9/11: A Story of Attacks, Horror, Victims, Heroes and Jingoistic Shame

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-54-38-amSeptember 11, 2001 is now 15 years in the mirror of life. Like the two Kennedy assassinations, the Moonshot and a few other events in life, it is one of those “yeah I remember where I was when…” moments. Personally, being on west coast time, I was just waking up thinking all I had was a normal morning court calendar. When my wife, who gets up far earlier than I, shouted at me to rub out the cobwebs and watch the TV because something was seriously wrong in New York City. She was right. It was a hell of a day, one of unspeakable tragedy and indescribable heroism. It was truly all there in one compact day, unlike any other, save maybe December 7, 1941.

2,996 people lost their lives, and their families and history were forever altered in the course of hours on an otherwise clear and beautiful day in Manhattan. Most were simply innocent victims, but many were the epitome of heroes who charged into a hellscape to try to salvage any life they could. There were other heroes that altered their lives in response, and either died or were forever changed as a result. One was a friend of mine from South Tempe, Pat Tillman.

No one can speak for Pat Tillman, and, save for his family, those who claim to only prove they never met the man. All I can say is, I wish he were here today. The one thing that is certain is he would not give the prepackaged trite partisan reaches you are likely to hear today. It would be unfiltered truth. Which the US did not get from its leaders after September 11, 2001, and is still missing today.

Instead of rallying and solidifying the oneness of the American citizenry that was extant immediately after September 11, 2001, the Bush/Cheney Administration and GOP told us to go shopping and that we needed to invade Iraq, who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. It was a fools, if not devil’s, errand and a move that threw away an opportunity for greatness from the country and exploited it in favor of war crimes and raw political power expansion and consolidation.

Instead of gelling the United States to make ourselves better as the “Greatest Generation” did sixty years before, America was wholesale sold a bill of goods by a determined group of unreformed and craven Neo-Con war criminals left over from the Vietnam era, and we were led down the path to a war of aggression that was an unmitigated disaster we have not only not recovered from today, but are still compounding.

The 2000’s will prove to be a decade of American shame when history is written decades from now. Not from the attacks, but from our craven response thereto. So, pardon me if I join Colin Kaepernick and choose not to join, every Sunday, just because the Madison Avenue revenue generating NFL of Roger Goodell cravenly exploits it, the jingoistic bullshit of rote dedication to a racist National Anthem. Also, too, shame on opportunistic and Constitutionally ignorant whiny police unions who scold free speech and threaten to abandon their jobs in the face of it.

powell_un_anthraxBut that is all over now surely. Taking the United States, nee the world, to a forever war on the wings of a craven lie is universally recognized, condemned and scorned, right?

No. The Neo-Cons are unrepentant and still trying to advance themselves on the lie that their once and forever war justifies more than their prosecution and conviction in The Hague. Here is a belligerent and unrepentant Dick Cheney passing the torch of evil to his spawn Liz Cheney in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal:

We are no longer interrogating terrorists in part because we are no longer capturing terrorists. Since taking office, the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us. Until recently, the head of recruitment for ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a former Guantanamo detainee, as is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in the Arabian Peninsula.

As he released terrorists to return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy “ending wars.” Most reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.

Times may change, but the bottomless pit of Cheney lies and evil do not. As Charlie Savage pointed out on Twitter, the two terrorists the Cheneys refer to were actually released back to the “field of battle” by Bush and Cheney, not Obama. Was Obama involved in the story? Yes, he would be the one who actually tracked them down and killed them.

And then there is the failure to learn the lessons of the failed torture regime Bush and Cheney instituted as the hallmark of the “War on Terror”. Our friend, and former colleague, Spencer Ackerman has a must read three part series over the last three days in The Guardian (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) detailing how the CIA rolled the Obama Administration and prevented any of the necessary exposure, accountability and reform that was desperately needed in the aftermath of the torture regime and war of aggression in Iraq. It will take a while, but read all three parts. It is exasperating and maddening. It is also journalism at its finest.

And so, as we glide through the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, what are we left with from our response to the attacks? A destabilized world, an ingraining of hideous mistakes and a domestic scene more notable for jingoism and faux patriotism than dedication to the founding principles that America should stand for.

