Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisors Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State


Hillary Clinton is meeting on Friday with a new national security “working group” that is filled with an elite “who’s who” of the military-industrial complex and the security deep state. The list of key advisors — which includes the general who executed the troop surge in Iraq and a former Bush homeland security chief turned terror profiteer — is a strong indicator that Clinton’s national security policy will not threaten the post-9/11 national-security status quo that includes active use of military power abroad and heightened security measures at home. It’s a story we’ve seen before in President Obama’s early appointments. In retrospect, analysts have pointed to the continuity in national security and intelligence advisers as an early sign that despite his campaign rhetoric Obama would end up building on — rather than tearing down — the often extralegal Bush-Cheney counter-terror regime. For instance, while Obama promised in 2008 to reform the NSA, its director was kept on and its reach continued to grow. Obama’s most fateful decision may have been choosing former National Counterterrorism Center Director John Brennan to be National Security Adviser, despite Brennan’s support of Bush’s torture program. Brennan would go on to run the president’s drone program, lead the CIA, fight the Senate’s torture investigation, and then lie about searching Senate computers. That backdrop is what makes Clinton’s new list of advisors so significant. It includes General David Petraeus, the major architect of the 2007 Iraq War troop surge, which brought 30,000 more troops to Iraq. Picking him indicates at partiality to combative ideology. It also represents a return to good standing for the general after he pled guilty to leaking notebooks full of classified information to his lover, Paula Broadwell, and got off with two years probation and a fine, keeping his security clearance. Petraeus currently works at the investment firm KKR & Co. Another notable member of Clinton’s group is Michael Chertoff, a hardliner who served as President George W. Bush’s last Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and who since leaving government in 2009 has helmed a corporate consulting firm called the Chertoff Group that promotes security-industry priorities. For example, in 2010, he gave dozens of media interviews touting full-body scanners at airports while his firm was employed by a company that produced body scanning machines. His firm also employs a number of other ex-security state officials, such as former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden. It does not disclose a complete list of its clients — all of whom now have a line of access to Clinton. Many others on the list are open advocates of military escalation overseas. Mike Morrell, the former acting director of the CIA, endorsed Clinton last month in a New York Times opinion piece that accused Trump of being an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The Times was criticized for not disclosing his current employment by Beacon Global Strategies, a politically powerful national-security consulting firm with strong links to Clinton. Three days later, Morell told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview that the CIA should actively assassinate Russians and Iranians in Syria. During his time at the CIA, Morrell was connected to some of the worst scandals and intelligence failures of the Bush Administration. In his book, he apologizes for giving flawed intelligence to Colin Powell about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, but defends the CIA torture program as legal and ethical. Jim Stavridis, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe on Clinton’s advisory group, told Fox News Radio in July, when he was being vetted by Clinton as a possible vice presidential nominee, that “we have got to get more aggressive going into Syria and Iraq and go after [ISIS] because if we don’t they’re going to come to us. It’s a pretty simple equation.” He said he would “encourage the president to take a more aggressive stance against Iran, to increase our military forces in Iraq and Syria, and to confront Vladmir Putin” over his moves in Crimea. The New York Times reported in 2011 that Michael Vickers, a former Pentagon official on Clinton’s new list, led the use of drone strikes. He would grin and tell his colleagues at meetings: “I just want to kill those guys.” Others on the list played a role in the targeted killing policies of the Obama administration, including Chris Fussell, a top aide to General Stanley McChrystal, and now a partner with him at his lucrative consulting firm, the McChrystal Group. Fussell was aide-de-camp to McChrystal while he was serving as commander of Joint Special Operations Command. McChrystal oversaw a dramatic expansion in the use of night raids and assassinations, and would later be accused of condoning torture at JSOC’s Iraq Base, Camp NAMA (code for Nasty-Ass Military Area). Richard Fontaine, a former McCain advisor and president of the counterinsurgency-focused think tank Center for a New American Security, responded to the Paris attacks by writing an op-ed that advocated for, among other things, a U.S.-backed “safe zone” in Syria. He has also proposed intensifying the bombing campaign against ISIS, and increasing the presence of US special forces in Iraq. Janet Napolitano, a former Obama DHS Secretary, presided over a harsh immigration policy, where the department deported a record number of undocumented immigrants — although she did support Obama’s recent executive actions designed to protect some migrants. The closest thing the list has to a dissenter to the status quo would appear to be Kathleen Hicks, a think tanker who served in the Obama Defense Department. On a panel at the Charles Koch Institute with John Mearsheimer earlier this year, she denounced American military overreach. “A big footprint in the Middle East is not helpful to the United States, politically, militarily, or otherwise,” she said. Despite the heavy relevance of the region to U.S. foreign policy, only one advisor, former DHS official Juliette Kayyem, is a (non-Muslim) Arab American. Clinton in discussion with Lt. Gen. David Petraeus on Capitol Hill on January 23 2007. Sign up for The Intercept Newsletter here.The post Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisors Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State appeared first on The Intercept.


