A not-so-secret mission - The director of the CIA outs his top spy to push a diversity recruiting drive.
By David Wise
Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2007
Back in 1982, Congress passed a law designed to guard against the disclosure of the names of U.S. spies. The lawmakers acted because two obscure publications, "CounterSpy" and the "Covert Action Information Bulletin," were printing the names of undercover CIA officers.
But the Intelligence Identities Protection Act has been difficult to enforce because covert agents are narrowly defined under the statute, government officials cannot be prosecuted unless they intentionally leak names, and people outside the government -- journalists or others who name spies -- run afoul of the law only if they do so as part of "a pattern of activities."
Congress' effort to grapple with the issue, as well as the problems it faced in crafting the law, illustrate the hazards of running secret intelligence operations in a democracy. Government officials are not supposed to leak the names of secret agents, especially if there is a hint of politics in the revelation. Witness the leak to the media of the name of Valerie Plame, the covert CIA officer whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had aroused the ire of the Bush White House.
Forests were cut down for the newsprint used in reporting and commenting on the Plame case, which led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. President Bush subsequently commuted his prison sentence.
But when the CIA outed its top spy earlier this month, virtually no one in the media noticed. What's going on?
The CIA desperately needs minority officers, spies from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, with language skills, who can blend in when dispatched to foreign countries.
Welcome to the bizarre case of Jose Rodriguez.
On Aug. 8, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, in a statement to employees posted on the agency's website, identified Rodriguez as the director of the National Clandestine Service. As such, he was in charge of the CIA's spies around the world. Until that moment, the identity of the 30-year veteran spy had been a closely guarded secret.
"Jose. . . sought recently to have his operational cover lifted," Hayden told the employees, "and that, indeed, has proved to be possible. He is no longer undercover."
Hayden took the unusual step of outing Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, so he could participate on a panel on ethnic "diversity as an operational imperative" at a conference on border security in El Paso whomped up by Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Rodriguez became the agency's clandestine service chief after the upheaval at the CIA under its previous director, Porter Goss, one of Reyes' predecessors as chairman of the House Intelligence panel. Goss brought with him a coterie of congressional aides who clashed with career spies. Steven R. Kappes, then the agency's top spy -- the officer credited with persuading Libya's Moammar Kadafi to give up his nuclear bomb program -- quit in 2004 when he was ordered to demote his deputy, Michael Sulick.
Goss selected Rodriguez, then head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, to replace Kappes. Less than two years later, Goss was forced out as CIA director by the White House.
In outing Rodriguez, Hayden praised his "operational skill" and "reputation for leadership." Rodriguez, who compared losing his cover to "dropping trousers" in public, told the security conference that the intelligence agency needed people "of diverse ethnic backgrounds, with different languages and cultural backgrounds." He said only 14% of CIA officers are members of minority groups.
The CIA, criticized by the 9/11 commission for its lack of language skills and diversity, has been emphasizing minority recruitment of late. Hayden saw Rodriguez, with his Latino roots, as proof of the agency's willingness to embrace minority officers. The CIA director's decision to out him was made easier by the fact that Rodriguez had told Hayden that he planned to retire later this year.
Inside headquarters, Rodriguez is well regarded. "Everybody likes him," one former CIA official said, "although he is not considered a strong case officer."
Rodriguez spent most of his career in Latin America, including Mexico. In the pecking order of the clandestine service, Latin America is viewed as something of a backwater; the big players work in other parts of the world. "He wasn't in Europe, or Asia, the more important stations," a CIA man explained.
Even so, many rank-and-file colleagues were not displeased at his selection to head the clandestine service. But as a poster boy for diversity, Rodriguez does have some, well, drawbacks. He has a checkered past.
Ten years ago, Rodriguez was fired as chief of the CIA's Latin America division after he sought to intervene to help a friend who had been arrested in the Dominican Republic for possession of cocaine and illegal weapons. The friend had also worked for the CIA in the Dominican Republic.
Although Rodriguez didn't ask that the charges against his friend be dropped, he contacted the CIA station chief on the island and asked him to speak to local authorities about the case. The CIA referred Rodriguez's actions to the Justice Department to determine whether he had been committed a crime, but it found no grounds to prosecute. Rodriguez was removed as division chief, although allowed to remain in the CIA. At the time, the CIA inspector general criticized Rodriguez for "a remarkable lack of judgment." The demotion caused considerable grumbling inside the agency because, as one former officer put it, "Jose was very popular."
Identifying covert operatives has always been a sensitive subject. Richard Welch, station chief in Athens, was shot and killed in 1975 after his name appeared in "CounterSpy" and the Greek press. He had rejected security advice and moved into the same house occupied by previous station chiefs, an address that was well known.
In the case of Jose Rodriguez, the director of the CIA felt that any criticism that might result from unmasking the top spy's identity was outweighed by the need to emphasize the agency's goal of recruiting officers from a variety of backgrounds. Once a bastion of Ivy Leaguers who had gone to the right East Coast prep schools, the agency now seems to be trying, however haltingly, to cast a wider net.
C.I.A. RECRUITMENT - THE HIDDEN DIRT
Corruption & Abuses of Power in the CIA's Directorate of Operations
May 3rd, 2006: Break-in/ Burglary by CIA Goons
June/ July 2006: Government's Motion to Dismiss
CIA Recruitment - the Hidden Dirt - Home Page
Welcome to my webpage - a project to share with the public (and hopefully, through the public to some responsible people in the executive and legislative branches) some first-hand experiences of criminal corruption in the CIA's Directorate of Operations recruiting process - corruption that the Agency has gone way out of its way to keep under wraps.
