Senate CIA Torture Report/Snowden Fallout – Damaging U.S. Intelligence Collection Operations; Endangering Americans and Our Allies; Damage Could Be Long-Lasting/Negative Consequences
The newly released Senate ‘Torture Report,’ combined with the continuing fallout and damage from the Edward Snowden leaks, have significantly damaged U.S. Intelligence Collection operations overseas; endangered Americans both here and abroad — as well as Allies who helped both the CIA and NSA — and could put at risk those CIA agents [involved in the Enhanced Interrogation Program] should they ever travel abroad again.
Snowden Leaks Cost Lives: Extremists Changed Tactics After Fugitive’s Leaks About Intelligence Surveillance Operations
The damage and fallout as a consequence of the reckless Edward Snowden leaks continues to wreak havoc on U.S. and British SIGINT collection — particularly with respect to terrorism, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State.
Ian Drury, writing in the November 25, 2014 edition of the London newspaper, The Daily Mail, writes that “lives are being lost to terrorists,” because of the Edward Snowden leaks — which recklessly exposed sensitive intelligence sources and methods. My only question for Mr. Drury and TheDailyMailOnline — is what took you so long? I have been warning and writing about these downside consequences of Snowden’s leaks for over a year.
Mr. Drury writes that “Lord West, a former Admiral who served as U.K. Security Minister until 2010, warned that extremists changed their tactics, after the U.S. fugitive leaked details (techniques, tactics, and procedures) of intelligence agency operations — with fatal results.” Lord West said, “terrorist groups, and in particular the Islamic State, — have changed their methods of communications; and, shifted to other ways of talking to each other,” something I have reported on this blog many times. “Consequently,” he added, “there are people are dying, who would [might] now be alive.”
Kimberly Dozier, a journalist who has been reporting on intelligence and counterterrorism issues for nearly two decades; and, who was critically wounded in Iraq in 2006, wrote on June 26, 2014, in thebigstory.com blog, quoted two senior U.S. Intelligence Community members then as saying, “members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on,” the Edward Snowden leaks. She added, “shortly after Edward Snowden leaked documents about the secret NSA surveillance programs, chat rooms and websites used by like-minded extremists and would-be recruits advised users how to avoid NSA detection, from telling them not to use their real phone numbers to recommending specific online software programs to keep spies from tracking their computers’ physical locations.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said there are “changes we can already see being made by the folks who wish to do us harm, and our allies harm.” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said that Snowden “has basically alerted people who are enemies of this country … (like) al-Qaida, about what techniques we have been using to monitor their activities and foil plots, and compromised those efforts, and it’s very conceivable that people will die as a result.”
“After the leak, jihadists posted Arabic news articles about it … and recommended fellow jihadists to be very cautious, not to give their real phone number and other such information when registering for a website,” said Adam Raisman of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private analysis firm. They also gave out specific advice, recommending jihadists use privacy-protecting email systems like TOR, also called The Onion Router, to hide their computer’s IP address, and to use encrypted links to access jihadi forums, Raisman said. While TOR originally was designed to help dissidents communicate in countries where the Internet is censored, it is facing legal difficulties because criminals allegedly have used it as well.”
Rick Ledgett, the NSA Executive who headed NSA’s Damage Assessment [Snowden] Task Force told the Dec. 13, 2013 edition of “60 Minutes,” that this data [Snowden heist] contains the keys to the kingdom,” that could provide “adversaries with a roadmap of what we know, and what we don’t know.” It is actually much worse than that in my view. It also exposed extremely sensitive intelligence collection techniques, tactics, methods, procedures, locations, and sources, as well as “the secret operations [targeted] against [our] adversaries cyber capabilities.”
And, last year, the cyber security, bid-data firm, Recorded Future concluded that “al Qaeda and their sympathizers appear to have created new encryption software,” because of Snowden’s reckless disclosures. “Four months after the Snowden leaks,” Recorded Future wrote. “three Middle East [terrorist] groups released three — significant new tool sets for encryption,– against a baseline of basically no new products for the past seven years,” said Christopher Ahlberg, CEO of Recorded Future, which uses large quantities of publicly available online data — to predict the timing and targets of future cyber attacks.” “Of course this could be random.” added Mr. Ahlberg; but, “Snowden provided the motivation; and, his leaks highlighted the means.”
As a result of these and other revelations, the U.S. SIGINT collection operations have been curtailed at the very time when the threat from the Islamic State is metastasizing.
