http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2011/08 ... t_law.html
Senate Intel Committee Blocks Report on “Secret Law”
August 2nd, 2011 by Steven Aftergood
The Senate Intelligence Committee rejected an amendment that would have required the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to confront the problem of “secret law,” by which government agencies rely on legal authorities that are unknown or misunderstood by the public.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall, was rejected on a voice vote, according to the new Committee report on the FY2012 Intelligence Authorization Act.
“We remain very concerned that the U.S. government’s official interpretation of the Patriot Act is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of the law,” Senators Wyden and Udall wrote. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret.”
The Senators included dissenting remarks, along with the text of their rejected amendment, in the Committee report.
Sen. Wyden and Sen. Udall also offered another amendment that would have required the Justice Department Inspector General to estimate the number of Americans who have had the contents of their communications reviewed in violation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That amendment too was rejected, by a vote of 7-8. All Committee Republicans, plus Democrat Bill Nelson (D-FL), opposed the amendment.
“It is a matter of public record that there have been incidents in which intelligence agencies have failed to comply with the FISA Amendments Act, and that certain types of compliance violations have continued to recur,” Senators Wyden and Udall wrote. “We believe it is particularly important to gain an understanding of how many Americans may have had their communications reviewed as a result of these violations.”
“We understand that some of our colleagues are concerned that our amendment did not explicitly state that the final report of the Inspector General’s investigation should be classified. We respectfully disagree that this is necessary,” they said. “In any event, we are confident that the executive branch will seek to classify any information that it believes needs to be secret, and that it is not necessary for Congress to direct that particular reports be classified.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee report was silent on the status of the Committee’s investigation of the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, which has been underway for over two years.
The Obama Administration is invoking the state secrets privilege to seek partial dismissal of a lawsuit alleging unlawful surveillance of Southern California mosques, reported Josh Gerstein in Politico on August 1.
The Arts of Transmission
by Peter Galison
You may think that the guarded annals of classified information is constituted by that rare document, a small, tightly-guarded annex to the vast sum of human writing and learning. True, the number of carefully archived pages written in the open is large. While hard to estimate, one could begin by taking the number of items on the shelves of the Library of Congress—one of the largest libraries in the world: 120 million items carrying about 7.5 billion pages, of which about 5.4 billion pages are in 18 million books. 1
In fact, the classified universe as it is sometimes called is certainly not smaller, and very probably much larger than this unclassified one. No one has any very good idea how many classified documents there are. No one did before the e-transformation of the late twentieth century, and now—at least after 2001—even the old sampling methods are recognized to be nonsense in an age where documents multiply across secure networks like virtual topsy. So we biblio-owls of Minerva are counting sheets just as the very concept of the classified printed page fades into its evening hours. Undeterred, we might begin with a relatively small subset of the whole classified world, about 1.6 billion pages from documents twenty-five years old or older that qualify as historically valuable. Of these 1.6 billion pages, 1.1 billion have been released over the last twenty years, with most opened since President Clinton's April 1995 executive order 12958. How many new classified documents have been produced since 1978 or so is much harder to estimate—the cognoscenti disagree by several orders of magnitude—but there isn't an expert alive who thinks the recent haul is anything less than much larger than the previous twenty-five post–World War II years.
Some suspect as many as a trillion pages are classified (200 Libraries of Congress). That may be too many. 2001, for example, saw 33 million classification actions; assuming (with the experts) that there are roughly 10 pages per action, that would mean roughly 330 million pages were classified last year (about three times as many pages are now being classified as declassified). So the U.S. added a net 250 million classified pages last year. By comparison, the entire system of Harvard libraries—over a hundred of them—added about 220,000 volumes (about sixty million pages, a number not far from the acquisition rate at other comparably massive universal depositories such as the Library of Congress, the British Museum, or the New York Public Library). Contemplate these numbers: about five times as many pages are being added to the classified universe than are being brought to the storehouses of human learning including all the books and journals on any subject in any language collected in the largest repositories on the planet. 2
If that was typical—or at any rate the right order of magnitude, then twenty-five years of such actions would yield a very rough figure in the range eight billion pages since 1978. The fact that the number has been growing is not to the point—even if it increased linearly from zero in 1978 to its current rate twenty-five years later, that would only divide the total in two, "down" to four billion pages. Indeed, however one calculates, the number of classification actions is increasing dramatically both as a result of a boosted defense, intelligence, and weapons lab budget and because we are living in a climate of augmented secrecy. Figured another way, the supervising agency (Information Security Oversight Office, ISOO) reports a total expenditure in 2001 of $5.5 billion to keep classified documents secure. The Department of Energy costs are now about $0.30 per secure document per year. Estimating by this economic measure, we would figure that about 7.5 billion pages are being kept under wraps—a "Classified Library of Congress" with an acquisition rate five times greater than the great library Thomas Jefferson bequeathed to this country three centuries ago.
One last set of numbers: there are 500,000 college professors in the United States—including both two- and four-year institutions. Of course there are others—inventors, industrial scientists, computer programmers—responsible for generating and conveying knowledge, especially technical knowledge. But to fix ideas, four million people hold clearance in the United States, plus some vast reservoir who did in the past but no longer do. Bottom line? Whether one figures by acquisition rate, by holding size, or by contributors, the classified universe is, as best I can estimate, on the order of five to ten times larger than the open literature that finds its way to our libraries. Our commonsense picture may well be far too sanguine, even inverted. The closed world is not a small strongbox in the corner of our collective house of codified and stored knowledge. It is we in the open world—we who study the world lodged in our libraries, from aardvarks to zymurgy, we who are living in a modest information booth facing outwards, our unseeing backs to a vast and classified empire we barely know.
One can trace the history of secrecy back to the ancient Babylonians through medieval long-bows and fin-de-siècle invisible ink, from tightly guarded formulae for Venetian glass-making to the hidden pouches of diplomatic couriers. Trade secrecy, state secrets, military secrets are all part of the background to the modern system. But this modern secrecy system has its substantive start not in antiquity, but in the vast infrastructure of World War II. In part this new secrecy issued from the government, and yet in no small measure it emerged in the hands of scientists themselves as they launched a discipline of self-censorship on matters relating to the nucleus. Out of the two billion dollar Manhattan Project and its subsequent evolution into the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) came one sector of secrecy—with its twin classification categories of Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data (FRD), this last for uninteresting historical reasons covering military applications of nuclear weapons rather than their production or design. Alongside nuclear secrecy arose another fundamental category, National Security Information.
At the pinnacle of the National Security Information world is the President who himself can classify or, more realistically, have his agency heads classify. These agency heads in turn delegate that power to a relatively small number of others—just over 4000 for the whole of the United States—who bear the title of Original Classifiers. Only this initiated cadre can transform a document, idea, picture, shape, or device into the modal categories Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential. And of these 4132 or so Original Classifiers, only 999 (as of 2001) are authorized to stamp a document into the category Top Secret. 3
Those few people are the unmoved prime movers of the classified world—it is they who begin the tagging process that winds its way down the chain of derivative classification. For every document that subsequently refers to information in those originally classified gains the highest classification of the documents cited in it. Like the radio-tagging of a genetic mutant, the classified information bears its mark through all the subsequent generations of work issuing from it. More numbers: in 2001 there were 260,678 original classifications (acts that designated a body of work classified) and 32,760,209 derivative ones. 4 A cascade of classification.
But there is another way for documents to become classified. Under the Atomic Energy Acts of 1946 and 1954, materials produced about nuclear weapons–related activities are exempt from the blessing hands of the original classifiers. Nuclear weapons knowledge is born secret. No primal act of classification is needed, no moment when they pass out of light into darkness, no justification, no term of expiration is needed to wrap them in the protective blanket of restriction. Nuclear knowledge becomes classified the instant it is written down—even by someone who has no nuclear weapons (Q) clearance. If I think of a new scheme for channeling x-rays from a fission primary to a thermonuclear secondary and write that idea down, I am (strictu sensu) forbidden from possessing the page I just created. (Technically, I could be arrested for espionage for reading or even possessing the letters or pictures in my printer, on my screen, or under my pen.) And yet in this world of natal secrecy there is a subtlety born in the holy matrimony of industry and the weapons laboratories: an isotope-separating technology used to produce "special nuclear materials" such as U235 or U233. A separation technique—in some sense the heart of nuclear weapons of mass destruction—remains entirely in the open until just that moment when it might demonstrate (as the Federal Register puts it) "reasonable potential for the separation of practical quantities of special nuclear material." At precisely this moment of efficacy it morphs into Restricted Data; as classifier Arvin Quist puts it in a document addressed to his fellow guardians of the faith: the separation technology becomes "classified only when it reaches `adolescence.'" 5
In 1995, the National Research Council working with the DOE estimated that the DOE's born and adolescent classified documents numbered some 280 million pages—an amount that would take its current compliment of reviewers 9,000 years to review—if, against reality, not a line of new material were added. 6 However incomplete it is now, this nine-millennium stack is ten times larger than the previous estimate given a few years earlier. Needless to say, neither the DOE nor any other agency has the budget, the mandate, or the intention of catching up. In the last few years the rate of classification increased five-fold, with no end in sight. Secret information is accumulating, at a rate that itself is accelerating, far quicker than it is being declassified.
The Classified Theory of Knowledge
With such a vast reservoir of learning under wraps, the Department of Energy must have—if not explicitly then at least implicitly—some sense of what can and cannot be released. What, we may ask, is the theory of interdicting knowledge? Let us begin with a distinction imposed since 1945, segregating subjective from objective secrecy. Subjective secrets are said by classifiers to display five key characteristics—they are compact, transparent, arbitrary, changeable, and perishable. Compact means they can be expressed very briefly; transparent that they are readily understandable ("two of the Abrams tanks are disabled"); changeable means that they typically can be revised ("the 101st Airborne will conduct its first drop at first light") and they are perishable (normally after some decent interval, once the 101st has landed the fact that they did so has lost its potency). Objective secrets are supposed to contrast with each of these qualities separately—they are supposed to be diffuse, technical, determinable, eternal, and long-lasting qua secrets. That is, they may be far from expressible in a few words (a theory of neutron diffusion involves integro-differential equations and takes volumes to express when it is put into useable form); they may not be understandable to anyone without a technical training (no untrained observer simply grasps the details of fluorocarbon chemistry); they are supposed to be determinable insofar as they can be deduced if the right question is posed (the number of neutrons emitted in uranium fission can be found with enough effort and equipment), and finally the objective secret is supposed to be in some sense unchangeable (in the limit case a law of nature but, if not that, then least as unchangeable as the finely articulated process of preparing equipment against the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride). As such objective secrets are long-lasting secrets. 7
In important ways, objective secrets pose the more difficult problem, though subjective ones can be quite deadly if exposed (loose lips sink ships). Particular movements or strengths of troops or materiel seem more straightforward. But to accomplish the goal of secrecy—the blocking of knowledge transmission—is an extraordinarily difficult task. And given the resources devoted to it, it is perhaps worth inquiring just what its principles are.
In other words, suppose we ask about the transmission of knowledge not by asking the usual social studies of knowledge question: "How does replication occur?" but instead by probing the staggeringly large effort devoted to impeding the transmission of knowledge. Already before America's entry into World War II, nuclear scientists began a self-imposed ban on publishing matters relating to nuclear fission. The effect was immediate: Nazi scientists spent the war struggling to moderate neutrons (slow them down to the point where they were effective in causing fission) using heavy water (deuterium) rather than the vastly more useful graphite. This self-imposed muzzle continued through the war, issuing in the founding document of modern secrecy, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. That act released certain parts of the basic chemistry and physics of materials including uranium, thorium, and polonium but kept a lid on the details of a vast amount of technical knowledge, including some basic physics. For example, in 1950 it was permitted to say that the impact of a neutron on U233, U236, Pu239, or Pu240 could release a gamma ray but it remained forbidden to say just how likely this reaction was. Only in 1956 would the process technology for producing uranium metal and preparing alloys of uranium and thorium be released. More indirectly the cost of highly enriched uranium (about $25,000/kg) was only declassified in 1955; presumably the mere quotation of a price conveyed certain information about how it was done (ordinary metallic uranium was running about $40/kg). 8
Indeed, one of the most classified parts of the fission bomb was the process by which highly enriched metallic U235 was produced. It is instructive to follow the sequence of declassification orders from 1946 to 1952 showing the gradual erosion of restriction on electromagnetic separation:
1946: Physics of electrical discharges in a vacuum, experimental data and theory.
1946: "Electrical controls and circuits.... omitting reference to classified installations "
1947: "Experimental and theoretical physics of [electromagnetic separation] provided they do not reveal production details or processes.
1952: "Experimental and theoretical physics and chemistry, engineering designs and operating performance of single electromagnetic process units without identification as components of the Electromagnetic Production Plant. " 9
Each step gave more detail, more about the internal wiring and construction of the machinery until, by the end, the major secret was simply the label of the documents as being for the separation facility at Oak Ridge.
But perhaps the best way to grapple with the secrecy system is to follow the instructions. Suppose you are an original classifier at the Department of Defense. The Handbook for Writing Security Classification Guidance is your bible, and it begins by reviewing the various arenas of classified material, from weapons, plans, and cryptology to scientific, technological and economic matters affecting national security. Then you are to ask yourself these questions. First, "Is the information owned by, produced by or for, or under the control of the United States Government?" If yes, then check that the information falls in one of the regulated domains (such as cryptology). If it still looks like a classification candidate, then pose this question: "Can the unauthorized disclosure of the information reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security?" And if the information is of the destructive type, then the acid test is this:
What is the level of damage ("damage," "serious damage," or "exceptionally grave damage") to the national security expected in the event of an unauthorized disclosure of the information? If the answer to this question is "damage" you have arrived at a decision to classify the information Confidential. If the answer is "serious damage," you have arrived at a decision to classify the information Secret. If the answer is "exceptionally grave damage," you have arrived at a decision to classify the information Top Secret.10
You—the classifier—should then designate the material secret for a period of time less than ten years or, for a variety of reasons, you may want to justify an extension beyond ten years. Just a few of such reasons to carry on with secrecy: revelation of hidden information that might assist in the development of weapons of mass destruction, impair the development of a U.S. weapon system, reveal emergency plans, or violate a treaty.
Next in this anti-epistemology you have to do what anyone pursuing a more positive program would: establish the state of the art. This includes of course published materials in the United States and abroad but also, and more problematically, known but unpublished material including that possessed by unfriendly countries. By consulting with the intelligence services, you will want to find out what the foreign knowledge is of unpublished materials in the United States. All this is, however, preliminary. Having established what is known, you must identify how classification will add to the "net national advantage," that is "the values, direct and indirect, accruing or expected to accrue to the United States." Such advantage might derive from the suppression of the fact that the Government is interested in a particular effort, or that it has something in its possession. Or the capabilities, performance, vulnerabilities, or uniqueness of an object (or bit of knowledge) that the United States has. The net national advantage might be in guarding surprise or lead time, manufacturing technology, or associations with other data. 11 The real heart of a classification guide is the identification and enunciation of the specific items or elements of information warranting security protection. Regardless of the size or complexity of the subject matter of the guide, or the level at which the classification guide is issued, there are certain identifiable features of the information that create or contribute to actual or expected national security advantage. 12
Getting at those "special features or critical items of information" and tying them to the net national advantage is the primary task of the classifier. This is where the writer of the guide has to get inside the information being hidden. The questions are subtle. "Are the counter-counter-measures obvious, special unique, unknown to outsiders or other nations?" you should ask yourself. Or would knowledge of the counter-countermeasures assist in carrying out new countermeasures? "What," the guide demands, "are the things that really make this effort work?" Here is the analysis of science and technology opened in many of its aspects, all in the service of stopping the flow of science. It puts me in mind of an experimental film I once saw, a black and white sixteen millimeter production, printed in negative, all shot within a single room filled with tripods and lamps. As each light came on, it cast black over its portion of the screen. Here is something similar. Understanding the ways in which things work, are made, deployed, and connected are all used to interdict transmission. Your job as a classifier is locate those critical elements that might lead to vulnerabilities—and then to suppress those that can be protected by classification. The guide insists that secrets are not forever. You must answer the question: how long can this particular secret reasonably be expected to keep? 13
Epistemology asks how knowledge can be uncovered and secured. Anti-epistemology asks how knowledge can be covered and obscured. Classification, the anti-epistemology par excellence, is the art of nontransmission.
Pressures to Declassify
With the end of the Cold War in 1989/90—and the election of President Bill Clinton—the executive branch pressed the agencies to release some of the vast trove of secrets. Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary announced on 7 December 1993 that the DOE had begun to "lift the veil of Cold War secrecy" and to make visible some of the hidden data. Increasingly, scientists, scholars, activists, and the DOE itself tried to displace an ethos in which justification was needed to release information to one in which it required justification to keep information classified. The arguments for openness were several. Cost was one—as I mentioned, some $5.5 billion goes into maintaining the secret storehouse. But that isn't the only justification. As the national security establishment itself has long recognized, overclassification breeds disregard for classification procedures. Serious classifiers (as opposed to yahoo politicians desperately looking to classify everything in sight) want the arenas of real secrecy to be protected with higher walls and the vast penumbral gray range to be open.
Back in 1970, the Defense science Board Task Force on Secrecy, headed by Frederick Seitz, argued to the Secretary of Defense that there was vastly too much secrecy—and that even a unilateral set of disclosures were preferable to the current system. An all out effort by the U.S. and the USSR to control thermonuclear weapons failed utterly as the United Kingdom and China followed soon on their heals. Conversely, when the nation decided to open certain areas of technical research, the results were powerful. The U.S. led in microwave electronics and computer technology, in nuclear reactors beginning in the mid-1950s, and in transistor technology.14 Examples of secrecy gone amok are legion, including some $2.7 billion that sank like a stone into an unworkable special access program aiming to produce the Navy A-12 attack aircraft. Secrecy contributed too in the protection of unworkable programs like the one outfitted to build the Tacit Rainbow antiradar missile and the ($3.9 billion) Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile.15
Then there are the historians and journalists who clamor for access to documents about the history of the national security state. These groups join a chorus of others from legislators and lawyers to former atomic workers, soldiers, and ordinary citizens who have militated for a glimpse of records about radiological contamination, test sites, radiological experimentation on humans, and nuclear working conditions. Scientists themselves—especially those the national laboratories want to recruit from elite universities—want a degree of openness in which they can encounter other ideas and publish their own. But my own judgment is that none of these constituencies would have made even the limited progress they made during the Clinton years had it not been for the insistent demands of industry demanding loud and clear that they no longer be excluded from the trove of secret (objective) information. Declassification makes it easier and cheaper for industry to produce—and, needless to say, opens the vast civilian and, within the constraints of export controls, the huge foreign military market.
Trade Secret Legitimacy
But within the secret world managing the flood of data has presented ever greater problems. There is a nervousness in the classifying community, a sense that the rising mountain of classified materials is unstable. The absence of a principled basis for classification weighs heavily—and classification itself makes it hard to provide such a systematic understanding. "Need to know" compartmentalization leaves classifiers in different domains unable to communicate with one another, and each isolated branch forms its own routines of hiding. When the Department of Energy commissioned Oak Ridge classifier Arvin S. Quist to do a massive study of security classification, he commented throughout his several volume report that there simply were no principles on which classification could be staked. And he wanted such a foundation. Trade secrets appeared to be the open society's equivalent of national security secrecy, and Quist—speaking both to and for the DOE—saw in trade secrecy law the possibility of establishing, at last, a ground. Addressing the army of classifiers, Quist put it this way:
Our legal system's roots go back millennia, thereby giving that system a solid foundation. Trade secret law is a part of that legal system. Trade secret law has developed over hundreds of years and has been a distinct area of the legal system for over a century—principles of trade secret law are widely accepted. Because trade secret law evolved as part of the "common law," it has a firm basis in our culture. Our extensive body of trade secret law has been developed by a very open process; the workings of our legal system are essentially completely open to the public, and the judicial decisions on trade secrets have been extensively published and discussed. Thus, trade secret law rests on a solid foundation, is consistent with our culture, and is known, understood, and accepted by our citizens. 16
Establishing the isomorphism between the national security and trade secret then became the order of the day. For this was the holy grail: the exact mechanism for the Teller-Ulam idea would remain a fiercely guarded secret—one for which the government was willing to wage an all-out battle in court against the Progressive (a rather small left-leaning magazine that printed an article describing the rudiments of the Teller-Ulam scheme). The DOE's declassification guide RDD-7 reports the guarded release in 1979 of the idea this way: "The fact that, in thermonuclear weapons, radiation from a fission explosive can be contained and used to transfer energy to compress and ignite a physically separate component containing thermonuclear fuel. Note: Any elaboration of this statement will be classified. " And so it has remained for over half a century. 17 Just such secrets, says Quist, ought to be understood by comparison with the holiest of trade secrets, that best-kept of all commercial formulae, "the recipe for Coca-Cola Classic®...has been kept a secret for over one hundred years. It is said that only two Coca-Cola® company executives know that recipe [which] is in a safe deposit box in Atlanta, which may be opened only by vote of the company's board of directors....we probably would know if a national security secret was as well-kept as the secret of Coca-Cola®." 18
Schematizing Quist's argument, the parallelism between the secrets of nukes and nachos might go something like this:
Characteristic National Security Secret (Objective) Trade Secret
interest national security profits
NS weapons related facts of nature, technical design and performance of weapons; method, process, technique or device to create a weapon.
