In 1996 – as major U.S. news outlets disparaged the Nicaraguan Contra-cocaine story and destroyed the career of investigative reporter Gary Webb for reviving it – the CIA marveled at the success of its public-relations team guiding the mainstream media’s hostility toward both the story and Webb, according to a newly released internal report.
Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page report describes the CIA’s damage control after Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series was published in the San Jose Mercury-News in August 1996. Webb had resurrected disclosures from the 1980s about the CIA-backed Contras collaborating with cocaine traffickers as the Reagan administration worked to conceal the crimes.
Although the CIA’s inspector general later corroborated the truth about the Contra-cocaine connection and the Reagan administration’s cover-up, the mainstream media’s counterattack in defense of the CIA in late summer and fall of 1996 proved so effective that the subsequent CIA confession made little dent in the conventional wisdom regarding either the Contra-cocaine scandal or Gary Webb.
In fall 1998, when the CIA inspector general’s extraordinary findings were released, the major U.S. news media largely ignored them, leaving Webb a “disgraced” journalist who – unable to find a decent-paying job in his profession – committed suicide in 2004, a dark tale that will be revisited in a new movie, “Kill the Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner and scheduled to reach theaters on Oct. 10.
The “Managing a Nightmare” report offers something of the CIA’s back story for how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.
Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.
“This success has to be viewed in relative terms. In the world of public relations, as in war, avoiding a rout in the face of hostile multitudes can be considered a success. … By anyone’s definition, the emergence of this story posed a genuine public relations crisis for the Agency.” [As approved for release by the CIA last July 29, the report’s author was redacted as classified, however, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept identified the writer as former Directorate of Intelligence staffer Nicholas Dujmovic.]
According to the CIA report, the public affairs staff convinced some journalists, who followed up Webb’s exposé by calling the CIA, that “this series represented no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance. Reporters were encouraged to read the ‘Dark Alliance’ series closely and with a critical eye to what allegations could actually be backed with evidence. Early in the life of this story, one major news affiliate, after speaking with a CIA media spokesman, decided not to run the story.”
Of course, the CIA’s assertion that the Contra-cocaine charges had been disproved in the 1980s was false. In fact, after Brian Barger and I wrote the first article about the Contra-cocaine scandal for the Associated Press in December 1985, a Senate investigation headed by Sen. John Kerry confirmed that many of the Contra forces were linked to cocaine traffickers and that the Reagan administration had even contracted with drug-connected airlines to fly supplies to the Contras who were fighting Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
However, in the late 1980s, the Reagan administration and the CIA had considerable success steering the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets away from the politically devastating reality that President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras were tied up with cocaine traffickers. Kerry’s groundbreaking report – when issued in 1989 – was largely ignored or mocked by the mainstream media.
That earlier media response left the CIA’s PR office free to cite the established “group think” – rather than the truth — when beating back Webb’s resurfacing of the scandal in 1996.
A ‘Firestorm’ of Attacks
The initial attacks on Webb’s series came from the right-wing media, such as the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, but the CIA’s report identified the key turning point as coming when the Washington Post pummeled Webb in two influential articles.
The CIA’s PR experts quickly exploited that opening. The CIA’s internal report said: “Public Affairs made sure that reporters and news directors calling for information – as well as former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media – received copies of these more balanced stories. Because of the Post’s national reputation, its articles especially were picked up by other papers, helping to create what the Associated Press called a ‘firestorm of reaction’ against the San Jose Mercury-News.”
The CIA’s report then noted the happy news that Webb’s editors at the Mercury-News began scurrying for cover, “conceding the paper might have done some things differently.” The retreat soon became a rout with some mainstream journalists essentially begging the CIA for forgiveness for ever doubting its innocence.
“One reporter of a major regional newspaper told [CIA] Public Affairs that, because it had reprinted the Mercury-News stories in their entirety, his paper now had ‘egg on its face,’ in light of what other newspapers were saying,” the CIA’s report noted, as its PR team kept track of the successful counterattack.
“By the end of September , the number of observed stories in the print media that indicated skepticism of the Mercury-News series surpassed that of the negative coverage, which had already peaked,” the report said. “The observed number of skeptical treatments of the alleged CIA connection grew until it more than tripled the coverage that gave credibility to that connection. The growth in balanced reporting was largely due to the criticisms of the San Jose Mercury-News by The Washington Post, The New York Times, and especially The Los Angeles Times.”
The overall tone of the CIA’s internal assessment is one of almost amazement at how its PR team could, with a deft touch, help convince mainstream U.S. journalists to trash a fellow reporter on a story that put the CIA in a negative light.
“What CIA media spokesmen can do, as this case demonstrates, is to work with journalists who are already disposed toward writing a balanced story,” the report said. “What gives this limited influence a ‘multiplier effect’ is something that surprised me about the media: that the journalistic profession has the will and the ability to hold its own members to certain standards.”
The report then praises the neoconservative American Journalism Review for largely sealing Webb’s fate with a harsh critique entitled “The Web That Gary Spun,” with AJR’s editor adding that the Mercury-News “deserved all the heat leveled at it for ‘Dark Alliance.’”
The report also cites with some pleasure the judgment of the Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz who reacted to Webb’s observation that the war was a business to some Contra leaders with the snide comment: “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail.”
Neither Kurtz nor the CIA writer apparently was aware of the disclosure — among Iran-Contra documents — of a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership from White House aide Oliver North’s emissary to the Contras, Robert Owen, who complained to North: “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field. … THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]
Misguided Group Think
Yet, faced with this mainstream “group think” – as misguided as it was – Webb’s Mercury-News editors surrendered to the pressure, apologizing for the series, shutting down the newspaper’s continuing investigation into the Contra-cocaine scandal and forcing Webb to resign in disgrace.
But Webb’s painful experience provided an important gift to American history, at least for those who aren’t enamored of superficial “conventional wisdom.” CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz ultimately produced a fairly honest and comprehensive report that not only confirmed many of the longstanding allegations about Contra-cocaine trafficking but revealed that the CIA and the Reagan administration knew much more about the criminal activity than any of us outsiders did.
Hitz completed his investigation in mid-1998 and the second volume of his two-volume investigation was published on Oct. 8, 1998. In the report, Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.
According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.
According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermúdez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermúdez remained the top Contra military commander.
The CIA corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermúdez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless. The truth about Bermúdez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear.
According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermúdez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler and a key figure in Webb’s series, to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras. Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandón, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermúdez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But Bermúdez told these cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.
After the Bermúdez meeting, Contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandón get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandón and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.
There were other indications of Bermúdez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermúdez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermúdez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved. [For more details on Hitz’s report and the Contra-cocaine scandal, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]
Shrinking Fig Leaf
By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.
Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”
Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.
Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations — serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.
Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by major U.S. news outlets. By fall 1998, the U.S. mainstream media was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. So, few readers of major U.S. newspapers saw much about the CIA’s inspector general admitting that America’s premier spy agency had collaborated with and protected cocaine traffickers.
On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times, which had assigned a huge team of 17 reporters to tear down Webb’s work, never published a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.
In 2000, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.
“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”
The House committee still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”
Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000 — except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.
Killing the Messenger
Because of this abuse of power by the Big Three newspapers — choosing to conceal their own journalistic negligence on the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image — Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.
After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, Webb had been inundated with attractive book offers from major publishing houses, but once the vilification began, the interest evaporated. Webb’s agent contacted an independent publishing house, Seven Stories Press, which had a reputation for publishing books that had been censored, and it took on the project.
After Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion was published in 1998, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.
In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.
However, Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession — the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a just-sold house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.
On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers — who were coming the next morning — to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.
Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.
I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had not published a single word on the contents of Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.
To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb or the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary – more fitting for a deceased mob boss than a fellow journalist – was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.
In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier — one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.
To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price for their actions. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism — taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes — and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.
In May 2013, one of the Los Angeles Times reporters who had joined in the orchestrated destruction of Webb’s career acknowledged that the newspaper’s assault was a “tawdry exercise” amounting to “overkill,” which later contributed to Webb’s suicide. This limited apology by former Los Angeles Times reporter Jesse Katz was made during a radio interview and came as filming was about to start on “Kill the Messenger,” based on a book by the same name by Nick Schou.
On KPCC-FM 89.3′s AirTalk With Larry Mantle, Katz was pressed by callers to address his role in the destruction of Webb. Katz offered what could be viewed as a limited apology.
“As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope,” Katz said. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.”
Katz added, “We really didn’t do anything to advance his work or illuminate much to the story, and it was a really kind of a tawdry exercise. … And it ruined that reporter’s career.”
