CIA Can’t Handle the Truth
(part of a “Deep Background” column)
by Philip Giraldi
American Conservative, 2007-02-26

[Here is the full text of this news item;
emphasis has been added.]

A special group at the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center,
very similar to the group that tracked the activity of al-Qaeda through the 1990s,
has been working on the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah
over the past three years.
In the wake of the failed Israeli incursion into Lebanon last summer,
the White House asked these Hezbollah analysts
to provide a comprehensive assessment of
the organization, its tactics, and its leaders.

A team of analysts headed by an experienced senior officer
completed the report over a month ago and concluded, surprisingly, that
Hezbollah is actually a collection of diverse interest groups, and
its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah,
far from being a fanatic controlled by Tehran,
is a fairly nuanced and astute politician
who has maintained his independence from the Mullahs.

It also indicated that Hezbollah’s threat to American interests
has been seriously overstated.

The report recommended that the U.S. government
make an effort to establish a dialogue with Nasrallah
in an attempt to moderate his organization’s more extreme policies;
it suggested strongly that
Nasrallah would likely be receptive to such an approach.

The more politically sensitized senior managers of the CIA analytical division
took one look at the report, were shocked by its conclusions,
and sent it back to the Counter Terrorism Center
for reconsideration and redrafting
in a form that would be more politically acceptable to the White House.

[Let’s face it: What we have is nothing but a puppet government for AIPAC.
Or, as some put it with great accuracy, a Zionist Occupation Government.]

Latest Reports on Iran and North Korea
Show a Newfound Caution Among Analysts

New York Times, 2007-03-02

There’s Still Time to Rethink Iran
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2007-03-10

Inside Track: More Surveillance, More Often
by Philip Giraldi
National Interest, 2007-08-01

[An excerpt:]

President Bush cited the NIE’s findings on Al-Qaeda
in urging Congress to “modernize”
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) structure
to permit U.S. intelligence agencies
to monitor more communications by terrorists,
including the internet and “disposable cell phones.”

Bush makes it easier to tracking terror e-mails
by Rowan Scarborough
The (DC) Examiner, 2007-08-07

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The intelligence officer told of cases in Iraq in which
terrorists suspected of links to hostage-takers
were located on the Internet sending e-mails.
But because they used an American provider,
the e-mails were not intercepted
until the NSA filled out paperwork
to convince the Justice Department to seek a FISA warrant.

The officer said that in one case
it took two days to win permission
to intercept e-mails that proved valuable.

During the debate in Congress last week,
some lawmakers noted the need to fix the law
so overseas telephone calls routed through the U.S. might be intercepted.
What was not discussed publicly was the problem of
American-provided e-mail accounts
used by terrorists around the world.

“Remember the law extended not just to the individual,
but where the information on them is housed,”
said the officer.
“If they have a Yahoo e-mail account and it is stored on a server in the U.S.,
they are treated like a U.S. resident even if they are a known Iraqi.”

Role of Telecom Firms in Wiretaps Is Confirmed
New York Times, 2007-08-24

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The Bush administration has confirmed for the first time that
American telecommunications companies played a crucial role
in the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program

after asserting for more than a year that
any role played by them was a “state secret.”

The acknowledgment was in an unusual interview that Mike McConnell,
the director of national intelligence,
gave last week to The El Paso Times in which
he disclosed details on classified intelligence issues
that the administration has long insisted would harm national security
if discussed publicly.


Neocons Acquire Another Front Group
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-09

[The first half of the article:]

As the neoconservatives have been wrong about almost everything in the past six years, it would seem logical to assume that their political demise is imminent. But nothing could be further from the truth: the neocons in government, though admittedly declining in number, continue to be supported by a huge and devoted infrastructure in the media, think tanks, institutes, and universities. The neocon domination of the editorial pages of most major newspapers and magazines continues, and even the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has a board controlled by five Republican appointees chaired by Cheryl Feldman Halpern, who, prior to her appointment in 2005, complained that public television and radio exhibited an anti-Israel bias. The neocons, much more than traditional conservatives and liberals, continue to be adept at networking and getting their message across, even if that message has frequently been mugged by reality. If you turn on a television and are invited to learn the views of an “expert” on foreign policy, that expert is likely to be a neocon.

