The ‘Deep State’ Conspiracy Is How Fascists Discredit Democracy

The ‘Deep State’ Conspiracy Is How Fascists Discredit Democracy

(Article by Glenn Carle featured on The Daily Beast website)

  • The memorandum put together by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), alleging partisan behavior by the FBI and the Department of Justice in a “Deep State” conspiracy /  / against Donald Trump is, what we would call in the CIA, “disinformation.”Tougher words could be used. But let’s put it simply at this: It is a deliberate diversion from the hard facts that the FBI and CIA have been amassing of Russian espionage activity with members of Donald Trump’s entourage.And it presents FBI and CIA officers with a progressively grave constitutional crisis. The Nunes memo makes it difficult for those officers to serve an executive who—evidence increasingly indicates—has betrayed his oath to the Constitution. It also makes it hard for them to serve a legislative oversight committee that is distorting its functions so as to protect that executive.Inside the CIA, where I served for decades, and the FBI, the strongest reaction to the Nunes memo will be anger and alarm. Top officials in both those institutions operate in a manner fundamentally at odds with what is now being depicted.In the CIA, I encountered colleagues with views that ranged from the far right to far left—every view except, perhaps, that of the communists. This broad diversity is also true for my colleagues in the FBI. Indeed, the “cultures” of both institutions are utterly apolitical. Officers take their oaths with sometimes life-sacrificing devotion: To “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

    I have been moved literally to tears on numerous occasions by my colleagues’ devotion to our laws and the institutions charged with protecting them; and not to any man, be he president, general, or party leader; nor to any party. CIA and FBI officers seek to give life to James Madison’s hope, expressed in “Federalist #10,” that our system be impartial and unaffected by non-democratic influences, and that it be “more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.” They seek to make sure that no foreign power can affect our elections, plant spies among us, or even choose our leaders and shape our policies.

    I never saw an officer’s personal views interfere with how the agency performed its duties. Personal political opinions, like cellphones and football pools, are left out of the office. This commitment and motivation is why we spend our careers working for a fraction of what our peers in the private sector earn.

Hard Measures : Torture Is Humane

(Article by Glenn Carle featured on the Huffington Post website)

CIA officers are overwhelmingly men and women of principle, who seek to shoulder the extraordinary burdens and honors of serving the United States in an amoral profession. They must have a strong understanding of the spirit of our laws, of right and wrong, when so often the choices they must make are hard and unclear.

But now we have the first, Neocon-generated apologia for some of the most controversial choices made by the Bush administration, and the CIA, during the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT): the use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (EITs) by the United States and the CIA, what in lay terms, and U.S. law, is called “torture. “

Jose Rodriguez was the chief of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC), while I was Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats, during the tense years following al-Qa’ida’s attacks on 9/11, in 2001. We worked together a bit, and he was helpful to me professionally on a couple of occasions. His new book, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, alleges that EITs work, are responsible for many, if not most, of the signal counterterrorism successes of the GWOT, and that these measures made it possible to “bring justice” to the mastermind of mass murder, Osama bin Laden. The argument is that EITs are carefully controlled, necessary, humane, work, and are legal. Rodriguez uses his former position as head of CTC to buttress his argument, while the book is largely written with the help of Mark Thiessen, a former speechwriter for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney, who has set himself up as a putative expert on EITs because he had access to some telegrams on counterterrorism operations while working in the White House.

Rodriguez’s assertions will be praised or condemned by the usual parties in the disputes about the efficacy and legality of EITs. On this debate I will make three observations.

Efficacy: While in the CIA, involved either directly in interrogation myself (see my book, The Interrogator, on how EITs corrupt our institutions and society), or much more broadly in my functions as a senior officer involved in assessing the validity of intelligence acquired from all sources subjected to EITs, I found that the CIA could trust no information obtained from EITs, that such information as was obtained from EITs was “recalled” for unreliability (the kiss of death in intelligence), and that no information was obtained from EITs that could not be obtained by the use of classic, legal, interrogation procedures. EITs, it turns out, for all the macho sense of control and power they imply, don’t work and are unnecessary.

