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Posted at 4:04 PM ET, 05/14/2010

How will the CIA deal with 'rendition' supervisor?

By Jeff Stein

The CIA is apparently standing by the counterterrorism official who supervised the “extraordinary rendition” and harsh treatment of an innocent man six years ago, even as Spanish prosecutors stir up new interest in the case with their request for the arrest of 13 of her underlings.

The woman, whose identity is being withheld at the CIA’s request, has been promoted twice since the abduction of Khaled el-Masri, a Muslim of Lebanese descent who had become a German citizen in 2003, according to intelligence sources.

Masri was picked up at her urging in 2004, when she was the CIA’s “hard-charging” al-Qaeda unit chief, and bundled off to a secret prison in Afghanistan, according to published accounts in The Washington Post and elsewhere.

But right away, the CIA rendition team “had a strange feeling about Masri,” according to an account by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer in her book, “The Dark Side.”

“He wasn’t acting like a terrorist.”

The CIA’s Kabul station chief “was incensed” that he’d been handed “an innocent person” and protested to the Counterterrorism Center, Mayer wrote in an account that echoed earlier reporting by The New York Times and others.

“But the CTC officials sent back word that the head of the Al Qaeda Unit wanted Masri held and interrogated. She thought he seemed suspicious.”

“She always did these cases based on her gut,” a CIA counterterrorism veteran told SpyTalk, with disdain. "She'd say, 'this guy's bad, that guy's dirty,' because she had a 'feeling' about them."

According to Mayer, the woman was once reprimanded for making a “voyeuristic” trip abroad to watch the waterboarding of al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Masri was subjected to harsh treatment for the next 149 days, until outraged colleagues who were convinced the woman had the wrong man went to CIA Director George Tenet and got him released. A CIA team dropped him off on a road in Albania.

The woman was promoted inside the CTC, multiple intelligence sources said.

The head of the CTC, a former Baghdad station chief known as Mike, “pushed her along and elevated her,” said the counterterrorism veteran.

A retired senior operations official said that although the woman was only a GS-14 analyst at the time of the Masri operation, her willingness to do the kind of detail work case officers shun -- poring through electronic intercepts and field reports -- "gave her immense power" in the CTC.

"It's a nasty job nobody wants," he said.

“There has been talk lately of sending her overseas, in a down-range management assignment,” said the counterterrorism veteran, who cannot be identified discussing sensitive personnel matters.

The veteran is only one of a half-dozen CIA counterterrorism officials who have told SpyTalk of their disgust with the continued advancement of the woman.

“Nobody’s swinging for [the Masri mistake], because too many heads are in play,” the veteran said. “They’re all saying, ‘If I go down, you go down.’”

"Again," the veteran added, "it's an issue of accountability. No one is ever held accountable."

But one person, who insisted on being identified only as “an intelligence official,” said it was unfair to single out the woman.

"Our country has outstanding counter-terror experts--including this officer--but no one should think that a single individual drives the whole train," he said. "That's not how it works, it's a team effort, and it's foolish to focus exclusively on any one person, for praise or blame."

The intelligence official indicated that the woman's position was secure.

"You're talking about someone whose profound expertise has contributed powerfully to the disruption of terrorist plots and the capture of dangerous extremists in several parts of the world,” he said.

“It's tough, crucial, demanding work, and this individual has, over many years, made major contributions to it."

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By Jeff Stein  | May 14, 2010; 4:04 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI  
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Comments

I have a "gut feeling" that she should be fired and yet she gets promoted. Hmmmm

Posted by: beeker25 | May 14, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that this guy got away and is reading this article and laughing at us today.

Posted by: jralger | May 14, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The woman should submit here résumé to Senate Republicans. No doubt they will prefer her methods and judgments to those of Kagan. The idea of an inquisitor who need never show her face or submit proofs that satisfy habeus corpus is pretty appealing. The spies complaining about her are obviously more jealous than indignant. They should take solace that there are still millions of "suspects" to capture or process. Any, if duly "rendered," will confess to something potentially horrible, and make it all patriotic.

Posted by: jkoch2 | May 14, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Dick Cheney and George Bush must be enjoying their third term, at least in the domain of CIA. I was never sold on Barack Obama but had such high expectations of Leon Panetta.

Posted by: ashrink | May 14, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Waterboard him for 3 hours. Send what's left of him back to his family. It's the best he deserves.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | May 14, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Oops. I meant waterboard 'her.' The CIA operative, that is. Sickos like that should be locked up for life, but in this case, we can make an exception. Just as long as there no more "her" left to do damage to this country.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | May 14, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Remember "Spy Vs. Spy" in MAD Magazine? Unfortunately, this time the joke is on us.

Posted by: axolotl | May 14, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

We kidnapped and tortured an innocent man for 6 months based solely on this woman's "gut feeling". That's what America stands for in the 21st century. Proud?

Posted by: contradan | May 14, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Why do people think US intelligence never rises above the IQ of John Yoo?

A lot of reasons, I suspect, but mostly, limited by imagination and press stories relating to people such as this ko0k or that ko0k and his or her latest scheme to torture and/or murder and his or her way to an American victory...

Look at the guy who was just apprehended hanging his small nuts over a fence -- and now this loser, nothing more than John Yoo ~~ these people are not smart.

Confusing, isn't it?

A clue, people, a clue!

ROTFLMAO.

Bad day, Betty, huh?

Imagine predicating your whole offense, invading or infiltrating, for lack of a better word, a whole group known to you as "the CIA," and it turns out when you built your city, you built it on false flag morons.

Sixty years to take down the USSR, how long to take down, peacefully, the DC Cass Sustien-like ko0k?

And he said "How long would you like it to take?"

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 14, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

The most efficient way of dealing with madam intestinal feelings is for a hit to be ordered on her. Who knows, it might already be in the pipeline. Anyone in the CIA who enjoys watching human suffering is a liability and not an asset!

Posted by: sunrise2 | May 15, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

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