TS formula, pattern, compilation, program, device method, technique, process that is of economic value and derives its value from secrecy.
must in fact be secret
must in fact be secret
knowledge inside organization
must be distributed on a need to know basis.
must be distributed on a need to know basis
secrecy measures taken
(NS) U.S. versus Heine: exonerated Heine on grounds that if the US had not protected the (aviation) secrets inside the US then could not convict Heine for having sent information to foreign power.
(TS) must take reasonable measures that might include: restricted access, "no trespassing" signs; guards; restrictive covenants; briefings; badges; compartmentalization
value of information
must have actual or potential military advantage.
must have actual or potential economic advantage
effort to develop secret
must constitute a sufficient effort such that this investment in development "is a factor in its classification"
must protect "the substantial investment of employers in their propriety information [trade secrets]"
effort needed for others to develop
(NS) must be such that the secret be not readily ascertainable by easy reverse engineering, reference books, trade journals, and so on.
(TS) must be such that the secret be not readily ascertainable by easy reverse engineering, reference books, trade journals, and so on.
(NS) Use classified solutions to classified problems to solve unclassified problems outside the fence.
(TS) Former employees can make use of general skills, knowledge, memory if they do not include "special confidential knowledge obtained from the employer which belongs to the employer."
There are two fascinating aspects to Quist's recourse to trade secret law. First, of course, is the formal structure: he is able to develop a largely and largely parallel structure between security and trade secrecy. But perhaps even more interesting is a second feature. At the end of the Cold War (the two volumes appeared in 1989 and 1993 respectively) a senior classification officer could see security secrecy as in need of legitimation from something exterior to the needs of the State. While the nuclear establishment could draw on the 1946 Atomic Energy Act and its successor legislation, trade secrecy carried the weight of a long history. And while the Atomic Energy Act was largely isolated from other bodies of law, and so much of the AEC's own comportment was shrouded in secrecy, trade secrecy law (so Quist argued) emerged from open judicial structures. Because it was hammered out on the anvil of common law, it was part of the wider culture in ways that the scientist and Executive-branch created AEC never would be. It is hard, perhaps impossible to imagine such a search for justification to have seemed necessary at the height of the Cold War. Yet here is a case, made from inside the Department of Energy, for its secret practices to find a grounding in the legal ethos of the corporation.
Conclusion: Producing Ignorance
When the Establishment of Secrecy tries to block the transmission of dangerous knowledge, it faces a fundamental dilemma. If it blanket-classifies whole domains of learning (nuclear physics, microwave physics), the accumulated mass of guarded data piles up at a smothering rate: it impedes industry, it interferes with work within the defense establishment, and it degrades the very concept of secrecy by applying it indiscriminately. Yet when the guardians of secrets try to pick and choose, to hunt for the critical number, essential technique, or irreplaceable specification; when they try to classify this fact, that property, or those circumstances, they find themselves in an impossible situation. They find themselves struggling to halt or at least stall the spread of vital, large-scale sectors of the technical-scientific sphere through the protocol-driven excision of bits of language and technique. It is as if they want to make an image unreadable by picking off just the vital pixels one by one. Indeed such a digital metaphor may be more than allusive. Faced with the proliferation of electronically registered data, the government is now embarking on a massive effort to recruit AI (artificial intelligence) to automate the classification (and declassification) of the fiber optic pipes of e-secrets pouring out of the national laboratories and their affiliates.
Philosophically, this puts us, oddly flipped (and through a deadly pun), in the footsteps of early twentieth century philosophy, when Bertrand Russell and the young Ludwig Wittgenstein were struggling to articulate a vision of language in which communication would be reduced to the assembly of isolated "atomic propositions." These elemental bits of meaning "Red patch here now" or "Smell of ozone 12:00 noon in this room" were to be assembled into the "molecular" and from then into ever more complex concatenations. The effort failed back in the early 1900s because facts never did remain within their confines; as even its staunchest advocates eventually conceded, facts could not be defined without theory, and theory, ever-spreading, refused to congeal into the isolable knowledge-islands of which seventeenth-century natural philosophers dreamed.
For both practical and theoretical reasons, the atomic statements of the 2003 Department of Energy are no more likely than Russell's atomic statements of 1903 to stay in their place. At some level, even the DOE and its sister agencies know this. DOE exempts prototype development of isotope separation technology from the maws of classification because the DOE desperately needs industrial and university-based work to produce each next generation of devices that will spew out the special materials for nuclear weapons. Think of tunable die lasers. But then, just as the lasers actually start sorting the U235 from the U238, the secrecy lid slams down and the knowledge becomes adolescent classified. Too bad for us, though, because the techniques, skilled operators, businesses, journal articles, and graduate students are by then on the hoof. Is it a surprise that the West Germans (with no nuclear weapons program) were able (in the mid-1970s) to export the technology to apartheid South Africa which immediately began assembling and eventually detonating a nuclear bomb? Or for that matter is it really astonishing that DOE's claim that they could contain "any elaboration" of the Teller-Ulam idea eventually failed?
Back in 1963 when Thomas Pynchon finished his great Crying of Lot 49, he sketched a paranoid and disjointed society, a universe so obsessed with concealment and conspiracy, with government and corporate monopoly control of information, that the causal structure and even the raw sequence of events hovered perpetually out of reach. Now that the secret world has begun to exceed the open one, Pynchon's fantasy stands ever nearer to hand. In the midst of his protagonist's (Oedipa Maas's) efforts to understand what was happening to her, she stumbles across a cryptogram scrawled onto a latrine wall, inscribed into postage stamps, present—if one looked carefully—just about anywhere. It was as, as she soon discovers, the old post horn, symbol of the late medieval Thurn and Taxis state monopoly postal system. But there is a twist. Pynchon's post horn has a mute jammed into it; communication was blocked.
Secret societies with private communication desperately tried to counter the monopoly on information—Pynchon's world crawls with disaffected engineers trying to patent Maxwell's demon, would-be suicides, and isolated lovers all seeking to break the out-of-control monopoly of knowledge transmission. Mad as it sounds, is it madder than it must feel to the radio-astronomers who discover that important bits of what they know about their best instruments has long been clear to the National Reconaissance Organization (NRO) and the NSA? That one of the main object of astrophysical inquiry (gamma ray bursters) emerged not in the groves of academe but through secret efforts to monitor potential Russian violations of the nuclear test ban treaty using satellites built to find H-bomb detonations on the far side of the moon?
Contra the logical positivists and their allies, it is precisely not possible to reduce meaningful language to discrete enunciations. Communication—at least meaningful, verifiable communication—cannot be rendered into a sequence of protocol statements. But such a conception of knowledge is exactly what lies behind the classifiers' imaginary. To block the transmission of knowledge—to impede communication about the most deadly edge of modern science and technology—the security services of the United States (and for that matter NATO, the Warsaw Pact, China, and dozens of other countries) have chosen to list facts, circumstances, associations, effects that would be banned from utterance.
At the root of this theory of punctiform knowledge excision stands a fundamental instability. To truly cover an arena of knowledge one is drawn ever outwards, removing from the public sphere entire domains until one is in fact cutting out such a vast multiple of the original classification that the derivative censorship covers 330 million pages a year—and growing. Even that number is one kept "low" by beating down the classified domain by its inverse—the classification of particular points. But then one is caught in the manifestly peculiar position of trying to stanch knowledge flow by punctiform excision.
On the one side, an unaffordable, intractable, holist anti-epistemology, on the other a ludicrously naive punctiform one. If this were just a theoretical matter it would be fascinating but delimited. It is not. At stake for the national security establishment is the broad interference that compartmentalization is causing, manifest most recently in the world-changing failures of intelligence leading up to 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction that were or weren't in Iraq. Industry chafes under the restriction of classification, and vast resources are needed to defend excessive retention of information. For universities the effects of the new order of secrecy are just beginning to be felt. The Patriot Act restricts laboratory access to people coming from certain countries—a direct clash with universities' own statutes that expressly forbid denying access to certain categories of laboratories on the basis of race, creed, or national origin. More broadly, for all the conceptual and practical problems with classification behind the fence at Los Alamos or Livermore, the problem of restricting research in the open university may be far greater. But it is not "just" the rights and culture of universities that are at stake. Billions of dollars have been spent on projects that scientifically or technically would not have—could not have—survived the gimbal-eyed scrutiny of international and open review. Whatever their strategic use or uselessness might have been, the atomic airplane and the X-ray laser were not just over budget, they were over a doomed set of assumptions about science and technology.
In the end, however, the broadest problem is not merely that of the weapons laboratory, industry, or the university. It is that, if pressed too hard and too deeply, secrecy, measured in the staggering units of Libraries of Congress, is a threat to democracy. And that is not a problem to be resolved by an automated Original Classifier or declassifier. It is political at every scale from attempts to excise a single critical idea to the vain efforts to remove whole domains of knowledge.
Critical Inquiry 31 (Autumn 2004)
© 2004 by The University of Chicago. 0093–1896/04/3101–0005$10.00. All rights reserved.
1 . Assuming 3000 pages/ft; 15 million pages/mile; the LOC reports approximately 500 miles of shelf so about 7,500 million pages/LOC = 7.5 billion pages in LOC; note this yields 60 pages/document; Joint Security Commission 1994 reports (fn. 9) 3 pages/document, but I this to be superseded by Department of Energy, Analysis of Declassification Efforts, 12 Dec. 1996, http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doerep.html accessed 21 Apr. 2003, which uses a mean of 10 pages per document. DOE-1995 review, pp. 71–72.
2 . According to the Annual Report for fiscal 2001: Harvard College Library, 11 libraries including Widener net added volumes for fiscal 2001: 139,834; according to the librarians at Harvard, they compute using 30 vols = 3 feet, so 10 volumes per foot or (from standard estimate in previous footnote) 300 pages/volume; fiscal year 2001: 8.9 million volumes; total university library system net added 218, 507 volumes to a total of 14.7 million volumes.
3 . 2001 Annual ISOO Report to President, http://www.fas.org/sgp/isoo/2001rpt.html, accessed 16 Feb. 2004.
4 . 2002 Annual ISOO Report to the President, http://www.archives.gov/isoo/annual_rep ... eport.html, accessed 16 Feb. 2004.
5 . Arvin S. Quist, "Security Classification of Information. Two Volumes. Vol. 1, "Introduction, History, and Adverse Impacts," September 1989; vol. 2, "Principles for Classification of Information," April 1993. http://www.fas.org/sgp/library/quist/index.html, accessed 2 Apr. 2003. This reference, vol. 2, chap. 3, p. 2.
6 . National Research Council, A Review of the Department of Energy Classification: Policy and Practice (Washington D.C., 1995), pp. 7–8. A Review of the Department of Energy Classification: Policy and Practice
7 . Quist, vol. 2, chap. 2, pp. 1–3.
8 . Quist, vol. 2, chap. 2, pp. 21–23.
9 . Quist, vol. 2, chap. 2, p. 32.
10 . Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, "Department of Defense Handbook for Writing Security Classification Guidance." DoD 5200.1–H, Nov. 1999, C188.8.131.52–C184.108.40.206.
11 . "Handbook," DoD 5200.1–H, C3.3.
12 . "Handbook," DoD 5200.1–H, C3.5.1.
13 . "Handbook," DoD 5200.1–H, AP2.5, AP2.7.
14 . Cited in Steven Aftergood, "Secrecy and Knowledge Production," http://ciaonet.org/wps/rej02.html, p. 5, accessed 8 Apr. 2003.
15 . Ibid., p. 3.
16 . Quist, vol. 2, appendix A, "Classification of Information Principles and Trade Secret Law," p. 1; following chart builds on this appendix.
17 . "Restricted Data Declassification Decisions 1946 to the Present," RDD–7, 1 Jan. 2001, U.S. Department of Energy, pp. 61–62.
18 . Quist, vol. 2, appendix A, p. 3.
ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network
by Patrick S. Poole
Read this previous Privacy Paper by Patrick Poole:
Inside America's Secret Court: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Read some of the press clippings on this report:
NY Times (May 27, 1999): Lawmakers Raise Questions About International Spy Network
La Monde Diplomatique (Jan. 1999): How the United States Spies on us all
Federal Computer Week(Nov. 17, 1998): EU May Investigate US Global Spy Network
Inter@ctive Week (Nov. 16, 1998): ECHELON: Surveilling Surveillance
WorldNetDaily (Nov. 12, 1998): Push for Hearings on ECHELON
Wired (October 27, 1998): Spying on the Spies
Baltimore Sun (October 18, 1998): Putting NSA under scrutiny
In the greatest surveillance effort ever established, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has created a global spy system, codename ECHELON, which captures and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax, email and telex message sent anywhere in the world. ECHELON is controlled by the NSA and is operated in conjunction with the General Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) of England, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) of Canada, the Australian Defense Security Directorate (DSD), and the General Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) of New Zealand. These organizations are bound together under a secret 1948 agreement, UKUSA, whose terms and text remain under wraps even today.
The ECHELON system is fairly simple in design: position intercept stations all over the world to capture all satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications traffic, and then process this information through the massive computer capabilities of the NSA, including advanced voice recognition and optical character recognition (OCR) programs, and look for code words or phrases (known as the ECHELON “Dictionary”) that will prompt the computers to flag the message for recording and transcribing for future analysis. Intelligence analysts at each of the respective “listening stations” maintain separate keyword lists for them to analyze any conversation or document flagged by the system, which is then forwarded to the respective intelligence agency headquarters that requested the intercept.
But apart from directing their ears towards terrorists and rogue states, ECHELON is also being used for purposes well outside its original mission. The regular discovery of domestic surveillance targeted at American civilians for reasons of “unpopular” political affiliation or for no probable cause at all in violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution – are consistently impeded by very elaborate and complex legal arguments and privilege claims by the intelligence agencies and the US government. The guardians and caretakers of our liberties, our duly elected political representatives, give scarce attention to these activities, let alone the abuses that occur under their watch. Among the activities that the ECHELON targets are:
Political spying: Since the close of World War II, the US intelligence agencies have developed a consistent record of trampling the rights and liberties of the American people. Even after the investigations into the domestic and political surveillance activities of the agencies that followed in the wake of the Watergate fiasco, the NSA continues to target the political activity of “unpopular” political groups and our duly elected representatives. One whistleblower charged in a 1988 Cleveland Plain Dealer interview that, while she was stationed at the Menwith Hill facility in the 1980s, she heard real-time intercepts of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. A former Maryland Congressman, Michael Barnes, claimed in a 1995 Baltimore Sun article that under the Reagan Administration his phone calls were regularly intercepted, which he discovered only after reporters had been passed transcripts of his conversations by the White House. One of the most shocking revelations came to light after several GCHQ officials became concerned about the targeting of peaceful political groups and told the London Observer in 1992 that the ECHELON dictionaries targeted Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and even Christian ministries.
Commercial espionage: Since the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe, the intelligence agencies have searched for a new justification for their surveillance capability in order to protect their prominence and their bloated budgets. Their solution was to redefine the notion of national security to include economic, commercial and corporate concerns. An office was created within the Department of Commerce, the Office of Intelligence Liaison, to forward intercepted materials to major US corporations. In many cases, the beneficiaries of this commercial espionage effort are the very companies that helped the NSA develop the systems that power the ECHELON network. This incestuous relationship is so strong that sometimes this intelligence information is used to push other American manufacturers out of deals in favor of these mammoth US defense and intelligence contractors, who frequently are the source of major cash contributions to both political parties.
While signals intelligence technology was helpful in containing and eventually defeating the Soviet Empire during the Cold War, what was once designed to target a select list of communist countries and terrorist states is now indiscriminately directed against virtually every citizen in the world. The European Parliament is now asking whether the ECHELON communications interceptions violate the sovereignty and privacy of citizens in other countries. In some cases, such as the NSA’s Menwith Hill station in England, surveillance is conducted against citizens on their own soil and with the full knowledge and cooperation of their government.
This report suggests that Congress pick up its long-neglected role as watchdog of the Constitutional rights and liberties of the American people, instead of its current role as lap dog to the US intelligence agencies. Congressional hearings ought to be held, similar to the Church and Rockefeller Committee hearings held in the mid-1970s, to find out to what extent the ECHELON system targets the personal, political, religious, and commercial communications of American citizens. The late Senator Frank Church warned that the technology and capability embodied in the ECHELON system represented a direct threat to the liberties of the American people. Left unchecked, ECHELON could be used by either the political elite or the intelligence agencies themselves as a tool to subvert the civil protections of Constitution and to destroy representative government in the United States.
The culmination of the Cold War conflict brought home hard realities for many military and intelligence agencies who were dependent upon the confrontation for massive budgets and little civilian oversight. World War II Allied political and military alliances had quickly become intelligence alliances in the shadow of the Iron Curtain that descended upon Eastern Europe after the war.
But for some intelligence agencies the end of the Cold War just meant a shift in mission and focus, not a loss of manpower or financial resources. One such US governmental organization is the National Security Agency (NSA). Despite the disintegration of Communism in the former Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe, the secretive NSA continues to grow at an exponential rate in terms of budget, manpower and spying abilities. Other countries have noticed the rapid growth of NSA resources and facilities around the world, and have decried the extensive spying upon their citizens by the US.
A preliminary report released by the European Parliament in January 1998 detailed research conducted by independent researchers that uncovered a massive US spy technology network that routinely monitors telephone, fax and email information on citizens all over the world, but particularly in the European Union (EU) and Japan. Titled “An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control,”<1> this report, issued by the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) committee of the European Parliament, caused a tremendous stir in the establishment press in Europe. At least one major US media outlet, The New York Times,<2> covered the issuance of the report as well.
The STOA report also exposed a festering sore spot between the US and our EU allies. The widespread surveillance of citizens in EU countries by the NSA has been known and discussed by European journalists since 1981. The name of the system in question is ECHELON, and it is one of the most secretive spy systems in existence.
ECHELON is actually a vast network of electronic spy stations located around the world and maintained by five countries: the US, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries, bound together in a still-secret agreement called UKUSA, spy on each other’s citizens by intercepting and gathering electronic signals of almost every telephone call, fax transmission and email message transmitted around the world daily. These signals are fed through the massive supercomputers of the NSA to look for certain keywords called the ECHELON “dictionaries.”
Most of the details of this mammoth spy system and the UKUSA agreement that supports it remain a mystery. What is known of ECHELON is the result of the efforts of journalists and researchers around the world who have labored for decades to uncover the operations of our government’s most secret systems. The 1996 publication of New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager’s book, Secret Power: New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network,<3> provided the most detailed look at the system and inflamed interest in ECHELON as well as the debate regarding its propriety.
This paper examines the expanse of the ECHELON system along with the intelligence agreements and exchanges that support it. The operation of ECHELON serves the NSA’s goal of spying on the citizens of other countries while also allowing them to circumvent the prohibition on spying on US citizens. ECHELON is not only a gross violation of our Constitution, but it violates the good will of our European allies and threatens the privacy of innocent civilians around the world. The existence and expansion of ECHELON is a foreboding omen regarding the future of our Constitutional liberties. If a government agency can willingly violate the most basic components of the Bill of Rights without so much as Congressional oversight and approval, we have reverted from a republican form of government to tyranny.
