The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has long been the nation’s top spy agency responsible for uncovering information about threats to the United States and carrying out operations to neutralize such threats. Born at the beginning of the Cold War, the CIA came of age at a time when the U.S. was in constant fear of being taken over by the Soviet Union, which produced a legacy of dirty deeds by the agency. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of the cloak-and-dagger agency, especially in recent times when former officials were caught selling American secrets to Russia, and the CIA leadership failed to warn of the attacks that were carried out on Sept. 11, 2001. That failure caused the CIA to lose some of its standing in Washington D.C., although the agency has worked hard to rebuild its trust by implementing some of the most controversial plans in the Global War on Terrorism campaign. It scored a success in 2011 with the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, who was located in Pakistan, after more than a decade of intelligence tracking by the CIA.
The predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 to help the military garner intelligence in its battles against German, Italian and Japanese forces in World War II. The OSS reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and never possessed the broad intelligence-gathering mandate that the latter CIA enjoyed. The military branches continued to maintain their own spying operations, while the FBI maintained its jurisdiction over domestic counter-espionage.
The OSS’s creator and director, William Donovan, submitted to President Roosevelt in late 1943 a plan that would have separated the OSS from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had it report directly to the President. Donovan’s idea also would have made the OSS a more powerful and centralized intelligence operation, instructed to “procure intelligence both by overt and covert methods,” determine national intelligence objectives and pull together all intelligence gathered by other government agencies. The heads of the military balked at turning over their espionage and counter-espionage operations to the OSS, but Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, agreed that the U.S. needed a stronger intelligence network to combat efforts by the Soviet Union to expand its influence in strategic regions.
In October 1945, two months after the end of World War II, the OSS was abolished and its functions transferred to the State and War Departments. This move was only temporary, as Truman established the Central Intelligence Group (pdf) in January 1946 to coordinate intelligence gathered by federal departments and to compliment these efforts by acquiring its own leads and details on foreign targets. The Central Intelligence Group operated under the direction of the National Intelligence Authority composed of a Presidential representative and the Secretaries of State, War and Navy. Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, U.S. Naval Reserve, who was the deputy chief of naval intelligence, was appointed the first Director of Central Intelligence.
Truman and his people weren’t entirely satisfied with this intelligence set up, and so in 1947 the Central Intelligence Group was replaced under the provisions of the landmark National Security Act of 1947 (pdf) with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The act also created the National Security Council (NSC).
The 1947 National Security Act largely mirrored what Donovan called for in 1944 for the OSS. It charged the CIA with coordinating the nation’s intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating and disseminating intelligence affecting national security. In addition, the CIA performed other duties instructed by the NSC as long as those actions did not require it to conduct any kind of domestic spying on Americans, which was forbidden. Two years later, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 established the policy of making the CIA’s budget secret from almost all government officials, making it difficult for members of Congress to maintain any kind of effective oversight of the agency’s clandestine operations. The same legislation exempted the CIA from having to disclose details about its organization, including names, titles, and salaries of employees.
With these rules in place, and an ever-growing worry over the perceived threat of Soviet spies targeting American interests, the CIA wasted little time in doing its part to implement the Truman Doctrine and get involved in clandestine operations that would come to define— and leave a legacy of ashes— during the Cold War. In fact, only one year after it was created, CIA officials embarked on a domestic operation— in spite of its own originating legislation not to—known as Operation Mockingbird that sought to influence American media by recruiting highly respected members of the press to either join the CIA or secretly help it shape the news. CIA operatives also focused on conditions inside Greece in the late 1940s to assess and thwart Communist efforts to seize control of the country’s central government.
It was the early 1950s that the CIA began to concentrate on covert operations. In 1951, Iran’s parliament decided to nationalize its oil industry, which, until then, had been under the control of British petroleum companies. The seizure of the oil fields was endorsed by Iran’s newly elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, whom the U.S. and British officials decided to target for overthrow. The CIA successfully carried out a clandestine operation that toppled Mossadegh in 1953 and installed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi in power, where he remained for the next 25 years until the Iranian revolution of 1979 forced the Shah out, leading to the seizure of the American embassy and 52 American hostages and leaving U.S.-Iranian relations in shambles for the next 30 years.
