WaPo Top Secret Story: Why Not Nominate God to Be Director of National Intelligence?

I trust you will all read Dana Priest and William Arkin’s story on the unwieldiness of our Intelligence Industrial Complex. It is good, insofar as it focuses needed attention on a huge problem.

But boy is it itself unwieldy. Today’s overview appears to want to be two stories: one on the problem with out-of-control contracting, and one on how that led to the failure to identify the Nidal Hasan and UndieBomber threats.

Moreover, what I find utterly shocking is that today’s 5315-word installment includes only this reference to the simmering battle over intelligence reform and the Director of National Intelligence position and tomorrow’s confirmation hearing for James Clapper!

“There’s only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs – that’s God,” said James R. Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next director of national intelligence. [my emphasis]

Remember, this hearing is tomorrow. The debate that has led up to it has covered whether or not we need a stronger DNI, whether or not GAO can audit intelligence programs, and whether more than 4 people should be briefed on major new intelligence programs.

Every single one of the issues that has led to tomorrow’s confirmation hearing is an issue that goes to the heart of the problems identified in the WaPo piece: the ongoing lack of real value-added analysis to make sense of all the intelligence collected, the opacity and potential waste and fraud of the entire IIC, and the turf battles that contribute to that waste.

So while I’m grateful that this story (and more importantly, the issues behind the story, since the content of today’s installment has largely already been reported by Tim Shorrock) is getting as much attention as it is, I’m aghast that the WaPo didn’t try to contextualize it by framing the issues in it in terms of Clapper’s nomination to be DNI.

The guy the Obama Administration nominated to be Director of National Intelligence seems glib about the utter lack of transparency and oversight in our intelligence world (his predecessor, Dennis Blair, claims in the story he was able to see it all). One after another high level security official are quoted in the story complaining about the lack of central focus on intelligence–precisely the issue that Clapper’s nomination won’t solve.

If Clapper’s nomination is approved tomorrow–and it sounds like DiFi has resigned herself to approving Clapper not because she thinks he’s adequate to the job but because the interim DNI is retiring shortly–it will represent success on Obama’s part at forestalling efforts to deal in substantive way with the problems identified in the story.

That’s the news in this WaPo story.

  1. phred says:

    Lack of transparency isn’t just a feature, it is the key, the defining central principle to the whole organization of our out-sourced intelligence work. Transparency would absolutely ruin the whole corrupt system.

    Someone might notice how money was being spent. They might want to streamline things to make them more efficient (hmmm, where have I heard that before). And the next thing you know you’ve got major campaign donors on the phone screaming they will cut you off next cycle if you don’t do something to keep the federal spigot flowing.

    Sounds like Clapper is perfect for the job.

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      Agreed. The term “transparency” is over-worked, over-used, most silliest word ever used by pols, media, and vague-men. (My other candidate is corporatist, but that’s a whole other story)….

      • phred says:

        Mornin’ BSL : ) “Transparency” as you note has been twisted into an Orwellian pretzel by politicians who claim to favor it, while they work assiduously to prevent it. To be fair, I think preventing transparency is more about laziness than anything else, but that’s a digression for another time.

        I’ve noted your opposition to “corporatist” previously, what term would you use instead? It appears to me that the explosion of private contractors in the federal government (intelligence, military, housekeeping, what have you) is driven by the insatiable need of politicians for campaign donations. So what term would you use to encapsulate the rampant corruption that drives the federal goivernment — not just in terms of the budget, but in terms of legislation as well?

        • BayStateLibrul says:

          Hiya phred and doesn’t our DL suck?

          National Intelligence by definition, experience, and workings cannot be transparent.

          They are, in my opinion, a covert operation, plain and simple.

          Twisted is a good term.

          Transparency is in the eye of the beholder, and has became a buzz-word

          to mean “I want all the facts on the table to see and munch upon.”

          The world of debate doesn’t work that simply…

          Maybe it works in theory but not in practice.

          Same with the label “corporatist”

          You make a good argument… the problem is campaign donations and corruption.

          Instead of calling Obama a “corporatist” call him “corrupt” if you really mean that.

          See, I don’t view him as corrupt, he has weighed the pros and cons, and decided. I don’t think his motives are as bad as some think…

          We’ve given him four years…

          Maybe, he’ll nominate our favorite Elizabeth Warren to head the new Commission?

          Sorry to go off-topic..

          • phred says:

            Well fwiw, I do call Obama and the rest of the Dems corrupt (Repubs, too for that matter, but that’s stating the obvious), but that’s not really your point.

            I disagree with your assessment of how national intelligence should function. If you haven’t yet seen Greenwald this morning, I highly recommend it.

            I take the view that even intelligence functions must be properly overseen to assure that it is being competently performed. There must also be proper checks and balances in place so that illegal acts and incompetence aren’t just swept under the rug. There must be real mechanisms in place so that when people in the field see something amiss that there is an external place to go to complain to have improper conduct investigated. And finally, everyone who works in the field or individuals who have been adversely affected by intelligence gathering must have access to the courts, for an outside arbiter to fairly redress wrongdoing.

            The problem we have now is that even when crimes are uncovered the courts are perfectly happy to say, “state secrets, no due process for you!”. And so, criminal and incompetent conduct continues unabated. The entire system has spun dangerously out of control and I don’t see anyone lifting a finger to put a stop to it.

            Meanwhile, we citizens get lectured endlessly about how it is too expensive to continue Soc. Sec., Medicare, and evidently even food stamps are too much for some. Yet nary a peep about all the money we are hemorrhaging to corporate America. I’ve got a problem with that.

