Saturday, January 17, 2009

Consortium News: Bush's Only Gift to America

Consortium News writes:
That judgment still holds even though other senior government officials have acknowledged that the Iraqgate allegations were, in fact, true. For instance, former CIA officer Melissa Mahle, a Middle East expert, stated flatly in her 2004 book, Denial and Deception, that in the mid-1980s, “the United States was already deeply involved in providing weapons and other military support to Iraq.”
Click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle: Leon Panetta's reputation for integrity

Today's San Francisco Chronicle quoted Melissa Mahle on her views about President-Elect Barack Obama's nomination of Leon Panetta as the new CIA head.

Click here to read the article.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boston Globe: Where does necessary secrecy end?

Today's Boston Globe quoted Melissa Mahle in its review of the movie Secrecy entitled "Where does necessary secrecy end?"

Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dinner with a Spy

Join Melissa Boyle Mahle at the International Spy Museum

At an intimate dinner for twenty Ms. Mahle will discuss her fourteen-year tenure as a covert operative for the CIA. Hear the inside stories and join the conversation!

International Spy Museum
800 F Street NW Washington DC
Tuesday, 6 February, 7-10 pm
Tickets $160
Advance Registration Required

Sunday, May 14, 2006

New York Times: Intelligence Design

Intelligence Design

May 14, 2006

[This piece also appeared in the International Herald Tribune as " Forget the uniform. What's the plan?"]

THE nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden as director of the Central Intelligence Agency is good news. Placing "his man" at the C.I.A. signals that John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, is bringing the agency fully into the new intelligence structure and helping to strengthen its integration.

The concern that General Hayden's military background portends a Pentagon takeover of the agency is misplaced. During my 14 years at the C.I.A., I served under two uniformed deputy directors and a director who was a former deputy secretary of defense. The C.I.A. never lost its civilian and independent culture.

The real question is what General Hayden and Mr. Negroponte will do with the C.I.A. The agency's human intelligence collection capacities are weak, as the public learned from the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraqi weapons fiasco. We insiders have long known it, having watched our ability to recruit agents and analyze intelligence disintegrate during a decade of poor leadership, downsizing, mission confusion and eroding morale.

A year and a half ago, Porter Goss was sent to lead the C.I.A. with an explicit mandate to strengthen human intelligence collection and analysis. Mr. Goss made some important progress on the latter, but the Clandestine Services, which specializes in collecting intelligence from foreign agents, resisted his reforms, partly because they resented his confrontational style. More important, the professional spies disagreed with Mr. Goss's vision of a C.I.A. integrated into a larger intelligence system in which the agency would be just one of many players. They preferred the old system, perhaps with some minor tweaks, which preserved their absolute control over spy operations, the spies who run them and the secrets resulting from them.

When Mr. Goss failed to get his arms around the agency and redirect it along the lines of his vision, some insiders argued that the C.I.A.'s structure was at fault, not Mr. Goss's leadership. The C.I.A. cannot easily be managed because it has too many different tasks: human intelligence collection, all-source analysis, technical collection and science and technology development. Senior outside advisers suggested splitting the Clandestine Services off from the analytical arm to fix the focus problem.

Splitting up the C.I.A. at this time is unwise. In trying to fix the weaknesses of human intelligence collection, we will make integration problems more complicated and probably worse in the short and medium term. Rather than having one insular agency, the intelligence world will be populated by mini-agencies with diminished capacities but all the same instincts to protect turf. Human intelligence collection will still be scattered among agencies, as will technical collection and analysis. To get a net benefit from splitting up the C.I.A., agencies under the control of the Pentagon would have to be merged with the mini-agencies so that there would be just one body devoted to each kind of intelligence work.

The goal of creating an integrated intelligence community is the right one, but we risk generating bureaucratic chaos in the process. We don't want to destroy existing capacities in the name of progress or idealized organization charts. Trying to break up the C.I.A. and integrate it at the same time is too much for one structure to bear — especially one that is already weak, demoralized and paranoid about hostile takeover by the Pentagon.
Back in the 1990's, under the directorship of John Deutch, the C.I.A. suffered from similar organizational angst. There were unending process reviews, turf battles with the F.B.I. and Pentagon, and a Congressional review that debated the merits of breaking up the agency, which was then called a cold war dinosaur. A sense of paralysis engulfed us.

Assigned to an important country in the Persian Gulf, I went to work each day not knowing what I was supposed to do, what secrets to steal or whether anyone remembered I was there, since my mail went unanswered. These were the days when Osama bin Laden first declared war on the United States from his new base in the mountains of Afghanistan — an act that went largely unnoticed by a distracted and demoralized C.I.A.

Rather than breaking up the agency, General Hayden and Mr. Negroponte should focus on integrating it in its current form. Strengthening the direct relationship between Mr. Negroponte's office and the C.I.A.'s deputy directors for analysis and operations will tighten command and control without the chaos caused by breaking structures. At the moment, the director of national intelligence does not have access to information about how the C.I.A.'s clandestine and analytical resources are distributed. This makes it impossible to evaluate, for example, whether the C.I.A.'s Iran program duplicates or adds to efforts elsewhere in the community, or whether resource allocations reflect the director's priorities.

Once General Hayden is confirmed, his first challenge will be to select a new leadership team. The general should be wary of those who simply advocate the status quo. These forces might be popular with the professional spies, but they will resist real transformation. General Hayden should not shy away from reaching deep down or even outside to bring together a diverse group of leaders who are capable and committed to changing the organization. Furthermore, it is imperative that General Hayden assume the role of a hands-on leader who will deal decisively with festering concerns that might seem trivial but have led to an unhealthy rift between staff officers and senior management.

General Hayden's independent thinking, strong leadership skills, and knowledge and respect for the intelligence business will serve him well as he navigates these challenges, which proved too much for Mr. Goss. It is for this reason that other former insiders and I feel that he is the right man for the job.

But the vision has also got to be right. So rather than debating the type of suit General Hayden should wear, we should be asking him about his vision for C.I.A. integration, his plans for the agency and his priorities. The details are important because the stakes are high, not just for the men and women of the C.I.A., but for a nation at war.

Melissa Boyle Mahle, a former C.I.A. operations officer, is the author of "Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the C.I.A. From Iran-Contra to 9/11."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Washington Post Discussion: Hayden Nominated to Head CIA

Hayden Nominated to Head CIA
President Taps Air Force General to Replace Porter Goss

John Brennan
Fmr CIA Official/President and CEO, The Analysis Corporation
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; 12:00 PM

John Brennan , former head of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center who was with the CIA for 25 years and is now president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation, will be online Tuesday, May 9, at noon ET to discuss President Bush 's nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to lead the CIA and replace Porter Goss , who announced his resgination Friday.


Woodbridge, Va.: I was wondering if you could comment on an article by Marc Gerecht (a former Middle Eastern specialist for the CIA) that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. In the article he remarks that the CIA's free-fall had very little to do with Mr. Goss's tenure and everything to do with a risk averse culture characterized by case officers who sat around in embassies waiting for intelligence to come their way. He states that the institution had been rotting from within for a long period of time and goes on to make the point that it is a myth to think Mr. Goss forced out numerous critical CIA officers for shallow political reasons but that, in reality, he encountered an entrenched bureaucracy unwilling change. My question is, does the CIA's supposed morale boost, associated with the re-ascendance of those who opposed reform (represented by nomination of Mr. Kappes as the Deputy Director) really constitute progress if the agency so desperately needs to be deconstructed? After all, if Mr. Tenet deserved the Medal of Freedom, then who is accountable for the claim that the existence of WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk?"

John Brennan: There is a lot in your question. Personally, I do not look to Raul Gerecht for insights about the Agency. His information is dated and and I believe frequently inconsistent with the facts. The Agency should not be deconstructed......its work is critical to this nation's security. Kappes and Hayden are outstanding intelligence professionals, and they will help reconstruct the Agency at a time when the country needs it most.


Ashland, Mo.: The areas where the CIA has been deficient are well known - but not its successes. Is part of the problem with the current CIA that it is in constant CYA posture. It will not reach any conclusion for fear it will be found to be incorrect. Therefore, some part of the agency will support every position so that if one part is incorrect, another part will be correct. This leads to constant infighting and few useful conclusions. Moreover, is the agency simply too full of hubris over its mission?

John Brennan: The Agency has many more successes than failures. Some of the failures are due to lack of resources, poor policy choices, and other causes. Other failures are because Agency officers didn't perform as they were expected. As for your comment about reluctance to reach a conclusion, the intelligence is a complex one. While Agency officers are willing to state their "findings" and "judgments," it is also their obligations to raise reporting or analytic arguments that are contrary to their considered views, as policymakers expect them to give them countervailing information or arguments.