That is not what the real heroes, not only of 9/11 but the totality of American history, died to support and protect. In fact, it is an insult to their efforts and lives. If America wants to win the “War on Terror”, we need to get our heads out of our asses, quit listening to the neocons, war mongers, and military industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, and act intelligently. This requires a cessation of adherence to jingoistic and inane propaganda and thought, and a focus on the principles we are supposed to stand for.

In Attempted Hit Piece, NYT Makes Putin Hero of Defeating TPP

In an remarkable hit piece NYT spent over 5,000 words yesterday trying to prove that all of WikiLeaks’ leaks are motivated from a desire to benefit Russia.

That of course took some doing. It required ignoring the evidence of the other potential source of motivation for Julian Assange — such as that Hillary participated in an aggressive, and potentially illegal, prosecution of Assange for being a publisher and Chelsea Manning for being his source — even as it repeatedly presented evidence that that was Assange’s motivation.

Putin, who clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state,

[snip]

In late November 2010, United States officials announced an investigation of WikiLeaks; Mrs. Clinton, whose State Department was scrambled by what became known as “Cablegate,” vowed to take “aggressive” steps to hold those responsible to account.

[snip]

Another person who collaborated with WikiLeaks in the past added: “He views everything through the prism of how he’s treated. America and Hillary Clinton have caused him trouble, and Russia never has.”

It also required dismissing some of the most interesting counterexamples to the NYT’s thesis.

Sunshine Press, the group’s public relations voice, pointed out that in 2012 WikiLeaks also published an archive it called the Syria files — more than two million emails from and about the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia is supporting in Syria’s civil war.

Yet at the time of the release, Mr. Assange’s associate, Ms. Harrison, characterized the material as “embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents.” Since then, Mr. Assange has accused the United States of deliberately destabilizing Syria, but has not publicly criticized human rights abuses by Mr. Assad and Russian forces fighting there.

As I have noted, there is a significant likelihood that the Syria files came via Sabu and Anonymous from the FBI — that is, that it was actually an American spy operation. Even aside from how important a counterexample the Syrian files are (because they went directly contrary to Putin’s interests in protecting Assad, no matter how bad they made Assad’s western trade partners look), the provenance of these files and Assange’s current understanding of them deserve some attention if NYT is going to spend 5,000 words on this story.

But the most remarkable stunt in this 5,000 screed is taking Wikileaks’ efforts to show policies a great many people believe are counterproductive — most importantly, passing trade deals that benefit corporations while hurting real people, but also weakening other strong hands in climate change negotiations — and insinuating they might be a Putinesque plot. This bit requires editorial notes in line:

From November 2013 to May 2016, WikiLeaks published documents describing internal deliberations on two trade pacts: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would liberalize trade [ed: no, it would protect IP, the opposite of liberalizing trade] between the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries, and the Trade in Services Agreement, an accord between the United States, 21 other countries and the European Union.

Russia, which was excluded, has been the most vocal opponent of the pacts [this is presented with no evidence, nor even a standard of evidence. I and all of America’s TPP opponents as well as TPP opponents from around the world must redouble our very loud effort], with Mr. Putin portraying them as an effort to give the United States an unfair leg up in the global economy.

The drafts released by WikiLeaks stirred controversy among environmentalists, advocates of internet freedom and privacy, labor leaders and corporate governance watchdogs, among others. They also stoked populist resentment against free trade that has become an important factor in American and European politics. [Here, rather than admitting that this broad opposition to these trade deals shows that Putin is not the most vocal opponent of these pacts — contrary to their foundational assumption in this section — they instead portray a wide spectrum of well-considered activism as unthinking response to Putinesque manipulation. And note, here, a news outlet is complaining that ordinary citizens get access to critically important news, without even blushing? Also note the NYT makes no mention of the members of Congress who were also begging for this information, which makes it easier to ignore the profoundly anti-democratic nature of these trade agreements.]

The material was released at critical moments, with the apparent aim of thwarting negotiations, American trade officials said. [In a piece obscuring the unpopular and anti-democratic nature of these trade deals, the NYT gives these sources anonymity.]

WikiLeaks highlighted the domestic and international discord on its Twitter accounts.

American negotiators assumed that the leaks had come from a party at the table seeking leverage. [That anonymity again: NYT is protecting some bitter trade negotiators who’ve invented a paranoid conspiracy here. On what grounds?]

Then in July 2015, on the day American and Japanese negotiators were working out the final details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, came what WikiLeaks dubbed its “Target Tokyo” release.

