You are hereSpying
By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin
From The Washington Post | Original Article
In suburbs across the nation, the intelligence community goes about its anonymous business. Its work isn’t seen, but its impact is surely felt.
The brick warehouse is not just a warehouse. Drive through the gate and around back, and there, hidden away, is someone's personal security detail: a fleet of black SUVs that have been armored up to withstand explosions and gunfire.
Along the main street, the signs in the median aren't advertising homes for sale; they're inviting employees with top-secret security clearances to a job fair at Cafe Joe, which is anything but a typical lunch spot.
The new gunmetal-colored office building is really a kind of hotel where businesses can rent eavesdrop-proof rooms.
By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin
From The Washington Post | Original Article
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
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Feingold Pushes Intel Reforms to Increase Oversight and Accountability, While Better Protecting Taxpayer Dollars
Washington Post Reports Highlight Need for Improved Oversight to Ensure Accountability and Protect Taxpayer Dollars
To ensure that the country's most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation's interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called "inherently government functions." But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counter-terrorism agency, according to a two-year investigation by The Washington Post.
What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest -- and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities. In interviews last week, both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta said they agreed with such concerns.
By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation
Stop the presses and call the government spokespeople back from Martha's Vineyard.
The corporate media have discovered that the United States is radically outsourcing national security and sensitive intelligence operations. Cable news channels breathlessly report on the "groundbreaking," "exclusive" Washington Post series, Top Secret America, a two-year investigation by Dana Priest and William Arkin. No doubt there is some important stuff in this series. Both Arkin and Priest have done outstanding work for many years on sensitive, life-or-death subjects. And that is one of the main reasons why this series has, thus far, been incredibly disappointing. Its greatest accomplishment is forcing a discussion onto corporate TV years after it would have had an actual impact.
And adds to what already has taken place in the previous decade, brought on by the same, to make National Security Much Less Secure!!
In June, a stone carver from Manassas, Va., chiseled another perfect star into a marble wall at CIA headquarters, one of 22 for agency workers killed in the global war initiated by the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The intent of the memorial is to publicly honor the courage of those who died in the line of duty, but it also conceals a deeper story about government in the post-9/11 era: Eight of the 22 were not CIA officers at all. They were private contractors.
"Top Secret America" Washington Post Investigation Reveals Massive, Out of Control, Privatized U.S. Intelligence System
An explosive investigative series published in the Washington Post today begins, "The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work." Among the findings: An estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. More than 1,200 government organizations and nearly 2,000 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in 10,000 locations. We speak with Bill Arkin, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the piece with Dana Priest.
By Daniel Tencer, The Raw Story
Washington's intelligence establishment appears to be in panic mode over an upcoming Washington Post series about runaway growth in defense and intelligence spending.
A State Department email has accused the Post of planning to make public "top secret" information about defense and intelligence contractors working for the US, despite an admission in the same email that the Post's information came from "open sources."
The series, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Dana Priest, will include a TV partnership with PBS's Frontline and is expected to consist of three articles and an online database of military and intelligence contractors and their projects.
It's that database of contractors that seems to be worrying Washington the most. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reports that the State Department sent out an email Thursday warning all 14,574 Washington-area employees of the upcoming reports.
"On Monday July 19, the Washington Post plans to publish a website listing all agencies and contractors believed to conduct Top Secret work on behalf of the US Government," the email stated. "The website provides a graphic representation pinpointing the location of firms conducting Top Secret work, describing the type of work they perform, and identifying many facilities where such work is done."
By Ray McGovern
Useful insights often must be seen through a glass darkly. But some can be pulled through the smoke and mirrors shrouding the wanderings of Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri, who is now back home in Iran after 14 months in the U.S. as guest of the CIA.
