Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 25, 2010; 6:57 PM
A little-known fact, according to a once-secret CIA analysis, is that America has long been an exporter of terrorism. And if that phenomenon were to become a widely-held perception, it could damage relations with foreign allies, the agency analysis said, and dampen their willingness to cooperate in "extrajudicial" activities, such as the rendition and interrogation of terrorist suspects.
That is the conclusion of a three-page classified analysis produced in February by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up after the 9/11 attacks by then CIA Director George Tenet to provide "out-of-the-box" analyses on "a full range of relevant analytic issues."
Titled "What if Foreigners See the United States as an 'Exporter of Terrorism'?" the leaked paper, released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks, cites the example of Pakistani-American David Headley, among others, to make its case that America is a terrorism exporter. This year Headley pleaded guilty to conducting surveillance in support of the 2008 Lashkar-i-Taiba attack in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people. The militant group facilitated his movement between the U.S., Pakistan and India, the agency paper said.
Such exports are not new, the paper said. In 1994, an American Jewish doctor named Baruch Goldstein emigrated from New York to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach and killed 29 Palestinians praying at a mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, it said. That helped trigger a wave of bus bombings by the extremist Palestinian group, Hamas group in 1995, it noted.
As Wikileaks disclosures go, this paper is more whiffle ball than bombshell. Last month the organization published 76,000 classified U.S. military records and field reports on the war in Afghanistan. That disclosure prompted criticism that the information put U.S. soldiers and Afghan informants at risk and demands from the Pentagon that the documents be returned. WikiLeaks says it is still planning to release 15,000 more Afghan war records that it has been reviewing to redact names and other information that could cause harm.
CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf downplayed the significance of the analysis: "These sorts of analytic products -- clearly identified as coming from the Agency's 'Red Cell' -- are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view."
A U.S. official who declined to speak for attribution was more dismissive. "This is not exactly a blockbuster paper," the official said.
While counterterrorism experts focus on the threat to the homeland, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups "may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas," the Red Cell report said.
And if the made-in-the-US brand becomes well-known, foreign partners may become balky, perhaps even requesting "the rendition of U.S. citizens" they deem to be terrorists. U.S. refusal to hand over its citizens could strain alliances, and "in extreme cases... might lead some governments to consider secretly extracting U.S. citizens suspected of foreign terrorism from U.S. soil."
This is not the first Red Cell report that WikiLeaks has released. It earlier published a March Red Cell "special memorandum" suggesting strategies to boost sagging public support for the Afghan war in France and Germany.