Tag Archive: James Clapper


A reader sent this in today. It is more on the changes that have been unfortunately occurring that have helped take down government services and oversight. I noted some time ago of the problem of government agencies/activities outsourcing their complaint (whistleblower and other) and grievance processes to non-governmental contractors, who have clerks who screen and “handle” complaints to hotlines or written complaints, making decisions about what will be passed upward to people who will possibly (read that only possibly) investigate the complaints. I thank the Old Navy Man for alerting me to this article, he also included for this post. GFS

G Florence:

Some of us told Clapper and the counter-to-intelligence community many years ago that bringing contractors into the process was a very bad idea. But the politicians and federal executives were more concerned with presenting the image of “downsizing” the federal government to the public. Secondarily, no one wanted to pay people for the expertise needed to keep intelligence and counterintelligence within the federal government. So now we’re all paying the price for that decision.

If the public only knew. The news media and the public need to take a close look at where the federal government has ‘hidden’ the federal government’s ramping up of intelligence and counterintelligence personnel. The feds have actually expanded the number of employees and agencies that are now in the collection business.

The Department of Defense has farmed out intelligence and counterintelligence billets to a number of government activities. Just one example, the Defense Security Service. The number of intel billets in the Defense Security Service has increased dramatically, and yet the Defense Security Service is not an intelligence or counterintelligence agency. But no one is asking why. So Stanley Sims (the director), with the blessing of James Clapper, is growing his federal business in counterintelligence and cyber collection.

But the same is true for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, etc., etc. And all these agencies have contractors and subcontractors.

So where has the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Oversight been all this time? That would be: Dianne Feinstein (California, Chair); Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia); Ron Wyden (Oregon); Barbara Mikulski (Maryland); Mark Udall (Colorado); Mark Warner (Virginia); Martin Heinrich (New Mexico); Angus King (Maine); Saxby Chambliss (Georgia, Vice Chair); Richard Burr (North Carolina); Jim Risch (Idaho); Dan Coats (Indiana); Marco Rubio (Florida); Susan Collins (Maine); and Tom Coburn (Oklahoma).

Apparently the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Oversight thinks everything is just fine.

The Old Navy Man

Growth of intel outsourcing no secret, but now Congress taking notice

By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News / June 15, 2013

A growing chorus on Capitol Hill is questioning whether U.S. intelligence agencies are farming out too much work to private contractors like Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton systems analyst who has claimed credit leaking classified details about surveillance programs.

“Maybe we should bring some of that more in-house — with employees of the federal government, with the oath of office that we take to protect and defend our country and that seriousness of purpose there,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

In the days since Snowden professed to be the source of reports on secret surveillance programs, others in Congress have also expressed concern about the number of private employees who have access to sensitive information and suggested it will be the subject of hearings.

While the average American may have been surprised to learn a 29-year-old civilian could tap into secret government files while drawing a paycheck from a for-profit firm, there is nothing new or unusual about it.

Last year, 483,236 private contractors had top-secret security clearances, compared to 791,200 government employees, according to a report by the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Another 582,542 contractors had the less-stringent confidential security clearance, compared to 2.7 million government workers, the report said.

National Security Agency and CIA facilities have government employees with blue badges working side by side with contractors, known as green badges, performing similar work and reporting to the same boss at the site. Because intelligence contracts are classified, it’s difficult to nail down how much taxpayer money is going to firms like Booz Allen.

In his book, “Spies for Hire,” author Tim Shorrock reported that a DNI official told an industry conference in 2007 that 70% of intelligence spending went to private sources. Experts say it’s part of trend that began two decades ago when an intelligence community that shrunk after the Cold War needed to ramp up and looked outside for technology and bodies without increasing the government head count.

“The only reason we have contractors is because of a government that loves selling the myth of the smaller government,” said George Washington University law professor Steven Schooner, who specializes in government procurement law.

The amount of intelligence outsourcing skyrocketed after 9/11 as the budget and the demands for data collection and analysis and other services ballooned. Giant firms like Booz, SAIC and Northrup Grumman got big slices of the pie, but smaller firms also lined up.

Richard “Hollis” Helms, who worked on counter-terrorism for the CIA for 30 years, started a company called Abraxas after retirement with $5,000. Four years after 9/11, it had 225 employees, many of them government retirees. In 2010, it was sold for $124 million.

