Gina Haspel’s New Vision for CIA?

Intel expert Philip Giraldi hopes new CIA Director Gina Haspel will reduce “questionable activities.” In spite of her pro-torture responses during her recent confirmation hearings, she did put her foot down once opposing expansion of the assassination-by-drone program. 

By Philip Giraldi

After a bruising confirmation fight, one wonders if newly approved Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Gina Haspel will have the political support to put her own stamp on how the agency is structured and operates. Insiders note that, though she was acting director for only two months, she did little more than continue the changes made by her predecessor Mike Pompeo, who had been in charge of the agency for 15 months.

The past 17 years have seen a major change in how the CIA is organized. The Cold War agency was basically divided into two major intelligence components and included an administrative structure as well as a scientific and technical division that had their own independent functions but also worked to support intelligence operations and analysis. To put it simply, the agency consisted of one half that collected information and another half that analyzed the information collected. The operations component, itself divided into geographical regions, was a producer of intelligence, which was then processed by the analysts before going on to the consumers, which consisted of the White House, Congress, and other agencies within the government with a “need to know” that gave them access to the finished intelligence reports. The principal consumer of intelligence and the CIA’s “boss” was and is the president of the United States.

Within the system of producer-consumer there were a number of staffs and centers that dealt with issues like terrorism, drug trafficking, and nuclear proliferation that were regarded as global threats that defied neat compartmentation into geographic areas. The Counter Terrorism Center (CTC), which included representatives from the Secret Service, FBI, DIA, NSA, and Pentagon, also incorporated analysts into the process, which was a major break from the principle that analysts and case officers should never mix lest the final product be contaminated by operational or political considerations.

Post 9/11, the allegations that clues to the hijackers had been missed due to excessive compartmentation within the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies meant that the idea of fusion centers like CTC became more popular. It also meant that there was a great demand for officers with paramilitary training to send to places like Afghanistan and eventually Iraq. Spies who had been trained to slowly and carefully develop Russian diplomats for recruitment became less relevant.

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Operations in places like Pakistan became brutal, with low-level agents working for money treated like disposable garbage. When CIA contract officer Raymond Davis was arrested by Pakistani police in 2011 after he shot dead two motorcyclists, who may or may not have been Pakistani intelligence officers, it emerged that he was part of an armed team providing security for meetings with Pakistani agents. Agents would be picked up off the street, stuffed behind the car seat with a blindfold on so they would not know where they were going, taken to a second car where they would be interrogated before they would be paid and again stuffed behind the seat blindfolded to be taken to a spot where they could be dropped off. As a model of CIA agent handling it was not exactly old school.

Inevitably the methodology of CIA operations involving the recruitment and debriefing of agents, referred to as tradecraft, began to be forgotten as older officers retired and the training of new officers emphasized new skills. The agency pretty much began to forget how to spy and how to deal with an untested agent, leading to catastrophes like the 2009 suicide bombing deaths of seven CIA officers at Camp Chapman near Khost in Afghanistan, where an agency base was run by an officer who lacked the relevant experience and made a major security mistake.

And meanwhile more and more of the annual budget was going to the paramilitaries, who provided the physical protection of the burgeoning number of CIA sites and also protection for meetings. The transition to a different agency structure accelerated under President Barack Obama and his director, John Brennan. Brennan favored replacing the former geographic structure with more fusion teams that would include analysts and representatives from other government agencies. Many at CIA believed that Brennan had a particular animus against agency operations, as he had entered CIA hoping to become a case officer but had washed out of the training course. Brennan pushed ahead with his fusion program and also promoted Greg Vogel to be head of Clandestine Services, once described as operations. Vogel was a paramilitary, not a case officer, and inside the CIA it was widely regarded as the final insult to the agency’s spies.

