-Qaeda propaganda videoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An increasing number of government officials in the United States believe that al-Qaeda is no longer a serious threat to the homeland and are turning their attention to the next chapter of America’s security posture. Citing American defense and intelligence insiders, The Los Angeles Times claims that the militant Islamist group has been virtually decimated following more than a decade of relentless pursuit by Washington. So extensive is al-Qaeda’s operational devastation, they say, that US intelligence agencies can no longer discern any meaningful operational structure at the group’s core. Aside from its reputed leader, Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a handful of others, no senior al-Qaeda lieutenant is believed to be alive. For over four years, the group’s commanders have been killed by the Central Intelligence Agency almost as soon as they have been identified, claims the paper. Al-Qaeda’s collapsing structure has led to an inevitable process of decentralization, which has rendered its surviving senior leadership virtually irrelevant to the global Islamist movement. Instead, a host of al-Qaeda-inspired factions have assumed the role of torchbearer, operating in far-flung locations such as Iraq, Syria, Mali, Yemen and Somalia. However, says The Times, these groups are motivated by strictly local issues and have neither the ability nor the will to mount large-scale attacks on American targets. The article quotes former US Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Rosa Brooks as saying: “to the best of our information, there is nobody out there with both the desire and the capabilities to cause any serious damage to the US in any way at this moment”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #828

Abdullah ÖcalanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Chinese researcher charged with stealing US drug. Chinese cancer researcher Huajun Zhao, 42, who has been working in the United States since 2006, has been charged with stealing data and an experimental compound from the Medical College of Wisconsin. The federal complaint accuses Zhao of stealing the compound, C-25, which could potentially assist in killing cancer cells without damaging normal cells. An FBI investigation turned up evidence that Zhao hoped to claim credit in China for discovering C-25. He had already claimed on a research website that he had discovered an unnamed compound he hoped to take to China.
Turkish intelligence to ‘oversee PKK retreat’. Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MİT, will oversee the withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, according to Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç. Last month, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the armed Kurdish group that has battled Turkey for 30 years, proclaimed an immediate ceasefire in PKK’s conflict with the Turkish state, which has claimed about 35,000 lives. Speaking on Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, TRT, Arınç said no legislation would be introduced to facilitate the withdrawal, but “certainly MİT will oversee it; security forces will take part in it, too”, he added.
Analysis: Controversial Bush programs continue under Obama. During the George W. Bush years, two of the most controversial elements of what was then called the Global War on Terrorism were the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program and the creation of the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay and the RDI program are both back in the news now, each for their own unsavory reasons. The Pentagon is requesting nearly $200 million for Guantanamo Bay infrastructure upgrades, including $49 million for a new unit for ‘special’ prisoners. Meanwhile, participation in the CIA’s controversial RDI program has resulted —for at least one person— not in prosecution or professional sanctions, but rather in a promotion.

Secret report warns US spy mission distorted by ‘war on terror’

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
America’s concentration on the ‘war on terrorism’ has distorted the mission and scope of its Intelligence Community, according to a secret report commissioned by the White House. The classified report was compiled by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which counsels Barack Obama on intelligence matters. It cautions the President that the intelligence output of organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency has been disabled by tunnel vision and operational fatigue in the pursuit of al-Qaeda. The study also states that the overwhelming focus on Islamic militancy has distracted US intelligence from focusing on state actors such as China, and has hampered the success American intelligence operations outside Muslim regions of the world. The Washington Post, which disclosed the existence of the report on Thursday, said the team of 14 advisers that produced the report was led by “influential figures” on Capitol Hill, such as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s new Secretary of Defense. The paper added that, based on comments made by senior Obama Administration officials in recent months, it appears that the classified study, which was authored last year, has been adopted by the Obama White House as a major policy directive. The Post suggested that the report prompted comments earlier this year by John O. Brennan, the CIA’s new Director, that he planned to reevaluate the Agency’s “allocation of mission” as a matter of priority. However, countering the operational fatigue caused by the nearly 15-year long ‘war on terrorism’ will take time, and it remains unclear whether agencies like the CIA can ever shed the paramilitary role they acquired under the Administration of US President George W. Bush. Read more of this post

Did the CIA exclude Israel from its extraordinary rendition program?