The benefits of such outsourcing were being debated well before the time when Snowden says he copied files at his office in Hawaii, fled to Hong Kong and leaked the information to reporters.

One 2008 congressional report cautioned that the annual cost of a private employee can be double the cost of a government worker, though others note the feds can avoid pensions and other legacy costs on the back end with contracts.

Contracts are also a way to get retired agency workers with crucial experience back on the job. And using private companies allows the government to surge on manpower in times of crisis without adding permanent employees who may be not be needed in the long run.

“If I’m the government, I can hire this database administration contractor because I have the money right now…and if I don’t have the money in a couple of years, I can just cut the contract,” said Charles Faddis, a retired CIA operations officer who is now a consultant who does work for the government.

In the wake of Snowden’s actions, the financial worries are taking a back seat to security concerns.

While contractors and government workers go through the same process for security clearances, Snowden’s ability to cull and share information about secret programs raises the question of how private companies vet and monitor their hires. Faddis said the explosion in information technology that drove the hiring of Snowden and his ilk also means they have access to such a tremendous amount of data that a single breach could make Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers look like a post-it note.

“Then you have the post-9/11 focus on sharing information and breaking down stovepipes,” he said. “I agree with that but we have gone in typical Washington fashion so much farther that you now have throughout the government all sorts of people at very junior levels who have access to intelligence of staggering quantities.”

There are vague calls for a clampdown. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said Thursday the public can expect “legislation which will limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified technical data.

” The government, of course, is not leak-proof. Snowden, a onetime Army recruit, says he had worked directly for the CIA before Booz Allen and other private firms, and Bradley Manning wore an Army uniform.

“There is no empirical evidence that contractors are better or worse than people in the military or the government,” Schooner said.

But William Arkin, who has written extensively on intelligence outsourcing, told NBC “Nightly News” that some of the contractors are different from government employees.

“They’re not motivated necessarily by patriotism. They’re not motivated necessarily by a scar of 9/11. This is a job,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there will be more or fewer of those jobs when the smoke clears from the Snowden case.

Many of the big multibillion-dollar contracting corporations have lobbyists. Some of their top executives worked for the CIA or NSA and retain close ties to the intelligence agencies. The concept of a smaller government is still prized by politicians, and the demand for intelligence services is not waning.

“The train has left the station on outsourcing,” said Schooner. “Do we think Congress will appropriate to hire tens of thousands of employees for pick-your agency? It’s not going to happen.”

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/15/18940842-growth-of-intel-outsourcing-no-secret-but-now-congress-taking-notice?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=1

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Thanks for sending this!  I sure appreciate my readers and their contributions to knowing what is going on and why!  Those who do care about getting a more suitable Director of National Intelligence appointed, now must quickly apply pressure to their Senators, as the Senate must confirm this appointment.  I hope clear heads prevail and determined people will write, email and call their Senators.  If enough of us do so, we can stop this.  Tell all your friends and associates!  GFS

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G. Florence-

I wrote earlier to express my concern about Obama’s possible nomination of James Clapper as the new Director of National Intelligence.  Seems that I am not alone in my opinions, others have a similar opinion of Clapper’s capabilities.  Trust me, I’ve had to work for the sorry _ _ _ _!

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Taking Stock of the Intel Community Shake Up

Written by Larry C. Johnson

Saturday, 06 January 2007 12:31

There are big doings in the intel community that may signal the start of a new effort to cook the books to justify an attack on Iran.  Let’s start with John Negroponte’s move to State Department.  I am told by a knowledgeable friend that Negroponte was pressured by the White House to take the job at State.  The exodus of key State Department personnel (e.g., Deputy Secretary Zoellick, Counselor Phil Zelikow, and Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Hank Crumpton) left Condi twisting in the wind.  Negroponte gives Condi one of the most experienced foreign service officers in the State Department’s history. 

Negroponte will not be shedding crocodile tears as he drives  to Foggy Bottom.  The Director of National Intelligence job is still in its full birthing pains and, while having important clout over the National Intelligence Estimate process and handling the daily Presidential intelligence brief, still lacks effective control of the intelligence community.  The Director of CIA retains control over the most significant human collection capability and the Under Secretary of Intelligence at the Department of Defense essentially controls 80% of the intelligence community, including almost all of the critical technical collection assets.

