Column, 587 words

The [Redacted] Truth about the CIA

America's most notorious spy agency even deceives its own employees.


It’s no secret that the CIA isn’t always up front with the public about its operations. You may even be kept in the dark if you’re an elected official. But did you know the agency even lies to its own employees?

That’s the subject of a recent Washington Post report on a heretofore unknown practice at the CIA called “eyewashing.”

Before moving to the substance of the article, however, I owe my readers an explanation: The Central Intelligence Agency must approve of everything I write about intelligence, the CIA, foreign policy, diplomacy, the military, and national security — for the rest of my life.

They didn’t like this column, even though the source material is freely available to anybody who reads the Post. The CIA consented to let me run it, but only if I redacted a few important sections.


Global Panorama / Flickr

I’ve decided to show you the CIA’s cuts, rather than engage in a protracted negotiation.

Now, back to eyewashing. Eyewashing, simply put, is a way that the CIA deceives its own employees.

According to the Post, CIA veterans described eyewashing as an “important security measure” and a “means of protecting vital secrets by inserting fake communications into routine cable traffic.” But these lies eventually are passed to Congress, too.

And when documents are finally declassified, the lies make their way to historians and to the American people. Here’s how eyewashing works.


Investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee found at least two instances where the CIA turned over eyewashed cables for the committee’s report on torture. Both related to Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaeda operative the CIA believed — incorrectly — XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

This practice is ripe for abuse.

What happens when an officer decides to issue a deceptive “eyewash” cable to his coworkers because the source — or the officer — is doing something illegal or unethical? With the eyewash cable in place, congressional oversight committees would have no idea.

Interestingly, the Post article said that most former senior CIA officers interviewed, including attorneys, had never heard of the practice.

That means it wasn’t passed through the chain of command. No legal opinions were issued. The inspector general didn’t know it was happening. While those who did know about the practice claimed it didn’t get out of hand, you’ll just have to take their word for it. Plainly, there’s no adult supervision in the CIA.

Imagine what can happen if we accept that our public servants can simply lie.

Why not eyewash a torture program? Why not eyewash a secret prison system? Where does it end?

And more importantly, how can it end at all if nobody except the perpetrators knows it’s happening in the first place?

The CIA may tell you that eyewash cables are important to protecting sources and operations. What I would tell you is that it’s forbidden by federal law.

Indeed, it’s a criminal offense to “conceal, cover up, falsify, or make a false entry“ into an official record. It’s called “making a false statement,” and it’s punishable by five years imprisonment. There’s no legal exemption for the CIA.

It’s in the CIA’s nature to lie, even to its congressional overseers. But that doesn’t mean the American people should stand for it.

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. A former CIA counterterrorism officer, he led the operation to capture Abu Zubaydah.

  • John P. Boyle

    I had my xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Xxxx suspicions

  • John Adams

    It seems the CIA has you handcuffed even still…plea barging for your freedom…power mongers indeed. Your “eyewashing” disclosure paints a scary picture of a run-a –way horse on steroids…

  • polfilmblog


    Early April 2002: Al-Qaeda Leader Zubaida Allegedly Incriminates Saudi Princes

    (Then he was snatched away by CIA, tortured repeatedly, and never heard from again.)

    “Zubaida expresses great relief at this and, under the influence of the “truth serum” sodium pentothal, tells his interrogators to call Prince Ahmed bin Salman, a nephew of the Saudi king. He provides telephone numbers from memory and says, “He will tell you what to do.” He proceeds to give more information and phone numbers, claiming ties with higher-ups in both the Saudi and Pakistani governments. He also names:

    bullet Pakistani Air Force chief Mushaf Ali Mir, who is said to be closely tied to the fundamentalists in the ISI.

    bullet Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal.

    bullet Prince Sultan bin Faisal, another nephew of the Saudi King.

    bullet Prince Fahd bin Turki, another member of the Saudi royalty.

    9/11 ‘Rosetta Stone?’ – According to Posner, Zubaida claims that all of these people were intermediaries he dealt with in the frequent transfer of money to al-Qaeda. The phone numbers and other details he provides are consistent with information already known by US intelligence. Zubaida then lays out many secrets about the 9/11 attacks. One unnamed investigator will later call them “the Rosetta Stone” of 9/11.”

