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Profile: CIA Baghdad Station
CIA Baghdad Station was a participant or observer in the following events:
The CIA appoints a chief to its new station in Baghdad, Iraq. The officer, whose name is not known, had previously served at the station before the 1991 Gulf War and ran the CIA’s operations in Iraq from a neighboring country before the recent invasion. He is fluent in Arabic and experienced at setting up and running large intelligence operations. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004] The officer will only remain in his position for a couple of months (see (June 2003)).
Officials at the CIA station in Baghdad ask agency managers at headquarters for information and training on detainee interrogations, but receive little in response. After the station agrees to interrogate the most important detainees in order to gain information about the growing insurgency, it asks headquarters for training for its officers, so that they can perform the interrogations correctly. It also requests written guidelines in July. However, headquarters does nothing and this refusal to act leads to heated arguments between Baghdad station and headquarters. For example, in one videoconference in the fall the deputy station chief begins yelling at headquarters staffers, demanding that they provide the written guidelines. The response of the agency’s Near East division chief is to tell Baghdad station boss Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006) that his deputy is becoming “too strident.” No guidelines will arrive before the Abu Ghraib scandal breaks (see April 28, 2004). Neither does headquarters send a lawyer to the Baghdad station for some time. Initially, the station gets its legal advice on an informal basis from CIA or military lawyers who happen to be passing through Baghdad. No agency lawyer is stationed in Baghdad until January 2004. [Risen, 2006, pp. 144-145]
The CIA’s Baghdad station chief, Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), files an Aardwolf, or time-critical situation report, about the crisis in the area in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the UN offices in that city (see August 29, 2003). The report says that the UN bombing was part of a strategy by a new and bold insurgency to discredit and isolate the US-led coalition, and warns that insurgents and terrorists have the capability to carry out many more attacks against “soft targets.” The insurgency is increasingly dangerous, threatens to erase early progress made by the US, and could actually overwhelm occupation forces. The report also says that there are two strands of violence, one from foreign fighters and one from Iraqi insurgents. In addition, it predicts that the capture of Saddam Hussein will not end the violence as he appears not to be in control of it. Some in the Bush administration think the report is too negative and L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, attaches a note to it downplaying the worsening conditions in Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 141-142; Wilson, 2007, pp. 157] Meyer will file another such report in November (see November 10, 2003).
John Maguire, a CIA official with experience of Iraqi issues, leaves the agency’s headquarters staff to take up a position at the CIA station in Baghdad. The exact position he fills in Baghdad is unknown. [Suskind, 2008, pp. 371-372]
On a tour of outlying US military detachments, the chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, visits Tiger Forward Operating Base, manned by the Third Armored Cavalry and close to the Syrian border. The chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), talks with an unnamed US commander at the base. The commander tells Meyer that over the last four to six weeks the Iraqi insurgents have been coalescing, and their tactics and methods show greater command, control, and sophistication, making them more deadly. The officer suggests that the rebels are getting ready for something bigger and that a new stage of the conflict in Iraq is about to begin. This coincides with what Meyer already knows about events in the country; while the number of attacks has recently been increasing, support for the US occupation among the locals is eroding. Meyer has already written one high-profile cable to CIA headquarters about the worsening situation (see August 30, 2003), but now decides that the conditions require another such warning (see November 10, 2003). [Risen, 2006, pp. 125-127]
The chief of the CIA station in Baghdad sends a high-profile “Aardworf” cable entitled “The Expanding Insurgency in Iraq” warning of the deteriorating situation in the country. The chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), sent a similar cable in August (see August 30, 2003), but is inspired to write a follow-up by a recent conversation with a US officer (see Early November 2003). According to author James Risen, Meyer believes that the US is “in danger of losing a war that it thought it had already won,” and so writes this “painfully honest account of the worsening situation.” The report states that the insurgency in central and northern Iraq is gaining momentum, and the insurgents are “self-confident and believe they will ultimately succeed in returning to power as they have in the past.” The rebels can sense the American will is “wavering,” and feel very little pressure from the US military. Politically, the insurgents are taking advantage of the fact that the US has not developed a clear message that resonates with the Iraqi people. Therefore, locals see the insurgents as powerful and “largely unchallenged” because of the political drift in Baghdad—current Iraqi political leaders have not been able to govern the country, draft a constitution, or hold an election. The US has therefore lost its best chance to stabilize Iraq, and the Baathists, surprised by the ferocity of the initial onslaught, have now regrouped. The report adds: “By the end of the summer, the continued sense of isolation in the Sunni heartland, the complete dissolution of the army and other institutions of security, rigid de-Baathification, and the lack of economic opportunities or political direction gave these regime elements the confidence they needed to repair their networks and reestablish themselves. The ease with which the insurgents move and exist in Baghdad and the Sunni heartland is bolstering their self-confidence further.” The report also says that there is no way to completely seal Iraq’s borders with its neighbors and prevent foreign jihadis entering the country, that majority Shiite Muslims could join rebel Sunnis, and that this would doom the occupation to failure. Unless the US takes corrective actions, the country’s rebuilding could collapse. [Knight Ridder, 11/11/2003; Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128, 145-147] The report will soon be leaked to the press (see November 11, 2003) and may lead to Meyer’s firing (see (Late December 2003)).
