Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Media Shy Spy Guy

UPDATE: "A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment about whether [the C.I.A’s No. 2 official Stephen R. Kappes] had decided to stay in his current job."--New York Times (1-6-09)

The New York Times (1-6-09) reports:

President-elect Barack Obama and his top aides called lawmakers, deployed surrogates and offered public testimonials on Tuesday as they scrambled to mend a divide in Democratic ranks over the nomination of Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, to take over the Central Intelligence Agency...

Mr. Obama said Tuesday that Mr. Panetta and other members of the new administration would be “committed to breaking with some of the past practices” that had “tarnished the image” of the United States’ intelligence agencies...

But transition officials said Mr. Obama also intended to keep the C.I.A’s No. 2 official, Stephen R. Kappes, a highly regarded former Marine officer and agency veteran...

Mr. Kappes left the agency in 2004 after a clash with Porter J. Goss, then the C.I.A. director, but agreed to return in 2006 under a new director, Michael V. Hayden, in a move that lifted morale among clandestine officers.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment about whether Mr. Kappes had decided to stay in his current job. [Full text]

Original Post:

Mark Hosenball of Newsweek (12-19-08) reports that President-elect Obama may select "media-shy spy" CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes [See official biography] to head the CIA:

...Obama and his advisors are still fretting about a new CIA director. Intel transition team leader [John O.] Brennan [my link] was the leading candidate to assume command of his former agency until liberal bloggers complained that he had publicly defended controversial Bush Administration policies on the imprisonment and interrogation of top Al-Qaeda operatives held and roughly questioned by the CIA. Brennan then removed himself from consideration (though he stayed in charge of the transition effort). But his withdrawal raised questions as to whether anyone from CIA associated with Bush Administration policies could pass muster with Obama's political base. Democratic sources have indicated nonetheless that a leading candidate still being considered by Obama for CIA chief is the agency's current deputy director, Stephen Kappes--a veteran but media-shy spy who almost certainly was involved in the agency's handling of terrorist suspects while serving as Number Two in the Operations Directorate between 2002 and 2004. Kappes was driven out of the agency when Republican Congressman Porter Goss and a coterie of hyper-partisan Capitol Hill aides took control at Langley in 2004; he was invited back after Goss and his team were forced out by John Negroponte, then serving as Intelligence Czar. Kappes’ willingness to stand up to the Republicans may well have endeared him to Democrats who follow intelligence issues closely, and may be why Kappes' candidacy for CIA chief hasn't yet foundered on the same shoals that damaged Brennan's prospects. One person close to the transition said that Kappes' overall qualifications for CIA chief were so formidable that confronting left-wing critics over him was a fight that Obama not only ought to join but that the new president would have little difficulty winning. [Full text]

In another article, Mark Hosenball of Newsweek (Published 12-13-08/Issue 12-22-08) reports:

...Several people close to the Obama transition, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive deliberations, say the leading candidate to replace Hayden is his deputy, Stephen Kappes, who was No. 2 in the CIA's covert-ops division from 2002 to 2004, which means he was almost surely involved in interrogation policy. But Kappes's backers say he was working on counterintel issues—uncovering moles—when the CIA set up its "secret prison" network. If Kappes's star falls, other CIA candidates are said to include another former senior spy, Mary Margaret Graham, and former congressman Tim Roemer, an intel-reform advocate. [Full text]

Deputy Director Kappes also has his detractors such as Kenneth R. Timmerman, former Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, and others.

Timmerman (5-31-06) writes:

Rep. Curt Weldon (R.-Pa.) believes Kappes was a disaster as head of the CIA's directorate of operations, and called him "the ringleader of an internal CIA rebellion" against Goss. "He was one of many in the CIA resistant to needed reforms."

In Countdown to Terror, Weldon says Kappes point-blank refused repeated pleas -- backed by then-CIA Director George Tenet -- to travel to Paris to meet with a potential Iranian source who claimed to have intelligence on Iran’s nuclear programs and on Iran's ties to Osama Bin Laden.

Weldon encouraged Kappes to investigate the credentials of his source, but got nowhere. "Finally, Kappes threatened me too. He warned me to stop working with [the source]… Fortunately, Kappes has now resigned from the CIA."

However, Kappes wasn't gone from the CIA for long; and when he returned, he was made Deputy Director.

Now I took a look at Rep. Weldon's book Countdown to Terror and thought it was one of the goofiest books I had ever read. Weldon seemed to think he had cultivated an important Iranian source. I think Weldon was being scammed.

Weldon is also being investigated by the Justice Department. Kim Zigfeld of Pajamas Media (6-12-08) has an article about Weldon's legal problems. Curt Weldon seems to have dragged a lot of his associates down with him, too.

Pajamas Media (6-12-08) explains:

[T]he Wall Street Journal is reporting that a former congressional aide of Weldon’s has “admitted in court proceedings that his wife received unreported payments from an arms-control group with ties to top security officials in the Russian government. Rep. Weldon had sought a federal grant for the Russian organization, known as International Exchange Group [IEG], according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Rep. Weldon’s former aide, Russell Caso, pleaded guilty in December to failing to disclose payments made to his wife, but the origin of the funds wasn’t identified.”

The WSJ concludes: “The Weldon inquiry is significant in part because it is an element of a broader U.S. Justice Department probe into what officials suspect are efforts by Russian-backed firms to gain influence or gather information in Washington.” That’s the polite way of saying that, knowingly or unknowingly, Weldon may have been spying for the Kremlin.

Maybe Congressman Weldon should have listened when Mr. Kappes advised him to stop working with foreign agents.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Weldon, because all his underlings are cooperating with government investigators.

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