This reads like a can-you-top-this collaboration between George V. Higgins and John LeCarre, but the byline reads “James Risen and Matt Apuzzo“, neither of whom got their Pulitzers for writing fiction. (I’d throw in a reference to the Little Friend of All the World, but nobody reads Kiping any more.) In the NYTimes, “Port Authority Officer Kept Sources With Ties to Iran Attacks“:
WASHINGTON — After a car bombing in southeastern Iran killed 11 Revolutionary Guard members in 2007, a C.I.A. officer noticed something surprising in the agency’s files: an intelligence report, filed ahead of the bombing, that had warned that something big was about to happen in Iran.
Though the report had provided few specifics, the C.I.A. officer realized it meant that the United States had known in advance that a Sunni terrorist group called Jundallah was planning an operation inside Shiite-dominated Iran, two former American officials familiar with the matter recalled. Just as surprising was the source of the report. It had originated in Newark, with a detective for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The Port Authority police are responsible for patrolling bridges and tunnels and issuing airport parking tickets. But the detective, a hard-charging and occasionally brusque former ironworker named Thomas McHale, was also a member of an F.B.I. counterterrorism task force. He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and developed informants inside Jundallah’s leadership, who then came under the joint supervision of the F.B.I. and C.I.A.
Reading the report, the C.I.A. officer became increasingly concerned. Agency lawyers he consulted concluded that using Islamic militants to gather intelligence — and obtaining information about attacks ahead of time — could suggest tacit American support for terrorism. Without specific approval from the president, the lawyers said, that could represent an unauthorized covert action program. The C.I.A. ended its involvement with Mr. McHale’s informants.
Despite the C.I.A.’s concerns, American officials continued to obtain intelligence from inside Jundallah, first through the F.B.I., and then the Pentagon. Contacts with informants did not end when Jundallah’s attacks led to the deaths of Iranian civilians, or when the State Department designated it a terrorist organization. Senior Justice Department and F.B.I. lawyers at the time say they never reviewed the matter and were unaware of the C.I.A. concerns. And so the relationship persisted, even as American officials repeatedly denied any connection to the group.
The unusual origins and the long-running nature of the United States’s relationship with Jundallah are emblematic of the vast expansion of intelligence operations since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. With counterterrorism a national priority, new players — the F.B.I., the Pentagon, contractors and local task forces — have all entered the spy business. The result is a sometimes-muddled system in which agencies often operate independently and with little oversight…
Mr. McHale, 53 and now retired from the Port Authority, refused to comment. A high-school graduate from Jersey City, Mr. McHale became a law enforcement celebrity after 9/11, helping to rescue survivors and recover victims at ground zero, and playing himself in Oliver Stone’s movie, “World Trade Center,” in which Nicolas Cage starred as a Port Authority police officer.
His work on Newark’s Joint Terrorism Task Force took him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he helped capture leaders of Al Qaeda alongside F.B.I. and C.I.A. colleagues. He received the Port Authority’s Medal of Honor for bravery in 2006…
Mr. McHale was at home in the fast-paced culture that seemed particularly frenetic after Sept. 11, 2001, when decisions were made and executed on the fly in response to seemingly omnipresent terrorist threats. And after 9/11, information about the Middle East was at a premium. As it happened, Mr. McHale had a source, an informant who had been on the F.B.I. payroll since about 1996, officials said.
The informant lived in the New York area, according to three former officials, but had friends and family in Baluchistan, a sprawling region covering parts of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The informant introduced Mr. McHale to these overseas connections, which included members of the Rigi family, the namesake of a powerful Baluch tribe based in southeastern Iran…
Southeastern Iran, where the Rigis are based, is the country’s poorest region, a sparse, lawless area where water is scarce and life expectancy is low. The Baluch people, who are mostly Sunni, have long faced oppression at the hands of the Shiite government. Security forces have demolished homes. Sunni leaders have been shot dead in the streets.
