CIA’s internal watchdog post remains vacant despite mounting calls to fill it

CIAThe administration of United States President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a replacement for the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general despite calls by Congress to quickly fill the sensitive post. The position has remained vacant since the end of January of this year, when David Buckley resigned after four years on the job. The position was created in 1989 in the aftermath of the so-called Iran-Contra affair, as part of a broader effort to institute independent oversight of the CIA. The Agency’s inspector general is tasked with, among other things, probing allegations of institutional illegality or personnel misconduct, and evaluating concerns raised by whistleblowers.

According to Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent of Yahoo News, there are “mounting concerns on Capitol Hill” about the failure of the White House to nominate a replacement for Buckley, more than six months following his departure. Isikoff wrote that Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca), who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to President Obama in June urging him to nominate a new CIA inspector general “as soon as possible”. In her letter, Feinstein expressed alarm over the delay, which could adversely affect a growing list of sensitive internal probes at the Agency. But the White House has yet to respond to Feinstein, let alone nominate a candidate for the position, said Isikoff.

Several government watchdogs and observers told Yahoo News that the situation at the CIA inspector general’s office is “hardly unique” and noted that the process for appointing inspector generals for US government agencies usually “takes too long”. Moreover, the Agency’s office of the inspector general is not headless; it is led by interim inspector general Christopher R. Sharpley, a government lawyer who worked under Buckley. However, many wonder whether the delay stems from the President’s inability to find an individual with a reputation for impartiality and the determination to handle one of the US Intelligence Community’s most challenging posts.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 06 August 2015 | Permalink

Brennan apologizes after internal report finds CIA spied on Congress

John Brennan and Dianne FeinsteinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has apologized to Congress members after an internal inquiry found that the Agency spied on Congressional staff investigating its use of torture in interrogations. The investigation, conducted by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector-General, was prompted by the very public spat back in March between the Agency and the Senate Intelligence Committee. The latter is tasked, along with its sister body in the House of Representatives, with exercising legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. Many members of the Committee, which has just concluded a probe over the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation against terrorism detainees, believe that, not only was the CIA’s use of torture methods illegal, but that it also failed to generate useful intelligence. The CIA, however, has denied this all along, and has been quite possessive of documents relating to the subject, which the Committee believed had a right to access. When the Committee accused the CIA of illegally searching the computers used by staffers to carry out their research into CIA files, the Agency responded by asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Congressional staffers illegally removed classified documents from the CIA’s archives that were beyond the scope of the Committee’s investigation. But the CIA’s own report appears to have completely vindicated Congress, having found that CIA officers created a fake online identity in order to surreptitiously access a number of computers used by Congressional staffers. The report’s findings prompted a private meeting earlier this week between CIA Director John Brennan and two senior members of the Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga), during which Brennan reportedly apologized. Feinstein, however, who was very vocal in denouncing the CIA’s shenanigans back in March, allegedly took Brennan to task about his staunch defense of his employees last spring. Read more of this post

Israel sends top intel official to US to complain about spy claims

Yuval SteinitzBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A senior Israeli intelligence official will be meeting with the head of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee today to complain about reports in the media that Israel spies aggressively on American targets. The Israeli government reacted angrily last week to claims by Newsweek magazine’s intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein that Israeli spies were aggressively trying to steal American secrets. Stein quoted Congressional staffers saying that America’s Jewish allies had “crossed red lines” in their efforts to steal secrets from the United States. One staffer told Newsweek that Congress members had been briefed by American intelligence officials about Israeli espionage operations against the United States that were “very sobering […], alarming, even terrifying”. The Israeli embassy in Washington reacted angrily to Newsweek’s revelations, condemning what it called “outrageous, false allegations […] being directed against Israel”. Stein, however, did not back down. In a follow-up article published last Thursday, he quoted US intelligence officials and Congressional insiders who said Israel had been “caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades”. The article included an allegation that Israeli intelligence tried to spy on US Vice President Al Gore during an official state visit to Jerusalem 16 years ago. The effort was allegedly aborted after a US Secret Service agent caught an Israeli spy trying to enter the Vice President’s hotel room through a ceiling vent. In other instances, Israeli intelligence operatives have allegedly tried to entice American officials visiting Israel with drugs and prostitutes. Stein reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, America’s primary counterintelligence agency, regularly summons Israeli diplomats stationed in Washington “for a scolding” after uncovering Israeli espionage operations on American soil. Such “scolding” sessions have taken place “dozens of times” since 9/11, says Stein, citing a former senior FBI official. Read more of this post

