Do We Really Have To Call Steve Kappes A Torturer?

By
Tuesday, January 06, 2009 at 11:50 am

First Read reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) choice for CIA director is current deputy director Steve Kappes. Kappes, unlike Leon Panetta, is a consummate intelligence professional. He played a key role in the nuclear disarmament of Libya, speaks Persian and Russian, and was purged by Porter Goss in 2004 for insufficient political loyalty to George W. Bush. When current director Mike Hayden arrived at CIA in 2006, he immediately hired Kappes back in an attempt to restore morale and symbolize independence.

So it’s surprising when Daily Kos diarist EmperorHadrian hinges off a blithe line in the First Read story — “some critics says [sic] he had line authority over controversial decisions involving interrogation and detention” — and says “as far as we know, Kappes has not objected to the torture policies he enabled.”

Let’s have an uncomfortable conversation.

The most serious charge against Kappes, as best I can tell, comes from his role in the abduction and rendition of Abu Omar, the Egyptian cleric taken by the CIA off the streets of Milan and tortured in Egypt. A 2007 article from The Chicago Tribune about the rendition reports briefly that Kappes was “one of those who signed off on the Abu Omar abduction.” (h/t TalkLeft.) No doubt that’s troubling. Extraordinary rendition is legally and morally problematic. Italy is prosecuting in absentia the CIA agents involved in the Abu Omar rendition.

But we really don’t know from what’s publicly available the context of Kappes’ decision. Was this something that his bosses demanded? Did he have decision-making authority on the rendition? (The Chicago Tribune piece is extremely complex, as much of this is murky.) What were the alternatives to handling Abu Omar? What did or didn’t Kappes know? I’m not saying this is exculpatory, necessarily. I’m saying that we should investigate before we reach a conclusion.

More broadly, though, there’s a tendency in the blogosphere to presume that the Google-able corpus of knowledge on torture is a definitive account of our government’s dalliance with it over the last decade or so. That’s just not the case.

The frustrating thing about intelligence reporting is just how dense and murky and opaque it is, and very few people who do it are able to create comprehensive accounts of what goes on. That’s why it’s necessary to hedge conclusions. A piece I’ve chased for years concerns internal CIA resistance to torture. I’ve confirmed very little of it, which is why I’ve not yet published anything. But if it pans out, I think it’s fair to say that it would complicate much of the picture of what people inside the agency did and didn’t resist, and how and why they did it.

This is partially why I keep calling for an independent congressionally-mandated investigation. There’s just too much that’s unknown to label individual CIA people torturers as a general proposition, so take it easy on that front. Reality-based community and all that.

Follow Spencer Ackerman on Twitter


Comments

11 Comments

Consumatopia
Comment posted January 6, 2009 @ 10:52 am

The burden of proof on anyone expecting to be appointed to a position of trust should be on the appointee, not on those with doubts. The relevant standard here is not Innocent until proven Guilty, but Untrusted until proven Trustworthy.

If the blogosphere and the public in general have no right to criticize intelligence officers while public information is incomplete, then intelligence officers have an incentive to make sure our information will always be incomplete.


Spencer
Comment posted January 6, 2009 @ 11:04 am

I'm not saying no one has a right to criticize them. Far from it. I'm saying that judgments ought to be tempered by an incomplete factual record.


lilburro
Comment posted January 6, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

Hi Spencer, thanks for the h/t. I wrote the Stephen Kappes piece on Talk Left.

In response to your questions –

“Was this something that his bosses demanded? Did he have decision-making authority on the rendition?”

The Abu Omar rendition is a great example. Bob Lady is the case officer who opposed the damn thing. But his higher-ups supported it, and he had to carry it out.

Well, Bob Lady is seen by Italy as a bad guy. So are a lot of the operatives he worked with. Why aren't Kappes, and Lady's superior Jeff Castelli, included in the case? If Bob Lady is a torturer, why isn't Kappes?

At the time Kappes' was Pavitt's No.2. I just find it difficult to believe that he was not one of the most senior guys signing off on the rendition. And if he didn't know the details before he signed it, that's almost more disturbing.

I am on the same page as Shorrock and Naif here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-shorrock-and-….

“Ignoring allied complaints about heavy-handed renditions is not an option–senior career and appointed officials who greenlighted these operations should step forward for the inevitable reckoning on behalf of their country, and on behalf of the brave men and women whose intelligence careers and personal lives have been turned inside out by foreign indictments.”

Kappes is at least as guilty as Bob Lady. But he doesn't bear any consequences.


