In December 2003, security forces boarded a bus in Macedonia and snatched a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri. For the next five months, Masri was a ghost. Only a select group of CIA officers knew he had been taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan for interrogation.
But he was the wrong guy. A hard-charging CIA analyst had pushed the agency into one of the biggest diplomatic embarrassments of the US fight against terrorism. Yet despite recommendations, the analyst was never punished. In fact, she has risen within the agency.
That botched case is but one example of a CIA accountability process that even some within the agency say is unpredictable and inconsistent. In the years after the 9/11 attacks, officers who made mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all, an AP investigation has found. The investigation revealed a CIA disciplinary system that takes years to make decisions, hands down reprimands inconsistently and is viewed inside the agency as prone to favouritism.
In his book Beyond Repair, longtime CIA officer Charles Faddis contrasted the CIA with the military, where he said officers are held responsible for their mistakes and the mistakes of their subordinates.
"There is no such system in place within the CIA, and the long-term effect is catastrophically corrosive," he wrote.
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