Now, with the imminent release of a major Hollywood movie about Webb’s ordeal, the next question is whether the major newspapers will finally admit their longstanding complicity in the Contra-cocaine cover-up or whether they will simply join the CIA’s press office in another counterattack.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Dilanian’s Dizzying Defense & Dissemination of Disinformation: My Own Discussion with the ‘CIA’s Mop-Up Man’
On Wednesday afternoon, The Intercept‘s Ken Silverstein dropped a bombshell:
A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
That reporter is Ken Dilanian, who has since joined Associated Press as an intelligence reporter.
A swath of emails from the first half of 2012, released to The Intercept in response to a FOIA request, show that Dilanian maintained a particularly obsequious relationship with the media relations team over at the Central Intelligence Agency, the clandestine U.S. government service he was hired to cover for the paper.
Dilanian, dubbed “the CIA’s Mop-Up Man” by The Intercept, went beyond the usual role of mainstream media stenographer of government talking points. According to Silverstein – and overwhelmingly corroborated by the content of the published documents – Dilanian “enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.”
“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”
Another example of Dilanian’s shameful sycophancy is found in an email he sent to his contact at the CIA Office of Public Affairs on April 11, 2012. In the message, Dilanian passes along a 10-day-old dispatch from the Yemen Times, reporting on a U.S. drone strike in Azzan, a town in the country’s eastern Shabwa province. Five people were killed in the strike, one of whom was immediately identified as 60-year-old civilian, Mohamed Saleh al Suna. Six children were also injured by shrapnel from the bombing while playing soccer.
Even though Reuters had already reported on the attack on March 30, 2012 – the day it occurred – Dilanian attempted to get confirmation on the strike and reported casualties from his buddies at the CIA. “This one sounds like you guys,” he wrote, adding, “Do you agree that a civilian was killed?”
Far from acting as a venerable “Fourth Estate” check on the excesses state power, Dilanian clearly revels in his access to the upper echelons of the security and surveillance establishment, eager to laundering their lies and whitewash their war crimes.
While Dilanian’s “closely collaborative” and “deferential relationship” with the CIA, as Silverstein puts it, is shameful, unprofessional, and does a great disservice to what should be the adversarial, critical, and challenging role the press should the government, it certainly comes as no surprise.
At least to me.
A month before the first of Dilanian’s emails released to The Intercept was written, I engaged in a brief online correspondence with him.
On February 23, 2012, Ken Dilanian wrote a refreshingly solid piece on the U.S. government’s view of the Iranian nuclear program, noting that there was still no evidence Iran is actually building a nuclear bomb nor actively pursuing the means to do so.
Nevertheless, the article contained a slight error regarding Dilanian’s description of Iran’s declared and safeguarded enrichment site at Fordow, which he wrote was a “clandestine underground facility” that had been “discovered” by “Western intelligence agencies.”
Since the piece was otherwise generally good, I thought Dilanian would be receptive to a minor bit of fact-checking and decided to get in touch, using my nice voice.
What happened next was bizarre. The defensive posture immediately on display by Dilanian – someone with an important role at a large American newspaper – was revealing, and illuminating. No amount of reasoned explanation or fact-based rationale would do – he deflected, doubled-down, fumed, fulminated, and then, as the short-lived conversation continued, became increasingly insulting and juvenile.
He effectively admitted to being a sounding board for anonymous government spooks and berated anyone who doesn’t have Pentagon and CIA officials on speed-dial as being ignorant and agenda-driven, citing a “conspiracy” I never suggested existed.
The best part, perhaps, was when he wrote, “[T]here are checks and balances, including Congressional oversight, journalistic scrutiny and whistleblowers from within – all of which insures, I would argue, that US officials do not often get away with elaborate lies…”
My guess is that there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who might beg to differ with his particularly sunny assessment if they weren’t already dead.
At another point, Dilanian insisted to me that “U.S. government officials are not in the habit of elaborate disinformation campaigns,” and then later, after I challenged the official narrative on something, writes, “but it’s so easy for you to sit in Brooklyn, having no contact whatsoever with anyone senior from the government’s national security apparatus, and having no real idea of how that apparatus works, and us[ing] phrases like ‘a narrative emerges.'”
With the new revelations published by The Intercept, we now know, even more than before and beyond a shadow of doubt, who’s actually responsible for foisting particular narratives upon the unwitting public.
But, hey, if only I sent fawning emails from Washington D.C. to my pals across the Potomac in Langley, maybe I’d have some clue as to what really going on. Thanks Ken, for setting me straight.
Below is our email exchange in full (the only editing made have been the standardization of the spelling of “Fordow” and the removal of Dilanian’s mobile phone number):
From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 1:55 AM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
I’m writing to thank you for the important piece, “U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb,” in the L.A. Times today. It contains a lot of vital information that is not reported on nearly often enough in the mainstream press. Those who follow this issue closely, like myself, have been writing about this information for a long time, so reading it in the L.A. Times is a huge boost to getting the truth out.
I do question, however, your decision to include the following sentence: “In 2009, Western intelligence agencies discovered a clandestine underground facility called Fordow, near the city of Qom…”
In fact, the Fordow plant was not really “discovered” by “Western intelligence agencies”; rather, it was announced by Iran to the IAEA on September 21, 2009. Barack Obama’s sensationalist press conference, alongside Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in Pittsburgh, during which supposedly “revealed” the existence of the Fordow facility to the world, occurred on September 25, 2009, four days after Iran itself told the IAEA about the plant, which was subsequently described as “a hole in a mountain” and “nothing to be worried about” by then-IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei.
In advance of Obama’s supposed revelation, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire told reporters, “I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country.”
Obama even acknowledged this fact in his speech, noting, “Earlier this week, the Iranian government presented a letter to the IAEA that made reference to a new enrichment facility…”, though he deliberately omitted the inconvenient fact that Iran is only legally obligated to inform the IAEA of new facilities within 180 days of the introduction of nuclear material thereby making his own accusation of Iran’s alleged intransigence deliberately deceiving.
Unfortunately, your report also fails to acknowledge the essential fact that IAEA spokesman Gill Tudor has confirmed: “All nuclear material in the [Fordow] facility remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.”
In such an otherwise excellent report, it is frustrating to see the “secret Fordow facility” meme still repeated.
Considering your attention to the Iranian nuclear issue and constant dis- and misinformation, speculation and propaganda regarding Iran’s capabilities and intentions, I think you might be interested in this piece of mine from December 2010, which has subsequently been updated over 51 times with new predictions since its original publication: The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program
From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 9:35 AM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
Mr. Shirazi, thanks for your comment. I believe you are flat wrong about Fordow. Iran declared it only after Iran discovered that Western intelligence agencies knew about it. I did get the date wrong – the U.S. actually discovered it years before, and announced it only after Iran’s preemptive letter. See:
National Security Correspondent
Los Angeles Times
O:(202) 824 8328
From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 10:12 AM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
Thanks for replying so quickly, Ken.
That Iran was merely reacting to a Western discovery and hoping to pre-empt its publicity is precisely the narrative that has been wholeheartedly accepted by the press without any hint of scrutiny or shred of evidence. First off, how would Iran find out that Obama was going to hold a press conference announcing the “discovery” of the site with enough time to decide to “preemptively” draft a letter to the IAEA? – a declaration, it should be pointed out, that took place well before the 180 days before nuclear material was introduced to the site as mandated by Iran’s ratified Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Actually, Iran announced the site about a year and a half before it technically and legally had to. I suppose, though, it is possible that Iranian agents had access to Rahm Emanuel’s google calendar.
It’s silly to rehash what has been addressed already, but I think IPS journalist Gareth Porter’s recent article on this very subject in instructive (forgive me for quoting at length):
The Clinton and Hague statements [that Fordo was "covert" and "clandestine" before revealed to the world by the West] recalled a briefing for reporters during the Pittsburgh G20 summit meeting Sep. 25, 2009, at which a “senior administration official” asserted that Iran had informed the IAEA about the Fordow site in a Sep. 21 letter only after it had “learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised”.
That administration claim was quickly accepted by major media outlets without any investigation of the facts. That story line is so deeply entrenched in media consciousness that even before Clinton’s remarks, Reuters and Associated Press had published reports from their Vienna correspondents that repeated the official Obama administration line that Iran had revealed the Fordow site only after Western intelligence had discovered it.
But the administration never offered the slightest evidence to support that assertion, and there is one major reason for doubting it: the United States did not inform the IAEA about any nuclear facility at Fordow until three days after Iran’s Sep. 21, 2009 formal letter notifying the IAEA of the Fordow enrichment facility, because it couldn’t be certain that it was a nuclear site.
Mohammed ElBaradei, then director general of the IAEA, reveals in his 2011 memoir that Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, informed him Sep. 24 about U.S. intelligence on the Fordow site – three days after the Iranian letter had been received.
An irritated ElBaradei demanded to know why he had not been told before the Iranian letter.
Einhorn responded that the United States “had not been sure of the nature of the facility”, ElBaradei wrote.