  • Gem Stone

    this answers it for me. the cia is untrustworthy and unreliable, no different from the fbi. you all disappoint me and you leave me with no hope whatsoever, in human beings.

    are you not human beings?!

    last time i checked, yes you are human beings. do you think you are a different species? no, you are not.

    how dare you, evil! how dare you, torturers! how dare you, liars!

    and that john person. the internet said he’s an actor. OH REALLY? so your prison job was a FAKE. i understand. i know some people who are more than willing to sleep in a prison cell for a while, do some work on the inside. hell, they might even call it school or training. it’s all part of the plan. not every thug on the street you meet is a thug (especially if he goes to prison for a while to sell his deception). tricked you!

    i’m disgusted that the “cia” (like a pervert child molester bad parent), treats this “john” person as property, “approving” and “consenting” of what *HE* chooses to communicate to the world. you make me want to kidnap him, milk him like a cow, drain him of marrow and suck all his blood until i know every filthy, rotten, dirty detail there is for him to tell about the “cia”.

    spoken like a robot: do. you. think. he. will. co-op-er-ate?

    it’s alright, john. no worries. i won’t kidnap anything more than your attention (if you’re still reading my words) on account of i don’t have a car (or a place to keep you).

    well, now. i was going to contact the cia, not so much to solicit their support, for my needs and purposes, but to taunt them for how *NOT* all that intelligent ya’ll are.

    if you were ever so intelligent, you would know who i am. but you don’t. i know you don’t, because you all have your heads proverbially buried in the sand of the middle east (to the great neglect of who and what is in america).

    ya’ll interested in them muslims, aren’t ya? WOW. just WOW.

    are you also interested in GOD? no? why not, because it’s YOUR world, not god’s? your country, not god’s? your planet? your universe?

    are you interested in jesus?

    i heard GOD is going to pour out wrath this year. you don’t believe in prophesies, do ya?


    do you believe in revelations? do you believe the living word of god? do you believe in the bible?

    do you know who the antichrist is?

    yep, the cia is useless to me. so is the fbi, and the pope. and all of humanity.

    totally, absolutely, utterly useless.

    did you know that space aliens are Heaven’s Armies?

    hey john. if the cia are so controlling of your posts, do you think they read the replies you get in the comments?

    you aren’t a fisherman, are ya? casting out lines with hooks on them, under a banner of “i REVEAL the truth” so if YOU are anything like ME, come talk to me. tell me what YOU know!

    don’t worry, john. i like cheese, and crackers, and wine.

    and grapes (of wrath).

    i can’t stop amusing myself. i’m hilarious. let’s listen to Lisa.

    i don’t have a whistle to blow. not really. i just reveal things. for instance, the man of lawlessness (lucifer) and the antichrist (psychiatry) and all sorts of other things (to an ignorant, deaf, dumb, blind, lost, unresponsive, dead world).

    do you want to see a picture of lucifer?

    see that tattoo on his chest? that’s jesus. it’s a female jesus.

    have you ever seen gothika? do you know what an anima sola tattoo is? do you know what a man of lawlessness is? do you know what spiritual possession is? do you know what kidnapping is? do you know what human trafficking is? do you know what unlawful imprisonment is? do you know what sadism is? do you know what rape is? do you know what torture is? do you know what evil, is?

    the bible doesn’t mention any female jesus. yet, she exists.

    and you don’t know her.

    what do you think of jesus and lucifer, currently on this planet, in a war, in the united states of america (babylon)? were you aware that some people are worshiping him as god (including “law” and “government”)?

    you know he isn’t god, right?

    it seems that lucifer and jesus are far out of your league, cia. you don’t even know we exist.

    i don’t believe in eyewashing. i believe in broadcasting the truth to the world, especially the sick secrets of evil people. the idea is to defend and protect the innocent, arrest the development of the cultivation of evils, and apprehend and detain those who do harm. it would be nice, and good, to not have to broadcast to the whole entire world but you are not a simple phone call to make. and when i need a witness, well, communications just have to be public. i loathe and despise SECRECY.

    there’s a difference between privacy and secrecy.

    have you ever met a divine being? do you know what divinity is?

    we are not jokes.
    we are not fairy tales.
    we are not lies.

    we’re real, and we exist.

    do you know what supernatural is? do you know what supernatural people are like?

    we’re different. we’re extraordinarily rare and unique.

    don’t call me on the phone. i’m extremely rude to unknown callers. you can email me if you want to. and if you’re so smart, and technologically empowered, you can find out my email address all by yourself.

    so anyway, go look into religious prophecy for 2016. wormwood, wrath, and the remainder of the long, slow, drawn out, agonizing process of the return of Christ, culminating in the great TERRIBLE day of the Lord.

    muslims don’t understand the truth of the universe. it isn’t a matter of belief or choice. Christ is a cosmological truth, whether people understand it or not.

  • wildthang

    In other words Hogwash most of the time!

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