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CIA

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Hired psychologists devised "enhanced interrogation techniques” to break prisoners
Given the intense media coverage over Charlottesville, a recent small headlinelargely escaped notice, but it could have a major impact on how Americans come to terms with the excesses that developed from the “global war on terror.” For the first time, several individuals closely associated with the CIA torture program were about to become answerable... Read More
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Hating Russia and Trump is de rigueur
Long ago, when I was a spear carrying middle ranker at CIA, a colleague took me aside and said that he had something to tell me “as a friend,” that was very important. He told me that his wife had worked for years in the Agency’s Administrative Directorate, as it was then called, where she... Read More
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What will those rascals in Moscow do next?
It has been another week full of news about Russia. Americans might be surprised to learn that nearly every aspect of their lives has been somehow impacted by the insidious covert activity of a former global enemy that now has an economy the size of Spain or Italy. One of the latest claims is that... Read More
Washington might be sending too many spies, making them more vulnerable
The Central Intelligence Agency, established through the National Security Act of 1947, was primarily intended to be a centralized clearinghouse for information to prevent another Pearl Harbor-style attack on the United States. Be that as it may, the initiation of what would eventually be termed the Cold War soon after led to the rapid expansion... Read More
Why sources and methods matter more than the material itself
Intelligence agencies and senior government officials tend to use a lot of jargon. Laced with acronyms, this language sometimes does not translate very well into journalese when it hits the media. For example, I experienced a sense of disorientation two weeks ago over the word “sensitive” as used by several senators, Sally Yates, and James... Read More
Why whistleblowers are treated worse than traitors
President Barack Obama was a master at using the tools available through the Justice Department to silence whistleblowers and otherwise put a lid on developments that might embarrass his administration. He initiated numerous claims of the state-secrets privilege to stop lawsuits against the government, while also prosecuting leakers with a zeal previously unseen. So perhaps... Read More
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The danger lies in what might be coming next
The WikiLeaks exposure of thousands of documents relating to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking program, which was expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2016, has created something of a panic in the users of cell phones, online computers and even for smart television viewers. The documents describe “more than a thousand... Read More
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And the devil is spelled T-R-U-M-P
Last Monday The Washington Post featured an op-ed by one Edward Price entitled “I didn’t think I’d ever leave the CIA. But because of Trump, I quit.” I must admit that it was refreshing at first to read something in The Post that did not rush to blame BOTH Trump and Vladimir Putin for everything... Read More
CIA employees are not staging a coup against Donald Trump
It would never occur to ordinary CIA officers that derailing a presidency might be a desirable thing to do. The rumor of some kind of coup in the making is the creation of a media that is looking for a story and trying to bash Donald Trump at the same time. To be sure, there... Read More
Fact, fiction, or speculation?
Yesterday, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier containing allegations that Russian operatives worked to identify and develop compromising personal and financial information about Donald Trump. Allegedly, this is the full document from which a two-page synopsis was drawn and provided to Trump and President Obama as an appendix to a report about Russian interference in the... Read More
What to expect from his new director
The midnight oil is burning over at the Central Intelligence Agency as senior managers consider options relating to how to play new president Donald Trump and new director Mike Pompeo, neither of whom possesses any serious understanding either of intelligence operations or of how to lead 20,000 often difficult-to-manage employees. With the exception of the... Read More
There is a long tradition of trusting candidates with classified information
Providing intelligence briefings to presidential candidates is a practice that goes back more than sixty years to the administration of Harry Truman. The briefings are a courtesy and have no basis in law but they are intended to level the playing field somewhat so that an incumbent would not necessarily have an advantage over an... Read More
Intelligence agencies have struggled to be worthy of their name
A little more than one year ago Director John Brennan announced a shake-up at CIA that would, inter alia, enhance the eroded capabilities of the Clandestine Service. An earlier move to appoint paramilitary officer Gregory Vogel as deputy director for the agency’s spies signaled to the bureaucracy that shooting and droning had replaced espionage as... Read More
Should NSA listen in when a foreign government seeks to shape America's foreign policy?
The Wall Street Journal story revealing that the Barack Obama administration used the National Security Agency (NSA) to listen to phone calls made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides is being spun in a number of different directions depending on one’s political proclivities. Sen. Rand Paul told Fox News that he... Read More
An all-star cast teams up to spin their enhanced interrogation regime
Back in the days when I was a spy there were certain things that one just did not dwell upon. Everyone who worked in the field knew that there were episodes that it would be best not to recall, either because they were embarrassing, possibly unsavory, or even, more rarely, wildly successful though at a... Read More
Working closely together encourages tunnel vision and groupthink.
Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan has convened a panel to consider Agency reorganization. The central issue is whether CIA analysts should be more operationally integrated with Clandestine Service officers, but reform might also include creating new staffs operating independently of the geographical divisions that have traditionally run the spies. China, might, for example, become... Read More
Incoming intel committee chair Richard Burr will end any hope of holding out of control spy agencies accountable
The wheels up party is a venerable CIA tradition, normally celebrated at overseas stations when a particularly incompetent Chief of Station or a hostile ambassador was in the process of permanently leaving post. The drinking would begin at a time estimated to coincide with the moment when the dearly departed’s aircraft lifted off from the... Read More
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David Copperfield is a CIA Contractor?
