Tales from the Trail

Former CIA clandestine chief in memoir to explain why interrogation videos destroyed

Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service who landed in controversy over ordering the destruction of videotapes of terrorism suspects being interrogated, is writing a book in which he will explain why for the first time.

Rodriguez is unabashed that enhanced interrogation techniques used on top al Qaeda operatives produced information that ultimately led to Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces last weekend.

“The actions we took in the aftermath of 9/11 were harsh but necessary and effective. These steps were fully sanctioned and carefully followed.  The detention and interrogation of top terrorists like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi yielded breakthroughs which have kept this country safe,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

The Justice Department decided last year that no CIA personnel would face criminal charges for the 2005 destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes of harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and it was believed that the tapes included footage of that.

“Hard Measures” is scheduled for release in spring 2012 and is to be co-authored by former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, who also co-authored former CIA Director George Tenet’s book.

Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?

An agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight.

So President Barack Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles.

How will a four-star general who has repeatedly been the subject of speculation as a possible future presidential candidate, and who doesn’t shy from the media spotlight, run an agency that prefers to stick to the shadows?

Will his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired three-star general, be uncomfortable with a subordinate who has a much higher public profile that threatens to outshine him?

CIA on WikiLeaks — WTF

The CIA gets the prize for the most entertaining acronym in Washington, a city that cannot speak without using at least one in every sentence.

The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has formed the WikiLeaks Task Force which is being referred to in-house as WTF.

(If you don’t get it, ask a teenager). SECURITY BUSH

TWP (The Washington Post) said the irreverence might be understandable since the agency was fairly unscathed by the WikiLeaks document extravaganza.

One more secret at CIA – next week’s Top Chef winner and loser

The Central Intelligence Agency has one more secret to keep this week — who won the Top Chef challenge in next week’s episode.

The TV cooking competition at the end of  Wednesday’s episode, in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a guest judge and declared herself a “foodie,” previewed the coming week when the competing chefs do their thing at the intelligence agency. A smiling CIA Director Leon Panetta was shown in the snippet tasting an entry at a white-tablecloth table. USA/AFGHANISTAN

Having been to the CIA on occasion while covering intelligence and remembering being required to leave my cellphone and BlackBerry in my car because they weren’t allowed inside, I wondered whether the chefs were able to take their famous cooking knives into the secure facility.

Iranian scientist saga has message for defectors: big bucks in U.S.

Five million dollars is a lot of money for most people on this planet.

IRAN-SCIENTIST/So the revelation by unnamed U.S. officials that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri was paid that amount for providing information about Iran may actually end up encouraging others thinking of defecting – that’s one train of thought among some experts.

“It is a great advertisement to folks that if they have good information — $5 million or more may be theirs.  They just need to make up their minds that when they come here — there is no going back,” a former senior U.S. official tells me. “The message to me seems to be: don’t screw with Uncle Sam. We can be a very good friend, but a worse enemy.”

What has been surprising is that U.S. officials seem to have decided to play hardball (instead of going the silent route) by speaking out (anonymously of course) and saying that Amiri started giving information to the United States while living  in Iran, that he was paid $5 million to show he was an important defector, and he disliked his wife and didn’t want to bring his family to the U.S.

The mystery of the homesick Iranian nuclear scientist

The facts are few: Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, disappeared in June 2009 during a pilgrimage to Mecca. He turned up this week at the Iranian interests section in the Pakistani Embassy in Washington wanting to go home.

What happened during the year inbetween is quite murky and even a timeline of what is publicly known requires much reading between the lines and connecting circumstantial dots.

ABC News reported in March that Amiri had defected to the United States. That would be quite a catch.

Obama admits security “screw up,” but some wonder who’ll pay

President Barack Obama may have hoped to limit the political fallout from last month’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by admitting there was a “screw up.” Will firings follow? Some think Obama’s unusually sharp rhetoric raises the odds that heads will roll.

One such observer is U.S. Rep. Peter King, an influential New York Republican.
SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA
“If the situation is as bad as the president says it was, as far as so many dots not being connected, so many obvious mistakes being made … I would think once the president set that stage, that to show that he’s serious, someone will have to go now,” King told ABC’s Good Morning America.

But the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says he can’t tell which official should pay because the Obama administration hasn’t let Congress know who did (or didn’t) do what, when.

Dealing with “bad guys” in intelligence gathering, OK or not?

Since the September 11 attacks, CIA officials have made it clear that to get the intelligence needed to stop terrorism attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies sometimes have to deal with “bad guys.”

The issue is again in the public eye again after The New York Times reported that the CIA has been regularly paying Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for at least eight years for services that included helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force. The newspaper report says that Ahmed Wali Karzai is a suspected player in the illegal opium trade, which he denies.

Senator John McCain told CBS “Early Show” yesterday: “I’d heard that rumor before. I think it’s wrong. It’s wrong of the CIA to do it and I’m sure our military commanders there would disagree with it.”

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Former AG Gonzales: what I really meant to say was…

USA-GONZALES/Say what?

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales threw folks for another loop on Thursday by saying he doesn’t really support further investigation of CIA prisoner abuses after all.

That was after the earlier loop when he said he did not see a problem with investigating interrogation methods that ran over set boundaries.

He explained in a second interview with the Washington Times that what he really meant in his first interview was that he doesn’t really back the decision last week by current Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a review.

Obama’s summer holiday no walk on the beach

OBAMA/President Barack Obama began his summer vacation by sending a specific message to the White House press corps.

 ”He wants you to relax and have a good time,” Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said as Air Force One carried the first family to the Massachusetts island where they are spending a week-long holiday. “Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody is looking to make any news, so he’s hoping that you guys can enjoy Martha’s Vineyard while we’re there.”

“I asked him if he had a message for the press corps, and that’s what it is,” Burton said.