Harlingen, Tex.: What can Gen. Hayden possibly do to salvage the situation at the CIA given the broader mess in Washington that will limit his options?

To me (25 years in the intelligence community) it seems as if the car has already driven off the cliff, and changing drivers now isn't going to make much difference when it hits the ground.

John Brennan: The Intelligence Community has gone through some very tough times over the past several years, and I would agree that there is a lot of changes and improvements that need to be made. That is why having experienced intelligence professionals like Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes take the helm of CIA is so important at this time of transformation and transition. Mike and Steve know the strengths and, more importantly, know the weaknesses of the Agency and the Community. I believe that they can get the CIA on the right track, which is tremendously important to this nation's security.


Bethesda, Md.: I was watching the News Hour and someone pointed out that a military person might be a bad influence on the CIA. How would the staff like a military person?

John Brennan: It all depends on the person. Mike Hayden is an outstanding intelligence professional, and he has demonstrated over the years that he is willing to stand up to the SecDef on intelligence matters. I believe that the more enlighted CIA officers will look at the quality of the person nominated rather than the uniform he wears.


Washington, D.C.: Under Goss' tenure the publication of books by former CIA employees was condemned reversing a trend that had existed at least since the early to mid-1990s.

The Publication Review Board (PRB), which had normally been very successful in working with prospective authors in order to sanitize classified information, found itself ordered to take hard-line positions. Indeed, its last Director reportedly left the position for this very reason.

Do you see any potential change in attitude should Gen Hayden and Kappos be installed as leadership?

John Brennan: I have submitted several articles to the PRB and have not had any trouble. I have heard that approvals have become more difficult in recent weeks and that there is a serious delay in getting articles turned around. I am confident that hayden and Kappes would make sure that the PRB process is a smooth one, which means that it will give a careful scrub to submissions to ensure that classified information does not get out but that the review will take place in a timely manner.


Laramie, Wyo.: Isn't it against the law for the head of the CIA and the Deputy to both be military (active or retired)? Why hasn't the well-connected press been all over this? And has anyone informed Vice Admiral Albert Calland III?

John Brennan: Yes, only the director or the deputy director can be active duty military. The current deputy, Admiral Bert Calland, will step down if Hayden is confirmed. This issue has been raised in the press.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Dear Mr. Brennan,

According to Melissa Boyle Mahle, on the day of 9/11, DCI Tenet spoke to the agency to inform them that in essence, the CIA had done everything it could have done, and that CIA employees should not worry. She then went on to criticize him for not owning up to the CIA's failure to stop 9/11.

But what struck me was this: Why would the DCI assure the agency it had acted appropriately after 3,000 Americans had just died? Could it be that the DCI had in fact been going around with his hair on fire? Was he implying that the attack was the fault of the FBI, Dr. Rice, and Mr. Bush?

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

John Brennan: The Agency worked hard before 9/11 to prevent al-Qa'ida from carrying out its plans to attack U.S. interests, ioncluding in the Homeland. And no one worked more tirelessly at that effort than George Tenet. I know that from personal experience. However, all the efforts carried out were not sufficient to stop the devasrtating attacks on that September morning in 2001. The Agency and the rest of the Intelligence Community are now dedicated to doing more and, yes, doing better so that we never experience such an attack again.


Columbia, Md.: Gen. Hayden was the worst director NSA ever had in it's history. Almost single-handedly, Hayden managed to virtually destroy a fine, productive, and customer-oriented intellegence organization. Why does anyone think he won't do the same to the CIA?

John Brennan: I totally disagree with you. Mike Hayden made a number of very important changes at the Fort. Did he make everyone hgappy in the process? No. But strong and innovative leaders never do.


Anonymous: Rumsfeld told CIA (ret.) Ray McGovern that he was not in the intelligence business. I then read he controls 80% of the intelligence budget. Is this Orwellian double-speak, or what?

John Brennan: You will need to ask the SecDef what he meant by his answer. From my perspective, DoD is very much in the intelligence business....has been for a long time and will be forever and a day.


Princeton, N.J.: Surely the fact that Hayden was deeply involved in a program most legal scholars believe to be illegal, the fact that he does not understand the fourth admendment, and the fact he has little experience in HUMANIT makes him the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John Brennan: Sorry, but I believe he is the right person at the right time. he probably has a better sense of HUMINT than virtually anyone else who has been appointed to head up the CIA. He has lived and breathed the interaction between HUMINT and SIGINT over the last half dozen years. In fact, I would argue that he will come to the job with a far better appreciation of 21st century HUMINT than did Porter Goss, a case officer from the early 1960s.


Columbia, S.C.: What, in your opinion, will be the major differences between Hayden's position at the NSA and his new position at CIA? How do you think his stint at the NSA prepared him (or didn't prepare him) for dealing with issues and problems at the CIA? Also, isn't the NSA a civilian (or part civilian) agency - making these comments about military and civilian not very important?

John Brennan: NSA falls within the Department of Defense. It is referred to as a "Combat Support Agency." Mike NSA experience and his experience as DDNI gives him outstanding insight to the HUMINT world and the role that the CIA needs to play in the future.


Washington, D.C.: Mr. Brennan,

The CIA seems to be fairly open about the fact that it is serious about hiring new recruits -- more specifically, it is looking to hire more and more young people in an effort to replace those who have left, while at the same time augmenting the already impressive human capital at the Agency.

With that in mind, what kind of advice do you have for people who are interested in joining the Agency, but usually wouldn't have been recruited through the usual channels (i.e. military, DoD, etc.)?

John Brennan: I applied to the CIA in the late 1970s by replying to an add in the NYTimes. I had an absolutely wonderful career, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. Public service, in my mind, is something that every U.S. citizen should partake in at some point in their lives. Working for the CIA is an excellent way to contribute to our nation's security. I believe in the CIA's future, especially if Mike hayden and Steve Kappes will be the residents on the 7th floor at Langley.


Tampa, Fla.: I understand Hayden's expertise is electronic measures. But I also understand the CIA's greatest weakness in human intelligence, especially in the Islamic world. So why appoint an e-spy and not someone with real expertise in human intelligence?

John Brennan: Steve kappes, widely expected to be Mike's deputy once confirmed, is one of the most outstanding HUMINT experts in the world. The combination of Hayden and Kappes, in my view, will be a home run for the Agency and for the country.


Arlington, Va.: How can General Hayden -- assuming he becomes the new CIA chief -- win the support of his troops while still shedding some of the Agency's traditional roles and responsibilities to the new structure -- including the part you used to run the NCTC?

John Brennan: There are necessary changes in the Intelligence Community that CIA needs to accept and adapt to. The NCTC is now, by statute, the government entity with "primary" responsibility for terrorism analysis. However, CIA's CTC will continue to be the premier government componet prosecuting the global campaign against al-Qa'ida and other terrorist organizations. Mike hayden and John Negroponte need to find the right balance in the community of roles and responsibilities on counterterrorism and the myriad other substantive issues of importance to national security.


Silver Spring, Md.: What is the substance behind the criticism that Gen. Hayden's appointment as DCI would represent too much military and DoD control of intelligence? Is it mostly political rhetoric, and code for "we just don't like Hayden?" And, beyond symbolism, what would Hayden gain from retiring from active Air Force duty should the Senate confirm him as DCI?

John Brennan: There is concern about DoD's growing role in intelligence matters, some of which has taken place at CIA expense. I share those concerns. Thus, some people are concerned that "General" Hayden will accelerate this trend. I disagree. Mike has stood up to the Pentagon's brass on many occasions, and he will do so when he takes over at CIA. Symbolically, it might make some sense for Mike to retire from active duty Air Force after he is confirmed. One final point. I find it absoluetly absurd that some members of Congress say that, regardless of whether Mike takes off his uniform, his exemplary 35-year military record disqualifies him for the CIA job. That is an absurd argument that all members of the armed forces should resent.


Anonymous: General Hayden is obviously devoted to the war on terror, and to the President. What disturbs me is his disregard for the Constitution. Considering Bush's declaration that he is above the laws of the land, do you think our leaders are rudderless? I fear that the Constitution is being besmirched, and Hayden is in on it. Your opinion?

John Brennan: Mike has been dedicated to defending the Constitution throughout his professional career. The program to which you are alluding is a complicated one and one with which I am intimately familiar. I will just say that my experience was that Mike performed his NSA responsibilities with professionalism and integrity.


Rochester, N.Y.: Has the CIA become so closely tied to politics that in its present organization form it is becoming ineffective in objective data collection?