Legality: The legality of EITs rests on the legal casuistry of the infamous “torture memo” written by two Justice Department politically-appointed hacks, at the behest of the Office of the Vice President. But, our heritage, our laws, and our obligations as U.S. officials were, and remain, clear: The U.S. largely wrote the Geneva Conventions. The U.S. is signatory to the Convention against Torture. The U.S. is guided by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All our government, in theory, embodies, preserves and protects the US Constitution’s Fifth and Eighth Amendments (“due process of law” and “cruel and unusual punishments”). Habeas corpus underpins all our rights and freedoms, and has for 800 years. All of America’s heritage and laws condemn the practices euphemistically referred to as EITs. Yet, now we are told, well, no, our heritage is wrong. EITs embody what it is to be an American and are necessary. But, the argument (“We also have to work… the dark side, if you will”)* also known as Neocon “realism” is wrong, and endangers our freedoms.

Morality: Here the argument is, of course, that the ends justify the means. But we all should know that this is a spurious assertion. If you sell your soul, you forfeit what you live your life for. If the United States traduces the principles it embodies, and does so on false pretenses (“torture works”), then the United States destroys what it claims to be protecting: our freedoms, our safety, and what so many have taken oaths to preserve and protect.

But there is worse, and Rodriguez’s book embodies it: Learned, respected U.S. officials, experts, and average American citizens now actually coolly debate the merits of torture. But, there is no debate to have, neither on the practical merits of torture, nor on its moral acceptability. The United States throughout its history has opposed such violations of human decency and law. The practice is antithetical to every value that Americans believe defines our society, and serves no purpose. Yet, Rodriguez and the political faction and administration which his book obliges, now assert what the facts contradict, and our values oppose. I worked on counter-terrorism issues with many good men and women in the CIA. Many of them were lastingly deluded about the nature of the threats we faced, acted in good faith, but with terrible errors of perception and policy. This book, however, does not seem so much deluded, as willfully misleading, a prop for the rear-guard Neocon advocates of and whisperers for policies now so roundly discredited that they are already relegated to the same place of infamy as the ante-bellum defenses of slavery, or place of derision as the apocalyptic visionaries awaiting the imminent-but-never-arriving end of the world prophesied in the Mayan calendar.

What have we done to ourselves since 9/11? Incredibly, torture by Americans becomes secondary: We have lost our souls; we mock our heritage; we flaunt our laws; and some of our leaders and officials claim we have known what we have been doing and are heroes for it. Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions after 9/11 Saved American Lives should be noted as part of the post-9/11 Neocon line — despite the facts — that torture is humane, what didn’t happen did, breaking the law is legal, and that selling your soul saves it. How far some of us have sunk. Shame, shame.

Vice President Cheney, a man who imagined himself an expert on intelligence, and willfully misinterpreted information to justify the policies he wished to pursue.

Zero Dark Thirty — Torture Is the American Way?

by gcarle 0 Comments

(Article by Glenn Carle featured on the Huffington Post website)


Zero Dark Thirty, Hollywood’s version of how we killed Osama bin Laden essentially says that torture works. Torture is disturbing, but tough, and American heroes do it.

Do not be misled. Pay attention: The men and women who hunted, found, and killed Osama bin Laden — and heroes they are — did not need to use torture. Torture is un-American. It is evil. We found bin Laden using painstaking intelligence work, not waterboards.

The shocking opening scenes and the underlying premise of Zero Dark Thirty, the latest fillip of the torture hagiography to afflict and pervert American society insidiously propagates the view that torture is necessary; tough men and women must make tough decisions, right? It becomes clear how deeply America’s moral frames of reference have deteriorated when we realize that it was Kathryn Bigelow, a Hollywood director and power, and not a known shill for the Neoconservatives, whose film presents torture as having been instrumental in finding Osama bin Laden, and that “enhanced interrogation” is Americans doing what Americans must do to protect home and hearth.

