Friday, December 19, 2014

#CIA Torture

Are the Good Guys actually the Bad Guys?                           

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We are in the midst of still another scandal in which CIA's operational procedures have been revealed and reflect poorly on their "clandestine/covert/black" operations.

As a bit of history, the CIA was formed following World War II consequent to the National Security Act of 1947; the paramilitary OSS [Office of Strategic Services] was abolished, and the CIA came into being.  The difficulty there was that the OSS First String players, mostly corporate executives, accomplished academics, scientists, and a herd of Blue-bloods returned to their pre-War professions, leaving the Second-String support group to fill the senior ranks of the new Intelligence Agency.
[We had the privilege of working with several of these gentlemen, to include Vernon Walters [DCI], Joseph Alsop [syndicated columnist], Bill Yarborough [father of the Green Berets], Willis H. Bird [creator of the Bangkok Stock Exchange]

The First String consisted of men and women who could travel throughout the world and connect with their peers on any continent, and dine and drink with with newly minted Nazis and/or Communists who previously occupied the upper tier of the social strata.  Through their professional contacts, the OSS operatives were able to recruit espionage action agents and support networks which lasted well beyond the end of WWII, and which were subsequently managed by the less socially adept Second String operational folk.  Nonetheless, these recruited assets functioned well until they aged and left the "biz", or retired, or were rounded up by foreign Secret Police, tortured and/or executed following operational blunders by the Second String Agency "case officers."

As we entered the 1960s, the multi-lingual deep thinkers and professionals were exiting the CIA, leaving the FNGs [fucking new guys], who had been recruited from US police agencies [ATF, DEA/BNDD, State Police, and military Special Forces.  They weren't bad people, and meant well, but they simply didn't have the finesse or international savoir faire which allowed them to move about from one social strata to the next.  They routinely stood out like the traditional "sore thumb" in social situations, allowing the local security folks to easily identify both them -- and the assets they "recruited."  Most were identifiable because they looked, and acted like cops.  Assets they recruited were little more than "police snitches", and the focus shifted from espionage to law enforcement techniques -- i.e., recruited spies were judged as "criminals" rather than "assets".

Thus, the Clandestine Service suffered greatly in terms of finesse and intellect -- and effectiveness.

Worse, as the Clandestine Service declined in capability, being displaced by the Covert operations element which conducts almost exclusively paramilitary operations, incorporating Special Forces personnel to combat Communist military units operating in regions in which the US had a "strategic interest."  Among those regions were the Middle East and Southeast Asia, both of which were key to land and water-based international trade, and of course -- oil.

Initially, Covert Ops were designed for the neutralization of targeted enemy units, and later for the assassination of foreign leaders who disagreed with us.  That included eliminating designated "bad guys" such as Salvadore Allende in Chile, Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh [installing the Shah], Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat [installing Hosni Mubarak], and, of course, Vietnamese Leader Ngo Dinh Diem -- installing movable human fence posts and William Westmoreland to run the country.
[That's not to say these Executive Actions were not necessary to remedy unacceptable regimes and individuals -- particularly untrustworthy directors such as Colby and Casey.]

With the CIA running both civilian and military strategy, equipped only with Third String Wannabes, the colossal screw-ups were a dime a dozen since, all too often, the CIA station chiefs and base chiefs had little or no experience in military or paramilitary operations, and would bring in Army Special Forces or Military Intelligence personnel who were fluent in both language and area expertise [a process referred to in modern times as "sheep-dipping", i.e., shedding the military uniform and status and donning quasi-military garb and assuming rank much senior to local Military officers].  Paramilitary Special Operations and/or Black Ops complete with armored vests and SWAT unit imagery has virtually replaced any refined espionage conducted via Clandestine Operations -- previously known as "Espionage" -- but that is another discussion entirely.

We were one of these "sheep-dipped" operators, selected on the basis of language skills, tactical military training, a graduate of Fort Holabird [the Military counterpart of the CIA's "Farm"] with in-depth training in clandestine and covert operations, and ultimately, in-depth area knowledge.
We enjoyed, as the Regional Intelligence Advisor, the peer status of a Brigadier General [sans uniform] in order to maintain the respect and cooperation of our foreign Military counterparts in directing one of the few successful counter-insurgency efforts in US history.