John Brennan: I am concerned about attempts over the past several years to "politicize" intelligence. It is quite unfortunate. I believe that the CIA post, and the position of Director of national Intelligence, need to be term 5-year assignments, so that they can be taken out of the cycle of political appointments. There is an absulte need for independence, integrity, and objectivity in the senior ranks of our Intelligence Community.


Herndon, Va.: How will the loss of General Hayden from the DNI's staff affect that new organization? Wasn't Gen. Hayden charged with running the DNI's day-to-day operations?

John Brennan: Mike departure will be felt, and John Negroponte will need to select an able replacement. There is still much "flux" in the Office of the DNI and a lot of uncertainty about its role and mission in the Intelligence Community of the future. These uncertainties need to be addressed sooner rather than later.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: I am no fan of this administration but I think the Senate would be wise to get General Hayden confirmed and get on with the business of improving our intel capabilities. What did you make of General Hayden's response to a question on the Fourth Amendment in front of the National Press Club when he seemed to dismiss the "probable cause" standard for search warrants? It made me uncomfortable but I still think he needs to be confirmed quickly.

John Brennan: Mike is capable of giving a strong answer to questions related to the Fourth Amendment and U.S. intellifgence collection activities. I am certain he will be well prepared for that question at his upcoming confirmation hearing.


Fairfax, Va.: Good afternoon, Mr. Brennan. A number of media articles note that, under Director Goss's leadership, the CIA lost a generation of senior officials, including many managers and analysts with specific knowledge related to the Middle East and terrorism. I'd just like to comment that the CIA also lost a large number of well-educated young officers during that time period. Disinheartened by the direction the Agency was moving in and the perks showered on certain officials and yes-people, so many of them moved to the private sector. What a loss for the CIA.

John Brennan: I agree. A lot of outstanding young Americans joined CIA after the tragedy of 9/11 with high expectations of their future contribution to our nation's security. It will be up to Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes to reinstill a strong sense of enthusiasm and commitment in the workforce.


Washington, D.C.: What did America do before it had a CIA?

Spies and spying are as old as civilization, but the CIA has only been around for 60 years. So where were America's intelligence services housed before World War II, and why can we not go back to that system?

John Brennan: The world is much different now than it was in pre-CIA days. Take a look at the advances in technology. There is no going back.


Falls Church, Va.: While Michael Hayden is obviously qualified for the job of CIA Director, politics were also involved in this choice. Since Hayden has been working under Negroponte, do you think his selection is intended to force the CIA to "get in line" with the new order of things under the DNI?

John Brennan: I think that there is an effort underway to get the CIA to adapt to the new realities of the Intelligence Community. The CIA has resisted many of these changes, which has been a problem. It is time to move forward.


Vienna, Austria: What is your opinion about the possibility of more former officers such as Kappes returning to the Agency if the Hayden appointment is viewed favorably within the former and current officer ranks?

John Brennan: I think that some Agency officers who departed may be enticed to return. But it also is a time to bring in new blood, and I think that is where Hayden and Kappes will focus their efforts.


Vancouver, Wash.: Hello John Brennan.

I was wondering if you think Hayden will be confirmed? Because both Dems and Repub's are opposing his nomination.

John Brennan: I hope--and believe--that Mike Hayden will be confirmed. The confirmation hearing will probably have its difficult moments, mainly because of the many difficult intelligence issues that have swirled about over the past several years, but Mike Hayden's compentence will win the day.


Brookville, N.Y.: Promotions above two-stars are temporary and retirements above two stars are subject to approval. If Gen Hayden were to serve as CIA Director while on active duty, would SecDef, SecAF. or AF Chief of Staff be able to thwart Gen Hayden's eventual request to retire at four stars and thus be able to influence his conduct at CIA?

John Brennan: I don't know the answer to your question, but I do not believe Mike hayden will allow anyone to influence his actions or conduct inappropriately. He has too much integrity to let that ever happen.


Reston, Va.: Will CIA personnel be perturbed that President Bush did not tap someone with more HUMINT experience, and would they be justified in that anger?

John Brennan: I think most Agency officers are simply looking for a strong leader who will be able to chart their future in the Intelligence Community. Mike Hayden is a charismatic, personable, and smart person who will be able to bond with the Agency's workforce.


Reston, Va.: Why does the DIA come under DCI? It's in the Defense Dept. and Rumsfeld seems to want to keep as much power over intelligence as he can.

John Brennan: The DIA falls within the Department of Defense but its intelligence function falls under the purview of the DNI. So, you may ask, who is in charge and controls its resources and mission? Good question, as command authority is unresolved in legislation and in practice.


Tallahassee, Fla.: Does the CIA mostly recruit spies among the civilian population or former military men and women? Is there any shift in recruiting tactics post Sept. 11?

John Brennan: "Spies" is the term used for the individuals that CIA case officers recruit to gather intelligence. The CIA will recruit spies wherever they may prove useful and where it is consistent with U.S. law. The Agency recruits U.S. citizens into the Agency's workforce from universities, the military, the business community, etc....


Boston, Mass.: Thank you for participating in this chat and offering an informed defense of Hayden. However, I would hope that you would admit that he made a real error when he dismissed a reporter's claim that the 4th admendment requires probable cause (which it does), saying "believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth".

A momentary lapse, I would hope, but a little scary.

John Brennan: Well, I wouldn't disagree with hayden remark that NSA officers are quite familiar with the Fourth Amendment, as they are. Could his explanation been better? yes, and I hope he follows up on it in future opportunities, of which there will be many.


Vienna, Va.: I don't think the problem regardomg employee moral is so much that he is a "military man", but more that he has never worked for the CIA. For those of us who see it more as a place of employment, as others may see their own private companies, it is discouraging. Joe Public may always think that the CIA is in need of restructuring, but the constant restructuring of this agency, which only gets credit for the things that go wrong, is creating a bureacracy as problematic as the problems they are trying to fix.

John Brennan: I couldn't agree with you more that the Agency has undergone very unfortunate turmoil over the past several years due to restructuring and new legislation that, in my view, is flawed due to its ambiguities and lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities.


Baltimore, Md.: I frequently hear grumbling that Negroponte sends exactly the wrong message to most of the intel community by using the title "Ambassador," though he is obviously entitled to use that title. I often wonder if he's aware of these discussions behind his back...

What advice would you give to General Hayden about the use of his rank as title of address within the Agency? Protocol would be to go by "General Hayden," but would their be any benefit to introduce himself (or request that he be introduced in the bubble) as Director or simply by name?

John Brennan: When addressing John Negroponte, I always said "Mr. Director," as I believe one's title should reflect one's current position. If Mike Hayden is confirmed, I will address him as Mr. Director or Director Hayden.


Washington, D.C.: Since NSA is larger than the CIA and General Hayden is well known, isn't the vacancy at NSA a much bigger issue now?

John Brennan: No vacancy at NSA. Mike hayden left NSA last year, and Lt. General Keith Alexander is currently serving as DirNSA.


Anonymous: Greetings, In answer to the question posed about pre-CIA, it was OSS Office of Strategic Services during WWII, and prior to that Naval Intelligence was the primary source of overseas intelligence. In my opinion, the original CIA charter has been abused by including covert operations, which has caused most of our problems. The CIA should stick to gathering and analyzing intelligence. YOUR OPINION?

John Brennan: I believe covert action is a VERY important part of the Intelligence Community's arsenal, but it should be used judiciously and selectively. CIA also should be the premier agency for HUMINT. A debate is underway in the Community as to whether the all-source analytic function should remain at CIA or go elsewhere. It's a worthwhile debate.


Washington, D.C.: Hello John,

Some ex-CIA agents that I have met have said things along the lines of "just because you wouldn't do it doesn't mean others won't" and implied that the CIA has done things that we, lowly, ordinary Americans would be shocked to discover. Hiring a thug to take someone out, for example.

Without giving anything away, and in the most general sense, for the CIA, is EVERYTHING on the table? Or are there some things even the CIA won't get involved with?

Thank you.

John Brennan: Let me just say that I believe Agency actions, at all times and in all instances, should comport with our values as a country. that is why I am an advocate of an open discourse on the standards of treatment of individuals captured/detained by the U.S. and suspected of involvement in terrorism as well as on what types of collection activities, including those involving U.S. citizens, should be allowed. Along these lines, I do not believe our Congressional oversight committees have fulfilled their responsibilities to ensure that such debate takes place.


Richmond, Va.: Why do you think that Porter Goss's tenure was as unsuccessful as it was? I thought when he was nominated he seemed to be a good candidate for DCI 'on paper'. Former CIA case officer with experience on Congressional oversight of the agency looked like a good combination.

