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Belmont Club

The Race for the Keys

January 30th, 2011 - 11:32 am

As the Mubarak regime goes into the last stages of existence, the race is on for the real treasures of a great state. Not the relics of antiquity, valuable as these may be, but the intelligence assets of a government which for decades traded them in exchange for Western financial and political support.  With the ultimate fate of the Egypt uncertain, and the final extent of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence uncertain, the disposition of those assets will assume the utmost importance.

The problem goes back to the difficulties of making sausage. People like to eat them, but not many want to know how they are made.  The Western voting public likes to avoid being blown up in subways or being otherwise inconvenienced. That means they have to be protected from certain hard men.

To avoid the political risks inherent in interrogating terrorist suspects, much of the work was outsourced to foreign intelligence agencies, of which Egypt’s was one. The CIA’s former chief of the bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, gave this testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in April 2007 on the subject of ““Extraordinary Rendition in U.S. Counter terrorism Policy: The Impact on Transatlantic Relations.” “Rendition” is a legal of way of getting other intelligence agencies to do what you don’t want to be seen doing.

The CIA’s Rendition Program began in late summer, 1995. I authored it, and then ran and managed it against al-Qaeda leaders and other Sunni Islamists from August, 1995, until June, 1999.

A.) There were only two goals for the program:

1.) Take men off the street who were planning or had been involved in attacks on the U.S. or its allies.

2.) Seize hard-copy or electronic documents in their possession when arrested; Americans were never expected to read them.

3.) Interrogation was never a goal under President Clinton. Why?

–Because it would be a foreign intelligence or security service without CIA present or in control.

–Because the take from the interrogation would be filtered by the service holding the individual, and we would never know if it was complete or distorted.

–Because torture might be used and the information might be simply what an individual thought we wanted to hear.

B.) The Rendition Program was initiated because President Clinton, and Messrs. Lake, Berger, and Clarke requested that the CIA begin to attack and dismantle AQ. These men made it clear that they did not want to bring those captured to the U.S. and hold them in U.S. custody.

1.) President Clinton and his national security team directed the CIA to take each captured al-Qaeda leader to the country which had an outstanding legal process for him. This was a hard-and-fast rule which greatly restricted CIA’s ability to confront al-Qaeda because we could only focus on al-Qaeda leaders who were wanted somewhere. As a result many al-Qaeda fighters we knew were dangerous to America could not be captured.

2.) CIA warned the president and the National Security Council that the U.S. State Department had and would identify the countries to which the captured fighters were being delivered as human rights abusers.

3.) In response, President Clinton et al. asked if CIA could get each receiving country to guarantee that it would treat the person according to its own laws. This was no problem and we did so.

–I have read and been told that Mr. Clinton, Mr. Burger, and Mr. Clarke have said since 9/11 that they insisted that each receiving country treat the rendered person it received according to U.S. legal standards. To the best of my memory that is a lie.

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