The Association for Intelligence Officers, formerly known as the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, appears to be a recent acquisition to the neocon foreign policy lineup. AFIO, as it is most commonly referred to, was founded in 1975 to counter widespread criticism of the intelligence community coming from the media and Congress. It is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity and has generally been a positive force, seeing its primary mission as educational. AFIO claims that it has 5,000 members in 24 active chapters, most of whom are not former or current intelligence officers. It is not, in fact, necessary to be an actual intelligence officer to be a member of AFIO.

AFIO is sponsoring a symposium later this month in Tyson’s Corner, Va. The gathering is being advertised as an “AFIO Counter Jihad Symposium” and its theme is “The Resurgence of the Worldwide Islamic Jihad against the West: Understanding and Needed Response.” In a line underneath the description of the theme appears “‘America… Convert to Islam, or die,’ Osama bin Laden, 2007.” In its promotional literature, AFIO describes the symposium at “the most important symposium of our 32 years,” noting that the “Islamic Jihadists” are “choking off freedom in Europe” and are also “here in this country plotting and gathering strength.”

Lest anyone be confused by what this is all about, there is an extensive list of speakers that includes many prominent neocons. Featured are Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney, Nonie Darwish, and James Woolsey, all of whom reject accommodation with the world’s estimated 1.5 billion Muslims. Insofar as could be determined from available biographies, not a single one of the symposium’s speakers has spent any time in Arab countries as a working intelligence officer. Most seem to have little direct knowledge of the Muslim world’s languages or cultures. This might disappoint attendees interested in actually learning something about terrorism and the appropriate response to it as related to the intelligence profession.

The stridently anti-Islamic tone of the symposium is particularly disturbing, as it promotes the idea that dealing with Muslims is either undesirable or pointless. The promotional literature’s headlines are simplistic, and the acceptance of never ending conflict as a remedy to the terrorism problem is flat-out wrong and has only served to make the U.S. less secure since 9/11. Moderate Muslims seeking to marginalize terrorists actually do exist, and a symposium that is not concerned with balance or context unfairly portrays the Islamic world as a monolithic enemy of civilization. Ironically, it is hard to imagine a genuine former intelligence officer who has worked in the Arab or Muslim world who would agree with the Manichean view expressed in the symposium’s promotional material.


Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets
Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post, 2007-10-09

[An excerpt:]

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company’s Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group’s communications network.


Computer logs and records reviewed by The Washington Post support SITE’s claim that it snatched the video from al-Qaeda days beforehand. Katz requested that the precise date and details of the acquisition not be made public, saying such disclosures could reveal sensitive details about the company’s methods.

SITE -- an acronym for the Search for International Terrorist Entities -- was established in 2002 with the stated goal of tracking and exposing terrorist groups, according to the company’s Web site. Katz, an Iraqi-born Israeli citizen whose father was executed by Saddam Hussein in the 1960s, has made the investigation of terrorist groups a passionate quest.


She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.



Global Trends 2025
The National Intelligence Council’s
2025 Project

from the National Intelligence Council, 2008

Global Forecast by American Intelligence Expects Al Qaeda’s Appeal to Falter
New York Times, 2008-11-21

[A story reporting the release
of the NIC’s Global Trends 2025 forecast.]


Global Economy Top Threat to U.S.,
Spy Chief Says

New York Times, 2009-02-13

The Real Intelligence Failure
By Philip Giraldi
Campaign for Liberty, 2009-11-04

Most Americans believe that we are in a terrible dilemma. An increasing number are uncomfortable with the continuing carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan and fearful of the consequences of yet another Middle East war, this time against Iran, but most also believe that our country is threatened by dark forces that seek to destroy us and that extreme measures are justified. Few realize that fear alone is bringing about our transformation into a country driven by constant warfare to the detriment of our constitutional liberties.

