CIA Assistant Director “Retires”

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

So, today we learn that CIA Assistant Director Steve Kappes will be “retiring“.

He got to be involved in torture, rise up in the ranks, oversea botched missions and failed station’s where he put “his people” in place. Mission accomplished. Time to enjoy himself till the next Republican administration!

So, who was Steve Kappes?

This expose’ details his career. It is six pages long and worth the time to go read it. I’ll highlight some of the worst from it.

“The past” had sunk Obama’s first choice for CIA director, John Brennan, even before he was nominated. As head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center in 2004-05, Brennan was maligned as too much a cog in the agency’s machinery of waterboarding and secret prisons.

By that standard, Kappes should have been even more toxic. As a senior official in the agency’s Directorate of Operations after September 11, 2001-first as deputy director and then director before the blowup with Goss-he had been involved in the activities that so many Democrats had denounced.

When Obama’s intelligence transition team had visited Langley, it had gotten a pitch from Kappes and other CIA officials to “retain the option of reestablishing secret prisons and using aggressive interrogation methods,” according to an anecdote buried in a Washington Post story.

Wanted to be able to continue torturing? Check.

The bombing of the CIA station in Khost, Afghanistan, on December 30 by a Jordanian double agent wearing an explosive vest was a heavy blow to an agency that has struggled to navigate the post-9/11 world. When the Jordanian was escorted into the CIA’s secret compound in Khost, he hadn’t been frisked, according to news accounts. The explosion killed seven CIA officers, including the chief of base, a mother of three who was the agency’s top expert on al-Qaeda.


Khost “was really ugly,” says Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Many in the intelligence community believe it to be the single worst attack in the agency’s history. And Kappes, suggests Hoekstra, has to take some responsibility for that.

“He’s running field operations, engaged in day-to-day activities,” says Hoekstra. “I heard Kappes personally briefed the President on the guy they were meeting in Khost. They thought they were meeting a rock star.”

Presided over a CIA station being bombed? Check.

In 1988-89, when Kappes was deputy chief of Frankfurt station, he was responsible for penetrating Iran’s virulently anti-US theocracy and its nascent nuclear program. By 1989, “virtually the entire US intelligence apparatus in Iran had been detected and successfully disrupted by the Iranians,” according to a little-noticed account corroborated in general terms by former US officials and other sources.

“This may be exaggerated, but there was little denying the scale of the CIA’s humiliation,” Mahan Abedin, director of research at the London-based Centre for the Study of Terrorism, was quoted as saying in 2007.

Have his entire operation exposed in Iran? Check.

Another operation that Kappes approved blew up in the CIA’s face. It was run by Kappes’s friend Jeffrey Castelli; they had served together in their first overseas postings, in India and Pakistan.

Castelli was CIA station chief in Rome in 2003 when an agency team snatched an al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Omar off a Milan street and flew him to Cairo for interrogation. Italian antiterrorism police had had Omar (real name: Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr) in their sights and were monitoring his phone in Milan when he was provisionally released by the Egyptians. They listened as he described his abduction from Milan by the Americans and said he’d been tortured.

Using the time and place of Omar’s kidnapping, Milan authorities-who had opened a kidnapping investigation-were able to pinpoint cell-phone calls along the CIA team’s escape route and trace them to their owners. That led them to the agents’ hotel-registration and car-rental records, including photocopies of their passports. As it turned out, they had used their phones for both business and personal use, calling spouses and girlfriends as well as CIA offices, in violation of every rule in the espionage handbook.

When police raided the home of the CIA base chief, Robert Lady, who had fled only hours before, they discovered boxes and computer files full of incriminating evidence, including surveillance photos of Abu Omar.

The Italian prosecutor got arrest warrants for the 26 Americans involved, all but one CIA agents. The affair, including a trial in absentia, turned into a cartoon of the “rogue” Bush administration-and CIA ineptitude.

Have 23 CIA agents tried for crimes in Italy which forced your station chief to flee the country? Check.

“He became ADDO in the fall of 2002,” Sifton said, “just as the CIA was expanding its program for secret prisons and harsh interrogations and as it continued its renditions program with zeal.”

In at least one case, Kappes didn’t stay far away, sources say. According to an internal investigation, he helped tailor the agency’s paper trail regarding the death of a detainee at a secret CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan, known internally as the Salt Pit.

The detainee froze to death after being doused with water, stripped naked, and left alone overnight, according to reports in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. He was secretly buried and his death kept “off-the-books,” the Post said.

Cover up the death of a detainee? Check.

The CIA’s Baghdad station was a mess from the start, according to sources.

In his book, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, Ishmael Jones offers a blistering depiction, saying it was bloated by hundreds of support personnel, many of whom, he writes, spent their days watching movies, playing games, and messaging friends on their computers. Intelligence-gathering outside the Green Zone was negligible. Only five or six officers spoke Arabic, the agency would later concede. Sex between officers and subordinates was common-sometimes blithely performed in view of surveillance cameras in the parking lot. The videos were passed around by superiors, he charges, before the most egregious miscreants were sent packing.

Put in place incompetent station chief? Check.

To his knowledge, he says, Kappes “has not dismissed any case officer for misconduct.”

Except, perhaps, when his hand was forced.

In January 2009, news broke that the CIA station chief in Algiers, Andrew Warren, had been sent packing by the American ambassador after two local women charged him with date rape.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said she first heard about the incident on ABC News. Panetta was left to grovel before her panel in an open hearing.

“Current management’s decision not to notify Congress of the case when it came to light last October was incorrect,” he said.

Current management? That would be Kappes.

Another station chief in trouble, ultimately to face charges, after Kappes sat on his hands? Check.

In other words, this guy was a fucking walking CIA disaster waiting to happen, and it frequently did under his “leadership”. I’m SURE we can’t wait till the next Republican President puts him in charge of the CIA!


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  1. The successor, Michael Morell

    Morell, 51, is a 30-year CIA veteran currently serving as director for intelligence, the agency’s analytic branch. He served as a senior briefer to presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and according to published accounts was with Bush in Florida on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked.

    • Xanthe on April 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    is waiting for his presence – you know, ordering furniture for the new office, interviewing assistants, will he get a car, I wonder.

    Good times!

  2. … the rest of us can only dream of, no doubt. Paid for on our tax dime.

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