The CIA misleads its own staff by sending its employees false memos known as ‘eyewash’ that deliberately mask details about killings, drone strikes and other clandestine activities, it is claimed.
The practice begins when a regular internal memo is distributed to wider groups of staff containing false advice about operations or agency sources.
A second memo is then sent to a much smaller, select group, explicitly telling them to disregard the previous instructions and passing on the real information.
According to The Washington Post, the practice was discovered by a Senate investigation into the agency’s controversial interrogation program.
The practice of eyewash was omitted from its public report, but a classified version, which was read by the paper’s source, contained several examples.
In one instance, CIA bosses told their operatives in Pakistan they did not have the clearance to hunt down Al-Qaeda’s Abu Zubaida.
But a second memo, sent to a much smaller group of operatives, told them to ignore the previous memo and proceed with the potentially lethal operation.
An official told the paper: ‘The people in the outer levels who didn’t have insider access were being lied to. They were being intentionally deceived.’
Although some criticized the practice, which plants internal misinformation akin to the Cold War ‘mole’ purges, others said it was rarely used but beneficial.
A former intelligence official told the paper that a typical example of an eyewash occurred when a mid-level source gained exceptionally sensitive intelligence for the agency.
A memo would be sent out to all those who knew of the source’s existence, informing them he had been ‘hit by a bus’.
Then a second memo would be issued to a select few, informing them the source was alive and well and in possession of the new sensitive intelligence.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has decided not to impose further punishment on David Petraeus, a former CIA director who admitted sharing classified information with his mistress.
A short letter, seen by Reuters, was sent by Stephen Hedger, the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, and the decision is in line with an Army review.
Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed that he was having an affair with his biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell.
When he pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information, a court document signed by Petraeus and prosecutors said that in 2011, Petraeus illegally gave Broadwell access to official binders.
In April, the retired four-star general was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000 but was spared prison time after pleading guilty to mishandling classified information.
The Pentagon could have sought to further reprimand Petraeus under military law.
Petraeus, a counter-insurgency expert with a Princeton University doctorate, served as the top U.S. commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was once considered a possible vice presidential or presidential candidate.
Known as ‘black books’, the binders that Petraeus shared with Broadwell contained classified information including identities of covert officers, code word information, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, diplomatic talks and information from high-level White House National Security Council meetings, according to court records.