July 17, 2013 | Quote
Should the CIA Be Sharing Intelligence That Could Help Hezbollah?
The enemy of the CIA's enemy in Lebanon is still its enemy. But, according to a report for McClatchy by FP contributor Mitchell Prothero, when the CIA discovered that al Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups in Syria were plotting attacks against Hezbollah's strongholds in Lebanon, they shared that intelligence with the Lebanese government — “with the understanding that it would be passed to Hezbollah.” (A U.S. official speaking to FP disputed the notion that the CIA would provide intelligence to a terrorist organization.)
Lebanese officials and a security contractor said the intelligence had included phone calls monitored by U.S. intelligence between militants in Lebanon and the Gulf. “America might hate the NSA right now, but they were able to actually hear the calls and warn us what was said,” a Lebanese official told Prothero.
That prompted anger among some national security experts, like Guardian editor Spencer Ackerman and Brett Friedman of the Marine Corps Gazette.
But that's not enough for some critics. “While a stable Lebanon is in the US interest, I have serious concerns about the CIA sharing intelligence, even in an indirect way, with a terrorist organization,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told FP by email. “The station chief may have bought himself a bit of good will with the Shi'ite terrorist group. But that's not our objective. Our objective is to defeat it — in Lebanon, where it is based, and now in Syria.”
Update: Clarifying some of the nuance lost in Twitter's abberviated style, Spencer Ackerman writes, “I was making a joking commentary about NSA surveillance's utility for Hezbollah, as I've been covering that surveillance quite extensively, and not an outraged policy argument.” We've kept the tweets here for their perspective, but Ackerman's intent was not to stake out a policy position.