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Stop The Spying Now

Stop the Spying!

Friday, November 2, 2007



Republicans like Mitt Romney just can't bring any change to American foreign policy. Mitt Romney's counter-terrorism advisor is also the vice-chair of Blackwater.

Blackwater's chief executive, Erik D. Prince, has testified before Congress about the killing of Iraqi civilians allegedly by Blackwater agents, but Black, who is vice chairman, has said little on the matter. Asked about the killings during a speech in Texas last month, he declined to comment beyond saying he had confidence in Blackwater agents.

Black, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is a fervent promoter of an expanded role for Blackwater, which is not named for him. In April 2006, he stunned a conference of former special forces soldiers by proposing to deploy Blackwater troops to global hot spots, including humanitarian crises such as the massacres in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Romney adviser at home in the spy world fray

On Sept. 19, 2001, J. Cofer Black, the director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, summoned two agents to his office.

"I want bin Laden's head shipped back in a box filled with dry ice," Black told them, one of the agents later reported. "I want to be able to show bin Laden's head to the president."

Black - who is now Mitt Romney's chief adviser on counterterrorism and national security - is a brash and tough-talking veteran spy. He is also controversial. Black is widely credited with trying to warn then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about Al Qaeda in the summer of 2001, but an internal CIA report last summer criticized his counterterrorist center, saying it lacked an effective strategy before Sept. 11.

Now Black is facing more scrutiny for his current role as a top executive of Blackwater Worldwide, the international security firm whose alleged killing of 17 Iraqis prompted a congressional investigation and a demand from the Iraqi government that the firm withdraw from the country.

Romney has called the allegations against Blackwater troubling, but said he is waiting for a State Department investigation to be completed before making an official pronouncement on the firm. But he proudly invokes Black's name on the campaign trail, mentioning his 28 years in the CIA to lend himself credibility on counterterrorism issues.

GLOBE GRAPHIC: Advisers to administrations

Black and Romney - who met about a year ago through Steven Schrage, Romney's foreign policy director - have had "a lot of open conversations in the context of developing the counterterrorism pieces" of Romney's agenda, Schrage said. In general, Schrage said, Black's views are "very much in synch with the governor's."

Indeed, some observers say they see Black's influence in many of Romney's hard-line statements, including his surprising declaration that he wants to double the size of Guantanamo Bay, the prison in which suspects are held without full legal rights; his endorsement of tough interrogation techniques; his praise for the Patriot Act; and his support for some aggressive surveillance policies.

Black is widely respected among security specialists for his ground-level view of terrorism. As a station chief in Sudan in the 1990s, he tracked bin Laden and eluded an assassination plot by the terrorist leader's henchmen. In the same role, he also helped track down Carlos the Jackal, a Venezuelan-born terrorist wanted for taking hostages at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' 1975 conference in Vienna.

But Black's management style and ability to map out a broad strategy to counter terrorism have been criticized. In addition, his statement in 2002 that "After 9/11 the gloves come off," was interpreted by some as evidence that the CIA tacitly condones torture.

"He's among the least airbrushed of the people to whom you might turn for advice in the antiterrorism world," said Jamie S. Gorelick, a Democratic member of the 9/11 Commission, which interviewed Black. "But he is not a data-driven, analytical manager, more like what you imagine a CIA operative would be like than most who are actually" in the CIA.Continued...

Schrage declined to say whether Black would be asked to join a Romney administration, but many people in the national security field expect that Black would play a leading role in a Romney presidency, making Black a potentially pivotal figure for a former governor with little foreign policy and counterterrorism experience.

"He's a practicing counterterrorism professional who's gone out and chased down terrorists," said James Jay Carafano, a counterterrorism specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "He'd be an asset to any administration."

Blackwater's chief executive, Erik D. Prince, has testified before Congress about the killing of Iraqi civilians allegedly by Blackwater agents, but Black, who is vice chairman, has said little on the matter. Asked about the killings during a speech in Texas last month, he declined to comment beyond saying he had confidence in Blackwater agents.

Black, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is a fervent promoter of an expanded role for Blackwater, which is not named for him. In April 2006, he stunned a conference of former special forces soldiers by proposing to deploy Blackwater troops to global hot spots, including humanitarian crises such as the massacres in the Darfur region of Sudan.

"Blackwater spends a lot of time thinking, 'How can we contribute to the common good?' " Black told the Special Operations Forces Exhibition in Jordan, according to Defense News, a military publication.

Black argued that big military operations tend to get mired in NATO's bureaucracy and that Blackwater could easily send "a brigade-sized peacekeeping unit," typically about 5,000 troops, "for a fraction of the cost of NATO operations."

Tall, balding, and bespectacled, Black, 57, does not look like a Hollywood spy, but he had a storied career in the CIA.

He grew up in Stamford, Conn., and his father, an airline pilot, often took him to Africa to explore, according to the book "Ghost Wars," by Steve Coll. In 1974, not long out of the University of Southern California, Black joined the CIA. He was 24.

After two decades as an agent in Africa, Black scored his most famous success in 1994, when he helped find Carlos the Jackal in Khartoum, Sudan. The terrorist was one of the most notorious criminals of the 1970s, and had been on the run since then. His arrest made headlines worldwide, particularly in France, where he was wanted for several bombings. Black celebrated by popping open champagne.

In 1999, Black took over the Counterterrorist Center and its staff of about 300.

Al Qaeda was just one of many threats the center was watching. But in July 2001, Black compiled a report on Al Qaeda that was so chilling "it made my hair stand on end," CIA Director George Tenet wrote later. Black and Tenet presented the findings to Rice.

"This country needs to go on a war footing now," Black said, according to Tenet.

Two months later, Al Qaeda attacked.

