SpyTalk

CIA: No Woman No Cry

Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein, born Dianne Emiel Goldman on June 22, 1933, is the senior United States Senator from California. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served in the Senate since 1992. | Photo: | Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator, Democrat, California,

Spy Agency Chooses a Safe Male to Run Clandestine Service

I can only imagine the wry smile on G's face when she got the news: You gotta take a bullet for the team.

It was a moment John Le Carr? might have scripted.

The CIA denies that "G"-- whose name the agency insists keeping under wraps even though it's "widely known in intelligence, diplomatic and journalistic circles," as the AP put it -- was denied the job of running CIA's corps of spies because she ran a secret interrogation center where at least two accused terrorists were waterboarded multiple times over and lobbied hard to destroy the videotapes.

The coup de grace came when Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made clear her desire that the job go to someone else. Certainly the White House was not displeased, either.

And so the new head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service is "a 57-year-old longtime officer who served tours in Pakistan and Africa and was recently in charge of the agency's Latin America division, according to public records and former officials," The Washington Post reported.

He was identified in a tweet Wednesday by John Dinges, author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and Chile Brought Terrorism to Three Continents, as Francis (Frank) Archibald, "a former chief of the Latin America division and paramilitary specialist."

Most likely Archibald was chosen because there's not a whiff of scandal in his background, as far as we know. "Bland" is a word that comes to mind.

The irony here is that three of the four people directly involved in the decision to pass over Gina were hip deep in renditions and harsh interrogations themselves yet remain in good odor: CIA Director John Brennan and two members of his selection advisory panel, Stephen Kappes and John McLaughlin.

Brennan was the agency's deputy executive director at the outset of the controversial programs.

Kappes, a much-lauded former CIA official, was assistant deputy director for operations when the renditions and enhanced interrogations programs were implemented after 9/11. According to CIA sources I talked to in 2009, he "helped tailor the agency's paper trail regarding the death of a detainee at a secret CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan, known internally as the Salt Pit."

Moreover, when Obama's intelligence transition team visited Langley in 2009, according to an authoritative story in The Washington Post, it got a pitch from Kappes and other CIA officials to "retain the option of reestablishing secret prisons and using aggressive interrogation methods."

"It was one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had," said David Boren, the moderate Oklahoma Democrat and former Senate Intelligence committee chair who led the transition team.

"The main thing that people misunderstand about the program is, it was intended to encourage compliance," John McLaughlin, deputy director of the CIA during the the waterboarding era, told TIME. "It wasn't set out to torture people. It was never conceived of as a torture program."

Good to know. And G's got to be smiling at that, too, as she packs her things in a cardboard box and heads for the elevators.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 7:33 AM EDT | More details

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