The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks. And if that phenomenon were to become a widely held perception, the analysis said, it could damage relations with foreign allies and dampen their willingness to cooperate in “extrajudicial” activities, such as the rendition and interrogation of terrorism suspects.
That is the conclusion of the three-page classified paper produced in February by the CIA’s Red Cell, a think tank set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide “out-of-the-box” analyses on “a full range of analytic issues.”
Titled “What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism’?,” the paper cites Pakistani American David Headley, among others, to make its case that the nation is a terrorism exporter. Headley pleaded guilty this year to conducting surveillance in support of the 2008 Lashkar-i-Taiba attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 160 people. The militant group facilitated his movement between the United States, Pakistan and India, the agency paper said.
Such exports are not new, the paper said. In 1994, an American Jewish doctor, 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 in 1995, the paper noted.
As WikiLeaks disclosures go, this paper pales in comparison to the organization’s recent releases. Last month the group 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. troops and Afghan informants at risk, along with 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 played down the significance of the paper: “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.”
While counterterrorism experts focus on threats to the homeland, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups “may be increasingly looking for Americans to operate overseas,” the paper said.
And if the made-in-America 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.”