  2. Leen says:

    “The guy the Obama Administration nominated to be Director of National Intelligence seems glib about the utter lack of transparency and oversight in our intelligence world (his predecessor, Dennis Blair, claims in the story he was able to see it all). One after another high level security official are quoted in the story complaining about the lack of central focus on intelligence–precisely the issue that Clapper’s nomination won’t solve.”

    “won’t solve”

    And tomorrow Charles Freeman. The man who would have been more than capable of being the Director of National INtelligence will be speaking at the Nixon Center tomorrow
    Chas Freeman to go ten rounds with Israel lobbyist at Nixon Center

  3. klynn says:


    That is the same quote that jumped out at me.

    Thanks for the focal point of why today’s installment is important. The hearing tomorrow.

    I hope this piece gives plenty to drill Clapper on at the hearing. If not, then the nomination process, with all this info in hand from the WaPo, will have failed.

    • Teddy Partridge says:

      Or succeeded.

      We need to understand the purpose of this nomination process. DiFi apparently does.

  4. Leen says:

    Quite a report.

    The first problem was that the law passed by Congress did not give the director clear legal or budgetary authority over intelligence matters, which meant he wouldn’t have power over the individual agencies he was supposed to control.

    The second problem: Even before the first director, Ambassador John D. Negroponte, was on the job, the turf battles began. The Defense Department shifted billions of dollars out of one budget and into another so that the ODNI could not touch it, according to two senior officials who watched the process. The CIA reclassified some of its most sensitive information at a higher level so the National Counterterrorism Center staff, part of the ODNI, would not be allowed to see it, said former intelligence officers involved.

    And then came a problem that continues to this day, which has to do with the ODNI’s rapid expansion.

    When it opened in the spring of 2005, Negroponte’s office was all of 11 people stuffed into a secure vault with closet-size rooms a block from the White House. A year later, the budding agency moved to two floors of another building. In April 2008, it moved into its huge permanent home, Liberty Crossing.

    Today, many officials who work in the intelligence agencies say they remain unclear about what the ODNI is in charge of. To be sure, the ODNI has made some progress, especially in intelligence-sharing, information technology and budget reform. The DNI and his managers hold interagency meetings every day to promote collaboration. The last director, Blair, doggedly pursued such nitty-gritty issues as procurement reform, compatible computer networks, tradecraft standards and collegiality.

    But improvements have been overtaken by volume at the ODNI, as the increased flow of intelligence data overwhelms the system’s ability to analyze and use it. Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

    The practical effect of this unwieldiness is visible, on a much smaller scale, in the office of Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Leiter spends much of his day flipping among four computer monitors lined up on his desk. Six hard drives sit at his feet. The data flow is enormous, with dozens of databases feeding separate computer networks that cannot interact with one another.


    Where is Richard Clarke on all of this? Would have thought he would have been a contender for this position.
    Ew “and whether more than 4 people should be briefed on major new intelligence programs.”

    4 people only 4 people. Are they insane?

  5. klynn says:

    Another point.

    With that much growth, especially in the private sector and with THAT many high security clearances, I think I can state with confidence, there are plenty of countries inside the gate of our security.

    Amazing, in the efforts to protect our country after 9-11 we have probably opened ourselves to more dangers because there are more opportunities for spies.

    Additionally, I was a bit flipped by the private firms that are headhunters for government agency high security positions. Just another way to allow a break in our national security.

    • Leen says:


      Who has access to all of this datamining and wiretapping? Carl Cameron asked soon after 9/11. Have always wondered about alleged investigations into Amdocs, Comverse Insofys etc?

      Carl Cameron mentioned both of these companies in his four part report that was slammed by special interest groups

    • spanishinquisition says:

      “Amazing, in the efforts to protect our country after 9-11 we have probably opened ourselves to more dangers because there are more opportunities for spies”

      If anyone has seen The Falcon And The Snowman (based on a true story), the main spy worked for a government contractor because his daddy got him the job. I think the more contractors, programs, etc that you have, the more you are asking for spies. Things are only made worse by Obama criminally prosecuting the NSA whistleblower – that’s a way to keep the status quo and waste, fraud and abuse.

      • Mary says:

        Things are only made worse by Obama criminally prosecuting the NSA whistleblower – that’s a way to keep the status quo and waste, fraud and abuse.

        We cross posted, but amen to that sentiment.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Rather goes with the point that by our tolerance for high amounts of “collateral damage” – in non-newspeak, that means killing and maiming innocent men, women and children, destroying their homes, businesses and livelihoods – we make more enemies that we kill. That simple equation has been obvious since Adam and Eve left the garden.

  6. Leen says:

    EW “Why not nominate God to be Director of Intelligence?”

    Because congress would not pass that nomination

  7. pdaly says:

    SCIFs are not the only must-have items people pay attention to. Command centers, internal television networks, video walls, armored SUVs and personal security guards have also become the bling of national security.

    How easy would it be to manipulate the vanity of those in charge, to broadcast propaganda over the internal television networks to scare or ‘educate’ these top secret clearance wielding employees into thinking along “correct” lines? As the regular media won’t be covering the issue (they don’t anyway!) someone in a top secret bubble would not have any outside information to question a top secret broadcast.

    Like Gandalf explaines in the Lord of the Rings, “One Ring to Rule Them All. One Ring to Find Them. One Ring to Bring Them All and In The Darkness Bind Them.” (Money works, too)

    • klynn says:

      That was the other quote which jumped out at me. A very disturbing quote at that.

      National security should never be about “bling”. Shameful.

      • pdaly says:

        I agree. I guess that is what happens when one ‘takes the gloves off.’ Suddenly there are 10 fingers to decorate.