The confusing/amusing spin applied by both countries to L’ Affaire Amiri can detract from the real issues. The facts beneath the competing narratives permit a key conclusion; namely, that U.S. intelligence has learned nothing to change its assessment that Iran halted work on the nuclear-weapons related part of its nuclear development program in the fall of 2003 and has not restarted that work.
That twin judgment leaped out of a formal National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” approved unanimously by all 16 U.S intelligence agencies in November 2007.
By Melvin A. Goodman, t r u t h o u t
President Barack Obama has been a major disappointment to a liberal community that rallied to his call for genuine change. His administration has made no attempt to investigate the crimes that were committed by the Bush administration, including torture and abuse, secret prisons and renditions. President Obama rescued Wall Street, but not Main Street. And he has expanded the self-destructive war in Afghanistan, where there is no end in sight. President Obama cannot be blamed for the failure to close Guantanamo, but he continues to favor preventive detention. But the president's most inexplicable failure, in view of his Harvard Law School background and commitment to constitutional rights, is his unwillingness to name a statutory inspector general (IG) at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Translation: "We will not tolerate wrongdoing by small fry (just forget Bush/Cheney, etc., etc., etc.)."
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Six more New Orleans police officers have been indicted in connection with the shooting deaths of two people and the wounding of four others who were walking on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.
U.S. prosecutors unsealed a 27-count indictment that charged three current officers and one former officer with the killing, and subsequent cover-up, of James Brissette, a 17-year-old city resident, and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man who suffered disabilities and was shot in the back.
TomDispatch: Stephan Salisbury: Stage-Managing the War on Terror, Ensnaring Terrorists Demands Creativity
From TomDispatch today, To what extent is the domestic war on terror a government creation? -- Stephan Salisbury, "Stage-Managing the War on Terror, Ensnaring Terrorists Demands Creativity."
Stephan Salisbury, cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of Mohamed's Ghost's: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland, explores a little known world of government informants and terror entrapment policies to ask the question: How much of the domestic war on terror is a self-created phantasm of the governmental/law enforcement imagination?
He begins his latest TomDispatch piece: "Informers have by now become our first line of defense in our battles with the evildoers, the go-to guys in the never-ending domestic war on terror. They regularly do the dirty work -- suggesting and encouraging the plots, laboring as bag men to move the money, fashioning the bombs, and eliciting the flamboyant dialogue, even while following the scripts of their handlers to the letter. They have attended to all the little details that make for the successful and now familiar arrests, criminal complaints, trials, and (for the most part) convictions in the ever-distracting war against... what? Al-Qaeda? Terror? Muslims? The inept? The poor?"
Salisbury reviews a range of far-fetched cases of domestic terror -- "A band of virtually homeless and penniless men in Florida, we were told, were planning to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. They just needed the right combat boots to pull it off, and a little free money..." -- and then considers two recent cases in detail. Both revolved around well-paid government informers and well-made government scripts for crime -- the Newburgh Four and the Detroit Ummah conspiracy. In the first, which the presiding judge has taken to calling "the unterrorism case," blacks from a poor neighborhood, petty criminals and Muslim converts, were led into a bizarre terror plot by an informer who made offers of significant payments and provided the "plotters" with their "bombs." In the second, an imam in Detroit, connected to sixties radical H. Rap Brown, was shot to death by the FBI.
As Salisbury concludes, "Both Newburgh and Detroit are, indeed, instances of 'unterrorism,' as the Newburgh judge said of the 'plot' before her. Yet both are starkly framed by the on-going war on terror, both involve elaborate set-ups arranged by federal informers and covert agents, and both ensnared inept, virtually destitute black people scrambling to get by in post-racial America."
This is a rare piece that takes on the role of the informer in the domestic war on terror and asks how much we are involved in creating our own fear machine. Don't miss this one!
Obama warns corruption erodes faith in government: Hillary Clinton Blasts Steel Vise of Government Crushing Dissent
By Dave Lindorff
Finally, a politician has stood up and boldly denounced the creeping fascism that is gradually crushing democracy and political activism.