The success of the Allied military effort in World War II was due in no small part to successes in gathering enemy intelligence information and cracking those military and diplomatic messages. In addition, the Allied forces were able to create codes and encryption devices that effectively concealed sensitive information from prying Axis Power eyes. These coordinated signal intelligence (SIGINT) programs kept Allied information secure and left the enemies vulnerable.
But at the close of the conflict, a new threatening power – the Soviet Union – was beginning to provoke the Cold War by enslaving Eastern Europe. These signal intelligence agencies now had a new enemy toward which to turn their electronic eyes and ears to ensure that the balance of power could be maintained. The volleys of electronic hardware and espionage that would follow for forty years would be the breeding ground of the ECHELON spy system.
The diplomatic foundation that was the genesis of ECHELON is the UKUSA agreement. The agreement has its roots in the BRUSA COMINT (communications intelligence) alliance formed in the early days of World War II and ratified on May 17, 1943 by the United Kingdom and the United States.<4> The Commonwealth SIGINT Organization formed in 1946-47 brought together the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand post-war intelligence agencies.<5> Forged in 1947 between the US and UK, the still-secret UKUSA agreement defined the relations between the SIGINT departments of those various governments. Direct agreements between the US and these agencies also define the intricate relationship that these organizations engage in.
Foremost among those agencies is the US National Security Agency (NSA), which represents the American interest. The NSA is designated as the “First Party to the Treaty.” The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) signed the UKUSA agreement on behalf of the UK and its Commonwealth SIGINT partners. This brought Australia’s Defense Signals Directorate (DSD), the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) into the arrangement. While these agencies are bound by additional direct agreements with the US and each other, these four countries are considered the “Second Parties to the (UKUSA) Treaty.” Third Party members include Germany, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Turkey. There are sources that indicate China may be included in this group on a limited basis as well.<6>
National Security Agency (US)
The prime mover in the UKUSA arrangement is undeniably the National Security Agency (NSA). The majority of funds for joint projects and facilities (discussed below) as well as the direction for intelligence gathering operations are issued primarily through the NSA. The participating agencies frequently exchange personnel, divide up intelligence collection tasks and establish common guidelines for classifying and protecting shared information. However, the NSA utilizes its role as the largest spy agency in the world to have its international intelligence partners do its bidding.
President Harry Truman established the NSA in 1952 with a presidential directive that remains classified to this day. The US government did not acknowledge the existence of the NSA until 1957. Its original mission was to conduct the signal intelligence (SIGINT) and communications security (COMSEC) for the US. President Ronald Reagan added the tasks of information systems security and operations security training in 1984 and 1988 respectively. A 1986 law charged the NSA with supporting combat operations for the Department of Defense.<7>
Headquartered at Fort George Meade, located between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, the NSA boasts the most enviable array of intelligence equipment and personnel in the world. The NSA is the largest global employer of mathematicians, featuring the best teams of codemakers and codebreakers ever assembled. The latter's job is to crack the encryption codes of foreign and domestic electronic communications, forwarding the revealed messages to their enormous team of skilled linguists to review and analyze the messages in over 100 languages. The NSA is also responsible for creating the encryption codes that protect the US government’s communications.
In its role as gang leader for UKUSA, the NSA is primarily involved with creating new surveillance and codebreaking technology, directing the other cooperating agencies to their targets, and providing them with training and tools to intercept, process and analyze enormous amounts of signals intelligence. By possessing what is arguably the most technologically advanced communications, computer and codebreaking equipment of any government agency in the world, the NSA serves as a competent and capable taskmaster for UKUSA.
The ECHELON Network
The vast network created by the UKUSA community stretches across the globe and into the reaches of space. Land-based intercept stations, intelligence ships sailing the seven seas and top-secret satellites whirling twenty thousand miles overhead all combine to empower the NSA and its UKUSA allies with access to the entire global communications network. Very few signals escape its electronic grasp.
Having divided the world up among the UKUSA parties, each agency directs its electronic "vacuum-cleaner" equipment towards the heavens and the ground to search for the most minute communications signals that traverse the system’s immense path. The NSA facilities in the US cover the communications signals of both American continents; the GCHQ in Britain is responsible for Europe, Africa and Russia west of the Ural Mountains; the DSD in Australia assists in SIGINT collection in Southeastern Asia and the Southwest Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean areas; the GSCB in New Zealand is responsible for Southern Pacific Ocean collections, particularly the South Pacific island nations group; and CSE in Canada handles interception of additional northern Russian, northern European and American communications.<8>
The backbone of the ECHELON network is the massive listening and reception stations directed at the Intelsat and Inmarsat satellites that are responsible for the vast majority of phone and fax communications traffic within and between countries and continents. The twenty Intelsat satellites follow a geo-stationary orbit locked onto a particular point on the Equator.<9> These satellites carry primarily civilian traffic, but they do additionally carry diplomatic and governmental communications that are of particular interest to the UKUSA parties.
Originally, only two stations were responsible for Intelsat intercepts: Morwenstow in England and Yakima in the state of Washington. However, when the Intelsat 5 series was replaced with the Intelsat 701 and 703 satellites, which had much more precise transmission beams that prohibited reception of Southern Hemisphere signals from the Yakima base in the Northern Hemisphere, additional facilities were constructed in Australia and New Zealand.<10>
Today, the Morwenstow station directs its ears towards the Intelsats traversing the atmosphere above the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and transmiting to Europe, Africa and western parts of Asia. The Yakima station, located on the grounds of the Yakima Firing Station, targets Pacific Ocean communications in the Northern Hemisphere as well as the Far East. Another NSA facility at Sugar Grove, West Virginia, covers traffic for the whole of North and South America. A DSD station at Geraldton, Australia, and the Waihopai, New Zealand GCSB facility cover Asia, the South Pacific countries and the Pacific Ocean. An additional station on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and Angola is suspected of covering the Atlantic Intelsat’s Southern Hemisphere communications.<11>
Non-Intelsat satellites are monitored from these same stations, as well as from bases in Menwith Hill, England; Shoal Bay, Australia; Leitrim, Canada; Bad Aibling, Germany, and Misawa, Japan. These satellites typically carry Russian and regional communications.<12> It is known that the Shoal Bay facility targets a series of Indonesian satellites and that the Leitrim station intercepts communications from Latin American satellites, including the Mexican telephone company's Morelos satellite.<13>
Several dozen other radio listening posts operated by the UKUSA allies dot the globe as well, located at military bases on foreign soil and remote spy posts. These stations played a critical role in the time prior to the development of satellite communications because much of the world’s communications traffic was transmitted on radio frequency bands. Particularly in the high-frequency (HF) range, radio communications continue to serve an important purpose despite the widespread use of satellite technology because their signals can be transmitted to military ships and aircraft across the globe. Shorter range very high-frequencies (VHF) and ultra high-frequencies (UHF) are also used for tactical military communications within national borders. Major radio facilities in the UKUSA network include Tangimoana, New Zealand; Bamaga, Australia, and the joint NSA/GCHQ facility at the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia.<14>
A separate high frequency direction finding (HFDF) network intercepts communications signals for the unique purpose of locating the position of ships and aircraft. While these stations are not actually involved in the analysis of messages, they play a critical role in monitoring the movements of mobile military targets. The Canadian CSE figures prominently in the HFDF UKUSA network, codenamed CLASSIC BULLSEYE and hosting a major portion of the Atlantic and Pacific stations that monitored Soviet ship and submarine movements during the Cold War. Stations from Kingston and Leitrim (Ontario) to Gander (Newfoundland) on the Atlantic side, to Alert (Northwest Territories) located at the northernmost tip of Canada on the Arctic Ocean that listens to the Russian submarine bases at Petropavlovsk and Vladivostok, and finally to Masset (British Columbia) in the Pacific -- monitor shipping and flight lanes under the direction of the NSA.<15>. The CSE also maintains a small contingent at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, which probably monitors Latin American communications targets.
Another major support for the ECHELON system is the US spy satellite network and its corresponding reception bases scattered about the UKUSA empire. These space-based electronic communications "vacuum cleaners" pick up radio, microwave and cell phone traffic on the ground. They were launched by the NSA in cooperation with its sister spy agencies, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Ferret series of satellites in the 1960s; the Canyon, Rhyolite and Aquacade satellites in the 1970s; and the Chalet, Vortex, Magnum, Orion, and Jumpseat series of satellites in the 1980s, have given way to the new and improved Mercury, Mentor and Trumpet satellites during the 1990s.
Table I. US Spy Satellites in Current UseSatellite No. Orbit Manufacturer Purpose
Advanced KH-11 3 200 miles Lockheed Martin 5-inch resolution spy photographs
LaCrosse Radar Imaging 2 200-400 miles Lockheed Martin 3 to 10-foot resolution spy photographs
Orion/Vortex 3 22,300 miles TRW Telecom surveillance
Trumpet 2 200-22,300 miles Boeing Surveillance of cellular phones
Parsae 3 600 miles TRW Ocean surveillance
Satellite Data Systems 2 200-22,300 miles Hughes Data Relay
Defense Support Program 4+ 22,300 miles TRW/Aerojet Missile early warning
Defense Meteorological Support Program 2 500 miles Lockheed Martin Meteorology, nuclear blast detection
These surveillance satellites act as giant scoops picking up electronic communications, cell phone conversations and various radio transmissions. The downlink stations that control the operations and targeting of these satellites are under the exclusive control of the United States, despite their location on foreign military bases. The two primary downlink facilities are at Menwith Hill, England, and Pine Gap, Australia.
Inside Menwith Hill
The Menwith Hill facility is located in North Yorkshire near Harrogate, England. The important role that Menwith Hill plays in the ECHELON system was recognized by the recent European Parliament STOA report:
Within Europe, all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York Moors of the UK.<17>
The existence and importance of the facility was first brought to light by British journalist and researcher Duncan Campbell in 1980.<18> Today, it is the largest spy station in the world, with over twenty-five satellite receiving stations and 1,400 American NSA personnel working with 350 UK Ministry of Defense staff on site. After revelations that the facility was coordinating surveillance for the vast majority of the European continent, the base has become a target for regular protests organized by local peace activists. It has also become the target of intense criticism by European government officials who are concerned about the vast network of civilian surveillance and economic espionage conducted from the station by the US.<19>
The beginnings of Menwith Hill go back to December 1951, when the US Air Force and British War Office signed a lease for land that had been purchased by the British government. The NSA took over the lease of the base in 1966, and they have continued to build up the facility ever since. Up until the mid-1970s, Menwith Hill was used for intercepting International Leased Carrier (ILC) and Non-Diplomatic Communications (NDC). Having received one of the first sophisticated IBM computers in the early 1960s, Menwith Hill was also used to sort through the voluminous unenciphered telex communications, which consisted of international messages, telegrams and telephone calls from the government, business and civilian sectors looking for anything of political, military or economic value.<20>
The addition of the first satellite intercept station at Menwith Hill in 1974 raised the base’s prominence in intelligence gathering. Eight large satellite communications dishes were installed during that phase of construction. Several satellite-gathering systems now dot the facility:<21>
STEEPLEBUSH – Completed in 1984, this $160 million system expanded the satellite surveillance capability and mission of the spy station beyond the bounds of the installation that began in 1974.
RUNWAY – Running east and west across the facility, this system receives signals from the second-generation geosynchronous Vortex satellites, and gathers miscellaneous communications traffic from Europe, Asia and the former Soviet Union. The information is then forwarded to the Menwith Hill computer systems for processing. RUNWAY may have recently been replaced or complemented by another system, RUTLEY.
PUSHER – An HFDF system that covers the HF frequency range between 3 MHz and 30 MHz (radio transmissions from CB radios, walkie-talkies, and other radio devices). Military, embassy, maritime and air flight communications are the main target of PUSHER.
MOONPENNY – Uncovered by British journalist Duncan Campbell in the 1980s, this system is targeted at the communication relay satellites belonging to other countries, as well as the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Intelsat satellites.
KNOBSTICKS I and II – The purpose of these antennae arrays are unknown, but they probably target military and diplomatic traffic throughout Europe.
GT-6 – A new system installed at the end of 1996, GT-6 is believed to be the receiver for the third generation of geosynchronous satellites termed Advanced Orion or Advanced Vortex. A new polar orbit satellite called Advanced Jumpseat may be monitored from here as well.
STEEPLEBUSH II – An expansion of the 1984 STEEPLEBUSH system, this computer system processes information collected from the RUNWAY receivers gathering traffic from the Vortex satellites.
SILKWORTH – Constructed by Lockheed Corporation, the main computer system for Menwith Hill processes most of the information received by the various reception systems.
One shocking revelation about Menwith Hill came to light in 1997 during the trial of two women peace campaigners appealing their convictions for trespassing at the facility. In documents and testimony submitted by British Telecomm in the case, R.G. Morris, head of Emergency Planning for British Telecomm, revealed that at least three major domestic fiber-optic telephone trunk lines – each capable of carrying 100,000 calls simultaneously – were wired through Menwith Hill.<22> This allows the NSA to tap into the very heart of the British Telecomm network. Judge Jonathan Crabtree rebuked British Telecomm for his revelations and prohibited Mr. Morris from giving any further testimony in the case for “national security” reasons. According to Duncan Campbell, the secret spying alliance between Menwith Hill and British Telecomm began in 1975 with a coaxial connection to the British Telecomm microwave facility at Hunter’s Stone, four miles away from Menwith Hill – a connection maintained even today.<23>
Additional systems (TROUTMAN, ULTRAPURE, TOTALISER, SILVERWEED, RUCKUS, et. al.) complete the monumental SIGINT collection efforts at Menwith Hill. Directing its electronic vacuum cleaners towards unsuspecting communications satellites in the skies, receiving signals gathered by satellites that scoop up the most minute signals on the ground, listening in on the radio communications throughout the air, or plugging into the ground-based telecommunications network, Menwith Hill, alongside its sister stations at Pine Gap, Australia, and Bad Aibling, Germany, represents the comprehensive effort of the NSA and its UKUSA allies to make sure that no communications signal escapes its electronic net.
The ECHELON Dictionaries
The extraordinary ability of ECHELON to intercept most of the communications traffic in the world is breathtaking in its scope. And yet the power of ECHELON resides in its ability to decrypt, filter, examine and codify these messages into selective categories for further analysis by intelligence agents from the various UKUSA agencies. As the electronic signals are brought into the station, they are fed through the massive computer systems, such as Menwith Hill’s SILKWORTH, where voice recognition, optical character recognition (OCR) and data information engines get to work on the messages.
These programs and computers transcend state-of-the-art; in many cases, they are well into the future. MAGISTRAND is part of the Menwith Hill SILKWORTH super-computer system that drives the powerful keyword search programs.<24> One tool used to sort through the text of messages, PATHFINDER (manufactured by the UK company, Memex),<25> sifts through large databases of text-based documents and messages looking for keywords and phrases based on complex algorithmic criteria. Voice recognition programs convert conversations into text messages for further analysis. One highly advanced system, VOICECAST, can target an individual’s voice pattern, so that every call that person makes is transcribed for future analysis.
Processing millions of messages every hour, the ECHELON systems churn away 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, looking for targeted keyword series, phone and fax numbers, and specified voiceprints. It is important to note that very few messages and phone calls are actually transcribed and recorded by the system. The vast majority are filtered out after they are read or listened to by the system. Only those messages that produce keyword “hits” are tagged for future analysis. Again, it is not just the ability to collect the electronic signals that gives ECHELON its power; it is the tools and technology that are able to whittle down the messages to only those that are important to the intelligence agencies.
Each station maintains a list of keywords (the “Dictionary”) designated by each of the participating intelligence agencies. A Dictionary Manager from each of the respective agencies is responsible for adding, deleting or changing the keyword search criteria for their dictionaries at each of the stations.<26> Each of these station dictionaries are given codewords, such as COWBOY for the Yakima facility and FLINTLOCK for the Waihopai facility.<27> These codewords play a crucial identification role for the analysts who eventually look at the intercepted messages.
Each message flagged by the ECHELON dictionaries as meeting the specified criteria is sorted by a four-digit code representing the source or subject of the message (such as 5535 for Japanese diplomatic traffic, or 8182 for communications about distribution of encryption technology,)<28> as well as the date, time and station codeword. Also included in the message headers are the codenames for the intended agency: ALPHA-ALPHA (GCHQ), ECHO-ECHO (DSD), INDIA-INDIA (GCSB), UNIFORM-UNIFORM (CSE), and OSCAR-OSCAR (NSA). These messages are then transmitted to each agency’s headquarters via a global computer system, PLATFORM,<29> that acts as the information nervous system for the UKUSA stations and agencies.
Every day, analysts located at the various intelligence agencies review the previous day’s product. As it is analyzed, decrypted and translated, it can be compiled into the different types of analysis: reports, which are direct and complete translations of intercepted messages; “gists,” which give basic information on a series of messages within a given category; and summaries, which are compilations from both reports and gists.<30> These are then given classifications: MORAY (secret), SPOKE (more secret than MORAY), UMBRA (top secret), GAMMA (Russian intercepts) and DRUID (intelligence forwarded to non-UKUSA parties). This analysis product is the raison d’être of the entire ECHELON system. It is also the lifeblood of the UKUSA alliance.
The ECHELON system is the product of the Cold War conflict, an extended battle replete with heightened tensions that teetered on the brink of annihilation and the diminished hostilities of détente and glasnost. Vicious cycles of mistrust and paranoia between the United States and the Soviet Empire fed the intelligence agencies to the point that, with the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe, the intelligence establishment began to grasp for a mission that justified its bloated existence.
But the rise of post-modern warfare – terrorism – gave the establishment all the justification it needed to develop even greater ability to spy on our enemies, our allies and our own citizens. ECHELON is the result of those efforts. The satellites that fly thousands of miles overhead and yet can spy out the most minute details on the ground; the secret submarines that troll the ocean floors that are able to tap into undersea communications cables;<31> and all power the efficient UKUSA signals intelligence machine.
There is a concerted effort by the heads of intelligence agencies, federal law enforcement officials and congressional representatives to defend the capabilities of ECHELON. Their persuasive arguments point to the tragedies seen in the bombings in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center in New York City. The vulnerability of Americans abroad, as recently seen in the bombing of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, emphasizes the necessity of monitoring those forces around the world that would use senseless violence and terror as political weapons against the US and its allies.
Intelligence victories add credibility to the arguments that defend such a pervasive surveillance system. The discovery of missile sites in Cuba in 1962, the capture of the Achille Lauro terrorists in 1995, the discovery of Libyan involvement in the bombing of a Berlin discotheque that killed one American (resulting in the 1996 bombing of Tripoli) and countless other incidents that have been averted (which are now covered by the silence of indoctrination vows and top-secret classifications) all point to the need for comprehensive signals intelligence gathering for the national security of the United States.
But despite the real threats and dangers to the peace and protection of American citizens at home and abroad, our Constitution is quite explicit in limiting the scope and powers of government. A fundamental foundation of free societies is that when controversies arise over the assumption of power by the state, power never defaults to the government, nor are powers granted without an extraordinary, explicit and compelling public interest. As the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan pointed out:
The concept of military necessity is seductively broad, and has a dangerous plasticity. Because they invariably have the visage of overriding importance, there is always a temptation to invoke security “necessities” to justify an encroachment upon civil liberties. For that reason, the military-security argument must be approached with a healthy skepticism: Its very gravity counsels that courts be cautious when military necessity is invoked by the Government to justify a trespass on [Constitutional] rights.<32>
Despite the necessity of confronting terrorism and the many benefits that are provided by the massive surveillance efforts embodied by ECHELON, there is a dark and dangerous side of these activities that is concealed by the cloak of secrecy surrounding the intelligence operations of the United States.
The discovery of domestic surveillance targetting American civilians for reasons of “unpopular” political affiliation – or for no probable cause at all – in violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution is regularly impeded by very elaborate and complex legal arguments and privilege claims by the intelligence agencies and the US government. The guardians and caretakers of our liberties – our duly elected political representatives – give scarce attention to the activities, let alone the abuses, that occur under their watch. As pointed out below, our elected officials frequently become targets of ECHELON themselves, chilling any effort to check this unbridled power.
In addition, the shift in priorities resulting from the demise of the Soviet Empire and the necessity to justify intelligence capabilities resulted in a redefinition of “national security interests” to include espionage committed on behalf of powerful American companies. This quiet collusion between political and private interests typically involves the very same companies that are involved in developing the technology that empowers ECHELON and the intelligence agencies.