Obama comments on Senate-CIA dispute, fails to mention Feinstein

Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama, John BrennanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Yesterday in a radio interview I opined that I would not be surprised if the White House stepped in to mediate the ongoing dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Today, President Barack Obama broke his silence “with respect to the issues that are going back and forth between the Senate committee and the CIA”, as he said. But he refused to take sides —or did he? On Wednesday afternoon, the President responded to a question on the matter by a White House pool correspondent. The question related to the increasingly heated public spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee. The latter is tasked, along with its sister body in the House of Representatives, with exercising legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. Many members of the Committee, which is currently investigating the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation against terrorism detainees, believe that, not only was the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods illegal, but that it also failed to generate useful intelligence. The CIA, however, denies this, and has been quite possessive of documents relating to the issue, which the Committee believes has a right to access. The Agency has now asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to look into whether Congressional staffers illegally removed classified documents from the CIA’s archives that were beyond the scope of the Committee’s investigation. The Committee has in turn asked the Bureau to investigate whether the CIA illegally searched the computers used by staffers to carry out their research into CIA files.

Read more of this post

Comment: The significance of the spat between Congress and the CIA

John Brennan and Dianne FeinsteinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had gone out of her way in recent days to avoid commenting on the ongoing quarrel between her Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That ended yesterday, when she gave a press conference accusing the CIA of illegally spying on her Committee’s Congressional staffers. Her stunning announcement came shortly after her tense meeting with the Director of the CIA, a bad-tempered John Brennan. She told the media that at the meeting she requested from Brennan an apology and acknowledgement that the alleged CIA spying was “inappropriate”. By her own account, she failed to get either, so she decided to go public. In an interview I gave yesterday to Michigan’s WILS 1230 AM’s Capital City Recap, I argued that the quarrel between the two government bodies is not in itself important. What is important, I told radio host Mike Cohen, is that the dispute has entered the public arena. A routine ‘push and shove’ mêlée has turned into an all-out fistfight in full view of the media. One Republican Senator, Lindsay Graham, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the time had come for “the legislative branch [to] declare war on the CIA”. In response to the Committee’s accusations, the CIA has apparently instructed the Department of Justice to investigate the alleged removal by Congressional staffers of classified documents that were “protected by executive privilege [and were] beyond the scope of the Committee’s investigation”.

Read more of this post

US Senate hearing accidentally reveals Mossad director’s secret visit

Tamir PardoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The chairwoman of a public hearing at the United States Senate, which was televised live across America, accidentally revealed that the Director of Israeli intelligence service Mossad secretly visited the US for talks last week. The revelation took place on Tuesday at a high-profile hearing conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, with the participation of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. While addressing the latter, Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein mentioned in passing that “the vice chairman [of the Committee] and I have just met this past week with the director of Mossad”, and that the meeting was classified. She was referring to Tamir Pardo, the newly installed head of Israel’s foremost external intelligence agency. Without blinking an eye, Petraeus responded saying: “Like you, obviously, I met with the head of Mossad when he was here”. Subsequent discussion during the hearing appeared to establish that Pardo visited the United States specifically to discuss the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s known nuclear installations. In responding to Senator Feinstein’s comment, the CIA Director said that Pardo’s secret visit was “part of an ongoing dialogue that has also included conversations that I’ve had with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and with [Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak”. No further information was shard on the Mossad official’s visit, and US government representatives refused to elaborate, when asked about it later. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #559

Manuel Noriega

Manuel Noriega

►►Why did Pakistani spy chief secretly visit China? Reports reveal Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s main military intelligence agency, the ISI, flew on a secret mission to Beijing for urgent talks this Monday. China’s ties with Pakistan have traditionally been tense, and have become worse in recent years, because China accuses Pakistan of harboring secessionist Chinese Muslim militants. Some observers suggest that Pasha’s trip may have been more of a summons than a visit.
►►France to extradite Manuel Noriega to Panama. France has confirmed it will extradite Manuel Noriega to Panama, where he is wanted over human rights violations during his rule in the 1980s. The former Panamanian military leader is currently serving a prison sentence in France for money laundering. Speaking during his trial in Paris last year, the former US ally claimed that millions of dollars he deposited in several French bank accounts were CIA payments for his services, not income from illicit drug sales.
►►US intel budget drops by $500 million. More than $500 million would be cut from US intelligence agencies under a bill authorizing programs and spending for spying operations next year, Read more of this post

