May 30, 2006

Kappes In Their Hands

Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times reports the imminent return of "storied operative" Stephen R. Kappes to the CIA fold.

In his old office at the Central Intelligence Agency, Stephen R. Kappes once hung a World War II-era British poster that announced, "Keep Calm and Carry On." He ignored this admonition 18 months ago, when he resigned in anger after bitter clashes with senior aides to Porter J. Goss.

But now Mr. Goss has been forced out as the agency's director, and Mr. Kappes is poised to return, with a promotion. He would become deputy director, under Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who won Senate confirmation on Friday.

A man of military bearing and a storied past, Mr. Kappes would become the first person since William E. Colby in 1973 to ascend to one of agency's top two positions from a career spent in the clandestine service. General Hayden has said that his return would be a signal that "amateur hour" is over at the C.I.A., which has seen little calm since Mr. Kappes's departure.

Kappes departed rather explosively in November, 2004 after "clashing" with Porter Goss aide Patrick Murray... and that itself is the subject of much angst and hand-wringing... why exactly did Kappes resign?

Many on the right are dreadfully worried about Kappes. They worry that he may have resigned in protest against Goss's attempt to terminate the CIA's long-running war against the Bush administration, fought mostly via leaks to Dana Priest and her colleagues at the Washington Post; Priest, you will recall, wrote the bizarre story about secret CIA prisons in Europe at which terrorist suspects were tortured, killed, and eaten (the bones too; nobody has found a trace of them).

She won a Pulitzer Prize for this reporting -- which was based entirely on anonymous leaks from within the Agency. Her story sparked a continent-wide investigation by Europeans intent upon ferreting out these evil American gulags; alas, they never could find any evidence of them, beyond rumor and the Post story... causing Big Lizards to speculate that the information could perhaps have been a "canary trap" designed to smoke out the leakers.

Longtime and very high ranking CIA analyst Mary O'Neil McCarthy was outed as one of the likely sources; she was terminated -- though not "with extreme prejudice" -- and remains under criminal investigation, though she has not yet been indicted or charged with any crime.

Back to Kappes. The vital question remains: does he represent the same "old guard" at the CIA that Mary McCarthy represents -- the group that refuses to shift out of its Cold War, September 10th mentality -- the group that is fighting a war against the Bush administration? Was Kappes fired because he was an obstacle to reform at the CIA?

Or does Kappes oppose this internecine warfare... and was he fired merely because he had a problem with the allegdly "abrasive" leadership of Murray? This is a question of monumental importance; understandably, the Times comes down on Kappes' side and argues that it's the latter:

The incident that directly led to his resignation occurred in November 2004, shortly after Mr. Goss took over at the agency. Patrick Murray, who was Mr. Goss's chief of staff, ordered Mr. Kappes to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, after Mr. Sulick had a testy exchange with Mr. Murray.

Mr. Kappes, who at the time was in charge of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, refused and chose to resign instead.

However, this is not very good evidence, because the Times would likely respond the same way whether they thought he was fired for the reasons stated -- because it embarassed Porter Goss, who was never a friend of the Times -- or they thought he was fired for supporting the leakers, because the New York Times loves the leakers. Defense from the antique media doesn't tell us anything about the circumstances of Kappes' resignation.

I've been trying to track down the source of the meme that Kappes was Leader of Leakers, or at least supported them against the Bush administration; but I'm having little luck. In an article in the Daily Standard from the same month which saw Kappes leave, Stephen F. Hayes, who I respect greatly, talked around the question of why Kappes left. Here is Hayes' only reference to Kappes in that contemporaneous piece:

According to the Post, top advisers to Goss are "disgruntled" former CIA officials "widely known" for their "abrasive management style" and for criticizing the agency. One left the CIA after an undistinguished intelligence career and another is known for being "highly partisan."

On the other side, though, are disinterested civil servants: an unnamed "highly respected case officer," and Stephen Kappes, deputy director for operations "whose accomplishments include persuading Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to renounce weapons of mass destruction this year." (Persuasion? Were the Iraq war and subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein mere details?)

With this description of the participants is it any wonder that the anti-Bush-administration leakers often choose the Washington Post?

Hayes clearly indicates that the Post is on the side of the leakers; but he says nothing about Kappes' position on the matter.

Last Monday, Hayes returned to the issue. In the intervening eighteen months, he has become more anti-Kappes... but he still can't seem to muster any believable evidence that Kappes supports leakers or the undeniable war waged by the CIA against Bush. First, Hayes expands upon the departure of Kappes a year and a half ago:

On November 5, Goss's new chief of staff Patrick Murray confronted Mary Margaret Graham, then serving as associate deputy director for counterterrorism in the directorate of operations. The two discussed several items, including the prospective replacement for Kostiw, a CIA veteran named Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. Murray had a simple message: No more leaks.

