A few months ago, our day was illuminated by the news that the CIA’s chief of station in Algeria, Andrew Warren, was under investigation for a pair of date rapes. I did not pay the matter too much mind at the time, but have recently realized that Warren may have been involved in one of the defining events of the war on terror.
This event is the rendition of militant training camp commander Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to Egypt in early 2002. It was important for two reasons: (1) under interrogation al-Libi made false claims of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq, helping build the case for the invasion of Iraq; and (2) although some theoretical work had already been done establishing the CIA’s black sites, al-Libi was in the FBI’s custody, but was taken away from the bureau by the CIA following an interagency battle that was decided at the White House. This was the initial trial of strength that determined the course of treatment of high-value detainees: instead of the FBI’s rapport-building, subsequent detainees–starting with Abu Zubaida in spring 2002–were tortured by the CIA.
Warren was only a junior officer at the time (he joined the agency in the mid-90s, but left to work in finance in Manhattan and only re-joined after witnessing the Twin Towers’ collapse), and the protest that led to al-Libi’s transfer came from his boss, Kabul station chief Richard Blee, not Warren.
However, there’s a story about the al-Libi rendition that’s appeared in several media outlets. This is the version from Jane Mayer’s Dark Side:
… several days into what the FBI regarded as winning al-Libi’s trust, a young Arabic-speaking CIA officer named “Albert,” who had previously worked for [FBI agent Jack] Cloonan at the FBI as a junior language specialist, burst into the cell where [FBI agent Russell] Fincher was questioning al-Libi and started shouting at the prisoner. “You’re going to Egypt!” he yelled. “And while you’re there, I’m going to find your mother, and fuck her!”
While there is no way to prove conclusively that this officer was Warren, there is certainly enough evidence to strongly consider the possibility.
First, Warren’s postings are listed by the media as Iraq/Kuwait, Afghanistan, New York, Egypt and Algeria. Algeria was in September 2007, Egypt before that and New York before that, around September 2003. Iraq/Kuwait was before he temporarily left the agency. That leaves Afghanistan, and the only time slot left is between his return to the agency after 9/11 and the posting in New York. In addition, in a September 2002 interview he stated he had just returned from Afghanistan after a stint of a couple of months. This puts Warren in the country around the time in question.
Second, “Albert” is described as being “young,” and Warren would have been around 33 at that time.
Third, both “Albert” and Warren are Arabic speakers.
Fourth, there are various systems for using aliases to refer to undercover agents applied by US government bodies. One system used by the Justice Department is to refer to officials by only a first name that starts with the first letter of the person’s real first name (but is different to his or her actual first name). For example, in the Justice Department inspector general’s report about the FBI’s pre-9/11 failings Dave Frasca is “Don,” Michael Maltbie is “Martin,” and Rita Flack is “Robin.” Therefore, “Albert” would be a natural choice by Cloonan for someone called Andrew.
Putting this altogether, we are looking for a young CIA officer who speaks Arabic and whose first name probably begins with the letter “A.” There were over 200 CIA officers in Afghanistan at that time, but we can rule most of them out of grounds of age and not speaking Arabic, leaving a fairly small pool.
Fifth is more complicated. According to Cloonan, “Albert” previously worked for the bureau. Warren has never admitted working for the FBI, but, when he published a fairly mediocre novel in 2002, he claimed to have worked first for the NSA, then for the State Department. The State Department claim was false—cover for his work at the CIA. Could the NSA claim also be false, cover for working for the bureau?
Finally, I can’t help but think that only a CIA station chief dumb enough to rape two locals in Algeria would also be dumb enough to provide posterity with the “find your mother and fuck her” quote.
As I said, this is by no means conclusive proof that “Albert” is Warren, but perhaps someone with inside knowledge would like to weigh in on the debate now that Warren has been outed?