You are hereSpying
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.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.
In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been “subjected to unlawful surveillance,” the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages.
The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.
The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and had made no decision about whether to appeal. Read more.
Today TomDispatch is especially proud to be posting a first, an unprecedented and dramatic history of the 30-year American war in Afghanistan as a drug war -- by an expert in the CIA and drug wars -- that takes you from 1979 to late tomorrow night: Alfred W. McCoy, "Can Anyone Pacify the World's Number One Narco-State, The Opium Wars in Afghanistan" (And don't miss the latest TomCast audio interview in which McCoy discusses just who is complicit in the Afghan opium trade.)
It's strange. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium supply and is the number one narco-state on the planet. The Taliban is significantly supported by drug money -- and so is the government of Hamid Karzai. So, in fact, are the Afghan people. And yet drugs and the drug trade are largely dealt with as ancillary issues in the Afghan War.
Now, Alfred McCoy, historian and noted expert on the drug trade and the CIA -- the Agency actually tried unsuccessfully to suppress his classic Vietnam-era book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade -- offers a remarkable account of the drug wars in Afghanistan. After a look at the recent U.S. military operation in Marja, the opium capital of the world, he backtracks to a moment in 1979 when Afghanistan produced next to no poppies and offers a remarkable history of how, with the help of the U.S., the Soviets, warlords, druglords, the Taliban, the Karzai government, and others it became the drug state extraordinaire on planet Earth.
He shows just how decades of war, as well as agricultural and environmental destruction, left Afghan farmers with little choice but to turn to the poppy, which proved ideally suited to the Afghan climate. More important, he shows just how and why no one will pacify or even help Afghanistan without taking true stock of the drug trade -- and why serious, long-term rural development, not massive military intervention, is the only answer to Afghanistan's problems.
There is no way to sum up this powerful, monumental piece. It will change the way you look at the Afghan war. Don't miss it. Read it now.
Army Intel ACORNing WikiLeaks? Web Publisher Under Attack
By Michael Collins | The Agonist
U.S. Army Counterterrorism issued a report that said WikiLeaks is a threat to U.S. security, particularly in Afghanistan. The report says that the organization should be destroyed and offered a plan. Does the government really think it can destroy WikiLeaks or is the leaked report part of a plan to smear the organization so badly, it will lose supporters and money?
Since its launch three years ago, WikiLeaks has produced more scoops than the Washington Post has in the past thirty years according to a report by The Guardian. The web based service was "founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa" according to their "About" page. WikiLeaks targets oppressive regimes throughout the world, as well as regimes seeking to repress information on illegal and unethical government actions and policies.
The organization pays a price for its activism. A study by the Army Counterintelligence Center concluded that WikiLeaks is a security risk to the United States. Their information "could be used … by FISS (foreign intelligence services), foreign terrorist organizations, and other potential adversaries for intelligence collection, planning, or targeting purposes." Further, the report concluded that the publications at the website, "could increase the risk to US forces and could potentially provide potential attackers with sufficient information to plan conventional or terrorist attacks in locations such as Iraq or Afghanistan" WikiLeaks.org - An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups? WikiLeaks, March 15, p. 22).
Those extremely serious charges by Army resulted in a plan to destroy WikiLeaks:
"WikiLeaks.org uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to WikiLeaks.org personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous. The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using WikiLeaks.org to make such information public." (Army Counterintelligence report, March 15, p. 3). Read more.
I'm not sure what was worse; sitting in an auditorium for a speech by the head of CIA clandestine operations, or having most of the audience give a standing ovation afterward. There were some low points in between, too.
Thursday night I went with my friend Ray McGovern, and some current and former Fordham students to a lecture at Fordham University by Michael Sulick, Director of the National Clandestine Service, the guy in charge of counter-terrorism and covert ops. Ray and Sulick are both graduates of Fordham, and both worked for the C.I.A. One difference between them is that Ray quit long ago.