Haspel, who briefly held the position of acting director of the clandestine service, was an integral part of the Brennan regime and generally went along with his preferences, though a source reports that she did dig in her heels at one point when there was a proposal to greatly expand the assassination by drone program. If she did that, it is to her credit and perhaps an indication that she does have limits in terms of what she would do in support of the White House.

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As a result of the 2016 election, there was inevitably a change at the top of the agency. Coming into a CIA that no longer knew how to spy, President Donald Trump’s new director, Mike Pompeo, moved quickly to reverse many of the decisions made by Brennan, but he also brought his own set of likes and dislikes. Officers who worked directly with Pompeo reported that he was controlling, insisting on support among senior officers for whatever policies the White House was promoting. This did not go down well at CIA, where officers prided themselves on being politically neutral with their only guideline being to report developments honestly and analyze objectively. Pompeo also institutionalized greater emphasis on Iran as a prime enemy, creating a task force to address it.

And now there is Ms. Haspel. Insiders believe she will move slowly and cautiously but will continue in the direction set by Pompeo. That means somewhat of a reversion to the traditional agency model, which prevailed when she was being trained and during her first assignments. And given her grilling by the Senate, she will be presumably very cautious about engaging in questionable activities. As a former case officer, I would have to think that is a good thing—traditional spying hopefully without the renditions, the black sites, and the torture.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.




Veteran CIA Analyst Censored, Manhandled

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was physically thrown out of a Senate confirmation hearing for CIA director Gina Haspel for politely demanding answers on U.S. torture and Ms. Haspel’s role. The police state is alive and well when a 78-year-old man whose spent his life in public service is slammed to the ground, handcuffed, and physically assaulted for asking questions.

By Dave Gahary

If someone served their country by enlisting in the United States Army as an infantry and intelligence officer, and then followed that up by further serving that same country for nearly three more decades as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst, one might think that such an individual would be accorded a modicum of respect when voicing his opinion at a Senate confirmation hearing for the nomination of the CIA director.

Well, maybe there was a time in this once-great nation’s history when any citizen could voice their opinion in “the People’s House,” but those days are long gone. This was painfully illustrated on May 9 when 78-year-old Raymond L. “Ray” McGovern attempted to have his voice heard at the confirmation hearing for Gina Cheri Haspel, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the CIA, and was manhandled by the tools of the current police state.

Haspel courts much controversy, mostly due to her ties to a CIA “black site” in Thailand—“Detention Site Green,” or “Cat’s Eye,” located inside a Royal Thai Air Force base—used to torture “war on terror” detainees. Holding prisoners in U.S. military custody requires informing the International Committee for the Red Cross, hence the desire for black sites.

According to Wikipedia, a “black site,” or secret prison, is a location where a “black project” is conducted, “a highly classified military or defense project publicly unacknowledged by government, military personnel, and contractors.” It is suspected that black sites have been located on all seven continents of the Earth.

McGovern, who served under seven presidents, from JFK forward, attended the televised confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building, and spoke to this reporter about his latest encounter with “democracy.”

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“I sat in the audience not knowing exactly what I might do but fearing that it might be really hard to take. And it was,” he said. “The discussion was pretty appalling,” he explained. “The chair, who was pretty much hand-in-glove with the intelligence community that he’s supposed to be supervising, appraised [Haspel] up and down as not only moral but ethical.”

The hearing was broadcast on C-SPAN and ran for 153 minutes, and around 74 minutes into the hearing, it was Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) turn to grill the nominee. McGovern explained how the questioning went.

“ ‘You were in charge of the base there in Thailand, the black site, when [Abd al Rahim] al Nashiri was there,’” McGovern recounted Wyden’s testimony. “ ‘Did you supervise his waterboarding, yes or no, please?’ And Ms. Haspel said, ‘Senator, that’s classified. I wish I could tell you, but it’s classified.’ And Wyden had run out of time.

