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WikiLeaks Releases CIA Manual Advising Undercover Agents on Travel & Avoiding ‘Secondary Screenings’

By: Sunday December 21, 2014 6:07 pm

Cover page for CIA manual published by WikiLeaks

The CIA is an integral part of the United States’ global security state, which collectively has contributed to the proliferation in airport security screening measures since the September 11th attacks. Yet, this may not exactly serve the agents who have to travel under cover.

A secret CIA manual publishedby WikiLeaks and titled, “Surviving Secondary,” details how airports around the world pose a threat to covert operatives traveling through any of the world’s airports. It provides some rather incredible examples of security measures, which the CIA believes its operatives must be aware of in order to avoid having their cover blown during “secondary screening” when a traveler is pulled aside for additional scrutiny.

It was the second release of CIA material in a series that WikiLeaks started on Thursday. (And another manual on the European Union system for border control was published as well.)

The “Surviving Secondary” manual was put together for “officials who hold appropriate clearances at Executive Branch departments/agencies of the US government,” according to the secret intelligence document. It suggests “recipients must obtain originator approval prior to written or verbal communication of any portion of this product to state, local, tribal, and private entities and for all other uses not pre-approved by the originator.”

According to this manual, “Even when the traveler does everything right, the best protection during secondary screening is to be well-prepared with a cover story, according to an experienced CIA traveler.”

“In one incident during transit of a European airport in the early morning, security officials selected a CIA officer for secondary screening,” the manual recounts. “Although the officials gave no reason, overly casual dress inconsistent with being a diplomatic-passport holder may have prompted the referral. When officials swiped the officer’s bag for traces of explosives, it tested positive, despite the officer’s extensive precautions. In response to questioning, the CIA officer gave the cover story that he had been [given] in counterterrorism training in Washington, DC.”

“Although language difficulties led the local security officials to conclude that the traveler was being evasive and had trained in a terrorist camp, the CIA officer consistently maintained his cover story. Eventually, the security officials allowed him to rebook his flight and continue on his way.”

The “Surviving Secondary” manual also suggests, “Hostile and probably even allied services seek to identify US and other foreign intelligence officers,” and, “The combination of procedures available in secondary, a stressful experience for any traveler, may pose a significant strain on an operational traveler’s ability to maintain cover.”

Anyone in secondary inspection would “likely have no right of access to their embassy or to other outside assistance.”

“Consistent, Well-Rehearsed, and Plausible Cover is Important”

It advises that “smart phones, iPods, and MP3 players, can pose a vulnerability to alias travel because of their requirement for subscriptions. If border control officials can establish a link between the device and the traveler’s true name,this could present a difficulty for someone traveling in alias,” which is a classic concern of those critical of the global security state.

“Consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important for avoiding secondary selection and critical for surviving it,” the manual advises. “A frequent operational CIA traveler to Asia and Europe advises that the most effective prevention of secondary is to have simple and plausible answers to the two most frequently asked questions, ‘Why are you here,’ and ‘Where are you staying.’”

Operatives are to travel with “everything that officials can use to examine their bona fides—including passports, travel history, baggage, personal electronics, pocket litter, hotel reservations, web presence” and determine it is all consistent with their covers.

To that end, it warns that Internet access allows airport security officials to examine travelers’ social and business network accounts to confirm that their Web presence corresponds with their persona. For example, Foursquare and LinkedIn are business equivalents to the Facebook social network.”

“Security officials might also expect a sales or marketing traveler to have a Twitter account. The absence of such business-related Web accounts probably would raise a business traveler’s profile with officials.”

Podcast: The ‘Cuban Five’ — On Their Case & Release from US Prison as Part of a Prisoner Swap

By: Sunday December 21, 2014 10:49 am

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard

The release of the last three members of the “Cuban Five” as part of a prisoner swap marking a shift in United States policy toward Cuba was a victory for people all over the world, who had been seeking justice and freedom for them.

The “Cuban Five” are five men, who were sent to Miami in the 1990s to collect intelligence on violent right wing groups believed to be responsible for attacks on Cuba. These attacks were being perpetrated by Cuban exiles and, to some extent, at least had the tacit support of the CIA.

Neither of the men were spying on the United States government or the American people. They were strictly interested in threats posed by these groups to the Cuba government and Cubans. Nonetheless, in September 1998, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González (no relation) were arrested. They were held in solitary confinement and then put on trial in the hostile setting of Miami and charged with espionage-related offenses.

The US government sought to pin the shooting down of two planes in 1996 on the five men, even though there was virtually no evidence to connect them. Prosecutors succeeded in convicting Hernandez of a conspiracy to commit murder charge that led to him initially being sentenced to two terms of life in prison.

Both René González and Fernando González had previously been released in 2011 and this year, respectively.

To talk about the significance of the release of the rest of the “Cuban Five,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director for the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), appeared on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast this week. PCJF launched a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit and sought documents on the extent to which the US government had paid journalists to write propaganda to influence the outcome of the “Cuban Five” trial. They exposed “reporters for hire” and brought further attention to the injustice that had unfolded, making it possible for the “Cuban Five” to push for further legal proceedings to challenge the unfairness of their trial.

During the discussion, Rania Khalek and I talk a bit more about the shift in US policy toward Cuba, a SWAT incident with Ft. Bend police that was particularly brutal, cops selling “Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law” T-shirts and the company in which America keeps when it comes to torture.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there.