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    Obviously, God would never make it through Senate confirmation hearings. Although you can dig up some old quotes of God favoring torture, there are just too many more recent quotes that indicate God has gone squishy on the whole torture thing. Besides there is that old family scandal. Some folks claim there is an illegimate child who was some sort of peacenik hippie criminal. And the whole problem with the management style. Too many spokesmen and underlings who’ve gotten into trouble. I’m pretty sure the last thing the Republicans in the Senate want is for God to show up for a hearing. There’s just too much of a chance that God would say something that would embarass them.

    • phred says:

      Some folks claim there is an illegimate child who was some sort of peacenik hippie criminal.

      LOL : ) Nicely done WO, really nicely done ; )

    • JohnLopresti says:

      Ockham, god may be the right one for the job; but there are more problems for humans to address both in a **confirmation** process in the senate, and in some putative reorganization as duly devised in congress. Consider the warrantless wiretap debacle; obviously god is going to know everything incumbent local exchange carriers and global network infrastructure entities know, with or without metadata filtering and/orarchival. The torture paradigm, if, indeed, it can be depicted as a model, pretty much is a human hangup, not material for a true deity. Yet, in animistic mythologies physical suffering is fairly commonplace, at least insofar as human chronologists have been reporting; and therein lies one of the many cruxes of the contentiousness of those methodologies, be they **enhanced** or merely garden variety piquances.

      I would like to hear some preliminary views from Madam Speaker next week++ at NRN regarding the efficacy of the now G4 theory of governance and oversight.


      ++link to *State your question* page at NRN for that colloquy.

    • Peterr says:


      God’s spokesperson put out the word long ago that such a position would not appeal to God. When asked about God’s reaction to the secret planning of various world rulers, the spokesperson said “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.”

      Shorter God: You’ve got to be kidding.

      (See Psalm 2 for the full statement.)

  9. BillE says:

    Its interesting that Booz Allen is owned by the Carlyle Group. You know the Bush family company. These guys rotate in and out of gov jobs and back to the same contractors. As was stated earlier we had Mike McConnel making sure the gravy train kept right on rolling, and now it’ll be Clapper.

    I think that we are arriving at a Princess Bride moment. Transparency, I don’t think that word means what you think it does. Inconceiveable.


    • Mary says:

      Looking at it from a bit different aspect, the corporatizing of nat security also means, for public companies, that investors simply don’t have the info they should have for investment purposes. Of course, it’s not like anyone has to really worry that ATT and Verizon would ever really have to pay up for massive criminal activity it engaged in as a part of its organized conspiracy with Bush to engage in massive felonies – but still, a “conservative” *g* investor might want to know the possiblities …

      • spanishinquisition says:

        “Looking at it from a bit different aspect, the corporatizing of nat security also means, for public companies, that investors simply don’t have the info they should have for investment purposes”

        I remember a few years ago that a major telecom company CEO got taken to the woodshed because the company missed earnings. The CEO explained that he expected to get a large classified government contract. I just wish I could remember the name of the company and the CEO. Having all sorts of things be opaque just creates a chain reaction in obfuscation.

          • spanishinquisition says:

            Ah yes, now reading back on it Naccio said that the government penalized him because he thought he was being asked to engage in illegal activity so the money dried up on other contracts.

  10. lakeeffectsnow says:

    I trust you will all ((( something needed here ))) Dana Priest and William Arkin’s story on the unwieldiness of our Intelligence Industrial Complex.

    have read


  11. cregan says:

    You have to be careful reading this story. Here, at the very beginning it says:

    “…the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.”

    Most people reading over this would think it says that the system is ineffective. I am sure it is intentionally written that way to purposely give that impression.

    But, it actually says no such thing. It really says nothing, but tries to appear to say something. It only says the effectiveness is impossible to determine. NOT that it is ineffective, effective or that it is anything. Only that it is impossible to determine what it is.

    And, impossible to determine from whose perspective? Doesn’t say. Certainly, it isn’t at all unexpected that two outside newspaper reporters would not be able to determine how effective it is. After all, supposedly, it is secret. So, ideally, you wouldn’t want newspaper reporters, or any outsider, to be able to determine how effective or ineffective it is.

    So, it says nothing of any substance other than it is big. Which is also a subjective opinion.

    But, it is designed to get you to think it says something else.

    The article is littered with such statements.

    Which is not to say that buried within the twisted prose there might be a story.

    • Synoia says:

      Most people reading over this would think it says that the system is ineffective.

      How can it be effective? It’s producing more material than can be assimilated, and probably reports that conflict. with some careful cherry picking one could probably support almost any position.

      The volume problem is clearly spelled out. I’m a bit familiar with it. When I worked for IBM I tried to read all new product releases. I could not keep up with the volume, so I eliminated the small systems. I still could not keep up with the volume so I scanned the documents, and put the into a read now category (small), and read later stack.

      I never, ever, got back to the read later stack. I modified my sorting to “read now” or discard.

      It’s like having blogs without crowd sourcing to call BS. If fact putting all the intelligence on blogs would be more productive. It’s already not secret, because we can all speculate.

      The US Government’s Unintelligence system.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        It is astoundingly effective, from one point of view:

        Somewhere the Bearded Guy Is Laughing
        “… we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy …
        al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the event, while America [spent] more than
        $500 billion … Meaning that every dollar of al-Qaida defeated
        a million dollars.” – Osama bin Laden, 2004

        (frontpaged at Michael Moore right now)

        Osama bin Winning, since 2001

      • cregan says:

        Of course, and you are making the Tea Party’s big, main and most basic point–government that is too big is ineffective.

        Maybe you didn’t realize you had so much in common with the Tea Party.