Because of its success in Iran, the CIA was emboldened to carry out another coup two years later in Guatemala. After the country’s president began to implement land reforms that threatened the holdings of the United Fruit Company, corporate officials went to the Eisenhower administration for help. The CIA’s Operation PBSuccess eliminated President Jacobo Arbenz and installed a US-friendly government that not only restored United Fruit’s interests, but also left a legacy of bitter fruit and death squads for Guatemalans.
Being two-for-two, CIA officials weren’t at all reluctant to take on another, even larger leftist target in Cuba once the Kennedy administration gave the go-ahead for the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961. That operation— aimed at removing from power the Communist government of Fidel Castro— was an unmitigated disaster for President Kennedy. But the failure didn’t slow down the CIA from trying to reshape other governments around the world. In the same year of the Bay of Pigs failure, the CIA played a role in the assassination of President Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and in 1965, operatives in Indonesia helped replace the leftist Sukarno with the rightist Suharto, whose oppressive regime led to the massacre of an estimated one million Indonesians.
The CIA’s involvement in Vietnam from the early 1960s until the mid 1970s was another opportunity for the agency to conduct activities of a “questionable” nature. When the Kennedy administration grew weary of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, the CIA offered intelligence assessments on the prospects of a coup to remove Diem, which subsequently came about at the hands of the Vietnamese military. Even worse, the CIA implemented one of its most controversial operations with the Phoenix Program, in which supporters of the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam were targeted, tortured, and in some cases assassinated.
CIA spies also worked in neighboring Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. In Laos, CIA agents helped arm and train the Hmong people to fight a secret war against the country’s leftist government. That operation failed to destabilize the Communists in power and left many Hmong either dead or forced to flee the country for the United States.
In the 1970s, the CIA’s nefarious conduct finally was exposed as a result of several investigations, including the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the Church Committee, after its chairman, Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho). Church’s committee reports uncovered a dark treasure trove of illegal and unethical conduct by CIA agents that ranged from spying on Americans to assassinating foreign leaders. In the wake of the agency’s public exposure, Democratic President Jimmy Carter cut funding for the CIA, leaving the future of the spy office in doubt.
For the CIA’s Cold Warriors, the best thing that could have happened was the election of Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980. An ardent anti-Communist, Reagan had no qualms about unleashing the CIA to carry out espionage and other secret missions to support U.S. foreign policy. He entrusted the leadership of the much-maligned agency to his campaign manager, William Casey, who had worked for the OSS as a young man during the Second World War. Casey expanded the agency’s spy operations and reinstituted covert operations in strategic countries, such as Afghanistan (helping the mujahedeen battle the Soviet army), Poland (encouraging the Solidarity movement) and Nicaragua (undermining the leftist Sandinista government). The CIA’s activities in Nicaragua led to accusations that agents allowed Contra rebels fighting the Sandinistas to run narcotics that wound up on American streets, and that Casey was involved in the illegal diversion of monies from secret arms sales to Iran to help finance the Contras. Casey, however, died in 1987 from a brain tumor before the Iran-Contra independent prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, could interview him about his role in the scandal.
Because of the turmoil of Iran-Contra, CIA leadership after Casey failed to address speculation that the agency had a Russian spy, or “mole,” working inside it. During the 1980s, several important American spies operating in Soviet-bloc countries disappeared, and some intelligence officials worried that a turncoat had given the spies’ identity to the USSR. It wasn’t until 1994 that the FBI finally seized Aldrich Ames, one of the CIA’s top men and head of the agency’s counter-espionage division, who had been paid $2 million to deliver a huge cache of sensitive information about CIA operations to the Russians.
Lawmakers in Congress were outraged by the CIA’s incompetence in not discovering Ames sooner. Three years later, an even higher-ranking CIA official, Harold James Nicholson, was caught selling U.S. intelligence to Russia.
In addition to the exposure of Soviet moles, the agency suffered other embarrassing intelligence lapses as it struggled to reorient itself after the end of the Cold War and warn U.S. officials of the new threat: Islamic terrorists. Again and again, the CIA failed to uncover attacks against U.S. targets, from the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing to the 1998 twin attacks against US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.
