Friday, July 20, 2007

On Executive Orderizing and Badgers Green and Blue

The White House just announced--this Friday afternoon--that it plans to resume having the C.I.A. interrogate suspects in secret overseas prisons. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 20 — After months of behind the scenes wrangling, the White House said Friday that it had given the Central Intelligence Agency approval to resume its use of some harsh interrogation methods in questioning terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas. 

With the new authorization, administration officials said the C.I.A. could now proceed with an interrogation program that has been in limbo since the Supreme Court ruled last year that all prisoners in American captivity be treated in accordance with Geneva Convention prohibitions against humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees. 
An executive order signed by President Bush allows the C.I.A. to use some interrogation methods banned for military interrogators but that the Justice Department has determined do not violate the Geneva strictures.

The above-referenced executive order is described in the Chicago Tribune as "prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment":

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed an executive order Friday prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment, including humiliation or denigration of religious beliefs, in the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

The White House declined to say whether the CIA currently has a detention and interrogation program, but said that if it did it must adhere to the guidelines outlined in the executive order. The order targets captured al-Qaida terrorists who have information on attack plans or the whereabouts of the group's senior leaders.

"Last September, the president explained how the CIA's program had disrupted attacks and saved lives, and that it must continue on a sound legal footing," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

Notice the language Mr. Snow uses: the CIA's program. There is no mention of paramilitary and para-CIA hires being constrained thus. While their official CIA counterparts must toe the legal line, private contractors could, if they were so inclined, waterboard, chill, starve, and humiliate to their hearts' content without technically running afoul of Bush's latest executive order. What does this mean? Well, figure that as many as--and perhaps more than--half of the Agency's operatives are actually private contractors, and, well, you do the math.

In an Op-ed piece for the Washington Post, author, Fullbright scholar, and intelligence insider Dr. R.J. Hillhouse explains:

Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I'm told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) -- the heart, brains and soul of the CIA -- has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. 
These firms recruit spies, create non-official cover identities and control the movements of CIA case officers. They also provide case officers and watch officers at crisis centers and regional desk officers who control clandestine operations worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times first reported last October, more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism -- Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan -- is made up of industrial contractors, or "green badgers," in CIA parlance. 
Intelligence insiders say that entire branches of the NCS have been outsourced to private industry. These branches are still managed by U.S. government employees ("blue badgers") who are accountable to the agency's chain of command. But beneath them, insiders say, is a supervisory structure that's controlled entirely by contractors; in some cases, green badgers are managing green badgers from other corporations.
(For further truth-is-stranger-than-fiction reading about intelligence outsourcing, visit Dr. Hillhouse's excellent, fascinating blog The Spy Who Billed Me.)

In comments following the Shakesville cross-posting of a comprehensive essay on the FDA I wrote last month, a reader challenged my statements about defense giant Lockheed Martin:

I'm not quite certain why you have put Lockheed Martin on the side of the devil...Lockheed provides things like payroll services and book-keeping services there. I'm also not aware of any such services for Guantanamo.

To which I replied:

Lockheed Martin provided trained interrogators for Guantanamo; they were known as 97 Echoes (the article explains why). Nowhere have I stated that Lockheed Martin is on the side of the devil. I simply relayed the facts I'd found while researching the post.

(H/T Lisa in Baltimore for the breaking NYT article)

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