Domestic and Political Spying
When considering the use of ECHELON on American soil, the pathetic historical record of NSA and CIA domestic activities in regards to the Constitutional liberties and privacy rights of American citizens provides an excellent guidepost for what may occur now with the ECHELON system. Since the creation of the NSA by President Truman, its spying capability has frequently been used to monitor the activities of an unsuspecting public.
In 1945 Project SHAMROCK was initiated to obtain copies of all telegraphic information exiting or entering the United States. With the full cooperation of RCA, ITT and Western Union (representing almost all of the telegraphic traffic in the US at the time), the NSA's predecessor and later the NSA itself wereprovided with daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing and transiting telegraphs. This system changed dramatically when the cable companies began providing magnetic computer tapes to the agency that enabled the agency to run all the messages through its HARVEST computer to look for particular keywords, locations, senders or addressees.
Project SHAMROCK became so successful that the in 1966 NSA and CIA set up a front company in lower Manhattan (where the offices of the telegraph companies were located) under the codename LPMEDLEY. At the height of Project SHAMROCK, 150,000 messages a month were printed and analyzed by NSA agents.<33>
NSA Director Lew Allen brought Project SHAMROCK to a crashing halt in May 1975 as congressional critics began to rip open the program’s shroud of secrecy. The testimony of both the representatives from the cable companies and of Director Allen at the hearings prompted Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Frank Church to conclude that Project SHAMROCK was “probably the largest government interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”<34>
A sister project to Project SHAMROCK, Project MINARET involved the creation of “watch lists” by each of the intelligence agencies and the FBI of those accused of “subversive” domestic activities. The watch lists included such notables as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez and Dr. Benjamin Spock.
After the Supreme Court handed down its 1972 Keith decision,<35> which held that -- while the President could act to protect the country from unlawful and subversive activity designed to overthrow the government -- that same power did not extend to include warrantless electronic surveillance of domestic organizations, pressure came to bear on Project MINARET.<36> Attorney General Elliot Petersen shut down Project MINARET as soon as its activities were revealed to the Justice Department, despite the fact that the FBI (an agency under the Justice Department’s authority) was actively involved with the NSA and other intelligence agencies in creating the watch lists.
Operating between 1967 and 1973, over 5,925 foreigners and 1,690 organizations and US citizens were included on the Project MINARET watch lists. Despite extensive efforts to conceal the NSA’s involvement in Project MINARET, NSA Director Lew Allen testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975 that the NSA had issued over 3,900 reports on the watch-listed Americans.<37> Additionally, the NSA Office of Security Services maintained reports on at least 75,000 Americans between 1952 and 1974. This list included the names of anyone that was mentioned in a NSA message intercept.
While the NSA was busy snooping on US citizens through Projects SHAMROCK and MINARET, the CIA got into the domestic spying act by initiating Operation CHAOS. President Lyndon Johnson authorized the creation of the CIA’s Domestic Operations Division (DOD), whose purpose was to “exercise centralized responsibility for direction, support, and coordination of clandestine operations activities within the United States….”
When Johnson ordered CIA Director John McCone to use the DOD to analyze the growing college student protests of the Administration’s policy towards Vietnam, two new units were set up to target anti-war protestors and organizations: Project RESISTANCE, which worked with college administrators, campus security and local police to identify anti-war activists and political dissidents; and Project MERRIMAC, which monitored any demonstrations being conducted in the Washington D.C. area. The CIA then began monitoring student activists and infiltrating anti-war organizations by working with local police departments to pull off burglaries, illegal entries (black bag jobs), interrogations and electronic surveillance.<38>
After President Nixon came to office in 1969, all of these domestic surveillance activities were consolidated into Operation CHAOS. After the revelation of two former CIA agents’ involvement in the Watergate break-in, the publication of an article about CHAOS in the New York Times<39> and the growing concern about distancing itself from illegal domestic spying activities, the CIA shut down Operation CHAOS. But during the life of the project, the Church Committee and the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States (the Rockefeller Commission) revealed that the CIA had compiled files on over 13,000 individuals, including 7,000 US citizens and 1,000 domestic organizations.<40>
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)
In response to the discovery of such a comprehensive effort by previous administrations and the intelligence agencies, Congress passed legislation (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978)<41> that created a top-secret court to hear applications for electronic surveillance from the FBI and NSA to provide some check on the domestic activities of the agencies. In 1995, Congress granted the court additional power to authorize surreptitious entries. In all of these actions, Congressional intent was to provide a check on the domestic surveillance abuses mentioned above.
The seven-member court, comprised of federal District Court judges appointed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, sits in secret in a sealed room on the top floor of the Department of Justice building. Public information about the court’s hearings is scarce; each year the Attorney General is required by law to transmit to Congress a report detailing the number of applications each year and the number granted. With over 10,000 applications submitted to the FISC during the past twenty years, the court has only rejected one application (and that rejection was at the request of the Reagan Administration, which had submitted the application).
While the FISC was established to be the watchdog for the Constitutional rights of the American people against domestic surveillance, it quickly became the lap dog of the intelligence agencies. Surveillance requests that would never receive a hearing in a state or federal court are routinely approved by the FISC. This has allowed the FBI to use the process to conduct surveillance to obtain evidence in circumvention of the US Constitution, and the evidence is then used in subsequent criminal trials. But the process established by Congress and the courts ensures that information regarding the cause or extent of the surveillance order is withheld from defense attorneys because of the classified nature of the court.<42> Despite Congress’s initial intent for the FISC, it is doubtful that domestic surveillance by means of ECHELON comes under any scrutiny by the court.
Political Uses of ECHELON and UKUSA
Several incidents of domestic spying involving ECHELON have emerged from the secrecy of the UKUSA relationship. What these brief glimpses inside the intelligence world reveal is that, despite the best of intentions by elected representatives, presidents and prime ministers, the temptation to use ECHELON as a tool of political advancement and repression proves too strong.
Former Canadian spy Mike Frost recounts how former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a request in February 1983 to have two ministers from her own government monitored when she suspected them of disloyalty. In an effort to avoid the legal difficulties involved with domestic spying on high governmental officials, the GCHQ liaison in Ottawa made a request to CSE for them to conduct the three-week-long surveillance mission at British taxpayer expense. Frost’s CSE boss, Frank Bowman, traveled to London to do the job himself. After the mission was over, Bowman was instructed to hand over the tapes to a GCHQ official at their headquarters.<43>
Using the UKUSA alliance as legal cover is seductively easy. As Spyworld co-author Michel Gratton puts it,
The Thatcher episode certainly shows that GCHQ, like NSA, found ways to put itself above the law and did not hesitate to get directly involved in helping a specific politician for her personal political benefit…. [T]he decision to proceed with the London caper was probably not put forward for approval to many people up the bureaucratic ladder. It was something CSE figured they would get away with easily, so checking with the higher-ups would only complicate things unnecessarily.<44>
Frost also told of how he was asked in 1975 to spy on an unlikely target – Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau’s wife, Margaret Trudeau. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) Security Service division was concerned that the Prime Minister’s wife was buying and using marijuana, so they contacted the CSE to do the dirty work. Months of surveillance in cooperation with the Security Service turned up nothing of note. Frost was concerned that there were political motivations behind the RCMP’s request: “She was in no way suspected of espionage. Why was the RCMP so adamant about this? Were they trying to get at Pierre Trudeau for some reason or just protect him? Or were they working under orders from their political masters?”<45>
The NSA frequently gets into the political spying act as well. Nixon presidential aide John Ehrlichman revealed in his published memoirs, Witness to Power: The Nixon Years, that Henry Kissinger used the NSA to intercept the messages of then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers, which Kissinger used to convince President Nixon of Rogers’ incompetence. Kissinger also found himself on the receiving end of the NSA’s global net. Word of Kissinger’s secret diplomatic dealings with foreign governments would reach the ears of other Nixon administration officials, incensing Kissinger. As former NSA Deputy Director William Colby pointed out, “Kissinger would get sore as hell…because he wanted to keep it politically secret until it was ready to launch.”<46>
However, elected representatives have also become targets of spying by the intelligence agencies. In 1988, a former Lockheed software manager who was responsible for a dozen VAX computers that powered the ECHELON computers at Menwith Hill, Margaret Newsham, came forth with the stunning revelation that she had actually heard the NSA’s real time interception of phone conversations involving South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. Newsham was fired from Lockheed after she filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that the company was engaged in flagrant waste and abuse. After a top secret meeting in April 1988 with then-chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Louis Stokes, Capitol Hill staffers familiar with the meeting leaked the story to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.<47> While Sen. Thurmond was reluctant to pressure for a thorough investigation into the matter, his office revealed at the time that the office had previously received reports that the Senator was a target of the NSA.<48> After the news reports an investigation into the matter discovered that there were no controls or questioning over who could enter target names into the Menwith Hill system.<49>
The NSA, under orders from the Reagan administration, also targeted Maryland Congressman Michael Barnes. Phone calls he placed to Nicaraguan officials were intercepted and recorded, including a conversation he had with the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua protesting the implementation of martial law in that country. Barnes found out about the NSA’s spying after White House officials leaked transcripts of his conversations to reporters. CIA Director William Casey, later implicated in the Iran-Contra affair, showed Barnes a Nicaraguan embassy cable that reported a meeting between embassy staff and one of Barnes’ aides. The aide had been there on a professional call regarding an international affairs issue, and Casey asked for Barnes to fire the aide. Barnes replied that it was perfectly legal and legitimate for his staff to meet with foreign diplomats.
Says Barnes, “I was aware that NSA monitored international calls, that it was a standard part of intelligence gathering. But to use it for domestic political purposes is absolutely outrageous and probably illegal.”<50> Another former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has also expressed his concerns about the NSA’s domestic targeting. “It has always worried me. What if that is used on American citizens?” queried former Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini. “It is chilling. Are they listening to my private conversations on my telephone?”<51>
Seemingly non-controversial organizations have ended up in the fixed gaze of ECHELON, as several former GCHQ officials confidentially told the London Observer in June 1992. Among the targeted organizations they named were Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Christian Aid, an American missions organization that works with indigenous pastors engaged in ministry work in countries closed to Western, Christian workers.<52>
In another story published by the London Observer, a former employee of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, Robin Robison, admitted that Margaret Thatcher had personally ordered the communications interception of the parent company of the Observer, Lonrho, after the Observer had published a 1989 expose charging bribes had been paid to Thatcher’s son, Mark, in a multi-billion dollar British arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Despite facing severe penalties for violating his indoctrination vows, Robison admitted that he had personally delivered intercepted Lonrho messages to Mrs. Thatcher’s office.<53>
It should hardly be surprising that ECHELON ends up being used by elected and bureaucratic officials to their political advantage or by the intelligence agencies themselves for the purpose of sustaining their privileged surveillance powers and bloated budgets. The availability of such invasive technology practically begs for abuse, although it does not justify its use to those ends. But what is most frightening is the targeting of such “subversives” as those who expose corrupt government activity, protect human rights from government encroachments, challenge corporate polluters, or promote the gospel of Christ. That the vast intelligence powers of the United States should be arrayed against legitimate and peaceful organizations is demonstrative not of the desire to monitor, but of the desire to control.
With the rapid erosion of the Soviet Empire in the early 1990s, Western intelligence agencies were anxious to redefine their mission to justify the scope of their global surveillance system. Some of the agencies’ closest corporate friends quickly gave them an option – commercial espionage. By redefining the term “national security” to include spying on foreign competitors of prominent US corporations, the signals intelligence game has gotten ugly. And it very well may have prompted the recent scrutiny by the European Union that ECHELON has endured.
While UKUSA agencies have pursued economic and commercial information on behalf of their countries with renewed vigor after the passing of communism in Eastern Europe, the NSA practice of spying on behalf of US companies has a long history. Gerald Burke, who served as Executive Director of President Nixon’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, notes commercial espionage was endorsed by the US government as early as 1970: “By and large, we recommended that henceforth economic intelligence be considered a function of the national security, enjoying a priority equivalent to diplomatic, military, and technological intelligence.”<54>
To accommodate the need for information regarding international commercial deals, the intelligence agencies set up a small, unpublicized department within the Department of Commerce, the Office of Intelligence Liaison. This office receives intelligence reports from the US intelligence agencies about pending international deals that it discreetly forwards to companies that request it or may have an interest in the information. Immediately after coming to office in January 1993, President Clinton added to the corporate espionage machine by creating the National Economic Council, which feeds intelligence to “select” companies to enhance US competitiveness. The capabilities of ECHELON to spy on foreign companies is nothing new, but the Clinton administration has raised its use to an art:
In 1990 the German magazine Der Speigel revealed that the NSA had intercepted messages about an impending $200 million deal between Indonesia and the Japanese satellite manufacturer NEC Corp. After President Bush intervened in the negotiations on behalf of American manufacturers, the contract was split between NEC and AT&T.
In 1994, the CIA and NSA intercepted phone calls between Brazilian officials and the French firm Thomson-CSF about a radar system that the Brazilians wanted to purchase. A US firm, Raytheon, was a competitor as well, and reports prepared from intercepts were forwarded to Raytheon.<55>
In September 1993, President Clinton asked the CIA to spy on Japanese auto manufacturers that were designing zero-emission cars and to forward that information to the Big Three US car manufacturers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.<56> In 1995, the New York Times reported that the NSA and the CIA’s Tokyo station were involved in providing detailed information to US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor’s team of negotiators in Geneva facing Japanese car companies in a trade dispute.<57> Recently, a Japanese newspaper, Mainichi, accused the NSA of continuing to monitor the communications of Japanese companies on behalf of American companies.<58>
Insight Magazine reported in a series of articles in 1997 that President Clinton ordered the NSA and FBI to mount a massive surveillance operation at the 1993 Asian/Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) hosted in Seattle. One intelligence source for the story related that over 300 hotel rooms had been bugged for the event, which was designed to obtain information regarding oil and hydro-electric deals pending in Vietnam that were passed on to high level Democratic Party contributors competing for the contracts.<59> But foreign companies were not the only losers: when Vietnam expressed interest in purchasing two used 737 freighter aircraft from an American businessman, the deal was scuttled after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown arranged favorable financing for two new 737s from Boeing.<60>
But the US is not the only partner of the UKUSA relationship that engages in such activity. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the GCHQ to monitor the activities of international media mogul Robert Maxwell on behalf of the Bank of England.<61> Former CSE linguist and analyst Jane Shorten claimed that she had seen intercepts from Mexican trade representatives during the 1992-1993 NAFTA trade negotiations, as well as 1991 South Korean Foreign Ministry intercepts dealing with the construction of three Canadian CANDU nuclear reactors for the Koreans in a $6 billion deal.<62> Shorten’s revelation prompted Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps to launch a probe into the allegations after the Mexicans lodged a protest.
But every spy agency eventually gets beat at their own game. Mike Frost relates in Spyworld how an accidental cell phone intercept in 1981 of the American Ambassador to Canada discussing a pending grain deal that the US was about to sign with China provided Canada with the American negotiating strategy for the deal. The information was used to outbid the US, resulting in a three year, $2.5 billion contract for the Canadian Wheat Board. CSE out-spooked the NSA again a year later when Canada snagged a $50 million wheat sale to Mexico.<63>
Another disturbing trend regarding the present commercial use of ECHELON is the incestuous relationship that exists between the intelligence agencies and the US corporations that develop the technology that fuels their spy systems. Many of the companies that receive the most important commercial intercepts – Lockheed, Boeing, Loral, TRW and Raytheon – are actively involved in the manufacturing and operation of many of the spy systems that comprise ECHELON. The collusion between intelligence agencies and their contractors is frightening in the chilling effect it has on creating any foreign or even domestic competition. But just as important is that it is a gross misuse of taxpayer-financed resources and an abuse of the intelligence agencies’ capabilities.
While the UKUSA relationship is a product of Cold War political and military tensions, ECHELON is purely a product of the 20th Century – the century of statism. The modern drive toward the assumption of state power has turned legitimate national security agencies and apparati into pawns in a manipulative game where the stakes are no less than the survival of the Constitution. The systems developed prior to ECHELON were designed to confront the expansionist goals of the Soviet Empire – something the West was forced out of necessity to do. But as Glyn Ford, European Parliament representative for Manchester, England, and the driving force behind the European investigation of ECHELON, has pointed out: “The difficulty is that the technology has now become so elaborate that what was originally a small client list has become the whole world.”<64>
What began as a noble alliance to contain and defeat the forces of communism has turned into a carte blanche to disregard the rights and liberties of the American people and the population of the free world. As has been demonstrated time and again, the NSA has been persistent in subverting not just the intent of the law in regards to the prohibition of domestic spying, but the letter as well. The laws that were created to constrain the intelligence agencies from infringing on our liberties are frequently flaunted, re-interpreted and revised according to the bidding and wishes of political spymasters in Washington D.C. Old habits die hard, it seems.
As stated above, there is a need for such sophisticated surveillance technology. Unfortunately, the world is filled with criminals, drug lords, terrorists and dictators that threaten the peace and security of many nations. The thought that ECHELON can be used to eliminate or control these international thugs is heartening. But defenders of ECHELON argue that the rare intelligence victories over these forces of darkness and death give wholesale justification to indiscriminate surveillance of the entire world and every member of it. But more complicated issues than that remain.
The shameless and illegal targeting of political opponents, business competitors, dissidents and even Christian ministries stands as a testament that if America is to remain free, we must bind these intelligence systems and those that operate them with the heavy chains of transparency and accountability to our elected officials. But the fact that the ECHELON apparatus can be quickly turned around on those same officials in order to maintain some advantage for the intelligence agencies indicates that these agencies are not presently under the control of our elected representatives.
That Congress is not aware of or able to curtail these abuses of power is a frightening harbinger of what may come here in the United States. The European Parliament has begun the debate over what ECHELON is, how it is being used and how free countries should use such a system. Congress should join that same debate with the understanding that consequences of ignoring or failing to address these issues could foster the demise of our republican form of government. Such is the threat, as Senator Frank Church warned the American people over twenty years ago.
At the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.<65>
1. Steve Wright, An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control, European Parliament: Scientific and Technologies Options Assessment, Luxembourg, January 6, 1998.
2. Bruno Giussani, “European Study Paints a Chilling Portrait of Technology’s Uses," The New York Times, February 24, 1998.
3. Nelson, New Zealand: Craig Potton Publishing, 1996.
4. Desmond Ball and Jeffrey Richelson, The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation Between the UKUSA Countries, (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1985) pp. 137-8.
5. Ibid., 142-143.
6. Secret Power, p. 40. See note 3.
7. National Security Agency, About the NSA.
8. The Ties that Bind, p. 143.
9. The coverage area of the various Intelsat satellites can be found at the Intelsat website at: http://www.intelsat.com/cmc/connect/globlmap.htm
10. Secret Power, p. 28.
11. Ibid., p. 35.
13. Marco Campagna, Un Systeme De Surveillance Mondial, Cahiers de Television (CTV-France), June 1998; Peter Hum, "I Spy," The Ottawa Citizen, May 10, 1997.
14. Secret Power, pp. 35-36, 150; Ties That Bind, pp. 204-207.
15. Mike Frost and Michel Graton, Spyworld: How C.S.E. Spies on Canadians and the World (Toronto: Seal/McClelland-Bantam, 1995), p. 35
16. Robert Windrem, "Spy Satellites Enter New Dimension," MSNBC and NBC News, August 8, 1998.
17. An Appraisal of Technology of Political Control, p. 19.
18. Duncan Campbell and Linda Melvern, “America’s Big Ear on Europe,” New Statesman, July 18, 1980, pp. 10-14.
19. Simon Davies, “EU Simmers Over Menwith Listening Post,” London Telegraph, July 16, 1998.
20. Nicholas Rufford, “Spy Station F83,” The Sunday (London) Times, May 31, 1998.
21. Duncan Campell, "Somebody’s Listening," The New Statesman, August 12, 1988, pp. 10-12; “The Hill,” Dispatches, BBC Channel 4, October 6, 1993 (transcript provided by Duncan Campbell); Loring Wirbel, “Space – Intelligence Technology’s Embattled Frontier,” Electronic Engineering Times, April 22, 1997; Nicholas Rufford, “Cracking the Menwith Codes,” The Sunday (London) Times, May 31, 1998.
