Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

CIA Intelligence Sources & Methods

Among the most effective tools the US has (had?) are the assumptions about its capabilities and reach in military and intelligence matters.   And the gap between the assumption and the reality is often the asset that’s being protected when the public is told that something can’t be revealed to them, so that sources and methods aren’t jeopardized.

Well, over in Italy, they’re trying (in absentia) 26 Americans involved in kidnapping (and then lying about it) a suspected terrorist in Milan (all without the Italian gov’ts approval, natch).  Seems like the Italians got ahold of the laptop of the CIA station chief.   And what super stealth secret means did they use to position their people and do recon on the best path between the abduction point and dropping the kidnapped guy at a US air base? Expedia. Oh, and they know this because it seems there was a plethora of unsecured info on the laptop.

Mind the gap, please.


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  1. silence dogood

    I’ve always suspected that someone in the Italian government had to have given some sort of permission to go ahead with this sort of thing, and either the government reversed its position or the grantee was contradicted by a higher authority after the fact.

    The CIA certainly isn’t omnipotent or omniscient, and I know they’ve lost a step since the cold war ended and they had to reevaluate their modus operandi for dealing with threats to American security. But it challenges my suspension of disbelief that anyone could possibly be this sloppy when operating without permission on foreign soil.

    (On the other hand, Italy is generally a sunset posting for a station chief…)

  2. MB

    The idea in your first para sounds entirely possible (not that I know anything about these things).

    As to the second, though – challenging or not, they’ve got the hardware and the files. Five star hotels on credit cards with frequent flier numbers? Good god amighty.

  3. silence dogood

    I think I may not have done a good enough job linking the first paragraph to the second. I agree the amount of money they spent on accomodations and the fact they paid with credit cards makes the entire operation look like a shoddy amateur-hour event, and I don’t question the veracity of the evidence that this is indeed what they did. What I meant by my second paragraph, then, is that it’s obvious they weren’t really trying to hide, and it seems to me the only reason not to hide is if you don’t think that you have anyone you need to hide from.

    Here’s what I suspect happened: someone asked the Italian Gov’t if we could go get this guy. The Italian Gov’t says yes, not expecting that the man in question will disappear without a trace and that no one will ever find out they were involved. Sincer they’re operating with Italian complicity, the local CIA station doesn’t feel compelled to hide their operation, so they rack up thousands of dollars in expenses using American taxpayer dollars while leaving a high-profile, mile-long paper trail. Then they snatch the target in broad daylight in front of witnesses, and the abduction gets reported in the regional newspapers. Now the Italian government is in a bind; they can’t handle the PR fall-out of having the public know that they gave permission to allow a foreign intelligence service to kidnap someone on their sovereign soil, especially after declining support for joint American/Italian ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. So they reverse positions, issue search warrants, and are startled to find that we didn’t bother hiding anything because we never anticipated that they’d need or want plausible deniability. Left with no choice, the Gov’t allows the Milanese prosecutor to file charges against the American operatives while refusing to endorse their request for extradition.

  4. Catzmaw

    Shades of Watergate, what a bunch of incompetent boobs. And these are the people we’re supposed to trust to get the interrogation of the snatchees right? Nobody connected with this administration ever seems to waste much time thinking things through.

  5. MB

    Ah. Now I understand. Yes, entirely plausible (and still mockably sloppy).

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