All of what is described in this website took place not on the other side of the globe, in some bazaar in Kabul or back alley in Eastern Europe, but right here, in the United States - in places like suburban northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the backwaters of central New Jersey.
I think many people will be shocked by how the good people of the CIA put their tax dollars to work, and how, under the cloak of secrecy that goes with a spy agency, a sick, bizzare, cult-like and outright criminal culture has been allowed to develop, grow unchecked, and fester within the Agency's Directorate of Operations. This isn't about misconduct that happened way back in the Cold War, but a tale of contemporary corruption taking place as you read this.
I believe that the sunshine of public disclosure, and the resultant public scrutiny of official misconduct, are the best disinfectant for corruption by government officials. The misconduct and abuses of power described in this website led to a lawsuit against the Agency and some of its officials - official misconduct and civil rights violations running the gamut from extorting money and sex from recruits, soliciting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for favorable official treatment, illegal retaliation against prospective whistleblowers, and obstruction of justice. The case is currently being litigated, and its progress will be updated periodically on this web page.
I strongly believe in the primacy of law above everybody, big and small, and in the equality of all before the law - concepts that the CIA people I had the misfortune of dealing with, hold in utter disdain.
Not to mention that, from personal experience as a CIA whistleblower, the good folk of the CIA, overbearingly obnoxious with flagrant corruption and civil rights abuses when they think nobody's looking, tend to walk the straight and narrow, or at least the straight-ish and narrow-ish, when there's a prospect of scrutiny.
And so, over the coming weeks and months, I will post on this website the tale of my personal odyssey with CIA's Directorate of Operations, describing from personal experience, as well as first hand knowledge and observation:
Rampant and unchecked racism at the CIA - one of the last bastions in government where crass racist views are openly expressed, and where government officials holding such views are permitted to act out their racist fantasies with impunity.
Rampant corruption by agency officials, either encouraged or willfully ignored by higher ups in the CIA, including:
CIA recruiters soliciting quid pro quo sexual favors from prospective recruits in exchange for advancement within the agency, or in exchange for avoiding adverse official action.
Retaliation by CIA officials against prospective recruits who don't feel like sleeping with their Agency recruiters.
CIA recruiters extorting money for personal pecuniary gain and otherwise soliciting bribes from prospective recruits as a condition for the performance of official duties, or under the threat of adverse official action.
Kickback schemes organized by CIA recruiters.
Retaliation by CIA officials against prospective recruits who won't go along with getting shaken down by CIA recruiters.
Juvenile and depraved hazing rituals at the recruitment stage, that are allowed to go unchecked by the CIA's upper management.
A neo-naziesque and cult-like culture and atmosphere within the Agency's Directorate of Operations, that produces and fosters the production of officials whose loyalty to cult exceeds loyalty to the laws and constitution of the US.
Hazardous (and illegal) behavioral modification and conditioning processes to which prospective recruits are subjected - it's not like the movies, but it's pretty iffy and out there anyhow.
The relatively large number of scientologists within the Directorate of Operations (nothing wrong with that) who actively abuse their official position to proselytize about scientology and push dianetics on to prospective recruits (something very wrong with that).
Rampant religious discrimination within the Directorate of Operations.
The reaction of senior CIA officials who, when apprised of such abuses, make a beeline for the coverup/ avoid-embarassment route, and engage in even worse official corruption so as to to intimidate or silence would-be whistle blowers - another illustration of the-coverup-being-worse-than-the-crime.
The lengths (and they are great - I'm talking out-and-out criminal stuff here) to which Agency officials go, under the guise of the secrecy attendant upon the intelligence services, to intimidate whistle-blowers into silence.
Egregious abuses of governmental power and authority by CIA officials seeking to avoid embarassment.
The means and methods by which Agency officials co-opt, corrupt, and collude with local officials to intimidate would-be whistle blowers into remaining silent (did you know that the CIA actually has cleanup crews whose job boils down to coordinating with local authorities inside these United States to hush up misconduct by CIA personnell?)
Judicial corruption (not iffy conduct ala stretching the envelope of judicial discretion, but out-and-out judicial corruption as in case fixing) arranged by CIA officials.
The utter contempt in which Directorate of Operations personnel hold legislative oversight and monitoring by Congress - and the environment in which troubling views by government officials re legislative and judicial oversight are not only freely expressed, but fostered and encouraged by senior CIA officials.
Illegal spying by CIA personnel on US citizens, on US soil.
A plethora of dirty tricks utilized by CIA personnel inside the US, such as CIA officials running around impersonating journalists and other media figures - including the impersonation by CIA personnel of the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, as well as the impersonation by CIA personnel of congressional staffers.
The recklessness whereby CIA personnel thought it was funny to hand out scope-mounted assault rifles to prospective recruits with instructions to go after the President - probably doubly reckless in light of all the stories about the CIA and the Kennedy assasination (yes, the CIA, or at least some of its personnel, are into Manchurian Candidate type stuff - back in the 1970's, the CIA assured Congress that they were out of that line of business for good. They lied.
The understandably negative reaction of the Secret Service to CIA officials handing out scope-mounted rifles with instruction to go after the Chief Executive - this is the story, narrated here for the first time, behind the sudden "resignation" of former CIA director George Tenet, and the juicy details of what led to that "resignation" (Complaint, para. 104-108).