The administration’s claim that Iran announced the site because it believed U.S. intelligence had “identified it” was also belied by a set of questions and answers issued by the Obama administration on the same day as the press briefing. The answer it provided to the question, “Why did the Iranians decide to reveal this facility at this time,” was “We do not know.”
Greg Thielmann, who was a top official in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research until 2003 and was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 2009 episode, told IPS the evidence for the claim that Iran believed the site had been discovered was “all circumstantial”.
Analysts were suspicious of the Iranian letter to the IAEA, Thielmann said, because, “it had the appearance of something put together hurriedly.”
But there is an alternative explanation: the decision to reveal the existence of a second prospective enrichment site – this one built into the side of a mountain – appears to have reflected the need to strengthen Iran’s hand in a meeting with the “P5 + 1″ group of state led by the United States that was only 10 days away.
The Iranian announcement that it would participate in the meeting on Sep. 14, 2009 came on the same day that the head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned against an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The idea that Iran was planning to enrich uranium secretly at Fordow assumes that the Iranians were not aware that U.S. intelligence had been carrying out aerial surveillance of the site for years. That is hardly credible in light of the fact that the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed opposition group with links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, had drawn attention to the Fordow site in a December 2005 press conference – well before it had been selected for a second enrichment plant.
Anyway, whether you roll your eyes or not about this minor point of contention, my opinion, or Porter’s conclusions, I do thank you again for your LAT piece and look forward to reading more from you in the future.
From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 10:32 AM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
Nima, the problem with intelligence reporting is there is often no way to independently confirm what your sources are telling you. You just have to rely on triangulating the information, on your years of experience dealing with certain people, and on the fact that—while you may find this hard to believe—U.S. government officials are not in the habit of elaborate disinformation campaigns. Not to say it never happens, of course, but it’s just not typically the way it works. I am confident in the New York Times reporting on this, which was based on multiple sources from within the U.S. intelligence community. What seems to be the case is that the US, France and Britain thought they knew what was there, but were not 100% certain until Iran admitted it, which may be why they didn’t send a letter to the IAEA. Just like the CIA wasn’t certain bin Laden was in Abbottabad until they ID’d his body. It is, of course, easy to say there isn’t a “shred of evidence” to support what anonymous US intelligence sources are claiming. That is true for just about any story about secret intelligence. But there are checks and balances, including Congressional oversight, journalistic scrutiny and whistleblowers from within – all of which insures, I would argue, that US officials do not often get away with elaborate lies of the kind you are suggesting they perpetrating here. Ken
From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 2:49 PM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
I don’t think it’s particularly elaborate or dastardly for U.S. officials to establish a particular narrative regarding alleged Iranian intransigence and malfeasance. This one is actually quite simple – Iran legally places a new facility under full IAEA Safeguards in line with its obligations and, as a result, undercuts a big, fancy announcement by the president. So, in response, a narrative emerges that Iran did this deliberately because they had been “found out.” And the press repeats that story until it becomes established, unquestioned fact.
Pretty simple, really.
Anyway, no need to bicker about this. I’m glad to hear you have such confidence in the honesty of our government officials and think that they “do not often get away with elaborate lies.”
From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 2:58 PM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment
but it’s so easy for you to sit in Brooklyn, having no contact whatsoever with anyone senior from the government’s national security apparatus, and having no real idea of how that apparatus works, and uses phrases like “a narrative emerges.”; what you are saying there is that multiple people from multiple government agencies conspired in a big lie. you can’t make the accusation and then hide behind euphemisms. and what I’m saying is, we live in a democracy, it doesn’t (usually) work like that. not that people are so righteous, but that it’s impossible to orchestrate a conspiracy like that. there are 16 intel agencies, and a lot of other people with access to this sort of information, including liberal democrats and conservative republicans. even if obama and his advisers wanted to lie about something like this, some malcontent somewhere would talk.
I chose not to carry the conversation further. After all, I had plenty of more sitting to do in Brooklyn, far far away from all those truth-tellers in the CIA press office.
One evening over drinks in Ethiopia, during his tour as a CIA officer back in the 1960s, John Stockwell expressed reservations about covert operations to a senior fellow officer named Larry Devlin. Stockwell worried that the CIA was infiltrating governments and corrupting leaders to no useful end. Devlin, well-known in spy circles for his work in the Congo, berated Stockwell[i]:
“You’re trying to think like the people in the NSC back in Washington who have the big picture, who know what’s going on in the world, who have all the secret information, and the experience to digest it. If they decide we should have someone in Bujumbura, Burundi, and that person should be you, then you should do your job, and wait until you have more experience, and you work your way up to that point, then you will understand national security, and you can make the big decisions. Now, get to work, and stop, you know, this philosophizing.”
It’s a compelling argument: trust me, I know secrets. In fact it’s the same sort of argument that a federal informant named Hector Xavier Monsegur used to convince an activist named Jeremy Hammond to break into a whole slew of servers belonging to foreign governments[ii]. Monsegur assured Hammond: “Trust me, everything I do serves a purpose.” Hammond didn’t realize that he was actually part of an elaborate intelligence campaign being run by the FBI. Pimped out to other American three-letter agencies as it were.
Trust Me: I’m an Insider
John Stockwell was patient. He stayed on with the CIA and rose through the ranks, ultimately garnering enough clout to sit in on subcommittee meetings of the National Security Council. What he witnessed shocked him. Stockwell saw fat old men like senior ambassador Ed Mulcahy who fell asleep[iii] and petty officials like Henry Kissinger who got into embarrassing spats when someone else sat in their chair.[iv] All the while decisions were made that would kill people.
Quelle surprise! There were no wise men making difficult decisions based on dire threats to national security. Merely bureaucrats in search of enemies whose covert programs created more problems than they solved.
There’s a lesson in this story that resonates very strongly. A security clearance is by no means a guarantee of honesty or integrity. The secrets that spies guard don’t necessarily justify covert programs. Rather the veil of the government’s classification system is often leveraged to marginalize the public, to exclude people from policy making, and conceal questionable activity that would lead to widespread condemnation and social unrest if it came to light.
Past decades offer an endless trail of evidence: Operation Gladio, Operation Mockingbird, Project MKUltra, Operation Wheeler/Wallowa, Watergate, Operation CHAOS, COINTELPRO, Operation Northwoods, P2OG (the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group), Iran-Contra, etc.
Cryptome’s John Young describes how this dynamic literally unwinds democracy[v]:
“Those with access to secret information cannot honestly partake in public discourse due to the requirement to lie and dissimulate about what is secret information. They can only speak to one another never in public. Similarly those without access to secret information cannot fully debate the issues which affect the nation, including alleged threats promulgated by secret keepers who are forbidden by law to disclose what they know.”
The Parade of Lies
In light of Ed Snowden’s revelations, and the remarkably flat-footed response of our political leaders, society is witnessing a crisis of trust. Time after time we’ve been lied to by ostensibly credible government officials. Not little white lies, but big scandalous ones. Lies that bring into question the pluralistic assumptions about American democracy and suggest the existence of what political analysts from Turkey would call a “Deep State[vi].”
For instance, both former NSA director Keith Alexander and House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers claimed that NSA mass interception was instrumental in disrupting over 50 terror plots, a claim that dissolved quickly upon closer scrutiny[vii].
Or contemplate an unnamed NSA spokesman who vehemently told the Washington Post that the NSA was not engaged in economic espionage[viii], only to be contradicted by leaked top-secret documents which described how the NSA broke into networks run by the Chinese telecom giant Huawei and made off with the company’s crown jewels (i.e. product source code).
When President Obama scored some air time with Charlie Rose, in soothing tones he calmly explained to viewers that the NSA doesn’t monitor American citizens without a warrant. It’s surprising that POTUS, a man with a background in constitutional law no less, would be unaware of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This legal provision contains a loophole that allows just this sort of warrantless monitoring to transpire[ix]. Never mind Executive Order 12333, which is arguable an even greater threat[x].
More recently, consider Dianne Feinstein’s claim back in March that the CIA had been monitoring a network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee. John Brennan, the CIA director, told her that she was full of it and sanctimoniously replied “when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong[xi].”
Well guess what? It turns out Brennan was on the losing side of that bet. An internal investigation showed that CIA officers had indeed been watching the Senate Committee[xii]. Stop and pause for a moment. This disclosure is a serious warning sign. What, pray tell, do you think happens to the whole notion of checks and balances when the executive branch spies on the other two branches? Do you suppose there are implications for the balance of power?
Faced with this ever expanding dearth of credibility, spies have worked diligently to maintain the appearance of integrity. Specifically, industry conferences like Black Hat and DEF CON have regularly catered to the needs of U.S. Intelligence by serving as platform for the Deep State and its talking points: that Cyberwar is imminent[xiii], that cybercrime represents an existential threat[xiv], and that mass interception is perfectly normal and perfectly healthy[xv].
