Lawsuit exposes rumored CIA-NRO turf war

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After the CIA’s ongoing turf wars with the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DCI), a new federal lawsuit appears to substantiate rumors of another turf war, this time between the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Eric Feldman was recently removed from his position as inspector general of the super-secretive NRO, the agency that builds and operates the US government’s spy satellites, after he was found to have filed for the same travel expenses on two separate reimbursement accounts. But he now claims that his removal was part of a conspiracy by “senior officials in the CIA” to get rid of him. In his lawsuit, Feldman names former CIA inspector general John Helgerson and CIA agent Anthony Cipparone, who Feldman says “had a personal vendetta against him [because he] had passed him over for his deputy assistant position”. The former NRO inspector general claims Cipparone and Helgerson, along with other CIA officials, managed to terminate his position by illegally leaking information from the internal investigation into his reimbursement filings, in an attempt “to hurt his reputation”. IntelNews hears the federal complaint is part of a deeper bureaucratic conflict between the CIA and the NRO, which was intensified last February, when the Obama Administration appointed John M. Deutch, CIA director from 1995 to 1996, to an NRO advisory panel on surveillance satellites. The problem was that a 1997 internal security investigation had discovered that Deutch routinely stored and worked on hundreds of CIA top-secret files on his unprotected home laptop computer. This was allegedly the same computer that Deutch’s wife and children used to view their email and browse the Internet. Following the investigation, Deutch was stripped of his top-secret security clearance by George Tenet, who in 1996 had succeeded him as DCI. In January 2001, shortly before leaving office, President Clinton pardoned Deutch, sparing him from prosecution by the Justice Department. Last February, some NRO officials saw Deutch’s appointment to the surveillance satellite advisory panel as irresponsible and offensive. It appears that things have not improved since then, and that CIA-NRO relations may be in need of immediate attention.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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