Bigelow’s views — like those of so many millions of Americans — seem to have been colored by the big lie about torture perpetrated by the Bush Administration, and now the Republican Party, for eight years and beyond: Americans must work on the “dark side, if you will” to protect ourselves. Torture is legal — because, well, because a political hack in the Justice Department, at the behest of the vice president, says so. So, therefore, it is acceptable. A message not-so-subliminally enhanced by the zeitgeist-shaping avatars of pop culture like the execrable 24, which shows tough-guy Jack Bauer saving us all every week by torturing people, and doing what needs to be done, damn the law and all hand-wringers. Even left-wing Hollywood now weaves it into our national consciousness as part of our imagined reality. Even Hollywood filmmakers.

Polls show that a majority of Americans under 35, who came of age hearing from our leaders that enhanced interrogation was necessary and right, believe it is acceptable for American officers to torture. The Republican Party openly advocates its use. No matter hundreds of years of legal and social effort to oppose torture, no matter the Constitution of the United States (“cruel and unusual punishments… shall not be inflicted,” Amendment VIII.)

No. Understand this, from someone who had some involvement in our “enhanced interrogation” program and who worked on terrorism issues for years (see my book, The Interrogator, which relates my involvement in the interrogation of a senior member of al-Qaeda.) I was there: Torture does not work; it makes it harder to evaluate what detainees say, and more suspect. It is unnecessary, it is counterproductive, it is illegal, and it is immoral. Torture besmirches the meaning of America. We become the evil we oppose when we engage in “enhanced interrogation” — in torture.

Do not be deluded by the subliminal messages of a false and harmful reality as you munch popcorn and squirm at the opening segment of Zero Dark Thirty. Precisely because of its power and the subtlety of its overall theme — intelligence work is painstaking and slow and often confusing, and dedicated civil servants must sometimes make impossible choices — Zero Dark Thirty contributes to an un-American message about torture, guised in the uniform of steely eyed, if sometimes ambiguous, heroism. John Wayne did not really storm the beaches of Normandy, although we all watched him do it. George Bush and Dick Cheney, however, really did avoid serving in uniform, although we all watched them send others to fight and argue that torture is legal and acceptable. And now, their message has made it into an otherwise subtle and perceptive film about the hunt for bin Laden. But one cannot sanction torture.

Hunting, finding, and killing bin Laden is one of the cathartic triumphs in the history of the CIA. Bin Laden needed to die. The tale deserves to be sung by bards and should be a source of pride for all Americans. This is another fact I lived during my CIA career: The CIA, the FBI, the U.S. military, and the U.S. government are relentless against our enemies. No one — no one — can kill Americans and get away with it. We will hunt you down, you will not escape and you will pay. American power and will are fearsome.

A former head of MI-6, Great Britain’s equivalent to the CIA, remarked to me once, “I always encourage myths about MI-6, and I thank the stars for James Bond. People tend to believe that British intelligence is all-powerful, and everywhere. When, of course,” here he smiled genteelly, “we are not so powerful, and we are very small.” The CIA, the U.S. government and especially American society, are powerful, and we should not be small. We do not need the insidious myth that torture works, or is necessary. In an otherwise laudable film, Zero Dark Thirty‘s opening scenes corrode our culture, just as “enhanced interrogation” has.

The Evil Genius of Fidel Castro

The Evil Genius of Fidel Castro

A legendary spymaster, the Cuban dictator knew of Lee Harvey Oswald’s intention to kill President Kennedy, but didn’t direct his assassination, according to a recent book.

(Article by Glenn Carle featured on the Daily Beast website)


During the 1960s, Maurice Bishop was the alias used by an infamous CIA officer in Mexico City, whom conspiracy theorists believe met Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before President John F. Kennedy was murdered in 1963. The alleged meeting is cited as clear evidence that CIA officers were somehow involved in Kennedy’s assassination.