Against that backdrop, a charismatic young member of the Rigi family, Abdolmalek Rigi, founded Jundallah — the soldiers of God — to fight the Iranian government in 2003. Its leadership drew heavily from the Rigis. The United States would later estimate that Jundallah attracted 500 to 2,000 members, making it about the size of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen…
The extent of the intelligence provided by Mr. McHale’s informant and his overseas network of contacts could not be determined. But Baluchistan serves as a hub for militant groups and smugglers who move drugs, weapons and kidnapping victims across the porous borders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some Baluch fighters share ideological ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of 9/11, is an ethnic Baluch. Over the years, information from Mr. McHale’s sources filled huge intelligence files, three officials said…
Some federal officials blame Mr. McHale for what they describe as an operation that veered out of control. They said that if the United States and Jundallah had too close a relationship, Mr. McHale’s go-it-alone attitude was to blame.
But friends and former colleagues say this characterization of Mr. McHale as a rogue operator is unfair. They point out that the relationship persisted for more than a decade, and Mr. McHale’s actions were approved and applauded by several United States agencies over those years. “I’m not sure what to say about this case,” said Mr. Holt, who is retiring from Congress this year. “Everything is plausible in the freewheeling intelligence world.”…
The one thing to count on — in the Hall of (funhouse) Mirrors, all the images are distorted.
I have no particular problem with various agencies developing intel resources wherever they find it. How would we have them respond to a trusted source letting us in on a future attack? If we tell the target then we have compromised a valuable source; in this case what would the gain have been?
Yes, there are reasons to be concerned that the port authority is playing spy master but intel is where you find it. What they need is a way to bring that resource into more formal channels.
mai naem mobile
Fox news will blame it on Obummer because the guy in charge in 07 is only brought out when his daughter needs a chaperone during an interview. Kinda like what he was with Bush during his 9/11 commission testimony.
@Anne Laurie, top:
By an extremely odd coincidence, not five minutes earlier I was discussing Kipling at some length with an acquaintance (admittedly, we were talking about the Just-So Stories, not The Jungle Book, But close enough for Balloon Juice).
@SiubhanDuinne: I read Kipling on my own as a kid.
@Anne Laurie: OT, and IANAL, but is reposting 15 paragraphs from an NYT article with little added commentary within the bounds of fair use?
I grew up on Stalky & Co., Just-So, the First and Second Jungle Books, and many of the poems. It became extremely unfashionable to admit to ever having Kippled, but as John-Bull-Empire-jingoistic as he admittedly could be, I have always taken great delight in reading him, and revisit the classics every couple of years.
@SiubhanDuinne: I haven’t gone back to Kipling in over 30 years because I do have problems with some the White Man’s Burden stuff that pervades his work.
ETA: I still know the words to the songs in the cartoon version of Jungle Book.
@Mandalay: Fundamentally, it depends.
@Mandalay: Beats the heck out of
@SiubhanDuinne: Anne Laurie is talking about Kim. My favorite book and one that I read several times aloud to my daughters. Kim is “the little friend of all the world.”
Cloud bank over Chattanooga at sunset.
ETA: Happy actual birthday, you cranky old fuck.
Nice. You have a good b-day?
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@raven: Happy Birthday! And What a lovely shot – thanks.
@Baud: We’s fine, turned a 4 hr drive into 8 and then bumped around Choo-ville. Even drove up to Rock City and Ruby Falls just to see the lights. Probably do Chickamauga at sunrise and wend our way back through the mountains.
OT: Today is the 39th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
When my middle son was little he loved the Jungle Book but he pronounced it bungle book. He also used to walk around singing “look for those bare nesesames those simple bare nesesames” so we still sing it this way even now.
@MomSense: I also had an lp with a narrated version of Peter and the Wolf that I loved at about same time.
That’s never stopped you from having poorly-reasoned opinions on legal issues before–why stop now?
I choreographed a narrated version of Peter and the Wolf for my young dance students. They loved it.
The kids got a kick out of the narrator and liked to imitate him. Petah ahnd the Wolf.
“…but nobody reads Kiping any more”
No one ever read Kiping. Kipling, on the other hand, is still widely read and quoted, much to the distress of some of the sniffier academic souls among us. I am even told that, in the case of some of his stories, the kinematograph has been employed to make some of those new fangled talkies that the young like so much.
