Algeria, the CIA, Rape, and the Black Plague

The news that Andrew Warren, the CIA station chief in Algeria, allegedly drugged and raped two local Muslim women at his U.S. embassy residence in North Africa would be shocking anywhere around the globe -- at anytime. But the fact that this happened in Algeria, presently, could not be worse news for world security. If a CIA presence in Algeria was unwelcome before, no doubt Warren's actions (Warren is a self-described convert to Islam) have greatly jeopardized the CIA's legitimacy and credibility in a volatile nation that has become the newest laboratory for al-Qaeda's deadly biological warfare program.

According to a search warrant filed in Washington, D.C., Warren drugged his female victims, both Muslims, before raping them. Diplomatic security investigators recovered photographs from Warren's computer, which showed him having sex with one of the victims who appears to be unconscious. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll describes the incident as an "Abu Ghraib-inspired sequel involving American power, the Arab world, sexual violence, and digital photography." Making matters worse, the news of the CIA rape scandal broke in the same week that President Obama went on Arab TV discussing how important it is that the image of the United States overseas undergoes a transformation. The CIA scandal makes that all the more unlikely.

But aside from the damage to the so-called hearts and minds in the Muslim world, there will likely be consequences in the war on terror as well. The CIA depends upon cooperation from its host country to gather intelligence from locals. The station chief, as Andrew Warren was, would have been in charge of establishing relationships with officers in Algerian intelligence. If any of those individuals was motivated to work with the CIA before, they may be rethinking that partnership now.

Algeria has become a hotbed of al-Qaeda in North Africa. The death toll in suicide bombings there continues to increase ever since al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, declared in 2006 that his group had teamed up with Algerians in the name of jihad. The following year, calling themselves al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, terrorists bombed the United Nations headquarters in the capital city of Algiers, killing 41 people. The bombings continue in size and death toll. Further complicating matters for Europe is the fact that many Algerians live in France and move freely between the two countries, importing and exporting al-Qaeda as they move around.