Newspaper schools CIA on internet research
March 12, 2006 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Internet blows CIA cover The identities of thousands of Central Intelligence Agency employees, many of them operating under cover, have been available to anyone looking for the right information in public records searches. Only problem: The CIA was kind of surprised to find this out. (Site may require registration for some. Use BugMeNot.)
posted by emelenjr (41 comments total)
But unbeknown to the CIA, her affiliation and those of hundreds of men and women like her have somehow become a matter of public record, thanks to the Internet.

Yeah right how convenient it is to blame Internet ? It's like blaming or praising God, it's like telling the computer "did a mistake" it's BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT.

commercial online data service, the result was a virtual directory of more than 2,600 CIA employees, 50 internal agency telephone numbers and the locations of some two dozen secret CIA facilities around the United States.

Assuming this was really secret information, which would require some double checking, who released it ? Who had the key to list and who published an internal list ?

following the Tribune's disclosures that some of the planes were used to transport suspected terrorists to countries where they claimed to have been tortured.

Now THAT would be an horrifing discovery ! Yet pretty much in line with the ideology of this administration.

A senior U.S. official, reacting to the computer searches that produced the names and addresses, said, "I don't know whether Al Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could."

ANYBODY could you bloody tool, but it's not "thanks to the internet" using technology and freedom of use this techonlogy as a scapegoat for CIA possible gross incompetence.

Yet imagine what one employer / financial institution could theorize about you if you end up casually in some large database ? Incompetent as they are you'll see your check bounced, your credit line destroyed and maybe you will end up on some suspected list. Maybe you are on that CIA list.
posted by elpapacito at 6:08 AM on March 12, 2006

What has me worried is that a "discovery" (to anyone but the CIA, it seems, finding out that this information is out there isn't all that surprising) like this could help the defense in the Plame case. If the information is available in public sources for anyone who might choose to look for it, how much of a secret is it now?
posted by emelenjr at 6:26 AM on March 12, 2006

Tangential but unrelated: The memory hole have a list of CIA films now available from the National Archives under the FOI.
Title examples: 'Psychological Operations in Support of Unconventional Warfare'; 'Brainwashing'; 'Bolivian Cocaine Growing' &c.
posted by peacay at 6:42 AM on March 12, 2006

More on Plame's "secret" identity:
When the Chicago Tribune searched for Plame on an Internet service that sells public information about private individuals to its subscribers, it got a report of more than 7,600 words. Included was the fact that in the early 1990s her address was "AMERICAN EMBASSY ATHENS ST, APO NEW YORK NY 09255."
Plame's identity, if truly secret, was thinly veiled, from the Duluth News Tribune.
posted by emelenjr at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2006

You're arguing the "just slightly pregnant" argument. The thinness or thickness of the veil doesn't matter. It's still a veil and, thus, secret. Her cover was revealed as a practice of political revenge. And that's a crime.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:59 AM on March 12, 2006

Here's the "printable" version - shouldn't need bugmenot...
posted by disclaimer at 7:11 AM on March 12, 2006

Oh, it's not me that's arguing it, Thorzdad. It seems what you're saying is the most likely scenario, political retribution. But if Plame's history within the CIA is as transparent as that second linked article suggests, I can imagine that information being used in defense.
posted by emelenjr at 7:15 AM on March 12, 2006

My bad. Sorry.
You're right, of course, that this certainly falls in line with the sort of items the defense will trot out.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:28 AM on March 12, 2006

Plame was a covert agent.

Libby was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements. He hasn't been charged with revealing Plame's indentity.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:06 AM on March 12, 2006

Quite some time ago, a group I worked with developed graphics software for the CIA.

In the contract they referred to themselves only as "The Company." It was, like, soooo secret.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:31 AM on March 12, 2006

Bad Internet! You must be punished for what you did.
posted by sourwookie at 8:31 AM on March 12, 2006

Dyck declined to detail the remedies "since we don't want the bad guys to know what we're fixing."

Funny, recently I've become so used to equating the CIA with "the bad guys" (because of all the secret torturing and evil scheming stuff) that I had to read this twice to know what he means. I think he's talking about Al Quaeda and the Chinese.
posted by sour cream at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2006

I don't understand this at all.