Relying on top-secret N.S.A. documents, the release highlighted 35 American espionage targets in Japan, including cabinet members and trade negotiators, as well as companies like Mitsubishi. The trade accord was finally agreed on — though it has not been ratified by the United States Senate — but the document release threw a wrench into the talks.

“The lesson for Japan is this: Do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honor or respect,” Mr. Assange said in a news release at the time. “There is only one rule: There are no rules.” [That the US spies on trade negotiations was of course not news by this point. But it is, nevertheless, worthy to point out.]

Because of the files’ provenance, United States intelligence officials assumed that Mr. Assange had gotten his hands on some of the N.S.A. documents copied by Mr. Snowden.

But in an interview, Glenn Greenwald, one of the two journalists entrusted with the full Snowden archive, said that Mr. Snowden had not given his documents to WikiLeaks and that the “Target Tokyo” documents were not even among those Mr. Snowden had taken.

The next paragraph goes on to note that the same NSA documents focused on climate negotiations between Germany and the UN, which seems to suggest the NYT also believes it is in petro-state leader Putin’s interest for the US attempts to dominate climate change negotiations to be thwarted, even as Assange describes US actions as protection petroleum interests, which of course align with Putin’s own.

In other words, as a central piece of evidence, the NYT spent 11 paragraphs repackaging opposition to shitty trade deals — a widely held very American view (not to mention a prominent one is most other countries affected) — into something directed by Russia, as if the only reasons to oppose TPP are to keep Russia on an equal shitty neoliberal trade footing as the rest of us, as if opposing the deals don’t benefit a whole bunch of red-blooded Americans.

That’s not only logically disastrous, especially in something billed as “news,” but it is very dangerous. It makes legitimate opposition to bad (albeit widely accepted as good within beltway and I guess NYT conventional wisdom) policy something disloyal.

NYT’s argument that Putin was behind WikiLeaks’ NSA leaks doesn’t hold together for a lot of reasons (not least that those two topics are probably not what Putin would prioritize, or even close). But it also has the bizarre effect, in a hit piece targeting Assange and Putin, of making Putin the hero of the anti-TPP movement.

And yet, NYT’s three journalists don’t seem to understand how counterproductive to their “journalistic” endeavor that argument is.

Update: Oy. As Trevor Timm notes, NYT worked with WL on the TPP release.

CIA Director Entry Number 2: Mike Morell, Fabulist

As Eli Lake wrote the other day, there are three men angling to be CIA Director under President Hillary: John Brennan, Mike Morell, and Mike Vickers.

I’ve already explained what is terrifying about Vickers’ audition to be CIA Director: after laying out the Hillary as Commander-in-Chief case (which appears to be mandatory for these things), Vickers then talks about how we need to escalate our wars and belligerence.

To be sure, we will need more aggressive counterterrorism strategies, stronger support for the Syrian opposition as the only plausible counterweight to authoritarianism and extremism within Syria, more effective counters to Iranian and Russian expansion, and better strategies for deterring and competing with China over the long term.

Henceforth, I will refer to Vickers as The Escalationist.

Today, Mike Morell submitted his audition to be CIA Director.

As Vickers did (these do seem to be formulaic), Morell lays out his extensive bipartisan past (Vickers claims service under 4 Republican and 2 Democratic Presidents, Morell claims 3 of each), then talks about how serving with Hillary convinced him she has the temperament to be Commander-in-Chief.

I spent four years working with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, most often in the White House Situation Room. In these critically important meetings, I found her to be prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument.

Like Vickers, Morell lauds Hillary’s courage in pushing for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Mrs. Clinton was an early advocate of the raid that brought Bin Laden to justice, in opposition to some of her most important colleagues on the National Security Council.

[snip]

I never saw her bring politics into the Situation Room. In fact, I saw the opposite. When some wanted to delay the Bin Laden raid by one day because the White House Correspondents Dinner might be disrupted, she said, “Screw the White House Correspondents Dinner.”

Disrupting White House Correspondents Dinner to kill someone would count as politics? Really?

Also like Vickers, Morell then lays out Trump’s lack of qualification for the job, both in terms of background and temperament.

