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"Half the palace is on the payroll" (Updated)
Posted by on August 27th, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The Washington Post has a piece today entitled "CIA making secret payments to members of Karzai administration".

The CIA is making secret payments to multiple members of President Hamid Karzai's administration, in part to maintain sources of information in a government in which the Afghan leader is often seen as having a limited grasp of developments, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The payments are long-standing in many cases and designed to help the agency maintain a deep roster of allies within the presidential palace. Some aides function as CIA informants, but others collect stipends under more informal arrangements meant to ensure their accessibility, a U.S. official said.

 If you find that unsurprising, well, you're not the only one. If you think that it makes a mockery of any pretense that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, well, stomping on Afghan sovereignty has been the American standard operating procedure since 2002.

But what's interesting to me is that the WaPo's current version differs significantly from a syndicated version at the Monterey Herald and other news sites. The following third paragraph no longer appears in the WaPo's version:

"Half the palace is on the payroll," said a U.S. official, who said some officials function as agency informants, but that others collect stipends under more informal arrangements meant to ensure their accessibility to the CIA.

In fact, the WaPo's official version has no mention of the payroll being as large as "half the palace", saying only that a "significant number of officials in Karzai's administration are on the payroll."

Meanwhile, the official version contains the following not in the syndicated version:

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, disputed that characterization, saying, "This anonymous source appears driven by ignorance, malice or both."

There's no mention of the change or the reason for it at the Washington Post's website.

I'm imagining a late-night, angry phone call to the WaPo's editors from the CIA, demanding some damage control.

Update: Robert Naiman emails to point out the similiarity in language between the WaPo's "some officials function as agency informants, but that others collect stipends under more informal arrangements" and this from the NY Times on Wednesday:

It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money, whether providing information to the spy agency, advancing American views inside the presidential palace, or both.

If that's not the same anonymous official feeding the writer words, then it's another working from the same script.

And the reason for the leaks? Robert writes: it's the first time I remember seeing an Obama Administration official quoted denouncing the anti-corruption drive as "mission creep":

"Some administration officials argue that any comprehensive campaign to fight corruption inside Afghanistan is overly ambitious, with less than a year to go before the American military is set to begin withdrawing troops.

'Fighting corruption is the very definition of mission creep,' one Obama administration official said."


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