Not mincing her words, or trying to justify the jackboot, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton roundly condemned government actions that she said are “closing in the walls” on unions, rights advocates and organizations that press for social change or that shine a light on government shortcomings.
“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” she declared in ringing tones. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”
Clinton even got the normally taciturn President Obama to join her, releasing a statement in which he said he was concerned about “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom, and wide-spread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their government.”
In their June 28 article headlined, "In Ordinary Lives, US Sees the Work of Russian Agents," Scott Shane and Charlie Savage said they "lived for more than a decade in American cities and suburbs from Seattle to New York, where they seemed to be ordinary couples working ordinary jobs, chatting to their neighbors about schools and apologizing for noisy teenagers."
The next day, Times writers Shane and Benjamin Weiser headlined, "Spying Suspects Seemed Short on Secrets," saying:
"The only things (absent in this case) were actual secrets to send home to Moscow." In fact, none of the 11 were charged with espionage because they weren't "caught sending classified information back to Moscow, American officials said."
According to Richard F. Stolz, former CIA head of spy operations and onetime Moscow station chief:
"What in the world do they think they were going to get out of this, in this day and age? The effort is out of proportion to the alleged benefits. I just don't understand what they expected?
It prompted Newsweek to headline - "Part John le Carre, Part Austin Powers," saying why would Russia "set up such elaborate long-term undercover plants when (they) could arguably buy as much influence (with) the right consultants, lawyers, and lobbyists" - the way everyone does business in Washington, the right information/results for the right price.
As the world has been gripped by the Russian spy ring that was busted in the United States, there are still looming questions about the validity of this story. People have compared some of the stories that are coming out from the Justice Department to an old spy novel from the Cold War era. Ray McGovern says that the new KGB was too worried that the alleged spies were making too good of a home in America and called them out.
I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA. At least, I would like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the President.
I think it is fairly obvious that by and large a President's performance in office is as effective as the information he has and the information he gets. That is to say, that assuming the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs to have available to him the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots in the contest between East and West. This is an immense task and requires a special kind of an intelligence facility.
Of course, every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many intelligence agencies already in existence. The Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Interior and others are constantly engaged in extensive information gathering and have done excellent work.
But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established positions of a given department. This becomes confusing and what's worse, such intelligence is of little use to a President in reaching the right decisions.
Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department "treatment" or interpretations.
I wanted and needed the information in its "natural raw" state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions—and I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating. Read more.
Pentagon revives Rumsfeld-era domestic spying unit
By Daniel Tencer | Raw Story
The Pentagon's spy unit has quietly begun to rebuild a database for tracking potential terrorist threats that was shut down after it emerged that it had been collecting information on American anti-war activists.
The Defense Intelligence Agency filed notice this week that it plans to create a new section called Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records, whose purpose will be to "document intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counternarcotic operations relating to the protection of national security."
But while the unit's name refers to "foreign intelligence," civil liberties advocates and the Pentagon's own description of the program suggest that Americans will likely be included in the new database. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?
The Hunt for Julian Assange
More than a year after the CIA's inspector general stepped down, frustrated members of Congress are urging the White House to fill the internal watchdog position that was central in uncovering abuses inside the spy agency.
Several possible candidates have fallen by the wayside despite assurances from the Obama administration that a nominee will be chosen soon.
The pressure from Congress comes as the administration is contending with concerns about its intelligence structure. A spate of failed terrorist attacks since December exposed flaws in the intelligence community's oversight. The administration also faces congressional unease over its new nominee for national intelligence director, James R. Clapper, after the forced resignation of the previous director, Dennis Blair.
The government's inspectors general root out corruption, fraud and other abuses that rarely surface otherwise. Because the CIA's activities are mostly conducted in secrecy, the position is of special value.
"I am disturbed that it has not been filled up to this point," said Fred Hitz, who served as the CIA inspector general for eight years until 1998. "I am wondering what is going on." Read more.