A CIA report warning of the growing insurgency in Iraq is leaked to the press. After the report, drafted by CIA Baghdad station chief Gerry Meyer, arrives in Washington on November 10 (see November 10, 2003), an article about it by Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder newspapers appears the following day. Landay, who knows of the report from “two senior administration officials,” comments that the report’s “bleak tone” contrasts “sharply” with accounts recently offered by President Bush and other officials. He also reveals that the report was drafted by the station chief, although Meyer’s identity is not revealed, and that the report is time-sensitive Aardwolf priority. Landay adds, “The speed of the leak suggested that senior policymakers want to make sure the assessment reaches Bush,” because, “Some senior policymakers have complained of being frustrated in their efforts to provide Bush with analyses of the situation in Iraq that are more somber than the optimistic views of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and other hardliners.” A senior administration official also tells Landay that L. Paul Bremer, head of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has essentially endorsed the report. [Knight Ridder, 11/11/2003]
On a trip home to Washington, the chief of the CIA’s Baghdad station, Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), meets with President Bush to discuss the situation in Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 146-147] Details of the meeting are unknown, but Meyer recently wrote a report saying the situation in the country was deteriorating (see November 10, 2003), so this is probably the main topic of conversation.
The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, is removed from his position. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004; New York Times, 2/27/2005] At this time the chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), is not in Iraq, but reporting to superiors in Washington. He is simply told not to return to his station. [Risen, 2006, pp. 147] However, the reason for the chief’s removal is unclear and three contradictory accounts will be given. The first account, put about by anonymous officials, is that Meyer does not have the management skills to administer the station, one of the largest the CIA has ever had. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 128] One unnamed official will comment, “There was just a belief that it was a huge operation and we needed a very senior, very experienced person to run it.” A second version holds that Meyer is fired for drafting two pessimistic “Aardwolf” reports about the US’s prospects in Iraq (see August 30, 2003 and November 10, 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004] According to a Harper’s magazine post, White House officials ask for “dirt” on Meyer, including his political affiliation. “He was a good guy,” an anonymous CIA official will comment, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.” [Harper's, 5/18/2006] However, a third version will later emerge. In this account, the firing is due to concern over the deaths of two Iraqis questioned by CIA officials shortly before Meyer’s removal. After senior agency officials learn of the deaths of Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003) and Manadel al-Jamadi (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003), in which CIA personnel were involved, they become unhappy with Meyer and have him removed. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128] This version will apparently be supported by a document released subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act request in 2009. The document is a redacted set of May 2004 talking points to be used by a senior CIA official in a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee. The talking points do not say specifically why Meyer was fired, but do say he committed errors in detainee treatment. This will be confirmed by an anonymous former official, who will say that Meyer “wasn’t paying enough attention to the detainee situation,” as well as the issue of “ghost detainees.” [McClatchy, 8/25/2009] Whatever the reason for his firing, Meyer soon leaves the CIA. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Harper's, 5/18/2006] According to author James Risen, his departure comes after he faces “piercing questions from CIA officials stemming from a series of inflammatory accusations about his personal behavior, all of which he flatly denied.” Risen will add that Meyer leaves the CIA “in disgust.” Whatever the reason, some CIA officials come to believe that Meyer ran into trouble because of the candid report. “When I read that November aardwolf,” a CIA official who knows Meyer will comment, “I thought that he was committing career suicide.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128]
The CIA appoints a new chief of its large station in Baghdad, Iraq. The officer, whose name is unknown, will serve there for a year (see December 2004). [Harper's, 5/18/2006] A former CIA officer will comment that the station chief previously served in Kosovo and “rose rather meteorically” there. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004]
CIA Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt convenes an accountability board to review the poor performance of the CIA’s personnel in Iraq. It is unclear exactly whose performance the board reviews, when the board is convened, or what conclusions it reaches. However, it may well be convened shortly after the firing of Baghdad station chief Gerry Meyer in late 2003 (see (Late December 2003)), possibly due to the deaths of two detainees. [McClatchy, 8/25/2009]
The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, leaves his post after the end of his one-year tour (see (January 2004)). According to Harper’s magazine, by the end of his tour he is a “pariah within the system” because he has filed a series of six pessimistic Aardwolf priority reports about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. One anonymous former intelligence official will say that the station chief is “treated like shit” and “farmed out,” although he is not fired. In addition, White House officials allegedly ask for “dirt” on him, including his political affiliation. [Harper's, 5/18/2006] After one of the pessimistic reports in late 2004, an official at the National Security Council even called US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte to ask whether the chief is a Democrat or Republican. [Risen, 2006] The station chief will also be investigated over allegations of detainee abuse (see (After January 2005)).
A new chief of the CIA’s Baghdad station is appointed. Possibly due to problems the previous two station chiefs are perceived to have experienced (see (Late December 2003) and December 2004), this new official files only one Aardwolf priority report during his one-year tour. An anonymous official will later say that this report is widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” because it asserts that the United States is winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein will comment, “It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear.” At the end of his tour, the station chief will be given what Silverstein calls a “plum assignment.” [Harper's, 5/18/2006]
A former chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq (see December 2004), reportedly brags about mistreating detainees. Details of the comments, including who they are made to, are unknown. However, they do lead to an investigation, which finds that the former chief’s statements are untrue and that he was exaggerating. [McClatchy, 8/25/2009]
Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein names a former CIA Baghdad station chief in an online post at the magazine’s website. The chief, whose name is Gerry Meyer according to Silverstein, wrote alarming reports about the beginning of the Iraqi insurgency (see August 30, 2003 and November 10, 2003) and was later forced out of his position in circumstances that are unclear (see (Late December 2003)). [Harper's, 5/18/2006]
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