The CIA has begun an investigation into an extraordinary move of a CIA analyst to remain anonymous and resist requests to name him or her following his or her capture by Turkish officials — a move that infuriated those who knew him, led to the creation of a new agency position within the agency and placed the analyst on the chopping block.
The move became a target for criticism because the witness was seized by Turkish officials and held for intelligence purposes without any judicial process. The strategy infuriated some American officials, especially the State Department, because the alleged spy had lived in the United States since 2002 and revealed nothing publicly.
The judge on the case ordered the witness held at a holding facility in Virginia — he was then transferred to Guantanamo Bay, after which he was released to Italy. The witness was then returned to the United States and allowed to serve a five-year sentence in a federal prison.
Since then, the CIA has launched an investigation into the witness’ actions following the conclusion of the prosecution. That probe will lead to disciplinary action or even criminal charges, according to an official with knowledge of the issue. The probe — described by the official as “investigative” — has no goals, but will determine whether the witness should remain on the agency payroll, go through the forced retirement process or face further disciplinary action.
At a recent meeting of the spy agency’s inspector general, higher-ups expressed their disappointment in the witness, the official said.
A Justice Department spokesman would not comment on the case, but said the agency is looking into it. The CIA declined to comment on the investigation.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the incident highlights the responsibilities of intelligence officers. He said that, in carrying out sensitive missions to detain or capture those who can wreak havoc on U.S. and allied nations, intelligence officers must be able to keep one step ahead of their adversaries and survive any attempts to identify them.
The committee was also told that, when this case first came to light, the witness’s activities were deemed appropriate but that intelligence analysts are nevertheless required to go through a formal process before revealing anything about their work, the official said.
The CIA is also investigating if it is appropriate to have created a new post of principal investigator to work at the agency’s agency headquarters, although no staffing decisions are made, the official said.
The witness has not made public comments about the case, but the embassy in Italy has expressed its regret to the community, stating on its website that it had reached out to a couple hundred Italian officers about the investigation.