I knew Maurice Bishop, whose real name was David Atlee Phillips. A long time ago, he got me into the agency. I know for certain that the CIA did not kill President Kennedy. Yet Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine, a recent book by former CIA analyst Brian Lattell, has taught me many things I did not know about our shadow war against the tiny, communist nation. And it has provided context and overwhelming evidence for many of our intelligence failures vis-à-vis our Cuban counterparts. Namely, that the claims against Phillips and the CIA are the products of a decades-old Cuban disinformation campaign, and that over the past 50 years, Castro has shown himself to be among the greatest spymasters in modern history.

Castro’s Secrets begins like a slow murder mystery then builds damning fact after damning fact into a conclusive, ground-breaking portrait, based on firsthand sources, of how the Cuban strongman—in all his evil brilliance—frequently ran circles around the CIA. Readers who start Lattell’s book with the now widespread image of Castro as a slightly avuncular, foolish caudillo will likely finish it wishing that President Kennedy had followed through during the Bay of Pigs and rid us of this sociopath and his murderous, corrupt regime.

Lattell has the background to write about Castro with authority: he began tracking the Castro brothers for the agency back in the 1960s, finished his career as the U.S. intelligence community’s most senior analyst for Cuban affairs, and now is a senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Relations.

The most interesting parts of his narrative revolve around how much Castro knew about the plot to kill Kennedy, and a parallel attempt, on the part of the CIA, to assassinate the Cuban dictator. Lattell delves into this cloak-and-dagger tale through the story of Comandante Rolando Cubela, a senior Cuban military officer who defected to the United States. Yet Lattell alleges that Cubela, a hero of the revolution against Batista, was actually one of Castro’s supreme triumphs, a double agent run so well run that any intelligence officer would admire it.

Fidel Castro

‘Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine’ by Brian Latell. Palgrave Macmillan. 288 p. $16.58 (L.C. Rapoport / Getty Images)

During the 1960s, the agency knew Cubela by the pseudonym AMLASH, and made him the centerpiece of its supreme assassination plot against Castro. According to Lattell, the CIA trained Cubela to use a special pistol with which to kill Castro from close range. He was then to assume control of the country. The plan had the full backing of the president and was likely set to begin in December 1963, just a month after Kennedy was shot. But Cubela always avoided taking the pistol.

Lattell offers new evidence alleging that Castro personally ran Cubela against the CIA from the start, dangling him in front of the agency in 1961 in Mexico City where Phillips, my eventual mentor, was stationed. Castro even tipped the agency off that he knew all the details, in an effort to convince Americans to back away from their plans. In October 1963, just days after Cubela and his CIA handlers finalized the assassination plot against Castro, the Cuban leader reportedly told a U.S. congressman in Havana: “We don’t trust President Kennedy. We know of the plans the CIA is carrying out.”

Castro also gave multiple public warnings that there would be grave consequences if the Americans continued with their plans: “U.S. leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe,” he said in early September 1963.

While conspiracy theorists harp on an alleged meeting between Oswald and Phillips, Lattell shows that Castro actually had advance knowledge of Oswald’s desire to kill Kennedy; in fact, he was told of it less than 24 hours after Oswald declared his intentions to Cuban intelligence officers in Mexico City.

Lattell concludes that Castro did not direct Oswald to pull the trigger—only that he did nothing to stop him. But elsewhere in Latin America, he says that Fidel was intimately involved in assassination plots—from sustained efforts to kill Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt—Castro’s other bête noire after Kennedy—to the retribution assassinations of almost everyone involved in the killing of Castro’s own darling, Che Guevara.

Readers who start Lattell’s book with the now widespread image of Castro as a slightly avuncular, foolish caudillo will likely finish it wishing that President Kennedy had followed through during the Bay of Pigs.

Castro's Secrets by Brian Latell‘Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine’ by Brian Latell. Palgrave Macmillan. 288 p. $16.58

No one in the CIA who noted Castro’s warnings appeared to take them seriously, or knew of the plot to kill him; apparently, the White House never became aware of the warnings, according to Lattell. Had the importance of Castro’s comments been recognized, a decent counter-intelligence officer should at least have thought twice about the AMLASH operation.