22. Duncan Campbell, BT Condemned for Listing Cables to US SIGINT Station, September 4, 1997.
23. Ibid.; Spy Station F83.
24. Mentioned in Dispatches: The Hill.
25. An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control, p. 19. Memex maintains a website describing their defense and intelligence products and contracts: http://www.memex.co.uk/prod/intelligence/comm.html
26. Secret Power, p. 49.
27. Ibid., pp. 165-166.
28. Ibid., p. 44
29. James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization, (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), pp. 138-139.
30. Secret Power, p. 45.
31. Ties That Bind, pp. 223-224.
32. Brown v. Glines, 444 U.S. 348 (1980).
33. Puzzle Palace, p. 314, 459.
34. External Collection Program: U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence and the Rights of Americans, Final Report, Book III, April 23, 1976, p. 765.
35. United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)
36. Puzzle Palace, pp. 370-373.
37. Puzzle Palace, p. 381.
38. Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, et. al., The Lawless State (Penguin: New York, 1976) p. 146..
39. Seymour Hersh, “Huge CIA Operation Reported in U.S. Against Antiwar Forces,” New York Times (December 22, 1974), p. 1.
40. The Lawless State, p. 153; US Commission on CIA Activites within the United States, Report to the President (US Government Printing Office: Washington DC, 1975), p. 144n3.
41. 50 USC Sec. 1801, et. seq.
42. For more information on the FISC, see this author’s essay “Inside America’s Secret Court: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” The Privacy Papers, No. 2 (Washington D.C.: Free Congress Foundation, 1998).
43. Spyworld, pp. 234-238.
44. Ibid., p. 238.
45. Ibid., pp. 93-97.
46. Scott Shane and Tom Bowman, “Catching Americans in NSA’s Net,” Baltimore Sun, December 12, 1995.
47. Keith C. Epstein and John S. Long, “Security Agency Accused of Monitoring U.S. Calls,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 1, 1988, pp. 1A, 10A.
48. Pete Carey, “NSA Accused of Forbidden Phone Taps,” San Jose Mercury News, July 2, 1988, p. 1A.
49. Somebody's Listening, p. 11.
50. Catching Americans in NSA’s Net.
52. John Merritt, “UK: GCHQ Spies on Charities and Companies – Fearful Whistleblowers Tell of Massive Routine Abuse,” Observer (London), June 18, 1992.
53. Hugh O’Shaughnessy, “Thatcher Ordered Lonrho Phone-Tap Over Harrods Affairs,” Observer (London), June 28, 1992; cited in Secret Power, p. 54.
54. Dispatches: The Hill, op. cit.
55. Tom Bowman and Scott Shane, “Battling High-Tech Warriors,” Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1995.
56. Robert Dreyfuss, “Company Spies,” Mother Jones, May/June 1994.
57. Cited in Bruce Livesey, “Trolling for Secrets: Economic Espionage is the New Niche for Government Spies,” Financial Post (Canada), February 28, 1998.
58. U.S. Spy Agency Helped U.S. Companies Win Business Overseas, Nikkei English News, September 21, 1998.
59. Timothy W. Maier, “Did Clinton Bug Conclave for Cash,” Insight, September 15, 1997. The three article series is online at: http://www.insightmag.com/investiga/apecindex.html
60. Timothy W. Maier, “Snoops, Sex and Videotape,” Insight, September 29, 1997.
61. Matthew Fletcher, “Cook Faces Quiz on Big Brother Spy Net,” Financial Mail (England), March 1, 1998.
62. Trolling for Secrets, op. cit.
63. Spyworld, pp. 224-227.
64. Lucille Redmond, “Suddenly There Came a Tapping…”, The Sunday Business Post (Ireland), March 9, 1998.
65. National Broadcasting Company, “Meet the Press” (Washington D.C.: Merkle Press, 1975), transcript of August 17, 1975, p. 6; quoted in Puzzle Palace, p. 477.
Original Document Source:
ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network by Patrick S. Poole
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Civil Intelligence Association, Defense Oversight Group
Government Eavesdropping: The Biggest Secret
A Review of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen.
By Thomas Powers | Wed Feb. 1, 2006 1:00 AM PST
This article appears in the February 23 issue of the New York Review of Books . It also appears, with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt, at Tomdispatch.com .
The challenges posed to American democracy by secrecy and by unchecked presidential power are the two great themes running through the history of the Iraq war. How long the war will last, who will "win," and what it will do to the political landscape of the Middle East will not be obvious for years to come, but the answers to those questions cannot alter the character of what happened at the outset. Put plainly, the President decided to attack Iraq, he brushed caution and objection aside, and Congress, the press, and the people, with very few exceptions, stepped back out of the way and let him do it.
Explaining this fact is not going to be easy. Commentators often now refer to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq as "a war of choice," which means that it was not provoked. The usual word for an unprovoked attack is aggression. Why did Americans -- elected representatives and plain citizens alike -- accede so readily to this act of aggression, and why did they question the President's arguments for war so feebly? The whole business is painfully awkward to consider, but it will not go away. If the Constitution forbids a president anything it forbids war on his say-so, and if it insists on anything it insists that presidents are not above the law. In plain terms this means that presidents cannot enact laws on their own, or ignore laws that have been enacted by Congress.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is such a law; it was enacted to end years of routine wiretapping of American citizens who had attracted official attention by opposing the war in Vietnam. The express purpose of the act was to limit what presidents could ask intelligence organizations to do. But for limits on presidential power to have meaning Congress and the courts must have the fortitude to say no when they think no is the answer.
In public life as in kindergarten, the all-important word is no. We are living with the consequences of the inability to say no to the President's war of choice with Iraq, and we shall soon see how the Congress and the courts will respond to the latest challenge from the White House -- the claim by President Bush that he has the right to ignore FISA's prohibition of government intrusion on the private communications of Americans without a court order, and his repeated statements that he intends to go right on doing it.
Nobody was supposed to know that FISA had been brushed aside. The fact that the National Security Agency (NSA), America's largest intelligence organization, had been turned loose to intercept the faxes, e-mails, and phone conversations of Americans with blanket permission by the President remained secret until the New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau learned over a year ago that it was happening. An early version of the story was apparently submitted to the Times' editors in October 2004, when it might have affected the outcome of the presidential election. But the Times, for reasons it has not clearly explained, withheld the story until mid-December 2005 when the newspaper's publisher and executive editor -- Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller -- met with President Bush in the Oval Office to hear his objections before going ahead. Even then certain details were withheld.
What James Risen learned in the course of his reporting can be found in his newly published book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, a wide-ranging investigation of the role of intelligence in the origins and the conduct of the war in Iraq. Risen contributes much new material to our knowledge of recent intelligence history. He reports in detail, for example, on claims that CIA analysts quit fighting over exaggerated reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as word spread in the corridors at Langley that the President had decided to go to war no matter what the evidence said; that the Saudi government seized and then got rid of tell-tale bank records of Abu Zubaydah, the most important al-Qaeda figure to be captured since September 11; and that "a handful of the most important al Qaeda detainees" have been sent for interrogation to a secret prison codenamed "Bright Light." One CIA specialist in counterterror operations told Risen, "The word is that once you get sent to Bright Light, you never come back."
Digging out intelligence history is a slow process, resisted by officials at every step of the way, and Risen's work will be often quoted in future accounts of the Iraq war. But nothing else in Risen's book rivals the NSA story in importance, revealing that the President not only authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without seeking court orders, but to listen in a new way, by intercepting a large volume of communications among categories of people, and then analyzing or "mining" the data in those calls for suspicious patterns that might offer "potential evidence of terrorist activity."
"This is the biggest secret I know about," one official told Risen. The eavesdropping effort is technically known as a "special access program" (SAP), which means that its existence and the information it collects are both tightly held. Within the government, Risen tells us, witting officials referred to it simply as "the program," and even the legal opinions justifying it are classified. Risen traces the origins of the program back to the brief war that overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan and resulted in the capture of many al-Qaeda suspects along with their cell phones and computers. These suspects had been calling and e-mailing people throughout the world, many of whom, inevitably, were in the United States, raising understandable fears of new terrorist attacks. But according to Risen, the NSA does not limit itself to monitoring numbers provided by the CIA from captured al-Qaeda phone books, targets for which there is some degree of "probable cause" to think they might be terrorist-connected. Those phone numbers provide only the jumping-off point for the program. The NSA has since broadened its effort by establishing "its own internal checklist" to pinpoint phone numbers and addresses of interest, and it is likely that the items on the list are checked off by a computer program in a nanosecond, not by analysts exercising deliberate judgment.
How big is the target list? At any given moment, Risen believes, the NSA may be "eavesdropping on as many as five hundred people in the United States...." But his number of five hundred should not be interpreted as an outer limit. The actual volume of intercepted calls is almost certainly a very great deal larger, going beyond communications between known, named persons. Modern eavesdropping seldom mirrors the classic wiretap of yesteryear when FBI agents with earphones might record hundreds of hours of a Mafia chief chatting with his underboss in New York's Little Italy. The idea now is to see if anyone on the phone in New York or New Jersey sounds in any way like a Mafia chief. A dinner of linguine with clams in a known Mafia hangout could be enough to warrant a further look. The al-Qaeda phone book numbers were the crack in the door; follow-up targets are simply numbers or e-mail addresses, leading to other numbers and e-mail addresses, all plucked from the torrents of traffic transmitted by the switching systems of the major American telecommunications companies, which daily handle two billion phone calls and perhaps ten times as many e-mail messages. What Risen discovered, in short, was a program best described as "big."
Under existing law the NSA should have sought permission from the secret FISA court in Washington before listening in on the communications of any "US persons" -- basically, American corporations, citizens, and others lawfully inside the United States -- who had turned up in al-Qaeda phone books and directories. The law makes provision for emergencies: if investigators feel they don't have time for legal rigmarole they can act first and then seek permission within the following three days. This was not done. President Bush insisted on New Year's Day that "This is a limited program... it's limited to calls from outside the United States to calls within the United States. But they are of known -- numbers of known al-Qaeda members or affiliates." But it seems clear that the NSA program quickly spilled beyond its original limits; the real reason for ignoring the FISA courts is probably a savvy guess that the courts would not approve what the administration wants to do.
Listening to specific persons was only part of it, and not the greater part. What Risen learned, which has been backed up by other press accounts in recent weeks, is that the counterterror investigators from the beginning wanted to cast the net wide -- to listen to all the people in the al-Qaeda phone books, and then broaden their search to the still wider circle of people the phone book names were in touch with, and go on to check out all their contacts as well. If the first generation of targets numbered a hundred, let's say, and each of them had been talking to a hundred people in a second generation of targets, then even a third generation search could easily sweep up a million people. You can see why investigators desperate to prevent any repetition of the attacks of September 11 would have favored this rapid and wide casting of the net, but that sort of industrial-scale fishing expedition is exactly what the FISA courts were established to prevent.
In the days after the Risen?Lichtblau story first appeared President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the head of the NSA at the beginning of the program, General Michael Hayden, and others all defended the program as urgent, successful, justified by acts of Congress and the President's powers under the constitution, sharply limited in scope, approved by members of Congress who had been briefed on the program, and carefully managed to protect the civil liberties and other rights of Americans.
"The whole key here is agility," said General Hayden.
"What we're trying to do is learn of communications, back and forth, from within the United States to overseas members of al-Qaeda," said Gonzales. "That's what this program is about. This is not about wiretapping everybody. This is about a very concentrated, very limited program focused on gaining information about our enemy."
"Dealing with al-Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement," President Bush said in a press conference on December 19.
"It requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States.... So, consistent with US law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.... Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program.... I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as... the nation faces the continuing threat...."
The President's carefully worded statement casts a troubling new light on his insistence that we are fighting a "war on terror" and that he is a "wartime president." Constitutional lawyers have long argued about the limits of presidential or executive power, but all agree that the limits are more elastic in wartime, and it is increasingly evident that the Bush administration has treated this distinction as a barn door. The shock caused by the revelation of the NSA program is not centered on concern for the civil liberties of al-Qaeda terrorists but on the scale, still unknown, of the eavesdropping authorized by the President; on his refusal to use the courts or seek any change in the governing laws; and on his blanket claim that Article Two of the Constitution gives him, as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, both the responsibility for defending the country and "the authority necessary to fulfill it."
Even some Republican leaders find this broad claim troubling. Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, has announced that he will hold hearings on the NSA program. "I am skeptical of the attorney general's citation of authority, but I am prepared to listen," he said in December. "You can't have the administration and a select number of members [of Congress, those briefed by the White House] alter the law. It can't be done."
In an interview with Fox News on January 19, Vice President Dick Cheney said such briefings "have occurred at least a dozen times. I presided over most of them." One of those briefings, possibly the first, was held in Vice President Cheney's office on July 17, 2003, four months after the American invasion of Iraq and a year after the NSA program began. Present were Representatives Jane Harman and Porter Goss, now the director of the CIA; and Senators Pat Roberts and John D. Rockefeller. Briefing them were Goss's predecessor at the CIA, George Tenet, and General Hayden of the NSA. There has been no published account of what the members of Congress were told about the nature, rationale, justification, and scale of the program. They were neither permitted to take notes nor to discuss what they heard with any other persons. Far from feeling that the administration had fulfilled its obligations under existing law, Senator Rockefeller handwrote a brief letter to Cheney the same day
"to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today.... Clearly, the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues.... Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities. As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern...."
TIA stands for Total Information Awareness, an intelligence program conceived in the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the year following the attacks of September 11. It was designed to collect and exploit digital records of all kinds from private and public compilers of information -- phone records, bank records, credit card records, police records, medical records, travel records -- basically everything that is recorded about individuals. Running the program was John Poindexter, a former Navy admiral and national security advisor under President Reagan who had been indicted and convicted on seven felony charges during the Iran-contra investigation in the early 1990s, convictions later overturned on appeal. When the New York Times first published a description of TIA in December 2002, the fact that Poindexter was running it proved a fatal debility, and in September 2003 Congress killed funding for the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office.
But Poindexter's retirement and the end of the IAO did not extinguish official hopes for "data-mining," a computer-intensive approach to finding meaning in apparently random patterns. This, in fact, is basically what the NSA has always done -- collect communications from targets of interest and attack them with "tools," which are basically computer programs that seek patterns in apparently random letter and number groups. Data-mining seeks patterns in random actions -- buying, selling, check-writing, getting on planes, and so on -- rather than in the numbers and letters that make up codes. Data-mining is not a way to find out what persons of interest have been up to; it is a way to identify persons of interest among the general population -- persons, in short, who have not been detected doing anything that might convince a judge on the FISA court to issue a warrant for surveillance. Checking out US persons contacted by al-Qaeda would have raised no red flags with FISA judges; the larger and more significant part of the program uncovered by James Risen -- the part which the administration did not want to describe to the FISA court or to members of Congress who could have amended the law; the part, in fact, which the administration still hopes to keep secret and continue -- is the use of data-mining techniques by the NSA to do what Congress refused to allow Poindexter and the Pentagon to do. And that is to generate large numbers of names -- not dozens, thousands -- for the FBI to investigate.
John Poindexter and Total Information Awareness were one bell that rang loudly in the mind of Senator Rockefeller after his briefing in Cheney's office. It is probable that another has rung since -- the testimony of John Bolton during his confirmation hearings last summer to be U.S. ambassador to the UN, when he said that on ten occasions he had formally asked the NSA to identify the "U.S. persons" who had been party to, or perhaps only mentioned in, communications intercepted by the agency and included in reports distributed to others in the government. The fight over the administration's refusal to identify the nineteen persons who aroused Bolton's curiosity in those ten communications was one reason President Bush abandoned efforts to force a Senate vote and instead made an interim appointment of Bolton to the UN post while Congress was in recess. But the argument while it continued jarred loose additional information about the scale of NSA activity -- for example, the State Department's admission that Bolton's colleagues had made over four hundred requests for the identities of U.S. persons in NSA reports; that the NSA had been asked as many as 3,500 times by other agencies to fill in the names of U.S. persons, and that the total number of names provided to other agencies was greater than 10,000.
Who are these people? Some of them were probably included in a database of 1,519 "suspicious incidents" compiled by the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity, an office charged with defending military bases, according to a report broadcast by NBC a few days before the original New York Times story on the NSA program. On examination, the Pentagon's "suspicious incidents" were simply public protests of the sort watched, photographed, investigated, and wiretapped during the Vietnam War under the program that led to the enactment of FISA twenty-five years ago. At that time the Pentagon's database had ballooned to 18,000 names.
Of the numerous questions facing investigators for the Judiciary Committee the easy ones will concern the legality of the program. It was patently illegal under FISA and the only argument for letting the President get away with ignoring FISA is that he is prepared to make a fight of it. No committee headed by Republicans will do more than chide him on the law. The questions hardest to answer will be what the NSA actually did, and whether it served any useful purpose. A recent New York Times story contradicts the President's claim that the NSA program was "limited... to known al-Qaeda members or affiliates." Citing anonymous FBI officials, the Times claimed that the NSA flooded the bureau with "thousands" of names per month to check out for possible terrorist connections. Far from being a "vital tool," as described by President Bush, the program was a distracting time waster that sent harried FBI agents down an endless series of blind alleys chasing will-o'-the-wisp terrorists who turned out to be schoolteachers. And far from saving "thousands of lives," as claimed by Vice President Dick Cheney in December 2005, the NSA program never led investigators to a genuine terrorist not already under suspicion, nor did it help them to expose any dangerous plots. So why did the administration continue this lumbering effort for three years? Outsiders sometimes find it tempting to dismiss such wheel-spinning as bureaucratic silliness, but I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants. This it will never confess willingly.
Over the next few months the White House will be fighting a two-front war to preserve its secrets -- one against the Judiciary Committee, as just described, and a second against the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has committed itself to a renewed effort to investigate the administration's drum-beating for war with Iraq by citing scary reports of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- reports that were virtually all wrong, and in some cases were little short of fabricated.
The committee's chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, promised before the 2004 presidential election that "phase two" of its investigation would address the administration's actual use of the intelligence it received, flawed as it was. This was something of a minefield. On their face, many statements by Bush, Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared to go well beyond even the exaggerated claims made by the CIA. After Bush won a second term the Republican Roberts not surprisingly dropped "phase two," saying he no longer saw the point. But in November Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, revived phase two when he invoked a rarely used parliamentary rule to call for a secret session of the Senate to discuss new evidence suggesting that substantial doubts about WMD intelligence had been suppressed before the war.
Risen found evidence of that, too. Included in his book is a new account of a pre-war CIA program conceived by the agency's assistant director for intelligence collection, Charles Allen, to send Iraqi-Americans to Baghdad to ask scientist-relatives about WMDs. A chief target of the new program was Iraq's effort to develop nuclear weapons, the subject of intense ongoing scrutiny after a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein defected in mid-1995 to Amman, Jordan, where he described WMD programs to UN officials. Sawsan Alhaddad, a woman doctor working and living in Cleveland, was one of about thirty Iraqis dispatched to Baghdad under this program in late summer 2002. When she returned in September she told CIA debriefers in a Virginia hotel room that her brother, an electrical engineer who had joined the Iraqi nuclear program in the early 1980s, had insisted the nuclear weapons program was dead, shut down years earlier. The other Iraqis all said the same thing only months before the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, but their reports were bottled up in the CIA.
The agency, it turns out, had heard the same thing from many sources, including Hussein's defector son-in-law, General Hussein Kamal, who was fool enough to return to Baghdad, where he was executed. But before leaving, Kamal told the UN that Iraq's WMD program, larger and more advanced than the CIA had believed before the first Gulf War in 1991, had been closed down
"after visits of [UN] inspection teams. You have important role in Iraq with this. You should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in Iraq.... All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.... In the nuclear area, there were no weapons. Missile and chemical weapons were real weapons. Our main worry was Iran and they were [intended for use] against them."
Kamal's report, like Sawsan Alhaddad's and many others, were never cited in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate used to convince Congress to vote for war. The pattern is clear; evidence of Iraqi WMDs, however flimsy, was treated like scripture while information contradicting that evidence, however clear, was bottled up and never left the building. On three separate occasions, for example, in mid-2001, mid-2002, and January 2003, just before the war, the CIA asked the French for their evaluation of the now-infamous reports that Iraq was trying to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Niger. According to the Los Angeles Times of December 11, 2005, the French intelligence chief at the time, Alain Chouet, said that the answer was the same in each instance -- nothing to it.