John Brennan: Porter Goss has been a dedicated public servant for many decades, and he tried to mnake the Agency a better place. Unfortunately, Director Goss surrounded himself with people who were not up to the task of shaping the Agency's future, and the Agency and the country suffered as a result.


Richmond, Va.: I assume that if General Hayden is confirmed and still remains on active duty in the Air Force that he will somehow be outside the normal Pentagon chain of command as DCIA? I.e. the SecDef won't be able to give him an order to execute as DCIA, correct?

John Brennan: The D/CIA should never be in a position of taking any order from the SecDef, and that will need to be made clear whether or not Mike Hayden remains an Air Force general or not.

That's about it for now. Thanks for the opportunity to address your questions about the Agency's future. As you probably have discerned, I am a big fan of Mike Hayden and Steve Kappes, and I believe they can do great things at the Agency. As a critic of other actions by the Administration in the intelligence arena, I believe the appointments may be harbingers of more thoughtful decisions in the future. I hope so, as our country needs a strong Intelligence Community and a strong CIA.

_______________________ Thank you all for joining us today.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fox O'Reilly: Are We Safer?

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News interviewed Melissa Mahle on the ongoing changes at the CIA.

O'Reilly wanted to know if Americans are safer.

Ms. Mahle commented on the dedication of CIA officers working in very difficult circumstances. Poor performance, resistance to change and poor leadership make it difficult for employees to give 150 percent as is needed. The nomination of General Hayden is good news because he brings a lot to the table in terms of strong leadership, knowledge of the intelligence business and strong connections to DNI Negroponte.

(Blogged by News Hounds, who also found the link below).

Watch the video:

Daily Times: Gen Hayden likely to lead CIA

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gen Hayden likely to lead CIA

WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush plans to name Air Force General Michael Hayden to run the CIA after the abrupt resignation of the spy agency’s director Porter Goss, Time Magazine reported Friday.

Time said Hayden, who it described as close to Vice President Dick Cheney, has not been formally offered the job, but called him “the leading candidate”, citing Republican sources.

Hayden, currently principal deputy director of national intelligence, is the US military’s highest-ranking intelligence officer, and has served as the Director of the National Security Agency.

Time, which said Goss resigned under pressure amid ongoing reorganisation of the national intelligence apparatus, said Bush would name the replacement on Monday.

Questions about CIA’s health: The abrupt resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss raises disturbing questions about the US flagship intelligence agency’s health, amid growing concerns about a nuclear Iran, turmoil in Iraq and the Al Qaeda threat.

More than four years after the Sept 11 attacks, critics of the Bush administration, including Democrats in Congress, also warned that problems at the CIA had parallels elsewhere in the 16-agency US intelligence community including at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Goss’ departure capped months of unhappiness over his leadership of the CIA and efforts to rebuild the agency’s key clandestine and analytical operations for the war on terrorism, analysts and former intelligence officers said.

“The real problem is that Goss has laid out his vision, but what he hasn’t been able to do - this because of his management style and his weak leadership - is to build allies within the ranks who can be agents for change,” said former CIA agent and author Melissa Boyle Mahle.

Added another former CIA officer who spoke on condition of anonymity: “The agency’s gone down hill since he arrived. There’s been an exodus of senior people, and the guy he appointed to head the clandestine service has proved mediocre.”

Goss, a former Florida congressman who headed the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was charged with increasing CIA spy ranks that had been found sorely lacking after the Sept 11 attacks.

But analysts said an early confrontation between the Goss staff and clandestine officers prompted a number of senior agents to resign and left the CIA with little senior leadership at a time when the agency is taking on an army of green recruits and trying to recover from massive failures on Iraq and the Sept 11 attacks. agencies

Saturday, May 06, 2006

NPR: CIA Turmoil from the View of the Rank and File

Scott Simon of NPR's Weekend Edition interviewed Melissa Mahle what a change at the top means for the CIA officers on the ground. Mahle comments on the importance of good leadership, especially in times of transformation. CIA officers, whether case officers in the field or analysts in Washington need to trust senior management to back them when conducting risky operations or making hard analytical calls.

(Audio file available in Real or WMV formats)

New York Times : Top C.I.A. Pick Has Credentials and Skeptics

Top C.I.A. Pick Has Credentials and Skeptics
May 6, 2006
New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 5 — Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who senior administration officials said Friday was the likely choice of President Bush to head the Central Intelligence Agency, has a stellar résumé for a spy and has long been admired at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

But General Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, would also face serious questions about the controversy over the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program, which he oversaw and has vigorously defended.

His Senate nomination hearing, if he is chosen to succeed Director Porter J. Goss, is likely to reignite debate over what civil libertarians say is the program's violation of Americans' privacy.

Mr. Bush has often reserved decisions about top-level appointments until just before they are announced, but senior administration officials said Friday that General Hayden was the clear leading candidate.

Confirmation hearings would give the administration's opponents a highly visible forum for questioning not only the eavesdropping program but President Bush's overall handling of national security.

And while he might bring to the beleaguered C.I.A. the power of his ties to the White House and to his current boss, John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, General Hayden could find his background as an Air Force officer and specialist in technical intelligence systems does not suit some at the C.I.A., which specializes in traditional espionage.

The C.I.A. has long resented the expenditure of billions of dollars on technical systems, like spy satellites, while complaining that the budget for human spies has been too low.

Even though General Hayden has not been closely associated with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, his pedigree as a military officer could reinforce concerns at the spy agency that the Pentagon is intruding into its traditional bailiwick.

While General Hayden has extensive administrative experience, he would face daunting challenges at the C.I.A., an agency that has been demoralized and has endured turbulence since the mid-1990's. As N.S.A. director until last year, General Hayden oversaw the program to intercept international phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and others in the United States believed to have links to Al Qaeda.

General Hayden, 61, has been the program's most public defender, repeatedly asserting that it is legal and constitutional even though the eavesdropping is done without warrants from a special court set up in 1978 to authorize such surveillance.

"I've taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," General Hayden said at the National Press Club in January as he defended what the Bush administration calls the Terrorist Surveillance Program. "I would never violate that Constitution, nor would I abuse the rights of the American people."

Some critics of the program say that General Hayden's public assurances that N.S.A. has always followed the laws governing domestic eavesdropping are difficult to square with his role in the secret program.

Marc D. Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said the nomination would be strongly opposed by civil libertarians.

"We have to confront the chilling prospect that the incoming head of the C.I.A. believes it's permissible to conduct warrantless surveillance on the American public," Mr. Rotenberg said Friday night.

Last year the C.I.A. lost its half-century-old standing at the center of the sprawling intelligence bureaucracy, as Mr. Negroponte succeeded Mr. Goss as the president's chief adviser on intelligence.

Melissa Boyle Mahle, a C.I.A. officer from 1988 to 2002 who wrote a 2004 book on the agency, "Denial and Deception," said, "The benefit of someone coming from the D.N.I.'s office is obvious — he'd have the immediate ear of Negroponte."

Though he has spent seven years at the N.S.A. and the director's office and away from the Pentagon, General Hayden is a career military intelligence officer. Several senior military officers have been C.I.A. director, and the current deputy director is Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III of the Navy.

A bigger issue for some intelligence professionals might be General Hayden's lack of experience in traditional human intelligence.

Some officials want to intensify the C.I.A. concentration on the clandestine service, and Mr. Goss's resistance to such a narrowing of the agency's mission is said to have been one reason for his ouster.

General Hayden, who grew up in a working-class family in Pittsburgh, drew mixed reviews at the N.S.A. He overhauled its management but began a multibillion-dollar modernization program, known as Trailblazer, which ran huge cost overruns and is widely considered to be a failure.

Guardian: Abrupt exit for chief of 'floundering' CIA

Abrupt exit for chief of 'floundering' CIA

Suzanne Goldenberg Washington
Saturday May 6, 2006

Porter Goss, charged with revitalising the CIA after its failures of intelligence in the September 11 2001 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war, abruptly resigned from his post yesterday barely a year after taking the job.

Mr Goss's departure had been predicted for some time within intelligence circles, where discontent at his leadership of the CIA was well-known. At yesterday's announcement at the Oval office President George Bush offered no explanation for the departure of Mr Goss, but it was widely believed that he had been paralysed in his mission to turn around the agency.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition. He has helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. That was a tough job. He has led ably," Mr Bush said.

Mr Goss replied that he believed that he had left America in safer hands. "I believe the agency is on a very even keel. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically," he said.

The Associated Press reported that the national intelligence director, John Negroponte, could name a replacement for Mr Goss as early as Monday.

Mr Goss, a Republican Congressman from Florida, was named to head the CIA in the autumn of 2004 to help it recover from the intelligence failures and low morale that overshadowed the watch of George Tenet.