“Now I’m seething there,” McGovern said, “because the next question that Wyden would’ve asked was, of course, ‘Well, Ms. Haspel, could you tell us who classified that?’ And she would’ve had to say, ‘Well, I did, senator. I classified all the incriminating material that might prevent me from being approved as the next head of the CIA.’ ”

McGovern continued: “With Wyden out of time, I waited for the chair to come in and say, ‘Now, Ms. Haspel, it’s a yes or no question. We actually know the answer, and so do you. Would you let the American people who are tuned in now, would you let them know what the answer is?’ And, of course, she would’ve had to say, ‘Well, yes, Mr. Chairman, the answer is yes.’ ”

The former CIA analyst told AFP, “There’s a war crime, pure and simple. Now, she was allowed to defer that into executive session, and so the American people were deprived of the opportunity to hear that she was directly responsible for the waterboarding and other extreme techniques administered to al Nashiri in Thailand in 2002.”

McGovern, dressed smartly in suit and tie, could contain himself no longer, and at 131 minutes into the hearing, he made his move.

“There was a great, big policeman standing between me and Haspel,” McGovern said. “And so, I waited for him to go to the bathroom and went up there and interrupted one of the senators, and said, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt here, but, Senator Wyden, you deserve a direct answer to your question. It really is a yes or no, and she was guilty of supervising of waterboarding, and no legal opinion can make waterboarding. . . .’ ”

McGovern was quickly surrounded by four Capitol policemen, who took nearly 40 seconds to manhandle him out the door. “And then, of course, these very large Capitol Police descended on me [to prevent me] from saying anything else,” he explained. “Anytime I tried to say something else, they shouted out, as they’re instructed to, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting!’ I suppose manufacturing evidence that I was resisting when in reality I was not under my own power, as soon as the four lifted me up and dragged me out.”

C-SPAN cameras were not in the hallway, but other video captured the way this almost octogenarian was dealt with for simply speaking his mind. A woman attending the hearing began filming and followed McGovern and the thugs out the doors.

“The saving grace was that there was a very gutsy, young woman with an iPhone filming the whole thing,” explained McGovern, “and even as I was dragged out of the place, lifted out, she followed, she got the whole thing on videotape. When she saw what they were doing to me and they took me down, she said, ‘Don’t hurt him. You’re hurting him.’ ”

The police smashed McGovern to the floor and continued to manhandle him even after he pleaded to them about the chronic dislocation of his left shoulder. In fact, in the video, you can hear an audible pop.

“I didn’t know she was there; thank God she was there,” said McGovern. “But if you’re gonna risk this kind of treatment at the hands of people who are just following orders, then it’s a good thing to have someone who will capture it on film, because number one, then it is on film, and number two, when the cops in charge see it, they have a choice whether they’re going to brutalize yet another person on film, or whether they’re going to stop the brutalization.”

McGovern was transported out of the building to spend 27 hours in a D.C. cellblock, not a pleasant position to be in. He explained why he exposed himself to these conditions.

“When we see this torture that [Haspel] was clearly responsible for,” he explained, “and we see the whitewash done by a committee—many of whose members were approving of those steps—now too embarrassed to backtrack and do the right thing, well, those are violations of the Constitution of the United States, international law, the UN Convention against Torture. And so, what are we to do? We’re to stand up and honor our oath. Now, does that oath that we took—I took it first when I got my commission in 1961—does it have an expiration date, like, ‘Warning, don’t consume this oath after 50 years’? No, there is no expiration date.”

Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See the website erasingtheliberty.com for more information.




Congress Votes to Probe U.S. Role in Torturing Yemenis

By AFP Staff

In late May, during confirmation hearings for newly appointed CIA head Gina Haspel, the Senate heard extensive testimony on the United States torture program carried out under the Bush administration following 9/11. The discussion revived that ugly time in recent U.S. history when military and intelligence officials engaged in despicable acts where innocent people, suspected terrorists, and captured foreign fighters were subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of U.S. citizens in secret prisons located in remote parts of the world.