Two of the aforementioned attacks happened on the watch of Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, who served under both President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, one of the few CIA directors to serve under two presidents from different parties. Tenet’s shop came under even more criticism following the attack on Sept. 11, 2001, as officials in Washington D.C., were astonished that such a large and complicated undertaking could be carried out without the CIA hearing about it beforehand. After the 9/11 commission released its findings about the attack and the failure of U.S. security agencies, including the CIA, to thwart it, President Bush and Congress adopted reforms that dramatically altered the agency’s role in national intelligence. The post of director of central intelligence was eliminated, with the CIA now led by a director who reported to the newly created Director of National Intelligence instead of to the President.
But the CIA did not cease from playing a vital role in the Bush administration’s effort to go after Islamic terrorists. Shortly after 9/11, the CIA established secret prisons in foreign countries to house and interrogate suspected terrorists (see Controversies), and agents played a role in torturing detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Under the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the CIA has maintained key intelligence and military roles in the war in Afghanistan, which includes an increased use of controversial CIA drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets along the neighboring Pakistan border. (Drone production makes up $4.8-billion of the U.S. military budget.) U.S. relations with Pakistan have been strained as Pakistan has protested the drone attacks within its borders, which reportedly have killed a large number of civilians in collateral damage. Tensions were further fueled by the January 2011 murder of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor, and the secret U.S. military incursion into Pakistani in May to kill Osama bin Laden. As evidence of deteriorating relations between the two countries, Pakistan ordered the closing of three intel fusion cells, Pakistani liaison centers designed for U.S. intelligence-sharing pertaining to insurgent strongholds.
CIA operatives were also sent into Libya in early 2011 to meet with rebels and gather intelligence in support of NATO airstrikes against the forces of Colonel Moammar Khadafi.
An increasingly militarized CIA found itself with a U.S. Army General at its helm, as David Petraeus replaced Leon Panetta as head of the agency in September 2011.
Our bloody coup in Indonesia: Britain colluded in one of the worst massacres of the century (by Isabel Hilton, The Guardian)
Reality Bites Back: Contra-Coke Proof (by Robert Parry, Consortium for Independent Journalism)
CIA Traitor Aldrich Ames (by Pete Earley, TruTV)
C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan (by Scott Shane, New York Times)
Petraeus Brings Unique Experience to Expected CIA Role (by Tom Cohen, CNN)
Once America’s premier spy agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) continues to play a key role in the country’s pursuit of information that warns of threats to the United States, its citizens and vital interests. The CIA is responsible for collecting intelligence through human sources (spies) as well as various forms of technology. The agency passes on the information it gathers to members of the Intelligence Community and to the Director of National Intelligence.
Although most of its work is classified, the CIA does provide some information about itself on the Internet. The agency performs most of its duties through one of four divisions:
Other Analytic Programs run by DI:
From the Web Site of the Central Intelligence Agency
Because the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) budget is classified, there are no public records of how the agency spends its money. Even the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s top watchdog agency, has not audited the CIA since the 1960s due to restrictions on the agency’s financial data.
It has been reported that the CIA has paid for contractors—who make up one third of the agency’s workforce—to help conduct its missions. According to one published account, some contractors have worked with detainees held in Afghanistan, and in one instance, a contractor was convicted of murdering an individual held in custody on a US military base (see Controversies). Former CIA Director Michael Hayden testified before Congress in 2008 that some contractors have participated in “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a.k.a. torture). During his first week as U.S. President in 2008, President Barack Obama banned the CIA’s use of such interrogation methods.
It also has been reported that Booz Allen Hamilton, a private firm that specializes in intelligence-related services for the U.S. government, has provided extensive services to the CIA. The company claims to provide war-gaming, data-mining, analysis of imagery and intelligence picked up by U.S. spy satellites and design of code-breaking systems.
Another company that has performed work for the CIA is Tepper Aviation, whose fleet of transport planes have been used to fly detainees to secret prisons run by the CIA. The agency has also used Aero Contractors Ltd. for such operations.
Hayden publicly stated that he intended to hire fewer contractors in response to pressure from Congress to cuts costs within the agency. The initiative sought to reduce the contractor workforce by 10% by the end of Fiscal Year 2008 and end the practice of “bidding back,” in which employment agencies hire retired CIA employees and sell their services back to the agency while they collect their government pensions. In April 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced his decision to ban the CIA’s use of contractors for prisoner interrogations and security.
