12 Sep 2006

CIA Officers Insuring Against Democrat Victory in November

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Democrat control of either house of Congress will almost certainly result in grandstanding Congressional committees investigating alleged violations of international law and human rights in the detention and interrogation of terrorists. It has been generally recognized that restraints on US Intelligence operations imposed as a result of the 1970s Frank Church-led CIA hearings had a great deal to do with the government’s failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. The consequences of another Congressional Intelligence witch hunt are likely to be just as devastating.

The Washington Post reports that CIA officers are buying Congressional politics insurance.

It takes our own unique combination of vicious partisanship, habitual domestic treason, and opportunistic litigation to produce the need for such insurance for those who protect America from foreign enemies. We could translate Juvenal’s Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? differently today: Who will defend our defenders

CIA counterterrorism officers have signed up in growing numbers for a government-reimbursed, private insurance plan that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing, according to current and former intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the program…

Justice Department political appointees have strongly backed the CIA interrogations. But “there are a lot of people who think that subpoenas could be coming” from Congress after the November elections or from federal prosecutors if Democrats capture the White House in 2008, said a retired senior intelligence officer who remains in contact with former colleagues in the agency’s Directorate of Operations, which ran the secret prisons.

“People are worried about a pendulum swing” that could lead to accusations of wrongdoing, said another former CIA officer.

The insurance policies were bought from Arlington-based Wright and Co., a subsidiary of the private Special Agents Mutual Benefit Association created by former FBI officials. The CIA has encouraged many of its officers to take out the insurance, current and former intelligence officials said, but no one interviewed would reveal precisely how many have bought policies…

The insurance, costing about $300 a year, would pay as much as $200,000 toward legal expenses and $1 million in civil judgments. Since the late 1990s, the CIA’s senior managers have been eligible for reimbursement of half the insurance premium.

In December 2001, with congressional authorization, the CIA expanded the reimbursements to 100 percent for CIA counterterrorism officers. That was about the time J. Cofer Black, then the CIA’s counterterrorism chief, told Bush that “the gloves come off” and promised “heads on spikes” in the counterterrorism effort.

“Why would [CIA officers] take any risks in their professional duties if the government was unwilling to cover the cost of their liability?” asked Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), a former CIA officer, during congressional debate that year.

Although suing federal officials for their actions is not easy, it is possible; the Supreme Court left the door ajar in two rulings. It ruled in 1971 that six narcotics agents could be sued for monetary damages arising from a warrantless search. Eleven years later, it held that government officials should be immune from civil liability only if their conduct does not violate clear statutory or constitutional rights that should be known by “a reasonable person.”

William L. Bransford, a senior partner at the law firm that defends people who take out the insurance, said he is unaware of any recent increase in claims. But agency officials said that interest has been stoked over the years by the $2 million legal bill incurred by CIA officer Clair George before his 1992 conviction for lying to Congress about the Iran-contra arms sales; by the Justice Department’s lengthy investigation of CIA officers for allegedly lying to Congress about the agency’s role in shooting down a civilian aircraft in 2001 in Peru; and by other events.

CIA employees outside the counterterrorism field who are eligible for reimbursement include the agency’s supervisors, attorneys, equal-opportunity- employment counselors, auditors, polygraph examiners, security adjudicators, grievance officers, inspectors general and internal investigators, he said. One in 10 eligible employees sought reimbursement last year, Mansfield said, adding that the fraction from previous years and a breakdown on those in the counterterrorism field were not immediately available.

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