Foggo Talks to the NY Times

Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the imprisoned former top CIA official, has given an interview to The New York Times, which published his claims last week in a front-page story titled, “A Window Into CIA’s Embrace of Secret Jails.

From behind the walls of a Kentucky prison where he is serving more than three years for fraud, Foggo says he was given a special assignment to help build secret prisons for suspected terrorists.Foggo “went on to oversee construction” of three prisons — one in Bucharest, Romania, one in Morocco (that went unused) and a third in an unnamed Eastern European country, the Times reported.

A review of the story and the background of the case shows there is evidence to believe Foggo’s account, but ultimately, there’s more reason to doubt he’s telling the whole truth.

First a bit of background:

Foggo pleaded guilty last year in a fraud scheme involving a defense contractor named Brent Wilkes. Foggo admitting using his influence at the agency to steer $2 million in contracts to Wilkes, who paid for lavish overseas vacations for Foggo and his family. Wilkes was separately convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham with cash, travel and hookers.

The scheme centered around Foggo’s time as chief support officer of FRANSUPT, the agency’s crucial regional support terminal in Frankfurt, Germany from July 2001 to November 2004. In that position, Foggo had control over millions of dollars in government funds.In November 2004, CIA Director Porter Goss picked Foggo to run day-to-day operations at the CIA, as the agency’s executive director, the No. 3 job. Foggo says he was promoted in part because of his work on the prisons.

The Times story paints a picture of Foggo as a lovable rogue, “a cigar-waving, burbon-drinking operator” who could get things done. The job of building prisons was “too sensitive to be handled by headquarters,” Foggo said.  “I was proud to help my nation.”

One problem lies with what isn’t in the story. Missing from the Times account is any comment from federal prosecutors, who have a strikingly different view of Foggo. To them, Foggo is a man who is motivated not by patriotism but by “narcissism and deceitfulness.”

In sworn declarations filed by prosecutors, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center director described Foggo as a “con man” who was “seriously flawed, ethically and morally.” Former CIA Director Porter Goss says Foggo left him feeling “deceived and betrayed.”  A CIA attorney recounted how she became convinced that Foggo was “effortlessly lying” to her.

Is it possible Foggo is telling the truth? As chief support officer, he quite likely knew something about the prisons. Before securing his guilty plea, prosecutors complained that the defense wanted turn the case into “a referendum on the global war on terror” and a debate over sensitive “CIA programs and methods.”

Foggo’s attorneys asked to be read into areas of sensitive compartmented information — the most closely guarded class of secrets. One pertained to the CIA’s terrorist detention and interrogation program. The request was denied. Shortly before he went off to prison, Foggo spoke with a prosecutor investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotaped interrogations.

Human Rights Watch, the Council of Europe and ABC News have reported that Romania (as well as Poland) served as locations of CIA prisons. The most detailed of these investigations (pdf) by the Council of Europe’s rapporteur Dick Marty found evidence that Romania’s “black site” was located near in a secure zone around an airbase near the Black Sea — a ways from Bucharest.

The choice of a busy street for a location of a secret prison, however, strains credulity, since the changing of guard shifts, supplies and transport of detainees could attract unwanted attention.

As James Risen wrote in State of War, “The CIA wanted secret locations where it could have complete control over the interrogations and debriefings, free from the prying eyes of the international media, free from monitoring by human rights groups, and, most important, far from the jurisdiction of the American legal system.”

The story lacks some internal consistency, something interrogators look for when evaluating truthfulness:  Foggo says he was given the task secret prisons because it was “too sensitive for headquarters.” Nevertheless, his work on the CIA’s so-called black sites helped him win a promotion back at headquarters, suggested that headquarters was well aware of his sensitive mission.

And finally, while the Times doesn’t rely on Foggo alone — it cites anonymous “former intelligence officials and others briefed on the matter.” One of these sources may be Brant Bassett, who is quoted later on in the piece speculating that Foggo was taken down because of his “fast rise and blunt approach.”

Regardless of whether Bassett is a confidential source or not, The Times didn’t fully explain his connection to the story. Bassett was a friend of both Wilkes and Foggo, part of their poker playing D.C. social circle. Bassett also served under Porter Goss the House Intelligence Committee and may have played a role in getting Foggo named executive director.

We owe a great deal to reporters like The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, who helped expose the CIA’s network of secret prisons with the help of agency insiders who were troubled by what was going on. It’s an important story, perhaps too important for the Times to give such credence to a man like Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

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