When Edward Snowden turned over his trove of classified documents to the press, the propaganda machine for the security state immediately shifted into high gear. He was rapidly vilified and labelled a criminal, thief, traitor, enemy agent, narcissist and nerdy publicity hound. His patriotism, character and even his sanity were called into question for the dual purposes of discrediting anything he might say and in furtherance of punishing him in such a way as to deter any similar such actions by potential future whistleblowers. It was too late to try to contain the "damage" as the documents were already out there and they speak for themselves, irrespective of his character or lack thereof, but the propaganda machine sometimes takes on a life of it's own and in his case the reaction resembled the closing jaws of a bear trap. Immediate, violent and unstoppable.
The story of undercover CIA officer Sabrina De Sousa, convicted in absentia of kidnapping for the 2003 rendition of a radical Egyptian cleric in Italy named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, better known as Abu Omar, illuminates another facet of the issue and calls into question the character of a government that will throw it's own most valuable people to the wolves to protect itself and in the process do material harm to the cause of national security. Whether or not Snowden ever heard any of this story, he knew all too well what he faced.
One of the criticisms leveled against Snowden by the serious intelligence professionals was that he did not follow proper procedure and went outside of approved channels. The following is an example of what can and does happen when honorable agents in the intelligence community try to follow proper procedures to question the illegal and immoral actions of their bosses.
Exclusive: Scapegoating the whistleblowerThis is a long and convoluted story, which is typical of any story that tries to make sense of these types of crimes, and in addition contains a pdf type reader with 27 pages of supporting letters and documents. It's well worth reading in it's entirety, but here are some lowlights. - dmc
How a former CIA officer’s efforts to get Congress to investigate the rendition and torture of a CIA captive failed
by Jason Leopold | June 26, 2014
Though she was aware of the plans to capture Abu Omar, De Sousa says, she was eventually “cut out” because she did not get along with the CIA station chief in Milan, Robert Lady, and that on the day of the operation she was skiing with her family.Who's on first?
There was nothing definitive in the classified cables, De Sousa says, about the threat the CIA said Abu Omar posed to national security as the rendition operation was being planned. “The cable was full of ‘suspected of,’ ‘alleged to.’ Nothing that said ‘he was responsible for.’ Nothing definitive,” De Sousa says.
De Sousa describes her CIA colleagues in Rome and Cairo as acting like keystone cops in the aftermath of Abu Omar’s rendition, trying to figure out who had the evidence against him to present to Egypt so he could be prosecuted.
“The CIA station chief in Cairo said to Jeffrey Castelli [CIA station chief in Rome] ‘Where’s the evidence?’ Castelli said, ‘I thought you had the information.’ And Cairo said, ‘We don’t have it. We thought you had it.’ Castelli says, ‘We don’t have it.’ Then Cairo says, “We issued this arrest warrant on your behalf. So where is the evidence?" The blunder ultimately forced Egypt to set Abu Omar free.
“This is exactly when the whole cover-up started,” she says. “It turns out there was a big miscommunication between Cairo Station and Rome Station. There wasn’t any prosecutable evidence against Abu Omar. It’s why he was never picked up by the Italians. But Castelli decided he wanted a rendition and he got one.”
De Sousa alleges that Castelli was gunning for a promotion to a coveted CIA position in New York City and to land it someone had to be subjected to extraordinary rendition. “Who could he pick out from this target list of 10 people he had. Abu Omar because it was the easiest. Why was it the easiest? Because he was already under surveillance by the Italians and they were sharing information [with the CIA],” De Sousa says.
Castelli, who now works at a private security firm in Arlington, Virginia, called Endgame, did not respond to requests for comment.
De Sousa has never publicly discussed all the efforts she undertook to alert government officials and lawmakers that the Abu Omar’s kidnapping was a “colossal mistake” and convince them to investigate her claims of wrongdoing, which implicate top CIA officials. She told Al Jazeera that she first contacted top Bush administration officials, but received no response. In 2009, hoping the response would be different under Obama, she disclosed to then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton what she says are troubling details about her treatment by the U.S. government in the aftermath of her whistleblowing. But, like the Bush administration officials before them, they also ignored her pleas, De Sousa says, and the CIA turned her into a “scapegoat” while the executive branch looked away.So much for transparency and the protection of whistleblowers by the Obama administration.
“I went through the whole thing internally,” De Sousa says. “I started off by approaching my supervisor, and then I went to the ombudsman at CIA. He was a great guy. He tried to go to bat for me and he was told to lay off. He said, ‘I can’t communicate with you anymore due to a seventh-floor edict [at the agency’s Langley headquarters where the director and other top officials work].’ I then went to the inspector general. The IG said, ‘It’s not part of our charter or mission to deal with this.”Which is how it's done in the civilized world.
Yet after she approached the watchdog’s office, the inspector general at the time, John Helgerson, said he wanted to launch an investigation into the rendition, De Sousa says, an assertion confirmed in a 2008 report published byThe New York Times. But the head of the NCS, Jose Rodriguez, who would later come under federal investigation for his role in ordering the destruction of nearly 100 interrogation videotapes of two high-value detainees held at black-site CIA prisons, said no. NCS would conduct its own review, Rodriguez said. In other words, the division of the CIA that De Sousa says screwed up would investigate itself.
She continued firing off letters. On May 18, 2009, she wrote to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “For three years, I tried every option for resolution available to me, both with my employer and in letters to the heads of several Departments and Agencies, as well as Congress and the Senate in both administrations without success,” she wrote.I tell ya, some days I regret even turning on my computer.
Powell was Secretary of State when the Abu Omar rendition took place. He responded a couple of weeks later. “Thank you for your letter. I regret the situation you are in, but since the matter is in litigation, I am unable to be of any help,” Powell wrote. “Further, I have no knowledge about any of these matters that would give me a basis to comment or intercede.”
De Sousa says Powell’s State Department would have had to have authorized Abu Omar’s rendition, because Italy is a NATO member and the rendition took place on Italian soil.
In 2009, De Sousa sued the State Department for failing to invoke diplomatic immunity, which she argued she was entitled to as a State Department diplomat. The U.S. government retorted during a federal court hearing that it was not responsible for the actions of a foreign court. A federal district-court judge dismissed De Sousa’s case but the judge described her treatment by government officials in the Obama administration as “appalling.”