“If the tariff of security is paid, it will be paid in the coin of privacy. [xvi]”
In these hacker venues high-profile members of the intelligence community like Cofer Black[xvii], Shawn Henry[xviii], Keith Alexander[xix], and Dan Greer[xx] are positioned front and center in keynote slots, as if they were glamorous Hollywood celebrities. While those who value their civil liberties might opine that they should more aptly be treated like pariahs[xxi].
“Time Out” Posturing
One would hope that the gravity of Ed Snowden’s documents would have some impact. Indeed, Jeff Moss, the organizer who currently runs DEF CON and who originally founded Black Hat (and, by the way, currently sits on the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council[xxii]), did attempt to make a symbolic gesture of protest in the summer of 2013. He gently requested that feds call a “time-out” and not attend DEF CON[xxiii].
To grasp the nature of this public relations maneuver is to realize that roughly 70 percent of the intelligence budget is channeled to private sector companies[xxiv]. As Glenn Greenwald observed during the 2014 Polk Award ceremony, as far as the national security state is concerned there is little distinction between the private and public sector[xxv]. Anyone who has peered into the rack space of the data broker industry knows that the NSA is an appendage on a much larger corporate apparatus[xxvi].
So asking federal employees to stay away really doesn’t change much because the driving force behind the surveillance state, the defense industry and its hi-tech offshoots, will swarm Vegas in great numbers as they normally do. Twelve months after Moss calls his halfhearted “time-out,” Black Hat rolls out the red carpet for the Deep State[xxvii], (while the government threatens to clamp down on attendance to conferences by foreign nationals[xxviii]). This is all very telling.
Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.
[i] John Stockwell, THE SECRET WARS OF THE CIA: part I, lecture given in October, 1987,
[ii] Mark Mazzetti, “F.B.I. Informant Is Tied to Cyberattacks Abroad,” New York Times, April 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/world/fbi-informant-is-tied-to-cyberattacks-abroad.html
[iii] John Stockwell, THE SECRET WARS OF THE CIA: part I, lecture given in October, 1987,
[iv] John Stockwell, The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order, South End Press, July 1, 1999.
[v] John Young, “Wall Street Journal Secrecy,” Cryptome, August 22, 2014, http://cryptome.org/0002/wsj-secrecy.htm
[vi] Peter Dale Scott, “The Deep State and the Wall Street Overworld”, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, March 10, 2014, http://japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/4090
[vii] Cindy Cohn and Nadia Kayyali, “The Top 5 Claims That Defenders of the NSA Have to Stop Making to Remain Credible,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 2, 2013, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/06/top-5-claims-defenders-nsa-have-stop-making-remain-credible
[viii] Barton Gellman and Ellen Nakashima, “, U.S. spy agencies mounted 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, documents show” Washington Post, August 30, 2013
[ix] Nadia Kayyali, “The Way the NSA Uses Section 702 is Deeply Troubling. Here’s Why,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 7, 2014, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/05/way-nsa-uses-section-702-deeply-troubling-heres-why
[x] John Napier Tye, “Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans,” Washington Post, July 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/meet-executive-order-12333-the-reagan-rule-that-lets-the-nsa-spy-on-americans/2014/07/18/93d2ac22-0b93-11e4-b8e5-d0de80767fc2_story.html
[xi] Mark Mazzetti And Jonathan Weisman, “Conflict Erupts in Public Rebuke on C.I.A. Inquiry,” New York Times, March 11, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/us/cia-accused-of-illegally-searching-computers-used-by-senate-committee.html
[xii]Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Admits Penetrating Senate Intelligence Computers,” New York Times, July 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/world/senate-intelligence-commitee-cia-interrogation-report.html
[xiii] Molly Mulrain, “Former CIA Official: ‘Cyber Will Be Key Component of Any Future Conflict’”, ExecutiveBiz, August 4, 2011, http://blog.executivebiz.com/2011/08/former-cia-official-cyber-will-be-a-key-component-of-any-future-conflict/
[xiv] Gerry Smith, “Cyber-Crimes Pose ‘Existential’ Threat, FBI Warns,” Huffington Post, January 12, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/12/cyber-threats_n_1202026.html
[xv] “U.S. Cyber Command Head General Alexander To Keynote Black Hat USA 2013,” Dark Reading, May 14, 2013, http://www.darkreading.com/risk/us-cyber-command-head-general-alexander-to-keynote-black-hat-usa-2013/d/d-id/1139741
[xvi] Daniel E. Geer, “Cybersecurity and National Policy,” Harvard Law School National Security Journal, Volume 1 – April 7, 2010, http://harvardnsj.org/2011/01/cybersecurity-and-national-policy/
[xix] Jim Finkle, “Defcon 2012 Conference: Hackers To Meet With U.S. Spy Agency Chief,” Reuters, July 20, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/defcon-2012_n_1691246.html
[xx] Spencer Ackerman, “NSA keeps low profile at hacker conventions despite past appearances,” Guardian, July 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/31/nsa-hacker-conventions-recruit-def-con-black-hat/print
[xxi] George Smith, “Computer Security for the 1 Percent Day,” Escape From WhiteManistan, May 19, 2014, http://dickdestiny.com/blog1/?p=18011
[xxiii] Dan Goodin, “For first time ever, feds asked to sit out DefCon hacker conference,” Ars Technica, July 11, 2013, http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/07/for-first-time-ever-feds-asked-to-sit-out-defcon-hacker-conference/
[xxiv] Tim Shorrock, “Put the Spies Back Under One Roof,” New York Times, June 17, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/opinion/put-the-spies-back-under-one-roof.html
[xxv] “”We Won’t Succumb to Threats”: Journalists Return to U.S. for First Time Since Revealing NSA Spying,” Democracy Now! April 14, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/14/we_wont_succumb_to_threats_journalists#
[xxvi] “Inside the Web’s $156 Billion Invisible Industry,” Motherboard, December 18, 2013, http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/inside-the-webs-156-billion-invisible-industry
[xxvii] Spencer Ackerman, “NSA keeps low profile at hacker conventions despite past appearances,” Guardian, July 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/31/nsa-hacker-conventions-recruit-def-con-black-hat/print
[xxviii] Andrea Shalal and Jim Finkle, “U.S. may act to keep Chinese hackers out of Def Con hacker event,” Reuters, May 24, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/24/us-cybercrime-usa-china-idUSBREA4N07D20140524
Former CIA Boss George Tenet Leading Plans To Attack Upcoming Senate Report On CIA’s Torture Program
As we continue to wait for the White House to finally release the heavily redacted version of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report (the full report is over 6,300 pages and cost $40 million to produce), it appears that those who are likely to take the blame are already preparing their response. As has already leaked out over the past few months, the report will show how the program went further than people expected, that it basically uncovered no terrorist plots and that the CIA regularly lied to Congress about the nature of the program and its impact. The CIA, led by current boss John Brennan, has hit back against these conclusions, but it appears that those who were actually in power during the torture program are even more worried. Former CIA boss George Tenet, who was already considered something of a disgrace for the CIA’s intelligence failures prior to invading Iraq, is apparently working hard behind the scenes to coordinate an attack on the credibility of the report — because it pretty clearly is going to attack his credibility.
Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.
The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.
Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month.
Apparently Tenet and others demanded early access to the report, and eventually Dianne Feinstein, the White House and those former CIA officials negotiated a deal letting them read the report over in James Clapper’s offices. The NY Times report also details how Brennan is basically a Tenet lackey whose rise through the ranks occurred under Tenet — making it more likely that Brennan wants to protect the reputation of his former boss.
We’ll see how this eventual “response” comes out, but given the initial leaks from the report, it sounds like it’s going to be fairly devastating, and make a further mockery of Tenet. As the report linked above also notes, back in 2007 Tenet got angry at a 60 Minutes interviewer and started wagging his finger at the correspondent, while insisting “We don’t torture people!”
Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.”
“No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”
It’s pretty easy to say that when no one can fact-check you. But it appears that the report is going to point out that almost none of what Tenet said was true. No wonder he’s so concerned about leading the attack on the report.
Washington is supplying some Syrian rebels with both “lethal and non-lethal” aid, according to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who confirmed the longstanding suspicion that the Obama administration is arming anti-Assad forces.
The US is “the single largest contributor of humanitarian assistance, providing over $1.7 billion” in assistance, Rice told CNN.
“That’s why the United States has ramped up its support for the moderate vetted opposition, providing lethal and nonlethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition,” she said.
Previously, American officials claimed that the US sent only non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, saying they were concerned that if US arms, especially sophisticated ones like portable anti-aircraft missiles, were sent to Syria, they might end up in the hands of terrorists. Media reports, however, suggested that the CIA was secretly involved in training rebel groups and assisting Saudi Arabia and Qatar in smuggling arms to the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rice emphasized Washington’s desire to play a more pro-active role in the Syrian conflict by getting Congress approval for more assistance to the rebels in the war that has been ongoing for three years and claimed upward of 160,000 lives.