In so doing, we overcame the obstacle that only one of the CIA's officers had even a marginal degree of knowledge of the local language; sadly, that deficit in another CIA base led to one of the most spectacular SNAFUs in foreign intelligence lore -- referred to as "The Sakhon Nakon Letter"
[but that's fodder for another story].

[This is not to say that the CIA was totally devoid of linguistic and area expertise - as the subject of the referenced article, Jack Divine, was one of the few area experts the CIA could boast - and he was quite successful.  We enjoyed Jack's operational capability in his prime, and wouldn't mind seeing Jack heading up the CIA today.  Over the years, we did meet a number of very professional CIA officers; but they were in the minority, particularly after the Church Committee purges.]

Boring as the preceding history lesson has been, it lays the groundwork for the problem the CIA currently faces, i.e., disclosure that it is not terribly competent at espionage, but seemingly now specializes in torture and murder.  That would not be considered a "bad thing" except that such disclosures reflect poorly on the US image as "good guys", i.e, the purveyors of chocolate bars to lovable, little, foreign urchins as portrayed in our magazines and movies.

Unfortunately in reality, our CIA folk tend to stray from the positive image, and in recent years, have managed a variety of torture chambers which would be the envy of the Spanish [Catholic] Inquisition.

Now, to be fair, the objective of the Inquisitors was simply to force their victims to renounce Satan, or their Abbots, or the head of the Jesuits, or even Judaism or Islam.  A simple "yes" or "no" was the usual objective, but it was so much more entertaining to see how much pain could be inflicted before the victims offered up their agonized confessions to whatever their interrogators sought for satisfaction - after which they would usually be executed.

But, that was so, so far in the past that most folk today have completely forgotten that era.

And, God forbid, anyone make reference to Christ in that scenario; how does one rationalize the compassionate teachings of Christ with the savagery of Holy Mother Church embodied in the Inquisition.

And how do we, as Americans, accept the debauchery conducted by our Intelligence operatives as "acceptable torture"!

But, just as the Inquisitors sought
answers -- and the consummate auto-da-fe' , so too have the CIA leadership as they rationalized torture for the sake of torture rather than the elicitation of actionable intelligence.

Since the CIA does not train expert interrogators anymore, they have reached into the bowels of the Military for such expertise.

When we were interrogating enemy prisoners, one was a North Vietnamese captain of whom we asked the question: "Why do you folks torture and maim US prisoners?"

He looked shocked, and responded:
"Because you have done it to us!  For example, one of your commanders mutilates our soldiers by cutting of their ears!"

I chose not to believe him, and inquired of a colleague at MACSOG in Saigon who sent me a copy of the Stars & Stripes which featured a glowing story about LTC Henry Emerson who issued hatchets to his troops which they used to cut off the ears of NVA troops.
We were mortified at the news.

[Rather than be court-martialed for violating the Geneva Convention, Henry Emerson rocketed through the ranks, was promoted to Lieutenant General, and became Commander of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg.]

But, we digress.
The value of using Military personnel for egregious acts was, that if compromised, the CIA leadership would immediately report to the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] and the HPSCI [House Permanent SubCommittee on Intelligence] and pronounce the latest debacle the fault of Military Intelligence, since, after all, the perps were indeed Military folk engaged in "Intelligence" operations [albeit under the direction of the CIA].
The bottom line of these CIA testimonials was that these SNAFUs were "... still more evidence that Military Intelligence should be placed under the direct supervision of the CIA" -- an option which we in the Military successfully opposed.

Unfortunately, to date, the CIA has not tapped into the valuable Military Intelligence resources of trained and highly skilled interrogators with decades of experience; but rather, the CIA has routinely used their Military Liaison Office to acquire thugs from the Marines or the Special Operations organizations.  Keep in mind, these are basically good guys [and some women] who are trained in black ops, stealth, and fatal shoot-em-ups to satisfy a momentary objective -- but they have no experience or competence in interrogations or intelligence -- and are thus, counter-productive and the fodder for Congressional Investigations and Media Scandal-Mongering.