Despite its efforts to kill Castro, the agency never established a way to communicate with Cubela, on the ground in Havana. He frequently talked tough, but did nothing; he had no real links to any military units in Cuba; he continually raised his demands, in the end asking to meet with Attorney General Robert Kennedy before agreeing to take any action. And yet, Lattell says, the CIA pressed on. On Nov. 18, 1963, the agency briefed Kennedy on the AMLASH plans, and received the go-ahead. Three days later, Kennedy was dead. And the Cubela plot withered in the chaotic aftermath of the president’s death.

Years later, the CIA did learn what Castro knew about Oswald, but essentially did nothing with the information; it was apparently too incendiary. As Lattell writes: “Even tentative evidence of a Cuban hand in Kennedy’s death could have sparked a clamoring for punitive action…[so the] story was squirreled away.”

It is possible that the information was considered so extraordinary that lower-level officers didn’t believe it—an institutional blunder that prevented anyone with authority or the proper perspective to pass it on to policymakers; this, too, is typical, as my colleagues and I learned to our chagrin after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

One of the successes of Castro’s Secrets is that it offers readers a view of both sides of the shadow war. As Jackie Gleason beamed his escapism from Miami Beach to a public focused on the good life, the CIA ran desperate, suicidal raids against Castro, conducted more often than not to show President Kennedy that the agency was doing something than out of any real expectation their plans would work.

There are familiar tales of half-baked assassination attempts and exploding cigars. But as Lattell recounts them, he takes readers past what was previously known and shows that the Kennedy brothers were as single-minded in their efforts to eliminate Castro as he was ruthless and devious.

The Kennedy’s had good reason. During the Cuban missile crisis, Castro was eager for a fight with the U.S., according to Lattell. Though Castro has spent roughly 50 years obfuscating his role—yet another of his disinformation triumphs—Lattell offers convincing evidence that, at the supreme moment of tension during the crisis, it was Castro who ordered the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, not an overly excited local commander.

Likewise, Lattell says, it was Castro who urged Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to launch a nuclear war against the U.S. in response to the deteriorating situation that the Cuban dictator had engineered. “Castro suggested that in order to prevent our nuclear missiles from being destroyed, we should launch a preemptive strike against the United States,” Lattell writes, quoting Khrushchev’s memoirs, which are backed up by quotes from Cuban defectors and other Russian officials.

One shares the horrified reactions of successive Soviet officials to the man they called their “excitable,” communist ally, who was apparently willing to see us all killed to serve his ego. Only a megalomaniac would vehemently argue for Armageddon so that he could survive in a bunker, the revolutionary hero presiding over an irradiated hemisphere. But then, in Lattell’s account, this is Castro through and through: a sociopath from early manhood, who in the barrios of Havana after World War II, gunned down rivals, shooting them in the back from a distance.

For all his determination, Kennedy failed to kill Castro, not just because the determined loser Oswald shot him, inflecting history, but because before his death, Kennedy’s plans against Castro were based on the overly optimistic assessments of our intelligence community. Yet, the cynicism, delusions, and wishful thinking—all presented as sensible—that plagued the CIA efforts to eliminate Castro were characteristic of several agency operations during my own career decades later (one only has to remember the contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s and so many of the Bush administration’s actions during the war on terror).

Yet I sympathize with my predecessors: for I experienced the intense pressures from policymakers to solve the problem, when my colleagues and I knew full well that we could offer little but puffed up hopes and demonstrations of aggressive action, while having to downplay our pessimism.

During the mid-1980s, I was spared the misfortune of working Cuban operations. But by the late 1980s, it seems the CIA fared much better in its battles with Castro. The tables had turned. And in the end, it seems that Phillips, my old mentor, maligned as he has been by Cuban disinformation, will have the last laugh. For after reading Castro’s Secrets, no one will be able to think of Fidel as anything but what Lattell shows him to be: a murderer, sociopath, and deluded egomaniac.

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Glenn L. Carle spent 23 years in the Clandestine Services of the CIA, and is the author of The Interrogator: An Education.

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