The aid of hundreds of millions of dollars given by the US since the start of the civil war in 2011 has all gone toward humanitarian assistance, she insisted.
Although details about the specifics of aid and training provided to opposition forces are usually avoided by US officials in interviews, President Barack Obama announced his Syria plans in a foreign policy speech at West Point military academy in late May.
Rebels “offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators,” the president said. Now it’s up to Congress to support the idea of and green-light more aid, as is stipulated in the War Powers Act.
In mid-May, Obama met with the leader of the Turkey-based opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, and boosted US aid to the Syrian opposition by $27 million.
In the interview, Rice defended the president’s foreign policy, which some critics in the US believe to be passive and overcautious. She insisted that Washington retains strong ties with partner nations and a strong global position.
“I think the fact of the matter is we’re living in complex times, there are many different challenges that the United States and the world faces. But our leadership is unmatched. Our role is indispensable,” she said.
The confirmation of America’s lethal aid to the Syrian opposition comes on the heels of the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq, a country torn apart by raging sectarian violence, which takes dozens of lives daily.
Syria has suffered greatly in the three-year civil war, but its government remains stable and its military is gaining ground in the fight against various opposition forces, many of them foreign Islamists.
Numerous US agents are helping the coup-appointed government in Ukraine to “fight organized crime” in the south east of the country, the German newspaper Bild revealed.
According to the daily, the CIA and FBI are advising the government in Kiev on how to deal with the ‘fight against organized crime’ and stop the violence in the country’s restive eastern regions.
The group also helps to investigate alleged financial crimes and is trying to trace the money, which was reportedly taken abroad during Viktor Yanokovich’s presidency, the newspaper said.
The head of the CIA, John Brennan, visited Kiev in mid-April and met with the acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and first Vice-President Vitaly Yarema to discuss a safer way to transfer US information to Ukraine.
Jen Psaki, spokeswomen for the United States Department of State, said that there was nothing to read into Brennan’s visit to Kiev, and that the head of the CIA did not offer support to the coup-appointed government in the country to help them conduct tactical operations within Ukraine.
However, following the visit the toppled President Viktor Yanukovich linked the CIA chief’s appearance in Kiev to the first stage of the new government’s crackdown in Slavyansk.
Brennan “sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed,” Yanukovich said.
Bild’s reports comes as US President Barack Obama rules out that Washington will interfere in the situation in Ukraine.
“You’ve also seen suggestions or implications that somehow Americans are responsible for meddling inside Ukraine. I have to say that our only interest is for Ukraine to be able to make its own decisions. And the last thing we want is disorder and chaos in the center of Europe,” he said speaking in the White House after meeting the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, just two days ago.
In the face of continued revelations of United States’ torture policies during the Bush administration, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), today sent letters to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demanding an end to all ongoing practices of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees. The letter specifically calls for revoking techniques permitted in Appendix ‘M’ of the current Army Field Manual, such as solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, forms of sensory deprivation, and environmental manipulations, which individually and combined have been condemned internationally as forms of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and therefore violate the United States’ obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. In addition, PsySR expressed particularly concern that health professionals, including psychologists, have been engaged to support such efforts in violation of their ethical responsibilities.
Here is the letter:
April 29, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As an organization of health professionals dedicated to human rights advocacy, Psychologists for Social Responsibility strongly objects to practices that violate the ethics of health professions and lie outside the norms of international law and practice. The recent Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirms that, beginning during the Bush Administration, interrogation and detention practices were put in place by the CIA that constituted torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Practices once condemned under law and international treaty were soon redefined by the Justice Department to permit a “culture of torture” to proliferate under U.S. policy. These practices quickly spread to the detention centers of the Department of Defense and throughout the theaters of war. While legal progress has been made to limit these policies and practices, significant remnants remain under your authority. We write to you today to urge you to eliminate all existing procedures allowing for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees.
In 2009, via Executive Order 13491, your administration officially announced its intention to end the torture practices developed and instituted under the Bush Administration. Interrogation practices that did not conform to the Army Field Manual were abolished. However, as documented by numerous legal and human rights groups, as well as by former interrogators, the Army Field Manual still includes abusive techniques in violation of these standards.
We concur with the recent recommendation of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP)/Open Society Foundations report  calling for you to issue a new executive order banning interrogation techniques using isolation, sleep deprivation, exploitation of fear, and other methods that violate international standards regarding torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. We, too, urge you to remediate the ethical standards of the Army Field Manual via executive order.
The current edition of the Army Field Manual (2006) officially supports interrogations using “approach techniques,” including the creation, manipulation, and intensification of phobias and fears in prisoners (“Fear Up”) and the calculated psychological attack against ego or self-esteem (“Emotional Pride and Ego Down”). The “Emotional Futility” approach intends to create a perception in a prisoner that “resistance to questioning is futile.” The manual describes the purpose of this technique as engendering “a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness” in a detainee and notes the “potential for application of the pride and ego approach to cross the line into humiliating and degrading treatment of the detainee.”
Also problematic on both basic health and human rights grounds is Appendix M, added to this most recent version of the Army Field Manual (2-22.3). This special annex proposes a technique known as “Separation,” which includes the use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, forms of sensory deprivation, and environmental manipulations — all of which could theoretically be extended indefinitely — as ostensibly legitimate forms of treatment on “unlawful combatants.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture  and independent human rights organizations describe such practices as torture and/or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. As health professionals and human rights advocates, we are disturbed that such techniques are conducted under an official capacity and by executive order.
We are particularly concerned that health professionals, including psychologists, have been engaged to support such efforts, directly or indirectly, in violation of their ethical obligations and in violation of the policies of their professional associations.
As you must be aware, these practices are not only cruel, but also yield questionable intelligence and contribute to a perception of our country as a systematic violator of human rights. It would serve as a strong and principled legacy of your Administration if these remaining practices of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment were finally and definitively ended.
We look forward to your timely response.
Steven Reisner, PhD
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
cc: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
 Scott Horton, “Interrogators C click here//harpers.org/blog/2010/11/interrogators-call-for-the-elimination-of-appendix-m/
 Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detai nee” target=”_blank”>Abuse in the “War on T/a>error”, IMAP/OSF Task Force Report, Nov. 2013. URL: http://www.imapny.org/File Library/Documents/IMAP-EthicsTextFinal2.pdf
 ”Solitary confinement should be banned in most ca ses,” target=”_blank”> UN expert says,” UN News C” target=”_bnk”>k”> UN expert says” target=”_blank”>nk”>k”> UN ex” target=lank”>lank”>nk”>” target=”_blank”> k”> UN expert says,” UN News Centre, Oct. 18th, 2011. URL: https://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40097
Monday 21st: front page story on NYT “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia”, ah hah! proof at last!; a bit of doubt surfaces on Wednesday; entire story trashed Thursday: “Aftermath of Ukraine Photo Story Shows Need for More Caution”. When I was a kid, CIA confections lasted a lot longer than a couple of days. So, into the bin along with the Jewish registration letter, captured “OSCE observers” and soon to be followed by the new intercepts. All I see from Washington is desperation piled on incompetence: none of this has turned out the way it was supposed to and no one has any idea of what to do next. So turn the volume up, desperately clutch at any story, hysterically accuse RT of propaganda when all it’s doing is accurately quoting you, announce more sanctions based on the dopey assumption that Putin has billions stashed in the West and move military forces to irrelevant places like Poland or Romania. The Micawber school of diplomacy.
- “Containment” is the new mantra for dealing with Russia in Washington these days. But has anyone there read the original? (Original telegram, subsequent article). Apart from the fact that George Kennan was strongly against NATO expansion, which is one of the two Original Sins of today’s Ukrainian catastrophe, the conditions Kennan saw in 1946 simply do not apply today. In essence Kennan was arguing that the inner constructions and logical implications of the Marxist-Leninist ideology did not correspond well with reality and therefore, over the long haul, it would not survive. Assuming that the USA would survive because it was better connected to reality, he expected the USA to outlast the USSR, given patience and prudence. This proved correct over the next half-century. Who believes this to be the case today other than the few crazies who still think Marxism-Leninism rules in Russia? And, speaking of perception of reality, one might compare any statement by Lavrov with Slaughter’s article below or any bloviation from Kerry. Or, thinking long-term as Kennan did, who can be confident that the USA will be Number One in 50 years? Or 25? Or even 10? They say China is about to become the premier economy this year. Deng’s reforms began only 35 years ago… What will the world look like in another 35?