However, his arrival was widely believed to have ushered in an era of even greater instability and instituional infighting. In addition to his failure to earn the confidence of senior CIA staff, Mr Goss raised hackles by bringing with him congressional aides who were seen as overly political.

"I don't think that it's a big secret that there have been real leadership problems at the agency, and that Goss was not really able to gather the agency behind him and implement his vision," said Melissa Mahle, who worked for the agency in the Middle East.

"Among the more senior people in the community, there is a sense that the agency is lagging behind. The rest of the community is on track with major reforms, and yet the CIA is floundering."

Mr Goss was seen to be overly concerned with stifling dissent, announcing a crackdown on leaks which, some CIA officials believed, was a thinly veiled attempt to limit criticism of administration policy in the war on terror.

Those grievances combined to further undermine Mr Goss's position once his powers as CIA chief were curtailed with the creation of the post of national intelligence director, which made Mr Negroponte the intelligence overseer.

With those factors against Mr Goss, it was believed there was little to keep him in the post after Josh Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, made it clear that any administration officials considering their futures should resign immediately or be prepared to serve for the duration of Mr Bush's second term.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Reuters: CIA health questioned as Goss quits

| ABC News | Washington Post

CIA health questioned as Goss quits
By Tabassum Zakaria and David Morgan
Friday, May 5, 2006; 7:09 PM

WASHINGTON - The abrupt resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss raises disturbing questions about the U.S. flagship intelligence agency's health, amid growing concerns about a nuclear Iran, turmoil in Iraq and the al Qaeda threat.

More than four years after the September 11 attacks, critics of the Bush administration, including Democrats in Congress, also warned that problems at the CIA had parallels elsewhere in the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community including at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Goss' departure capped months of unhappiness over his leadership of the CIA and efforts to rebuild the agency's key clandestine and analytical operations for the war on terrorism, analysts and former intelligence officers said.

"The real problem is that Goss has laid out his vision, but what he hasn't been able to do -- this because of his management style and his weak leadership -- is to build allies within the ranks who can be agents for change," said former CIA agent and author Melissa Boyle Mahle.

Added another former CIA officer who spoke on condition of anonymity: "The agency's gone down hill since he arrived. There's been an exodus of senior people, and the guy he appointed to head the clandestine service has proved mediocre."

Goss, a former Florida congressman who headed the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was charged with increasing CIA spy ranks that had been found sorely lacking after the September 11 attacks.

But analysts said an early confrontation between the Goss staff and clandestine officers prompted a number of senior agents to resign and left the CIA with little senior leadership at a time when the agency is taking on an army of green recruits and trying to recover from massive failures on Iraq and the September 11 attacks.

"In the last year-and-a-half, more than 300 years of experience has either been pushed out or walked out the door in frustration. This has left the agency in free-fall," said Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Congressional Republicans stressed that Goss had made progress in bringing reform to the CIA at a time of great turmoil.

But Harman's counterpart in the Senate, Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, said management problems in intelligence were more widespread than just at the CIA.

"There are red-flags throughout the community," said Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence panel.

"The Department of Homeland Security has fallen well short of its mandate to protect our borders. The FBI continues to struggle with meeting its national security and counterterrorism responsibilities," he said.

Chicago Tribune: CIA chief abruptly quits

May 5, 2006

CIA chief abruptly quits

Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - CIA Director Porter Goss abruptly resigned Friday after just 19 tumultuous months on the job, a tenure the Bush administration had hoped would rehabilitate the nation's faltering intelligence community.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition," said Bush during a White House Oval Offive event, "and that was a tough job." The president added that Goss had served "ably."

At the same photo session, Goss did not give a reason for his resignation, stating simply, "This morning, I notified the president that I will be stepping aside as director of CIA."

Goss' rapid departure comes after several weeks of a White House shakeup, as Bush shuffles his senior staff to give his presidency new focus and his slumping approval ratings new bounce.

But the departure of Goss, whose time at the CIA has been stormy, may be unrelated to that White House shakeup. It apparently was an abrupt resignation, and the White House was not immediately prepared to name a successor. :It also comes as an FBI investigation of a congressional bribery scandal has touched on the third-highest official at the CIA, a man promoted by Goss.

Goss, who replaced George Tenet, assumed the CIA job during a period of great uncertainty within the national security apparatus, and after months of criticism of the CIA and other agencies for failing to detect the Sept. 11 terrorist plot.

From the start, Goss met steady resistance from an entrenched CIA bureaucracy, one that had been heavily criticized for failing to develop accurate intelligence on Iraq before the March 2003 U.S. invasion of that country. In some quarters, the CIA also was castigated for ostensibly bowing to Bush administration pressure to provide information that supported the president's decision to invade Iraq.

That's particularly true in the case of the agency's prewar estimate that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons have been found in Iraq by U.S. forces.

Former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., who has served as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, said Goss struggled to cope with the CIA's diminished stature in the nation's intelligence apparatus.

Shortly after Goss became CIA director in September 2004, the intelligence community was reorganized, and John Negroponte became director of national intelligence. That meant Negroponte became the nation's top intelligence official, a title previously held by the CIA director.

"Porter has had difficulties dealing with people above him and below him," Rudman said. "It's not a personality conflict. It's a structural conflict."

A former veteran CIA analyst said Goss' resignation is "something that may well have been inevitable in the re-negotiation of power and direction between the new director of national intelligence and the CIA. And also, the CIA has continued to lose a great deal of its power over these last few years to the Department of Defense."

The former analyst noted that of the people mentioned as possible replacements for Goss - Fran Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser; Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte's deputy for intelligence collection; and David Shedd, chief of staff to Negroponte - at least two work for Negroponte and would thus be beholden to him. Negroponte's No. 2, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, who formerly headed the National Security Agency and has a broad intelligence background, also has been mentioned as a possible successor.

Goss' troubles at the CIA began almost immediately when his intention to name a subordinate, Michael Kostiw, was undermined by a leak that Kostiw had been asked to leave the agency two decades ago, apparently after a shoplifting incident. Subsequent Goss hires were viewed as abrasive, prompting the departure of a number of key CIA veterans.

Goss was also left to negotiate the agency's new role under Negroponte, who has ultimate authority over all 15 intelligence agencies. Creation of a superior led to confusion among the agencies over responsibilities and intelligence sources.

"When Mr. Goss came over, I don't think he intended to play second fiddle to anyone," said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA terrorism analyst who wrote a book critical of the Bush administration's war on terror and its invasion of Iraq. "So his days were always numbered."

The problems continued until just recently as Goss dragged his agency through an agency-wide investigation for news leaks.

That investigation led to the firing last month of Mary McCarthy, a CIA analyst who the agency accused of having unauthorized contact with news reporters. McCarthy has disputed the agency's claim.

One retired CIA analyst and 30-year agency veteran said by e-mail that the McCarthy firing "was the last straw, because it attracted the wrong kind of attention to the agency."

In recent days, Goss came to face the very real possibility that a top CIA officer could become entangled in a congressional bribery scandal.

Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, whom Goss plucked from the intelligence bureaucracy to be the agency's third-highest official, has become entangled in a federal investigation into a congressional bribery scandal, which has already resulted in the guilty plea and imprisonment of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.

The FBI is now investigating the possible use of prostitutes at a Washington hotel at parties hosted by defense contractor Brent Wilkes and attended by CIA officials and legislators. Wilkes is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case. Foggo is among those who reportedly attended his parties at the Watergate Hotel and Westin Grand Hotel.

In addition to the FBI inquiry, the CIA's inspector general, an in-house watchdog, is investigating Foggo's role, if any, in the award of a contract to one of Wilkes' companies.

Neither Wilkes nor Foggo has been charged with wrongdoing.

But some within the CIA said Goss' departure was not prompted by pressure from within the agency.

"I don't think the old guard pushed him out the door," said one former senior CIA operations officer. "With this administration, they're not going to let the old guard push out Goss."

Other CIA veterans surmised that Goss is leaving the agency to avoid being associated with the scandal. "I think he left preemptively," said one former senior CIA officer. "I think the momentum has been against Goss for some time now, one problem after another."

Goss, who served 16 years in the House of Representatives before moving to the CIA, drew measured praise from congressional leaders when his resignation was made public.

"Director Goss took the helm of the intelligence community at a very difficult time in the wake of the intelligence failures associated with 9/11 and Iraq WMD," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Porter made some significant improvements at the CIA, but I think even he would say they still have some way to go."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Roberts' Democratic counterpart on the intelligence panel, said, "Regrettably, Porter Goss' tenure as director of the CIA was a tumultuous one. His chief mission was to reform the operations of the CIA and to lead the agency with foresight and vision, yet his tenure was marked by an exodus of talented and respected intelligence officers and a demoralized staff."

