Boiling Frogs Post
Agency Used Classified Information as Currency for Deception
By Bill Conroy
The recently released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report pillorying the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program is replete with lurid details of what would commonly be called torture, if those practices were carried out on you or me.
Waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, coffin-size cells and forcing detainees to stand in stress positions, even with broken bones, is the stuff of a horror movie. But there is another revelation in the long-awaited, and controversial, Senate committee report that so far seems to have slipped past much examination in the public spotlight.
The Senate report makes clear that CIA officials attempted to play the media like a fiddle by selectively releasing classified information about the detention and interrogation program.
“The CIA manipulated rules on classified information to serve its own interests,” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said. “And the Senate report cites several examples of that.”
In fact, one of the findings of the report is quite blunt on that front:
“The CIA’s Office of Public Affairs and senior CIA officials coordinated to share classified information on the CIA’ s Detention and Interrogation Program to select members of the media to counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA’s … authorities and budget. These disclosures occurred when the program was a classified covert action program.”
This finding is troubling in light of the ongoing efforts to prosecute well-known whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden of NSA-leak fame, and some half dozen others in separate cases, all of whom could face (or are facing) years in prison for allegedly disclosing classified information to the media. To be sure, there are nuances in each of the cases and the comparison is not perfect, but at the heart of it all is a set of rules on the release of classified information that are marked with double standards.
“If you have no security clearance, and there is not a need to know, then you’re not supposed to get classified information,” Aftergood said. “The Senate committee found that CIA officials leaked classified information [to the media] and no further investigation was conducted.”
The Senate report describes the practice as follows:
“In seeking to shape press reporting on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, CIA officers and the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) provided unattributed background information on the program to journalists for books, articles, and broadcasts, including when the existence of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was still classified. When the journalists to whom the CIA had provided background information published classified information, the CIA did not, as a matter of policy, submit crimes reports.”
One example illustrative of the practice, cited in the report, is found in correspondence penned by the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center in 2005, as the torture program was beginning to unravel:
“We either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities. messes up our budget. …We either put out our story or we get eaten. [T]here is no middle ground.”
The same CIA officer explained to a colleague that “when the [Washington Post]/[New York T]imes quotes ‘senior intelligence official,’ it’s us … authorized and directed by opa [CIA’s Office of Public Affairs].”
And much of the information leaked to the media via these authorized leaks “on the operation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques was inaccurate…,” the Senate report states.
So, in essence, the CIA operated as a propaganda machine, utilizing classified information as part of a larger effort to deceive the American public about the shortcomings of its torture program, if the Senate report is to be believed. Now, none of this is really new in the big picture of how the government and the media work with respect to classified information. The simple rule to remember is that the higher up in the government the leaker is, the less risk they face.
As far back as 1974, politicians were pointing out this basic flaw in the system. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released last year touches on the reality: …
You can read the complete investigative report here @ NarcoNews