Replacing Negroponte with retired Navy Admiral John M. McConnell and appointing retired Air Force Lt. General James Clapper as the Under Secretary of Intelligence at DOD, where he will be in charge of coordinating the budgets and activities of the NSA, the NRO, Defense Human Services, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency, will give the military unprecedented control of the intelligence community.  This will mark the first time since World War II the active duty or former military officers are running the main intelligence assets of the United States.  Clapper’s new job, at least for him, is a dream come true.

Clapper and McConnell are worrisome choices because they are known in the intelligence community as guys willing to give their customers what they want.  Unlike Negroponte, who took a pretty tough analytical stance dismissing the imminence of an Iranian threat, Clapper and McConnell will be more than willing collaborators in making a case that Iran is a serious, immediate threat.  If you want to cook the books then these guys can be master chefs.

Clapper’s new job, at least for him, is a dream come true.   He appears on the verge of fulfilling a lifelong ambition.  While he was director Clapper spent much pf his time politicking and scheming to take away from the Director of the CIA any and all moneys that were budgeted for any support to the armed forces. He wanted to make himself “Director of Military Intelligence,” a new title, so that he could receive his fourth star as a full general. He was defeated in this attempt by the then DCI James Woolsey.  Although a fourth star is not in the plans, Clapper will be the Director of Military   Intelligence.

Jim Clapper, I’m told by a former colleague of Clapper’s, may have been the worst director ever of the DIA.  An Air force tactical intelligence officer, Clapper knew nothing whatever of intelligence support to policy making when he arrived at DIA as its Director in 1992. His entire world of work up to then had been made up of target photographs and anti-aircraft weapons.

He was completely unfamiliar with the fact that DIA was a major participant in the formulation of national intelligence estimates, and when he found out that was true he said that he “had no intention of participating.” Accordingly he re-structured DIA’s analytic force, which had been one of the finest in the world away from such categories as; countries XXX, counter-terrorism, economics, advanced weapons developments, Middle East, Islam, etc. to categories such as; tanks, anti-aircraft rockets, bombs, etc. This removed from the national analytic capability a major asset which would have been invaluable in the period before 9/11.

As a result of his destruction of their career fields, hundreds of the most senior and esteemed analysts retired early. DIA has been trying to re-construct the fine capability that it had at the end of the First Gulf War ever since Clapper left the job of Director. The confirmation hearings of Clapper and McConnell will be a signficant test of the Democratic Senate’s spine.  Are the Democrats willing to ask tough questions during upcoming confirmation hearings and insist on getting answers?  Will the Rockefeller led Senate Intelligence Committee push hard behind closed doors to get a solid, no shit appraisal of whether or not Iran really poses an imminent threat in the Middle East?  I hope the answer is yes.

Link:    http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1-Opinion/593-taking-stock-of-the-intel-community-shake-up.html

Dear Reader, 

I share your concerns, though undoubtedly not your specific experiences.  I would suggest you and others turn your intense focus to writing, emailing and calling your Senators, as the Senate will have to confirm this disastrous appointment.  We can stop it if we can get enough people to say “not only no, but hell no!”  GFS

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G. Florence-

Too late.  Now we are going to have a new national disaster serving as Director of National Intelligence.  Clapper was a walking disaster at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.  Obama did not listen.  Obama should have had to work for him!

Intelligence Chief Walks Plank Without Ceremony

Wednesday 26 May 2010

by: Ray McGovern, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

The term “accountability” was effectively banned inside the Washington Beltway many years ago. So, why was it that the just-jettisoned Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Dennis Blair, was abruptly shown the door last week – I mean, really. Most pundits attribute the firing of Blair to the most recent series of intelligence misadventures. But the evidence is mounting that there is much more to the story.

True, a Senate Intelligence Committee report released on May 18 regarding 23-year-old Nigerian passenger Uma Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas revealed a damning string of intelligence shortcomings – on top of other recent misadventures. Once again, the intelligence community was shown to be in all-too-familiar disarray – adrift, with no helmsman strong, savvy and courageous enough to get proliferating intelligence bureaucracies to cooperate.

The Senate report is a damning catalog of misfeasance and mistakes. Yet, given recent precedent, with US intelligence screwing up so clearly and regularly with no one held accountable, L’Affaire Abdulmutallab probably would not, in and of itself, have been enough to send Blair packing. Rather, it should be seen as the proximate cause of Blair’s walking the plank on Friday – which he did without the normally de rigueur thank you to President Obama for “the privilege of serving.”