From TomDispatch this morning, a classic Lewis Lapham essay on sports as a stand-in for war American-style, not to speak of business and politics -- Lewis Lapham, "Field of Dreams, The CIA & Me & Other Adventures in American Sports." (Note that this latest post, appearing exclusively at TomDispatch, is the introductory essay for the summer issue of Lapham's magazine, Lapham's Quarterly.)
Sports may be the ultimate in play, but -- in America anyway -- it's also the ultimate in war and business. And when it comes to sports, it turns out that you just can't beat Lewis Lapham writing on it -- starting with his job interview with the CIA in the 1950s: "My examiners, Yale men brave and true, didn’t stoop to a concern with mere numbers. They wished to know whether I was the right sort, socially presentable and good at games. Instead of asking about the topography of central Europe, they inquired about the terrain of a golf course on eastern Long Island, the positioning of the marker buoys for a sailboat race around Nantucket, whether I played tennis on grass or clay."
He didn't take the job and instead went on to become one of this country's great essayists and magazine editors. He also never stopped watching for the ways sports mirrored other developments in this country. Here he is, for instance, on how professional sports ramped up in our era: "In concert with the broad technological advance occurring elsewhere in the society, the sports industry looked to its bullpen for digital and pharmaceutical enhancements. Labor passed the hat for steroids. Management multiplied the camera angles, narrowed the strike zone, sodded the diamonds and the gridirons with AstroTurf, enlarged the jumbotrons, shortened the distance to the outfield fences, strengthened the golf clubs, adjusted the rules and the clocks to allow more time for the beer and truck commercials, bulked up the salaries paid to players bulked up to resemble the designated hitters in World of Warcraft. Goliath signed to a five-year contract, David sent back to Pawtucket."
There's no way to summarize a Lapham essay, except to say that this one, the introductory essay for the summer issue of his magazine, Lapham's Quarterly, covers the field -- of dreams, of play, of war. It's not to be missed.
Pentagon Tightens Grip on the Obama Administration and the Intelligence Community
By Melvin A. Goodman | Truthout
If President Obama were truly interested in intelligence reform, he would have abolished the office of national intelligence and the position of intelligence czar or at least placed the DNI in civilian hands to counter the Pentagon's control of intelligence personnel and intelligence spending. The Pentagon already controls nearly 85 percent of the $70 billion intelligence budget and nearly 90 percent of the 100,000 intelligence personnel. Active duty and retired general officers now command nearly all of the major institutions of the intelligence community, although my 18 years on the faculty of the National War College confirmed my impression that military officers are not distinguished in the fields of strategic intelligence or geopolitical problem solving.
President Barack Obama's appointment of retired Gen. James Clapper as the director of national intelligence (DNI) demonstrates the Pentagon's enormous influence over the president and indicates that there is little likelihood of genuine reform of the hidebound intelligence community. Once again, the president has appointed a general officer to an important strategic position that should be in the hands of an experienced civilian who understands the need for change. President Obama has given retired generals the key positions of national security adviser, ambassadors to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and DNI (on two occasions in a 17-month period) to career military officers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is about to name a retired general who was responsible for special operations in Afghanistan as the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. These career military officers are not known for strategic thinking, having been trained to focus on worst-case assessments of geopolitical problems. It is no wonder that there have few diplomatic successes during the Obama administration, that the State Department remains underused and without influence and that the humongous Pentagon budget remains largely untouchable. Read more.
Dirty Linen Gets Intel Chief Fired
By Ray McGovern
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of how 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab soiled his underpants with a makeshift bomb over Detroit last Christmas hung out so much dirty linen on the crowded clothes line of the U.S. intelligence community that it was an easy call to get rid of Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair.
The Senate committee’s findings released on Tuesday showed the community in all-too-familiar disarray — adrift with no helmsman strong, savvy and courageous enough to bang heads together to get the far-flung intelligence bureaucracies to cooperate. The report is a damning catalogue of misfeasance and mistakes.
