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CIA's Bungled Italy Job
Chicago Tribune ^ | December 25, 2005 | John Crewdson

Posted on 12/26/2005 9:08:18 AM PST by shezza

CIA's BUNGLED ITALY JOB:
Sloppy use of cell phones, other missteps help police unravel cleric's 2003 abduction

By John Crewdson
Tribune senior correspondent
Published December 25, 2005

MILAN, Italy -- The trick is known to just about every two-bit crook in the cellular age: If you don't want the cops to know where you are, take the battery out of your cell phone when it's not in use.

Had that trick been taught at the CIA's rural Virginia training school for covert operatives, the Bush administration might have avoided much of the current crisis in Europe ....

(usual Trib copyright restrictions...click here to read article)

(Excerpt) Read more at chicagotribune.com ...


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: cellphone; cia; incompetence; italy; keystonecops; waronterror
Textbook case of how NOT to run a covert operation. (Your tax dollars at work.)
1 posted on 12/26/2005 9:08:19 AM PST by shezza
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To: shezza

The CIA needs a total rebuilding, or closing down.


2 posted on 12/26/2005 9:16:39 AM PST by sgtbono2002
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To: shezza

Think the senior Bush would be amenable to coming back to run the CIA again until it can get cleared out of the incompetent and the untrustworthy?


3 posted on 12/26/2005 9:18:55 AM PST by atomicpossum (Replies should be as pedantic as possible. I love that so much.)
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To: shezza

If a trick is well-known, then it's probably obsolete. Removing the battery may be false security. The only counter-measures that are overly paranoid are those that make you look nervous or otherwise betray normalcy.

On the other hand, there's nothing like a cool head to accomplish when technology can't. Recall what 19 such heads did to us once.


4 posted on 12/26/2005 9:20:53 AM PST by SteveMcKing ("No empire collapses because of technical reasons. They collapse because they are unnatural.")
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To: atomicpossum

Did you read the linked article? Aaaack! The imbecilic mistakes -- made repeatedly -- make you wonder what sort of training these "spies" really do go through. Appalling, to say the least.


5 posted on 12/26/2005 9:22:07 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: shezza

Common wisdom is that the CIA became a risk-adverse bureaucracy after the Church hearings and subsequent Congressional oversight. Seems like the common wisdom may be right, and the agency needs to go back to Spycraft 101. The leaks alone should prompt the Bush administration to clean house.


6 posted on 12/26/2005 9:24:11 AM PST by RedRover
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To: shezza
Yes, I read the article. If the Agency had gone out and hired 20 people at random and sent them, untrained, to go kidnap this person and deliver him to the destination, they could not have done a more incompetent job. This was PURE amateur hour.
7 posted on 12/26/2005 9:27:52 AM PST by atomicpossum (Replies should be as pedantic as possible. I love that so much.)
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To: RedRover
True. The CIA seems to have become an elitist club of cronies who take their politics and "status" much more seriously than their tradecraft abilities (or lack thereof). Homeland Security is a j-o-k-e until the Clean Sweep begins at home.
8 posted on 12/26/2005 9:28:58 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: atomicpossum
This was PURE amateur hour.

Keystone Cops redux. Even more alarming is the fact that all these tools used by the Italians to track every movement of the CIA agents is now exposed and a lesson to our enemies of what not to do.

9 posted on 12/26/2005 9:31:19 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: shezza

I'd like to read the article, but I'm not going to do a personal data dump to the Chicago Tribune.


10 posted on 12/26/2005 9:35:33 AM PST by Excuse_My_Bellicosity ("Sharpei diem - Seize the wrinkled dog.")
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To: shezza

Yep, Then you have Valerie Plame making political contributions listing "Brewster Jennings" while commuting to Langley each day.


11 posted on 12/26/2005 9:38:55 AM PST by Wristpin ("The Yankees have decided to buy every player in Baseball....")
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To: Excuse_My_Bellicosity

http://bugmenot.com/view.php?url=chicagotribune.com+


12 posted on 12/26/2005 9:45:44 AM PST by maggief
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To: maggief

Thanks!


13 posted on 12/26/2005 9:47:04 AM PST by Excuse_My_Bellicosity ("Sharpei diem - Seize the wrinkled dog.")
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To: Wristpin

Some of these geniuses even used their own names while checking into hotels for this secret operation, for crying out loud. I don't know how PlameGate is more of a threat to our national security than this debacle. Keep in mind, these doofuses (doofi?) are charged with keeping the American people safe from terrorism.


14 posted on 12/26/2005 9:49:18 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: Excuse_My_Bellicosity

You've got FReepmail.


15 posted on 12/26/2005 9:49:58 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: shezza

BUMP!