But Morell’s gimmick — the brand that sets him apart on this quest to be CIA Director — is not an explicit call for escalation, but instead the specific gloss he puts on Trump’s soft spot for Putin. After portraying Trump’s careless claims as full endorsements of Putin, Morell claims Trump has been recruited by the old KGB officer, albeit unwittingly.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor in making political hay out of Trump’s call on Putin to hack Hillary, especially coming as it does from someone (unlike Jake Sullivan and Leon Panetta) without a known history of mishandling classified information.

But that line? “recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”? That’s all about the clicks, and it has been serving splendidly. Just like “Slam Dunk” was a nifty line.

In a piece auditioning to be CIA Director, I’d prefer someone stick more rigorously to the truth. Trump is an apologist for Putin, undoubtedly, but there’s no more evidence Putin has recruited Trump (unwittingly) than there is, say, the Saudis have recruited Hillary. They’re all just picking the assholes they champion, with Hillary picking the assholes we’ve long championed.

Then again, this is not the first time Morell has stretched the truth a bit — up to and including on torture, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the tactic.

So there you have it: The Escalationist versus The Fabulist, your first two contestants on the Price is Right CIA nomination competition.

Sadly, we probably won’t see something quite so explicit from Brennan (though it would be amusing to see if a third endorsement hewed so closely to the same script as the other two), so we’ll just have to accept Lake’s “drone warrior” brand for him.

Eli Lake’s Portrayal of the CIA Director Campaign: Drones, Benghazi, and … ?

Eli Lake reports that John Brennan wants to stay on as CIA Director under President Hillary. That’s not surprising given that Brennan believes (as Lake notes) CIA Directors should get 10 year terms just like FBI Directors do.

I thought maybe Brennan wanted to stick around to make sure he gets credit for bettering Allen Dulles’ record for regime change (after all, it’s not clear how the regime change conducted while Brennan was at the White House gets counted in these things).

Apparently not. After laying out what he portrays as opposition from both the left and right (not that that stopped Brennan from being confirmed in 2013), Lake describes that Brennan might stay because he’s the architect of the drone war.

Brennan does have the benefit of understanding the intricacies of the U.S. drone war that expanded significantly under Obama. Indeed, he is one of the main authors of that policy, going back to his time at the White House during Obama’s first term.

There was a time when Obama endeavored to end that war by the time he left office. It’s now clear that Obama’s successor will inherit it. Brennan is hoping that if that successor is Clinton, she will also inherit the architect of the drone war that he and Obama can’t seem to end.

This, at a time when the Senate Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee still squabble over who should drive the drone war.

Lake describes Mike Morell’s case (someone Dianne Feinstein has lobbied against in the past) this way:

Morell in particular has been helpful to Clinton. In his memoir and in congressional testimony, he blamed the CIA and the White House for the talking points on the 2012 Benghazi attack that attributed an act of terror to a demonstration over an internet video. Clinton, of course, was secretary of state at the time, and Republicans have leveled most of their criticism of Benghazi at her.

Lake pretends that the stated role in Benghazi and unstated opposition from Feinstein based off Morell’s comments about the torture report wouldn’t sink his candidacy. Maybe that wouldn’t?

Which leaves Mike Vickers, about whom Lake only mentions Vickers’ history as “former CIA officer and undersecretary of defense for intelligence.” Thankfully, Vickers has made his own case, in a recent endorsement of Hillary. After Vickers recalls his own bipartisan history (largely running covert ops), he raises Hillary’s favorite alleged proof of her national security chops, when she advised Obama to launch the Osama bin Laden raid.

As a Green Beret, CIA operations officer and senior national security official, I have served under six presidents—four Republicans and two Democrats. The last was Barack Obama, and for four years in the White House Situation Room, I saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s sound strategic judgment first-hand—on the Afghanistan surge, the campaign to dismantle and defeat core al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region, the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, and on lethal support for the moderate Syrian opposition. Secretary Clinton has the temperament, national security experience and strategic judgment to be an outstanding commander in chief. Donald Trump does not. I’m with her.

Vickers then ends his “endorsement” by confidently asserting we need to be more hawkish than we currently are.

To be sure, we will need more aggressive counterterrorism strategies, stronger support for the Syrian opposition as the only plausible counterweight to authoritarianism and extremism within Syria, more effective counters to Iranian and Russian expansion, and better strategies for deterring and competing with China over the long term. But just as we needed an experienced and steady hand to guide us safely through the early years of the Cold War, we need an experienced and steady hand to guide us through the current challenges to American leadership and world order. Only one candidate in this presidential race can supply that.