Following the hearings, in a surprise move, Congress acted quickly to pass legislation by voice vote that tasked the Pentagon with investigating whether U.S. military or intelligence officials participated in torture in nearly a dozen prisons located in southern Yemen.

In 2016, the Associated Press exposed 20 secret prisons in southern Yemen that are run by U.S. ally the United Arab Emirates. AP estimated that several thousand Yemenis have been sent to these prisons where many undergo horrendous torture including rapes or being strapped to a “grill” and roasted over an open fire.

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U.S. military officials, who spoke to AP anonymously, said they were aware of the torture in the prisons, but, so far, they said, their roles were simply to “participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies.”

The measure, sponsored by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), specifically required the secretary of defense to initiate an investigation to see if any U.S. officials participated in torture in the Yemen prisons as well as to determine whether any U.S. officials who participated in interrogations in Yemen followed U.S. laws and policy. It was added to the 2019 defense authorization bill. It is not known, however, when Congress will take up the massive military spending legislation or whether the torture amendment will be included in the final funding legislation.

AFP will continue to monitor this important subject as the spending measure winds its way through Congress.




Pompeo and Haspel are Symptoms of a Deeper Problem

What most threatens our republic, says Ron Paul, is not the particular war-mongering neocons President Trump wants to appoint to the State Department and CIA but “that both federal agencies are routinely engaged in activities that are both unconstitutional and anti-American” and the wider executive branch over-reach.

By Ron Paul

President Donald Trump’s recent cabinet shake-up looks to be a real boost to hardline militarism and neoconservatism. If his nominees to head the State Department and CIA are confirmed, we may well have moved closer to war.

Before being chosen by Trump to head up the CIA, Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo was one of the most pro-war members of Congress. He has been militantly hostile toward Iran, and many times has erroneously claimed that Iran is the world’s number one state sponsor of terror. The truth is, Iran neither attacks nor threatens the United States.

At a time when Trump appears set to make history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un face-to-face, Pompeo remains dedicated to a “regime change” policy that leads to war, not diplomacy and peace. He blames Iran—rather than the 2003 U.S. invasion—for the ongoing disaster in Iraq. He enthusiastically embraced the Bush policy of “enhanced interrogation,” which the rest of us call “torture.”

American Freedom Party Conference in Tennessee

Speaking of torture, even if some of the details of Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel’s involvement in the torture of Abu Zubaydah are disputed, the mere fact that she helped develop an interrogation regimen that our own government admitted was torture, that she oversaw an infamous “black site” where torture took place, and that she covered up the evidence of her crimes should automatically disqualify her for further government service.

In a society that actually valued the rule of law, Haspel may be facing time in a much different kind of federal facility than CIA headquarters.

While it may be disappointing to see people like Pompeo as secretary of state and Haspel as the head of the CIA, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. The few areas where Trump’s actions are consistent with candidate Trump’s promises are ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran and embracing the torture policies of Bush. Candidate Trump in late 2015 promised to bring back waterboarding “and a whole lot worse” if he became president. It seems that is his intention with the elevation of Pompeo and Haspel to the most senior positions in his administration.

We should be concerned, of course, but the real problem is not really Pompeo or Haspel. It is partly true that “personnel is policy,” but it’s more than just that. It matters less who fills the position of secretary of state or CIA director when the real issue is that both federal agencies are routinely engaged in activities that are both unconstitutional and anti-American. It is the current executive branch over-reach that threatens our republic more than the individuals who fill positions in that executive branch. As long as Congress refuses to exercise its constitutional authority and oversight obligations—especially in matters of war and peace—we will continue our slide toward authoritarianism, where the president becomes a kind of king who takes us to war whenever he wishes.

I am heartened to see some senators—including Sen. Rand Paul—pledging to oppose Trump’s nominees for State and CIA. Let’s hope many more join him—and let’s hope the rest of the Congress wakes up to its role as first among equals in our political system.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.