Goss pledged to promote the CIA's human intelligence-gathering, building up its directorate of operations to recruit more foreign spies - a shortage of spies in places like Iraq was a major shortcoming noted by congressional intelligence overseers. But some within the CIA said the promise has yet to be fulfilled.

"There's been this whole reform afloat in the intelligence community," said Melissa Mahle, a former CIA operations officer and author of the book "Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11." "There's been a particular focus on human intelligence. And yet we haven't seen the same dynamism of change in the human capabilities within the CIA as in other agencies."

Instead, Goss' stewardship of the agency suffered through the early resignations of the very veterans agency officials had hoped would help rebuild the clandestine service. They included Stephen Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, and Michael Sulick, associate deputy director of operations. John McLaughlin, a 32-year veteran CIA analyst and once acting director, also left about two months after Goss arrived.

--- Chicago Tribune correspondents John Crewdson, Mike Dorning and Andrew Zajac contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Scoop (NZ): Karl Rove Indictment Long Overdue

Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 2:00 pm
Opinion: Evelyn Pringle
Karl Rove Indictment Long Overdue

By Evelyn Pringle

On April 28, 2006, Jason Leopold, an investigative journalist who has consistently forecast up-coming events in the CIA leak case far in advance of the mainstream media, is citing "sources knowledgeable about the probe" in reporting that:

"Despite vehement denials by his attorney who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week."

For most Americans, this bit of news will be viewed as long overdue.

The criminal indictment filed by the grand jury against Scooter Libby leaves no doubt about who leaked what and when. It states that on or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, Libby spoke to �Official A," who we now know is Rove, who advised Libby of "a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson�s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson�s trip."

Libby was also advised, "by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson�s wife," the indictment notes.

Rove succeeded in convincing Novak to print the story about Wilson and his wife even though Novak was informed that the story was false. Former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow has testified before the grand jury about conversations that he had with Novak 3 days before the column was published and said that he told Novak that Wilson's wife had not authorized the trip and that if he did write an article, Novak should not reveal her name.

After the first conversation with Novak, Harlow said he checked Valerie's status to confirm that she was an undercover agent and called Novak back to say again that the story relayed to Novak was not true and that her name should not be revealed.

Administration officials like to send out talking heads to minimize the damage caused by the leak by trying to debate the issue of whether Valerie's CIA status was classified. During his October 28, 2005, press conference, when announcing the Libby indictment, Fitzgerald left no doubt about whether her status was classified, when he told reporters:

"Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community. Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

"The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security. Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003."

For 18 years Valerie had kept her occupation a secret. She worked under the cover of a CIA front company created and maintained at the taxpayer's expense, and all of that was destroyed by Bush administration officials at the highest levels when they leaked her identity.

In hindsight, its obvious that the leaks by Rove and Libby were the beginning of a White House scheme to pin the blame on the CIA for providing faulty intelligence and to take the focus off the forged documents used to insert the Iraq-uranium claim into the mix in the first place

But the overall plot goes much deeper than that. In peddling the story to reporters, a fact not known to most Americans is that Rove and Libby leaked the identity of a CIA agent who happened to be an expert on WMDs at a time when the US had supposedly went to war to eliminate the threat of such weapons being used against our country.

Melissa Mahle spent 14 years as a covert CIA agent maintaining a series of fictitious cover stories, invented by her superiors. On the October 30, 2005, segment of 60 Minutes, Mahle reported that Valerie was working on important national security issues, like keeping tabs on nuclear material and the world�s top nuclear scientists.

�She is an expert on weapons of mass destruction," Mahle said. "These are the kind of people that don't grow on trees.�

What do agents do in that division, she was asked.

�They're trying to figure out, really, the hard questions of who has the capability obtaining and deploying a biological weapon. Or a chemical weapon. Who's doing it? What are those networks? What are the financial trails?� Mahle said during the broadcast."

It is now known that Valerie was monitoring Iran's nuclear activities. According to Raw Story investigative reporter, Larisa Alexandrovna, former intelligence officials, have said that Valerie "worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran."

"The revelation that Iran was the focal point of Plame's work," Alexandrovna wrote, "raises new questions as to possible other motivating factors in the White House's decision to reveal the identity of a CIA officer working on tracking a WMD supply network to Iran, particularly when the very topic of Iran's possible WMD capability is of such concern to the Administration."

On May 1, 2006, the Chris Matthews' show, Hardball, on MSNBC confirmed what Alexandrovna reported in February in 2006, that Valerie was working on Iran's WMD network at the time she was outed.

On July 27, 2005, the Boston Globe described what happens when a CIA agent's cover is blown and said in part:

"Whenever a spy's cover is revealed, a chain of setbacks ensues. Foreign intelligence services then review everything they know about the undercover officer who was operating in their country. Such a review can lead not only to the discovery of informants who may have been recruited by the outed CIA officer but also to an understanding of the practices and techniques used by an undercover figure such as Plame, who posed as a businesswoman abroad.

"After one undercover CIA officer is exposed, others inevitably have a harder time persuading potential sources to pass secrets about their government's -- or their terrorist network's -- plans and capabilities."

In recent years, Valerie told people she worked for an energy consulting firm by the name of Brewster-Jennings & Associates and Novak disclosed that fact to the world on CNN when he said, "she listed herself as an employee of Brewster-Jennings & Associates."

"There is no such firm, I'm convinced,� Novak added.

Upon the public exposure of this information, former CIA agents report that intelligence agencies all over the world would have started searching the data bases for any mention of Valerie or the firm and that over the years, hundreds of agents have worked under the cover of Brewster-Jennings.

On October 5, 2003, Valerie was described as a "NOC" in the New York Times by Elisabeth Bumiller, who explained what a NOC position entails and how the leaking of her identity was viewed by members of the CIA in general:

"But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in non-conventional weapons who worked overseas, had "nonofficial cover," and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a NOC, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create.

"While most undercover agency officers disguise their real profession by pretending to be American embassy diplomats or other United States government employees, Ms. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert."

Writing for Salon magazine in October 2003, Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean, of Watergate fame, discusses how the Bush administration's conduct trumps that of former President Nixon:

"I thought I had seen political dirty tricks as foul as they could get, but I was wrong. In blowing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame to take political revenge on her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for telling the truth, Bush's people have out-Nixoned Nixon's people. And my former colleagues were not amateurs by any means."

At the time of Valerie outing, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie basically agreed with Dean in saying that the disclosure of Plame's name could be worse than Watergate "in terms of the real-world implications of it."

In taking the drastic step of a court compelling reporters to testify, US Appellate Judge David Tatel, in his February 15, 2005 opinion also noted the seriousness of the crime in stating that the vast majority of the states, as well as the Justice Department, "would require us to protect reporters' sources as a matter of federal common law were the leak at issue either less harmful or more newsworthy."

However, Judge Tatel added, "just as attorney-client communications made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime serve no public interest and receive no privilege, neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate."

A question seldom asked is how did Valerie take the news when she learned of Novak's column.

�She felt like she had been hit in the stomach," her husband Joe Wilson said on the October 30, 2005, 60 Minutes program. "It took her breath away," he said.

"She recovered quickly because," Wilson explained, "you don't do what she did for a living without understanding stress."

"And she became very matter of fact right afterwards," he said, "started making lists of what she had to do to ensure that her assets, her projects, her programs and her operations were protected."

"Did she realize then that her career as an undercover agent for the CIA was over?" interviewer Ed Bradley asked Wilson.

"Absolutely. Sure," he replied. "There was no doubt about it in her mind."

"And she wondered for what,� he added.

Fitzgerald and Libby's lawyers are currently fighting over Libby's discovery requests for a wide variety of documents. In a January 9, 2006 letter to Libby's legal team, Fitzgerald responded to a request for documents that assess the damage caused by the outing, and wrote: "A formal assessment has not been done of the damage caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson�s status as a CIA employee, and thus we possess no such document."

"Moreover," Fitzgerald said in a brief filed in the case, "the publication of any informal assessment of actual damage caused by the leak could compound the damage by disclosing intelligence sources and methods."

However, 3 intelligence officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to Larisa Alexandrovna, of Raw Story, said that while undercover, Valerie was involved in identifying and tracking WMD technology to and from Iran and that her outing compromised the identities of other covert operatives as well.

As a result, the officials said that CIA work on WMDs had been set back "ten years."

When the Libby indictment was handed down and it became known that Rove had definitely participated in blowing Valerie's cover, 16 former CIA and military intelligence officials petitioned Bush to suspend Rove's security clearance and Bush refused to grant their request.

