Now it can be told: a CIA analytic team assessed in February that the recent spate of homegrown terrorism could have unpredictable foreign-policy consequences for the United States. And if not for the controversial transparency organization WikiLeaks, we might never have known that the CIA can occasionally bore policymakers to tears with its time-wasting obviousness.
WikiLeaks recently published a trove of 77,000 frontline military reports from Afghanistan, earning it the ire of the Pentagon. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He warned that the group might have “blood on its hands” for disclosing the names of Afghans who’ve worked with the U.S. — people whom the Taliban have vowed to target and kill. But with this latest disclosure, WikiLeaks has swung to the opposite extreme: irrelevance.
According to an analysis from a CIA “Red Cell” — an analytic entity charged with being deliberately provocative — on February 2, the growth of homegrown extremism in the U.S. might strain America’s relations with its allies. Foreign governments could cease intelligence cooperation. Or perhaps they could “request information on US citizens they deem to be terrorists or terrorist supporters, or even request the rendition of US citizens,” the cell judges. In admittedly “extreme cases,” partner governments could “consider secretly extracting US citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from US soil.”
If that seems far-fetched — will Pakistani ninjas dare snatch Gary Brookes Faulkner from his bed??? — that’s because it’s supposed to be. “These sorts of analytic products–clearly identified as coming from the agency’s ‘Red Cell’–are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view,” says George Little, a spokesman for the CIA.
In its introductory text, WikiLeaks calls out the document’s finding that “foreign perceptions of the US as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism’ together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.” It would take a lot of spinning to consider that a revelation, particularly after Italy convicted 25 CIA officers last November for kidnapping an Egyptian national.
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