Are CIA Agents out of Control (Again)?
By Ian Allen* | intelNews | 02.05.2009
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.