A powerful combination of senior CIA officials and White House functionaries influenced by the Israel lobby had been out for Blair’s hide for over a year. That he crossed the CIA in trying to assert a right to appoint some CIA station chiefs abroad, for example, is by now a familiar story. And his rivalry with CIA alumnus John Brennan, now White House referent for terrorism, was an open secret. Brennan must be particularly happy at Blair’s demise, since, truth be told, Brennan bears as much responsibility for Abdulmutallab being able to board his flight as Blair does.

There is another element, virtually neglected in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), that did Blair in. You see, Blair had a strong measure of integrity. And that can often be the kiss of death in official Washington. On substantive issues, like Iran’s nuclear program, Blair did not show the malleability that is desired by those who are out to zap Iran; I believe it likely that these get-Iran, neocon hawks helped to zap Blair.

Denied His Own Staff

Last year, the neocons had their feathers ruffled big time by Blair’s choice of independent-minded former Ambassador Chas Freeman to be chair of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), without clearing this first with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The NIC has purview over the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) and the President’s Daily Brief – the two premier intelligence publications.

Blair’s choice of Freeman raised the ire of Washington’s still-influential neoconservatives and their allies in the Obama administration because he was regarded as a “realist” on the Middle East, rather than someone who would side reflexively with Israel.

When rumors began to circulate about Freeman’s appointment, the neocons unleashed a media barrage, denouncing his criticism of Israel and his associations with the Saudi and Chinese governments. One influential column, entitled “Obama’s Intelligence Blunder,” was published February 28 on The Washington Post’s neocon-dominated op-ed page, written by Jon Chait of The New Republic, another important neocon journal.

Still, on the morning of March 10, 2009, Blair described the high value that Freeman “will” bring to the job – “his long experience and inventive mind,” for example.

Enter Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), who simply could not abide someone in that post with open respect for the rights and interests of both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. By five o’clock that afternoon, Freeman was told by Blair to announce that he (Freeman) had asked that his selection “not proceed.”

To his credit, Freeman went down swinging. He made it clear that he was withdrawing his “previous acceptance” of Blair’s invitation to chair the NIC because of the character assassination of him orchestrated by the Israel lobby (which Freeman now calls the “Likud Lobby,” to identify it more narrowly with the extreme right wingers – the kind who got Rahm Emanuel to give him the heave-ho).

Freeman added, “The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views … and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those it [the lobby] favors.”

Foreign policy analyst Chris Nelson described the imbroglio as a reflection of the “deadly power game regarding what level of support for controversial Israeli government policies is a ‘requirement’ for US public office.”

Schumer led the lobby’s unabashed boasting. “His [Freeman’s] statements against Israel were way over the top,” Schumer said. “I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.” Though the Freeman flap faded, it was the kind of sin not to be forgiven. Blair had suffered a political hit and had made some powerful enemies.

I recall the “morning after,” as I found myself wondering when Emanuel – who reportedly was Schumer’s go-to guy on the get-Freeman campaign – saw fit to let Admiral Blair in on the little secret that no way could he have Freeman.

And I wondered why Blair tucked tail, rather than quit in protest of having his choice for the nation’s senior intelligence analyst blackballed. It is, at least in theory, a position that is supposed to be about objectivity, giving the president unvarnished information, not ideologically favored spin.

Apparently, these days it is in theory only. The lobby won that one hands down – and, with typical chutzpah, has not stopped boasting. The get-Blair campaign was unusually transparent in The Washington Post’s lead editorial on Saturday, which began by asserting that Blair’s “resignation … was the product of personal as well as institutional failings.” His “personal” failing? Here’s how The Post described it:

“Mr. Blair’s political judgment looked questionable from the beginning of his DNI tenure, when he nominated a former ambassador [Chas Freeman] with … crackpot views about the about the Israel ‘Lobby’ to chair the National Intelligence Council.”

A Messy Structure

Aside from offending the editorial page neocons of The Washington Post and other lobby influenced centers of power, it also seems clear that, without a highly honed talent for management and strong presidential support, Blair was doomed to failure from the start. And so was the bureaucratic superstructure built around the director of National Intelligence as a key reform that followed the twin intelligence failures on 9/11 and Iraq’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction).

