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Former CIA Spy Who Runs Own Private CIA & WikiLeaks Cables from Afghanistan

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U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan
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br />U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan by The U.S. Army

The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti reports that Duane R. Clarridge, who parted with the Central Intelligence Agency over twenty years ago, has been running a private network of spies from his poolside at his home near San Diego. Clarridge has "fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul's ruling class."

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Furthermore, Mazzetti reports that Clarridge, "who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned," "has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge's suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say."

Mazzetti paints a portrait of the 78-year-old Clarridge. He is someone who believes Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies. He has for years sent dispatches, "an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports," to military officials and conservative commentators like Oliver L. North, "a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst," and Brad Thor, who writes "military thrillers" and frequently appears on Glenn Beck's show. His reports were used by officials in the U.S. military up to plan military strikes in Afghanistan until spring of last year.

Nowhere in the embassy cables that have been leaked by WikiLeaks are there cables that explicitly indicate the U.S. military and U.S. diplomats were working closely with Clarridge. Clarridge's name never appears. But, they provide great context.

On President Karzai's younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Mazzetti reports:

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 For years, the American military has believed that public anger over government-linked corruption has helped swell the Taliban's ranks, and that Ahmed Wali Karzai plays a central role in that corruption. He has repeatedly denied any links to the Afghan drug trafficking.

According to three American military officials, in April 2009 Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top American commander in Afghanistan, told subordinates that he wanted them to gather any evidence that might tie the president's half brother to the drug trade. "He put the word out that he wanted to "burn' Ahmed Wali Karzai," said one of the military officials."


One WikiLeaks cable from early in 2010 corroborates this revelation that the military was trying to "'burn' Ahmed Wali Karzai." During a meeting between Senior Civilian Representative Frank Ruggiero (SCR) and Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) on February 23, 2010, Karzai raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics:

Unprompted, AWK raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the SCR that he is willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his innocence and that he has hired an attorney in New York to clear his name. He suggested that the coalition pay mullahs to preach against heroin, which would reduce demand for poppy cultivation. AWK dismissed the narcotics allegations as part of a campaign to discredit him, particularly by the media, saying the allegations are "like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat." [emphasis added]


The talk about media alleging he was involved with narcotics raises questions on whether the U.S. military or private individuals like Carridge were planting these stories in the Afghan media to discredit him. His desire to take a polygraph makes one wonder whether he had been intimidated and harassed for some time prior to the meeting and was using the meeting as an opportunity to end the harassment and intimidation once and for all.

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Mazzetti reports, "In early 2010, after General McKiernan left Afghanistan and Mr. Clarridge was under contract to the military, the former spy helped produce a dossier for commanders detailing allegations about Mr. Karzai's drug connections, land grabs and even murders in southern Afghanistan. The document, provided to The Times, speculates that Mr. Karzai's ties to the C.I.A. -- which has paid him an undetermined amount of money since 2001 -- may be the reason the agency "is the only member of the country team in Kabul not to advocate taking a more active stance against AWK."

The story suggests that Clarridge particularly enjoys going after drug traffickers that have power in countries, which the U.S. has interests in controlling. Mazzetti does not talk about profiting off of helping private interests secure control of key land or resources in countries through his work. But, if that is what he has been doing, this cable mentioning Ahmed Wali Karzai might explain why Clarridge would go after Karzai:

As the kingpin of Kandahar, the President's younger half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) dominates access to economic resources, patronage, and protection. Much of the real business of running Kandahar takes place out of public sight, where AWK operates, parallel to formal government structures, through a network of political clans that use state institutions to protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises. A dramatic example is the Arghandab river valley, an agriculturally rich and heavily-populated district strategically located at the northern gate to Kandahar City, where the President's direct intervention in the Alikozai tribal succession increased Karzai political dominance over two of the most valuable resources in Kandahar -- fertile land and water.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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