Hayden Admits: Contractors Lead 'Enhanced Interrogations' at CIA Black Sites (by Noah Shachtman, Wired)
Carlyle Group May Buy Major CIA Contractor: Booz Allen Hamilton (by Tim Shorrock, CorpWatch)
C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights (By Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams, New York Times)
Hayden wants fewer CIA contractors: Director sets a goal of reducing contractor workforce by 10 percent in 15 months (by Mark Tarallo, Federal Computer Week)
CIA Plans Cutbacks, Limits on Contractor Staffing (by Walter Pincus and Stephen Barr, Washington Post)
CIA Destroys Tapes Showing Torture
In late 2007, revelations surfaced that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had destroyed tapes of overseas interrogations of terrorism suspects that showed agents using a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding. The destruction was ordered by the agency’s then-head of its National Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, after receiving a request from the CIA’s station chief in Bangkok in 2005 if to destroy recordings that had been made in 2002. The station chief was insistent because he was retiring and wanted to resolve the matter before he left.
Rodriguez’s decision to order the tapes destroyed came in spite of advice from other senior CIA and White House officials who claimed they had told the clandestine chief to preserve all records. Rodriguez said CIA lawyers and other officials told him that he had the legal right to order the destruction.
Account of C.I.A. Tapes Is Challenged (by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, New York Times)
Station Chief Made Appeal To Destroy CIA Tapes: Lawyer Says Top Official Had Implicit Approval (by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, Washington Post)
CIA Blogger Canned Over Torture Remarks
Until 2006, Christine Axsmith was a software contractor for the CIA who wrote a blog that was only accessible to other CIA workers. A self-described Erma Bombeck of the intelligence world, Axsmith wrote about everything from the economy to the quality of food in the CIA cafeteria. Then one day she posted her feelings about waterboarding—namely, how wrong it was—and her blog was taken down. Furthermore, she was fired by her employer, BAE Systems.
Top-Secret World Loses Blogger: CIA Contractor Is Fired When Internal Post Crosses the Line (by Dana Priest, Washington Post)
CIA Spies Live It Up During Kidnapping Mission
When details of the CIA’s 2003 capture of an Islamic cleric in Milan surfaced, Italian authorities were outraged by the kidnapping. Prosecutors began collecting evidence to build a case that the 23 operatives should be brought back to Italy and tried on charges of kidnapping. They were eventually convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to prison in absentia. Among the details that the Italians discovered was that the CIA agents spent lavishly while they posed as businessmen and secretly planned their seizure of Hussan Mustafa Omar Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar).
The Americans stayed at some of the finest hotels in Milan, sometimes for as long as six weeks, ringing up tabs of as much as $500 a day on Diners Club accounts created to match their forged identities. Then, after abducting Omar and flying him to a secret prison in Cairo—where he later claimed he was tortured daily for seven months--some agents spent long weekends in Venice and Florence before leaving the country.
Italian prosecutors had no trouble retracing the steps of the agents because they left a long trail of paper and electronic records, including making phones calls from unsecure phones in their hotel rooms.
One of the alleged CIA operatives, Sabrina De Sousa (who resigned from her agency job in February 2009), appeared in a U.S. federal district court in May 2011 in connection to her lawsuit against the U.S. government for not protecting her with diplomatic immunity. She noted that the abduction of Omar had been “unnecessary” because he didn’t pose a threat.
Italians Detail Lavish CIA Operation: 13 Charged in '03 Abduction Allegedly Stayed in Finest Hotels (by Craig Whitlock, Washington Post)
23 CIA Agents Convicted in Italy for Kidnapping Egyptian Cleric (by Gina Doggett, Agence France Presse)
Cold Warrior Brought Back to CIA
The CIA in 2007 brought back a longtime intelligence officer who left after then-Director Porter Goss tried to break up what he called the “old boys network” dominating the agency. Michael Sulick was placed in charge of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, the office that runs covert operations.
When Goss took over the agency, he sought to revitalize the clandestine service and weed out “dead wood” operators. But he ran into fierce opposition from the likes of Sulick and others who had cut their teeth spying on the Soviet Union.
Sulick was associate deputy director for operations when he resigned in November 2004 along with his boss, Stephen R. Kappes. One news account at the time said that Sulick and Kappes characterized Goss’ reforms as “an insurgency.” A former top CIA official praised Sulick’s return to the agency. “He is open to new ideas, but espionage in the classic sense has been around since biblical times and—while novelty is always welcome—there's a lot to be said for the proven experience that Mike Sulick brings to the table.”