        Though, like all “principle” in politics, there is no principle. Things you like, you don’t care are too big. Things you dislike can never be too small. The standard being the ever shifting viewpoint of the beholder.

        You don’t like the subject (war), leaks (gun camera film) are wonderful. You like the subject (Plame), leaks (Novak)are dastardly.

        That’s how it is today. Diogenes is still out searching.

  12. spanishinquisition says:

    It seems the only one to put all the pieces together was Bradley Manning – and now he’s been arrested. However, wasn’t it Clapper’s job (as Director of Defense Intelligence) to protect what Manning leaked? Clapper seems dually unqualified both for his intelligence failures in putting pieces together as well as his intelligence failures that compromised military intelligence to the point where some Spec can leak all sorts of things on his watch.

  13. pdaly says:

    Here’s Tim Shorrock today on Democracy Now

    He mentions that about 50% of his information for his book Spies for Hire (2008) was gleaned from attending and reading private national intelligence company investor meetings and pamphlets. I haven’t read his book yet.

    Shorrock wonders aloud why it took the Washington Post so long to print this information. Here’s a part answer: In Stephanopoulos’ website where, emptywheel notes in her tweet, Stephanopoulos provides anonymity to an Administration official critical of the WaPo article, Stephanopoulos then quotes Arkin defending the WaPo article:

    “We’ve been through months now of negotiations and discussions with the government. I don’t think there is anything here that would do harm to national security,” Arkin told me.

    • Mary says:

      months now of negotiations and discussions

      While Obamaco has been really getting into Guido, the Enforcer mode when it comes to whistleblowers – Drake, Tamm, Risen, Manning, etc. – all high profile, in their face, shows of muscle to try to get both reporters and sources to back off.

      Obama had to try really hard to look bad, even by comparison with the Sara Palins of the Republican party – but he’s pulled it off.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The two-headed hydra character of this series suggests a significant disconnect between the editorial staff and the most successful investigative reporter the Washington Post still has on its payroll.

    Ms. Priest is explicitly challenging all that inside the Beltwayers hold dear: money and the prospect of much more of it for as little work as possible; government access; powerful corporations feeding off the government teat; and a complete lack of accountability, through timid executive branch contracting practices and audits or congressional oversight, and obfuscation by the departments concerned and their accessible tradmed reporters.

    Ms. Priest ought to polish her resume, and keep several copies of her notes. Any of her peers who dared perform such traditional reporting would be separated from their employment faster than you can say “CNN”.

  15. SanderO says:

    The national security state is a self fulfilling paranoid god send for the MIC. The MIC needs enemies and threats and so the national security state finds them and more likely creates them.

    We really don’t need this bloated military establishment, because the threats are not of the magnitude of type that the military can engage in “battle”. We effectively have no real enemies… certainly the type who would land on our shores and subjugate us.

    And we really don’t need all this intel and spying and of course the op side creating all the mischief. It’s really not part of a true democratic society to have secret agencies as we do. We have slid right into the big brother state very easily with nary a pip from anyone.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Obfuscating the purposes of Ms. Priest’s reporting would presumably be what the editorial staff see as doing their job. The WaPoop is really Fluffy, guarding the philosopher’s stone of unaccountable journalism, which guards the political class in Washington. Putting out this story at what looks like a newsworthy time – shortly before Senate hearings to appoint a new DNI – while obfuscating its points, allows the Post to do that job while pretending that it’s still a major newspaper. The editors must be on their second case of champagne by now.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wonder what would be the response if, a la Tim Shorrock, a couple of hundred FDL readers and other bloggers went on a photo spree in Northern Virginia along intelligence row? All pictures taken from public highways and pavements, of course. Perhaps we better set up a legal defense fund first.

  18. mzchief says:

    { snark on } The WaPo– bringing you “news” today of what was apparent more than 15 years ago. { snark off }

  19. cbl2 says:

    thank you for all your coverage on this Emptwheel – especially for reminding us of Shorrock’s work.

    allow me to gild the wackaloon lilly – Clapper is also on the record in saying ‘WMD’s were relocated to Syria !”

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Greenwald covers this same story and asks this question:

    [H]ow much longer will Americans sit by passively and watch as a tiny elite become more bloated, more powerful, greedier, more corrupt and more unaccountable — as the little economic security, privacy and freedom most citizens possess vanish further still?

    And this:

    How long can this be sustained, where more and more money is poured into Endless War, a military that almost spends more than the rest of the world combined, where close to 50% of all U.S. tax revenue goes to military and intelligence spending, where the rich-poor gap grows seemingly without end, and the very people who virtually destroyed the world economy wallow in greater rewards than ever, all while the public infrastructure (both figuratively and literally) crumbles and the ruling class is openly collaborating on a bipartisan, public-private basis even to cut Social Security benefits?

    His answer is, “a lot longer”, owing to the tradmed’s choice of distraction journalism – Robert Gibbs and Mel Gibson, and the T&A of the new, drunk or fading model/actor/heiress/sportsperson/politician of the day. Thankfully, readers of FDL have another choice for their news, analysis and opinion.

    • klynn says:

      Thanks for the link. I find it interesting that the approach to problem solving the concern of too much data is to hire more data analysts. Not looking at strategies to streamline the supply chain is wreckless.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The rule that work will fill the time allotted to it, regardless of intrinsic demands of the job, should be extended to the budget, with a corollary about the amount spent on lobbying being directly proportional to a government’s willingness to allocate the first two resources – time and money – and indirectly proportional to value-add returned for those public resources.

