Tuesday, July 20, 2010
* Update on July 22, 2010. Please see here.
SOME SPICY BITS FROM "TOP SECRET AMERICA"
Knowing that many of you won't have time to read the long Washington Post expose on privatizing intelligence and war I thought I'd post a few interesting bits from the series.
In the end the story is not a surprise but the rich details give some insight into how the corporations have taken near total control of foreign policy and are becoming fat rich bastards to boot.
- In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work.
- The result, he added, is that it's impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. "Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste," retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines said. "We consequently can't effectively assess whether it is making us more safe."
- With so many more employees, units and organizations, the lines of responsibility began to blur. To remedy this, at the recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, the George W. Bush administration and Congress decided to create an agency in 2004 with overarching responsibilities called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to bring the colossal effort under control.
- "You can't find a four-star general without a security detail," said one three-star general now posted in Washington after years abroad. "Fear has caused everyone to have stuff. Then comes, 'If he has one, then I have to have one.' It's become a status symbol."
- When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries - Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them every day.
- Within the Defense Department alone, 18 commands and agencies conduct information operations, which aspire to manage foreign audiences’ perceptions of U.S. policy and military activities overseas...... And all the major intelligence agencies and at least two major military commands claim a major role in cyber-warfare, the newest and least-defined frontier.
- So great is the government's appetite for private contractors with top-secret clearances that there are now more than 300 companies, often nicknamed "body shops," that specialize in finding candidates, often for a fee that approaches $50,000 a person, according to those in the business.
- "This is a terrible confession," Robert Gates said. "I can't get a number on how many contractors work for the Office of the Secretary of Defense," referring to the department's civilian leadership.
- The privatization of national security work has been made possible by a nine-year "gusher" of money, as Gates recently described national security spending since the 9/11 attacks....
With so much money to spend, managers do not always worry about whether they are spending it effectively....."Someone says, 'Let's do another study,' and because no one shares information, everyone does their own study," said Elena Mastors, who headed a team studying the al-Qaeda leadership for the Defense Department. "It's about how many studies you can orchestrate, how many people you can fly all over the place. Everybody's just on a spending spree. We don't need all these people doing all this stuff."
- The National Security Agency, which conducts worldwide electronic surveillance, hires private firms to come up with most of its technological innovations. The NSA used to work with a small stable of firms; now it works with at least 484 and is actively recruiting more.
- Contractors can offer more money - often twice as much - to experienced federal employees than the government is allowed to pay them. And because competition among firms for people with security clearances is so great, corporations offer such perks as BMWs and $15,000 signing bonuses, as Raytheon did in June for software developers with top-level clearances.
- Hiring contractors was supposed to save the government money. But that has not turned out to be the case. A 2008 study published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that contractors made up 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of their personnel budgets. Gates said that federal workers cost the government 25 percent less than contractors.
- [General Dynamics] embraced the emerging intelligence-driven style of warfare. It developed small-target identification systems and equipment that could intercept an insurgent's cellphone and laptop communications. It found ways to sort the billions of data points collected by intelligence agencies into piles of information that a single person could analyze.....It also began gobbling up smaller companies that could help it dominate the new intelligence landscape, just as its competitors were doing.....The company reported $31.9 billion in revenue in 2009, up from $10.4 billion in 2000. Its workforce has more than doubled in that time, from 43,300 to 91,700 employees, according to the company.
- Another official, a longtime conservative staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee, described it as "a living, breathing organism" impossible to control or curtail. "How much money has been involved is just mind-boggling," he said. "We've built such a vast instrument. What are you going to do with this thing? . . . It's turned into a jobs program."
- From the road, it's impossible to tell how large the NSA has become, even though its buildings occupy 6.3 million square feet - about the size of the Pentagon - and are surrounded by 112 acres of parking spaces. As massive as that might seem, documents indicate that the NSA is only going to get bigger: 10,000 more workers over the next 15 years; $2 billion to pay for just the first phase of expansion; an overall increase in size that will bring its building space throughout the Fort Meade cluster to nearly 14 million square feet.
- Loudoun County, ranked as the wealthiest county in the country, helps supply the workforce of the nearby National Reconnaissance Office headquarters, which manages spy satellites. Fairfax County, the second-wealthiest, is home to the NRO, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Arlington County, ranked ninth, hosts the Pentagon and major intelligence agencies. Montgomery County, ranked 10th, is home to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. And Howard County, ranked third, is home to 8,000 NSA employees.
- The schools, indeed, are among the best, and some are adopting a curriculum this fall that will teach students as young as 10 what kind of lifestyle it takes to get a security clearance and what kind of behavior would disqualify them.
All this reenforces for me the whole notion that America's role under corporate globalization of the world economy will be "security export".
I am reminded of the Crown family from Chicago that have been significant owners of General Dynamics. They were early supporters of Obama's campaign for president and early on did national fundraising for him. They also opened the door to national Jewish community support for him. You could say they have an investment in Obama.
As one line above says, this is becoming a jobs program. And good paying jobs, with huge perks, for those hired. All you have to do to be hired is bury your judgement and your conscience. You have to be willing to advocate and lobby for a continuation of this massive gravy train. This puts you in league with fascist elements who are then using people's greed to help construct a global military machine whose principal purpose is to advance the interests of corporate capital.
I'd love to see the "fiscal conservatives" and Tea Baggers take a crack at this one. Instead of complaining about immigrants getting treatment at the hospital emergency room they ought to be publicly taking on the corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse that is now at unheard of levels.
More than that the conservatives and Tea Baggers should be first in line to question our "liberty and freedom" being lost as we lose our democracy to the forces of denial, secrecy, greed, and imperialism.
All being funded by working class people who won't get anything out of all this except the tax bill and fewer rights._____________________________________________________
* Related blogs from Bruce Gagnon's Organizing Notes
Monday, July 19, 2010
TOP SECRET AIR AND SPACE OPS
'434 results for Air and satellite operations
Government Organization/HQ Location/Number of Locations/Number of Contracting Companies'
Monday, July 19, 2010
OUTSOURCING INTELLIGENCE AND WAR