The DNI was given the supremely difficult task of ruling over the intelligence community, a responsibility previous invested in the director of Central Intelligence. The job was hard enough, but Blair was hampered further because he lacked the strong personal support of President Obama.

I served under nine directors of central intelligence – several of them at close remove. Adm. Stansfield Turner, who was picked by his Naval Academy classmate Jimmy Carter, was the only one who really grasped the reins of the entire intelligence community and made it cohere.

A few years ago, as Admiral Turner and I sat together waiting to go into a TV studio, I had a chance to ask him how he was able to do that. To the best of my recollection, this is what he told me:

“I was in command of the Sixth Fleet cruising in the Med when I was tipped off that I was about to get a call from the president-elect. There had been earlier signs that Carter was going to ask me to be his Director of Central Intelligence.

“Now, Ray, when you know you’re going to be made that kind of offer – one you can’t really refuse – that’s precisely the time when you need to think long and hard about how you might use what little bargaining power you may have at that point, in order to improve your chances for success in the new job. I had about ten minutes. Then the call came.

“Mr. President-elect, I said, as a former naval officer you will be able to appreciate this conundrum I see. The job is twofold. I would have no trouble running the CIA – I can run the Sixth Fleet; I can run the CIA.

“What gives me pause is the equally important – maybe more important – job of running the entire intelligence community. As a military man I am very reluctant to accept responsibility for something over which I have only tenuous authority.

“And my experience with the intelligence community suggests that the fiefdoms that comprise it will not work together effectively, no matter what I say or do, UNLESS you make it clear that I have the authority derived from the President, commensurate with my responsibility in leading the entire community. If you can make that clear, I will accept the nomination with gusto.”

Carter said he would take care of it and, shortly thereafter, came a directive from the president-elect to heads of the main national security and intelligence agencies and staffs. In it, Carter announced he had selected Turner to be his DCI, that ALL addressees would cooperate fully with him as he harnesses the intelligence community behind the new administration’s main objectives, and that he had instructed Turner to let him know immediately should there be any sign that he was not getting the full and unfettered cooperation he would need as the chief intelligence adviser to the president. That did it, Turner told me.

Turner was too modest to add what I had already learned as a lesson about his tenure, that an effective director of the intelligence community needs the courage to put noses out of joint. He should NOT adopt the “team player” mode that so many intelligence directors since Turner have succumbed to.

If Turner was not getting full cooperation from, say, the FBI, he would simply go down to the White House and let President Carter and/or his advisers know. The attorney general and/or the FBI director would promptly receive the necessary remedial instructions.

Consummate “Team Player”

Two decades later, “team player” George Tenet (the team being George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) stood this on its head. Nary a nose did timid, incurious George put out of joint.

But Tenet, who had mastered the skills of serving his “principal” as a staff aide to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren, was so well-liked in Washington that even the 9/11 Commission was reluctant to offer pointed criticism of his gross misfeasance in his community role.

(At one hearing, Commissioner Jamie Gorelick fawned over Tenet, noting with admiring wonderment what she said especially distinguished him; namely, that everyone in the establishment simply called him “George,” and all automatically knew to whom they were referring. Amazing!)

Instead of affixing blame for 9/11, co-chair Lee Hamilton, Gorelick, and others kept wringing their hands, complaining, “no one was in charge of the intelligence community.” True enough, but that was by no means solely due to the structural anomaly that gave the DCI responsibility for managing both the agency and the entire intelligence community.

It had much more to do with Tenet’s reluctance to give the needed time and attention to the rest of the community and make it work together. Tenet preferred to direct his gaze upward, showing the bureaucratic skills he had learned as a Capitol Hill aide, ingratiating himself with the powerful and never putting them – or himself – in an uncomfortable situation.

You don’t insinuate yourself into top jobs in Washington, or get to stay in them, by knocking important noses out of joint, no matter how badly such disfigurement is needed. No one ever needed plastic surgery after an encounter with Tenet.

On July 22, 2004, the day the 9/11 report was released, I had been asked to comment on it immediately at the BBC’s studio in Washington. After expressing amazement at the report’s bizarre bottom line, that the calamity seemed to be no one’s fault, I emerged from the studio and promptly bumped into two commissioners, Jamie Gorelick and Slade Gorton. They had been waiting on deck in the outer room.

