CIA IG Report Shows Agency Spied on Senate Staff After All, Torture Report Declassification Delayed, and More: FRINFORMSUM 8/7/2014
In direct contradiction to the CIA’s previous claims, a recent CIA Inspector General (IG) report shows the agency did spy on Senate Intelligence Committee staff while it was working on a report highly critical of the CIA’s torture program. The IG report found that five agency employees – two lawyers and three IT specialists – “improperly accessed” a database committee staff was using to complete its five-year, $40 million report. The IG report also determined that the criminal referral the CIA sent the Justice Department accusing Senate staff of hacking CIA databases while completing the report was “based on false information.” CIA director John Brennan apologized to committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who publicly accused the CIA of spying back in March. President Obama expressed his support for the beleaguered CIA director in wake of these reports, saying that “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is delaying the declassification of the executive summary of its torture report after the White House redacted “signification portions” of it. Last week the White House provided its redacted version of the summary to the Committee, allegedly withholding 15 per cent of the document, including pseudonyms for both CIA officers and the countries that cooperated with the agency’s extraordinary rendition program. The redactions also allegedly include evidence that “pieces of information long attributed to detainees — and that led to the disruption of terrorism plots or the capture of additional suspects — had actually come from other intelligence sources such as intercepted communications.” Sen. Feinstein sent a letter to the President on Tuesday objecting to the withholdings, and said the report would not be made public until the redactions were addressed.
Intelligence officials are contemplating asking the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into potential new leaks of national security information. An August 5 Intercept article contained classified government documents on the National Counterterrorism Center’s databases that “provides a statistical breakdown of the types of people whose names and personal information appear on two government data networks listing people with supposed connections to militants.” The documents showed, among other things, “that 47,000 people — including 800 Americans — were on the government’s no-fly list, while an additional 16,000 — including 1,200 Americans — were on the ‘selectee’ list; they are permitted to travel through American airspace but receive extra scrutiny at security checkpoints.” One document recorded a “milestone” for the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database: in June 2013 it contained over one million people. While the dates on these documents are after Edward Snowden finished downloading his trove of NSA documents, the government has yet to confirm that another leaker is sending classified national security information to the media.
A recent Center for Public Integrity article highlights the case of ex-Los Alamos lab contractor James E. Doyle, who was fired after 17 years at the lab after Energy Department officials retroactively classified an article he wrote critical of nuclear policy. Despite the fact that Doyle submitted the article for pre-publication review – even though lab rules didn’t require him to do so – and the review found it contained no classified information, the agency retroactively deemed it classified, and eventually fired Doyle, after receiving criticism from former Obama political appointees. According to nonproliferation expert and former White House official Matthew Bunn, “The classification system, of course, is not supposed to be used for political purposes. It is only to prohibit the release of information if it would damage the security of the U.S. And there’s nothing in this article that could in any way damage the security of the United States.”
Had Doyle been a federal employee and not a contractor, he might have kept his job, but not his desk. A recent Washington Post article sheds light on the “ugly tradition in federal bureaucracy” of relocating whistleblowers to “a cubicle in exile,” including a Veterans Affairs employee who tried to address mismanagement at an agency hospital in Phoenix and ended up relocated to a desk in the basement.
A federal judge upheld a lower court ruling that Microsoft must turn over customer data stored overseas in response to a US search warrant. Microsoft, which plans to appeal, was joined by Verizon, AT&T, Apple, and Cisco Systems, in arguing that the US government has “no right” to customer data stored outside the US, and that forcing Microsoft to comply with such an order “threatens to rewrite the Constitution’s protections against illegal search and seizure, damage U.S. foreign relations and ‘reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet.’”
The Associated Press (AP) obtained documents showing USAID allegedly used Cuban HIV prevention programs as a cover for US-sponsored anti-Cuban activism. According to interviews, the HIV-prevention ruse was called the “perfect excuse” to recruit political activists. The State Department defended the program, saying the HIV workshops both “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” USAID hired Creative Associates International to help build the program – the same company that helped build the fake “Cuban Twitter.”
The CIA recently announced that its Cloud computing, sponsored by Amazon, is now live. When fully functional it “will provide all 17 intelligence agencies unprecedented access to an untold number of computers for various on-demand computing, analytic, storage, collaboration and other services,” and is “as safe as — or safer — than security on its current data centers, having met IC standards that govern the handling of classified information.”
The Archive recently participated in the Russian Institute for Information Freedom Development’s (IIFD) pilot survey measuring proactive global transparency standards. The Archive, along with our partner organizations in Russia, Georgia, and Belarus, filled out the extensive survey on the basis of an already-completed method of grading the openness of government websites. The US achieved the highest percentage of openness given the parameters evaluated (63.4%), with Georgia ranking second (51.6%), Russia third (43.1%), and Belarus last (22.3%). The release of this report comes at the same time the American wife of IIFD founder, Ivan Pavlov, is being forced to leave Russia on the spurious charge that she is “a threat to national security.”
Don’t miss Archive FOIA Coordinator Nate Jones’ latest posting, which originally appeared in Perspectives on History, an American Historical Association publication, on how the CIA’s ability to conceal its 30-year-old history of the 53-year-old Bay of Pigs Invasion by convincing a federal appeals court that any document the agency deems “predecisional” can be withheld ad infinitum, gives agencies a new justification for secrecy. Jones calls on historians to organize a movement strong enough to correct the CIA’s antipathy towards history, and force the agency’s classifiers and declassifiers to follow the Director of National Intelligence general counsel’s instructions and ask “not can we classify, but should we?”
Finally this week, as questions arise about US strategy and its ability to screen for insider threats in the wake of the latest ‘Green on Blue’ attack in Afghanistan, our #tbt document pick is a declassified set of CENTCOM slides that “illustrates some of the steps that the U.S. military has taken to defeat ‘insider threats’ — and why ‘green on blues’ are so difficult to prevent.”