16 posted on 12/26/2005 9:58:15 AM PST by Publius6961 (The IQ of California voters is about 420........... .............cumulatively)
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To: shezza
Pretty crazy. When your employer issues cell-phones to people who live in a society conditioned to be phone-freaks, guess what they're going to do? They're going to use them to call each other 50 times a day. People call each other from 40 feet away to discuss where to go for lunch.

2-way radios carry their risks but I'm betting they don't have the trackability that cell-phones do. Gee, maybe this is why the Cold-War spies used archaic methods of hand signals, predetermined meeting points, memorizing information and burning note-papers, and staying OFF the phones.

17 posted on 12/26/2005 10:01:17 AM PST by Excuse_My_Bellicosity ("Sharpei diem - Seize the wrinkled dog.")
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To: shezza; Squantos; river rat

Just incredible. I am being completely honest when I say that any ten SEALs or SF enlisted men (chosen at random and given no extra training) would have done a better job of this.

For one thing, they would not have used cell phones at all. For another, they would not have driven the target onto a US military base, that is the LAST place they would take him. He'd more likely have been on a "fishing boat" (rented for cash) and taken offshore to a submarine.

All cash, of course, and no cell phones.


18 posted on 12/26/2005 10:03:59 AM PST by Travis McGee (--- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com ---)
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To: Excuse_My_Bellicosity

Amen.


19 posted on 12/26/2005 10:04:40 AM PST by Travis McGee (--- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com ---)
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To: Travis McGee

Well stated.....seems these days the NOC is not......too bad.


20 posted on 12/26/2005 10:06:33 AM PST by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. )
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To: shezza

Code Names: Chris Farley and Dave Spade


21 posted on 12/26/2005 10:13:17 AM PST by sure_fine (*not one to over kill the thought process*)
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To: shezza

It takes 5 years to turn a new recruit into a good ops officer, and at least 7 to 10 to turn him into a skilled ops officers. Considering the damage Clinton did to the intelligence community through budget cuts, shift in targeting, and crude attempts to bring "diversity" as quickly as possible none of this should be a surprise. Attrition of skilled Operations Officers was very high in the 90s. Clinton's first DCI, Wolsey, met with him only once during his entire tenure, and that speaks volumes about why the intelligence community was deteriorating in the 90's. Furthermore, one needs to ask the question, why did Italy wait so long to go after these CIA officers? If you know the answer to that question you understand this is less about a failed operation and more about internal Italian politics.


22 posted on 12/26/2005 10:14:13 AM PST by Casloy
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To: Travis McGee
Cell phones have never been secure, so why they thought they could chat away with impunity is unfathomable. Cellphone calls and cordless home phone calls can easily be monitored by any Joe Schmoe with a scanner. Shoot, I think we've picked up cellphone calls on a CB radio.

It's almost as if this Mission Impossible squad was the second string, called in at the last minute. "Hey, Mom! Guess what? I'm on a super-secret mission in Italy! But don't tell anybody, 'cause it's supposed to be some big secret. Hey, can I bring you anything from here?"

23 posted on 12/26/2005 10:15:58 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: atomicpossum
How about approaching Vladimer Putin to take the job?

He has had years of experience running a very successful KGB and might enjoy a change of scenery.

24 posted on 12/26/2005 10:23:36 AM PST by albee ("Those that bite the hand that feeds them will lick the boot that kicks them!" - Eric Hoffer)
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To: shezza
The amateurish blunders by our Keystone Kop operatives are almost unbelievable.

But what bothers me almost as much is this. Why is, or was, one of our most loyal European allies Italy protecting an Islamic extremist who is hell bent on destroying both Italy and the US? IIRC, a few years ago Italy also freed several Islamic skyjackers our people had captured on Italian soil and allowed them to return to their business of terrorizing and murdering Israelis and Americans.

What's going on with the Italian government anyway? They seem to be our friends on one hand and send troops to Iraq, but then they turn around and give aid and comfort to our sworn enemies. With friends like the Ities we don't need enemies.

25 posted on 12/26/2005 10:28:44 AM PST by epow
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To: epow

Spot on. Italy grants asylum to and investigates the kidnapping of a known murderous terrorist who has declared war on the west -- and yet demands prosecution of the agents who tracked down and captured the bad guy. It does seem like Italy is trying to placate the Islamic population within its borders (thanks to the media who publicized all these events). I hope they took notes during France's crisis.