Gorelick went in first; I thought to myself, now’s your chance, McGovern. I approached Gorton and said that I was bothered by the report’s mantra that no one is in charge of the intelligence community and the commission’s misguided notion that a new DNI superstructure should be placed atop it.

I said that I was sure he was aware that, by statute, Director of Central Intelligence Tenet is supposed to be in charge of the community and to ensure that all agencies coordinate and cooperate. Gorton put his arm around me, as senior ex-senators are wont to do, and in an avuncular voice (as if explaining something pretty basic to a freshman), said, “Yes, of course I know that, Ray. But Tenet would not do it.”

My follow-up question was to be: So, you all are advocating an entirely new superstructure just because Tenet “would not do it?” Unfortunately, the door opened, Gorelick walked out and Gorton escaped into the studio.

The year 2004 was an election year and, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the commission report, members of Congress wished to be seen as doing something – anything. So, they moved to enact many of the 9/11 Commission’s “reforms.”

By then, the CIA and the just-resigned Tenet had been completely discredited, not only for failures prior to 9/11, but also for the unconscionable cooking of intelligence to justify war on Iraq.

Yet, instead of focusing on individual responsibility for 9/11 and the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division – what might be called cultural failures – Congress found it easier to diagram a new bureaucracy.

Protests from intelligence professionals were seen as self-serving. So, we got a new DNI ostensibly to preside over the whole enchilada, but WITHOUT the kind of authority and support Carter gave Turner.

Admirals and Admirals

If recent years have proved anything, it is this: there are admirals; and then there are admirals.

Admirals in the mold of Stansfield Turner – like William (Fox) Fallon and Joint Chiefs’ Chairman Mike Mullen – are one thing. They represent the tough independence that the Navy often requires of its senior officers.

Near the end of the Bush administration, Fallon and Mullen deserved most of the credit for facing down Vice President Dick Cheney and persuading President Bush that war with Iran would not be a good idea and that Israel needed to be told exactly that – in no uncertain terms. That was just three years ago; war was pretty close.

Then there are the admirals who know how to salute and avoid confrontations, the likes of Mike McConnell, who was snatched away from his sinecure as a Booz-Allen & Hamilton marketeer to become the second director of national intelligence, apparently because he was judged to be incapable of doing much harm.

What McConnell lacked in managerial knowhow, well, let me put it this way: he in no way made up for that lack by his substantive acumen. Three poignant illustrative vignettes involving the hapless McConnell come to mind:

(1) Testifying before the Senate, McConnell was asked to venture a guess as to why Israel might put forward a more alarming view of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon than that of the US intelligence community. He was at a loss for an answer.

(2) At times, McConnell would display his naïveté by saying too much. The subject of torture came up in an interview McConnell gave Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker magazine. McConnell innocently told Wright that, for him: “Waterboarding would be excruciating. If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful! Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.”

Later, McConnell let slip the rationale for the Bush administration’s refusal to admit that waterboarding is torture. For anyone paying attention, that rationale had long been a no-brainer. But here is McConnell inadvertently articulating it: “If it is ever determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it.”

(3) More damning was “Malleable Mike” McConnell’s attempts to finesse the key judgments of the bombshell NIE of November 2007, which directly contradicted what Bush and Cheney had been saying about the imminence of a nuclear threat from Iran.

Facing withering criticism from the likes of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and the irrepressible former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, McConnell backpedaled.

In testimony to the Senate on February 5, 2008, he confessed to careless wording in the NIE due to time constraints, and even indicated he “probably would have changed a thing or two.”

Whereas the NIE started out with a straightforward, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program,” McConnell indicated he would now prefer to say, for example, that “maybe even the least significant portion [of the Iranian nuclear program; i. e., the warhead] was halted and there are other parts that continue.”

A Mixed Bag

McConnell’s successor Blair was in no way a strong manager as DNI. And with an increasingly bloated staff tripping over one another, there was little hope that Blair was up to the job of taking hold of the intelligence community.

Nor was there any sign that he ever thought to ask President Obama for the necessary endorsement and support. Besides, Blair seems to have been an innocent to the ways of Washington.

Anyone could have told him there would be no percentage in locking horns with CIA Director Leon Panetta with the latter’s longstanding political connections in this town and a CIA staff that has proven past master at political infighting.

Worse still, Blair let himself be used in a way no US intelligence official should permit. Those in the Obama administration who think it’s a good idea to put US citizens on the CIA assassination list needed to send up a trial balloon to see if Congress and the media would look the other way.

