The CIA is not supposed to do domestic propaganda, because we’re the good guys. That’s how we can tell ourselves from the Russians: they use propaganda.
We use Twitter. When we use Twitter, it’s not propaganda, it’s outreach. When they use Twitter, it’s troll-farms and propaganda.
The CIA’s Twitter feed has 2.4 million followers who, I’m sure we all believe, are all real people. There is nobody who “likes” and “retweets” CIA stories to help “amplify” the “message.”
The New York Times and The Intercept are both reporting on this story, which is nice – I’m surprised that The New York Times wasn’t asked to hold off on saying anything critical, as they have so many times, before. You should listen to the amazing interview with James Risen, in which he describes how the CIA spiked NYT stories because they were too near the elections and might influence voters, at the CIA’s request. Risen summarizes it here: [inter]
Remember, influencing voters by manipulating their perceptions of events: we don’t do that. That is what Russians do. That is why Russians are Bad.
To promote a more positive view of Ms. Haspel, the agency has declassified secrets about her life as a globe-trotting spy and encouraged former clandestine officers – typically expected to remain quiet even in retirement – to grant interviews. It sought to generate favorable news coverage by providing selective biographical details about Ms. Haspel to reporters, then sent a news release to highlight the resulting stories.
The secrets they have declassified are not, of course, the ones that Haspel ordered destroyed* – this is not “a campaign of leaks” because the leaks have been conveniently un-leaked for political reasons. Remember: Scooter Libby was sent to prison for leaking stuff about a CIA officer. He should have said he was doing marketing outreach.
The New York Times‘ reporting is still watered-down:
As for her role of running the prison when a suspect was waterboarded, Ms. Haspel is seen inside the C.I.A. as having loyally followed lawful orders.
Look, the CIA even had a hard look at itself in the mirror, and exonerated itself:
The Intercept‘s coverage of the propaganda campaign has a completely different spin [audio episode here] – Scahill makes an oblique reference to the CIA using astroturfing/sockpuppet software to amplify the Twitter “outreach” – you know, like Russians do. Except Russians are Bad. I know for a fact that sockpuppeting software exists and is used (various versions) by intelligence agencies worldwide.
So, if the CIA cleared Haspel of the destruction of the waterboarding tapes, that must mean they know who actually ordered and implemented their destruction. What the CIA is doing is playing along with Obama’s “we need to look forward” hand: what happened is somehow not even a crime, so the evidence wasn’t “evidence” because there was no “crime” – none of that reasoning would survive 10 seconds in front of a prosecutor or a judge.
Isn’t the CIA going to even bother finding some useful idiot that they can fling under a bus? It appears not: Haspel was just following orders. They don’t even respect the law enough to find a fall guy. Stalin would have at least identified someone and had them taken out and shot: problem solved.
I can understand even if I don’t sympathize: it must be terrifying for the CIA to be contemplating another Pompeo situation, with an ignorant blow-hard political appointee who doesn’t know how things are done. People who don’t know how things are done are horribly dangerous when you’re engaged in criminal conspiracies to violate federal and international law.
*They are not really destroyed. They’re still somewhere; they’re just hidden very very deep for a while. Sadists don’t delete their porn. It’s one of the crucial characteristics of sadists and serial killers: they keep videos, and they’re always hidden somewhere nearby. Have you noticed that nobody has ever asked any of the senior officers of the CIA or FBI if they saw the tapes? I.e.: were complicit? Even the journalists don’t ask. Because, if they do, they’ll lose all access.