Rift between US Congress and CIA biggest in 40 years, say observers

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The system of checks and balances that defines the relationship between America’s legislative branch and the Intelligence Community has been strained more than any other time in nearly 40 years, according to insiders. The rift is especially wide between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, which was formed in the mid-1970s after the Watergate scandal. Led by Senator Frank Church (D-Id) the congressional investigations into unlawful domestic intelligence activities by American spy agencies shaped the current oversight arrangements between the Senate and the CIA. But the two bodies are now engaged in what Foreign Policy magazine calls “a rare public feud” over the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques. Foreign Policy cites interviews with “ten current and former congressional staff member and US government officials”, all of whom painted a “grim picture” of Senate-CIA relations. The Foreign Policy article quotes former Justice Department lawyer Dan Metcalfe, who opines that the current imbroglio “might well be the most acrimonious public moment between the CIA and a Senate committee [in] nearly 40 years”. Both sides accuse each other of violating longstanding agreements during the investigation into CIA’s use of torture in interrogations of terrorism detainees. Committee members have been claiming that the Agency’s interrogation methods have failed to produce useful information in pursuit of America’s national security. The CIA, on the other hand, accuses Committee staffers of illegally removing documents from an Agency facility, which the Committee was not supposed to see because they fell outside the scope of its inquiry. But some Senators on the Committee claim that the CIA did not want to hand over the documents precisely because they prove that no useful intelligence was extracted under torture. They also claim that the CIA effectively spied on Committee staffers by searching through their activity on computers used to access classified information. 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

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 #456 (Israel edition)

  • US Senate intel committee ex-chief wants Israel spy free. Former Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini, who used to chair the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has called for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a US Navy Intelligence Analyst who was found guilty in 1987 of spying on the US on behalf of Israel. Pollard “is guilty, but it’s time for this to be resolved in a better way”, said DeConcini.
  • Israel about to announce next Mossad chief. On Thursday, or at the latest, early next week, the Israeli Prime Minister will announce his pick for the top post at the Mossad. Despite widespread speculation, nobody really knows who will replace Meir Dagan, the current Mossad chief.
  • Mossad book authors accused of plagiarism. The Mossad, a new book on the major exploits of Israel’s storied spy agency, has been on the Israeli best-seller list for months. But if much of the text sounds familiar, it’s because the authors, Nissim Mishal and Michael Bar-Zohar, apparently relied on previously published material –without crediting the original sources.

News you may have missed #410

  • Clapper confirmed as US DNI in Senate-White House deal. Retired general James Clapper has been unanimously confirmed by the Senate as US National Intelligence Director, after a series of last-minute deals between objecting Republican Senators and the White House, which nominated Clapper several months ago.
  • Canada rejects residency request by Pakistani ex-ISI spy. The Canadian government has refused a permanent residency application by Haroon Peer, a Danish citizen, who worked for three Pakistani intelligence agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. Haroon is married to a Canadian-born woman and has three Canadian-born children.
  • Lebanon in shock after ex-general’s arrest on spy charges. Last week’s arrest of Fayez Karam, a well-respected retired general and politician with the Hezbollah-allied Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), on suspicion of spying for Israel, has sent shock waves through Lebanon and left many wondering how deep the Jewish state has infiltrated the country.

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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. 
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