Graham took offense at the accusatory warning and notified her boss, Michael Sulick, who in turn notified his boss, Stephen Kappes. A meeting of Goss, Murray, Sulick, and Kappes followed. Goss attended most of the meeting, in which the two new CIA leaders reiterated their concern about leaks. After Goss left, Murray once again warned the two career CIA officials that leaks would not be tolerated. According to a source with knowledge of the incident, Sulick took offense, called Murray "a Hill puke," and threw a stack of papers in his direction.

Goss summoned Kappes the following day. Although others in the new CIA leadership believed Sulick's behavior was an act of insubordination worthy of firing, Goss didn't go quite that far. He ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a position outside of the building. Goss suggested Sulick be named New York City station chief. Kappes refused and threatened to resign if Sulick were reassigned. Goss accepted his resignation and Sulick soon followed him out the door.

Stephen Hayes is normally direct to the point of bluntness and meticulous in documenting his claims with evidentiary citation (though he inexplicably failed to include much in the way of footnoting in his otherwise excellent book the Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America). But note how vague he gets in defending Murray: "others in the new CIA leadership believed." Which others? Were they present at the meeting? Did they listen to both sides, or just to their chum (and boss) in the "new CIA leadership," Patrick Murray?

This vagueness becomes a pattern in Hayes's article.

My problem is that I can easily see both sides of this. I've had experience with bosses who came in with an agenda -- an agenda I agreed with and thought was a great idea -- but who were so personally abrasive that they alienated everyone around them. When I worked at Ashton-Tate, we got a new VP of Technology, or somesuch, brought in from the European side of the company. He was number two in our management heirarchy, second only to the slimey CEO, Ed Esber. He called a meeting of all the tech writers and informed us that we were "a necessary evil," and that "in a sane world, we could just fire all of you."

Upon later reflection, I figured out what he meant: he meant that the software itself should be designed to be self-explanatory. Anybody who has ever used dBASE knows how far we were from that ideal! But Mr. VP's method of expressing that idea left rather a lot to be desired, and it led to an open rebellion against him among many long-term employees... even those who agreed that dBASE IV was notoriously hard to use.

So it's entirely possible that Kappes might agree that ""C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject" -- and yet still erupt with anger at high-hatted management tactics, such as "warning" senior, senior officials that they'd better not leak... as if he already suspected them of being behind it all.

On the other hand, I can also see the possibility, though I think it very small, that Kappes might support the traditional bureaucracy über alles, and might even support the war against Bush. The problem is we don't know, and nothing Stephen Hayes says resolves this dilemma:

It remains unclear why the White House would think that the selection of Kappes, who left the CIA after his public dispute with Goss, might reassure members of Congress, especially Republicans, eager to reform the Agency. Former colleagues say that Kappes is a smart and savvy veteran of the Agency's operations side. He is not, however, a reformer. They describe Kappes as an ardent, sometimes reflexive, defender of the CIA bureaucracy.

"Former colleagues?" Would that include Patrick Murray and the aides he brought with him? What is this supposed to tell us?

Hayes notes that bringing Kappes back is clearly a repudiation of Goss... but for what -- his goal of purging the CIA of leakers, or the actual effect of driving out many others due to a lousy management style?

ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, guest-hosting the Charlie Rose show Monday night, interviewed former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin. Ross said that people he had spoken with "said that the selection of Kappes indicated the purge that Porter Goss had attempted was over, that it was back to business as usual as it had been 20 months ago." Ross asked McLaughlin: "Is that accurate?"

McLaughlin praised Kappes and replied, "Yeah, I think--I think that's basically an accurate assessment."

John McLaughlin rose to Deputy Director of the CIA under the Clinton-Tenet tenure, continuing under the Bush-Tenet period. When Tenet was booted, McLaughlin was named acting Director of Central Intelligence. It's entirely possible McLaughlin expected he would be named the actual DCI; when Porter Goss was named instead, McLaughlin retired from the agency a couple of months later -- right around the time Kappes resigned.

It's reasonable to suspect that, for reasons entirely personal, John McLaughlin may have a grudge against Porter Goss. So it's hardly surprising that McLaughlin would feel a bit of Schadenfreude at the return of Kappes and the discomfitting of Goss. Still, "business as usual as it had been 20 months ago" means right in the middle of McLaughlin's own tenure as acting director... so he probably doesn't think that's a slam.

Nevertheless, Hayes concludes by drawing a very large mountain out of a very noncommital molehill:

So it's business as usual at the CIA. The White House took on the Agency. And the Agency won.

