Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, is a senior reporter for The Washington Independent.

Recent Articles


CATASTROPHE KEEPS THEM TOGETHER. Never let it be said that CIA Director Michael Hayden isn't shrewd. Knowing that media coverage of yesterday's Senate testimony will focus overwhelmingly on General John Abizaid's call for eternal war in Iraq , he discreetly dropped this bombshell about al-Qaeda : Hayden said [al-Qaeda] had lost a series of leaders since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But the losses have been "mitigated by what is, frankly, a pretty deep bench of low-ranking personnel capable of stepping up to assume leadership positions." OK, so on the one achievement that Bush can claim about the war against al-Qaeda -- the percentage of al-Qaeda's leaders killed and captured -- the director of the CIA finally acknowledges that the measurement is meaningless. The Post piece on that ran on page 22. Arrgh. --Spencer Ackerman


YOO TWO: IN THE NAME OF LOVE. The ACLU is trying to get its hands on something we lowly national-security reporters have tried for years to obtain. That's something known colloquially as Yoo Two -- Yoo as in John Yoo , the torturer from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the first Bush administration. And Two as in a second memo in or around August of 2002 about torture. The first memo -- and here "first" is a statement about when it was released, not necessarily when it was written -- is the infamous August 1, 2002 memorandum on torture, which radically redefined torture as anything approaching severe organ failure or death, meaning anything short of that standard -- and maybe even that itself, Yoo argued -- was permissible under the president's commander-in-chief powers during a time of war. But we've long believed there was a second memo, Yoo Two: a piece of paper that specified in detail what the CIA could do to detainees in its custody. And according to Dan Eggen...


BARBARIANS AT THE GATES. If Walter Pincus is correct that Defense Secretary-designee Bob Gates will scale back Donald Rumsfeld 's expansion of the Pentagon's role in intelligence, we should let out a resounding cheer. Rumsfeld pushed the Pentagon way, way out into the blue yonder of intelligence work -- both with the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group , designed to obstruct CIA analysis on Iraq and al-Qaeda, and in the field of human intelligence collection . The PCEG's failures speak for themselves. The HUMINT stuff is more obscure and wonky, but it has real consequences. DOD intelligence is about tactical matters, not strategic ones -- for instance, learning what bridge to blow up in the field, rather than running spies or informants for years. But the Defense Intelligence Agency has been pushing its resources into duplicating what the CIA already does, and has done for half a century. And consider that if DIA, say, turns a colonel in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the CIA...


VIEW ON GATES FROM INSIDE THE CIA. I just talked with someone we'll call a former senior intelligence official about the end of Rummy and the era of Bob Gates at the Pentagon. He's not very keen. Asked about Gates's rocky relationship with Dick Cheney, the ex-official comments, "That's for sure, with Cheney. Each time you think Bush realizes that Cheney doesn't give him the best advice, he just takes it. It's hard to see anyone defeating Cheney for Bush's mind." So what does that mean for changing course? Not going to happen. "The hope what's going to happen with Congress -- gridlock, and that's not such a bad thing. You know, when you're in a hole, stop digging." Also, what's it mean that Gates was accused of cooking intelligence in the 1980s? "Well," the source laughs, "that's what they're looking for, and so they've found the perfect guy." --Spencer Ackerman

Imperial Hubris

And so ends the long, hard slog that was the Donald Rumsfeld Pentagon. Surely unwilling to submit to the endless nightmare posed by two years' worth of Senate and House inquiries into his tenure as defense secretary, Rumsfeld did what he -- and President Bush -- promised he wouldn't, and abandoned his post. Immediately, the cheers rang out. Bush, echoing the departing secretary, talked about "fresh eyes" for the war in Iraq. Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi intoned, "I think it will give a fresh start to finding a solution to Iraq rather than staying the course." Her colleagues, possible Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, architect of the Dems' Senate rout, agreed. But by far, the biggest plaudits for Rumsfeld's ouster have come from the war's most stalwart defenders. Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and FOX commentator, has been calling for Rumsfeld's head since before 9/11. Kristol has sniped at Rumsfeld for his "arrogant buck-passing"; for having "only...