Now, we're not condemning these folk, since many are God-fearing, highly religious people who firmly believe that, like their Inquisitor counterparts, the more a prisoner shrieks in pain and anguish, the greater the intelligence gain.  The difficulty with that approach is that, after a period of time, the prisoner will admit to any heinous act, up to and including voting for President Obama or sleeping with Michelle.  In essence, there is no positive result of torture as an intelligence tool.  And, unfortunately, it has been revealed that a number of those tortured were not, in fact, enemy combatants, but were simply innocents collected under the "usual suspects" category; so, they had no information to reveal no matter how extensively they were tortured.

This is an area in which we have considerable expertise, since we have conducted several hundred non-hostile interrogations in foreign engagements, eliciting well over 1,000 IIRs [DoD Intelligence Information Reports] and TD-FIRs [CIA Field Intelligence Reports], the bulk of which were highly rated by the analytical community.  Not a drop of blood was spilled; no fingernails pulled; no eyes gouged out; no teeth pulled with pliers as in the Marathon Man.  We'll also add that these interrogations were conducted in both combat environments as well as rear area facilities.

Routinely, our interrogations were mere question-and-answer periods, with the tacit threat that lying would result in transfer to the less desirable facilities managed by sadistic interrogators.  The worst we could be accused of was psychological manipulation -- a craft at which we were quite skilled, and which produced marvelous results.

We were challenged, while we attended the Intelligence Career Course at Fort Huachuca, by an Infantry colonel who professed he could endure ANY form of interrogation and never reveal a nugget of useful information.  We provided the audience a list of actionable intelligence information we intended to extract, and then proceeded to do so to the great delight of the audience -- which registered each new nugget as we elicited it.

When we concluded the two hour interrogation demonstration, the colonel smirked and announced his victory over us in not revealing any valuable information; to his dismay, we then posted each element of information he had revealed which my analyst had then converted into a detailed description of his unit, his key personnel, the full listing of his unit's equipment and readiness, radio call signs, areas of operation, and his mission objective.  He remembered revealing none of that information until I played back video clips of each element -- which we then compiled into our Interrogation Report.  He was mortified.

During the post-Vietnam era, we formed and commanded a tactical training detachment which trained more than 1,000 US Military units in all phases of tactical intelligence, among which was the art of interrogation.  Within the Military units we trained [from battalions through corps], we had refined the techniques of several thousand interrogators, many of whom later proved themselves in the first Gulf War, and most of whom remained in the Army Reserves following the Gulf War.

The point of this discussion is that interrogation is an art form which requires extensive training and refinement to achieve the desired results.  Bringing in the knuckle-draggers guarantees failure, no matter what the CIA leadership tells Congress.

We really do need to review the Church Commission and Pike Committee findings of the 1970s to see the comparisons of the abuses of the Intelligence Community versus those we've seen revealed today.  Those earlier investigations revealed horrendous activities which can only be matched by today's revelations by Fast Eddie Snowden.  Has history repeated itself?

To offset the CIA's incorporation of paramilitary operations which displaced Clandestine [Espionage] operations in Military Target Areas, in 1984 we formed the DCS [Defense Clandestine Service (codename not disclosed)] by which we deployed highly skilled, well trained, linguistically qualified, area experts to conduct espionage operations around the world.  
[This would be the same DCS which Lt General Flynn and James Clapper each claimed credit for having formed following 9/11]

Our compromise in this enterprise was that we worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, to include sending our new case officers to train at "The Farm" since Fort Holabird had long since closed.  Nonetheless, while the CIA focused on penetrating the KGB and running paramilitary ops, we focused solely on penetrating terrorist organizations and the military of foreign countries which we gauged as potential or actual adversaries.

The DCS was quite a success and received accolades from both the SSCI and the HPSCI for the extraordinary amounts of actionable intelligence it produced -- without a single paramilitary operation! or even a SNAFU.  

Flynn: Destroyed DCS
Unfortunately, Mike Flynn, a protege of JimmyBob Clapper [DNI Director] took control of DIA and converted the DCS into just another SWAT unit running semi-covert operations.  Once again, with the assistance of the CIA, Military Intelligence and the DIA took a hit and may not recover.  

Flynn managed to achieve global attention for his stupidity when his "clandestine" operators [dressed in full battle gear] were identified and declared Persona Non Grata in Peru -- on of our closest Latin American allies.  

Both Flynn and his deputy were relieved of their posts; in the process of abandoning the principles of the DCS we spent years planning and building, they destroyed it, and perhaps destroyed DIA as well.