        The short answer is that collecting data is enormously profitable. Analyzing data is trickier; it can be enormously profitable, too, but it can also generate a “paper” trail that demonstrates what government doesn’t want, that we did know in time to prevent something economically or physically terrible happening, but didn’t have the will to do it – or had conflicting profit motives not to prevent it.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      Over on Salon, alongside Greenwald, is Saving our digital heritage, about archiving of websites that is slipping through our fingers:

      This week in Washington, DC, the Library of Congress is gathering its “Digital Preservation Partners” for a three-day session — one of a number of such meetings the library has been holding under a broad initiative called the “National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.” Its multi-year mission is:

      to develop a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.

      It’s what my technology friends call a non-trivial task, for all kinds of technical, social and legal reasons. But it’s about as important for our future as anything I can imagine. We are creating vast amounts of information, and a lot of it is not just worth preserving but downright essential to save.

      It sounds like it might be worth getting around to.

      The author, Dan Gillmor, wonders too about what happens to newspaper archives of the small and the went-out-of-business papers.

      Good questions.

      So while the government sucks lunatic resources into secret, mindless fear and suspicion gathering for processing by an Alzheimers-like brain with broken synapses that can’t make connections, archiving of the sane and mindful community/reality type flounders.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yup, the archives of the former Rocky Mtn News in Boulder, CO, must be worth a lot, not to mention Molly Ivins’ notes.

  21. klynn says:

    Here’s a stat I would like to see. How many individuals employed by the contractors are dual citizens? How many dual citizens has the government decided to employ in national security positions?

    • fatster says:

      Please consider adding this to your wish list: How many contracts do those contracted with the US also have with other countries, which countries, for how many bucks and for what purpose?

      • klynn says:

        Yeah. Those questions should be added. I remember reading that our security contractors handle 70% of our work and deliver services to 80% of the countries in the world.

        And no one sees anything wrong with this picture?

        Here’s some interesting reading.

        • fatster says:

          Raytheon. Ah, yes. Just one more corporation that cannot exist without tax-payers’ monies being funneled to it. And a Senate and House with majorities all too eager to continue shoveling dollars in, and getting what “products” as a result? Campaign contributions from the corporations, I guess. Don’t seem to be many other “products” that protect us from terrists, or at least few they can tell us about and they can’t tell us much because of “national security” concerns.

          This is one huge self-perpetuating mess. And an enormously profitable one for the few who are chosen.

          Thnx for the link.

          • thatvisionthing says:

            This is one huge self-perpetuating mess. And an enormously profitable one for the few who are chosen.

            Cancer is enormously successful too, until it kills the host.

            • Adam503 says:

              At some point, all these crazy top secret freaks with no oversight, no morals, and lotsa guns are going to start shooting at each other.

              • Gitcheegumee says:

                No doubt they are already spying on each other’s corporate acounting statements.s/

            • fatster says:

              One part of this huge mess reminds me of Pascali’s Island (a movie not many saw, which ends up with the main character, played by Ben Kingsley, finally realizing what actually became of all the hundreds of reports he has faithfully furnished to the Sultan about the goings-on on the island which he constantly surveils). But then this mess is so huge that I appreciate your characterization of it. I may not collapse in on itself from its own weight, but it might just go on and on like Pascali’s reports did because nobody ever thought to write and tell him that the reports were never even read in Istanbul–by the Sultan or anyone else.

              • Gitcheegumee says:

                fatster, do you think that this WaPo article will shed any light on your query last week as to who oversees whom?

                • fatster says:

                  It’ll sure be interesting if it does, huh?

                  (And who’d faint dead-away to learn the answer is it’s the corporations who are the ones overseeing the federal agencies, congress, the WH, etc. I would add “LOL”, only it’s not funny.)

  22. Hugh says:

    the ongoing lack of real value-added analysis to make sense of all the intelligence collected, the opacity and potential waste and fraud of the entire IIC, and the turf battles that contribute to that waste

    That’s a really nice synopsis of our intelligence problems. I would just add the militarization of intelligence with so many programs going through DOD (because the DOD has money, power, and almost no Congressional oversight), the growing importance of JSOC, and the increasingly common practice of inserting military and former military (like Blair, McConnell, and Clapper) into top spots in “civilian” spy agencies. As the saying goes, if all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So it is with the military. Every problem looks like it has a military solution, and those that don’t aren’t important. I would also add the revolving door between government and contractors. It is cronyism and fosters (and covers up) a lot of the waste mentioned.

    I will now go off to read the article. I’m having some problems downloading it.

  23. knowbuddhau says:

    You mean the President of the Yewnited States of A-merica, the most powerful man in the world, leader of the free world, keeper of the Bully Pulpit and the Nuclear Football (ie, a doomsday device giving him the power of life and death over us all), isn’t god almighty already?

    Proponents of American Exceptionalism might dispute that fact. Or is the Israeli PM actually god almighty? Either way, we’re the kings of the world! And why?

    Because, as everyone knows, we’re god’s favorites nations on earth, his (and let there be no doubt: god’s got balls) gifts to the rest of the world.

    So yeah, god would be the perfect nominee, since it’s in his image that we mythologize our leaders into gods among mere mortals (paging Lloyd Blankfein, white-man’s burden courtesy phone, please) to begin with.

    Whereas we’re god’s gifts to earth;

    and whereas others violently oppose our efforts: to machine them into full-spectrum subjugation;

    Therefore let it be resolved:

    they’re obviously in league with the devil himself, and we’re doing god’s work by making their lives a living hell.

    That’s the wisdom of your and Scarecrow’s superb suggestion, to stop using the war metaphors.

    Scarecrow, commenting on emptywheel’s June 29 post on the Kagan hearings, has shown us the way to deal with juggernauts of all kinds.