Blair to Leave Intelligence Post After Rocky Tenure
By Mark Mazzetti | NY Times
President Obama has decided to replace Admiral Dennis C. Blair, whose often tumultuous tenure as director of national intelligence was marked by frequent clashes with White House officials and other spy chiefs in America’s still fractured intelligence apparatus, government officials said Thursday.
The former admiral’s departure had been rumored for months. His relationship with the White House was rocky since the start of the Obama administration, and he also fought a rear guard action against efforts by the Central Intelligence Agency to cut down the size and power of the national intelligence director’s staff.
It is not immediately clear who will be Admiral Blair’s replacement.
“We expect Admiral Blair to offer his resignation tomorrow,” said an administration official who declined to be identified previewing the development. “We have been interviewing several strong candidates to be his replacement.”
The departure is likely to fuel new questions about the wisdom of the massive intelligence overhaul in 2004 that created the spymaster position. Born out of the intelligence debacle before the Iraq war, the new post was designed to force greater cooperation within a hidebound intelligence bureaucracy, and to ensure that that America’s spies prevented a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks. Read more.
U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
By Mark Marzetti | NY Times
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the expanded role of contractors on the battlefield — from interrogating prisoners to hunting terrorism suspects — has raised questions about whether the United States has outsourced some of its most secretive and important operations to a private army many fear is largely unaccountable. The C.I.A. has relied extensively on contractors in recent years to carry out missions in war zones.
The exposure of the spying network also reveals tensions between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., which itself is running a covert war across the border in Pakistan. In December, a cable from the C.I.A.’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Pentagon argued that the military’s hiring of its own spies could have disastrous consequences, with various networks possibly colliding with one another....Some officials say they believe that the C.I.A. is trying to scuttle the operation to protect its own turf, and that the spy agency has been embarrassed because the contractors are outperforming C.I.A. operatives.
The private contractor network was born in part out of frustration with the C.I.A. and the military intelligence apparatus. There was a belief by some officers that the C.I.A. was too risk averse, too reliant on Pakistan’s spy service and seldom able to provide the military with timely information to protect American troops. In addition, the military has complained that it is not technically allowed to operate in Pakistan, whose government is willing to look the other way and allow C.I.A. spying but not the presence of foreign troops. Read more.
Hundreds of times in the next two weeks, the filing says, the program did its job each time it was turned on: A tiny camera atop the laptop snapped a photo, software inside copied the laptop screen image, and a locating device recorded the Internet address - something that could help district technicians pinpoint where the machine was.
The system was designed to take a new picture every 15 minutes until it was turned off.
The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.
More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins' school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.
Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.
"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
If you’re like me, now that we’re in the week that federal income taxes are due, you are finally starting to collect your records and prepare for the ordeal. Either way, whether you are a procrastinator like me, or have already finished and know how much you have paid to the government, it is a good time to stop and consider how much of your money goes to pay for our bloated and largely useless and pointless military.
The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which has to be voted by Congress by this Oct. 1, looks to be about $3 trillion, not counting the funds collected for Social Security (since the Vietnam War, the government has included the Social Security Trust Fund in the budget as a way to make the cost of America’s imperial military adventures seem smaller in comparison to the total cost of government). Meanwhile, the military share of the budget works out to about $1.6 trillion.
By Dave Lindorff
Back in 2005-06, I wrote a book, The Case for Impeachment, in which I made the argument that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as other key figures in the Bush/Cheney administration--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales--should be impeached for war crimes, as well as crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
These days, when I mention the book’s title, people sometimes ask, half in jest, whether I’m referring to the current president, Barack Obama.
Sadly, it is time to say, just 14 months into the current term of this new president, that yes, this president, and some of his subordinates, are also guilty of impeachable crimes--including many of the same ones committed by Bush and Cheney.