And so, in February, the White House inflated the balloon for Blair to float at a Congressional hearing. He contended that there were certain counterterrorism cases that could involve killing an American citizen. There were very few objections from official Washington.

Administration officials have since cited secret evidence showing that the Yemen-based Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s connections to al-Qaeda have gone “operational,” thus making him a target for killing even though he is a native-born American citizen. The Bill of Rights be damned.

I would wager Blair regrets letting himself be used like that. I have independent confirmation that, during the sixties at the Naval Academy, the curriculum included a block of instruction on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

A Saving Grace

There is one substantive matter of considerable significance on which Blair did muster the courage to stand up. He withstood intense pressure from those wishing to exaggerate the danger that Iran could have a nuclear weapon soon.

There is no sign that whoever succeeds him will have the courage, professionalism or gravitas needed to face down those in Congress and the administration determined to exaggerate that threat, to the point where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be emboldened to launch a “pre-emptive” attack (the term now in vogue for what the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal called a “war of aggression”).

In testimony before Congress early this year, Blair virtually wore out the subjunctive mood in addressing Iran’s possible plans for a nuclear weapon. His paragraphs were replete with dependent clauses, virtually all of them beginning with “if.”

Blair repeated verbatim the 2007 NIE judgment that Iran is “keeping the option open to develop nuclear weapons,” while also repeating the intelligence community’s agnosticism on the $64 question: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Addressing the uranium enrichment plant at Qom, Blair said its small size and location under a mountain “fit nicely with a strategy of keeping the option open to build a nuclear weapon at some future date, if Tehran ever decides to do that.”

Such “advancements lead us to affirm our judgment from the 2007 NIE that Iran is technically capable of producing enough HEU [highly enriched uranium] for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so.”

Notably absent from Blair’s testimony was the first “high confidence” judgment of the 2007 NIE that “in fall 2003 Iran halted its nuclear weapons program,” and the “moderate confidence” assessment that Iran had not restarted it.

That was the most controversial judgment in 2007. But Blair did not disavow it. Nor did he weasel on it, as McConnell did. He simply didn’t mention it – probably in an attempt to let that sleeping dog lie. But now that dog is waking up.

Possible Revisions

A “Memorandum to Holders” is intelligence jargon for updating a definitive estimate, like the one from November 2007, with any necessary changes. As has been the custom in recent years, one regarding the Iranian nuclear program has been delayed and delayed again. The Washington Post says it is now due in August.

There is no minimizing the importance of this update. It needs to be as honest as the earlier NIE, though that will take courage and clout.

In this sense, I regret Blair’s departure. For those now in charge are relative nonentities with, truth be told, sparse experience in intelligence work and little gravitas. It is doubtful they will be able to stand up against the mounting pressures to paint Iran in the most alarmist colors.

The task is complicated by the recent tripartite Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal. With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her neocon friends and supporters already trashing this viable initiative, it will take courage to point out clearly to the president the relative merits of allowing Iran to transfer half of its low enriched uranium to Turkey and then onward for further processing.

Except for the political pressures, not much courage should be needed. By any objective measure, the relative merits should be pretty obvious, IF one is willing to recognize Israeli demands for what they are, as Turkey and Brazil made bold to do. (Where is Freeman when we need him?)

Nominating a Successor

According to press reports, the leading candidate to succeed Blair is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, whose record does not inspire confidence. Clapper has a well-deserved reputation for telling consumers of intelligence what they want to hear.

He now serves as undersecretary of intelligence at the Defense Department, working for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was the chief bureaucrat responsible for politicizing US intelligence in the 1980s as an apparatchik for CIA Director William Casey.

Some of my colleagues in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have the book on Clapper, who served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 1991 to 1995. There, according to Larry Johnson, Clapper earned the reputation of “worst-ever DIA director.”

Among other things, he restructured DIA’s analytical corps, removing an analysis capability that would have been an invaluable asset in the period before 9/11 and succeeding years. As a direct result, hundreds of the most experienced analysts took early retirement, and DIA has had to play catch-up ever since to reconstruct its analytic capability.

Retired US Army Col. Pat Lang, who held some of the most senior positions at DIA, told me Friday, “Clapper is a man who is just a walking mass of ambition.”

What I find most damaging, though, is the fact that Clapper was head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from 2001 to 2006. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chose well, for his purposes.