The crisis involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Godsend to politicians, which is probably why the threat actually posed by the group is being hyped as it is while the White House and Pentagon continue to change the meaning of commonly used English expressions to enable the attacking of just... Read More
Intelligence pros are far more skeptical of government claims than their bosses let on
That the United States’ intention to confront Russia over Ukraine, a place where it has no real interests, borders on the incomprehensible has been clearly demonstrated by both Scott McConnell and Daniel Larison. University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer has also described in some detail how the dangerous confrontation is largely the fault of Washington... Read More
America's high-tech spies aren't equipped to penetrate low-tech terrorist organizations
The inability of the United States government to anticipate the ISIS offensive that has succeeded in taking control of a large part of Iraq is already being referred toas an “intelligence failure.” To be sure, Washington has unparalleled technical capabilities to track money movements and to obtain information from the airwaves. It is adept at... Read More
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It's Always Illegal and Often Immoral
It is being reported that the attempt by Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan to steer the CIA away from paramilitary action and back towards conventional spying and analysis is not going well. Media coverage of the problem is depicting it as being partly driven by bureaucratic obstacles associated with budgeting and allocation of personnel,... Read More
Government bureaucracies, like many private sector businesses, are initially created in response to a perceived need either to do something or provide a service. The Department of Defense in its current incarnation rose out of the developing Cold War in the post-Second World War environment, while the CIA was created to prevent a second Pearl... Read More
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A Quality That is Sometimes Hard to Find
I recently had lunch with an old friend who described how a fellow army officer had, back in April 2008, attended a mandatory all hands meeting at the National Defense University in Washington. The purpose of the meeting, which was held in the university’s largest auditorium, was to promote a book written by noted neocon... Read More
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How do you say that in Arabic?
How do you process 1.7 billion pieces of information in a day? You can’t, so if you are the National Security Agency (NSA) you screen through it insofar as you are able to do so using computers with sophisticated algorithms to identify key words and then store it somewhere so you can always check back... Read More
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The “unitary executive” crowd that came to the fore under George W. Bush argue basically that because the government does something it is therefore ipso facto legal. It is not a new concept though one heard only intermittently in the United States where constitutional checks and balances were long the Gospel prior to 9/11. Ironically,... Read More
U.S. covert human intelligence has specialized in failure
“Intelligence failure” is the get out of jail free card for the political class. If one can plausibly cite an inability of the intelligence community to provide accurate information in a timely fashion, it is possible to walk away from any disastrous policy with only minimal political damage. The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a... Read More
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The White House is pushing hard to keep a significant number of American soldiers in Afghanistan contrary to President Barack Obama’s earlier pledge to have then all out by the end of 2014. As the United States President has demonstrated himself to be a habitual liar that failure to connect promises made in 2008 with... Read More
Fear of officers "going native" keeps our intelligence agencies ill-informed about Somalia, Syria, and other hotspots.
When the British ran an empire they did it the right way, if one is into imperial management. They created an entire bureaucracy, the Colonial Service, which was manned by officers who were expected to go out to foreign posts for extended periods, to learn the local language, and to acquire an understanding of the... Read More
Afghanistan's problems can't be solved by bribing President Karzai
The New York Times is reporting that the CIA has been paying Afghan President Hamid Karzai millions of dollars every month. The money, which Karzai has acknowledged and described as an “easy source of petty cash,” does not go directly to the president but instead is delivered in bundles of $100 notes via bags or... Read More
Spies aren't apt to be philanderers---even if there are plenty of both at the Agency.
A former colleague from Istanbul has written an intriguing piece for the New Republic called "Spy Sex: Inside the Randy Culture of the CIA." Reuel Marc Gerecht, who served with the Agency in Turkey and France before finding a more satisfying perch targeting Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, makes the claim that as CIA... Read More
John Brennan knows there's more to intelligence than drones.
We have lately witnessed two cabinet-level confirmation hearings by the Senate in which little or nothing was asked that actually might enlighten us as to how the State and Defense Departments might be transformed over the next four years. John Kerry was tossed softballs, while Chuck Hagel was hammered over his reported detachment from Israel... Read More
A report on the post-Petraeus CIA and jihadist "refugees" in Turkey.
There was considerable pushback at the Central Intelligence Agency following the resignation of David Petraeus. Former military officers are generally disliked at CIA, but Petraeus made all the right moves by arriving at Langley without a staff and with a professed willingness to learn. Then he went ahead and pulled together a team that favored... Read More
It is being reported that recently rusticated CIA Director David Petraeus annoyed his Agency subordinates through his requiring staff to hand him bottles of water at “precise intervals” when he was jogging and also demanding fresh sliced pineapple be made “available during business trips before bedtime.” As I recall when Ronald Reagan's Director of Central... Read More
Intelligence agents answer to Langley, not the State Department.