CIA Given ‘Stand Down’ Order For HUMINT Collection Operations In Europe
Julian Hattem, writing in the September 19, 2014 edition of TheHill.com, [and citing an Associated Press r(AP) report] wrote at the time that “the CIA has largely curtailed its spying operations in Europe for the last two months [late July – Sept]. The Associated Press, citing current and former U.S. officials reported that “the spy agency had effectively paused much of its work by issuing a ‘stand-down’ order, limiting operatives from holding secret meetings with sources.” According to the AP, “the limitations applied to the CIA’s Western European Division, which also covered Canada and Turkey.” Who knows if any or all of these restrictions have been lifted; but, clearly, they aren’t helpful at a critical time when the Islamic State is on the prowl and our NSA SIGINT operations have also been damaged.
Senate Torture Report Adds To U.S. Intelligence Collection Damage — Endangering Americans And Allies
As if all the damage noted above wasn’t enough, now comes a Senate ‘Torture’ Report on the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Program which was stood up in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland.
The seriously flawed Senate ‘Torture’ Report, castigates the CIA for its overzealous activities with respect to enhanced interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives, as well as their Rendition Program of snatching up high-value terrorist operatives abroad — and later interrogated either at secret facilities overseas, or elsewhere.
Despite the reception the Senate Report is getting from the national media, no one in the CIA that was associated with the Enhanced Interrogation Program — from the Director/s and Deputy Director/s of the CIA; nor any CIA employee in the Operations Directorate chain-of-command — who were involved in the Enhanced Interrogation Program — nor the CIA, Justice Department, and White House Counsel’s office — was ever interviewed for this ‘investigation/report.’
Nonetheless, despite the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s failure to interview the CIA management and operations officers who were in charge of the Enhanced Interrogation Program — the ‘Torture Report’ is being touted as some kind of purification and cleansing of previous behavior that may not sit well with many Americans.
Those who oversaw and/or directly involved in the Enhanced Interrogation Program have no doubt that these measures were not only necessary and prudent at the time — they also ultimately saved thousands of American lives. The Senate Report observes that there are no clear-cut examples of where the program was as instrumental as those who were actually involved in the program claim. But, as anyone who has been involved in intelligence collection and analysis will tell you — getting a piece of intelligence that turns out to be the key to any collection effort or problem — rarely if ever, happens. Instead, much like law enforcement investigations — the information collected must be assessed for its value and contribution in the context of a total, overarching operation. It is this holistic examination — rather than looking for specific “intelligence silver bullets,” where the Senate Torture Report fails so miserably. But, the much more profound and disturbing issue is the collective damage the Snowden leaks, the stand-down of CIA HMINT Operations in Western Europe and now, this torture report are having; and will likely continue to have on U.S. intelligence operations for some time to come.
The Fallout And Damage To U.S. Intelligence Collection Operations From Snowden/Senate Torture Report
There is little, if any debate within intelligence circles that would not conclude that U.S. intelligence collection operations have not suffered a serious blow as a result of both the Snowden leaks and the Senate torture report. And, this damage is likely to be long lasting.
On the individual level, several CIA Operations careers have no doubt been prematurely ended. The United Nations has already come out this morning (Dec. 10, 2014) stating that those CIA officers involved in the Enhanced Interrogation Program must be brought to justice and, “must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes,” said Ben Emmerson, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights
Even if the U.S. does not prosecute any of these individuals — and hopefully we won’t — should any of these officer’s identities leak into the public domain forever more — these individuals will always be at great risk in any foreign travel for the rest of their lives. They are likely to be tried in absentia, if their identities were to become known; and, imprisoned overseas if they are ever caught transiting an overseas airport/country that may decide to hold them and/or, turn them over to other authorities for prosecution.
Beyond these potential personal risks, this Senate Torture Report which failed to present the CIA’s view of the Enhanced Interrogation Program, has sent a strong message that the CI personnel involved — despite the legal approval the program — and thus them individually — received at all levels of the U.S. Government — can still be at legal risk for their actions. This will no doubt have a very chilling effect on all U.S. intelligence personnel going forward and will exacerbate an already risk-averse intelligence collection apparatus. Why should any U.S. intelligence community employee advocate or become involved with a high-risk/high-reward intelligence collection program or future initiative — if, they believe they will only be thrown under the bus later — despite having been given legal assurances that they had permission to do what they were being asked to do? The answer is — mostly, they won’t. An, intelligence sharing and partnership with foreign intelligence organizations — it is hard to imagine these events — Snowden and Torture Report — not have a damaging effect on these very critical relationships as well.
Taken in its totality — something the Senate Torture Report failed to do — the fallout from the Snowden leaks and the Senate Torture Report is going to have a chilling effect on U.S. intelligence collection capabilities abroad; and, heighten the danger to all Americans and our allies — whether at home, or abroad. And, it couldn’t come at a worse time. Intelligence failure and surprise are almost inevitable anyway; but, these events will certainly heighten the potential for some nasty surprises down the road. V/R, RCP