US Senate to review allegations CIA tried to smear professor

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate will review allegations, made on Friday by a former CIA officer, that the spy agency tried to gather derogatory information about an American university professor who is critical of the ‘war on terrorism’. According to its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Committee may “take further action”, depending on its preliminary findings. The allegations surfaced last Friday in an article by New York Times reporter James Risen. Acting on a tip by an unnamed source, Risen spoke to former CIA officer Glenn L. Carle, who confirmed that the Agency “at least twice” displayed an interest in gathering discrediting information about University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole. Dr Cole, who specializes in Middle Eastern history and speaks fluent Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been consistently critical of US foreign policy in the Middle East through his writings on his influential blog, Informed Comment. Carle, who made the allegations to The New York Times, retired from the CIA in 2007, after a career that spanned two decades in the Agency’s National Clandestine Service. In the last few years of his public service, Carle was a senior counterterrorism official at the US National Intelligence Council, which operates under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Read more of this post

Egypt intelligence highlights Congress-CIA tensions

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional hearing over a career CIA official’s promotion turned into a heated exchange on Thursday, as Congress members accused America’s intelligence community of failing to provide forewarning of the political instability in Egypt. Speaking before the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Director of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, was faced with an unexpected barrage of questions concerning the Agency’s alleged failure to provide US policy planners with accurate warning of the Egyptian popular uprising. Shortly after the start of the hearing, which was intended to deliberate O’Sullivan’s nomination for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, attention turned to Egypt, with members of the Committee pressuring the CIA executive to explain why the US intelligence community had failed to issue ample warnings on Egypt. O’Sullivan responded repeatedly that the CIA and other US intelligence services had provided warnings to Obama Administration officials in November and December of 2010, about extreme political volatility in North Africa. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #379

  • Lebanon arrests Palestinian for spying for Israel. Lebanese police have arrested a Palestinian refugee from the Burj al-Shemali refugee camp on suspicion that he was spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, a police spokesman said last week. More than 70 people have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown on alleged Israeli spy rings in Lebanon, launched in April 2009, some of them policemen and security officials.
  • US spy agency chief nomination held up by Congress. US Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says she won’t hold confirmation hearings for James Clapper, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the next Director of National Intelligence, until she completes her top priority, namely congressional passage and presidential signature on the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill. 
Bookmark and Share

 

News you may have missed #377

Bookmark and Share

Panetta not about to resign, says US Senate intel panel head

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Insider rumors have been circulating for at least a month now, that CIA Director Leon Panetta is frustrated and is considering resigning in February, after just one year at the post. On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a bizarre statement saying that she spoke to Panetta on Monday, and that the Obama Administration appointee “has no intention of resigning, nor should he. I believe he has an important role to play”, added the Congresswoman. The CIA and the White House have both denied reports that Panetta, who last month publicly came out against a planned probe into CIA torture practices by the US Department of Justice, threatened to resign over the investigation. What is certain is that Senator Feinstein’s statement about his future will fuel, not squelch, whispers of Panetta’s impending departure, which are in fact getting stronger.

Bookmark and Share

Wiretap whistleblower shunned by US Congress, media

Mark Klein

Mark Klein

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Those of you who have been following the ongoing revelations about STELLAR WIND, the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping scheme authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11, will know about Thomas M. Tamm. Tamm was the Justice Department official who in 2005 first notified The New York Times about the existence of the project. But Tamm was not the only whistleblower in the case. He was joined soon afterwards by another insider, Mark Klein. Klein had just retired from AT&T as a communications technician when he read The New York Times revelations about STELLAR WIND. As soon as he read the paper’s vague description of the NSA project, Klein realized he had in his possession AT&T documents describing exactly how the company shared its customers’ telephone communications with the NSA, through a secret room at the AT&T Folsom Street facility in San Francisco. To this day, Klein remains the only AT&T employee to have come forward with information on STELLAR WIND. But, apparently, nobody cares. Read more of this post

Feinstein causes furor as CIA assassinations continue

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Thirty more people were killed this past weekend in Pakistan by US missiles fired from unmanned CIA drone planes, in the second such strike on Barack Obama’s watch. In late January, two more missiles killed at least 20 people, according to international news agencies. That these drone attacks by the CIA are authorized by the US and Pakistani governments has been well known and well reported for some time. IntelNews is among several news outlets that have reported on a high-level US-Pakistani agreement by which “the US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the [US missile] attacks [on Pakistani soil] while Pakistan’s government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes”. This website has repeatedly questioned the legality of these extrajudicial assassinations, which apparently is an issue that does not concern the Obama administration or most US intelligence experts. The more important question in the minds of intelligence observers appears to be why the US is unable to hold its side of their bargain. Read more of this post