There you have the race to be CIA Director under Hillary (at least as viewed through a Neocon lens): the current drone architect, Mr. Benghazi, or the guy whose enthusiasm for covert ops matches Hillary’s own.

IARPA’s MOSAIC FitBit for Psych

EFF’s Dave Maass discovered this conference notice from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

Selecting and evaluating a workforce that is well-suited for the psychological and cognitive demands of the diverse positions across the Intelligence Community (IC) is an important and persistent need. This is growing in importance as the pace and complexity of the challenges facing the IC workforce grow and expand. Methods that enhance our ability to evaluate an individual’s psychological drivers, cognitive abilities, and mental wellness and resilience will enable improved capabilities to select the right person for the right job, evaluate and help maintain optimal performance throughout their career, and better understand and anticipate changes in an individual that may impact their work effectiveness, productivity, and overall health and wellness.

To address this challenge, the MOSAIC program aims to take advantage of multimodal mobile, worn, and carried sensors and the corresponding data to enable the measurement of an individual in situ, throughout their daily activities, using an aggregate of behavior, physiology, social dynamics, physical location and proximity, as well as other novel data sources. Research in this program will aim to establish convergent validity of multimodal signals across a range of researcher-defined contexts and over time to enable accurate and personalized evaluations. It is anticipated that research teams will develop and test a suite of multimodal sensors to collect a range of subject-focused and situational data; build capabilities to develop an integrated model of the subject, their behaviors, and the social and physical context; and advance methods to personalize modeling approaches to develop accurate assessments of an individual over time.

The Program, which uses the intelligence jargon “Mosaic” to stand for “Multimodal Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals with Context” would start with volunteers and then roll out better measurements, though it’s not clear whether the program, as conceived, would roll out to the IC as a whole.

It’s all very spooky, especially given that it doesn’t really say what it wants to measure. Is it going to be a running polygraph, a constant assessment of deceit of the kind the IC doesn’t encourage, if that can be distinguished from the kind it does? Will it measure how the best operatives respond to stress? What kind of spying on the spies will it enable?

But it’s nice to see IARPA making clear whether the push for things like FitBit will lead the rest of society.

CIA’s Idea of Digital Innovation: Attempt (and Fail) to Buy an Existing News Service

A week ago Sunday, the WSJ reported that Twitter had cut off an In-Q-Tel funded company, Dataminr, from sharing data with the intelligence community.

Twitter Inc. cut off U.S. intelligence agencies from access to a service that sifts through the entire output of its social-media postings, the latest example of tension between Silicon Valley and the federal government over terrorism and privacy.

The move, which hasn’t been publicly announced, was confirmed by a senior U.S. intelligence official and other people familiar with the matter.

Twitter spokesperson Nu Wexler told me this is actually long-standing policy.

Dataminr uses public Tweets to sell breaking news alerts to media organizations such as Dow Jones and government agencies such as the World Health Organization, for non-surveillance purposes. We have never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes. This is a longstanding Twitter policy, not a new development.

Indeed, as CNBC reported later in the week, this has been something the IC has been badgering Twitter about since September. Just as interesting, CNBC reports that CIA’s OSINT center wants the data.

It has not been clear exactly which entity in the vast U.S. intelligence apparatus was involved in the dispute with Twitter, but sources tell CNBC that it was a division of the CIA known as Open Source Enterprise. According to the CIA’s website, that unit is a part of the CIA’s directorate of digital innovation. It was created in the wake of recommendations by both the 9-11 Commission and the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission that CIA focus more effort on gathering “open source” information — data that is available to anyone in the public, as opposed to information that can only be gathered through covert means.

 

Which raises even more questions for me about the timing of the request, and of these misleading claims from anonymous intelligence officials. Why go public now? It’s not like CIA is any more popular than it was six months ago (though it’s possible the pressure is tied to CIA’s reorganization).

As far as the request, it’s interesting CIA never made this demand after the Arab Spring, which CIA missed entirely because it was listening to Omar Suleiman rather than watching social media like the rest of us. That would have been the moment to make this case (I assume CIA and FBI both use more targeted tracking of ISIS Twitter).