Those who believe that a change of course is essential if we are to survive as a nation quite rightly demand the disengagement of the United States from two wars and the avoidance of further conflicts. They understand that the United States has acted unwisely and illegally in its interference in the affairs of others and also that the presence of American military forces all over the world has not made us safer and has in fact served as a catalyst for escalating violence. But those who see the state of the world with such clarity must first convince a majority of their fellow citizens that disengagement is not another word for national suicide. In short, the American people must come to understand that their safety is best assured when our government does not go around the world looking for dragons to slay. A key element in being able to reassure the American people could be the development of a positive and proactive intelligence program that speaks the truth and, inter alia, could actually help avoid conflicts and demonstrate that every citizen benefits when the United States is at peace and a friend to all nations.

America’s fundamental post 9/11 problem is that the resort to brute force is an easy option for a nation that is powerful but that does not necessarily seek to deal with the international subtleties. That go-it-alone aggressiveness was the model for the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy continues unrestrained military action even as it preaches the use of softer forms of power, witness the continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increase in armed interventions in places like Pakistan and Somalia.

Part of the reason for this disconnect is that United States intelligence agencies, most notably the CIA, have failed to appreciate that both the Cold War and the so-called Global War on Terror were fought in error against enemies that were deliberately distorted and magnified to create fear. In today’s complicated multipolar world, the CIA and its sister organizations could well be the essential elements in the creation and management of a new security environment, where good information and analysis can be used to shape policies that are cooperative rather than confrontational. But the CIA remains stuck in a post-9/11 mindset, with the Mandarins at Langley seemingly oblivious to the fact that there even exists a new security environment that they should be thinking about. Intelligence should stop looking for dragons and should instead be the key to explaining the world in a way that precludes involvement in situations that are not vital interests and are not subject to any resolution short of war. Intelligence is information and information is politically neutral but when properly applied it can just as easily be a tool for avoiding confrontation as for instigating it.

Understanding the world and “speaking truth to power” are the principal roles of intelligence agencies when they are doing their job properly, but there is always a potential political spin to every story. Recent government warnings that al-Qaeda continues to be serious threat are one good example, trotted out as they are at intervals to raise the fear level in spite of mounting evidence that Usama bin Laden is actually dead. In true “the glass is half full or half empty” fashion, the story based on exactly the same evidence could as easily be that al-Qaeda is, in fact, seriously weakened and would have difficulty in mounting a terror operation anywhere. General Stanley McChrystal and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair have admitted that al-Qaeda is no factor in the current fighting in Central Asia, but the first narrative stressing the potential threat has been embraced by the government because it allows the status quo to continue. The latter narrative about a dysfunctional and expiring al-Qaeda has been essentially suppressed because it would lead to questions about why the United States continues to be in Afghanistan and Iraq.

To cite an example of an objective and depoliticized intelligence report producing a good result, one only has to look at the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which set the record straight on Tehran’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program. The report effectively put on hold plans to go to war with Tehran being prepared by the Bush Administration but because it derailed a policy the government decided never again to make public the conclusions of an NIE. Worse still, there have been recent calls in Congress to re-do the NIE report, with the obvious intention of coming to a different conclusion, i.e. that Iran is a threat. There is every indication that the intelligence community will dig in its heels and refused to change the conclusion, but if it surrenders to the pressure, it would be a reversion to the type of politically influenced intelligence that enabled the war with Iraq.

