CIA says attorney access at Gitmo has placed agent lives in danger

posted at 2:00 pm on March 31, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In the controversy over the Obama administration’s appointment of former defense attorneys of Gitmo detainees to key Justice Department positions, the CIA decided to investigate whether the DoJ took seriously the threat to its agents of exposure in the adjudication processes.  The answer: not really.  Alarmed at the dismissive attitude of Justice, the CIA has requested the services of a man at the center of another agent-exposure controversy:

A team of CIA counterintelligence officials recently visited the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and concluded that CIA interrogators face the risk of exposure to al Qaeda through inmates’ contacts with defense attorneys, according to U.S. officials.

The agency’s “tiger team” of security specialists was dispatched as part of an ongoing investigation conducted jointly with the Justice Department into a program backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The program, called the John Adams Project, has photographed covert CIA interrogators and shown the pictures to some of the five senior al Qaeda terrorists held there in an effort to identify them further.

Details of the review could not be learned. However, the CIA team came away from the review, conducted the week of March 14, “very concerned” that agency personnel have been put in danger by military rules allowing interaction between the five inmates and defense attorneys, according to an intelligence source close to the review. …

The joint investigation, which recently added U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald to the Justice Department team, was stepped up earlier this month after a disagreement between Justice Department and CIA officials over whether CIA officers’ lives were put in danger at the prison.

Fitzgerald’s addition to the mix makes the contrast between the Plame exposure and the attitude of Democrats to the security concerns now even more stark.  When Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA analyst at Langley was leaked (by Richard Armitage at State), Democrats demanded a full-scale investigation and threatened prosecution for treason.  In that case, though, Plame had arranged for her husband to conduct a mission which he then publicized by first leaking misleading elements of his report to the Washington Post and the New York Times before publishing his own op-ed.  When people wondered how Joe Wilson got that assignment, Armitage leaked the information to the late Robert Novak.

In this case, though, the leaks are much more malicious.  Instead of leaking the name of a stateside analyst with a publicity-hungry husband to the media, the defense attorneys appear to have leaked the identities of covert agents working to defeat foreign terrorists to the terrorists themselves.  If the terrorists get Internet access, they can pass that information to their cohorts running free around the world and allow them to target the front lines of America’s defense against their plots.

One might think that the DoJ would take that kind of intelligence breach seriously, but the CIA apparently found otherwise:

The prosecutor was called into the case after agency officials voiced worries that Justice Department investigators did not share their level of concern over the danger that al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, could secretly send information on the identities of CIA officers to al Qaeda terrorists outside the prison through the attorneys.

That’s not a hypothetical scenario.  That exact set of circumstances occurred with Lynn Stewart, whose communications on behalf of the Blind Sheikh caused several deaths in terrorist attacks in the 1990s during his trial for the first attack on the World Trade Center.  Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted that case, adds more real-life examples to Stewart’s:

As I noted in a column Monday, while Jennifer Daskal was an attorney at the leftist Human Rights Watch (HRW) — and functioning as a tireless advocate for the al-Qaeda detainees — she played a key role in HRW’s 2005 exposure of the CIA’s secret detention of top terrorists in Europe and elsewhere. At The Weekly Standard, Debra Burlingame and Tom Joscelyn have recounted that HRW was able to compromise the CIA agents by tracking CIA-chartered flights, among other things. Since early 2009, Daskal — who has no prosecutorial experience — has been working in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, recruited by Attorney General Eric Holder to work on detainee policy.

Small wonder the CIA hasn’t been impressed with the DoJ — and why they called in Fitzgerald.  It’s very interesting that a Democratic administration seems a lot less interested in protecting CIA agents now than Democrats were in 2003.


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