Jason Vest

Jason Vest is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect and a
contributor to the Boston Phoenix and The Nation, specializing in intelligence
national security affairs. He also holds an Ochberg Fellowship with the
University of Washington's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Recognized by
American Journalism Review in 2002 as an "Unsung Hero of Washington
Vest has previously done staff stints at the Washington Post, US News & World
and Village Voice. He covered the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war
(1999-2000), as a correspondent for The Scotsman, and was awarded a 1999 Fund
Investigative Journalism grant to examine both the war and media coverage.

Originally a reporter for alternative weeklies in Indiana, Vest has also
written for The Atlantic Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, Mother Jones,
AlterNet and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, among others. His
work for
the Prospect in 2004 has been supported by grant awards from the Foundation
for Constitutional Goverment and the Ettinger Foundation. His book on national
security during the current Bush Administration will be published by Wiley &
Sons in 2005.

Recent Articles

Pray and Tell

On May 13, 2004, as the world media were in full scrum over Abu Ghraib, an FBI agent who had spent time interviewing terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, fired off a gloomy e-mail to a colleague. Venting about what had happened in Iraq and expressing his fears that, despite the scandal's coverage, nothing would change, much of the agent's angst had to do with post–September 11 notions that treating terrorism suspects as human beings was neither necessary nor useful. “From what CNN reports, [General Janis] Karpinski at Abu Ghraib said that [General Geoffrey] Miller came to the prison several months ago and told her they wanted to ‘gitmoize' Abu Ghraib,” he wrote. “If this refers to [intelligence] gathering as I suspect, it suggests that he has continued to support interrogation strategies we not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness … we were surprised to read an article in Stars...

Checkpoints and Balances

As soon as news broke on March 4 about U.S. troops firing on reporter Giuliana Sgrena's Baghdad airport-bound car and killing Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari in the process, the clash of accounts began almost immediately. The Americans put the blame squarely on the Italians for driving too fast and not heeding supposed warnings; Sgrena and the surviving Italian intelligence officials, however, said the car was going at a reasonable speed, and that no warnings were given. The Americans claim it was an honest mistake stemming from checkpoint rules of engagement; the Italian Communist Party cast it as part of a dark plot to stop a reporter who knew too much. And so on and so forth. The day after Calipari's death, I spoke with a veteran CIA officer who had participated in operations similar to Calipari's. The whole affair, he ruefully said, reminded him of similar incidents from a bygone era. Speaking on condition that neither he nor the country he operated out of be named,...

Mole Hunt

In May, Stephen Green was hard at work campaigning for a seat in Vermont's House of Representatives when he got a phone call. The last person the 64-year-old former United Nations official, then preoccupied with health-care policy issues, expected to hear from was an FBI agent, who asked if he could come to Washington to chat with him about the history of Israeli espionage efforts against the United States. As the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, Green knew something about the subject. Still, the phone call seemed to come out of the blue. Green quickly discovered, however, that the FBI had a keen interest in the subject. Federal agents were involved in an investigation into an alleged Israeli "mole" in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Early reports suggested that the FBI had wiretap evidence that a veteran Iran analyst working in Feith's office at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Larry Franklin, may have passed a classified draft of...

The Wrong Target

On February 5, 2003, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to convince the United Nations Security Council of the need for war against Iraq, in a quiet Baghdad neighborhood half a world away, Mahdi Obeidi watched Al-Jazeera intently as Powell's presentation unfolded. Once tasked with designing and building a centrifuge to enrich uranium for use in Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, Obeidi had spent most of the past decade tracking budget numbers as the state Military Industrial Commission's director of projects -- a position that put the scientist in the unique position of knowing the line-item details of every ongoing Iraqi weapons endeavor. Though the nuclear knowledge he had gained in '80s-era clandestine missions all over the world made him one of Saddam Hussein's most important scientists, this was a special status he could have done without: He and his family were under constant surveillance because of his refusal to join the Baath Party. According to selections from a soon...

Spy Versus Spy

On Thursday morning, feelings of anticipatory glee that had been rising all week at the CIA's Langley, Virginia, headquarters briefly ebbed. This was not out of sorrow at George Tenet's resignation announcement. Rather, it was about what Tenet's departure might mean in terms of another long-awaited staffing change. A notice had been sent round earlier in the week that on Friday morning, Jim Pavitt, the deputy director of operations -- the man who oversees the agency's spies and covert operators -- would be addressing the Directorate of Operations staff in "the Bubble," Langley's auditorium. The unofficial but reliable word was that Pavitt was going to announce his retirement, an event old and new hands alike have eagerly anticipated for some time. But upon Tenet's announcement, Directorate of Operations veterans in and out of the building shuddered: Would Tenet's resignation perhaps cause Pavitt to reconsider and stay? By the end of the afternoon, sighs of relief could be heard in the...