It only took 24 hours for the Washington Post to go from the sublime to the ridiculous.
On Saturday morning, the newspaper described the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheik Muhammad (KSM), standing before “U.S. intelligence officers in a makeshift lecture hall, leading what they called ‘terrorist tutorials.’”
KSM “discussed a wide variety of subjects, including Greek philosophy and al-Qaeda dogma” and even “scolded a listener for poor note-taking and his inability to recall details of an earlier lecture. He’d even use a chalkboard at times.”
Presumably the audience of high-level operatives was hooded or masked to prevent KSM’s recognition, which would explain the poor note-taking. But there is no excuse for not paying attention to a man who was waterboarded 183 times.
On the other hand, since KSM told the International Committee of the Red Cross that he provided “a lot of false information” during the “harshest period of my interrogation,” perhaps it was wise to be inattentive even in front of the CIA’s “preeminent source,” according to the Post. [See my column, “Washington Post Provides a One-Sided Account of Torture and Abuse,” August 29, 2009]
Post reporters Peter Finn, Joby Warrick and Julie Tate, however, should be credited with the fact that they never once used the word “torture” in their article. Dick Cheney would have approved.
On Sunday, however, the Washington Post turned from solemn reporting to outright humor. In a page-two article, Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick discussed sagging morale at the CIA due to the release of the 2004 IG report on CIA detention and interrogation, basing their views primarily on the remarks of A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the implementation of the policy of torture and abuse.
“Buzzy,” by the way, is the brother of Howard “Cookie” Krongard, the former State Department Inspector General, who blocked investigations of contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush White House had Karl Rove and Scooter Libby; the State Department and the CIA had Cookie and Buzzy, respectively.
I imagine that few readers of the mainstream media have heard of the Krongard brothers and, since I first met them on the asphalt basketball courts of Baltimore nearly 50 years ago, perhaps I should fill in the blanks on the Washington Post’s key source. Pincus and Warrick describe Krongard as a “retired CIA officer,” which of course he isn’t. Krongard never had his finger on the pulse of the CIA workforce, although he did have an impact on morale when CIA director Porter Goss suggested to Buzzy that he should leave the Agency after his six-year “career.” When Buzzy left, morale zoomed skyward.
CIA director George Tenet brought Krongard into the Agency and told Newsweek that “Buzzy is perfect. He’s my right hand.” (Remember that Tenet called his deputy, John McLaughlin, who drafted Secretary of State Colin Powell’s fraudulent speech to the UN in 2003, the “smartest man I’ve ever met). Tenet admired the tough-talking Krongard, who liked guns, fought sharks, and did all the martial arts. Krongard owns a Walther PPK pistol, James Bond’s handgun of choice in the 1960s.
As one CIA insider noted, Buzzy “talks tough, but he’s never been there.” At Alex. Brown & Co., a Baltimore-based investment firm, Krongard told his troops to dress casually and hang out in bars patronized by industry executives in order to catch unguarded comments. Perhaps he had “been there” after all. In any event, Krongard is the only Agency official who believes that “we’re better off with Osama bin Laden at large,” because if something happened to him “you might find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho they are by unleashing a stream of terror.”
Buzzy became Tenet’s executive director in 2001; Buzzy’s deputy was John Brennan, the Agency’s cheerleader for secret prisons and renditions, who President Barack Obama hoped to make director of CIA. When Buzzy left, his successor was Dusty Foggo, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for bribery and fraud, making him the highest-ranking CIA official convicted of a federal felony.
Buzzy and Dusty, such harmless-sounding sobriquets, were harsh critics of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and big supporters of CIA director Michael Hayden’s investigation of the OIG. And Buzzy was particularly dismissive of any criticism of Hayden’s investigation: “The perception is like in a police department between street cops and internal affairs.” In fact, Buzzy wanted to stop OIG investigations of CIA secret prisons, renditions, and detentions.
It is particularly noteworthy that Buzzy left CIA and immediately joined the board of Blackwater, which was only fair in view of the fact that Krongard gave Blackwater its first Agency contract. Krongard was joined by J. Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center, which negotiated the assassination program with Blackwater. Black eventually became the vice chair of Blackwater and ran Total Intelligence Solution, which was Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s private CIA.
Jeremy Scahill, our leading expert on Blackwater, has reasonably asked the congressional intelligence committees to investigate high-ranking intelligence officials such as Black and Krongard, who take their knowledge, contacts, and access to Beltway Bandits such as Blackwater. Editorials and opeds in the Washington Post, by the way, have pooh-poohed the significance of the assassination program because “no one was killed.”
Once again the word “torture” never appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post article. Cheney must be happy with the editorial policy at the Post.
Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, is The Public Record’s National Security and Intelligence columnist. He spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.
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