- To give you an idea of the level of impassioned lunacy in Washington these days, read “Stopping Russia Starts in Syria”. Essentially the argument is that Obama should bomb Syria in order to show Putin he is serious about using force. Or something. “Striking Syria might not end the civil war there, but it could prevent the eruption of a new one in Ukraine”. Gibbering nonsense, eh? And incoherently erected on idiotic assumptions. But the author is not some bizarro from the outer fringes of the Net; it is Anne-Marie Slaughter, academic and quondam director of policy planning in the US State Department and now President of the New America Foundation. Mainstream madness.
Another US official visits, another “anti-terrorist operation”, another fizzle. This piece (rather poorly translated) gives a clue why. We have already seen in previous events that what remains of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are unwilling to get involved – even the supposedly elite airborne forces handed over their weapons rather than shoot. The so-called special forces are no better. The local police sympathise with the rebels. Now we see the ineffectiveness of the new “National Guard” made up of western Ukrainian nationalists: not even they, under-equipped, unfed and unpaid, are willing or competent. Kiev simply hasn’t got anyone to do its will no matter how much Biden and Brennan might prod it. And a couple of nights ago a riot between two different flavours of super-nationalists in Kiev itself. “Ukraine” no longer exists; Washington and Brussels have broken it in half.
Russia has handed over to Ukraine 13 of the 70 Ukrainian Navy warships it acquired when their crews switched sides.
Debka (which I regard as not always wrong) claims Putin has approved the sale of the S-400 SAM system to China. Said to be pretty advanced; here’s some marketing porn for it. And other signs of closeness: big investment, naval exercise. The first fruits of the many unintended consequences of Victoria Nuland’s grand scheme.
I spent much of last week at the Post Theater in Fort Meade, watching the closed-circuit feed of the pre-trial military commissions hearings in the case of Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammed al-Nashiri, who faces the death penalty for his alleged role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
The CIA’s torture of Mr. Nashiri, and what impact it will have on the proceeding going forward, dominated this round of hearings, both on screen and off.
“I believe Mr. al Nashiri has suffered torture, physical, psychological and sexual torture,” Dr. Sondra Crosby, an expert in treating victims of torture, testified onscreen. Dr. Crosby was called by the defense to provide an opinion on whether Mr. Nashiri is receiving appropriate medical care at the Guantánamo prison for the post-traumatic stress disorder he still suffers today as a result of his time in the CIA’s torture program.
Dr. Crosby’s testimony provided a stark example of what it means for the government to censor testimony about CIA torture. She could say, for example, that she observed scars on Mr. Nashiri’s body that are consistent with allegations of torture, but not what those allegations are. The public needs to hear the details, as terrible and uncomfortable as they may be, in open court, in order to have an informed debate about what happened in the CIA black sites and how it affects these military trials.
Off-screen, the big question was how the government would respond to military commissions Judge James Pohl’s groundbreaking order, made public last Tuesday, requiring the government to turn over to Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers detailed records from his “four-year odyssey” through the CIA’s rendition and torture program. That would include a timeline of every black site at which he was detained; the identities of every person who had “substantial contact” with him; all of his interrogation records, as well as those of the co-conspirators listed on his charge sheet; and the government’s policies and procedures related to the interrogation, treatment, and transportation of detainees it categorized as “high-value,” including Mr. Nashiri.
What’s so important about this information? For starters, the fact that Mr. Nashiri faces the death penalty means that his lawyers have an ethical duty to collect any facts that might persuade the military commission to apply a sentence of less than death. Here, according to his lawyers, that includes information about his brutal torture by the CIA.
Also, the government has indicated that it may use statements made by Mr. Nashiri and others after they arrived at Guantánamo in 2006. The military commission rules bar statements obtained through torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, but they don’t bar subsequent statements made “voluntarily” by the defendant. There’s a real question whether someone subjected to as much abuse as Mr. Nashiri could make any subsequent statement that is truly voluntary.
These issues can’t be addressed until Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers have all the facts about their client. Also, if information obtained from Mr. Nashiri and others after 2006 is found to be the fruit of coercive interrogations, then its use at trial is barred under the Constitution and international law.
On Wednesday afternoon, the government asked Judge Pohl to reconsider parts of his order. The judge won’t make his decision until the next set of hearings, and the government has apparently indicated it will appeal if Judge Pohl refuses to rule its way.
The government has another choice, though. After all, more information about what happened to Mr. Nashiri may be released to the public soon, as the government itself acknowledged in its filing to Judge Pohl. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently sent the summary of its 6,000-plus page report on the CIA’s torture program to the executive for declassification review and release. That report apparently includes new facts about Mr. Nashiri, including that the CIA may have exaggerated its claims about his role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
With prospects for transparency about the torture program growing, the government could change course here, stop fighting Judge Pohl’s order, and turn over all of the information it has about what happened to Mr. Nashiri to his lawyers. There can be no fair trial without it.
On 50th anniversary, Archive posts new Kennedy Tape Transcripts on coup plotting against Brazilian President Joao Goulart
Robert Kennedy characterized Goulart as a “wily politician” who “figures he’s got us by the —.”
Declassified White House records chart genesis of regime change effort in Brazil
Washington, DC – Almost two years before the April 1, 1964, military takeover in Brazil, President Kennedy and his top aides began seriously discussing the option of overthrowing Joao Goulart’s government, according to Presidential tape transcripts posted by the National Security Archive on the 50th anniversary of the coup d’tat. “What kind of liaison do we have with the military?” Kennedy asked top aides in July 1962. In March 1963, he instructed them: “We’ve got to do something about Brazil.”
The tape transcripts advance the historical record on the U.S. role in deposing Goulart — a record which remains incomplete half a century after he fled into exile in Uruguay on April 1, 1964. “The CIA’s clandestine political destabilization operations against Goulart between 1961 and 1964 are the black hole of this history,” according to the Archive’s Brazil Documentation Project director, Peter Kornbluh, who called on the Obama administration to declassify the still secret intelligence files on Brazil from both the Johnson and Kennedy administrations.
Revelations on the secret U.S. role in Brazil emerged in the mid 1970s, when the Lyndon Johnson Presidential library began declassifying Joint Chiefs of Staff records on “Operation Brother Sam” — President Johnson’s authorization for the U.S. military to covertly and overtly supply arms, ammunition, gasoline and, if needed, combat troops if the military’s effort to overthrow Goulart met with strong resistance. On the 40th anniversary of the coup, the National Security Archive posted audio files of Johnson giving the green light for military operations to secure the success of the coup once it started.
“I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do,” President Johnson instructed his aides regarding U.S. support for a coup as the Brazilian military moved against Goulart on March 31, 1964.
But Johnson inherited his anti-Goulart, pro-coup policy from his predecessor, John F. Kennedy. Over the last decade, declassified NSC records and recently transcribed White House tapes have revealed the evolution of Kennedy’s decision to create a coup climate and, when conditions permitted, overthrow Goulart if he did not yield to Washington’s demand that he stop “playing” with what Kennedy called “ultra-radical anti-Americans” in Brazil’s government. During White House meetings on July 30, 1962, and on March 8 and 0ctober 7, 1963, Kennedy’s secret Oval Office taping system recorded the attitude and arguments of the highest U.S. officials as they strategized how to force Goulart to either purge leftists in his government and alter his nationalist economic and foreign policies or be forced out by a U.S.-backed putsch.
Indeed, the very first Oval Office meeting that Kennedy secretly taped, on July 30, 1962, addressed the situation in Brazil. “I think one of our important jobs is to strengthen the spine of the military,” U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon told the President and his advisor, Richard Goodwin. “To make clear, discreetly, that we are not necessarily hostile to any kind of military action whatsoever if it’s clear that the reason for the military action is… [Goulart's] giving the country away to the…,” “Communists,” as the president finished his sentence. During this pivotal meeting, the President and his men decided to upgrade contacts with the Brazilian military by bringing in a new US military attaché-Lt. Col. Vernon Walters who eventually became the key covert actor in the preparations for the coup. “We may very well want them [the Brazilian military] to take over at the end of the year,” Goodwin suggested, “if they can.” (Document 1)
By the end of 1962, the Kennedy administration had indeed determined that a coup would advance U.S. interests if the Brazilian military could be mobilized to move. The Kennedy White House was particularly upset about Goulart’s independent foreign policy positions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although Goulart had assisted Washington’s efforts to avoid nuclear Armageddon by acting as a back channel intermediary between Kennedy and Castro — a top secret initiative uncovered by George Washington University historian James G. Hershberg — Goulart was deemed insufficiently supportive of U.S. efforts to ostracize Cuba at the Organization of American States. On December 13, Kennedy told former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek that the situation in Brazil “worried him more than that in Cuba.”