After it became public that Rove was involved in the leak, on July 15, 2005, ninety-one Democrats in Congress signed a letter to Bush calling for Rove to explain his role in the leak or to resign, and 13 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for hearings on the matter.

To this day, Karl Rove remains unpunished and still has security clearance.

In his column, Novak included another highly significant statement that seemingly escaped much publicity probably due to the outrage over the outing of a CIA agent, when he said:

"Wilson's mission was created after an early 2002 report by the Italian intelligence service about attempted uranium purchases from Niger, derived from forged documents prepared by what the CIA calls a "con man." This misinformation, peddled by Italian journalists, spread through the U.S. government. The White House, State Department and Pentagon, and not just Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it."

The forged documents did not make their way to the White House by way of a few journalists peddling misinformation. The forgeries ended up in the hands of the same people who were responsible for their origin, officials at the highest level of Bush administration.

On August 1 and 2, 2004, both the Sunday Times and Financial Times in the UK reported that a con-man by the name of Rocco Martino admitted that he was involved in disseminating the false stories and documents but said the US and Italian governments were behind the disinformation operation.

"It's true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those documents," Martino said, "but I was duped."

"Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes," he said. "It was a disinformation operation."

In July 2005, an Italian parliamentary report was issued on the forged documents and listed the 4 men likely involved as: Michael Ledeen, Dewey Clarridge (CIA operative in Iran-Contra Affair), Ahmed Chalabi, and Francis Brookes (member of a "public relations" body formed by the Pentagon to promote Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress).

The report said the forgeries may have been planned at a meeting in Rome in December 2001, attended by Ledeen and Larry Franklin.

Franklin is the Pentagon Iran analyst who earned a lengthily prison sentence last year for passing classified information to former officials with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC. Franklin worked closely with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Office of Special Plans whose main purpose was to manufacture bogus intelligence to bolster the case for war.

On April 12, 2005, the Al Jazeera news organization reported that when the former CIA head of counter-terrorism, Vincent Cannistaro, was asked whether Michael Ledeen had been the one who produced the forged documents, he replied, "You'd be very close."

In holding off on charging Rove, it may just be that Fitzgerald is looking at much bigger fish to fry. On October 23, 2005, UPI editor Martin Walker cited "NATO intelligence sources" as saying, "Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.�

The special prosecutor's team is said to have been provided with the full report on the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the forgeries.

�This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case,� UPI explains, �that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated."

With any luck, Fitzgerald will do the right thing and file criminal charges against all of the high-level officials involved in the fabrication and dissemination of bogus intelligence that convinced Americans to allow Bush to wage the ill-fated war against Iraq. Hopefully, starting with the guy sitting in the oval office.


Evelyn Pringle

Thursday, April 27, 2006

GovSec - Book Signing

Melissa Mahle signed books at the Washington DC Convention Center as part of the Government Security Expo and Conference (GovSec). The convention was attended by thousands of law enforcement, security, military and intelligence professionals who reviewed the lastest array of weapons, tactical gear, communication equipment and surveillance tools. Book store sales were very good, demonstrating security professionals seek the best available tools and ideas!

Monday, April 24, 2006

MSNBC: CIA Leak Investigation

Commenting on the breaking news on the CIA leak investigation, Melissa Mahle appeared on MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Through her lawyer, CIA officer Mary McCarthy has denied being the leaker of information to Dana Priest of The Washington Post on CIA secret prisons in Europe. Mahle noted the CIA has been conducting a targeted investigation of employees with unauthorized contact with the media. According to press statements, Ms. McCarthy has admitted to unauthorized contacts with Dana Priest, but denies providing classified information. Mahle noted, D/CIA Goss has been fixated on leaks from the first day he arrived, making officers feel he is on a witch hut. More evidence will need to emerge to connect Ms. McCarthy to the secret prison leak.

Video and Audio are available online, thanks to the Brad Blog:
- Video in Streaming Flash format
- Video in WMV format
- Audio in MP3 format

NPR: CIA Leaks May Signal Lowered Morale

Robert Seigel of NPR's All Things Considered interviewed Melissa Mahle on CIA leaks and the impact on morale at the Agency on April 24, 2006.

Mahle comments on the implications of the announcement that senior CIA official Mary McCarthy was fired for unauthorized contacts with the media and disclosure of classified information.

(Audio file available in Real or WMV formats.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Weltwoche: Was macht ein Spion den ganzen Tag?

Alain Zucker interviews Melissa Mahle for the Swiss glossy magazine, Die Weltwoche, on what a CIA spy does all day long.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New York Times: Exotic Tool for Espionage

An Exotic Tool for Espionage: Moral Compass
January 28, 2006


WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — Is there such a thing as an ethical spy?

A group of current and former intelligence officers and academic experts think there is, and they are meeting this weekend to dissect what some others in the field consider a flat-out contradiction in terms.

The organizers say recent controversies over interrogation techniques bordering on torture and the alleged skewing of prewar intelligence on Iraq make their mission urgent. At the conference on Friday and Saturday in a Springfield, Va., hotel, the 200 attendees hope to begin hammering out a code of ethics for spies and to form an international association to study the subject.

Conference materials describe intelligence ethics as "an emerging field" and call the gathering, not sponsored by any government agency, the first of its kind. The topics include "Spiritual Crises Among Intelligence Operatives," "Lessons From Abu Ghraib," "Assassination: The Dream and the Nightmare" and "The Perfidy of Espionage."

Organizers said conferees would ponder such timely issues as how many civilian deaths can be justified in a C.I.A. Predator missile strike to kill a known terrorist, or what legal assurances a National Security Agency eavesdropper should demand before singling out the phone calls of an American who was linked to Al Qaeda.

"As an intelligence officer, you are confronted with ethical dilemmas every day," said Melissa Boyle Mahle, who retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002 after 14 years as a case officer, much of it under cover in the Middle East.

Ms. Mahle, now a foreign policy consultant, was scheduled to speak Saturday on the practice of rendition, in which terrorism suspects are seized abroad and delivered either to trial in the United States or to imprisonment in other countries.

But in a required security review, the C.I.A. refused to clear about one-fourth of her proposed 23-page text, Ms. Mahle said Friday. She said the deletions "gutted" the paper and made it impossible to deliver. She decided to attend the conference anyway, because she believes its goal is "so important."

While she had received C.I.A. training on agency rules and the law, Ms. Mahle recalled that she got "none whatsoever" in ethics. But she found that her work demanded constant moral balancing.

Ms. Mahle said she came up with her own ad-hoc ethical checklist, including imagining what her mother would say about a proposed action or how she herself would feel if it were described on the front page of an American newspaper. But she believes any officer would benefit from more rigorous training in moral decision-making.

"You're the point of the spear, and no one's going to be there to make decisions for you," she said.

Not all agree. "It doesn't make much sense to me," said Duane R. Clarridge, who retired in 1988 after 33 years as a C.I.A. operations officer and who will not attend the conference. "Depending on where you're coming from, the whole business of espionage is unethical."

To Mr. Clarridge, "intelligence ethics" is "an oxymoron," he said. "It's not an issue. It never was and never will be, not if you want a real spy service." Spies operate under false names, lie about their jobs, and bribe or blackmail foreigners to betray their countries, he said.

"If you don't want to do that," he added, "just have a State Department."

Mr. Clarridge's view may be colored by his history; he was indicted on perjury charges in 1991, accused of lying to Congress about the Iran-contra affair. He was pardoned in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush.

But skepticism about the ethics project inside the agencies is widespread, conference participants said, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by their agencies to be quoted. "A lot of current intelligence practitioners are afraid to come," said one who is attending. "They think it could be held against them."

Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the director of national intelligence, said American intelligence officers received training on "legal issues appropriate to their responsibilities," and on ethical regulations governing matters like conflicts of interest.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said the agency had "a robust ethics training program" that focused on "integrity, honesty and accountability" and included the use of case studies. As for the agency's deletions from proposed speeches, by Ms. Mahle or any other former employee, he said such editing was based on the secrecy agreement employees sign and was "only to ensure that they contain no classified material," not to censor anyone's opinions.

One conference organizer, Jan Goldman, a 25-year intelligence veteran who teaches at the Joint Military Intelligence College, edited a just-published collection of articles on the subject called "Ethics of Spying" (Scarecrow Press).

The book includes 22 imaginary cases, from a female operative who must decide whether to have sex with a "repulsive" terrorism suspect in order to stay in contact, to a counternarcotics officer who must decide whether to relocate a drug lord-informant to protect him from arrest.