Instead, the request seems more likely tied to the roll out of the larger organization, CIA’s new McKinsey-recommended Directorate of Digital Innovation last October. I would have thought that a claimed commitment to developing digital expertise would have led CIA to set up its own scraping system, rather than trying to purchase the same service news outlets use (to questionable value, according to some people commenting on this). Unless, of course, CIA’s goal is Dataminr’s “firehose,” including all Americans’ Twitter.

This incident ought to raise two questions: one why is CIA lying to ratchet pressure up on Twitter. And two, what the heck is the Digital Innovation Center for if this is the kind of “innovation” they’re seeking?

FBI Can’t Have Whistleblower Protection Because It Would Encourage Too Many Complaints

The Department of Justice is undercutting Chuck Grassley’s efforts to provide FBI employees whistleblower protection. That became clear in an exchange (2:42) on Wednesday.

The exchange disclosed two objections DOJ has raised to Grassley’s FBI Whistleblower Protect Act. First, as Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed, DOJ is worried that permitting FBI Agents to report crimes or waste through their chain of command would risk exposing intelligence programs.

What I would say is that as we work through this issue, please know that, again, any concerns that the Department raises are not out of a disagreement with the point of view of the protection of whistleblowers but again, just making sure that the FBI’s intelligence are also protected at the same time.

I suspect (though am looking for guidance) that the problem may be that the bill permits whistleblowers to go to any member of Congress, rather than just ones on the Intelligence Committees. It’s also possible that DOJ worries whistleblowers will be able to go to someone senior to them, but not read into a given program.

Still, coming from an agency that doesn’t adequately report things like its National Security Letter usage to Congress, which has changed its reporting to the Intelligence Oversight Board so as to exempt more activities, and can’t even count its usage of other intelligence programs, it seems like a tremendous problem that DOJ doesn’t want FBI whistleblowers to have protection because it might expose what FBI is doing on intelligence.

That’s sort of the point!

Especially given Grassley’s other point: apparently, DOJ is opposed to the bill because it will elicit too many complaints.

One of the issues that your department has raised is that allowing FBI employees to report wrong-doing to their chain of command could lead to too many complaints. You know? What’s wrong with too many complaints? … Seems to me you’d invite every wrong doing to get reported to somebody so it could get corrected.

Apparently, DOJ knows there are so many problems FBI employees would like to complain about that things would grind to a halt if they were actually permitted to complain.

This is the FBI! Not only a bureau that has tremendous power over people, but also one with a well-documented history of abuse. It should be the first entity that has whistleblower protection, not the last!

Grassley raised two more points. First, in April 2014, DOJ promised to issue new guidelines on whistleblowing for FBI, clarifying who employees could go to. That hasn’t been done yet.

FBI has, however, created a video about whistleblowing which is, according to what Grassley said, pretty crappy. He’s asking for both those things as well.

Snickers Bars and Fudged ISIS Intelligence

Yesterday, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef informed us that there is now a second allegation of manipulation of intelligence on ISIS:

U.S. military analysts told the nation’s top intelligence official that their reports on ISIS were skewed and manipulated by their bosses, The Daily Beast has learned. The result: an overly optimistic account of the campaign against the terror group.

The complaints, lodged by analysts at U.S. Central Command in 2015, are separate from allegations that analysts made to the Defense Department inspector general, who is now investigating “whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information” by the senior officials that run CENTCOM’s intelligence group.

This second set of accusations, which have not been previously reported, were made to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). They show that the officials charged with overseeing all U.S. intelligence activities were aware, through their own channels, of potential problems with the integrity of information on ISIS, some of which made its way to President Obama.

Once again, it is senior officials at CENTCOM who are accused of manipulating the reports from analysts to make it look as though the US is making more progress against ISIS than is actually happening.

I had never gotten around to posting on this issue when the first accusations came out, but it is my belief that neither investigation will find these senior people at CENTCOM to be guilty of any transgressions. Instead, it seems very likely to me that these officers will claim that they were taking part in an Information Operation aimed at making the fighters within ISIS think that the situation is deteriorating more than is the actual case. I wrote about operations of this sort, termed MILDEC (for Military Deception) back in 2010.

One tidbit I had found back then related to the functions of MILDEC:

Causing ambiguity, confusion, or misunderstanding in adversary perceptions of friendly critical information, which may include: unit identities, locations, movements, dispositions, weaknesses, capabilities, strengths, supply status, and intentions.