If I'm a covert CIA op working under cover, then of course my identity is going to be public. That's kinda the whole point, right? Set up a false "real" identity, complete with phone book listings, and cable bills, and a library card. What I don't understand is the part where these people are then "connected" with the CIA.

It's like, if I'm working under cover at a shoe store, I've got a false life set up, then some guy walks in and say, "Hey, you're CIA!" Doesn't this beg the question? I mean, How do you know? If I hand the phone book over to the president, and he starts saying "My gosh, just look at all these CIA operatives, all out there in plain sight! There's John, and there's Mary, oh there's little Rolanda over there... boy, talk about insecure!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:36 AM on March 12, 2006

The CIA is an incredibly corrupt and incompetent organization, they make the FBI look like Scotland Yard.
posted by Mick at 8:36 AM on March 12, 2006

Covers are for sissies. James Bond just walked into a room and announced himself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:05 AM on March 12, 2006

I say good. The CIA is almost indescribably corrupt and inept, and their members and agents need to be exposed when and wherever possible. Philip Agee and others of his ilk are American heroes whose deeds protect democracy around the world.

When an organization which claims to represent a democratic government becomes engaged in open support of dictators; torture; fixing elections; assassination of democratically elected officials; forming, training and commanding death squads; covert wars; car bombings and drug running (to name but a few), clearly that organization should be labelled contrary to its initial aims and disbanded post-haste.

If anything, they make us look more like an evil empire than any other aspect of the US govt....besides, of course, GWB, who clearly is his father's son (his father, of course, being a former head of "the company") but has no idea due to a level of ignorance so large it's impossible to characterize.

That being said, Bush and his administration should all hang for making years worth of pretty noises about national security while exposing an agent for purely partisan purposes...pick a side, assholes.
posted by nevercalm at 9:13 AM on March 12, 2006


posted by carsonb at 9:41 AM on March 12, 2006

The article is (deliberately) vague about this, but it sounds like this was at least part of the chain of events:

1) CIA sets up a front company
2) CIA develops a public web presence for the company, including its employees' identities
3) This data becomes part of various online databases
4) Front company's cover is blown when they start flying suspects around
5) Chicago Tribune searches public databases for past or present employees of the front company, who can now be assumed to be CIA employees.
6) CIA closes barn door, takes down front company's website, fails to notice missing horses

6 might even happen before step 5, but it'd still be too late. Even step 2 isn't such a fuckup, since it wouldn't be a very plausible front company if it didn't have some sort of website... I don't even think this points to any particular incompetence on the part of the CIA; all it shows is that keeping secrets in the information age is really, really hard to do.

Personally I'm reassured by this kind of bureaucratic fecklessness. It's how we know they're not building death rays or planning to blow up the moon or whatnot.
posted by ook at 9:48 AM on March 12, 2006

The CIA has had successes, one that stands out to me is the expulsion of the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan.

The CIA is definitely not corrupt, in fact I would argue that it is probably one of the least corrupt organizations in the world. Of all the possible charges you could lob at the CIA, that's probably the most laughable. Also, the CIA is not in the business of determining foreign policy, elected officials and thier appointees do that. The CIA gives those officials options and capabilities. But the CIA does not unilaterally implement those programs (although on paper they often remain on the hook to provide plausible deniability to those officials).

There are things that the CIA does, that I don't agree with. But there are many things they have done to promote freedom and democracy. I'm willing to bet that there was a part played in the Solidarity movement in Poland, and perhaps in the Orange Revolution.
posted by forforf at 10:02 AM on March 12, 2006

uh. What? So we're supposed to gloss over all the really heinous anti-democratic, illegal, and downright murderous stuff the CIA has been involved in over the last fifty+ years, because you're "willing to bet that there was a part played in the Solidarity movement in Poland, and perhaps in the Orange Revolution."

Oh, okay. Sure. I'll take your fucking word for it.