    In the post, Elena Kagan and Lindsey Graham on the Global Battlefield, the Sequel, emptywheel describes her astonishment at the exchange, between Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Userious) and “Solicitor-General-for-the-purpose-resume-polishing” Elena Kagan, in which the two decide for us all that the only proper way for us Americans to be in the world is as if it’s a perpetual holy war.

    Incisively, ew points to Kagan’s failure to question Graham’s sleight-of-hand. Scarecrow’s superb suggestion relates to that failure.

    So, does any of this survive if we declare “there is no war on terror”? Declare al Qaeda or X to be international criminals to be pursued under criminal law and stop using the war metaphors. All the “war law” stuff become irrelevant, doesn’t it?

    To which ew replies, “That’s one of the reasons Kagan should have called Lindsey on his use of “hostilities.” Becuse if it’s just hostilities and not war, then the legal basis for indefinite detention collapses, as it should.”

    And to both of them I say, WORD! Well done, that’s what we need. Since the neo-feudal world being materialized by our dear MOTU is a creation of their atavistic ideologies, just so, by the power you just demonstrated, we can define their world of pain right out from around us. [Deconstructing Myths of America: Stop using the war metaphors (a reply to Scarecrow).]

    Is it by the power of myths, or facts, that we keep getting jacked into ever more war? Just so, we can get the Hell out of here by the power of creating our own shared narrative of our own shared awareness of our own shared becoming, but only if we do it without building war into it as the only proper way of being human in the world.

  24. perris says:


    I think the title needs an edit;

    The Real “Top Secret” Story: Obama Fails to Tackle Embrasses Unwieldy, Opaque National Intelligence Structure

  25. Hugh says:

    In a thread on this yesterday, I pointed out that our intelligence apparatus has not had a significant success in the last 50 years, not since finding missiles in Cuba in 1962. It has had on the other hand many major failures, 9/11, the fall of the Soviet Union, WMD in Iraq. There are also the failures to get bin Laden or Zawahiri, even after 9 years, ditto the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber. Nor did our intelligence community see coming either the Indian or the Pakistani nukes.

    I mean if spying is your thing, it’s great that you can tap into the internet and telephonic communications here or tap into satellite and underwater cables abroad, but it doesn’t mean a damn thing if you can’t understand the information you’re getting or if it doesn’t result in improved policies, priorities, and actions. This is why I said yesterday you could have a small group of a couple hundred specialists that could do a better job than our bloated corporatized intelligence behemoth. Would they miss some of the intelligence that our vast intelligence industry is currently hoovering up? Absolutely, but you don’t need every detail to understand what’s going on, and all the information in the world won’t do you any good if no one understands or knows how to use it.

    • knowbuddhau says:

      but you don’t need every detail to understand what’s going on, and all the information in the world won’t do you any good if no one understands or knows how to use it.

      Word! Well said, as usual, Hugh.

      The mythos of war is our operating system; the IIC and MIC (ike ‘n mike, how ironic) are our high priests of the temples of god’s own limitlessly-endowed levers of power (eg. the nuclear football that controls the machine that could kill us all today; the drones we use to rain death from above on “evil-doers;” the drones BP is using to machine the Gulf of Mexico back under their mechanical thumbs; the high-speed co-located computers Goldman Sachs and others are using to manipulate the “free” market in the very act of making it; and so on).

      Until we change the operating system, from life as a cog in The Great Cosmic Perpetual Motion Bogus Holy War Cash Machine, oh so easily jacked, to oh, let’s say, life as a dancing organism, no matter what data we put in, the result will always be ever more war as simply what we do.

      Anyone who has flown the friendly skies of late may have noticed a disturbing trend. I’m not referring to the endless post-9/11 security checks we’ve all come to expect, where shoes, tweezers, laptops, nail files, and a variety of other formerly nonthreatening items now double as WMD.

      But there’s another war brewing – a new terror in the skies. It’s the war on nut snacks. And it could get ugly.

      While the peanut war is not exactly a new conflict, (some schools have outlawed the nut in an attempt to minimize risks to peanut allergy sufferers), the latest brouhaha surrounding this popular legume has once again reared its ugly head, surfacing 30,000 feet up where peanut allergy sufferers and airlines may come to blows once again. [Source: Christian Science Monitor, April 14, 2006.]

      Allergy-sufferers and airlines in a fist fight? WTF is up with that?

      Is there anything we won’t describe with a freakin’ war metaphor? What better evidence could there be that war is the way way too many of us believe the world is made to work.

      If we keep believing what we’ve always believed, that the cosmos is god’s own, or no one’s own, perpetual motion cash machine, we’ll keep getting machined into full-spectrum subjugation by our self-righteous wannabe-war-god MOTU.

      So, if we don’t like that, don’t do that, right? That’s the profound change of worldview suggested in this highly unusual NYT op-ed by Stephen Jay Gould:

      (And yes, this is a lengthy comment; these are big ideas we’re dealing with, too. If reading whole paragraphs is going to put you out, then I suggest you scroll, baby, scroll.)

      The implications of this finding cascade across several realms. The commercial effects will be obvious, as so much biotechnology, including the rush to patent genes, has assumed the old view that “fixing” an aberrant gene would cure a specific human ailment. The social meaning may finally liberate us from the simplistic and harmful idea, false for many other reasons as well, that each aspect of our being, either physical or behavioral, may be ascribed to the action of a particular gene “for” the trait in question.

      But the deepest ramifications will be scientific or philosophical in the largest sense. From its late 17th century inception in modern form, science has strongly privileged the reductionist mode of thought that breaks overt complexity into constituent parts and then tries to explain the totality by the properties of these parts and simple interactions fully predictable from the parts. (“Analysis” literally means to dissolve into basic parts). The reductionist method works triumphantly for simple systems — predicting eclipses or the motion of planets (but not the histories of their complex surfaces), for example. But once again — and when will we ever learn? — we fell victim to hubris, as we imagined that, in discovering how to unlock some systems, we had found the key for the conquest of all natural phenomena. Will Parsifal ever learn that only humility (and a plurality of strategies for explanation) can locate the Holy Grail?

