Ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou’s indictment made simple

John KiriakouBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On Monday, the United States Department of Justice charged former Central Intelligence Agency officer John Kiriakou with leaking classified government information to reporters and deceiving a CIA review board. An FBI press release accused Kiriakou of repeatedly providing secrets to journalists between 2007 and 2009, and said the former CIA officer would be tried under the Espionage and the Intelligence Identities Protection Acts. The latter forbids the disclosure of the identities of undercover intelligence personnel, which is precisely what Kiriakou is accused of having done. An American of Greek descent, Kiriakou joined the CIA in 1990 and did tours in Greece, Pakistan, and elsewhere, before retiring in 2004. While in Pakistan he commanded the CIA team that helped capture senior al-Qaeda logistician Abu Zubaydah. In 2010 he published a memoir titled The Reluctant Spy.  Two years earlier, Kiriakou had made international headlines by becoming the first US intelligence official to publicly acknowledge that a terrorism suspect —in this case Zubaydah— had indeed been waterboarded while in CIA custody. Speaking on ABC News, the former CIA officer recognized that waterboarding was torture, but said it was “necessary” in the “war on terrorism”. In subsequent interviews, however, he questioned whether any actionable intelligence had been extracted from waterboarding, and opined that torturing terrorism detainees “caused more damage to [America’s] national prestige than was worth it”. Kiriakou’s skepticism, at a time when the incoming President, Barack Obama, publicly condemned waterboarding as torture, worried the CIA. Eventually, the Obama Administration backed down on its public proclamations about torture, and ruled out criminal prosecutions of CIA personnel. But he Agency didn’t forget Kiriakou’s role. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #659

China and PakistanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►China wants military bases in Pakistan. An Indian intelligence report leaked in the country’s press appears to reveal that China and Pakistan are in secret negotiations to allow Beijing to build military bases on Pakistani soil. The report states that “China’s desire for a military presence in Pakistan has been discussed by the political and military leadership of that country in the recent months. China’s deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and joint plans to set up […] oil pipelines/rail/roads as well as naval and military bases are a matter of concern”.
►►Turkey ‘almost shot down’ Israeli spy drone. An Israeli drone flying over Turkey was nearly intercepted by Turkish aerial defense forces, an Istanbul-based media outlet reported on Tuesday. According to the report, “by the time the order [to shoot down the Israeli drone] was given, [it] had already left the area”. A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the Turkish report.
►►Analysis: Global apparatus for drone killing emerges under Obama. “The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential”. Excellent analysis by Greg Miller, who argues that “the rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military”.

White House reinstalls visas for 2009 Honduran coup plotters

Manuel Zelaya

Manuel Zelaya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On June 26, 2009, a clandestine meeting of the Honduran Supreme Court issued a secret warrant for the arrest of the country’s democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya. Less than 48 hours later, in the early hours of June 28, uniformed officers of the Honduran Army stormed the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa and arrested Zelaya. Shortly afterwards, the deposed President was placed on a plane and sent into enforced exile. It was the first coup d’état in the Central American country since 1978, and the first in Latin America in several years. The US administration of President Barack Obama almost immediately condemned the coup and halted American military aid to Honduras; but it failed to officially designate Zelaya’s ouster as a ‘military coup’, which would have required Washington to outlaw and terminate nearly all forms of government —and some private— aid to Honduras. In August, after several weeks of heavy criticism from Latin American governments, the Obama White House proceeded to “temporarily suspend” non-immigrant visas for over 1,000 Honduran military and civilian leaders, who had endorsed President Zelaya’s unconstitutional ouster. Many of whom had participated in the first post-coup government of former Speaker of the Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti. But a news report by the Associated Press suggests that Washington may now be quietly reinstating visas to Micheletti government officials, and that some of them are already travelling to and from the United States. The article quotes a “US embassy spokesperson”, who “spoke on condition of anonymity”, as saying that “the Department of State has determined that some of the Hondurans whose eligibility for visas was restricted following the June 2009 coup d’etat are again eligible to be considered for visas”. Read more of this post

White House considering covert operations against Iran

Iran

Iran

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the major strategic objections to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the near-certain prospect that removing the Sunni-dominated Ba’ath Party from power would increase Iranian-Shiite influence in the country. As the US military exit strategy gradually unfolds in Iraq, the administration of US President Barack Obama is faced with precisely this prospect. While US troops are leaving Iraq, Iran is doing what any logical regional power would do: namely strengthening its clandestine footprint inside Iraq and preparing Tehran-allied Iraqi groups for the impending showdown with Sunni power centers. An article that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal notes that “growing concern [about regional] influence from Iran” has prompted the Obama administration to explore covert ways of countering it. According to the article, US intelligence agencies have detected “increased arms smuggling [by Iran] to its allies” in Iraq, Bahrain and Syria (and, one would suppose, Lebanon, though this is not mentioned in the piece). The administration has therefore “pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran”, says the Journal. The push has prompted American intelligence and military planners to request “greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq”. This essentially implies an appeal for a Presidential “finding”, a secret executive authorization that —under the National Security Act— would provide the required legal basis for covert operations conducted abroad. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #460

US considering CIA targeted killings in Yemen

Yemen

Yemen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The White House is considering an unprecedented expansion of operations by the Central Intelligence Agency in Yemen, following last week’s foiled toner cartridge bomb plot. There are reports that the plot, which appears to have originated in Yemen, and was foiled through a last-minute tip from Saudi intelligence, may tip the balance in Washington in favor of those wishing to enhance the CIA’s activities in Yemen’s Sunni areas. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Obama Administration is close to authorizing the CIA’s use of unmanned drones to bomb suspected targets in Yemen, something that the Agency has been doing for over a year in Pakistan. But there also appears to be a wider consensus forming in favor of authorizing covert targeted killings inside Yemen by Special Forces operating on the ground under Langley’s command. This consensus appears to be forming in both civilian and military circles in Washington, despite fears that such tactics may backlash, leading to a severance of ties between the United States and the Yemeni government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Journal article mentions that the White House is now considering authorizing the CIA to conduct targeted killings “even without the explicit blessing of the Yemeni government”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #423