Why Did NSA Raise Traffickers for a Story about Drone Killing Terrorists?

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There was an odd statement from NSA in the middle of yesterday’s WaPo story describing how NSA facilitates CIA’s drone mission (click to embiggen).

The NSA is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets, such as terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers,” the agency said Wednesday in a statement. “Our activities are directed against valid foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements from U.S. leaders in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” [my emphasis]

While the NSA is finally admitting again their central cybersecurity focus, I believe this is the first time since the Snowden leak that NSA has suggested its “valid foreign intelligence targets” include “human traffickers and drug smugglers.”

It’s not surprising they are, mind you, especially given the Obama Administration’s focus on Transnational Criminal Organizations.

It’s just that the admission comes in a story about NSA’s contributions to drones for which the WaPo explained,

[T]he documents provide the most detailed account of the intricate collaboration between the CIA and the NSA in the drone campaign.

The Post is withholding many details about those missions, at the request of U.S. intelligence officials who cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security.

It seems the only reason to raise the issue is if some of the materials on drones make it clear they’re being used — if not lethally — against entirely new kinds of targets: human traffickers and drug smugglers (though there have been a slew of stories that they were even used to hunt Chapo Guzman).

Ah well. It’s all moot now. OneKade alerts me that the reference has now been removed from the story.

Poof! All record the NSA and CIA used drones against drug traffickers gone!

The War on Terror-and-Drugs Turns Inward

The Treasury Department named the US-Central American gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) a Transnational Criminal Organization, meaning it can apply terrorist-type financial sanctions against the group and its members.

This strikes me as a worrying new precedent. Previously, Treasury had sanctioned Los Zetas, Brother’s Circle, the Camorra, and two Yakuza groups. While all operated in the US–Los Zetas has significant operations–MS-13 was first formed in the US, in Los Angeles, with close ties to El Salvador. Treasury says Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 4,078 MS-13 gang members, so this affects a significant number of Americans.

In other words, this will repeat and probably escalate what we saw after 9/11–asset freezes of American citizens with little due process–in such a way that disproportionately affects one ethnic or religious group.

I also wonder whether this move intends to give additional legal cover for DEA’s operations in Central America–backed by Special Forces–particularly Honduras. At a time when many of the leaders of the countries that will be targeted are increasingly opposed to the war on drug, we’re ratcheting up the legal framework to make it look just like terrorism.

Maybe this is all very smart law enforcement. But it’s the creeping application of intelligence-based enforcement without much debate about whether such an approach infringes on Americans’ rights.

The Transnational Crime Organizations Chasing the Transnational Crime Organizations

William Arkin has a post on the proliferation of what he calls the “counter-everything” trend–organizations targeting transnational organizations that sell drugs or people or whatever. He ends it by wondering why this is all getting worse–why borders are more porous after 10 years of purportedly combating transnational whatevers.

Finally, one has to ask, with all of the enhanced intelligence collection and sharing and border control that is part of the post 9/11 world, why is this problem getting worse?  How is that possible, that borders are more porous?  So much for the war against terrorism.

You might start with the fact that in response to a threat posed by unprivileged enemy combatants (AKA terrorists) we sent out a bunch of men, not wearing uniforms, to engage in warfare that mirrors those other unprivileged combatants.

But the problem becomes even more apparent when you read Arkin’s list of contractors getting rich of the pursuit of transnational criminal organizations.

Other contractors providing intelligence support to the trafficking empire include: BAE Systems, Celestar, Delex Systems, Duer Advanced Technology & Aerospace (DATA), FedSys, Inc., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 STRATIS, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Prosync Technology Group, and SAIC.  Parsons Corporation is working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.

My favorite among these is BAE, which almost caught money laundering to set up a slush fund for covert ops, until the Saudis threatened to stop partnering with us to combat the terrorism that Saudis citizens were then and probably are still funding.

I guess DOD wanted to bring in experts on transnational crime.

Then Tim Shorrock got into the laugh, and pointed out that SAIC recently got caught running a giant kickback scheme to defraud NYC. Lucky for SAIC the Obama Administration hasn’t ended the fetish for Deferred Prosecution Agreements that let companies like this continue chasing transnational thieves.

And then there’s the really seedy pick: of Parsons Corporation–they were literally deemed the “most wasteful” Iraq contractor, making them a bit of a poster child for corruption–“working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.” Mind you, when Parsons was last robbing federal taxpayers and even now, they billed themselves primarily as a construction company (they’re famous for schools in Iraq that started crumbling before they were finished)–though they have branched out into the spook business. And yet they’ve sold themselves as drug experts to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

I simply can’t imagine why the transnational crime problem continues to grow.