      The collapse of the doctrine of one gene for one protein, and one direction of causal flow from basic codes to elaborate totality, marks the failure of reductionism for the complex system that we call biology — and for two major reasons.

      First, the key to complexity is not more genes, but more combinations and interactions generated by fewer units of code — and many of these interactions (as emergent properties, to use the technical jargon) must be explained at the level of their appearance, for they cannot be predicted from the separate underlying parts alone. So organisms must be explained as organisms, and not as a summation of genes.

      Second, the unique contingencies of history, not the laws of physics, set many properties of complex biological systems. …

      The deflation of hubris is blessedly positive, not cynically disabling. The failure of reductionism doesn’t mark the failure of science, but only the replacement of an ultimately unworkable set of assumptions by more appropriate styles of explanation that study complexity at its own level and respect the influences of unique histories. Yes, the task will be much harder than reductionistic science imagined. But our 30,000 genes — in the glorious ramifications of their irreducible interactions — have made us sufficiently complex and at least potentially adequate for the task ahead.

      We may best succeed in this effort if we can heed some memorable words spoken by that other great historical figure born on Feb. 12 — on the very same day as Darwin, in 1809. Abraham Lincoln, in his first Inaugural Address, urged us to heal division and seek unity by marshaling the “better angels of our nature” — yet another irreducible and emergent property of our historically unique mentality, but inherent and invokable all the same, even though not resident within, say, gene 26 on chromosome number 12.

      Stephen Jay Gould, a professor of zoology at Harvard, is the author of “Questioning the Millennium.” [Source: Humbled by the Genome’s Mysteries, Stephen Jay Gould, New York Times, February 19, 2001.]

      (“Gould’s greatest contribution to science was the theory of punctuated equilibrium which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972.[2] The theory proposes that most evolution is marked by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is punctuated by rare instances of branching evolution. The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record. Wikipedia: Stephen Jay Gould. Look at political economics from that perspective.)

      Citizens must be described as human organisms–as kin, baby, kin; not as slaves on someone else’s plantation, toy soldiers of someone else’s cranky old war god, or cog’s in someone else’s inscrutable war machine.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Arguably, Stephen Jay Gould’s greatest contribution to science was making its borders accessible to the essay-literate layperson; his analogies that made it interesting to the non-scientist; his iteration of the classic emphasis on questions rather than answers (a la Richard Feynman); and his determination to use original sources in their original language (a la John Dominic Crossan), not the secondary source material that the likes of ominpresent conservative “historian” Niall Ferguson have given themselves over to.

        • knowbuddhau says:

          Thanks for that, earlofhuntingdon. Must confess, I didn’t know who NF was or is. Much obliged.

          I agree, he excelled at describing nature without explaining it away as “just a machine,” by far my least favorite reductive phrase in our language. I would’ve loved to have sat in on SJG’s lectures.

          It took forever for this science geek to realize, if the cosmos, our very own source, is just a machine, then so, too, are we. D’oh!

          When you hear, “oh, it’s just a (insert mechanistic metaphor here), who effing cares what we do to it, just aplly more leverage already,” you know by “leverage” they mean the infamous violence inherent in the system.

          Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?

          Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

          Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [integrisme], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

          Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

          Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

          Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries. [Zbigniew Brzezinski: How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen, Interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76*

          That right there, the mechanistic reduction of humanity to just a bunch of appetites on two legs, oh so easily jacked, is exactly the mindset the late, great, Howard Zinn, speaking of Obama himself, said we must change.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    When 854,000 people have the highest-rated security clearance possible, we have too many secrets.

    It’s a similar dynamic to the Jean Valjean problem, but in reverse. That is, when governments become so extreme in protecting the propertied class from property crime that they impose the galleys or a death sentence for stealing bread, them something’s gotta give.

    We simultaneously have too many secrets and not enough. We don’t know what government is doing in our name or how much of our declining resources it spends on it. But we tell the world where we are and what we do with our GPS-enabled cell phones, our personality-disclosing Facebook and Internet dating data, and the “appliance data” from our cable viewing, cars and whatnot that we allow vendors to claim exclusive ownership in. Yup, something’s gotta give.

  27. rikkidoglake says:

    Collateral Revenue Dept.:

    If there are 800,000+ Top Secret clearances in effect, who does the background investigations to grant or renew them?

    Largely USIS.

    And who profits from USIS business?


    “The company’s growth was aided a year ago [1999] when The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C.-based private investment firm, purchased 25 percent of USIS.”


    “The Carlyle Group has agreed to sell USIS LLC to private equity firm Providence Equity Partners for $1.5 billion.”


    “USIS is a leading provider of pre-employment screening solutions, the largest provider of security investigations for the federal government, and a global supplier of cleared personnel supporting critical federal programs.”

    In the words of Milo Minderbender, “Eveyone’s a member of The Syndicate. Everybody owns a share.”

  28. Adam503 says:

    The WaPO published this story on July 19th. That’s the same publishing hole covering a story on Saturday is. A deep hole. There’s 6 whole weeks for the story to die before anybody that matters notices.

    The Post only so behind this. There’s lots of stuff that gets published once never to be seen again with that very intention.

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ferguson is the darling of conservative apologists for empire. He is the little blue pill of smart young professors with too many looks and not enough empathy. He never met an argument for empire he couldn’t expand beyond all utility. His opinion columns should come with a warning label: If brain swelling persists for more than four hours, consult a physician.