Yeah, cause they've never assasinated anyone, fomented any coups, deposed any democratically elected leaders, trained any death squads, helped finance international terror through illegal arms sales, or moved large amounts of cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs throughout the world to fund black ops campaigns.

posted by stenseng at 10:18 AM on March 12, 2006

The CIA is the single most corrupt and corrupting organization in American history. Corrupt for obvious reasons, corrupting, because they "give those officials options and capabilities" that shouldn't even be on the table, if we as a nation are to practice anything close to what we preach.

Deposing and or murdering democratically elected leaders we happen to disagree with doesn't do much to enhance the attraction or sanctity of democracy as a shining path for the rest of the world to follow.

Murdering people who get in our way, selling arms and drugs to fund illegal covert operations, these things do not strengthen the moral authority of the rule of law.

The CIA undermines everything America is supposed to stand for.
posted by stenseng at 10:22 AM on March 12, 2006

I said there are things that the CIA has done things I don't agree with. Those should not be glossed over. But there have been things that I consider beneficial to the US and world that they have done. I happen to believe the change in Afghanistan was something that was necessary to make the world safer.
I could raise the strawman saying that maybe some would prefer a well funded Al Qaeda with a safe haven to operate out of, because if I extend some arguments ludicrously, that's the strawman I can build. But I'm willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and take their points at face value and not attribute to them words they have not said.

Here are some observations that I've observed that make it difficult for me to take your view.
I have not ever heard of a single elected official recommending the abolishment of the CIA. Maybe there have been some, but they seem to be an insignificant minority. Furthermore, those closest to the organization, presidents, Intelligence Committee members (regardless of their party affiliation) have seemed generally supportive of the organization. There seem to be two conclusions one could draw from that. Either our elected officials, almost without exception, are vile and corrupt, in which case, I would argue the CIA is not a cause but a symptom. Or, could there be a remote possibility that those in the know actually see that the benefits of that organization to the Unites States security and its ideals outweigh its costs?

As an aside, I don't undertand how anti-CIA advocates would recommend dealing with situations like Al Qaeda in absence of an organization like the CIA.
posted by forforf at 11:04 AM on March 12, 2006

"I have not ever heard of a single elected official recommending the abolishment of the CIA."

Perhaps you forget John Kennedy's pldege to "smash the CIA into a thousand pieces," after the bay of pigs?
posted by stenseng at 11:10 AM on March 12, 2006

As an aside, I don't undertand how anti-CIA advocates would recommend dealing with situations like Al Qaeda in absence of an organization like the CIA.

Oh, I have no problem with a foreign intelligence apparatus gathering information to protect the national security of the United States.

The CIA ain't that. The CIA has been a larger, darker, and more dangerous animal since it's OSS days.

I would completely dismantle the CIA, and replace it with a new organization with a mission and operational boundaries clearly delineated, and with congressional and presidential oversight, geared toward the gathering and processing of intelligence to protect the security of the United States.

It's the whole turning an intelligence agency into what has become essentially a drug and gun running, murder for hire, organized crime syndicate, to protect the interests of big business that I object to.
posted by stenseng at 11:16 AM on March 12, 2006

Yeah, I kinda did, because I thought Kennedy's (justified) mistrust of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs fiasco was somewhat amelioriated by the intelligence benefits from of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
posted by forforf at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2006

stenseng, then you and I are actually in agreement on the purpose of an intelligence agency.

I might disagree on the extent of the overhauls you'd propose, but I am generally in agreement of the kind. I think I see a baby in the bathwater, where I take it you don't.
posted by forforf at 11:32 AM on March 12, 2006

To continue an increasingly tortured analogy, I think that baby drowned a long time ago, due to lack of any sort of oversight or legal accountability, combined with intentional misuse.

At this point, we owe it to the grieving parents to build a new safer bathtub.
posted by stenseng at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2006

"The CIA has had successes, one that stands out to me is the expulsion of the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan"

posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:06 PM on March 12, 2006

Perhaps you forget John Kennedy's pldege to "smash the CIA into a thousand pieces," after the bay of pigs?

Oh, yeah! Cool guy. Whatever happened to him?
posted by Grangousier at 12:44 PM on March 12, 2006

Wait. The CIA's smashing babies in Afghanistan?
posted by Tennyson D'San at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2006

Plame's identity, if truly secret, was thinly veiled, from the Duluth News Tribune.