26 posted on 12/26/2005 10:51:11 AM PST by shezza (46 days)
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To: shezza; All
I hate to sound like I read too many Tom Clancy novels or listen to Coast-to-Coast too much, but maybe this guys intentionally wanted to get caught to embarrass Bush in Italy.
27 posted on 12/26/2005 9:26:48 PM PST by Perdogg ("Facts are stupid things." - President Ronald Wilson Reagan)
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To: epow

I don't think those arrest warrants will ever be executed. All the thing will be archived and forgotten. But after the press had publicized CIA's operation in Italy, local magistrates had to show they exists and do prosecute illegal activities on their territory.


28 posted on 12/27/2005 4:27:50 AM PST by Jordi ("I prefer the heaven for the climate , the hell for the company")
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To: Jordi; epow

Unless Patrick Fitzgerald is the prosecutor.


29 posted on 12/27/2005 6:53:11 AM PST by Perdogg ("Facts are stupid things." - President Ronald Wilson Reagan)
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To: Jordi
I don't think those arrest warrants will ever be executed.

I hope you're right for the nation's sake, but not for the sake of the clowns who bungled the operation.

30 posted on 12/27/2005 6:58:58 AM PST by epow
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To: atomicpossum
Think the senior Bush would be amenable to coming back to run the CIA again until it can get cleared out of the incompetent and the untrustworthy?

Only if he can do it with his new best buddy, William Jefferson "Slick" Clinton.

31 posted on 12/27/2005 7:04:34 AM PST by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: shezza; Casloy
Cell phones have never been secure, so why they thought they could chat away with impunity is unfathomable. Cellphone calls and cordless home phone calls can easily be monitored by any Joe Schmoe with a scanner. Shoot, I think we've picked up cellphone calls on a CB radio.

GSM is secure from the public and their scanners. Intelligence services and national governments have the keys necessary to decrypt conversations, however, and some hacking groups have claimed an occasional decrypting of a single call. This, in and of itself, is not that big of a deal if the government doing the listening has no idea about the identity of the parties making the calls. When practicing good phone use - as was not done here - the use of a cellphone is an acceptable activity. But that doesn't mean only removing the battery to hide movement. It means regular recycling of phones!!

In Italy, a nation with a widely available pre-paid GSM service, this should have taken a good operative virtually no effort to implement. You act like a tourist, use a fake ID, and buy a pre-paid SIM card with phone in the corner tabac. Use it for a week (or less), dump the phone and card, and buy a new one on another identity.

Furthermore, the Italians have a ton of payphones all over the country. You can walk into most any general retailer and buy a fist-full of phonecards that will work country-wide. Mix that in with good phone technique, and you're good to go.

And re: the hotel - stupid again! There are private apartment rentals available all over Italy for vacationers. Pay in cash - no credit cards. No trace.

It seems to me that this was just lazy work by people who weren't necessarily all connected to the CIA. It probably took valuable time out of their Italian vacation to properly cover their tracks. It wouldn't surprise me if there were a bunch of State Dept. or other foreign service hacks in on this as well, since it just seems way too sloppy, even for a neutered CIA.
32 posted on 12/27/2005 7:25:40 AM PST by July 4th (A vacant lot cancelled out my vote for Bush.)
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To: shezza

By the standards shown by these agents, I'm ready to believe that Valerie Plame really is a covert agent.


33 posted on 12/27/2005 8:20:16 AM PST by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: Perdogg
but maybe this guys intentionally wanted to get caught to embarrass Bush in Italy.

My guess is that they were sloppy due to two things, bad training and a belief they were operating in a sympathetic country.
34 posted on 12/27/2005 8:30:33 AM PST by Daus
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To: Daus
...and a belief they were operating in a sympathetic country.

Yikes! That's gonna leave a mark.

35 posted on 12/27/2005 9:09:52 AM PST by shezza (45 days)
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To: shezza
Yikes! That's gonna leave a mark.

Well... these agents don't get that stupid that quickly. In the past, the type of data mined in this case would have disappered before any of this would have come to light. Someone is apparently still pretty hacked off at us.
36 posted on 12/27/2005 9:13:37 AM PST by Daus
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To: shezza

"Sloppy use of cell phones, other missteps help police unravel cleric's 2003 abduction"

Besides, they left the cannoli and took the gun.


37 posted on 12/27/2005 9:14:16 AM PST by BeHoldAPaleHorse (MORE COWBELL! MORE COWBELL! (CLANK-CLANK-CLANK))
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To: Perdogg

"I hate to sound like I read too many Tom Clancy novels or listen to Coast-to-Coast too much, but maybe this guys intentionally wanted to get caught to embarrass Bush in Italy."

Given what we've seen out of Langley since 9/11/01, I'm not going to accuse you of tinfolish thought here.


38 posted on 12/27/2005 9:21:14 AM PST by BeHoldAPaleHorse (MORE COWBELL! MORE COWBELL! (CLANK-CLANK-CLANK))
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