CIA Brings Back Spy Chief (by Ken Timmerman, Newsmax.com)
Who is Michael J. Sulick and Does al Qaeda Have a Mole Inside the CIA? (by Gabriel Schoenfeld, Commentary)
Convicted CIA Spy Sues Agency
In the early 1980s, retired CIA agent Edwin Wilson was convicted of selling arms to Libya and spent the next 20 years in prison. All along, Wilson maintained that his actions were not only known by CIA officials, but encouraged as a way for the U.S. to build bridges with Libyan intelligence officers. In 2003, Wilson won a major victory when a federal judge in Texas threw out Wilson’s conviction that he had conspired to ship 20 tons of a powerful plastic explosive known as C-4 to Libya in 1977. Since being released from prison, Wilson has filed a civil suit to clear his name and prove that CIA officials lied when they denied knowing about Wilson’s arms dealings.
Former CIA spy branded a traitor wants to clear his name: Like a story in a spy novel, Edwin Wilson is out to prove he was set up (by Tracy Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
CIA Using Universities to Train Spies
In 2004 Congress quietly added language and funding to the Intelligence Authorization Act to create a pilot program known as the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP). Named after Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, PRISP was designed to train intelligence operatives and analysts in American university classrooms for careers in the CIA and other agencies. PRISP operates on an undisclosed number of American college and university campuses. If the pilot program proves to be a useful means of recruiting and training members of the intelligence community, then lawmakers may expand it to more campuses across the country.
The CIA's Campus Spies (by Dave H. Price, Counterpunch)
CIA Contractor Convicted in Detainee Death
David Passaro, a contract employee for the CIA, made headlines in 2004 when a North Carolina grand jury accused him of beating an Afghan prisoner to death at a U.S. military base. Passaro was the first American civilian to be charged with mistreating a detainee during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was accused of beating Abdul Wali while the man was being questioned in 2003 about rocket attacks on a remote base where Passaro was stationed with U.S. and Afghan troops.
Two years later, Passaro went to trial, but he was not convicted of murder. Instead, he was found guilty of three counts of simple assault and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Then-CIA Director Michael Hayden called Passaro’s actions “unlawful, reprehensible, and neither authorized nor condoned by the agency.”
U.S. indicts CIA contractor for killing Afghan prisoner (by David McGlinchey, Government Executive)
Former CIA contractor is found guilty (Associated Press)
More Changes at CIA Urged
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was scrutinized for not uncovering the plot to hijack American airliners. Lawmakers punished the agency by downgrading its leader, the Director of Central Intelligence, to an agency head reporting to the new Director of National Intelligence instead of to the President. Porter Goss, a former Republican Congressman, was put in charge and ordered to implement changes within the CIA to clear out its “dead wood” and improve its network of spies. The Directorate of Operations, in charge of covert operations, was reorganized and renamed the National Clandestine Service.
Following the retirement of Goss, U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden was put in charge of the CIA. Hayden oversaw the emptying of secret CIA prisons and the transfer of al-Qaeda detainees to U.S. military custody. Under his watch, the CIA reportedly abandoned the practice of waterboarding. Hayden also agreed to expand the number of lawmakers receiving classified briefings on the agency’s counterterrorism programs. Previously, briefings about the most sensitive CIA operations had been limited to four lawmakers—the top Democrat and Republican on the House and Senate intelligence committees—who were prohibited by law from sharing details with others, including their staff members.
Hayden said he had hoped to make the CIA more stealth-like in an effort to keep it out of the media. He said it’s important that the agency “stay in the shadows” while ignoring the “sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism.”
Critics on Capitol Hill contended that the CIA had not gone far enough to improve its operations or clean up its act. “The Bush administration’s embrace of torture and secret detentions has led our country down a dark hallway,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), who sponsored legislation to restrict CIA interrogations, including banning the CIA from using contractors to question detainees. Indeed, CIA Director Panetta announced such a ban in 2009.
Another change proposed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama was the requirement of prompt notification of the International Committee of the Red Cross when a new prisoner enters CIA custody, and the granting of Red Cross access to that detainee. Obama also issued an executive order banning coercive interrogation practices, including waterboarding. President George W. Bush has previously vetoed a Congressional bill that sought to limit CIA interrogators to a shortlist of Army-approved tactics.
