'Jordan closer CIA ally than Mossad'

Jordan's intelligence has a wider reach in Middle East, says former CIA member.

joran soldier flags 298 (photo credit: AP)
joran soldier flags 298
(photo credit: AP)
Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate, or GID, has surpassed Israel's Mossad as the US's most effective allied counter-terrorism agency in the Middle East, The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend. According to unnamed former CIA officials, the US provides secret financial assistance to subsidize the GID's budget, and the two intelligence agencies conduct sophisticated joint operations and routinely share information. The GID has emerged as a hub for "extraordinary renditions," the controversial, covert transfer of suspected extremists from US custody to foreign intelligence agencies, the report said. "Jordan is at the top of our list of foreign partners," Michael Scheuer, who resigned from the CIA last year, ending a 22-year career that included four years heading a unit tracking al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was quoted as saying. "We have similar agendas, and they are willing to help any way they can." Since the September 11 attacks, its cooperation with the CIA has grown even closer. The GID has aggressively hunted Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of the extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq and suspected planner of Wednesday's bombings. Last year, Jordanian agents reportedly foiled truck bomb attacks on the US Embassy and government targets in Amman. GID personnel are characterized as highly capable interrogators by Frank Anderson, a former CIA Middle East division chief. "They're going to get more information [from a terrorism suspect] because they're going to know his language, his culture, his associates - and more about the network he belongs to," he told The Los Angeles Times. Although the Mossad is commonly considered the CIA's closest ally in the region, Scheuer and others interviewed said that the GID is as capable and professional as the Mossad - and as an Arab nation, Jordan is more effective combating predominantly Arab militant organizations. "The GID … has a wider reach [in the Middle East] than the Mossad," Scheuer said. Jordan receives about $450 million worth of economic and military aid from the US annually. Scheuer said the US continues to underwrite the GID's budget, but no figure was given. "It's not a huge sum of money to us, but it's a significant amount of money for [the GID] and allows them to buy a lot of equipment, mostly technical stuff, that they could otherwise not afford," Scheuer said. Another former senior agency Middle East expert said Jordan's king often had a closer relationship with the local CIA station chief than with the American ambassador to Jordan. Jordan's intelligence partnership with the US is so close, in fact, that the CIA has had technical personnel "virtually embedded" at GID headquarters, said a former CIA official in the Middle East. One former CIA official said he was allowed to roam the halls of the GID unescorted. "The United States has had no closer ally than Jordan in the war on terror, and Jordan will find no better friend than the United States at this difficult hour," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday after the attacks in Amman. According to a State Department report released this year, Jordanian security agents "sometimes abuse detainees physically and verbally during detention and interrogation, and allegedly also use torture." It said Jordan's reported torture methods include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions and extended solitary confinement. Such allegations have not hampered the CIA's collaboration with the GID. The relations are so critical that Washington has given Amman "a free pass on human rights because it has been so useful strategically," said Marc Lynch, a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts and an expert on US-Jordanian relations.