The French were in a position to know; uranium ore in Niger was all mined by French companies. In mid-2002 the French even told the CIA that the Italian documents reporting the purchase were forgeries, something the CIA did not even attempt to examine on its own for another year; and a few months later, "at about the same time as the State of the Union address" when the President cited the yellowcake as alarming evidence of Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions, the Italians also told the Americans that the documents were forgeries. In similar fashion, claims that Iraq was providing al-Qaeda with training in the use of poison gases, cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN in February 2003, were also contradicted by reports the CIA had but chose to ignore.
In public debate it is customary at this point to ask, in a voice of amazed horror: How could this have happened? Are these intelligence professionals all community college dropouts? Have they forgotten everything they learned in spy school? My own view is that inconvenient evidence that angers policymakers and threatens careers cannot be pushed under the rug by intelligence officers unless they are fully aware of each step in the series -- they know it is evidence, they know it is inconvenient, they know it will anger policymakers, they know their careers will be threatened, and they know they are pushing evidence in the direction of a rug.
James Risen is not willing to go so far. His book is filled with evidence supporting this interpretation, but he seems reluctant to embrace it. "[Paul] Wolfowitz personally complained to Tenet about the CIA's analytical work on Iraq and al-Qaeda," Risen says in discussing the use of intelligence to justify the war. Can we be in doubt why Wolfowitz complained, or why the agency assured Powell that Iraq was training al-Qaeda, scout's honor? When CIA officers told Tenet the war would be a mistake, Risen notes, "he would just come back from the White House and say they are going to do it." Risen sums up Tenet's attitude thus: "War with Iraq was inevitable, and it was time for the CIA to do its part." That seems clear enough; surely Risen means that the agency's part was to help beat the drum for war. But then Risen swings back, like a man facing snakes on one side and alligators on the other. Why was the information reported by Sawsan Alhaddad and the other Iraqis bottled up at the agency? "Petty turf battles and tunnel vision of the agency's officials" is Risen's first answer. In the next sentence he braces up, then wilts again:
"...Doubts were stifled because of the enormous pressure that officials at the CIA...felt to support the administration. CIA director George Tenet and his senior lieutenants became so...fearful of creating a rift with the White House, that they created a climate within the CIA in which warnings that the available evidence on Iraqi WMD was weak were either ignored or censored. Tenet and his senior aides may not have meant to foster that sort of work environment -- and perhaps did not even realize they were doing it...."
What can Risen be thinking? How could they not realize they were doing it? They were running the place.
Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense, was not the only official to let the CIA know what he wanted to hear. Rumsfeld set up a special office in the Pentagon to "re-look" the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs and then urged Tenet to listen to its findings. Vice President Cheney crossed the Potomac more than once to ask questions -- the same questions, over and over. John Bolton tried to fire resistant analysts in the State Department's intelligence shop and at the CIA; they kept their jobs, but who could fail to get the message? Robert Hutchings, a former chief of the National Intelligence Council, the group that wrote the October 2002 NIE, described Bolton's way of mining intelligence reports to come up with the administration's version of the world. "He took isolated facts and made much more to build a case than the intelligence warranted," he said. "It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case."
These were not intellectual exercises; Bolton needed custom-built intelligence to support the administration's policies. "When policy officials came back repeatedly to push the same kind of judgments, and push the intelligence community to confirm a particular set of judgments," Hutchings said, "it does have the effect of politicizing intelligence, because the so-called ?correct answer' becomes all too clear." Has the Senate Intelligence Committee got the fortitude to accept the implications of these facts and many others just like them?
The systematic exaggeration of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq and the flouting of FISA both required, and got, a degree of resolution in the White House that has few precedents in American history. The President has gotten away with it so far because he leaves no middle ground -- cut him some slack, or prepare to fight to the death. The fact that he enjoys a Republican majority in both houses of Congress gives him a margin of comfort, but I suspect that Democratic majorities would be just as reluctant, in the end, to call him on either count. Americans were ready enough to believe that one president might lie about a sexual affair; but they balk at concluding that his successor would pressure others to lie, and even would utter a few whoppers himself, so he could take the country to war.
Risen helps to explain how it was done, but lets it go at that. In his Fox News interview Vice President Cheney did not give an inch on the necessity of the NSA spying or of the war itself. "When we look back on this, ten years hence," he insisted, "we will [see that we] have fundamentally changed the course of history in that part of the world." A decade down the road we'll know if Cheney is right or wrong, and if the change is the one we wanted. The question now is whether the President could do it all again -- take the country to war, and scrap restraints on spying, just as he pleases. The answer is yes, unless Congress and the courts can say no.
Thomas Powers is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books  and is the author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to al-Qaeda ; The Man Who Kept the Secrets; and Heisenberg's War.
This article appears in the February 23 issue of the New York Review of Books . It also appears, with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt, at Tomdispatch.com .
Copyright 2005 Thomas Powers
Source URL: http://motherjones.com/politics/2006/02 ... est-secret
 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/ ... ionbooks08
August 4, 2011
A Secret War in 120 Countries
The Pentagon's New Power Elite
By NICK TURSE
Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you're done... for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the U.S. military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world's countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.
After a U.S. Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden's chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it's well known that U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. "We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq," he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
The Rise of the Military's Secret Military
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight U.S. service members died, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate. Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army's "Green Berets" and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States' most specialized and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes American citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal "kill/capture" campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls "an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine."
This assassination program has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.
From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM's baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.3 billion. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8 billion in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.
Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command -- the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 -- indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. "I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000," he said at a June breakfast with defense reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.
During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3% to 5% a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.
A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite U.S forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that "as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia."
During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association's annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before September 11, 2001, the lit portions of the planet -- mostly the industrialized nations of the global north -- were considered the key areas. "But the world changed over the last decade," he said. "Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south... certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren't."
To that end, Olson launched "Project Lawrence," an effort to increase cultural proficiencies -- like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs -- for overseas operations. The program is, of course, named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as "Lawrence of Arabia"), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I. Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed "Lawrences of Wherever."
While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Col. Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government. According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85% of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.
Special Operations Command won't disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. "We're obviously going to have some places where it's not advantageous for us to list where we're at," says Nye. "Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have -- it may be internal, it may be regional."
But it's no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while "white" forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. In the Philippines, for instance, the U.S. spends $50 million a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.
Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism's National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, America's most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland. So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. "Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises."
The Pentagon's Power Elite
Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces -- like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines -- a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.
With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, and influential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research like electronically beaming messages into people's heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM's prime contracts awarded to small businesses -- those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons -- have jumped six-fold.
Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theater commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself. As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM "is a microcosm of the Department of Defense, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defense Agencies."
Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialized Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military. Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as "the president's private army," today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive's private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once "special" for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman image at home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: "I am convinced that the forces… are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer."
Recently at the Aspen Institute's Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that U.S. Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, "Are you talking about unattributed explosions?"
What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasized, U.S. Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada's entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where America's elite troops now operate each year, and it's only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a "special" force this large, this active, and this secret -- and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won't be coming from Olson or his troops. "Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it," he said in response to questions about SOCOM's secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military's secret military, said Olson, wants "to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do."
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, where this article originally appeared. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, has just gone into its second printing. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His website is NickTurse.com.
August 18, 2011
Movin' On Up
By CONN HALLINAN
For decades the U.S. military has waged clandestine war on virtually every continent on the globe, but, for the first time, high-ranking Special Operations Forces (SOF) officers are moving out of the shadows and into the command mainstream. Their emergence suggests the U.S. is embarking on a military sea change that will replace massive deployments, like Iraq and Afghanistan, with stealthy night raids, secret assassinations, and death-dealing drones. Its implications for civilian control of foreign policy promises to be profound.
Early this month, Vice Adm. Robert Harward—a former commander of the SEALs—the Navy's elite SOF that recently killed al-Qaeda leader Osma bin Laden—was appointed deputy commander of Central Command, the military region that embraces the Middle East and Central Asia. Another SEAL commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, took over the number two spot in Southern Command, which covers Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Obama Administration has been particularly enamored of SOFs, and, according to reporters Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post, is in the process of doubling the number of countries where such units are active from 60 to 120. U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye told Nick Turse of Salon that SOF forces would soon be deployed in 60 percent of the world's nations: "We do a lot of traveling."
Indeed they do. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOC) admits to having forces in virtually every country in the Middle East, Central Asia, as well as many in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. But true to its penchant for secrecy, SOC is reluctant to disclose every country to which its forces are deployed. "We're obviously going to have some places where it's not advantageous for us to list where were at," Nye told Turse.
SOF forces have almost doubled in the past two decades, from some 37,000 to close to 60,000, and major increases are planned in the future. Their budget has jumped from $2.3 billion to $9.8 billion over the last 10 years
These Special Forces include the Navy's SEALs, the Marines Special Operations teams, the Army's Delta Force, the Air Force's Blue Light and Air Commandos, plus Rangers and Green Berets. There is also the CIA, which runs the clandestine drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
It is increasingly difficult to distinguish civilian from military operatives. Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA, is now Defense Secretary, while Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus—an expert on counterinsurgency and counter terror operations—is taking over the CIA. Both have worked closely with SOF units, particularly Petraeus, who vastly increased the number of "night raids" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The raids are aimed at decapitating insurgent leadership, but have caused widespread outrage in both countries.
The raids are based on intelligence that many times comes from local warlords trying to eliminate their enemies or competition. And, since the raids are carried out under a cloak of secrecy, it is almost impossible to investigate them when things go wrong.
A recent CIA analysis of civilian casualties from the organization's drone war in Pakistan contends that attacks since May 2010 have killed more than 600 insurgents and not a single civilian. But a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London found "credible evidence" that at least 45 non-combatants were killed during this period. Pakistani figures are far higher.
Those higher numbers, according to Dennis C. Blair, retired admiral and director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010, "are widely believed [in Pakistan] and, Blair points out, "our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented."
Rather than re-examining the policy of night raids and the use of armed drones, however, those tactics are being expanded to places like Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. The question is, who's next?
Latin America is one candidate.
A recent WikiLeaks release demonstrates that there was close coordination between right wing, separatist groups in eastern Bolivia—where much of that country's natural gas reserves are located—and the U.S. Embassy. The cables indicate that the U.S. Embassy met with dissident generals, who agreed to stand aside in case of a right-wing coup against the left-leaning government of Evo Morales. The coup was thwarted, but Bolivia expelled American Ambassador Philip Goldberg over U.S. meddling in its domestic politics.
The U.S. has a long and sordid history of supporting Latin American coups—at times engineering them— and many in the region are tense over the recent re-establishment of the U.S. Fourth Fleet. The latter, a Cold War artifact, will patrol 30 countries in the region. Given the Obama administration's support for the post-2009 coup government in Honduras, its ongoing hostility to the Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and now the WikiLeak revelations about Bolivia, the idea of appointing a "shadow warrior" the number two leader in South Command is likely to concern governments in the region.
SOFs have become almost a parallel military. In 2002, Special Operations were given the right to create their own task forces, separate from military formations like Central and Southern Command. In 2011 they got the okay to control their budgets, training and equipment, independent of the departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. If one reaches for an historical analogy, the Praetorian Guard of Rome's emperors comes to mind.
There is a cult-like quality about SOFs that the media and Hollywood has done much to nurture: Special Forces are tough, independent, competent and virtually indestructible. The gushy New Yorker magazine story about SEAL Team Six, "Getting Bin Laden," is a case in point. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the story will be made into a movie-for-TV and released just before the 2012 elections.
There is a telling moment in that story that captures the combination of bravado and arrogance that permeates SOF units. An unidentified "senior Defense Department official" told author Nicholas Schmidle that the bin Laden mission was just "one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night." And then adds that these raids were routine, no big thing, "like mowing the lawn."
But war is never like "mowing the lawn," as 38 American and Afghan SOFs found out the night of Aug. 6 when their U.S. CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter flew into a carefully laid ambush just south of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
"It was a trap that was set by a Taliban commander," a "senior Afghan government official" told Agence France Presse. According to the official, the Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, put out a phony story that a Taliban meeting was taking place. When Army Rangers went in to attack the "meeting," they found the Taliban dug in and waiting. Within minutes the Rangers were pinned down and forced to send for help.
The Taliban had spent several years practicing for just such an event in the Korengal Valley that borders Pakistan. According to a 2009 Washington Post story—"Taliban Surprising U.S. Forces With Improved Tactics"—the Valley is a training ground to learn how to gauge the response time for U.S. artillery, air strikes and helicopter assaults. "They know exactly how long it takes before…they have to break contact and pull back," a Pentagon officer told the Post.
"The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take," said the Afghan official, because "that is the only route, so they took position on either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with rockets." According to Wired, the insurgents apparently used an "improvised rocket-assisted rocket," essentially a rocket-propelled grenade with a bigger warhead.
As soon as the chopper was down, the Taliban broke off the attack and vanished. According to the U.S., many of those Taliban were later killed in a bombing raid, but believing what the military says these days about Afghanistan is a profound leap of faith.
SOFs are not invulnerable, nor are they a solution to the dangerous world we live in. And the qualities that make them effective— stealth and secrecy—are in fundamental conflict with a civilian controlled armed forces, one of the cornerstones of our democracy.
As Adm. Eric Olson, former head of Special Operations, recently said at the Aspen Institute's Security Forum, having Special Forces in 120 countries "depends on our ability to not talk about it," and what the military most wanted was "to get back into the shadows."
Which is precisely the problem.
Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
August 12 - 14, 2011
9/11 and the American Mind
By ELIZABETH GOULD and PAUL FITZGERALD
9/11. The number still rings in the mind as if chosen to act as a Pavlovian trigger: Outrage, anger, paranoia, retribution. A shadowy band of religious zealots fly not one, but two commercial airliners into the heart of America’s financial community while others deal a deadly blow to the Pentagon. It was a Hollywood movie, an act of war rivaling Pearl Harbor. Why did it happen? Who would do this to Americans, to America? How could a band of ragged terrorists plotting from a cave in faraway Afghanistan have accomplished such a complex task given the size and pervasiveness of the largest and most expensive military/intelligence apparatus in the history of the world? And even more curiously, why would Islamic radicals give the ideology-driven neoconservative administration of George W. Bush exactly the pretext they needed to launch a bloody invasion and further occupation of the Middle East?
According to the official narrative, 9/11 was an attack on everything American and in so doing changed everything about America. Like Kafkaesque characters who’d suddenly found themselves on the other side of a Cold War “Iron Curtain” mirror, Americans would now have to “watch what they say and watch what they do,” open up to questioning or face jail when prodded by squinty-eyed border guards and forsake any hope of privacy or dignity in a new world of electronic spies and full body scans. Former National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program would be enacted and a preexisting “Patriot Act” would be signed into law to clamp down on dissent and real or imagined domestic terrorism.
Some careful observers like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times had already noticed the bizarre coup-like changes coming over Washington in the months leading up to the attack as the George W. Bush administration inaugurated radical shifts in domestic and foreign policy that seemed un-American and alien to anything that had gone before. But those concerns would soon be forgotten in the race for revenge.
9/11 would ultimately give President George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisors all the public approval they needed to transform America and invade Afghanistan and Iraq to cleanse the world of evil in an endless “war on terror.” In the end it would turn America’s reputation for racial and religious tolerance, military invincibility and economic dominance on its head.
Looking back on the carnage of the last ten years it’s easy to see how the psychology of 9/11 changed America. What’s not easy to see is how a long standing campaign of covert psychological warfare built up since the early days of World War II had made the slow destruction of American democracy and the ascension of rule by secrecy inevitable, long before the planes ever left the runway on 9/11.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Dr. Joseph Goebbels
As chief propagandist for the Nazi Party, Joseph Goebbels system of black propaganda not only helped Hitler’s rise to power but kept him there by utilizing near-hypnotic powers over the German people even after the consequences of his disastrous failures had become obvious.
To counter Goebbels’ propaganda theatre emanating from Nazi party headquarters at Munich’s Braunes Haus (Brown House), an organization named Freedom House was founded in New York City in 1941. Fronted by American celebrities and public luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, the brains behind the outfit was Leo Cherne, the psychological warfare specialist/co-founder of the Research Institute of America (RIA), which would much later be labeled the “CIA for businessmen.”
If anyone was a match for Goebbels mastery of the black arts of psychological warfare it was Cherne. In 1938 Cherne had published a guide to industrial mobilization in Adjusting Your Business to War, prophetically forecasting the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and on September 1st of that year completed a 3000-page report titled, Industrial Mobilization Plans for World War II, the very day that German troops crossed into Poland.
That same year Cherne asked a young protégé named William J. Casey, the future director of the CIA, “How do you take a country like ours, stuck in depression, and convert it into an arsenal?” Their combined answer was the loose-leaf book called The War Coordinator. Cherne and Casey’s psychological warfare campaign would establish a narrative that didn’t just embrace freedom as its major theme, in their minds their ideas would actually become Freedom and through the use of propaganda would grow and harden over the decades into an impenetrable shield-like narrative of American triumphalism.
Cherne’s prophecies on war and business attained a near mystical quality and over the decades following World War II he would attract the most powerful and influential figures in American business and politics to his causes. A listing of Freedom House trustees on its 50th anniversary in 1991 includes people as diverse as Kenneth L. Adelman, Andrew Young, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Albert Shanker, Donald Rumsfeld and James Woolsey. It has since become an exclusive neoconservative bastion.
Freedom House’s narrative is no less than the narrative of the American century where, “It has fought on the side of freedom and against aggressors in struggles that can be evoked by simple words and phrases: the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, Hungarian Freedom Fighters, the Berlin Wall, the Prague Spring…” and of course Afghanistan.
We experienced Freedom House’s simple words and phrases and their dark influence on the major media in the spring of 1983 in a televised Nightline program following a trip to Afghanistan with Harvard Negotiation Project Director, Roger Fisher. We had brought Fisher to Afghanistan to explore the possibilities of a Soviet withdrawal of forces and discovered the Soviets were desperate to get out. But instead of expanding on Fisher’s efforts to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, host Ted Koppel undermined the very premise of the discussion by introducing a political officer of the Jamaat-i Islami, which Koppel described as “an anti-communist resistance group based in Pakistan. He is here in the United States under the auspices of two American organizations, concerned with democracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Relief Committee and Freedom House.”
Had Koppel and Freedom House really been concerned about democracy in Afghanistan, their choice of the Jamaat-i Islami could not be viewed as anything but the darkest of black propaganda, an outright lie.
Originally founded by the Pakistani theologian Abul Ala Maudidi in 1941, the goal of the Jamaat-i Islami was more than just that of gaining political representation for radical Islamists. The Jamaat was to be an all-embracing, extremist Islamic Society, crafted through the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, as a replacement for a modern western-style democracy.
Through the help of the mainstream media during the 1980s the psychological war promoted by Freedom House and Ronald Reagan’s C.I.A. director William J. Casey held the Soviets in Afghanistan for an additional six years, destabilized Central Asia, encouraged the growth of the largest heroin operation in history and enabled the rise of the very Islamic extremists that allegedly planned and carried off the attacks on 9/11.
Ten years after 9/11 Afghanistan remains the center of a growing Islamic insurgency and the longest war in American history. The success of America’s seventy year old psychological warfare campaign, where the lie became the truth and the truth became the enemy of the state, has now so disorientated America’s institutional thinking that we have reached the moment when the state can no longer shield the American people from the consequences of that lie.
Follow us as we go deeper into the creation of the Afghan narrative and the broader implications of the side effects of psychological warfare on the American people in our next piece, “Building the Afghan Narrative with Black Propaganda, The Process is Revealed.”
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire, both published in the Open Media Series by City Lights Books, http://www.citylights.com.
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnf ... =rss_daily
MAY 23, 2006
By Dawn Kopecki
Intelligence Czar Can Waive SEC Rules
Now, the White House's top spymaster can cite national security to exempt businesses from reporting requirements
President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.
Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.
The timing of Bush's move is intriguing. On the same day the President signed the memo, Porter Goss resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency amid criticism of ineffectiveness and poor morale at the agency. Only six days later, on May 11, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had obtained millions of calling records of ordinary citizens provided by three major U.S. phone companies. Negroponte oversees both the CIA and NSA in his role as the administration's top intelligence official.
FEW ANSWERS. White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said the timing of the May 5 Presidential memo had no significance. "There was nothing specific that prompted this memo," Perino said.