Hayden had opposed many of the restrictions sought by lawmakers. He said that while Congress is free to ban specific techniques such as waterboarding, it would be a mistake to publicly limit the CIA to using only the interrogation tactics spelled out in the Army Field Manual because it would allow al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to know in advance what to expect if captured.
Secretive Agency Under the Spotlight: Chief Tries to Repair CIA as Scrutiny Grows (by Joby Warrick, Washington Post)
Why Obama Dodges CIA Reform (by Melvin A. Goodman, consortiumnews.com)
Detainee Torture and Secret Prisons
The CIA played important, and controversial, roles in President George W. Bush’s attempts to combat terrorist threats against the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Early in the administration’s first term, decisions were made to avoid the restrictions of 1996 U.S. War Crimes Act by keeping terrorist suspects out of U.S. territory and instead house them either at U.S. military bases, such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or secret facilities in Afghanistan, Thailand, and Eastern Europe. CIA officers were charged with ensuring the transport of these detainees and interrogating them at hidden locations. As news broke of the existence of the secret prisons and uses of torture, a fierce public discourse erupted between the administration and its Republican supporters and Democrats and civil libertarians over these activities.
The Bush administration had claimed that the United States has been in a state of war since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. Using the rationale “desperate times call for desperate measures,” Bush supporters set out to do whatever was required to make sure terrorists were stopped before they could launch more attacks and spill more American blood. In some respects, the arguments were not unlike those put forth during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, when CIA officers secretly employed questionable means to stop Communist advances on U.S. security and interests. With regard to maintaining secret prisons to jail terrorist detainees, the CIA was right to do so in order to make sure these dangerous individuals were prevented from carrying out their plans and forced to divulge all they knew.
As for the types of interrogation used by CIA officers and contractors, nothing illegal was done, according to the Bush Justice Department, which issued legal opinions that justified waterboarding and other means. The CIA was also right to destroy tapes of interrogations, according to former Director Michael Hayden, because were they ever to leak, they would reveal the identities of CIA agents who would then be subject to retaliation by terrorists.
Regardless of how terrible the 9/11 attacks were, the CIA has no business carrying out acts that are not only illegal under US law but international covenant as well, including the Geneva Conventions to which the US is a signatory. Groups like Amnesty International have expressed outrage at the clandestine behavior of CIA officers, arguing that these actions undermine the reputation of the American people and the sanctity of the American democratic and legal process. What will there be left to defend, opponents argue, if, in the name of defending democracy, there is no standard of law that has not been compromised for the sake of ensuring safety and security?
Furthermore, opponents wonder just how effective secret imprisonment or interrogations are in protecting America from terrorists if only a select few officials know what really goes on behind closed doors. In such situations, opportunities for mistakes and subsequent cover-ups are ripe for the taking.
In his first week in office as President, Barack Obama banned the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture). His plan to close the U.S.’s controversial Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba was scuttled when Congress thwarted his efforts to bring some of its prisoners to trial on U.S. soil. To the dismay of human rights advocates, he has continued President Bush’s use of extraordinary rendition, modifying the policy with greater oversight to ensure that torture is not employed. In April 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced his decision to ban the CIA’s use of contractors for prisoner interrogations and security.
CIA Secret Prisons Exposed: The disappeared: Are they dead? Are they alive? Ask Congress. Ask the president. (by Nat Hentoff, Village Voice)
The Black Sites: A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program (by Jane Mayer, New Yorker)
Debate erupts on techniques used by CIA (by David Johnston and Scott Shane, International Herald Tribune)
Congress Defies Bush on CIA Tape Probe: House Will Continue Investigation Despite White House Request to Drop It (by John Cochran, ABC News)
Amnesty ad condemns waterboarding (by Mark Sweney, The Guardian)
Barack Obama Abandons Guantánamo Closure Plan after Congress Veto (by Chris McGreal, Guardian.co.uk)
U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight (by David Johnston, New York Times)
General Michael V. Hayden
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, General Michael V. Hayden, United States Air Force, served as the 18th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from May 2006 until February 2009. Hayden holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a master’s degree in modern American history from Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University.
Hayden began his military career in 1969 after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He has held senior staff positions at the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. He also served as deputy chief of staff for United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea.
From May 1993 to October 1995, Hayden served as director of the Intelligence Directorate for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Hayden was commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center, both headquartered at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, from January 1996 to September 1997.