On December 11, 1962, the Executive Committee (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council met to evaluate three policy alternatives on Brazil: A. “do nothing and allow the present drift to continue; B. collaborate with Brazilian elements hostile to Goulart with a view to bringing about his overthrow; C. seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government.” [link to document 2] Option C was deemed “the only feasible present approach” because opponents of Goulart lacked the “capacity and will to overthrow” him and Washington did not have “a near future U.S. capability to stimulate [a coup] operation successfully.” Fomenting a coup, however “must be kept under active and continuous consideration,” the NSC options paper recommended.
Acting on these recommendations, President Kennedy dispatched a special envoy — his brother Robert — to issue a face-to-face de facto ultimatum to Goulart. Robert Kennedy met with Goulart at the Palacio do Alvarada in Brazilia on December 17, 1962. During the three-hour meeting, RFK advised Goulart that the U.S. had “the gravest doubts” about positive future relations with Brazil, given the “signs of Communist or extreme left-wing nationalists infiltration into civilian government positions,” and the opposition to “American policies and interests as a regular rule.” As Goulart issued a lengthy defense of his policies, Kennedy passed a note to Ambassador Gordon stating: “We seem to be getting no place.” The attorney general would later say that he came away from the meeting convinced that Goulart was “a Brazilian Jimmy Hoffa.”
Kennedy and his top aides met once again on March 7, 1963, to decide how to handle the pending visit of the Brazilian finance minister, Santiago Dantas. In preparation for the meeting, Ambassador Gordon submitted a long memo to the president recommending that if it proved impossible to convince Goulart to modify his leftist positions, the U.S. work “to prepare the most promising possible environment for his replacement by a more desirable regime.” (Document 5) The tape of this meeting (partially transcribed here for the first time by James Hershberg) focused on Goulart’s continuing leftward drift. Robert Kennedy urged the President to be more forceful toward Goulart: He wanted his brother to make it plain “that this is something that’s very serious with us, we’re not fooling around about it, we’re giving him some time to make these changes but we can’t continue this forever.” The Brazilian leader,” he continued, “struck me as the kind of wily politician who’s not the smartest man in the world … he figures that he’s got us by the—and that he can play it both ways, that he can make the little changes, he can make the arrangements with IT&T and then we give him some money and he doesn’t have to really go too far.” He exhorted the president to “personally” clarify to Goulart that he “can’t have the communists and put them in important positions and make speeches criticizing the United States and at the same time get 225-50 million dollars from the United States. He can’t have it both ways.”
As the CIA continued to report on various plots against Goulart in Brazil, the economic and political situation deteriorated. When Kennedy convened his aides again on October 7, he wondered aloud if the U.S. would need to overtly depose Goulart: “Do you see a situation where we might be—find it desirable to intervene militarily ourselves?” The tape of the October 7 meeting — a small part of which was recently publicized by Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari, but now transcribed at far greater length here by Hershberg — contains a detailed discussion of various scenarios in which Goulart would be forced to leave. Ambassador Gordon urged the president to prepare contingency plans for providing ammunition or fuel to pro-U.S. factions of the military if fighting broke out. “I would not want us to close our minds to the possibility of some kind of discreet intervention,” Gordon told President Kennedy, “which would help see the right side win.”
Under Gordon’s supervision, over the next few weeks the U.S. embassy in Brazil prepared a set of contingency plans with what a transmission memorandum, dated November 22, 1963, described as “a heavy emphasis on armed intervention.” Assassinated in Dallas on that very day, President Kennedy would never have the opportunity to evaluate, let alone implement, these options.
But in mid-March 1964, when Goulart’s efforts to bolster his political powers in Brazil alienated his top generals, the Johnson administration moved quickly to support and exploit their discontent-and be in the position to assure their success. “The shape of the problem,” National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy told a meeting of high-level officials three days before the coup, “is such that we should not be worrying that the [Brazilian] military will react; we should be worrying that the military will not react.”
“We don’t want to watch Brazil dribble down the drain,” the CIA, White House and State Department officials determined, according to the Top Secret meeting summary, “while we stand around waiting for the [next] election.”
Document 1: White House, Transcript of Meeting between President Kennedy, Ambassador Lincoln Gordon and Richard Goodwin, July 30, 1962. (Published in The Presidential Recordings of John F. Kennedy, The Great Crises, Volume One (W.W. Norton), edited by Timothy Naftali, October 2001.)
The very first Oval Office meeting ever secretly taped by President Kennedy took place on July 30, 1962 and addressed the situation in Brazil and what to do about its populist president, Joao Goulart. The recording — it was transcribed and published in book The Presidential Recordings of John F. Kennedy, The Great Crises, Volume One — captures a discussion between the President, top Latin America aide Richard Goodwin and U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon about beginning to set the stage for a future military coup in Brazil. The President and his men make a pivotal decision to appoint a new U.S. military attaché to become a liaison with the Brazilian military, and Lt. Col. Vernon Walters is identified. Walters later becomes the key covert player in the U.S. support for the coup. “We may very well want them [the Brazilian military] to take over at the end of the year,” Goodwin suggests, “if they can.”
Document 2: NSC, Memorandum, “U.S. Short-Term policy Toward Brazil,” Secret, December 11, 1962
In preparation for a meeting of the Executive Committee (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council, the NSC drafted an options paper with three policy alternatives on Brazil: A. “do nothing and allow the present drift to continue; B. collaborate with Brazilian elements hostile to Goulart with a view to bringing about his overthrow; C. seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government.” Option C was deemed “the only feasible present approach” because opponents of Goulart lacked the “capacity and will to overthrow” him and Washington did not have “a near future U.S. capability to stimulate [a coup] operation successfully.” Fomenting a coup, however “must be kept under active and continuous consideration,” the NSC options paper recommended. If Goulart continued to move leftward, “the United States should be ready to shift rapidly and effectively to…collaboration with friendly democratic elements, including the great majority of military officer corps, to unseat President Goulart.”
Document 3: NSC, “Minutes of the National Security Council Executive Committee Meeting, Meeting No. 35,” Secret, December 11, 1962
The minutes of the EXCOMM meeting record that President Kennedy accepted the recommendation that U.S. policy “seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government.”
Document 4: U.S. Embassy, Rio de Janeiro, Airgram A-710, “Minutes of Conversation between Brazilian President Joao Goulart and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Brasilia, 17 December 1962,” December 19, 1962
In line with JFK’s decision at the Excom meeting on December 11 to have “representative sent specially” to talk to Goulart, the president’s brother made a hastily-prepared journey to “confront” the Brazilian leader over the issues that had increasingly concerned and irritated Washington-from his chaotic management of Brazil’s economy and expropriation of U.S. corporations such as IT&T, to his lukewarm support during the Cuban missile crisis and flirtation with the Soviet bloc to, most alarming, his allegedly excessive toleration of far left and even communist elements in the government, military, society, and even his inner circle. Accompanied by US ambassador Lincoln Gordon, RFK met for more than three hours with Goulart in the new inland capital of Brasília at the modernistic lakeside presidential residence, the Palácio do Alvorada. A 17-page memorandum of conversation, drafted by Amb. Gordon, recorded the Attorney General presenting his list of complaints: the “many signs of Communist or extreme left-wing nationalists infiltration” into civilian government, military, trade union, and student group leaderships, and Goulart’s personal failure to take a public stand against the “violently anti-American” statements emanating from “influential Brazilians” both in and out of his government, or to embrace Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Turning to economic issues, he said his brother was “very deeply worried at the deterioration” in recent months, from rampant inflation to the disappearance of reserves, and called on Goulart to get his “economic and financial house in order.” Surmounting these obstacles to progress, RFK stressed, could mark a “turning point in relations between Brazil and the U.S. and in the whole future of Latin America and of the free world.” When Goulart defended his policies, Kennedy scribbled a note to Ambassador Gordon: “We seem to be getting no place.” JFK’s emissary voiced his fear “that President Goulart had not fully understood the nature of President Kennedy’s concern about the present situation and prospects.”
Document 5: Department of State, Memorandum to Mr. McGeorge Bundy, “Political Considerations Affecting U.S. Assistance to Brazil,” Secret, March 7, 1963
In preparation for another key Oval office meeting on Brazil, the Department of State transmitted two briefing papers, including a memo to the president from Amb. Gordon titled “Brazilian Political Developments and U.S. Assistance.” The latter briefing paper (attached to the first document) was intended to assist the President in deciding how to handle the visit of Brazilian Finance Minister San Tiago Dantas to Washington. Gordon cited continuing problems with Goulart’s “equivocal, with neutralist overtones” foreign policy, and the “communist and other extreme nationalist, far left wing, and anti-American infiltration in important civilian and military posts with the government.”