NBC News Cites ‘Climate of Fear & Retaliation,’ Withholds Identity of Architect of CIA’s Defense for Torture

By: Friday December 19, 2014 11:36 am

Screen shot of NBC News story on CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky


NBC News published a story on a senior CIA official who is a “top al Qaeda expert” and a “key architect of the agency’s defense of its detention” and torture program for terrorism suspects. The official apparently developed “oft-repeated talking points that misrepresented and overstated” the effectiveness of torture. And, while the female official is singled out in the Senate intelligence committee’s summary of its CIA torture report, NBC News made the decision to protect her identity.

This female expert has been tied to a pre-9/11 intelligence failure and the rendition of German citizen Khaled el-Masri. She participated in the torture of alleged 9/11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while he was detained at a secret prison in Poland. She misread intelligence from another terrorism suspect and used it to “extract” an “erroneous admission” from Mohammed.

The identity of this CIA officer is already in the public domain. The identity and stories of her time spent defending and participating in torture have been reported by journalists. She even has a Wikipedia page that matches up exactly with what NBC News reporter Matthew Cole wrote about her.

Her name is Alfreda Frances Bikowsky.

That leads to the critical question: Why is NBC News protecting an overzealous torturer?

The media organization claims that they are protecting her anonymity “at the request of the CIA” because the agency cited “a climate of fear and retaliation in the wake of the release of the committee’s report.” But the notorious CIA officer is already known to the world.

NBC News investigative producer Matthew Cole additionally reports, “The expert was not identified by name in the unclassified 528-page summary of the report, but US officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity confirmed that her name was redacted at least three dozen times in an effort to avoid publicly identifying her.”

“In fact, much of the four-month battle between Senate Democrats and the CIA about redactions centered on protecting the identity of the woman, an analyst and later ‘deputy chief’ of the unit devoted to catching or killing Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. officials familiar with the negotiations.”

If it is true that Senate Democrats lost a battle to leave her name in the report because her role in torture was already known, that does not mean that NBC News has to or should withhold her identity from any coverage of her conduct.

The legal division of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center requested information that could rebut the inspector general’s conclusions and show torture techniques had been successful. Bikowsky responded with an email, “Let’s be foward [sic] leaning.” And, “Khalid Shaykh Muhammad’s information alone has saved at least several hundred, possibly thousands, of lives.”

This would be the key “template” for defending the torture program but it was not true at all.

Additionally, El-Masri was one of at least twenty-one people who, by the CIA’s own standards, were wrongly detained. The CIA inspector general concluded that the agency did not have sufficient evidence to render and detain him and considered the agency’s “prolonged detention of el-Masri” to be “unjustified.”

To Improve Assassination Operations, CIA Studies Failures of Colonial Powers to Combat Resistance

By: Thursday December 18, 2014 4:56 pm

WikiLeaks has released a copy of a secret CIA analysis, which reviewed the success of “High Value Target” (HVT) assassination programs used by governments to combat insurgencies. The review shows the CIA is learning lessons from colonial powers that have failed to suppress revolutions and also demonstrates that relying on lethal strikes to combat insurgencies [...]

SSCI Confirms Staff Visited CIA’s Salt Pit Prison in 2003, No Records of Visit Kept at CIA Request

By: Wednesday December 17, 2014 5:30 pm

According to the CIA’s June 2013 written response (PDF) to an earlier draft of the SSCI’s torture report, SSCI “staff members” visited the Salt Pit CIA black site in Afghanistan in late 2003. According to the CIA, the SSCI staff found it compared “favorably” with detainee facilities at Bagram and Guantanamo. SSCI staff confirm, but say it’s not connected to their investigation and CIA told them they could keep no records of the visit.

ACLU Appeals Decision Which Created Immunity for FBI Agents Involved in Torturing US Citizens Abroad

By: Wednesday December 17, 2014 11:18 am

The American Civil Liberties Union has appealed a federal district court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an American citizen who alleges he was detained and tortured by FBI agents in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia in violation of his constitutional rights. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, ruled in [...]

In Leak Case, Court Authorizes Subpoena for Testimony from New York Times Reporter James Risen

By: Tuesday December 16, 2014 2:34 pm

A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, has authorized a subpoena for New York Times reporter James Risen to force him to provide testimony in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Prosecutors would be able to ask if he had a “prior non-confidential reporter-source relationship” with Risen. The former CIA officer is alleged to [...]

CIA Health Professionals’ Role in Systematic Torture, Including ‘Human Subjects Research’

By: Tuesday December 16, 2014 12:55 pm

An organization of United States health professionals has put out a comprehensive analysis of the role US health professionals played in the CIA torture program. The analysis, stemming from the US Senate intelligence committee’s executive summary of its torture report, raises alarming questions about whether these professionals engaged in “human subjects research” that constituted a [...]

Reporter James Risen Says US Government Has Made ‘No Offers’ Related to Testimony in Leak Case

By: Monday December 15, 2014 11:37 am

Despite comments from anonymous officials, the United States government has issued no formal offer to New York Times reporter James Risen to protect him from having to reveal any information about his confidential sources if he were to be subpoenaed and forced to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, according to [...]

Podcast: Deconstructing the Torture Report & Its Possible Ramifications with Reprieve Attorney Alka Pradhan

By: Sunday December 14, 2014 10:43 am

The Senate intelligence committee finally released the summary of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program this past week. It detailed a criminal conspiracy involving the torture the CIA used against detainees in the global “war on terrorism” and the lengths to which CIA officials and interrogators had gone to cover up [...]

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