Friday, December 12, 2014

Was Ron Kessler A CIA Journalism Asset?

Emily Greenhouse at offers a piece on veteran journalist and author Ronald Kessler and the Senate's CIA report.

In 2003, Ronald Kessler, the writer known today for breaking the news that U.S. Secret Service agents solicited prostitutes while in Colombia, published a book called The CIA at War. It included an impressive trove of classified information—of the sort that can launch federal investigations, followed by journalist subpoenas (as to the New York Times’ James Risen), and sometimes ending with leakers (like former CIA agent John Kiriakou) in jail.

Kessler wrote, for instance, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom the 9/11 commission named the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks, “told the CIA about a range of planned attacks—on U.S. convoys in Afghanistan, nightclubs in Dubai, targets in Turkey, and an Israeli embassy in the Middle East.” He wrote that Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner from Al Qaeda, offered intelligence on “planned plots.” (The detainee was “singing” with information, Kessler said.)

But the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture, released Tuesday, called these statements “incongruent” with CIA records. It noted that CIA officials had “provided assistance” with Kessler’s book, in order to “shape press reporting on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.” The Senate report quotes then-Senior Deputy General Counsel John Rizzo saying that the Director of the CIA “blessed” Kessler with agency cooperation. It seems to paint Kessler as something of a chosen mouthpiece, the person in whom the CIA put its faith.

Kessler believes that the Senate report’s implication that he is any kind of preferred journalist, an asset and dissemination tool, is outrageous. “I’m not some kind of patsy,” he said by phone on Wednesday evening. He said that he followed “standard operating procedure for journalism. They tried to make it into some nefarious plot to bamboozle me. It’s not.”

“I think this report is bogus, bogus, bogus,” Kessler continued. “Some rant on the Internet. It’s just totally off base, and motivated by some desire to push this point of view. They dishonestly spin things, and in this case they present it as though the CIA was looking for some reporter to post about their program.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: I interviewed Ron Kessler about his book Secrets of the FBI for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the interview via the below link:

1 comment:

  1. As you and I both understand because of our previous careers, there are plenty of things that need to remain undisclosed because of the important limitations on the "need to know." The Senate's report on the CIA disgusts me for a variety of reasons, but one of the most uncomplicated reasons is the "NTK" concept. Apparently Feinstein (and otherwise responsible and respectable public servant), her cronies, and her staffers do not care about that concept. Since she has a security clearance, perhaps she should be prosecuted for unauthorized disclosures just as we would have been prosecuted if we had disclosed classified material. But I am not holding my breath waiting for anyone in the Justice Department to begin that prosecution.