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Senators press CIA for information on Karzai’s brother

Lawmakers are actively but secretively trying to get to the bottom of the CIA’s relationship with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in light of the stunning New York Times article which cited unnamed sources stating he has been on the CIA’s payroll for years while simultaneously facilitating massive drug trade ...

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Lawmakers are actively but secretively trying to get to the bottom of the CIA’s relationship with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in light of the stunning New York Times article which cited unnamed sources stating he has been on the CIA’s payroll for years while simultaneously facilitating massive drug trade in his region.

CIA Director Leon Panetta met with several Senators on both sides of the aisle Thursday behind closed doors and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, has submitted a formal request for information detailing the Agency’s relationship with Karzai the brother.

Following his meeting with Panetta, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, said that he would not disclose what Panetta told him but that on the question of Ahmed Wali Karzai‘s relationship with the CIA, he had gotten some clarity.

"I think we know [about his relationship with the CIA] but I can’t share that with you," Levin said, adding mysteriously, "I don’t know that Karzai’s brother is on the CIA payroll."

On the issue of whether or not the President’s brother is facilitating the drug trade near Kandahar, lawmakers who are in the loop seem more confident and willing to publicly express their concerns.

"According to credible people, the President’s brother is involved in various illicit activities," said Armed Services ranking Republican John McCain, R-AZ, "We can’t have that."

McCain reiterated his call that Ahmed Wali Karzai should leave the country immediately.

Kerry was the only senior lawmaker to issue a statement expressing his frustration about not being aware of the relationship.

In an interview with The Cable, Kerry said although the CIA relationship with Karzai might not necessarily be nefarious, Congress had a right to know the details.

"If the CIA has a deal, I want to know what the realities are," he said, "I want to examine the relationships and know what the terms are and understand what’s the impacts of that might or might not be."

"It may not be something you want to deal with publicly, but we have to be absolutely certain that nothing we are trying to do is being compromised," said Kerry.

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been notably mum on the subject, presumably working behind the scenes.

Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, refused to comment and a spokesperson for ranking Republican Kit Bond, R-MO, said that Bond would only say the news shouldn’t result in any delay in President Obama’s decision on how to move forward in Afghanistan.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, the immediate past chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said that he was not aware of the CIA’s relationship with Karzai during his tenure but should have been.

"You know what the problem is? We on the committee own no intelligence," he said, "We only get what they choose to give us. That’s why we are always fighting."

Lawmakers are actively but secretively trying to get to the bottom of the CIA’s relationship with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in light of the stunning New York Times article which cited unnamed sources stating he has been on the CIA’s payroll for years while simultaneously facilitating massive drug trade in his region.

CIA Director Leon Panetta met with several Senators on both sides of the aisle Thursday behind closed doors and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, has submitted a formal request for information detailing the Agency’s relationship with Karzai the brother.

Following his meeting with Panetta, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, said that he would not disclose what Panetta told him but that on the question of Ahmed Wali Karzai‘s relationship with the CIA, he had gotten some clarity.

"I think we know [about his relationship with the CIA] but I can’t share that with you," Levin said, adding mysteriously, "I don’t know that Karzai’s brother is on the CIA payroll."

On the issue of whether or not the President’s brother is facilitating the drug trade near Kandahar, lawmakers who are in the loop seem more confident and willing to publicly express their concerns.

"According to credible people, the President’s brother is involved in various illicit activities," said Armed Services ranking Republican John McCain, R-AZ, "We can’t have that."

McCain reiterated his call that Ahmed Wali Karzai should leave the country immediately.

Kerry was the only senior lawmaker to issue a statement expressing his frustration about not being aware of the relationship.

In an interview with The Cable, Kerry said although the CIA relationship with Karzai might not necessarily be nefarious, Congress had a right to know the details.

"If the CIA has a deal, I want to know what the realities are," he said, "I want to examine the relationships and know what the terms are and understand what’s the impacts of that might or might not be."

"It may not be something you want to deal with publicly, but we have to be absolutely certain that nothing we are trying to do is being compromised," said Kerry.

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been notably mum on the subject, presumably working behind the scenes.

Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, refused to comment and a spokesperson for ranking Republican Kit Bond, R-MO, said that Bond would only say the news shouldn’t result in any delay in President Obama’s decision on how to move forward in Afghanistan.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, the immediate past chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said that he was not aware of the CIA’s relationship with Karzai during his tenure but should have been.

"You know what the problem is? We on the committee own no intelligence," he said, "We only get what they choose to give us. That’s why we are always fighting."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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