    That does not bode well for American readers, television viewers or English schools. The UK’s conservative coalition government has given him a brief to recommend changes to the history curriculum in schools. Rather like putting Lynne Cheney in charge of interpreting American history as taught in the public schools.

    I suspect Mr. Ferguson’s take on government secrets is like his take on empires: can never have too many of them. What would the Belgians in the Congo; the Brits in India and East and South Africa; the French in North Africa or SE Asia; the Americans in Latin America and now here at home have done without their little secrets?

    • knowbuddhau says:

      Even more obliged. I’d seen the name, it rang a distant bell. Now I know for whom it tolls, thankyewveramush.

      I bow in your virtual direction (Coriolis correction requested outside continental US).

  30. tesseral says:

    …it will represent success on Obama’s part at forestalling efforts to deal in substantive way with the problems identified in the story.

    My God, is that how Obama will measure success? We should seriously start thinking about who we can put forward as a serious primary challenger to Obama.

  31. grandmashelia1 says:

    If they can’t monitor or control or define who, what, where and how many agencies, operatives, contractors, bagmen & mules there are, what they do, or how much the taxpayer is paying for this self-confessed chaos, how the hell can they keep track of “threats” or “Al Qaeda” or spies, or whoever the hell this week’s demonized boogeyman is?

  32. montywest says:

    All things considered, we could not expect to find a better intelligence expert than Mr. Clapper to serve as our next DNI. I’m delighted to know that our nation’s premier defense intelligence leader was tapped for this impossibly complex assignment — responsive, timely, thorough information sharing, even within the IC itself, is a real bear. I hope and pray that his health holds up going forward. As one former IC boss once said to me, “the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass everday”. Thanks be to God – it’s Jim Clapper’s turn!

  33. pajarito says:

    It could be nothing, but today at lunch I tried to open the WaPo site on a Department of Interior (DOI) (government) computer. It was blocked.

    Likely, they come and get me tomorrow…

  34. Sara says:

    I hope people saw Richard Clarke on Rachael Maddow’s show tonight. Invited to comment on the WP article, and made the point that at least with respect to 9/11 and other similar events, resources were never really the issue. The problem was the inability to focus the attention of decision makers on the content, largely because the content conflicted with their interests and agenda. Didn’t think additional resources added any value to National Security. Clarke was his usual raw self when he said this — keep in mind that while he holds no official position, he is very close to Obama, and has been since Obama first went to the Senate.

    Another thing to keep in mind as all this rolls out — most “progressives” have not yet caught on to Obama’s style of leadership. He is not one to pick up the baton and try to get out ahead of a marching band as a way of leading. He lets things roll out, and lets others declare their positions before he engages at all. This Post Article, and what I think is coming, shakes up those who have declared positions on things because it asks a couple of simple but fundamental questions — such as, do we need all that bling? or why couldn’t the Army Security outfit, the 902nd, figure out how to assess and deal with Major Nadal Husain before he tried to shoot up the Base? Article makes the point the 902nd was looking for threats to the army from the outside, I suppose they were again looking at pacifists and Quakers for the umpteenth time, not interested in threats from the inside. That part of the article made me laugh, as I had just finished my daily read-through of content on the Catholic Pedophile Priest Crisis, and I was rather looking for a good laugh, which can only come from a revelation of the hypocracy of the Human Condition — and I needed something to pair with the latest revealed wrinkle, namely a narrative that the same work of the devil that produces child abusing pedophile priests, also has managed to produced another evil shape, namely ladies who manage to get themselves ordained. Pair that with an Army Security outfit that ignores internal systemic threats, such as Officer Class Jahadi Psychologists, but instead does yet another massive study of unordained and uncommissioned pacifists. Needless to say, I liked that part of the article, it made me laugh once I saw the formal connections.

    Anyhow, I think Obama eventually will much benefit from the article, but don’t expect him to say much, or contribute any overt direction at this point. This guy leads by and from indirection, and in this respect he is very much like FDR. In public, and in most private places, FDR opposed FDIC, the insurance of smallish bank accounts, and allowed Congress to force the program down his throat. Ditto with Glass-Seagall, he opposed the whole idea in public and in virtually all private conversations, and let Senator Glass strut about as someone who was Leading FDR’s Banking Reforms. It may be the Tuba player in the last row of the marching band who is keeping the simple two note beat, but everyone’s eyes are on the fancy drum major up front holding the baton.

    Obama’s problem is he needs to massively reduce the deficit, and the big ticket reductions are Pentagon Programs and the huge and incompetent Intelligence Operation he inherited, and that like Pentagon Weapons Programs, the appropriations have been spread around the country as a jobs program in mission critical Congressional Districts as Intelligence Pork. Obama can’t attack this directly on its own logic — he has to be pushed into it in part by the deficit hawks, and it has to happen in such a way that the “Obama is a Muslim Terrorist who is destroying National Security Agencies” crowd doesn’t have the mike. Sadly, if he wants to protect the funds for Health Care, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, Education, Green Energy and the like — he has to significantly downsize the Military and Intelligence Industrial Complex. But he has to lead into that position by indirection. The time to do the cuts is this fall — when they do the next Military Appropriations Bill. About 80% of the funding for Intelligence is in the Military Budget — so we should be focused on Carl Levin’s actions, and a little less on DiFi. I think the WPost Articles very nicely laid groundwork for some significant appropriations fights this fall. Some of those nice new buildings out on the way to Dulles will make nice HQ’s for future Health Care Civil Servants. Maybe Elizabeth Warren will get one for Consumer Protection.

    So now for the second article in the series….