And here's former CIA agent Larry Johnson's response.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on March 12, 2006

The world has changed enough that it is realistic to expect wars to be fought keeping to certain codes of conduct that did not apply in the past.

The world has not changed enough that a secret intelligence agency of any government can be expected to behave correctly according to contemporary public morality.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:20 PM on March 12, 2006

Why should the public behave according to a contemoporary public morality if the government and the people who work for the government don't have to?
posted by Jelreyn at 3:12 PM on March 12, 2006

"I don't undertand how anti-CIA advocates would recommend dealing with situations like Al Qaeda in absence of an organization like the CIA."
Does it occur to you at all that we wouldn't have situations like Al Qaeda in the absence of our propping-up of right-wing dictators, overthrowing democratically elected governments and openly trying to colonize entire regions of the world to further the economic interests of the richest people in the world?

Or do you think they just hate our freedom?
posted by crabintheocean at 3:26 PM on March 12, 2006

I think that Al Qaeda rejects western values being imposed upon them. That includes liberal values such as women on equal footing as men, as well as western consumerism (the Starbucks on every corner thing). I think that they resent the projection of military power in to what they would view as their sphere of influence. They do not want their culture diluted with that of the west.
I don't think Al Qaeda cares if the United States is a democracy or a dictatorship. Actually, they probably prefer a democracy, that way they can blame any American since every American can participate in the political process.

In short, the CIA did not create Al Qaeda. It did provide them support against the Soviets, but that is different than creating them.
I also believe that Al Qaeda would have struck against western targets (specifically US) regardless of any CIA activity. Please note before you, like others, try to put words in my mouth (*cough* do you think they hate our freedom *cough*). The CIA does not equal United States foreign policy. In other words, I would agree with you that if the United States was completely isolationist, economicaly, militarily, and culturally ... then I don't think Al Qaeda would have gone after US interests. BUT, I also believe that the world would be much worse off if the United States did take a completely isolationist approach. Eastern Europeans at a minimum I think would be in a worse position.

I would like to see the US promote individual and human rights, as well as economic and political opportunity in a fair way that promotes peace, economic ties and stability. Now, that approach would still result in disaffected groups that would have a beef with the US. And it seems to me that one would need a way of dealing with those groups.

They don't hate our freedom. They hate that we interfere.
posted by forforf at 4:15 PM on March 12, 2006

they make the FBI look like Scotland Yard.

How can the CIA make the FBI look that bad?
posted by srboisvert at 2:01 AM on March 13, 2006

I’m kind of on the hump here - the CIA does do some nasty stuff, but it is to benefit the U.S.
...Granted the term “benefit” is at issue.

Either way, there’s no real debate over incompetance, and Goss could fuck up a one car funeral.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:20 AM on March 13, 2006

StickyCarpet, "the Company"?

Beautiful. That's like the cliche' that just transcends.

For all the loonies I've met in my life that claimed to have worked for the CIA, I'm wondering now if perhaps they really were...
posted by uncorq at 7:38 AM on March 13, 2006

All this crabbing about the merits/demerits of the CIA overlooks the big issue in the linked news story, which is that the source of all this information isn't the Internet itself, but private, commercial databases, some of which CAN BE ACCESSED via the Internet IF YOU HAVE AN ACCOUNT (and some of which probably were accessible via direct dial-up before the WWW was created).

To the extent that there's a "villain" here, it isn't the Internet, it's commercial data brokers.
posted by lexalexander at 11:00 AM on March 13, 2006

I think you could be pretty safe in saying that the CIA created Al Qaeda. They found them, recruited them, flew them to Afghanistan, fed them, coddled them, armed them, encouraged them, etc etc. They didn't give them the name, but in creating and sustaining the Afghani resistence they did everything necessary to allow them to come together.

But hey, Israel funded Hamas as a hedge against the PLO, so I guess all shady intelligence agencies make mistakes.
posted by nevercalm at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2006

Karl shoots blanks at Plame
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2006

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