Fordham, a Jesuit school, has a very active Peace and Justice program led by a tenured professor, which just the evening before had held a commemoration of the assassination 30 years ago of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador, a fellow Jesuit. It was noted that Romero was killed by graduates of the School of the Americas, with help from the CIA.
But that same university produces a lot of FBI and CIA agents. For Sulick, the student center was decorated with the kind of puffy, shiny balloon letters junior high schools use for birthday parties, with silvery “C-I-A” floating in the lobby. I felt it was going to be a strange night. Read more.
WikiLeaks to reveal Pentagon murder-coverup at US National Press Club, Apr 5, 9am; contact email@example.com
The State Department/CIA has been tailing and detaining those related to Wikileaks over the planned April 5th leak of a decrypted video depicting an airstrike on civilians and journalissts.
Several things stuck out for me in the NYT’s big story about DOD’s PsyOp contractors-as-assassination-flunkies. First, the degree to which DOD allegedly hid its assassination program inside a PsyOp venture. As the story reports, Michael Furlong, the guy running this show, was ostensibly engaged in strategic information, collecting information on Afghanistan’s social structure. But in fact, he was using that money to employ freelancers who, at a minimum, were targeting Afghans for assassination.
Mr. Furlong has extensive experience in “psychological operations” — the military term for the use of information in warfare — and he plied his trade in a number of places, including Iraq and the Balkans. It is unclear exactly when Mr. Furlong’s operations began. But officials said they seemed to accelerate in the summer of 2009, and by the time they ended, he and his colleagues had established a network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose job it was to help locate people believed to be insurgents.
Government officials said they believed that Mr. Furlong might have channeled money away from a program intended to provide American commanders with information about Afghanistan’s social and tribal landscape, and toward secret efforts to hunt militants on both sides of the country’s porous border with Pakistan. Read more.
The feds turn to social networks to fight crime, hoping that tweet will give them a jailbird
By Richard Larder, AP Writer | Chicago Tribune
Maxi Sopo was having so much fun "living in paradise" in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges.
Tracking Sopo through his public "friends" list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.
Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit.
The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target's friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips. Read more.
FBI paid racist shock jock Hal Turner ‘in excess of $100,000′
By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story
Turning informant on your fans can be lucrative, if you're a shock jock by the name of Hal Turner.
Amid a trial where Turner faces criminal charges for making threats of violence against public servants, he disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid him "in excess of $100,000" over a five-year period.
Turner, a long-time racist radio host who attracted an audience of white supremacists and neonazis, was first revealed as an FBI informant in 2008. After becoming the subject of ridicule on infamous Internet forum 4chan, Turner was confronted by hackers on his site's discussion boards with copies of e-mails he'd allegedly sent to the FBI, bragging about how he'd helped in "flush[ing] out another crazy."
The arrest came after Turner called for the murder of three judges.
"Let me be the first to say this plainly: these Judges deserve to be killed," he wrote on his Web site...Read more.
By David Swanson
One of the most unusual books and far-and-away the saddest I have ever read is James Douglass's "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters." This is the best documented account ever produced of why and how the CIA assassinated John F. Kennedy. That the CIA did this is beyond dispute, and that the first President Bush was involved is well established by Russ Baker's book "Family of Secrets." What separates Douglass's book from the pack is his account of how Kennedy lived his final months, the actions he took that turned the CIA against him but saved the world from a nuclear holocaust and -- had he lived -- would probably have avoided the Vietnam War and brought the Cold War to a swift and peaceful conclusion.
President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of several provisions in the nation's main counterterrorism law, the Patriot Act.
Provisions in the measure would have expired on Sunday without Obama's signature Saturday.
The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government's ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security.
Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will: Read more.
Washington D.C. (February 26, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after the House of Representatives voted 235 to 168 to pass the Intelligence Authorization Act:
“I strongly support the dedicated public servants of our intelligence community. Their work to ensure our national security is to be commended. However, I must oppose the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2010.
School district gives students laptops with webcams that can be remotely operated by school personnel
Why not, the White House would do it.
Here's a class action complaint: PDF.