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CIA set up bogus companies after 9/11

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February 18, 2008

Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, the US Central Intelligence Agency set up 12 bogus companies in Europe and other parts of the world in the hope of penetrating Islamic organizations, The Los Angeles Times reported on its website late Saturday.

But citing current and former CIA officials, the newspaper said the agency had now shut down all but two of them after concluding they were ill-conceived.

The firms were part of an ambitious plan to increase the number of CIA case officers sent overseas under what is known as “nonofficial cover” in order to increase the agency’s potential for penetrating Islamic networks, the report said.

According to the paper, the agents posed as employees of investment banks, consulting firms or other fictitious enterprises with no apparent ties to the US government.

But the plan became the source of significant dispute within the agency, The Times noted.

The CIA-run “companies” were located far from Muslim enclaves in Europe and other targets, and their size raised concerns that one mistake would blow the cover of many agents, the report noted.

In addition, because businessmen don’t usually come into contact with Al-Qaeda operatives, the cover didn’t work, The Times said.

Officials say the CIA’s efforts to use corporate disguises have yet to produce a significant penetration of terrorist or weapons proliferation networks, the paper pointed out.

10 Responses to CIA set up bogus companies after 9/11

  1. Sandra Price

    February 18, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Did our Congress know about this? Did they agree on this action? Did they question why and how much this would cost the tax payers. The CIA was looking for connections between business people and Al Qaeda outside of America? If this was done under the usual inefficient leadership of the Bush Administration, we apparent blew more millions for nothing.

  2. Flapsaddle

    February 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I’m curious to know whether or not any of the companies was named “Acme” and the owner of record was one Wile E. Coyote.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  3. JudyB

    February 18, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Bogus and/or illegal could be appliied to most everything the Bush administration is responsible for.

    I too am interested in knowing if Congress was made aware of this plan. However, Bush has had no problem in $pending Bazillion$$ dollar$, on hi$ project$, and in fact, outing our agents without Congressional approval.
    When the new President takes office he/she will find hundreds of activities heretofore unknown to the taxpaying public.

    What a disaster this past seven years have been to this nation and the full extent of it is still not known!

  4. Flapsaddle

    February 18, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    CIA foreign operations are generally legal; it is domestic operations that are forbidden. Further, a “black” operation would not go through a Congressional approval process, though key Congresscritters of both houses serving on the intelligence committees would probably be briefed directly or by a WH gofer.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  5. Sandra Price

    February 18, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I realize that the CIA handles foreign operations and many things have been discussed as coming from a secret CIA source. Much of what has been written exposes tons of bad actions by the White House such as the various torture areas that have to be moved around Europe. I remember an expose from Scotland, Ireland, Germany when many “enemy” prisoners were questioned. Several people questioned had made reference to 9/11 coming from the White House. I believe it was from Scotland that the FBI was sent copies of emails to and from the White House on and before 9/11. The writer of this information said the CIA can not be trusted so he sent it to the FBI. I wonder if they are any better.

    Is there any part of the Federal Government that can be trusted? Would Obama clean it up? Does anyone really want to? Of the 3 candidates, Obama is the only one I would trust as the other two are part of the problem.

    We have a lot of cleaning up to do but I keep fearing for Obama’s life. Michelle will be on with Larry King tonight.

  6. pollchecker

    February 18, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    “CIA foreign operations are generally legal;”

    Wasn’t the CIA recently indicted in Itally for their ILLEGAL operations last year?

    Wasn’t it that indictment that led to the missing email controversy?

    Were’t there all these illegal safehouses scattered all over Europe where they were torturing terrorist suspects like the Canadian guy that ended up being innocent of any charges?

  7. Flapsaddle

    February 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    The CIA’s foreign operations are legal in terms of US law; AFAIK, all nations have laws or very strong restrictions against spying by foreign governments, even friendly/allied foreign governments.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  8. pollchecker

    February 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Hmmmm. This sure does sound like entrapment to me.

    I thought entrapment was illegal as well.

  9. Flapsaddle

    February 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Entrapment would apply only if you are planning to bring the bad guys into court. I don’t think the CIA does a lot of that. Also, entrapment would require you to encourage the person(s) to do something illegal that they might not otherwise be inclined to do.

    Normally, the purpose of such operations is to detect and defeat the adversary’s plan with no intention of bringing the matter before a magistrate.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  10. adb8917

    February 18, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    For what it’s worth, there is precedence for the CIA’s efforts to use commercial fronts to get next to the enemy. This was done globally during the Cold War, and in some cases the efforts actually — and embarrassingly — turned a profit, although that was never the objective.

    Civil Air Transport (CAT) — created by General Claire Chennault, run out of Taiwan, and actively supported by Madame and General Chiang Kai-Shek — now China Air, and our beloved Air America are two such examples of enterprises run in the Far East. Other entities such as the Arab American Oil Company (ARAMCO) were either set up to support a foreign policy initiative and/or had close affiliations with ours and the British secret services. The Russians and Chinese were no slouches either; particularly through the Hong Kong Seamen’s Union in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    James Agee’s infamous 1975 book “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” identified others, including the Center for Economic and Social Reform Studies (CERES) as a businessman’s organization controlled by CIA Quito, Ecuador; the Communications Workers of American (CWA) union fronted CIA support operations through the Post, Telegraph and Telephone Workers International (PTTI); Lone Star Cement Corporation’s Uruguayan subsidiary Montevideo Portland Cement provided agent cover; First National City Bank — the precursor to Citibank — also provided banking services AND cover to field agents; and for those of you who remember their James Bond, Universal Exports — or was that Imports?.

    The impetus for the activity goes back to, at least, the time between WWI and WWII when the British and the Russians were engaged in “The Great Game” looking for advantages in the Middle East and Central Asia; although other forms of the game were being played at the end of the 19th Century.

    More to the point, this is exactly what we pay the CIA to do. This effort results in HUMINT (Human Intelligence) in ways that ELINT, COMINT, and the National Reconnaissance Office’s satellites can’t. It comes with risks because it’s face-to-face, and it can be spun by skilled and duplicitous “double agents;” but it is the intelligence professionals best working tool to find “ground truth.”

    Of course there is the issue of them deploying field agents in “non-official” capacities. If it was an attempt for them to “cross train” non-Arabic speaking operatives, that’s probably a good thing. If it was an attempt to pad the payroll and keep agents who weren’t mission focused, then it was a bureaucratic error — and part of the Washington, DC budget “game.” I say more power to them that they’re practicing their tradecraft, and that they had the wit to see that it wasn’t working.

    ADB