Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ambushing the CIA

Bill Gertz has penned a piece today about an ACLU group called the John Adams Project. (Misnamed, mind you as the ACLU states that it was based on John Adams decision to represent the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. The problem lies in their allegation that the soldiers killed five "Americans." History lesson, folks: The event took place on 5 March 1770, six years before the colonists were officially "Americans.") But I digress ...

Mr. Gertz lays out the problem facing the CIA:

A team of CIA counterintelligence officials recently visited the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and concluded that CIA interrogators face the risk of exposure to al Qaeda through inmates' contacts with defense attorneys, according to U.S. officials.

The agency's "tiger team" of security specialists was dispatched as part of an ongoing investigation conducted jointly with the Justice Department into a program backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The program, called the John Adams Project, has photographed covert CIA interrogators and shown the pictures to some of the five senior al Qaeda terrorists held there in an effort to identify them further.

Details of the review could not be learned. However, the CIA team came away from the review, conducted the week of March 14, "very concerned" that agency personnel have been put in danger by military rules allowing interaction between the five inmates and defense attorneys, according to an intelligence source close to the review.

The team also expressed concerns about the inmates' access to laptop computers in the past. Some of the inmates who are representing themselves in legal proceedings were granted laptop computers without Internet access. However, the officials fear that future unfavorable court rulings could provide the inmates with the capability of communicating outside the island prison.

The joint investigation, which recently added U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald to the Justice Department team, was stepped up earlier this month after a disagreement between Justice Department and CIA officials over whether CIA officers' lives were put in danger at the prison.

The probe was launched last year but was given renewed attention after CIA counterintelligence officials expressed alarm at the recent discovery of photographs of CIA officers, without their names on the photos, in a cell at the prison. ...

Mr. Fitzgerald, who investigated the press disclosure of clandestine CIA officer Valerie Plame beginning in 2003, has been meeting with CIA officials for the past several weeks as part of the probe.

The prosecutor was called into the case after agency officials voiced worries that Justice Department investigators did not share their level of concern over the danger that al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, could secretly send information on the identities of CIA officers to al Qaeda terrorists outside the prison through the attorneys.

[I should note that we have had a lawyer who did break the law in carrying correspondance netween the terrorists and their compatriots on the outside. The lawyer's name? Lynne Stewart. And she faces a resentencing in April for her crime.

Now why would the ACLU want to know who these CIA officers are? Thomas Joscelyn and Debra Burlingame explain in their Weekly Standard column:

Last week, [It was published today, not last week. -- Author's note.] Bill Gertz of the Washington Times broke news of a fight between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Justice. The CIA wants Justice to investigate aggressively whether any laws were broken by attorneys working for the John Adams Project, a joint initiative of the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The lawyers reportedly provided photographs of CIA interrogators to defense attorneys, who then showed them to al Qaeda terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay.

Why would lawyers do that? Gertz says it was done “in an attempt to have the terrorism suspects identify the interrogators in order to call them as witnesses in future trials.” The John Adams Project’s lawyers wanted to use court proceedings intended to try mass-murdering terrorists for another purpose: to put the Bush administration and the CIA on trial.

Although CIA officials say the pictures compromised the agency’s ongoing operations and could potentially lead to reprisals against the interrogators, Attorney General Eric Holder’s department apparently does not think the photos are all that important. During discussions with the CIA, the department’s lawyers have reportedly downplayed the seriousness of the offense. And the CIA is not happy about it.

“Given the events of the past year there is concern in the agency over whether or not someone has their back,” a former senior intelligence official explained to us. “A failure to aggressively follow up these allegations will only worsen that concern.”

This is a with-hunt for the interrogators that were doing their job. There was no serious amount of abuse that went on at Gitmo, and as Marc Thiessen notes in "Courting Disaster", any CIA interrogator that didn't follow the rules and guidelines for interrogating detainees were immediately removed. We took great steps to ensure that these terrorists would be afforded more rights than the law dictates.

The Geneva Convention specifically outlines what a lawful combatant is. While it doesn't mention the phrase "unlawful combatant," the tactics used by the terrorists clearly don't fall within the guidelines outlined by the treaty. They weren't under the command of a noticeable officer, nor did they wear any sort of sigil identifying them, nor were they fighting under any flag, nor were they operating with the knowledge and approval of the country they were captured in. But this is America, and we gave these detainees the best treatment possible.

But the larger fear is that these officers are now exposed. They've been exposed by the detainees lawyers, which was no mistake. That was calculated. The ACLU is likely telling the truth in wanting to know who these officers are so that, in the event the Justice Department does use a civilian court to try these individuals, the interrogators can be identified in said court. The greater danger comes in these officers being "outted" essentially. If these photos find their way into the hands of terrorists abroad, and these interrogators have to go abroad, their lives are in danger.

There was a great hullabaloo over the outing of Valerie Plame (who was NEVER an undercover agent, nor did she have NOC status), but everyone seems to be yawning over the outting of these agents. That's a travesty, and the CIA is right to be rather ticked over this. Director Panetta should be raising holy Hell over this.

Publius II


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