Happy birthday, thou noblest of the corvid tribe! May thy feathers never be fewer!
Interesting contrast between Japan and Korea – Japan is crow country, Korea is magpie country. I’ve never seen so many crows in one place as I did in Sapporo, whereas Korea is swarming with magpies (if swarming is the right word).
Never saw it. I’m something of a purist.
@SiubhanDuinne: In my defense, I was about seven at the time. And it featured Louis Prima.
ETA: It came out in the late ’60s, but I saw it in the early ’70s.
It happened just a couple of days after my life had been completely upended and I had moved from Florida to Michigan on short notice. I vividly remember unpacking a few cartons of necessities in my strange new apartment in my strange new city while listening to the news reports of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
@raven Happy Birthday!
dance around in your bones
Baud, you had asked me how the new job was going? in an old thread? I have been so busy the last week I replied but it was at last 4 days ago.
Long story short. I lost my job. The woman who hired me as her personal companion/live-in housekeeper did a turn on a dime. My best friend from Canada came to visit (which was approved by employer) but I think the last straw was me knocking on her door when it was shut (TOTAL no-no) to tell her my friend and I wanted to take her dog to Alice Keck Park for a walk. Since said dog was in her room, I didn’t think it would upset her so.
Later that day, I got an email from her saying “Your living in my apartment is not working for me. Please vacate by Nov. 8th” (one week.)
Ok, freak out time.
Good story is that I was able to find a very quiet and tranquil place to stay until I get my total hip replacement surgery on Dec. 9th.
So, yay, ME! Thanks for your interest :)
dance around in your bones
Many Happy Returns, you old crank :)
I read Kipling as a child, and I always wanted to be Bagheera the panther. I guess I always wanted to be a cat.
My mom and dad gave me a recording (LP) of Peter and The Wolf for my birthday one year – I always had fun trying to figure out which instrument rrepresented which animal.
(curmudgeon mode enabled)
Worse, virtually no one seems to read Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, William Dean Howells or Nathaniel Hawthorne anymore.
No dragons, elves or wizards, don’tcha know.
Anecdotal, but I know a lot of librarians, and have no reason to doubt their word.
@NotMax: Why should your anecdotal testimony matter?
Obviously you never got that memo. :)
Things okay out your way? Reading through a few threads, appears you woke up on the wrong side of the planet today.
BTW, do you harbor the same crustiness towards Mr. Cole’s assertion about Kipling being unread?
dance around in your bones
Excuse-moi, si vou plait! (Prolly misspelled)
But I read ALL those authors.I was a precocious reader.
I am currently listening to Leo Kottke, who we used to listen to back in the 70’s. He’s going to be performing in Santa Barbara this month, but it just depresses me to see my former Love Gods getting older, just like me.
@NotMax: I am just pissed off at “sky is falling” people. If I l vented that anger at you, I do apologize. It was not my intention.
ETA: I may have gone a bit hair-trigger.
But they still have programs about him. At the BBC as recently as October 14 of this year. Apparently, for some time Rudyard was the most profitable pen on the splendidily isolated isle.
Leonard Maltin introduces Chicken Little (1943).
Cannot state with 100% assurance, but probably the only Disney cartoon which ever utilized the word “totalitarian.”
I have long been confused about who exactly we see as the “greater evil” over there, Iran and its allies, or Sunni militants like this.
Now that I’ve read this article, I’m still confused.
That’s okay, though, because I suspect the people who actually get to decide these things are equally confused.
Huh, I’m the opposite. I read The Jungle Book as a kid and still reread it every now and then, but I can’t think of any extremely memorable quotes off the top of my head. It’s just a really good book all around.
(Also started reading Kim a while ago and have been meaning to finish it… oh, forever).
The Man Who Would Be King, I only know the movie, which rocked. THAT, I can quote with no trouble. “When we’re finished with you, you’ll be able to stand up and slaughter your enemies like civilized men!”
@dance around in your bones:
Raksha for me. If only because of the You Shall Not Pass she pulls on Shere Khan in the first few pages of the book.