Less dramatic but more common ethical choices come routinely to intelligence analysts, who must decide each day what gets reported to policy makers. Melvin A. Goodman, a C.I.A. analyst from 1966 to 1990, is speaking at the conference on his experience with the politicization of intelligence during the cold war, which he believes has been echoed in the Iraq war.

"My feeling is that every problem with the intelligence in the run-up to the war was an ethical question," from the handling of the dubious defector code-named Curveball to the cherry-picking of evidence on Iraq's nuclear program, Mr. Goodman said.

"There's a lot of pandering at the C.I.A.," with the White House being given intelligence reports that suit known policy preferences, he said.

Mr. Goodman is a critic of the Bush administration's policies, but conference organizers say they have tried to avoid bias. The top intelligence officer of the National Guard, Brig. Gen. Annette L. Sobel, is a scheduled panelist. And one organizer, Fritz Allhoff, who teaches philosophy at Western Michigan University, has written an essay arguing that torture in interrogation is ethical in some circumstances.

Ms. Mahle, the former C.I.A. officer, says merely taking a tough line is not enough. If intelligence tactics are not supported by a public consensus of Americans, they can backfire, she said.

For example, the past capture of terrorists abroad who were then convicted in American courts stirred little controversy. But more recent rendition cases, like the delivery of a suspect to Egypt, where he complained of torture and provided information that turned out to be false, shifted the public focus from the would-be terrorist to the actions of the C.I.A.

"If there's not a consensus, then the public focus will be not on the bad guy you got off the street, but on what the C.I.A. was doing," Ms. Mahle said.

[print version]

Monday, January 02, 2006

Congressional Quarterly: Spies, Terror and Intelligence

Lowlights of the Year in Spies, Terror and Intelligence
By Jeff Stein, National Security Editor

December 30, 2005

The year began with fury over intelligence on Iraq.

It ended with fury over intelligence on Americans.

Meanwhile, not since Dustin Hoffman got a root canal at the hands of a Nazi in “Marathon Man” has torture been such a pervasive topic around the office coffee machine — not to mention the front page of your family newspaper.

Following revelations that the CIA maintains a necklace of secret interrogation centers from Europe to Southeast Asia, several countries and the 25-member European Union (which warned that hosting such facilities could be grounds for dismissal) have launched inquiries.

For the White House, could the intelligence business get any worse?

Maybe. Even as the clock ran out on Congress in December, Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Intelligence Committee were calling for an investigation into the recently disclosed secret wiretaps on U.S. citizens; a federal judge on the court — whom the Bush administration consulted but did not ask for warrants for the wiretaps — resigned; the Patriot Act was put on five-week life support; and the FBI was struggling to explain why it had files on animal rights groups, antiwar students and liberal Catholics.

That’s a bad year.

As the Senate session ended, Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas was batting away calls for a probe of the National Security Agency, while he had barely started on a long-delayed investigation of whether the White House deliberately manipulated intelligence to stampede the nation into war against Iraq.

There were also calls for the attorney general to appoint an outside prosecutor on NSA intelligence operations, even while the outside prosecutor on the Valerie Plame leak investigation wasn’t yet through.

All this ruckus obscured some other notable developments in intelligence in 2005, both good and not so good.

The big picture, of course, was that another year passed with Osama bin Laden at large, suicide bombers throwing themselves at U.S. troops in Iraq, and al Qaeda spinoffs putting explosives on trains in London.

Vice President Dick Cheney thought U.S. counterterror and homeland security operations were going quite well.

“You know,” he told reporters on Air Force Two as he returned on Dec. 21 from a whirlwind trip to southwestern Asia, “it’s not an accident that we haven’t been hit in four years.”

Dumb luck, some observers think.

One of them is Lee H. Hamilton, the former Indiana Democrat who co-chaired the 9/11 commission.

Back to School
In a quiet talk with a handful of House Democrats in a small room in a tiny caucus room on the third floor of the Rayburn House Office Building on Dec. 15, Hamilton sketched a portrait of U.S. intelligence that seemed like a dark parallel universe to Cheney’s.

At the FBI and the CIA, he told his Hill colleagues, he found management turmoil and “a lack of a hard focus” on the need to make sense of the oceans of intelligence.

He excoriated the repeated calls by the CIA and its oversight committees to recruit and train more human spies. There was an urgent need for better processing and analysis of what the agencies were already getting, he said, adding that intelligence systems are “overwhelmed by information.”

In any event, he said he didn’t think there were many future James Bonds lurking in the sea of white, young, middle class faces he saw in the hallways of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

“You can’t take a burr-headed boy from Indiana and have him infiltrate al Qaeda,” he said, drawing murmurs of agreement from an audience that included Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., and Jane Harman, D-Calif. Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., said he’d like to see a CIA workforce diversity study.

Revealing his frustration, Hamilton said that a cry to “improve human intelligence has been the mantra for a long time. You know what the mantra was in the 1990s? Improve human intelligence. You know what it was in the 1980s? Improve human intelligence. And so on.”

He said the intelligence committees would never have real oversight of the spy agencies unless they could get complete control of the $44 billion U.S. intelligence budget and “make [it] transparent.”

The House and Senate intelligence committees need to grab control and bear down on the problems, he said.

“We’ve got wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan and there’s too much else going on in defense appropriation,” Hamilton said. “Unless you have that budget power, you’re not going to get it done.”

The spy agencies, he said, “play games with you.”

That might be marginally acceptable in a different, more peaceful time, he indicated. But, he said, he and his commission colleagues are “confident” that another al Qaeda attack is coming.

“We know al Qaeda wants to get a nuke; what we don’t know is their capability” of getting one, he said

“I don’t know if it’s the most likely kind of attack we’re facing, but it certainly would be the most devastating.”

Outside the Spotlight
All this tended to blot out the first anniversary, on Dec. 7, of legislation creating the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), perhaps the cardinal recommendation of the 9/11 commission.

It opened for business in May, and it is much too soon to know whether the ODNI, led by veteran Cold War diplomat and erstwhile ambassador to Iraq John D. Negroponte, could really bring order to the 15 fractious agencies of the so-called U.S. intelligence community.

But it was a start.

The top ranks of the CIA and the FBI, meanwhile, continued to churn with high-level comings and goings.

In July, Florida Republican Rep. Porter J. Goss, a former CIA case officer and highly partisan chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, succeeded George J. Tenet as CIA director.

Goss brought along a cadre of Republican congressional aides, and the flow of career CIA managers out the door quickly reached flood levels, accompanied by rafts of woeful headlines in The New York Times and The Washington Post about the “politicization” of intelligence — ironic, considering the pre-Iraq war performance of his predecessor.

But not all CIA veterans thought that Goss was leading the agency to ruin.

Melissa Boyle Mahle, who served five undercover tours in the Middle East during her 14 years as a CIA operator, hailed what she called “a long-needed leadership shake-up of senior management.”

But there’s also a steep downside to the departures, Mahle wrote Dec. 20 on her new blog.

“Because of the hiring freeze of the 1990s, there are relatively few officers with more than five years of field experience that can manage operations. We risk decapitating ourselves in the process of re-orienting how we do business.”

To the Rescue
A CIA legend, meanwhile, quietly crossed the Potomac in May and took up residence as the Department of Homeland Security’s first chief intelligence officer.

The arrival of Charlie Allen — an “eccentric workaholic,” in the words of one admirer, who worked on some of the CIA’s most sensitive projects over the past half century — may be the last, best hope for DHS’s long-troubled intelligence shop.

Members of the House Homeland Security Committee practically gushed in welcoming Allen at a hearing in October.

“This is an appointment which is going to be, I believe, extremely beneficial to the Department of Homeland Security,” said committee Chairman Peter T. King of New York.

“Mr. Allen has a very tough job ahead of him, not just in the actual mechanics or the implementation of establishing the intelligence apparatus in the Department of Homeland Security,” King said, “but [in] . . . creating a culture within the department where it speaks with one voice and also where the intelligence is properly used and assessed.”

Hamilton and other experts who have closely observed DHS’s intelligence wing — called Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) — have lamented over the past three years about how it failed to get a solid footing amid the CIA and the FBI, which assumed some of the intelligence functions DHS was created to fill.

Asked to list a few of Allen’s challenges for this article, a senior former intelligence official ended up composing a 650-word bill of particulars about DHS’s intelligence shortcomings that got more gloomy with every paragraph.

“One wonders whether DHS will get its act together to be an important participant in intelligence prior to the next big terrorist act in the U.S.,” he concluded.

But if anyone can do it, he and other analysts said, it is Charlie Allen.

And if he does, that will be the biggest news in U.S. intelligence in 2006 — I hope.

Jeff Stein can be reached at

Source: CQ Homeland Security
© 2005 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.