From March 1999 to April 2005, Hayden served as director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. He was then promoted to first principal deputy director of National Intelligence, during which time he received his fourth star, making him the highest-ranking intelligence officer in the military.
While heading the NSA, Hayden oversaw the implementation of the government’s secret, illegal taping of telephone calls without warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. During his nomination hearings, Hayden defended his actions by stating that he had relied upon legal advice from the White House which insisted the President had the power under Article Two of the Constitution to order the wire-tapping without need of warrants or permission from Congress.
Porter Goss (2004 to 2006)
George Tenet (1997 to 2004)
John Deutch (1995 to 1996)
James Woolsey (1993 to 1995)
Robert Gates (1991 to 1992)
William Webster (1987 to 1991)
William Casey (1981 to 1987)
Stansfield Turner (1977 to 1981)
George H. W. Bush (1976 to 1977)
William Colby (1973 to 1976)
Richard Helms (1966 to 1973)
Admiral Red Raborn (1965 to 1966)
John McCone (1962 to 1965)
Allen Dulles (1953 to 1961)
General Walter Bedell Smith (1950 to 1953)
Roscoe Henry Hillenkoetter (1947 to 1950)
General Hoyt Vanderberg (1946 to 1947)
Rear Admiral Sidney Souers (1946, as head of the Central Intelligence Group)
Four years have made quite a difference for John Brennan. In late 2008, the 25-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) because of his public support of the Bush administration’s program of illegally sending kidnapped terrorism suspects to foreign prisons to be tortured. Wishing to maintain his anti-torture credentials at the time, Obama appointed Brennan to a White House job that did not require Senate confirmation.
Shortly after his second inauguration, however, Obama nominated Brennan to be the next DCI, and he was confirmed on March 7, 2013. He succeeded David Petraeus, who resigned following revelations of an extra-marital affair in November 2009.
Born September 22, 1955, to Irish immigrant parents from Roscommon, Ireland, John Brennan grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey, graduating from St. Joseph of the Palisades High School in 1973. He earned a B.A. in Political Science at Fordham University in 1977 and an M.A. in Government with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1980.
At UT, Brennan wrote an M.A. Thesis, “Human Rights: The Case Study of Egypt,” in which he denied the existence of “absolute human rights,” defended censorship in Egypt and indicated an early tolerance for torture. “Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” wrote Brennan. Taking his relativistic view of human rights to its logical conclusion, Brennan argued that “the fact that absolute human rights do not exist (with the probable exception of freedom from torture) makes the [human rights] analysis subject to innumerable conditional criticisms.” (emphasis added.)
Although Brennan officially joined the CIA in 1980—he tells reporters a story of how his “wanderlust” was piqued by a CIA recruiting ad in The New York Times—some of his activities at Fordham suggest his recruitment dates back to his school days. Bob Keane, a classmate from the 4th grade through sophomore year at Fordham, told reporters that Brennan spent the summer after freshman year in Indonesia with a cousin who was working for the Agency for International Development, and visited Bahrain on the way home. “I wondered if he had even been recruited that early,” mused Keane. In fact, Brennan spent his junior year abroad learning fluent Arabic and taking Middle Eastern studies courses at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.
Since formally joining CIA in 1980, Brennan has held a variety of senior positions in the Agency. From 1984 to 1989, he served as an intelligence analyst in the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis. He was in charge of terrorism analysis in the DCI’s Counterterrorist Center between 1990 and 1992, including the first Gulf War. He served as the CIA’s daily intelligence briefer for President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1994 and 1995, and then as executive assistant to then-Deputy DCI George Tenet from 1995 to 1996. He served as CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 1996 to 1999, when the Khobar Towers bombing killed 19 U.S. servicemen, deaths a subsequent investigation partly blamed on intelligence failures at CIA. From 1999 to March 2001, he again directly served Tenet, who had risen to CIA Director, this time as Chief of Staff, followed by a stint as CIA Deputy Executive Director from March 2001 to 2003, the period when the agency missed growing signs of an impending terror attack on U.S. soil.
From 2003 to 2005 Brennan served as director of the newly created Terrorist Threat Integration Center and its successor agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, which compile information from other U.S. agencies for the President’s daily intelligence briefings. In December 2003 he distributed intelligence, which was soon discredited, to the White House that led to a controversial “Orange Terror Alert” that proved groundless.