Simply by stating that this is what they were doing, these senior officers seem likely to avoid any negative consequences for what they have done. But Harris and Youssef seem to think that the fudging of data was done to fit the intelligence to the Obama administration’s previous comments:

The analysts have said that they believe their reports were altered for political reasons, namely to adhere to Obama administration officials’ public statements that the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS is making progress and has put a dent in the group’s financing and operations.

While that does seem like a distinct possibility, it feels backwards to me. Although the Pentagon is not allowed to aim any of its propaganda toward a US audience (unlike recent loosening of this regulation for propaganda from the State Department), I would think that the real target for these senior officers would be the President and Congress. Even though they have the cover of saying they are spinning yarns to fool ISIS, keeping the bosses who control the purse strings happy would fit quite well with what is going on. [Over at Moon of Alabama, b has an alternate theory about various forces at work relating to ISIS, especially in Syria.]

What a coincidence for me, though, that as I was thinking about MILDEC relating to capability estimates of ISIS, this hilarious AP story came out less than 24 hours later:

Faced with a cash shortage in its so-called caliphate, the Islamic State group has slashed salaries across the region, asked Raqqa residents to pay utility bills in black market American dollars, and is now releasing detainees for a price of $500 a person.

The extremists who once bragged about minting their own currency are having a hard time meeting expenses, thanks to coalition airstrikes and other measures that have eroded millions from their finances since last fall. Having built up loyalty among militants with good salaries and honeymoon and baby bonuses, the group has stopped providing even the smaller perks: free energy drinks and Snickers bars.

Interestingly, the story goes back over most of the information in those two opening paragraphs and makes attributions (although some look pretty flimsy) for the sources of the information. The Snickers part, however, is credited to no sources.

At a time when senior officers at CENTCOM are fudging data on ISIS supplies and capabilities, perhaps as part of an Information Operation, why shouldn’t they throw in a gratuitous Snickers jab?

But then again, if ISIS really isn’t getting their Snickers bars, we could be in big trouble:

What We Don’t Know about What Rummy Didn’t Know

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.45.31 AMEarlier this week, Politico did a story on a report done for Donald Rumsfeld in summer 2002 about what the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Intelligence team knew about Saddam’s WMD program.

There are two specifics of significant note the Politico report doesn’t get into. First, it notes that the report itself was dated September 5 and Rumsfeld passed it on to Richard Myers, saying, “It is big” on September 9. But it neglects one significant detail about the date.

The report said “we think a centrifuge enrichment program is under development but not yet operational.” Someone — presumably either Rummy or Myers — marked that passage in the Powerpoint. That same person also marked an earlier slide that said “Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence,” though that person did not mark the following line that read, “The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”

Those dates are significant, however, because between the time the report was finished on September 5 and Rummy passed it on on September 9, both he and Myers did the Sunday shows as part of the aluminum tube bonanza, which itself was premised on the claim that Iraq had tried to obtain those tubes because they “were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.” (On Saturday, at least Rummy and possibly Myers spent the day at Camp David with other top Bush officials and Tony Blair planning to get their war on.)

To be fair to them both, they didn’t say anything that greatly varied from this report (in any case, both may not have read it yet) or even directly address the centrifuge story.

The secretary also asserted that Iraq is on the list of the world’s terrorist states, and under Saddam Iraq continues to possess chemical and biological weapons, and seeks to acquire nuclear arms, as well. As such, he said, Iraq represents a clear and present danger to America — and to the world.

Show host Bob Schieffer asked Rumsfeld if the United States was close to going to war against Iraq. The secretary said President Bush has decided that a regime change in Iraq is necessary, but hasn’t yet decided how it would be accomplished. The nation’s leader is slated to go before the United Nations to “make what he believes to be is a recommendation to the international community and to the world” about what to do about Saddam and Iraq, Rumsfeld said.

Iraq, Rumsfeld said, has invaded its neighbors, persists in violating U.N. resolutions it had agreed to, and continues to amass weapons of mass destruction, creating a significant problem for the international community.

The world can approach the problem of Saddam in a number of ways, Rumsfeld remarked. However, he emphasized that he agrees with the president in that doing nothing is not an option.

People seeking a “smoking gun” — absolute, conclusive evidence that Saddam has nuclear weapons — Rumsfeld noted, is like developing a case in a court of law by proving a person’s guilt without a reasonable doubt.