NSA Closely Involved in Guantánamo Interrogations, Documents Show


Personnel from the National Security Agency worked alongside the military, CIA, and other agencies on interrogations at Guantánamo in the early days of the war on terror, new documents show. Entries from an internal NSA publication, which were among the documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, described staffers’ deployments to Guantánamo Bay during a time period when prisoners were subjected to brutal questioning and mistreatment. An NSA employee also described participation in a rendition, when U.S. forces seized six men in Bosnia and secreted them off to Cuba. In October 2003, a post in SIDtoday, the online newsletter of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SID, advertised the “chance to get to GITMO for 90 days!” The NSA’s liaison, or NSA LNO, would “coordinate” with interrogators “to collect information of value to the NSA Enterprise and Extended Enterprise” and be “responsible for interfacing with the DoD, CIA, and FBI interrogators on a daily basis in order to assess and exploit information sourced from detainees.” In some instances, the relationship would go the other way, with the NSA providing “sensitive NSA-collected technical data and products to assist JTF-GTMO [Joint Task Force Guantánamo] interrogation efforts.” The post’s title was “Can You Handle the Truth?” — a reference to Jack Nicholson’s famous line in the courtroom drama A Few Good Men, set in Guantánamo. Two months later, in another post, an NSA liaison reported back on his trip. “On a given week,” he wrote, he would “pull together intelligence to support an upcoming interrogation, formulate questions and strategies for the interrogation, and observe or participate in the interrogation.” Outside work, “fun awaits,” he enthused. “Water sports are outstanding: boating, paddling, fishing, water skiing and boarding, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and SCUBA.” If water sports were “not your cup of tea,” there were also movies, pottery, paintball, and outings to the Tiki Bar. “Relaxing is easy,” he concluded. Other accounts of Guantánamo around the same time were not so sunny. FBI agents there internally protested the interrogation tactics they witnessed, describing them as “torture techniques” and “beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice,” including detainees being chained in fetal positions on the floor, without food or water, and the use of strobe lights, loud music, and dogs. The International Committee of the Red Cross charged in a 2004 confidential report that treatment of some prisoners at Guantánamo was “tantamount to torture.” In a June 2004 visit, its investigators reported “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions” and “some beatings,” according to a New York Times report. The George W. Bush administration began bringing prisoners to Guantánamo in early 2002, and by the end of the year, over 600 men had been processed at the prison. Over the next few years, over a hundred more would arrive. Despite the Bush administration’s rhetoric that Guantánamo held “the worst of the worst,” many of them were innocent men, some of whom had been sold for bounty to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Only a handful of them would ever be charged with a crime by the U.S. government. It’s not a surprise that the NSA would send representatives to support military operations (as detailed in this Department of Defense doctrine), but its role during this controversial period remains murky. In the many investigations into detainee treatment, the NSA has hardly surfaced. Neither the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and rendition program (which confirmed the existence of two CIA facilities at Guantánamo) nor a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse by the military addresses the role of the NSA, at least in the heavily censored versions that have been made public. The NSA declined to comment for this story. The NSA documents made explicit reference to the CIA working on interrogations at Guantánamo. At the time of the documents, in late 2003, the CIA had just brought four of its “high-value” prisoners to Guantánamo: al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who helped plan the 9/11 attacks, and Abd Al-Rahman al-Nashiri, accused of