The various accounts of the Sept. 11 Benghazi incident in which four Americans died demonstrate that there is a profound misunderstanding of what the Central Intelligence Agency does and how it interacts with the State Department overseas. The U.S. ambassador in any country is the personal representative of the president of the United States, and... Read More
Nearly everyone commenting on the rapidly expanding Petraeus story is missing the most critical point: it is inconceivable that the FBI would get involved in an investigation that came to include the Director of Central Intelligence even peripherally without having that information go straight up to the desk of FBI Director Robert Mueller. And Mueller... Read More
It now seems clear what occurred to bring down CIA Director David Petraeus: some months ago his paramour Paula Broadwell sent threatening emails to another woman warning her to keep away from Petraeus, seemingly unaware that computers and emails have signatures that can be identified by investigators. The woman, identified by the Associated Press as... Read More
The Obama administration is enhancing the U.S. presence in Africa, which it is increasingly identifying as the new front in the war against Islamic militants. New drones for the CIA will be partially deployed in Afghanistan in an attempt to take up the slack as Western troop presence wanes over the next year, but most... Read More
There have been a number of conspiracy theories floated by those who are seeking to learn exactly how a video clip guaranteed to provoke riots throughout the Middle East surfaced at this time, close to a U.S. presidential election. The Romney team has already worked hard to make hay from the past week’s events, claiming... Read More
I finally got around to watching the new Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie with Gary Oldman as the diffident George Smiley, very well acted in the usual all-British fashion even if most of it was apparently filmed in Hungary. The movie had some bad reviews and Amazon viewers mostly found it slow moving, but it... Read More
Kelley has raised the necessary question of what kind of activity an intelligence agency can engage in before it steps over a line and does far more harm than good, a process sometimes referred to as “blowback.” Her analysis of CIA use of a Pakistani doctor ostensibly involved in an eradication program to collect DNA... Read More
"Enhanced interrogation" has critics even within the Agency -- but you wouldn't know that from Jose Rodriguez's new book.
Former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Jose Rodriguez has written a book with the assistance of former Agency press officer Bill Harlow. Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives is largely a defense of Rodriguez’s role in the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. Rodriguez... Read More
This article appears in the March 2012 issue of The American Conservative.
A recent news item made me think about the changing face of the CIA and long for the days when there was at least some minimal clarity on who or what constituted an enemy and what the proper role and deportment of an intelligence officer operating overseas might be. The loss of more than forty... Read More
The recently revealed joint CIA/NYPD operations being run all along the Eastern Seaboard are, of course, completely illegal but are perhaps symptomatic of the past decade’s use of the word “terrorist” to excuse any and all bad behavior by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The NYPD Intelligence Division and Counter-Terrorism Bureau, which incorporates a “dirty... Read More
I was over at Langley recently attending a CIA friend’s retirement ceremony. I bumped into a lot of people I knew and we talked about what we were up to. Most of them had recently retired from the Agency, many pulling down retirements at close to $100,000. Nearly all of them were working for various... Read More
Complaints that the CIA has on its payroll numerous Afghan officials are misplaced. Questioning the war itself and the multi billion dollar sinkhole that it has become is one thing, but once you have a president who has committed the nation to wallowing in that quagmire forever, you have to do what you can to... Read More
Shahram Amiri was not kidnapped, he defected from Iran. Now, owing to the intelligence community's negligence, he has gone back. This is the real story. By Philip Giraldi For the first time since the cold war, the Central Intelligence Agency is conducting a high-level examination of how it recruits and runs its agents, referred to... Read More
It is not often that I read the Wash Post style section, but I was drawn to a review of the Cannes premier of a film about Carlos the Jackal. The Cannes coverage also included an extensive account of "Fair Game," about outed ex-CIA officer Valerie Plame. Actress Naomi Watts gave birth shortly before she... Read More
Last week's surprise resignation of Stephen Kappes as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was at least partly due to disagreements over how to spy. Kappes is an experience clandestine service operator with particular expertise in operations directed against Middle Eastern and terrorist targets. He is regarded as a hard liner who endorsed many... Read More
Antipathy between CIA and FBI runs deep. There was a news item tonight about someone in northern Virginia pretending to be an FBI special agent. I immediately, and reflexively, thought "Oh yeah, all he needed was a bad haircut and a cheap suit." Apologies to at least some of those who might be offended. It... Read More
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Philip Giraldi
About Philip Giraldi

Phil Giraldi is a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who spent twenty years overseas in Europe and the Middle East working terrorism cases. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MA and PhD in Modern History from the University of London. In addition to TAC, where he has been a contributing editor for nine years, he writes regularly for Antiwar.com. He is currently Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest and resides with his wife of 32 years in Virginia horse country close to his daughters and grandchildren.


Personal Classics
A Modern Guernica Enabled by Washington
Pressuring Candidates Even Before They Are Nominated
But is it even a friend?
The gagged whistleblower goes on the record.
Today’s CIA serves contractors and bureaucrats—not the nation.
Pay no mind to the Mossad agent on the line.