Part of the problem in redirecting CIA is cultural and bureaucratic in nature. The Agency is a business that needs to justify its excessive manpower and bloated budget through a product that pleases both Congress and the White House. It also works for the president and is therefore responsive to requests that are essentially political in nature. Put the two together and the Agency will most often dance to the tune being played by its masters. That orientation can change, but only if the White House accepts that it will frequently hear views that it will regard as unacceptable if the CIA is doing what it should be doing. Intelligence circles have long noted that there has been a stream of reporting out of Iraq and Afghanistan indicating that the United States cannot and will not succeed in either theater, which should lead to the conclusion that it is time to go home. Instead, the tendency has been to shoot the messenger. In 2004-2005 several CIA Chiefs of Station in Iraq were fired because they were not “on message” with the Bush Administration. How much better off would the United States be today if the Bushies had instead paid attention to the reporting, admitted that it had been wrong, and abandoned its nation building program?

Disengagement from the status quo with its focus on bloated and ineffective intelligence agencies trying to support bankrupt and unsustainable policies is only possible if there is a return to objectivity and candor, but there is no sign that President Obama desires that any more than did his predecessor. For that to happen, policy makers must insist that US intelligence become less reactive and politicized. CIA in particular must rethink what it does and how it does it and not seek to demonize lists of “axis of evil” enemies. Good intelligence can help explain the world and both identify and neutralize the real threats. It can be used to convince the American people that they are more secure and more free when the United States ceases to be a hegemon engaged all over the world and feared by everyone.

Big Brother is coming: NSA's $1.9 billion cyber spy center a power grab
by Chuck Gates
Deseret News, 2009-12-19

... plans by the National Security Agency to construct
a colossal $1.9 billion information storage center at Camp Williams (cf.) ...


Top Secret America -- A Washington Post Investigation
by Dana Priest, William M. Arkin, and a host of others
Washington Post, 2010-07-19 through 21

This is a very long (published in the print edition over three days) look at
the expansion of the intelligence community,
including both the government and its contractors,
that has occurred in response to the events of 2001-09-11.

It seems to be in the long journalistic tradition of muckraking,
looking far more to criticize than to compliment.
For example, the second installment, “National Security Inc.”,
examines the extensive use of contractors,
viewing that, so far as I can tell, primarily as a negative.
Now, this is a subject I have personal familiarity with,
having worked both within the government (as a military officer)
in a government R&D office charged with
the technical supervision of contracted projects involving the CPAR cycle,
and, after my military service,
switching hats and working as a contractor myself on implementing such projects.
So I am able to look at this from both sides of that divide.

Now, from the government point of view,
there are at least two advantages to contracting out technical work:
First, the government simply has trouble recruiting high-tech talent,
for a variety of reasons which should be well-known to most readers.
Second, it’s the flexibility factor.
Government requirements come and go.
For example, for how much longer will we require
such a large effort on countering potential terrorism?
How much longer will we require translators of Farsi, Dari or Pashto?
But due to civil service rules, once a civil servant is hired,
he essentially stays for his working career.
On the other hand, contractors only stay around for the life of the contract.

Surprising to me, when I Googled for either “flexible” or “flexibility”,
all but one of the hits came from ads put in the Post feature from contractors.
The word was mentioned once by a quoted government official (Ronald Sanders),
but not once by the Post’s writers.
To me, that shows the Post did not give a balanced view
of why the government might favor the use of contractors for this work.

James Clapper: We underestimated the Islamic State’s ‘will to fight’
By David Ignatius
Washington Post, 2014-09-18


“We are accepting more risk in this country because of that,”
[DNI Director James Clapper warned
in a telephone interview with the Post's David Ignatius].
He offered a caustic mission statement,
which he repeated publicly Thursday:
“We are supposed to keep the country safe,
predict anticipatory intelligence, with no risk,
and no embarrassment if revealed,
and without a scintilla of jeopardy to privacy
of any domestic person or foreign person.
We call that ‘immaculate collection.’ ”

[It really should be obvious that that is an impossible standard of perfection.

The ruling class are requesting an impossible trifecta:
  1. Full support for Israel's continued grab of land from the Palestinians.
  2. Protection of Americans from resulting Muslim retaliation.
  3. No intrusive collection methodologies to warn about and forestall
    attempts at retaliation/terrorism.
Sorry, you just can't have all three.
But who (of prominence) will point out that impossibility?]