It is abundantly clear that Clapper smothered any imagery analyst who had he temerity to suggest that, since there was not a trace of WMD in the various kinds of available imagery of Iraq, there might not be any WMD.

Clapper, rather, was one to salute smartly. He subscribed enthusiastically to the Rumsfeld dictum: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Quick, someone tell Barack Obama about Clapper before the president is led once again down the garden path.

[    http://www.truthout.org/intelligence-chief-walks-plank-without-ceremony59803    ]

Here is some information on James R. Clapper.  I asked for people to send me information about Clapper, even before it was announced he was being considered for this position.   I received two such documents recently and am posting them here for all to consider.  Clapper, I am told is a very close personal contact to Kathleen M. Watson, Director of the troubled federal oversight agency, Defense Security Service (DSS).  I understand that due to the many problems and failures of mission, DSS was nearly disbanded a year or so ago, but due primarily to Clapper championing the ailing agency, was allowed to limp onward.  GFS

AP sources: Clapper leading choice for intel job

 By Kimberly Dozier And Julie Pace, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON — The White House’s leading candidate to replace Dennis Blair as national intelligence director is James R. Clapper, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official, current and former U.S. officials said Friday.

Two current officials said another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations. But a Defense Department official said Vickers has not been contacted for an interview. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because a replacement for Blair has not been announced.

Clapper currently is defense undersecretary for intelligence.

President Barack Obama was already talking to candidates for national intelligence director’s job before Blair resigned Thursday under pressure from the White House.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president had spoken with a number of well-qualified candidates so he could have people ready in case he decided to make a change with the intelligence post. Gibbs wouldn’t comment on what candidates the president has spoken with, but said an announcement will come soon.

Blair resigned after a tumultuous 16-month tenure that critics say underscored the disorganization inside the Obama administration’s intelligence apparatus. A spate of high-profile attempted terror attacks that revealed new national security lapses has rocked the White House over the past six months.

Gibbs was publicly supportive of Blair Friday, commending him for increasing the government’s focus on counterterrorism and radicalization, particularly in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. Still, he said the president believed it was time to make a change.

“There is probably no harder job in Washington, besides being president, than being director of national intelligence,” he said. “The president simply believed that it was time to transition to a different director.”

Blair is the third person to hold the director of national intelligence job, which is to oversee the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies. The post was created in response to the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

But Blair’s tenure highlighted the flaws that still exist in coordinating intelligence. Following an attempted bombing aboard a plane on Christmas Day, a Senate Intelligence Committee found that the National Counterterrorism Center could have prevented the incident. As director of national intelligence, Blair oversaw the center.

Gibbs said the Intelligence Advisory Board, which advises the president on the effectiveness of the intelligence community, has made recommendations for possible changes to the structure of the director of national intelligence post.

Gibbs said Blair’s resignation will be effective next Friday. Deputy National Intelligence Director David Gompert will become acting director until a permanent replacement is named.

As the Pentagon’s new intelligence chief in 2007, Clapper recommended an end to the anti-terror database TALON that had been criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat. Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved Clapper’s recommendation, the Pentagon said at the time.

From 2001 to 2006, Clapper was the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the agency that analyzes imagery taken from the skies to provide information on insurgencies, nuclear sites, terror camps and troop movements.

After the U.S. began the Iraq war, Clapper suggested to reporters in 2003 that Iraqi officials, perhaps working without the knowledge of Saddam Hussein, moved evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs outside the country before the war started.

Before the war, Clapper’s outfit was one of several intelligence agencies that endorsed conclusions that Iraq was working on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. His agency analyzed satellite photos.

“We certainly feel there were indications of WMD activity,” Clapper told reporters in October 2003.

Also on Clapper’s watch, the agency expanded its mission on some domestic matters. He said in 2006 the work the agency did after hurricanes Rita and Katrina was the best he had seen an intelligence agency do in his 42 years in the spy business.

Before working at the geospatial-intelligence agency, he was an executive at defense contracting firms such as Vredenburg; Booz Allen Hamilton; and SRA International.

He retired from the military in 1995 as a lieutenant general from the Air Force. His last military assignment was as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

___

Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Christine Simmons contributed to this report 

 Link to Original:  http://www.usatoday.com/news/topstories/2010-05-21-3256013428_x.htm?POE=click-refer