In addition to refusing to explain why Bush decided to delegate this authority to Negroponte, the White House declined to say whether Bush or any other President has ever exercised the authority and allowed a company to avoid standard securities disclosure and accounting requirements. The White House wouldn't comment on whether Negroponte has granted such a waiver, and BusinessWeek so far hasn't identified any companies affected by the provision. Negroponte's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Securities-law experts said they were unfamiliar with the May 5 memo and the underlying Presidential authority at issue. John C. Coffee, a securities-law professor at Columbia University, speculated that defense contractors might want to use such an exemption to mask secret assignments for the Pentagon or CIA. "What you might hide is investments: You've spent umpteen million dollars that comes out of your working capital to build a plant in Iraq," which the government wants to keep secret. "That's the kind of scenario that would be plausible," Coffee said.
AUTHORITY GRANTED. William McLucas, the Securities & Exchange Commission's former enforcement chief, suggested that the ability to conceal financial information in the name of national security could lead some companies "to play fast and loose with their numbers." McLucas, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, added: "It could be that you have a bunch of books and records out there that no one knows about."
The memo Bush signed on May 5, which was published seven days later in the Federal Register, had the unrevealing title "Assignment of Function Relating to Granting of Authority for Issuance of Certain Directives: Memorandum for the Director of National Intelligence." In the document, Bush addressed Negroponte, saying: "I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended."
A trip to the statute books showed that the amended version of the 1934 act states that "with respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States," the President or the head of an Executive Branch agency may exempt companies from certain critical legal obligations. These obligations include keeping accurate "books, records, and accounts" and maintaining "a system of internal accounting controls sufficient" to ensure the propriety of financial transactions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with "generally accepted accounting principles."
Kopecki is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau
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All rights reserved.
CIA moonlights in corporate world
By: Eamon Javers
February 1, 2010 12:57 AM EDT
In the midst of two wars and the fight against Al Qaeda, the CIA is offering operatives a chance to peddle their expertise to private companies on the side — a policy that gives financial firms and hedge funds access to the nation’s top-level intelligence talent, POLITICO has learned.
In one case, these active-duty officers moonlighted at a hedge-fund consulting firm that wanted to tap their expertise in “deception detection,” the highly specialized art of telling when executives may be lying based on clues in a conversation.
The never-before-revealed policy comes to light as the CIA and other intelligence agencies are once again under fire for failing to “connect the dots,” this time in the Christmas Day bombing plot on Northwest Flight 253.
This article is adapted from the author's forthcoming book, 'Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage.'
But sources familiar with the CIA’s moonlighting policy defend it as a vital tool to prevent brain-drain at Langley, which has seen an exodus of highly trained, badly needed intelligence officers to the private sector, where they can easily double or even triple their government salaries. The policy gives agents a chance to earn more while still staying on the government payroll.
A government official familiar with the policy insists it doesn’t impede the CIA’s work on critical national security investigations. This official said CIA officers who want to participate in it must first submit a detailed explanation of the type of work involved and get permission from higher-ups within the agency.
“If any officer requests permission for outside employment, those requests are reviewed not just for legality, but for propriety,” CIA spokesman George Little told POLITICO.
There is much about the policy that is unclear, including how many officers have availed themselves of it, how long it has been in place and what types of outside employment have been allowed. The CIA declined to provide additional details.
Generally, federal employees across the vast government work force are allowed to moonlight in the private sector, but under tight guidelines, that can vary from agency to agency, according to the federal Office of Government Ethics.
“In general, for most nonpolitical employees, they may engage in outside employment, but there are some restrictions,” said Elaine Newton, an attorney at the Office of Government Ethics. She explained that agencies throughout the federal government set their own policies on outside employment, and that they all typically require that the employment not represent a conflict of interest with the employee’s federal job and that the employee have written approval before taking on the work.
But the close ties between active-duty and retired CIA officers at one consulting company show the degree to which CIA-style intelligence gathering techniques have been employed by hedge funds and financial institutions in the global economy.
The firm is called Business Intelligence Advisors, and it is based in Boston. BIA was founded and is staffed by a number of retired CIA officers, and it specializes in the arcane field of “deception detection.” BIA’s clients have included Goldman Sachs and the enormous hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, according to spokesmen for both firms.
BIA has employed active-duty CIA officers in the past, although BIA president Cheryl Cook said that has “not been the case with BIA for some time.”
But the ties between BIA and the intelligence world run deep. The name itself was chosen as a play off CIA. And the presence of so many former CIA personnel on the payroll at BIA causes confusion as to whether the intelligence firm is actually an extension of the agency itself. As a result, BIA places a disclaimer in some of its corporate materials to clarify that it is not, in fact, controlled by Langley.
BIA’s clients can put the company on a retainer for as much as $400,000 to $800,000 a year. And in return, they receive access to a variety of services, from deception detection to other programs that feature the CIA intelligence techniques.
In one presentation in 2006, BIA personnel promised to teach managers at a leading hedge fund some of the CIA’s own foolproof techniques.
The presenters that day at SAC Capital Advisors in Stamford, Conn., included two women with backgrounds in intelligence. One spent 20 years with the CIA, specializing in polygraph, interviewing, and deception detection. The other had more than 25 years of interrogation experience.
In their intensity, they reminded one person in the room of Clarice Starling, the no-nonsense FBI agent played by Jodie Foster in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”: “You could tell they knew exactly what they were doing.”
The tactics that BIA officials such as these teach hedge fund clients are based in a program it calls “Tactical Behavior Assessment.”.
Unlike polygraph machines, the TBA technique allows examiners to work without hooking up their subject to a series of wires. The subject never knows he’s being scrutinized.
Polygraph machines work by measuring a person’s physical responses, such as heart rate, that indicate stress. Analysts using the machine need to sit with their subject for a long time. They have to establish a person’s physiological baseline, so they begin with a “control” conversation about neutral topics, before they can begin grilling the subject. Conducting an interview and doing a thorough analysis of polygraph results can take hours.
TBA focuses on the verbal and nonverbal cues that people convey when they aren’t telling the truth. Psychologists familiar with the method say it works because human beings just aren’t hard-wired to lie well. Holding two opposing ideas in your brain at the same time — as you have to do in order to tell a lie — causes a phenomenon they term “cognitive dissonance,” which creates actual physical discomfort. And when people are uncomfortable, they squirm. They fidget ever so slightly, they pick lint off their clothes, they shift their bodily positions.
Agents look for the physical indicators of lying. They watch for a person shifting anchor points. If the person is leaning forward on one elbow, does he switch to the other one? Interrogators watch for grooming gestures such as adjusting clothes, hair or eyeglasses. They look to see if the person picks at his fingernails or scratches himself. They watch for the person to clean his surroundings — does he straighten the paper clips on the table or line up the pens? If he does, he could be lying.
To obtain verbal clues, agents listen for several kinds of statements. They’ll listen for qualifying answers, phrases that begin with words like “honestly,” “frankly” or “basically.” The agents will be listening for detour phrases like “as I said before ...” They’ll want to hear if the person invokes religion — “I swear to God” — or attacks the questioner: “How dare you ask me something like that?”
Other red flags: Complaints —“How long is this going to take?” Selective memory —“To the best of my knowledge.” Overly courteous responses —“Yes, sir.”
BIA doesn’t just offer training, though. For a fee, its officers do the analysis themselves.
Often, BIA deploys its CIA-trained operatives to analyze quarterly corporate-earnings calls. Those conference calls are an important Wall Street ritual that serves as a direct line from the corporate boardroom to the trading floor.
Companies use the calls to put the best spin on the events of the quarter and give investors a sense of the way ahead. Analysts for top-of-the-line investment houses use them to ask probing questions of senior management.
And BIA uses them to figure out if the company may not be disclosing the truth — all with the help of the CIA-trained analysts.
In one particular instance in August 2005, Hong Liang Lu, the chairman and CEO of a company called UTStarcom, walked through the numbers with a telephone audience of Wall Street investment bankers. With his slicked-back hair, rimless glasses and wide smile, Lu projected an image of intelligence and competence.
And as he began the call, Lu couldn’t know that it also was being patched into a room thousands of miles away where interrogators trained in CIA-style techniques would analyze each inflection in Lu’s voice. The analysts were human lie detectors, working for BIA. They were trying to find out whether Lu was telling the whole truth about UTStarcom’s financial health.
When they came to their conclusion, they’d report it to BIA’s client, an enormous hedge fund. The secret intelligence they produced would help the hedge fund decide whether to buy or sell UTStarcom stock. If the intelligence analysts did their jobs, the hedge fund would be far ahead of the rest of the market.
The information they gleaned from this phone call could be worth millions of dollars.
The company Hong Liang Lu ran sells broadband, wireless and hand-held Internet equipment and technology around the world. It had generated more than $700 million in revenue that quarter, and although it was still losing money, that performance was good enough to bring it close to profitability. The company thought the results were positive, and the CEO seemed optimistic.
Investment analysts from Bank of America, Smith Barney, Deutsche Bank and other Wall Street powerhouses were the official participants in UTStarcom’s call. The analysts prepared their best questions to help them figure out the answer to one big question: Would UTStarcom emerge as a hot stock in the third quarter?
After some opening remarks, Lu threw open the session to questions from the Wall Streeters. One of them, Mike Ounjian, a keen-eyed analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston, asked about potential problems he’d spotted with how the company’s income was being counted in the books, a process known as revenue recognition.
There seemed to be a backlog in the recording, and Ounjian wanted to know why. If the problems were serious, they could affect the company’s financial results in the next quarter and might cause the stock price to dip.
“Are there any issues related to recognizing revenues on these?” Ounjian asked.
The voice of Michael Sophie, then the company’s interim chief financial officer, came over the phone line: “Yes, with the backlog, the vast majority of the wireless backlog is clearly PAS [an acronym for one of the company’s products, Personal Access System]. I think you saw the announcement at the end of June where we announced on the PAS infrastructure orders in China. And again, it’s just the timing of deployment and achieving final acceptance, we’ve also got some CDMA [an acronym for a type of mobile phone standard] to a lesser extent in the backlog. ... But Q3 is clearly a little more handset-oriented than we would typically run.”
After analyzing the call, BIA’s employees supplied a 27-page confidential report to their client, and they singled out Sophie’s response to the question about revenue recognition for particular attention. They noted that Sophie qualified his response and referred back to another announcement from the end of June.
BIA called that kind of conversational reference a “detour statement,” and its analysts were convinced that Sophie was trying to minimize the delays. “Mr. Sophie avoids commenting on any issues related to revenue recognition, and his overall behavior indicates that revenue recognition problems cannot be ruled out.”
Overall, BIA’s team rated the second-quarter conference call as a “medium high level of concern”— the same rating they’d given UTStarcom’s call the quarter before. This time, though, the BIA team found more problems, which they listed in a box on the first page of their report: “Lacks Confidence,” “Underlying Concern,” “Avoids Providing Information.”
In their conclusion, the BIA team said they’d found that the executives were worried about the timing of the company’s profitability date and the issue of revenue recognition. The report says: “Management’s behavior indicates that they will post poor third-quarter results, and it is also highly unlikely they will achieve profitability in the fourth quarter.”
It might not seem like much, one take on whether the company will do well in the next six months. But to hedge-fund investors — who are looking for ways to make money off of falling stocks by selling short — that is valuable information indeed.
BIA’s client had no way of telling whether the deception analysis report was accurate or not. It was the client’s job to take the report, combine it with other information known about UTStarcom and make a bet for or against the company. And there’s no evidence that UTStarcom officials weren’t being truthful during the call.
With the benefit of hindsight, though, it’s possible to go back and check the record to find out what did happen to UTStarcom stock in the weeks after the call.
It turns out that any investor who shorted UTStarcom at the time BIA submitted its report would have been in a position to reap substantial gains.
Over the next month or so after the call of Aug. 2, UTStarcom’s stock price lost about $1 per share, a nice win for any short seller. But on Oct. 6, 2005, the company released its third-quarter results, shocking Nasdaq traders with numbers that were below the guidance executives had offered during the conference call. In October, UTStarcom said it expected total revenues of between $620 million and $640 million, compared with its previous target of $660 million to $680 million. The next morning, investors frantically sold their shares: more than 23 million transactions took place on Oct. 7, 2005.
A day after the third-quarter results were released, the stock was down roughly an additional $2, closing at $5.64. It had been at $8.54 when the BIA team listened in on the conference call in August and flagged the potential problems with revenue recognition.
And what reason did UTStarcom give for its poor third-quarter performance? It disclosed difficulties with revenue recognition.
© 2011 POLITICO LLC
http://www.themoralliberal.com/2010/07/ ... nce-state/
An American Stasi? The Surveillance State
July 28, 2010
The Freeman, Wendy McElroy
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported on July 25 that “there are 72 fusion centers around the nation, analyzing and disseminating data and information of all kinds. That is one for every state and others for large urban cities.”
What is a fusion center?
The answer depends on your perspective. If you work for the Department of Homeland Security, it is a federal, state, local, or regional data-coordination units, designed to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism and anti-crime data in order to make America safer. If you are privacy or civil-rights advocate, it is part of a powerful new domestic surveillance infrastructure that combines data from both the public and private sectors to track innocent people and so makes Americans less safe from their own government. In that respect, the fusion center is reminiscent of the East German stasi, which used tens of thousands of state police and hundreds of thousands of informers to monitor an estimated one-third of the population.
The history of fusion centers provides insight into which answer is correct.
Fusion centers began in 2003 under the administration of George W. Bush as a joint project between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. The purpose (pdf) is to coordinate federal and local law enforcement by using the “800,000 plus law enforcement officers across the country” whose intimate awareness of their own communities makes them “best placed to function as the ‘eyes and ears’ of an extended national security community.” The fusion centers are hubs for the coordination. By April 2008 there were 58.
The growth has continued under the Obama administration. Indeed, Obama has also continued Bush’s concealment of domestic intelligence activity by threatening to veto legislation that authorizes broader congressional oversight or review of intelligence agencies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). As a result of that threat, the GAO provision was removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act.
Due to secrecy, it is difficult to describe a typical fusion center. But if the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center is typical, this is what one looks like.Indiana’s center has essentially become an arm of Indiana law enforcement…. It has 31 full-time staffers and two part-time employees. Some … are state employees. Others are assigned to the center from other agencies, such as the FBI, Transportation Security Administration, and Marion County Sheriff’s Department. They are joined by workers from the Department of Correction, the Indiana National Guard, the Indiana State Police, the Department of Natural Resources and local campus police…. There are also private sector analysts on contract. Previously those analysts were from EG&G Technical Services of California. The most recent contract with EG&G called for payment of $1.1 million….
Fusion centers invite reports from public employees such as firemen, ambulance drivers, and sanitation workers as well as from the private sector such as hospitals and neighborhood watch groups. They often operate tip hotlines; this means a “suspect’s” name could be submitted by a disgruntled employee, a hostile neighbor, or an ex-spouse who seeks child custody.
What or who is targeted by this sweeping coordination of data?
To get an idea, let’s look at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) program, which the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said “should be a national model.” In June 2008 the departments of Justice and Homeland Security recommended expansion of the LAPD program to other cities.
In April 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported on a new LAPD policy that compelled officers to report “suspicious behaviors” to the local fusion center. LAPD Special Order #11, dated March 5, 2008, defined a list of 65 suspicious behaviors, including using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent esthetic value,” abandoning a vehicle, taking notes, and espousing extremist views. Local police were converted into domestic surveillance agents.
Voices of caution were present from the inception of fusion centers. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr statedUsing the resources of federal and state law enforcement to encourage the citizenry to submit to the government information on the political, social and even religious views of other people, is in itself outrageous. For the government to then data-base that information, disseminate it widely, and clearly imply that views with which it may disagree provides an appropriate basis on which to surveil citizens and collect information on them, is beyond the pale. It is also a poor and inefficient use of police resources.
Violation of privacy rights, excessive secrecy, lack of congressional oversight, the inevitability of inaccurate and noncorrectable information, the lack of due process for the accused, the encouragement of racial/religious profiling, the creation of a “snitch” nation, the merging of the military with the private sector, the political abuse of dissidents – the objections scroll on. Specific abuses scroll on as well. They include:
Maryland: Fifty-three nonviolent political activists, including antiwar and anti-death penalty activists, were labeled as terrorists and actively surveilled for 14 months.
Minnesota: Eight anarchist protesters who planned to protest the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis were preemptively arrested and charged with terrorism. In Minnesota, a crime can become terrorism if it disrupts the conduct of government.
Texas: A leaked intelligence bulletin from the North Central Texas Fusion System asked police officers to report on Islamic and antiwar lobbying groups
Missouri: Supporters of third party presidential candidates, pro-life activists, and conspiracy theorists were targeted as potential militia members.
Virginia (pdf): A terrorism threat assessment included certain universities as breeding grounds for terrorism, including historically black colleges.
A more comprehensive list of fusion abuse is available in the ACLU’s Survey of Reported Incidents (pdf). See also the ACLU’s interactive map for what’s happening in your state.
Clearly, the elaborate infrastructure of fusion centers has spied on peaceful citizens. Those who believe the abuses are aberrations, rather than an inherent or intended function, may argue that increased transparency will bring accountability and solve the problem. But that belief is naive. At least four reasons indicate that a lack of transparency and accountability are built into the system — the absence of real congressional oversight being number one.
Second, the ACLU and others have filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. They have had to fight tooth-and-nail for any scrap of information.
Third, as the ACLU (pdf) notes, “[T]here appears to be an effort by the federal government to coerce states into exempting their fusion centers from state open government laws. For those living in Virginia, it’s already too late; the Virginia General Assembly passed a law in April 2008 exempting the state’s fusion center from the Freedom of Information Act. According to comments by the commander of the Virginia State Police Criminal Intelligence Division and the administrative head of the center, the federal government pressured Virginia into passing the law…. [T]here is a real danger fusion centers will become a ‘one-way mirror’ in which citizens are subject to ever-greater scrutiny by the authorities, even while the authorities are increasingly protected from scrutiny by the public.”
Fourth, much of the information used by fusion centers comes from private databases such as Accurate, Choice Point, Lexis-Nexus, Locate Plus, insurance claims, and credit reports. Moreover, the centers access millions of government files like the Federal Trade Commission ID theft reports and DMV records. Why is this important? The federal government has adopted various laws to prevent the maintenance of databases on average Americans, but if fusion centers access the other existing files, they would bypass those laws.
A massive database on peaceful citizens, a tip hotline that encourages turning in of neighbors, the casting of suspicion on daily activities, enlisting private workers as national surveillance agents — this is a police state in the making. And if its creation is invisible to most people, well, that is another characteristic of a police state. You are not a believer until it knocks on your door … in the middle of the night.
Wendy McElroy is an author, the editor of ifeminists.com, and a research fellow for the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.
Copyright © 2010 Foundation for Economic Education. Used with permission.
http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.com ... llion.html
U.S. Intelligence Budget: $75 Billion, 200,000 Operatives. Fusion Centers Will Have Access to Classified Military Intelligence
Speaking at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club September 15, Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair, disclosed that the current annual budget for the 16 agency U.S. "Intelligence Community" (IC) clocks-in at $75 billion and employs some 200,000 operatives world-wide, including private contractors.
In unveiling an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), Blair asserts he is seeking to break down "this old distinction between military and nonmilitary intelligence," stating that the "traditional fault line" separating secretive military programs from overall intelligence activities "is no longer relevant."
As if to emphasize the sweeping nature of Blair's remarks, Federal Computer Week reported September 17 that "some non-federal officials with the necessary clearances who work at intelligence fusion centers around the country will soon have limited access to classified terrorism-related information that resides in the Defense Department's classified network." According to the publication:
Under the program, authorized state, local or tribal officials will be able to access pre-approved data on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. However, they won't have the ability to upload data or edit existing content, officials said. They also will not have access to all classified information, only the information that federal officials make available to them.
The non-federal officials will get access via the Homeland Security department's secret-level Homeland Security Data Network. That network is currently deployed at 27 of the more than 70 fusion centers located around the country, according to DHS. Officials from different levels of government share homeland security-related information through the fusion centers. (Ben Bain, "DOD opens some classified information to non-federal officials," Federal Computer Week, September 17, 2009)
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has encouraged the explosive growth of fusion centers. As envisaged by securocrats, these hybrid institutions have expanded information collection and sharing practices from a wide variety of sources, including commercial databases, among state and local law enforcement agencies, the private sector and federal security agencies, including military intelligence.