Leaving government in 2005, Brennan started his own company, The Analysis Corp., in McLean, Virginia, of which he was president and CEO from 2005 to 2008. Returning to politics in 2008 as a senior adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Brennan became a trusted confidant. After Brennan was forced to withdraw from consideration as DCI, Obama named him Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, making him Obama’s chief advisor on terrorism. In actual fact, Brennan soon took over the process of creating the list of terror suspects from which the President chooses whom to kill via unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Brennan, whose nomination is opposed by many liberals and progressives, has been accused of lying in what writer Glenn Greenwald calls “highly consequential cases,” including falsely proclaiming that Osama bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with U.S. forces entering his house and “used his wife as a human shield,” and then claiming that drone attacks in Pakistan in 2010 did not cause “a single collateral death” when authorities knew that this was a bold falsehood. For its part, the American Civil Liberties Union argues that Brennan should not be confirmed until the legality of his past conduct has been determined.
John Brennan is married to Kathy Pokluda Brennan, also of North Bergen, with whom he has a son and twin daughters.
To Learn More:
North Bergen Man is Homeland SecurityAssistant for President Obama (by Herb Jackson, North Jersey Record)
The One-Man Death Panel: Obama’s Counter-Terrorism Advisor (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Human Rights: The Case Study of Egypt (by John Brennan, M.A. Thesis, 1980) (pdf)
In Graduate Thesis, CIA Chief John Brennan Argued for Government Censorship: “Too Much Freedom Is Possible” (by Charles C. Johnson, Daily Caller)
Once again placed in the awkward role of replacing a boss who was forced to resign abruptly, newly-minted Acting CIA Director Michael J. Morell is well suited to getting Langley back to normal. Within a day of the fall of former Gen. David Petraeus over his relationship with an Army historian whose embedment with the General’s unit apparently led to her embedment with the man himself, President Barack Obama moved to ensure stability at CIA. Morell, a thirty-year man at the Agency, served a stint as acting director last year, and his will be one of several names considered by Obama for the permanent job.
Born in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, on September 4, 1958, Michael Morell is the son of Joseph S. Morell, who worked as a tool-and-die designer for Chrysler Motors, and Irene (Harangozo) Morell. Morell graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School in 1976, earned a B.A. in Economics at the University of Akron in 1980 and an M.A. in Economics at Georgetown University in 1984.
Morell joined the CIA in 1980, although when he traveled to Washington for his job interview he had no intention of doing so. “I had every intention of going to grad school and getting a Ph.D. in economics and teaching,” Morell explained in 2006, leading him to treat the interview as no more than a free trip to the nation’s capital. He was offered a job and took it.
Starting as an analyst tracking international energy issues, Morell worked for 14 years as an analyst and manager on East Asia, rising to director of the DI’s Office of Asian Pacific and Latin American Analysis in 1999. Morell served as a presidential briefer, i.e., chief of the staff who presents the President’s Daily Brief, for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and he was with President Bush on September 11, 2001. After serving as executive assistant to CIA Director George J. Tenet, from 2003 to 2006, during which time the CIA was engaged in torture, Morell took a secret assignment overseas, including in London, UK.
Returning stateside, Morell served a three-month stint as deputy director for Intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center, followed by service as the CIA’s first associate deputy director from July 2006 to May 2008, making him the number three man at the Agency For the next two years, Morell served as director for Intelligence, leading the Agency’s all-source analytic arm, which produces strategic and tactical assessments for U.S. policymakers and military commanders.
In May 2010, Morell succeeded Stephen Kappes, who had resigned suddenly and without explanation, as deputy director of the CIA, serving under directors Leon E. Panetta (February 2009-June 2011) and David Petraeus (September 2011-November 2012). Morell served his previous stint as acting director from July 1 to September 6, 2011, during the interregnum between Panetta and Petraeus following Panetta’s appointment as Secretary of Defense.
Morell is married to Mary Beth Morell, and the couple has three children.
Michael J. Morell: Introducing the CIA’s New Acting Director (by Kevin Fallon, Daily Beast)
Amid Upheaval, Obama Loses “Source of Stability” (by David E. Sanger, New York Times)
Falls Native Named CIA's Director for Intelligence (by Steve Wiandt, Falls News Press)