But where is the evidence that Kappes supports the CIA's war against Bush? If Hayes had anything more explicit, wouldn't he have told us?

I have a serious problem with the basic idea. I find it nearly impossible to believe that President Bush would appoint a director who supported the CIA's war on Bush himself; and I find it equally hard to swallow that Director Michael Hayden, who presumably does not support the war on Bush, would nevertheless bring back a top CIA employee (with explicit White House urging) who supported the revolt. It's a fundamentally absurd premise.

Of course, absurd things can happen, especially in politics. But we shouldn't assume that only absurd things happen; therein lie the "black helicopters."

So until I see somebody present evidence a bit more compelling than what has come forth so far -- a couple of rumors attributed to unnamed "former colleagues" and "people [ABC's Brian Ross] had spoken to" -- I'm going to give Kappes the benefit of the doubt. Let's see if the leaking abates over the next six months... or whether it proceeds full scream ahead.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2006, at the time of 4:34 PM

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Comments

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

I think that your analysis is correct on this, and that Stephen Hayes, et al, have fallen into an all too familiar trap for conservatives: making the mistake of believing, if only in part, the nonsense that normally only Leftists with Bush Derangement Syndrome, which is pretty much all of them these days, believe all the time -- that Bush is an idiot.

Bush is not infallible, obviously, but he isn't completely stupid, either. So if a theory rests on the idea that Bush has made a mistake of some sort, it is plausible. If it rests on the idea of him doing something suicidally stupid, like acquiescing to the idea of Iranian nukes, abandoning Iraq before the elections, nominating a "closet Souter" to the SCOTUS, or deciding to let the CIA go back to sabotaging the war effort, it is complete and utter nonsense, no amount of so-called "evidence" or "informed" analysis to the contrary withstanding.

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 30, 2006 11:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

I think that your analysis is correct on this, and that Stephen Hayes, et al, have fallen into an all too familiar trap for conservatives: making the mistake of believing, if only in part, the nonsense that normally only Leftists with Bush Derangement Syndrome, which is pretty much all of them these days, believe all the time -- that Bush is an idiot.

Bush is not infallible, obviously, but he isn't completely stupid, either. So if a theory rests on the idea that Bush has made a mistake of some sort, it is plausible. If it rests on the idea of him doing something suicidally stupid, like acquiescing to the idea of Iranian nukes, abandoning Iraq before the elections, nominating a "closet Souter" to the SCOTUS, or deciding to let the CIA go back to sabotaging the war effort, it is complete and utter nonsense, no amount of so-called "evidence" or "informed" analysis to the contrary withstanding.

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 30, 2006 11:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

Fred:

The Bush Administration emphasizes its reliance on expert advice. I would suggest that the Negroponte side of the intelligence house, which is now most of it, did not agreed with Goss.

It is entirely likely that Negroponte's group contains sufficient numbers of old guard liberals that Bush accepted their advice to place Kappes back into the fold. It is also possible that this move was designed to placate those who say the agency has been gutted.

Time will tell, but I hope for the sake of the US that he gets back to work for the US not some ideological bent opposed to the US government.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 2:11 AM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

PS: And yes, the Bush Administration is the US government.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 2:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

Davod, I think it is obvious that Negroponte and Goss disagreed so much that Bush had to choose between them and that Negroponte won. Where I question your assumptions is with the idea that Negroponte is any sort of ally with or protector of the traitors, and there is no other word for them, in the CIA. After being nominated by Bush for his last two jobs, Negroponte was savaged by liberals, unwilling to forgive his past support of the Nicaraguan contras. I think the chances of him wishing the CIA's treasonous sniping to continue are about the same as they are for Bush and Hayden, which is ZERO.

So in conclusion if you wish to argue that Bush and Negroponte and Hayden have been misled on the subject of rehiring Kappes, that is plausible, but in that case if Kappes goes back to doing what you accuse him of doing, he will be fired again rather quickly. However, if you wish to argue that Bush and Negroponte and Hayden have knowingly acquiesced to continual treason from the CIA, IMHO you are spouting complete and utter nonsense.

The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 9:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

I think that the attempted Goss purge of the CIA leakers was a bust - There were so many that to get rid or control them all meant the agency ceased to have any meaningful function. Imagine trying to catch a bunch of people trained in deception and lying.

My theory is that Bust et all have accepted Kappes back to settle things down. Better an agency that is snipping at the president and doing something, than an agency falling apart and doing nothing.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 9:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Bush does know some things the rest of us don't. I mean he is the President, he does not have to speculate about his own motives and he does not have to justify every decision he makes to every pundit. So yeah, I doubt Bush is out to get himself. I say we do something people rarely do anymore, hold our fire until we know something for a fact.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2006 12:18 PM

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