Spencer Ackerman
Comment posted January 6, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

You wrote a good post. And I'll concede up front that all I know about the Abu Omar case is what I've read in the papers. I'm not making an argument about it, or Bob Lady, etc. All I'm saying is that suspending judgment until more facts are known is a prudent course.


intelgent
Comment posted January 8, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

Kappes was the Assistant Deputy Director of Operations when people died in CIA custody and he instructed the field staff by telephone not to include certain facts in the report to be sent to headquarters. He was the Deputy Director of Operations when others were captured and detained by the CIA. Anyone who knows anything about the CIA management structure, everything in the DO flows through its ADDO and its DDO. These officers have total decisional authority over all operations carried out by the CIA.


dodude
Comment posted January 8, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

If Diane Feinstein or Jay Rockefeller REALLY objected to the terrorist detention program, and believed it abhorrent and inhumane, they would not be shilling so badly for an officer they know darn well made decisions to carry out that very program. Then, there is the Warrantless Wiretap program. In the positions he held, Kappes would have signed off on the various approvals to conduct this program. As Assistant DDO for Counterintelligence, he was responsible for intelligence tradecraft failures in Peru, Eastern Europe, and in the Middle East. His expertise seems to be merely in blowing smoke up congressional skirts.


interested in intel
Comment posted January 8, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

Are you certain Goss's people undertook a political purge and it wasn't actually an effort to improve the CIA's performance? What proof do you have of this claim, other than anonymous sources in news stories written by lazy journalists? Your assertion comes awfully close to being libelous if you have no proof–other than repeating poorly sourced articles.


interested in intel
Comment posted January 8, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

AND, they do. Big time. And, it starts with their manipulation and influence on congressional leaders.


JS
Comment posted January 11, 2009 @ 1:46 am

THE BIG DIRTY SECRET of why there were so many abrupt resignations and firings of TOP OFFICIALS since 2003 had to do with the ongoing use of NAZI inspired illegal defense programs being used on innocent American citizens, including children. These programs have been used to hijack peoples lives from when they are very young. Unwitting people are used, abused, programmed, manipulated, mutilated and if they begin to connect the dots and uncover associated corruption, TORTURED in the most heinous ways imaginable, including having to watch their child tortured in their own home. Exotic weapons (see 2000 Sen. Kucinich bill), bio/chemical weaponry, directed energy weaponry, microwave weaponry, NANO ect is used, along with a shadow government, to control them into submission. Corrupt media elements are used in this agenda to intimidate and humiliate victims through double entendre language. The same media elements have been involved in massive insider trading linked to orchestrated terrorist attacks and disasters. The following are just some of the people who have been notified: President Bush, President Elect Obama, Senate Intel Div. Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Rockefeller, Sen. McCain, CIA Dir. Goss, CIA Dir. Hayden, FBI Civil Rights Division, DoD SOD Gates, JCS, just to name a few. Numerous TOP OFFICIALS abruptly resigned or were fired yet to date NO ONE HAS BEEN HELD CRIMINALLY OR CIVILLY ACCOUNTABLE and no compensation issued to victims. The crimes include MURDER. Tons of evidence was on libertyforum.org under the user name ManhattanPROJECT until it was conveniently closed down on 9-4-08. If our Country is not a LIE then these monsters need to be held accountable for their heinous Human Rights abuses comparable to NAZI war crimes. There is no excuse for abuse and making innocent peoples lives into a LIVING HELL. For the record, President Elect Obama stated in public that the evidence regarding the above was good evidence and that they were going to do something about it. Lets see if he is a man of his word. The NAZI's said they were just doing their job too.

See USAF 2025
http://web.elastic.org/~fche/mirrors/cryptome.o…


JS
Comment posted January 11, 2009 @ 9:46 am

THE BIG DIRTY SECRET of why there were so many abrupt resignations and firings of TOP OFFICIALS since 2003 had to do with the ongoing use of NAZI inspired illegal defense programs being used on innocent American citizens, including children. These programs have been used to hijack peoples lives from when they are very young. Unwitting people are used, abused, programmed, manipulated, mutilated and if they begin to connect the dots and uncover associated corruption, TORTURED in the most heinous ways imaginable, including having to watch their child tortured in their own home. Exotic weapons (see 2000 Sen. Kucinich bill), bio/chemical weaponry, directed energy weaponry, microwave weaponry, NANO ect is used, along with a shadow government, to control them into submission. Corrupt media elements are used in this agenda to intimidate and humiliate victims through double entendre language. The same media elements have been involved in massive insider trading linked to orchestrated terrorist attacks and disasters. The following are just some of the people who have been notified: President Bush, President Elect Obama, Senate Intel Div. Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Rockefeller, Sen. McCain, CIA Dir. Goss, CIA Dir. Hayden, FBI Civil Rights Division, DoD SOD Gates, JCS, just to name a few. Numerous TOP OFFICIALS abruptly resigned or were fired yet to date NO ONE HAS BEEN HELD CRIMINALLY OR CIVILLY ACCOUNTABLE and no compensation issued to victims. The crimes include MURDER. Tons of evidence was on libertyforum.org under the user name ManhattanPROJECT until it was conveniently closed down on 9-4-08. If our Country is not a LIE then these monsters need to be held accountable for their heinous Human Rights abuses comparable to NAZI war crimes. There is no excuse for abuse and making innocent peoples lives into a LIVING HELL. For the record, President Elect Obama stated in public that the evidence regarding the above was good evidence and that they were going to do something about it. Lets see if he is a man of his word. The NAZI's said they were just doing their job too.

See USAF 2025
http://web.elastic.org/~fche/mirrors/cryptome.o…


TaylorMarsh.com » Blog Archive » The Set Up and The Sting
Pingback posted January 23, 2009 @ 11:20 am

[...] about the rendition of Abu Amur, as well as other intel programs in which Kappes could be involved. Ackerman has more, making the very important point that the nature of intel, especially during Bush-Cheney, [...]


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