Document 6: Excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s conversation regarding Brazil with U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon on Friday March 8, 1963 (Meeting 77.1, President’s Office Files, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston)
On March 8, 1963, a few days before Dantas’ arrived, JFK reviewed the state of US-Brazilian relations with his top advisors, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, his ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon, and his brother Robert. Unofficially transcribed here by James G. Hershberg (with assistance from Marc Selverstone and David Coleman) this is apparently the first time that it has been published since the tape recording was released more than a decade ago by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. As the comments by Rusk, Gordon, and RFK make clear, deep dissatisfaction with Goulart persisted. “Brazil is a country that we can’t possibly turn away from,” Secretary of State Rusk told the president. “Whatever happens there is going to be of decisive importance to the hemisphere.” Rusk frankly acknowledged that the situation wasn’t yet so bad as to justify Goulart’s overthrow to “all the non-communists or non-totalitarian Brazilians,” nor to justify a “clear break” between Washington and Rio that would be understood throughout the hemisphere. Instead, the strategy for the time being was to continue cooperation with Goulart’s government while raising pressure on him to improve his behavior, particularly his tolerance of far-leftist, anti-United States, and even communist associates-to, in JFK’s words, “string out” aid in order to “put the screws” on him. The president’s brother, in particular, clearly did not feel that Goulart had followed through since their meeting a few months earlier on his vows to put a lid on anti-U.S. expressions or make personnel changes to remove some of the most egregiously leftist figures in his administration. Goulart, stated RFK, “struck me as the kind of wily politician who’s not the smartest man in the world but very sensitive to this [domestic political] area, that he figures that he’s got us by the—and that he can play it both ways, that he can make the little changes…and then we give him some money and he doesn’t have to really go too far.”
Document 7: CIA, Current Intelligence Memorandum, “Plotting Against Goulart,” Secret, March 8, 1963
For more than two years before the April 1, 1964 coup, the CIA transmitted intelligence reports on various coup plots. The plot, described in this memo as “the best-developed plan,” is being considered by former minister of war, Marshal Odylio Denys. In a clear articulation of U.S. concerns about the need for a successful coup, the CIA warned that “a premature coup effort by the Brazilian military would be likely to bring a strong reaction from Goulart and the cashiering of those officers who are most friendly to the United States.”
Document 8: State Department, Latin American Policy Committee, “Approved Short-Term Policy in Brazil,” Secret, October 3, 1963
In early October, the State Department’s Latin America Policy Committee approved a “short term” draft policy statement on Brazil for consideration by President Kennedy and the National Security Council. Compared to the review in March, the situation has deteriorated drastically, according to Washington’s point of view, in large measure due to Goulart’s “agitation,” unstable leadership, and increasing reliance on leftist forces. In its reading of the current and prospective situation, defining American aims, and recommending possible lines of action for the United States, the statement explicitly considered, albeit somewhat ambiguously, the U.S. attitude toward a possible coup to topple Goulart. “Barring clear indications of serious likelihood of a political takeover by elements subservient to and supported by a foreign government, it would be against U.S. policy to intervene directly or indirectly in support of any move to overthrow the Goulart regime. In the event of a threatened foreign-government-affiliated political takeover, consideration of courses of action would be directed more broadly but directly to the threatened takeover, rather than against Goulart (though some action against the latter might result).” Kennedy and his top aides met four days later to consider policy options and strategies–among them U.S. military intervention in Brazil.
Document 9: Excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s conversation regarding Brazil with U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon on Monday, October 7, 1963 (tape 114/A50, President’s Office Files, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston)
“Do you see a situation where we might be-find it desirable to intervene militarily ourselves?” John F. Kennedy’s question to his ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon, reflected the growing concerns that a coup attempt against Goulart might need U.S. support to succeed, especially if it triggered an outbreak of fighting or even civil war. This tape, parts of which were recently publicized by Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari, has been significantly transcribed by James G. Hershberg (with assistance from Marc Selverstone) and published here for the first time. It captured JFK, Gordon, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and other top officials concluding that the prospect of an impending move to terminate Goulart’s stay in office (long before his term was supposed to come to an end more than two years later) required an acceleration of serious U.S. military contingency planning as well as intense efforts to ascertain the balance between military forces hostile and friendly to the current government. In his lengthy analysis of the situation, Gordon — who put the odds at 50-50 that Goulart would be gone, one way or another, by early 1964 — outlined alternative scenarios for future developments, ranging from Goulart’s peaceful early departure (“a very good thing for both Brazil and Brazilian-American relations”), perhaps eased out by military pressure, to a possible sharp Goulart move to the left, which could trigger a violent struggle to determine who would rule the country. Should a military coup seize power, Gordon clearly did not want U.S. squeamishness about constitutional or democratic niceties to preclude supporting Goulart’s successors: “Do we suspend diplomatic relations, economic relations, aid, do we withdraw aid missions, and all this kind of thing — or do we somehow find a way of doing what we ought to do, which is to welcome this?” And should the outcome of the attempt to oust Goulart lead to a battle between military factions, Gordon urged study of military measures (such as providing fuel or ammunition, if requested) that Washington could take to assure a favorable outcome: “I would not want us to close our minds to the possibility of some kind of discreet intervention in such a case, which would help see the right side win.” On the tape, McNamara suggests, and JFK approves, accelerated work on contingency planning (“can we get it really pushed ahead?”). Even as U.S. officials in Brazil intensified their encouragement of anti-communist military figures, Kennedy cautioned that they should not burn their bridges with Goulart, which might give him an excuse to rally nationalist support behind an anti-Washington swerve to the left: Washington needed to continue “applying the screws on the [economic] aid” to Brazil, but “with some sensitivity.”
Document 10: State Department, Memorandum, “Embassy Contingency Plan,” Top Secret, November 22, 1963
Dated on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, this cover memo describes a new contingency plan from the U.S. Embassy in Brazil that places “heavy emphasis on U.S. armed intervention.” The actual plan has not been declassified.
Document 11: NSC, Memcon, “Brazil,” Top Secret, March 28, 1964
As the military prepared to move against Goulart, top CIA, NSC and State Department officials met to discuss how to support them. They evaluated a proposal, transmitted by Ambassador Gordon the previous day, calling for covert delivery of armaments and gasoline, as well as the positioning of a naval task force off the coast of Brazil. At this point, U.S. officials were not sure if or when the coup would take place, but made clear their interest in its success. “The shape of the problem,” according to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, “is such that we should not be worrying that the military will react; we should be worrying that the military will not react.”
Document 12: U.S. Embassy, Brazil, Memo from Ambassador Gordon, Top Secret, March 29, 1964
Gordon transmitted a message for top national security officials justifying his requests for pre-positioning armaments that could be used by “para-military units” and calling for a “contingency commitment to overt military intervention” in Brazil. If the U.S. failed to act, Gordon warned, there was a “real danger of the defeat of democratic resistance and communization of Brazil.”
Document 13: Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cable, [Military attaché Vernon Walters Report on Coup Preparations], Secret, March 30, 1964
U.S. Army attaché Vernon Walters meets with the leading coup plotters and reports on their plans. “It had been decided to take action this week on a signal to be issued later.” Walters reported that he “expects to be aware beforehand of go signal and will report in consequence.”
Document 14 (mp3): White House Audio Tape, President Lyndon B. Johnson discussing the impending coup in Brazil with Undersecretary of State George Ball, March 31, 1964.
Document 15: White House, Memorandum, “Brazil,” Secret, April 1, 1964
As of 3:30 on April 1st, Ambassador Gordon reports that the coup is “95% over.” U.S. contingency planning for overt and covert supplies to the military were not necessary. General Castello Branco “has told us he doesn’t need our help. There was however no information about where Goulart had fled to after the army moved in on the palace.
Document 16: Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Cable, “Departure of Goulart from Porto Alegre for Montevideo,” Secret, April 2, 1964
CIA intelligence sources report that deposed president Joao Goulart has fled to Montevideo.
These materials are reproduced from http://www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive.
For more information contact:
James G. Hershberg, 202/302-5718
Peter Kornbluh, 202/374-7281
While the Senate Intelligence Committee has finally started the process of declassifying at least some of the $40 million, 6,300 page report about the CIA’s torture efforts, we’re getting more and more leaks about what’s in the report. Previous leaks showed that the torture program was completely useless and that the CIA simply lied about its effectiveness (in fact, taking information gleaned by others through normal interrogations, and claiming they got it via torture). The latest leak highlights how, despite claims by the CIA’s supporters, that the torture was done in “good faith” and was approved by the DOJ and the CIA, it turns out (of course), that the CIA’s torturers actually went much further than they were approved to go.
CIA officers subjected terror suspects it held after the Sept. 11 attacks to methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.
The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal and harsh techniques _ much more abusive than previously known _ and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees, harmed the U.S.’s credibility internationally, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300 page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.
So, again, we have evidence that the CIA tortured people, did so beyond any actual authority (as sketchy as such an authority might be), got nothing of value from the torture, and then repeatedly lied about the torture and the value of it to Congress and the American public. And… no one is going to jail over this. Well, except for the guy who blew the whistle. In fact, many of those responsible for the torture program are still in positions of power. This is a total disgrace.