Open Society Foundations report coverBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The most comprehensive non-classified account of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s extraordinary rendition program has been published by a human-rights advocacy group. It details for the first time the fate of nearly 140 known targets of the controversial program, who were abducted by the CIA mostly during the administration of US President George W. Bush. Under the controversial program, individuals were systematically detained and transferred without due process to countries where the use of torture on prisoners was –in the words of the report– standard practice. The report, entitled Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, was authored by Amrit Singh, formerly of the American Civil Liberties Union and currently senior legal officer at the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative. It concludes that the CIA was able to build and maintain the program with significant assistance from 54 countries, including 13 in Africa, 14 in Asia and 25 in Europe. The long list of countries that willingly cooperated with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition practices includes Canada, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Mauritania, Romania and South Africa. It even includes countries that are known to have had tense relations with Washington in the past decade, such as Zimbabwe, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, and even Iran. Certainly, the Open Society Justice Initiative report points to the fact that it is both shortsighted and inaccurate to refer to the Bush administration’s post-9/11 extraordinary rendition program as “an American operation”. It was informed and supported at all levels by America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, as well as by many countries which, for one reason or another, wished to be on the good side of the US. But the list of complicit states is also interesting for what it doesn’t include. Most importantly, it doesn’t include Israel. Read more of this post

Analysis: Will 2013 Be the Year of the Unmanned Drone?

Predator droneBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As United States President Barack Obama prepares to enter his fifth year in office, one may be excused for thinking that his administration’s response to insurgency warfare essentially boils down to one thing: the joystick. This is the means by which Washington’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fleet is remotely guided, usually from the safety of ground control stations located thousands of miles away from selected targets. Even prior to last November’s Presidential election, Obama administration officials declared in every possible way that the drone campaign would remain a permanent feature of the White House’s counterinsurgency campaign. Not only that, but it seems increasingly apparent that when, on November 19, 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that America’s UAV fleet would expand, he meant it both in terms of raw numbers and geographical reach. Africa appears now to be high on the list of UAV targets. The US is currently busy establishing a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations throughout the continent, in what US observers have termed a “massive expansion” of US covert operations in Africa. Read more of this post

Pakistani militant group ‘more dangerous than al-Qaeda': ex-CIA official

Bruce RiedelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former senior official of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has argued that al-Qaeda is no longer the most powerful group in the global Islamist insurgency. Writing in The Daily Beast earlier this month, Bruce Riedel, who served in the CIA for nearly 30 years prior to his retirement in 2006, warned that Lashkar e-Taiba is now “the most dangerous terror group in the world”. In his editorial, the former CIA analyst, who is now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said that LeT operates freely inside Pakistan and continues to have strong operational connections with the Pakistani armed forces and the country’s intelligence establishment. Since its founding in 1990, LeT’s traditional political aspiration has been to end Indian rule over the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, and then integrate the latter with Pakistan. But the group’s aims appeared to expand significantly in November of 2008, when it sent ten heavily armed operatives to Mumbai on speedboats. Once they landed in India’s most populous city, the LeT operatives proceeded to strike nearly a dozen tourist-related targets in well-calculated suicide missions. By the end of the four-day terrorist spree, 166 people —including six Americans and many other Western tourists— had been killed. Riedel views the 2008 Mumbai strike as “the most significant and innovative terrorist attack since 9/11”, and says that it marked LeT’s maturation “from a Punjabi-based Pakistani terror group targeting India exclusively” to an outfit with a global outlook, “targeting the enemies of al Qaeda: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel, and Hindu India”. Today, nearly four years after the Mumbai attacks, LeT maintains a global presence, with active cells throughout the Middle East and Asia, and funding operations in North America, Australia and Europe, claims Riedel. Additionally, LeT does not appear to feel threatened by Washington. Read more of this post

‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander [...] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #722

Jose RodriguezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Vienna police say Libyan defector’s death probably an accident. Former Libyan oil minister Shukri Ghanem, whose body was found floating Sunday in the Danube river, died from drowning, Austrian police said. Autopsy results on Ghanem’s corpse showed no signs of violence, a police spokesman said, adding that Ghanem, 69, had complained to his daughter late Saturday that he was not feeling well. No suicide note has been found and there is no evidence Ghanem was under threat, according to police. The results of toxicological tests are expected later this week.
►►Canadian spymaster’s card found in Gaddafi’s intel complex. It appears that William “Jack” Hooper, former Deputy Director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), was among the Western intelligence officials who had cultivated ties with Libyan security services under the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Hooper’s business card was recovered last year in a trove of intelligence documents in Libya, providing a physical link between Canadian security agencies and Libyan spy services. Following his retirement in 2007, Hooper told The Toronto Star that Canada’s spy service has no choice but to team up with some unsavory foreign counterparts to protect Canada from terrorism.
►►Ex-CIA official defends torture of terrorism detainees. In an interview Sunday, Jose Rodriguez, who headed the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center until his retirement in 2008, said waterboarding and other interrogation methods now banned by the Obama Administration were essential to fighting terrorism after September 11, 2001. He also said that he ordered the 92 videotapes showing his CIA colleagues torturing al Qaeda detainees in order “to protect them from possible retaliation by al-Qaeda”. He said he was afraid the material would be leaked: “you really doubt that those tapes would not be out in the open now, that they would not be on YouTube?”. After the tapes were destroyed in an “industrial-sized disintegrator”, he said, “I felt good”.

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