In a front-page story on the first day of the new decade and in the aftermath of the killing on Wednesday at a "CIA base" in southeastern Afghanistan of seven CIA officers, the New York Times took note Friday of "the civilian spy agency’s transformation in recent years into a paramilitary organization at the vanguard of America’s far-flung wars." -- Indeed, "the agency is in effect running a war in Pakistan," Mark Mazzetti noted at near the end of his article. -- "There was an air of defiance among intelligence officials on the day after the attack, and some spoke of their fallen comrades using military language," Mark Mazzetti wrote. -- "Over the past year, the CIA has built up an archipelago of firebases in southern and eastern Afghanistan, moving agency operatives out of the embassy in Kabul and closer to their targets." -- The agents killed at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province in southeastern Afghanistan were part of "an aggressive campaign against a radical group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani," Mark Mazzetti said. -- COMMENT: In response to this event, American militarists (including President Barack Obama, from whose Dec. 31 statement the following quotes are taken) have been lauding the heroic "sacrifices" of "patriots" who are "heroes" defending "freedom" by serving "in the shadows" and "on the frontlines." -- Obama's encomium concluded with a double invocation of the deity: "May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America." -- But to citizens attached less to the hubristic divinization of American exceptionalism and more to the values of the American Republic as embodied in the United States Constitution, this article should increase the volume of warning bells set off long ago. -- As CIA veteran Ray McGovern warned in a two-part piece published in the week before this event, and as historian Chalmers Johnson has argued in series of books in recent years, a paramilitary intelligence organization at the heart of American power poses a variety of dangers to republican institutions. -- Johnson and other historians have shown in great detail that the CIA is really the president's private army, an institution of the imperial presidency liberated from all constitutional restraint. -- In his article, Mark Mazzetti wrote: "The CIA has always had a paramilitary branch known as the Special Activities Division, which secretly engaged in the kinds of operations more routinely carried out by Special Operations troops. But the branch was a small -- and seldom used -- part of its operations. -- That changed after Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush gave the agency expanded authority to capture or kill Qaeda operatives around the world. Since then, Washington has relied much more on the Special Activities Division because battling suspected terrorists does not involve fighting other armies. Rather, it involves secretly moving in and out of countries like Pakistan and Somalia where the American military is not legally allowed to operate." ...
CIA TAKES ON BIGGER AND RISKIER ROLE ON FRONT LINES
By Mark Mazzetti
New York Times
January 1, 2010 (posted Dec. 31, 2009)
WASHINGTON -- The deaths of seven Central Intelligence Agency operatives at a remote base in the mountains of Afghanistan are a pointed example of the civilian spy agency’s transformation in recent years into a paramilitary organization at the vanguard of America’s far-flung wars.
Even as the CIA expands its role in Afghanistan, it is also playing a greater role in quasi-military operations elsewhere, using drone aircraft to launch a steady barrage of missile strikes in Pakistan and sending more operatives to Yemen to assist local officials in their attempts to roll back Al Qaeda’s momentum in that country.
The CIA operatives stationed at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, where Wednesday’s suicide bombing occurred, were responsible for collecting information about militant networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting missions to kill the networks’ top leaders. In recent months, American officials said, CIA officers at the base had begun an aggressive campaign against a radical group run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, which has claimed responsibility for the deaths of dozens of American troops.
Over the past year, the CIA has built up an archipelago of firebases in southern and eastern Afghanistan, moving agency operatives out of the embassy in Kabul and closer to their targets.
But the push to the front lines carries great risk.
In 1983 in Beirut, it took a car bomb loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives to kill eight CIA officers stationed at the heavily fortified American Embassy in the city. In Khost on Wednesday, all it took was one man bent on martyrdom to slip into a remote base and inflict a similar toll on the spy agency’s relatively small work force.
Among those killed, officials said, was the chief of the Khost base, who was a mother of three and a veteran of the agency’s clandestine branch. Besides the seven CIA operatives who died, the blast also wounded six agency employees, according to a CIA statement.