“The way one gains absolute certainty as to whether a dictator like Saddam Hussein has a nuclear weapon is if he uses it. And that’s a little late,” Rumsfeld emphasized.

The secretary pointed out how some U.S. intelligence on Iraqi capabilities may not be revealed to the public for good reason. Putting certain intelligence out to the public could “put people’s lives at risk,” he noted. However, the secretary said more information about Iraq would likely become known in the days and months ahead.

Rumsfeld noted there is also “a category of things we don’t know.” After Operation Desert Storm, he noted, American officials discovered that Saddam was six months to a year away from developing a nuclear weapon. The best previous intelligence had estimated it would take two to six years for Saddam to obtain a nuclear bomb, Rumsfeld said. [my emphasis]

Indeed, while Rummy used a variant of the “smoking gun” line Condi Rice used, he presented it more as a legalistic phrase than the fearful line the National Security Advisor delivered it as. He stressed that US intelligence was withholding information. And he admitted that there was stuff “we don’t know,” though suggested that in the past the stuff we didn’t know ended up being that Saddam was closer to getting nukes than previously believed.

And Myers, too, emphasized Saddam’s quest to improve his nuke program.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated to ABC This Week host Sam Donaldson that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons.

Saddam, Myers added, also wants “to better his nuclear program.”

“He’s going to go to any means to do that, we think,” he said. “Our estimate is at this point he does not have nuclear weapons, but he wants one.”

Basically, though, it appears that after Rummy and Myers had just been put on the Sunday shows to reinforce the hysteria Condi and Cheney were sowing, Rummy read a report and learned that his own intelligence people were none too sure about what he and Myers had just said, at which point he sent it to Myers and said “it is big.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.28.13 AMAt that point, it was probably too late.

The other thing Politico didn’t note, however, is that the actual Powerpoint was not entirely declassified. Indeed, the entire last page was redacted under 1.4 a, b, and c exemptions.

1.4(a) military plans, systems, or operations;

1.4(b) foreign government information;

1.4(c) intelligence activities, sources or methods, or cryptology;

I find that interesting because the Iraq foreign government information in the presentation is no longer considered sensitive, so it presumably cites some other foreign government information.

I suspect the redacted information either cites the equally dubious British intelligence claiming Saddam had WMD or that it invokes Saddam’s ties to terrorism (which both Rummy and Myers did mention in their Sunday appearances). If it’s the latter, it would mean the government is still trying to hide — as it is with a letter Carl Levin tried but failed to get declassified before he retired — the utterly bogus claims about Saddam having ties to Al Qaeda that were partially used to justify the war.

All of which is to say, we know that Rummy probably learned a bit more about what his unknown unknowns immediately after going on a the Sunday shows making a claim about known unknowns. But there’s still something about what Rummy didn’t know that we don’t know.

“Is Our Congressmens Learning?

George Bush once famously asked whether “our children is learning,” demonstrating that those setting policy for education might be least suited for measuring the efficacy of education.

Two different members of Congress in the last day suggest the same is true of counterterrorism policy.

First there was IN Senator Dan Coats, who apparently attributed his understanding of terrorism tactics to 24 and Homeland yesterday. As Mia Bloom pointed out, they’re fiction (though probably supported by intelligence agencies). Experts have attacked the realism of both shows.

The worst part of Coats admitting he takes 24 and Homeland as true, though, is that he’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has — or should have — a way of getting factual details about terrorist tactics. He appears to turn to fiction instead.

Who knows what source CA Congresswoman (and Senate candidate) Loretta Sanchez relied on for her claim that 5 to 20% of Muslims want a Caliphate.

“There is a small group, and we don’t know how big that is—it can be anywhere between 5 and 20 percent, from the people that I speak to—that Islam is their religion and who have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in anyway possible, and in particular go after what they consider Western norms—our way of life,” she said.

But she, like Coats, is privy to intelligence briefings on both the Armed Services and — especially, in this context — Homeland Security Committees. Did some whackdoodle from Homeland Security tell Sanchez a significant chunk of Muslims are itching to set up an all-Muslim empire?

Something’s wrong with our congressional briefing process. Either these people aren’t attending, they’re not useful, or they’re being fed junk.

And it’s making America less safe.

Update: Dan Coats’ state corrected thanks to “mitch daniels.”

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