But early on, fusion centers like the notorious "red squads" of the 1960s and '70s, morphed into national security shopping malls where officials monitor not only alleged terrorists but also left-wing and environmental activists deemed threats to the existing corporate order.
It is currently unknown how many military intelligence analysts are stationed at fusion centers, what their roles are and whether or not they are engaged in domestic surveillance.
If past practices are an indication of where current moves by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will lead, in breaking down the "traditional fault line" that prohibits the military from engaging in civilian policing, then another troubling step along the dark road of militarizing American society will have been taken.
U.S. Northern Command: Feeding the Domestic Surveillance Beast
Since its 2002 stand-up, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and associated military intelligence outfits such as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the now-defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) have participated in widespread surveillance of antiwar and other activist groups, tapping into Pentagon and commercial databases in a quixotic search for "suspicious patterns."
As they currently exist, fusion centers are largely unaccountable entities that function without proper oversight and have been involved in egregious civil rights violations such as the compilation of national security dossiers that have landed activists on various terrorist watch-lists.
Antifascist Calling reported last year on the strange case of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz and Col. Larry Richards, Marine reservists stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Maziarz, Richards, and a group of fellow Marines, including the cofounder of the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Center (LACTEW), stole secret files from the Strategic Technical Operations Center (STOC).
When they worked at STOC, the private spy ring absconded with hundreds of classified files, including those marked "Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information," the highest U.S. Government classification. The files included surveillance dossiers on the Muslim community and antiwar activists in Southern California.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune which broke the story in 2007, before being run to ground Maziarz, Richards and reserve Navy Commander Lauren Martin, a civilian intelligence contractor at USNORTHCOM, acquired information illegally obtained from the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). This is the same classified system which fusion centers will have access to under the DoD's new proposal.
Claiming they were acting out of "patriotic motives," the Marine spies shared this classified counterterrorism information with private contractors in the hope of obtaining future employment. Although they failed to land plush private sector counterterrorism jobs, one cannot rule out that less than scrupulous security firms might be willing to take in the bait in the future in order to have a leg up on the competition.
So far, only lower level conspirators have been charged. According to the Union-Tribune "Marine Cols. Larry Richards and David Litaker, Marine Maj. Mark Lowe and Navy Cmdr. Lauren Martin also have been mentioned in connection with the case, but none has been charged." One codefendant's attorney, Kevin McDermott, told the paper, "This is the classic situation that if you have more rank, the better your chance of not getting charged."
Sound familiar? Call it standard operating procedure in post-constitutional America where high-level officials and senior officers walk away scott-free while grunts bear the burden, and do hard time, for the crimes of their superiors.
Fusion Centers and Military Intelligence: Best Friends Forever!
Another case which is emblematic of the close cooperation among fusion centers and military intelligence is the case of John J. Towery, a Ft. Lewis, Washington civilian contractor who worked for the Army's Fort Lewis Force Protection Unit.
In July, The Olympian and Democracy Now! broke the story of how Towery had infiltrated and spied on the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR), an antiwar group, and shared this information with police.
Since 2006, the group has staged protests at Washington ports and has sought to block military cargo from being shipped to Iraq. According to The Olympian:
OlyPMR member Brendan Maslauskas Dunn said in an interview Monday that he received a copy of the e-mail from the city of Olympia in response to a public records request asking for any information the city had about "anarchists, anarchy, anarchism, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), or Industrial Workers of the World." (Jeremy Pawloski, "Fort Lewis investigates claims employee infiltrated Olympia peace group," The Olympian, July 27, 2009)
What Dunn discovered was highly disturbing to say the least. Towery, who posed as an anarchist under the name "John Jacob," had infiltrated OlyPMR and was one of several listserv administrators that had control over the group's electronic communications.
The civilian intelligence agent admitted to Dunn that he had spied on the group but claimed that no one paid him and that he didn't report to the military; a statement that turned out to be false.
Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesperson confirmed to The Olympian that Towery was a contract employee and that the infiltrator "performs sensitive work within the installation law enforcement community," but "it would not be appropriate for him to discuss his duties with the media."
In September, The Olympian obtained thousands of pages of emails from the City of Olympia in response to that publication's public-records requests. The newspaper revealed that the Washington Joint Analytical Center (WJAC), a fusion center, had copied messages to Towery on the activities of OlyPMR in the run-up to the group's November 2007 port protests. According to the paper,
The WJAC is a clearinghouse of sorts of anti-terrorism information and sensitive intelligence that is gathered and disseminated to law enforcement agencies across the state. The WJAC receives money from the federal government.
The substance of nearly all of the WJAC's e-mails to Olympia police officials had been blacked out in the copies provided to The Olympian. (Jeremy Pawloski, "Army e-mail sent to police and accused spy," The Olympian, September 12, 2009)
Also in July, the whistleblowing web site Wikileaks published a 1525 page file on WJAC's activities.
Housed at the Seattle Field Office of the FBI, one document described WJAC as an agency that "builds on existing intelligence efforts by local, regional, and federal agencies by organizing and disseminating threat information and other intelligence efforts to law enforcement agencies, first responders, and key decision makers throughout the state."
Fusion centers are also lucrative cash cows for enterprising security grifters. Wikileaks investigations editor Julian Assange described the revolving-door that exists among Pentagon spy agencies and the private security firms who reap millions by placing interrogators and analysts inside outfits such as WJAC. Assange wrote,
There has been extensive political debate in the United States on how safe it would be to move Guantánamo's detainees to US soil--but what about their interrogators?
One intelligence officer, Kia Grapham, is hawked by her contracting company to the Washington State Patrol. Grapham's confidential resume boasts of assisting in over 100 interrogations of "high value human intelligence targets" at Guantánamo. She goes on, saying how she is trained and certified to employ Restricted Interrogation Technique: Separation as specified by FM 2-22.3 Appendix M.
Others, like, Neoma Syke, managed to repeatedly flip between the military and contractor intelligence work--without even leaving the building.
The file details the placement of six intelligence contractors inside the Washington Joint Analytical Center (WAJAC) on behalf of the Washington State Patrol at a cost of around $110,000 per year each.
Such intelligence "fusion" centers, which combine the military, the FBI, state police, and others, have been internally promoted by the US Army as means to avoid restrictions preventing the military from spying on the domestic population. (Julian Assange, "The spy who billed me twice," Wikileaks, July 29, 2009)
The Wikileaks documents provide startling details on how firms such as Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), The Sytex Group and Operational Applications Inc. routinely place operatives within military intelligence and civilian fusion centers at a premium price.
Assange wonders whether these job placements are not simply evidence of corruption but rather, are "designed to evade a raft of hard won oversight laws which apply to the military and the police but not to contractors? Is it to keep selected personnel out of the Inspector General's eye?" The available evidence strongly suggests that it is.
As the American Civil Liberties Union documented in their 2007 and 2008 reports on fusion center abuses, one motivation is precisely to subvert oversight laws which do not apply to private mercenary contractors.
The civil liberties' watchdog characterized the rapid expansion of fusion centers as a threat to our constitutional rights and cited specific areas of concern: "their ambiguous lines of authority, the troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and their excessive secrecy."
And speaking of private security contractors outsourced to a gaggle on intelligence agencies, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed in his essential book Spies For Hire, that since 9/11 "the Central Intelligence Agency has been spending 50 to 60 percent of its budget on for-profit contractors, or about $2.5 billion a year, and its number of contract employees now exceeds the agency's full-time workforce of 17,500."
Indeed, Shorrock learned that "no less than 70 percent of the nation's intelligence budget was being spent on contracts." However, the sharp spike in intelligence outsourcing to well-heeled security corporations comes with very little in the way of effective oversight.
The House Intelligence Committee reported in 2007 that the Bush, and now, the Obama administrations have failed to develop a "clear definition of what functions are 'inherently governmental';" meaning in practice, that much in the way of systematic abuses can be concealed behind veils of "proprietary commercial information."
As we have seen when the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke in 2004, and The New York Times belatedly blew the whistle on widespread illegal surveillance of the private electronic communications of Americans in 2005, cosy government relationships with security contractors, including those embedded within secretive fusion centers, will continue to serve as a "safe harbor" for concealing and facilitating state crimes against the American people.
After all, $75 billion buys a lot of silence.
SUBWAY Introduces Fuze Iced Tea In US Restaurants
DBR Staff Writer Published 05 July 2009
The SUBWAY restaurant chain has introduced Fuze iced tea to its nearly 22,500 restaurants throughout the US.
operator kos wrote:I spent way too long making this. I did it mainly to help me keep straight the who, what, and when of deep politics, and I thought some of ya'll might like it. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I have vague notions of using it as the basis of a 'Deep Politics 101' website, but at the moment I'm far behind on a lot of other work.
full-size chart: http://i.imgur.com/4OgEP.jpg
Nordic wrote:I always thought the creation of "The Department of Homeland Security" was created for just that -- to create more corporate welfare, more ways to be corrupt, more revolving doors, etc. etc. etc.
A few years back there was a photo of some convention for these guys, these contractors, along with administrators from the Department itself. They were all lounging around a pool somewhere, drinking and basically partying together. There was something about the picture that made it quite clear what the purpose of the DHLS was. I believe Tom Ridge may have been in the photo.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nat ... print.html
CIA shifts focus to killing targets
By Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: September 1
Behind a nondescript door at CIA headquarters, the agency has assembled a new counterterrorism unit whose job is to find al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. A corresponding commotion has been underway in the Arabian Peninsula, where construction workers have been laying out a secret new runway for CIA drones.
When the missiles start falling, it will mark another expansion of the paramilitary mission of the CIA.
In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the agency has undergone a fundamental transformation. Although the CIA continues to gather intelligence and furnish analysis on a vast array of subjects, its focus and resources are increasingly centered on the cold counterterrorism objective of finding targets to capture or kill.
The shift has been gradual enough that its magnitude can be difficult to grasp. Drone strikes that once seemed impossibly futuristic are so routine that they rarely attract public attention unless a high-ranking al-Qaeda figure is killed.
But framed against the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks — as well as the arrival next week of retired Gen. David H. Petraeus as the CIA’s director — the extent of the agency’s reorientation comes into sharper view:
●The drone program has killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001, a staggering figure for an agency that has a long history of supporting proxy forces in bloody conflicts but rarely pulled the trigger on its own.
●The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which had 300 employees on the day of the attacks, now exceeds al-Qaeda’s core membership around the globe. With about 2,000 on its staff, the CTC accounts for 10 percent of the agency’s workforce, has designated officers in almost every significant overseas post and controls the CIA’s expanding fleet of drones.
●Even the agency’s analytic branch, which traditionally existed to provide insights to policymakers, has been enlisted in the hunt. About 20 percent of CIA analysts are now “targeters” scanning data for individuals to recruit, arrest or place in the crosshairs of a drone. The skill is in such demand that the CIA made targeting a designated career track five years ago, meaning analysts can collect raises and promotions without having to leave the targeting field.
Critics, including some in the U.S. intelligence community, contend that the CIA’s embrace of “kinetic” operations, as they are known, has diverted the agency from its traditional espionage mission and undermined its ability to make sense of global developments such as the Arab Spring.
Human rights groups go further, saying the CIA now functions as a military force beyond the accountability that the United States has historically demanded of its armed services. The CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules.
“We’re seeing the CIA turn into more of a paramilitary organization without the oversight and accountability that we traditionally expect of the military,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
CIA officials defend all aspects of the agency’s counterterrorism efforts and argue that the agency’s attention to other subjects has not been diminished. Fran Moore, head of the CIA’s analytic branch, said intelligence work on a vast range of issues, including weapons proliferation and energy resources, has been expanded and improved.
“The vast majority of analysts would not identify themselves as supporting military objectives,” Moore said in an interview at CIA headquarters. Counterterrorism “is clearly a significant, growing and vibrant part of our mission. But it’s not the defining mission.”
Agency within an agency
Nevertheless, those directly involved in building the agency’s lethal capacity say the changes to the CIA since Sept. 11 are so profound that they sometimes marvel at the result. One former senior U.S. intelligence official described the agency’s paramilitary transformation as “nothing short of a wonderment.”
“You’ve taken an agency that was chugging along and turned it into one hell of a killing machine,” said the former official, who, like many people interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters. Blanching at his choice of words, he quickly offered a revision: “Instead, say ‘one hell of an operational tool.’”
The engine of that machine is the CTC, an entity that has accumulated influence, authority and resources to such a degree that it resembles an agency within an agency.
The center swelled to 1,200 employees in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and nearly doubled in size since then.
The CTC occupies a sprawling footprint at the CIA campus in Langley, including the first floor of what is known as the “new headquarters” building. The chief of the center is an undercover officer known for his brusque manner, cigarette habit and tireless commitment to the job.
A CIA veteran said he asked the CTC chief about the pace of strikes against al-Qaeda last year and got a typically profane reply: “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.”
The headquarters for that hunt is on a separate floor in a CTC unit known as the Pakistan-Afghanistan Department, referred to internally as PAD. Within the past year, the agency has created an equivalent department for Yemen and Somalia in the hope that it can replicate the impact of PAD.
Inside the PAD entrance is a photographic tribute to the seven CIA employees who were killed by a suicide bomber in December 2009 at a remote base in the Afghan city of Khost. Two were former targeters who had worked in the CTC.
Beyond that marker is a warren of cubicles and offices. On the walls are maps marked with the locations of CIA bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as whiteboards with lists of pending operations and code names of spies. Every paid informant is given a unique “crypt” that starts with a two-letter digraph designating spies who are paid sources of the CTC.
PAD serves as the anchor of an operational triangle that stretches from South Asia to the American Southwest. The CIA has about 30 Predator and Reaper drones, all flown by Air Force pilots from a U.S. military base in a state that The Post has agreed, at the request of agency officials, not to name.
The intelligence that guides their “orbits” flows in from a constellation of CIA bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
CIA officials insist that drone strikes are among the least common outcomes in its counterterrorism campaign.
“Of all the intelligence work on counterterrorism, only a sliver goes into Predator operations,” a senior U.S. official said. The agency’s 118 strikes last year were outnumbered “many times” by instances in which the agency provided tips to foreign partners or took nonlethal steps.
“There were investigations, arrests, debriefings . . . these are all operational acts,” the official said.
The Obama administration dismantled the CIA’s system of secret prisons,
but it continues to use foreign partners to apprehend suspects in some countries, including Somalia.
The CIA also was heavily involved in the raid by U.S. Special Operations troops on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May. Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, but the operation was carried out under CIA authority, planned in a room at agency headquarters and based on intelligence gathered over a period of years by the CTC.
The assault was the most high-profile example of an expanding collaboration between the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the nation’s elite military teams.
Their comingling at remote bases is so complete that U.S. officials ranging from congressional staffers to high-ranking CIA officers said they often find it difficult to distinguish agency from military personnel.
“You couldn’t tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors,” said a senior U.S. official after a recent tour through Afghanistan. “They’re all three blended together. All under the command of the CIA.”
Their activities occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations.
Sometimes their missions are considered military “preparation of the battlefield,” and others fall under covert findings obtained by the CIA. As a result, congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view.
Hybrid units called “omega” or “cross matrix” teams have operated in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, according to senior U.S. military officials.
Those employed in Afghanistan were “mostly designed against specific high-value targets with the intent of looking across the border” into Pakistan, said a former senior U.S. military official involved in Special Operations missions. They wore civilian clothes and traveled in Toyota Hilux trucks rather than military vehicles.
“They were designed to develop sources and leads” but also to “be prepared if necessary to be the front end of a more robust lethal force.”
On at least five occasions, officials said, Special Operations units working closely with the CIA ventured into Pakistan in exercises designed to test their ability to close in on a target without being detected by Pakistani authorities.
The operations, which took place between 2002 and 2006, amounted to early rehearsals of the bin Laden raid.
The CIA’s post-Sept. 11 arsenal has also included elite Afghan militias trained and led by the agency’s Special Activities Division, its paramilitary branch. In a measure of the murkiness surrounding such programs, the purpose of the Counterterror Pursuit Teams is a source of disagreement among senior officials in government.
“They can fire in self-defense, but they don’t go out to try and kill a target,” a U.S. official familiar with CIA operations in Afghanistan said. “They’re mostly arresting people and turning them over to” the Afghan security services.
But the former senior U.S. military official said the teams’ objectives were “more kill-capture” than capture-kill. “It wasn’t always high-value targets,” he said. “They were trying to pursue and kill sometimes lower-hanging fruit.”
In some cases, the pursuit teams used more indiscriminate means, including land mines, to disrupt insurgent networks, the former official said. Two current U.S. military officials said one of the CIA’s pursuit teams was disbanded after a botched assault in which it killed the wrong target.
A U.S. intelligence official disputed that account, and said none of the teams were ever shut down. The official acknowledged that Pashtun-dominated militias have been used by the CIA to gather intelligence inside Pakistan. Any need to use them to pursue targets has been diminished by the expanding lethal reach of the drones.
Given the scope of the CIA’s paramilitary activities, human rights groups say the death toll over the past decade from CIA-directed operations undoubtedly exceeds the casualty count associated with strikes from drones.
U.S. intelligence and congressional officials insist that the number of people killed in CIA operations outside the drone campaign is negligible, but say they have never seen an agency-produced casualty count that includes other categories of operations.
“That’s a very small number — I’m struggling to come up with a single example,” said a U.S. official involved in overseeing CIA operations since 2004.
The demands of the counterterror mission have affected the organization in more subtle but pervasive ways. A U.S. official who worked closely with former CIA director Leon E. Panetta said the then-chief spent at least 30 percent of his time on counterterrorism matters.
Panetta’s predecessor, Michael V. Hayden, answered questions about his priorities with a jumble of letters, “CTCPROW,” meaning counterterrorism, counterproliferation and, finally, rest of the world.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said, “While we don’t discuss the details of our counterterrorism operations, the fact that they are a top priority and effective is precisely what the American people expect.”
Yet officials describe a distortion effect in collecting intelligence. Dependence on counterterrorism cooperation from a country such as Egypt makes it more risky to engage in activities that might jeopardize that relationship, such as gathering intelligence on corruption in the government or its fragile hold on power.
Senior officials also voice concern about changes in the agency’s analytic branch, where 35 percent are now in jobs where their main function is to support operators and 10 percent are deployed abroad.
“We were originally set up with a more singular focus on policymakers,” said Moore, the head of the CIA’s analytic branch. But for a growing number of analysts, “it’s not just about writing for the president. It’s about gaining leads.”
Putting analysts alongside operators gives them a clearer view of sources and the quality of raw intelligence. In turn, the analysts can help operators vet sources and gain a complex understanding of their adversaries.
But the collaboration also carries risks, including a concern that analysts may become too invested in the outcomes of operations, too eager to be part of the agency’s counterterrorism team.
There is also a self-serving aspect to the arrangement.
“When CIA does covert action, who does the president turn to to judge its effectiveness?” a former senior U.S. intelligence official. “To the CIA.”
In this new operation-focused era, targeters play a critical role. The job is more complex than it sounds, and involves assembling vast quantities of data on terrorist networks or other organizations to pinpoint their most vulnerable points.
It could be a source for the CIA to recruit or a shipment that an illicit nuclear weapons program can’t do without.
In counterterrorism operations, it also means placing militants in the remotely controlled sights of Predator and Reaper drones.
The CIA’s skill and efficiency at doing so has given the drone program a momentum of its own. More broadly, an agency that some argued should be dismantled after failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war has achieved a standing as an indispensable counterterrorism tool.
U.S. officials said President Obama’s decision to approve the agency’s new drone base in the Arabian Peninsula and begin Predator patrols over Yemen was driven by the agency’s unique authorities and capabilities.
JSOC has been flying armed drones over Yemen for much of the past year. But those flights fall under conventional military authorities that require permission or at least a level of acquiescence from Yemen. The CIA is in a better position to keep flying even if that cooperation stops.
The administration is also counting on the lethal proficiency of the targeters settling into their cubicles in the latest addition to the sprawling offices of the CTC, a department focused exclusively on Yemen and Somalia.
“The kinetic piece of any counterterror strike is the last 20 seconds of an enormously long chain of collection and analysis,” said a U.S. official involved in the creation of the new department. “Traditional elements of espionage and analysis have not been lost at the agency. On the contrary. The CT effort is largely an intelligence game. It’s about finding a target . . . the finish piece is the easy part.”
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