Current and former intelligence officials said Thursday that early evidence indicated that the bomber, in Afghan military fatigues, might have been taken onto the base as a possible informant and might not have been subjected to rigorous screening. But details about the episode remained murky, and a NATO official said the bomber had managed to elude security and reach an area near the base’s gym.
CIA personnel regularly take foreign agents onto the base before sending them on intelligence collection missions in eastern Afghanistan and across the border into Pakistan, said one Pentagon consultant who works closely with the CIA in Afghanistan.
“You must to some degree make yourself known to people you don’t trust,” said one American intelligence official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke anonymously to discuss classified information.
The bomber appears to have worn an explosives-laden suicide vest under an Afghan National Army uniform, two NATO officials said Thursday. The attack happened close to dusk, when some people at the base were relaxing before dinner.
In a statement to the CIA’s work force, President Obama said that the spy agency had been “tested as never before,” and that CIA operatives had “served on the front lines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st century.”
Forward Operating Base Chapman sits in an isolated spot several miles from the town of Khost, but not far from Camp Salerno, a larger base used by Special Operations troops.
American officials said that the CIA base had been a focal point for counterterrorism operations against the Haqqani network, a particularly lethal militant group that operates on both sides of the Afghan border.
“Those guys have recently been on a big Haqqani binge,” said the Pentagon consultant. “I would be really shocked if the bombing on Wednesday wasn’t some kind of retaliation.”
There was an air of defiance among intelligence officials on the day after the attack, and some spoke of their fallen comrades using military language.
“There is no pullout,” the American intelligence official said. “There is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”
The CIA has always had a paramilitary branch known as the Special Activities Division, which secretly engaged in the kinds of operations more routinely carried out by Special Operations troops. But the branch was a small -- and seldom used -- part of its operations.
That changed after Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush gave the agency expanded authority to capture or kill Qaeda operatives around the world. Since then, Washington has relied much more on the Special Activities Division because battling suspected terrorists does not involve fighting other armies. Rather, it involves secretly moving in and out of countries like Pakistan and Somalia where the American military is not legally allowed to operate.
The fact that the agency is in effect running a war in Pakistan is the culmination of one of the most significant shifts in the CIA’s history. But the agency has at times struggled with this new role. It established a network of secret overseas jails where terrorist suspects were subjected to brutal interrogation techniques, and it set up an assassination program that at one point was outsourced to employees of a private security company, then known as Blackwater USA.
Some longtime agency officers [like Ray McGovern] bristled at what they saw as the militarization of the CIA, worrying that it was straying too far from its historical missions of espionage and intelligence analysis.
When he took office in January, President Obama scaled back the CIA’s counterterrorism mission, but only to a point. He ordered that CIA prisons be shut and that CIAofficers no longer play a role in interrogating suspects accused of terrorist acts.
At the same time, the administration has accelerated the CIA’s drone campaign, using Predator and Reaper aircraft to launch missiles and rockets against militants in Pakistan.
In early 2009, the White House approved a CIA plan to expand the drone operations in Pakistan into Baluchistan, where top leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban militia are thought to be hiding. The agency has also recently begun sending more operatives into Pakistan to, among other things, gather target intelligence for the drone program.
--Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE CIA WORKFORCE
December 31, 2009
--Earlier this morning, the President sent this message to the CIA workforce in relation to yesterday’s attack in Khost Province, Afghanistan:
To the men and women of the CIA:
I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends, and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.
These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.
In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before. Since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, you have served on the frontlines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st century. Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our Allies and partners have been more secure. Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated. Indeed, I know firsthand the excellent quality of your work because I rely on it every day.
The men and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan did their duty with courage, honor, and excellence, and we must draw strength from the example of their sacrifice. They will take their place on the Memorial Wall at Langley alongside so many other heroes who gave their lives on behalf of their country. And they will live on in the hearts of those who loved them, and in the freedom that they gave their lives to defend.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.
President Barack Obama