planning the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. These men had been subjected to torture in other overseas CIA prisons; Zubaydah, for instance, was waterboarded 83 times. They were moved out of Guantánamo again in March 2004, when it appeared imminent that the Supreme Court was going to give detainees access to U.S. courts (all four came back in 2006, after Bush acknowledged and closed the CIA black sites). A Bosnian riot police officer in front of Sarajevo’s central prison guards a car containing some of the six Algerian men suspected of having terrorist links, Jan. 18, 2002. Photo: Sava Radovanovic/AP Midnight Convoy in Sarajevo Another SIDtoday entry described a rendition in which six men were bundled away from Bosnia to Guantánamo in early 2002. Most renditions were CIA-run; this is one of the only such operations known to have been carried out by the military outside Afghanistan. The men — natives of Algeria who became known as “The Algerian Six” — had been linked to a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, but a Bosnian judge had ordered them released for lack of evidence. But the United States leaned on the Bosnian government to hand them over instead. The NSA staffer who wrote the SIDtoday piece recounted the operation as part of a series of anecdotes provided by NSA employees about working overtime. “Because much of the evidence against them came from U.S. intel, the Bosnian government didn’t have access to it, and after a couple of months in custody, the six prisoners were scheduled to be released without trial,” she wrote. “The U.S. did not want to let them go back into the general population,” so the commander of the unit in charge, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, “planned to take the prisoners into U.S. custody as soon as they were released by the Bosnians. The prisoners would be taken from Sarajevo up to Tuzla.” The staffer was tasked with watching for the possibility of an ambush on the military convoy. The men’s release, she wrote, “was delayed for several hours due to a large demonstration outside the building they were being held in,” and “the convoy did not leave Sarajevo until after midnight.” “The ‘gentlemen’ in question are still guests of the U.S. government, at Guantánamo Bay,” she wrote in the entry dated September 3, 2008. In fact, just a few months later, a federal judge ordered five of the six men released on lack of evidence. One of them, Lakhdar Boumediene, had brought a suit that led to a landmark decision in June 2008 that Guantánamo detainees had the right to challenge their detention in federal court. The last of the men, Belkacem Bensayah, was released to Algeria in 2013. “A Unique Opportunity Awaits You” in Iraq NSA analysts were also intimately involved in interrogations in Iraq; a December 2003 call for volunteers to deploy to Baghdad as counterterrorism analysts with the Iraq Survey Group, which was leading the search for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, said that “the selectee will, in all likelihood, be involved in the interrogation/questioning of potential leads,” as well as “the evaluation and analysis of interrogation reports and other HUMINT-based reports.” A June 2003 SIDtoday article described snapshots of a trip with Maj. Gen. Richard J. Quirk III, then the agency’s director for signals intelligence. The photos for the entry are missing from the file, but one caption described a visit to Abu Ghraib prison, where “the group discussed the role of interrogations and how they can provide links for SIGINT.” In an ironic addition, given that Abu Ghraib would soon become the notorious symbol of prisoner abuse, the newsletter noted the group “also visited one of Saddam’s torture chambers.” Related Stories: Snowden Archive — The SIDtoday Files The Intercept Is Broadening Access to the Snowden Archive. Here’s Why The Most Intriguing Spy Stories From 166 Internal NSA Reports What It’s Like to Read the NSA’s Newspaper for Spies Sign up for The Intercept Newsletter here.The post NSA Closely Involved in Guantánamo Interrogations, Documents Show appeared first on The Intercept.

Homeland Security Looked Past Militia Movement, Ex-Analyst Says


When gunmen took over federal land in rural Oregon last week, Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security official, was not surprised.