"We ran out of time before effective counteraction was really taken," Black said in the speech last month in Texas, according to the Daily Toreador, the student newspaper of Texas Tech University. Black had been seeking to send armed drones into Afghanistan to kill bin Laden, according to the 9/11 Commission.

In August, a report by the CIA's inspector general on accountability for Sept. 11 found problems with Black's Counterterrorist Center, however. The report said the center had a "nearly exclusive focus" on individual operations to root out terrorists that resulted in "many successes," but it did not have an overall strategy for combating terrorism.

It said the center knew in 2000 that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, may have been in the United States, but the center never gave the information to the FBI. It said that the center's bin Laden unit had an excessive workload and that most of its officers lacked experience, expertise, and training.

And it said the center failed to effectively track Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The inspector general recommended that an "accountability panel" review the center's management and oversight before Sept. 11.

Black has not publicly addressed the report but has in the past dismissed such criticism.

"Life is lost in the immediate short term, and it is nice to say, you know, 'Let's allocate people to think large thoughts, let's look over the horizon,' " Black told NPR in 2005. "But people die in the short term, and the drive is always to put your resources where you can save the most amount of life, and that's the threats that are coming at you at this moment."

After Sept. 11, 2001, Black's power grew.

On Sept. 13, 2001, he delivered a theatrical pitch to President Bush in the White House situation room, popping up and down in his chair and throwing paper on the floor as he made the case for a CIA operation against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"When we're through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs," Black declared, according to "Bush at War," by Bob Woodward. The phrase was so indelible, Woodward writes, that Black became known in Bush's inner circle as "the flies-on-the-eyeballs guy."

Black directed a CIA plan to topple the Taliban and bring bin Laden's head in a box, according to the book "First In," by former CIA agent Gary C. Schroen.

Black left the CIA in 2002, went to the State Department for two years, and then left to join Blackwater in February 2005. This year, he helped launch Total Intelligence Solutions, a company that "brings CIA-style intelligence services to Fortune 500" companies, according to its website.

In April, Romney named Black his "senior adviser for counterterrorism and national security issues," and, in September, the chairman of his 10-member "Counterterrorism Policy Advisory Group."

Romney often invokes Black when talking about terrorism.

"One of my advisors is a man named Cofer Black who for 25 or 30 years was the head of counterterrorism for the CIA," Romney boasted to voters in Iowa last month.

"And they talk about a circumstance where if you know that there is a bomb in America that is going to go off and kill American lives, then what kind of interrogation technique can you use against that individual . . . Torture? No. But [saying] precisely what we're going to do and publish[ing] that for the bad guys? We're not doing that either. Not in my view.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company. 1 2 3 Next

J. Cofer Black

J. Cofer Black



Mr. Chairman, I am honored to be here. I appreciate your offer for me to speak from behind a screen in order to protect me. Nomally, I would have accepted. This hearing is more important. I do not want to be only a voice. The American people need to see my face. I want to look the American people in the eye.


My name is Cofer Black. I served as the Director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1999 until may of 2002. I hope these proceedings provide the relatives and loved ones of those lost some of the answers they seek. We are meeting here today because of the murder of more than 3,000 innocents on 9/11. We provided strategic warning. Despite our intense efforts we were unable to provide tactical warning on 9/11.

Two Months Before 9/11, an Urgent Warning to Rice

Sunday, October 1, 2006; Page A17

On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, from the car and said he needed to see her right away. There was no practical way she could refuse such a request from the CIA director.

For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders called "findings" that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Perhaps a dramatic appearance -- Black called it an "out of cycle" session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice -- would get her attention.

Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence he'd seen. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming. He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.

He did not know when, where or how, but Tenet felt there was too much noise in the intelligence systems. Two weeks earlier, he had told Richard A. Clarke, the National Security Council's counterterrorism director: "It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one."

But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had questioned all the National Security Agency intercepts and other intelligence. Could all this be a grand deception? Rumsfeld had asked. Perhaps it was a plan to measure U.S. reactions and defenses.

Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts, and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined "Bin Laden Threats Are Real."

Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice. He and Black, a veteran covert operator, had two main points when they met with her. First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment -- covert, military, whatever -- to thwart bin Laden.

The United States had human and technical sources, and all the intelligence was consistent, the two men told Rice. Black acknowledged that some of it was uncertain "voodoo" but said it was often this voodoo that was the best indicator.

Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn't want to swat at flies.

As they all knew, a coherent plan for covert action against bin Laden was in the pipeline, but it would take some time. In recent closed-door meetings the entire National Security Council apparatus had been considering action against bin Laden, including using a new secret weapon: the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, that could fire Hellfire missiles to kill him or his lieutenants. It looked like a possible solution, but there was a raging debate between the CIA and the Pentagon about who would pay for it and who would have authority to shoot.

Besides, Rice seemed focused on other administration priorities, especially the ballistic missile defense system that Bush had campaigned on. She was in a different place.

Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. Black felt the decision to just keep planning was a sustained policy failure. Rice and the Bush team had been in hibernation too long. "Adults should not have a system like this," he said later.

The July 10 meeting between Tenet, Black and Rice went unmentioned in the various reports of investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, but it stood out in the minds of Tenet and Black as the starkest warning they had given the White House on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork on the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about.

Philip D. Zelikow, the aggressive executive director of the Sept. 11 commission and a University of Virginia professor who had co-authored a book with Rice on Germany, knew something about the July 10 meeting, but it was not clear to him what immediate action really would have meant. In 2005 Rice hired Zelikow as a top aide at the State Department.

Afterward, Tenet looked back on the meeting with Rice as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the threat, but she just didn't get it in time, Tenet thought. He felt that he had done his job and had been very direct about the threat, but that Rice had not moved quickly. He felt she was not organized and did not push people, as he tried to do at the CIA.

Black later said, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."


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