April 3, 2008 1:13 PM   Subscribe

James Clapper , undersecretary of defense for intelligence, has just recommended closing the Counterintelligence Field Activity program, a 1,000-man agency (mostly contractors with a secret budget) set up shortly after 9/11 to fight foreign terroristson U.S. soil, whose contracts are based on congressional earmarks (and administration insiders) were under investigation by the Pentagon and federal prosecutors (for domestic spying, the use of/deletion of data from the TALON (.pdf file) program (managed by the CIFA as JPEN )

A handy timeline ( via ):
* September 2002, then Deputy Secretary of Defense for Counter-Intelligence Burtt (the guy who resigned yesterday) establishes CIFA to oversee counterintelligence units of the armed services; consulting on the new agency was James King, recently retired director of National Imagery and Mapping Agency and MZM vice president
* Late 2002, Cunningham got Mitchell Wade a data storage contract worth $6 million, of which $5.4 was profit
* January 2004, Cunningham added $16.5 million to defense authorization for a "collaboration center" that appears to include business for Wade's company
* December 2005, Pincus reveals a CIFA database contains raw intelligence data on peace activists (and, presumably, Jesus' General)
* March 2006, prosecutors in the Cunningham case announce they're reviewing CIFA contracts to MZM
* March 2006, Stephen Cambone announces an investigation of CIFA's contracting--the investigation is (like the investigation into Dougie Feith) "ongoing"
* May 2006, Porter Goss resigns under allegations of ties to the Wilkes/Wade bribery ring
* May 2006, House Intelligence Committee (Peter Hoekstra's Committee) first moves to exercise oversight on CIFA
* June 2006, USNCO destroys all the TALON reports
* August 2006, CIFA director and deputy director resign
posted by Smedleyman (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Domestic spying, eh? We can't have that. This is America!
posted by oncogenesis at 1:23 PM on April 3, 2008

Ivana: When did you get "The Clapper"?
Austin: November, 1964, Dutch East Indies, shore leave.
posted by psmealey at 1:34 PM on April 3, 2008

But we can't shut it down now! We're spending money on it! Once a government program is in place, no matter how wasteful, ill-advised, or even evil, it would be unfair to shut it down! Think of all of the people who would lose their jobs! And what would we do with all that extra money!?!?
posted by The World Famous at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2008

Jesus' General

What/who is this? My googles do nozhink!
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2008

cowbellmoo: Jesus General - a funny liberal blogger
posted by madamjujujive at 2:02 PM on April 3, 2008

Essentially government people form a private corporation they give contracts to (which gives them kickbacks or hires them outright) or hire corporate contractors - not just to spy domestically.
Here’s the
IG’s statement on services and intra-agency contracting.

Pretty much fascism 101.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on April 3, 2008

Pretty much fascism 101.

I guess this puts too fine a point on it, but I thought that in fascism, the merging of corporate and governmental interests is executed as part of an overall effort to aggregate and centralize power with the goal being the creation of a unified national interest. What we're seeing here seems to me just plain old banana republic corruption, a crime of opportunity where interests are merged to enrich the people who happen to be in charge at the time.

Is this a distinction without a difference?
posted by psmealey at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2008

The more interesting/alarming thing here is the continued/accelerated outsourcing of the GWoT to private industry, ie defense contractors. Maximum corporate profit, meet minimum gov't accountability.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:50 PM on April 3, 2008

Madam, I am in your debt. (I should have skimmed ze googles better)
posted by cowbellemoo at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2008

* June 2006, USNCO destroys all the TALON reports

Somehow I suspect that nothing will come of this part, and yet I feel that it's this aspect that we should be really up in arms about.
posted by quin at 3:49 PM on April 3, 2008

“Is this a distinction without a difference?”

Well I think your perspective on this particular gang of four (to borrow) is valid (particularly given the FPP focus on just this agency).

But given the tacit approval of the senate, the ongoing privatization of the defense industry, I think there is a very real difference. There are, for example, as many mercs as U.S. troops in Iraq. That is unprecedented and not, strictly speaking, corruption.
So this is less teapot dome subverting the law style one administration swindle, more self-reciprocating reformation of defense ( policy by corporate interests.

F’rinstance - according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to contractors.
The DIA staff is at least 51 percent contractors, 50-60 percent of the NCS (does humint under the CIA) is contractors - these are for-profit corporations.

Even analytical products like the presidents daily breif are largely overseen by private companies.
Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, all have analytical divisions within the intelligence community (including the ODNI - who produces the presidents daily brief).

So core intelligence and defense functions are being run by private contractors - they lobby congress - get certain people elected and/or onto powerful committees - who petition and lobby congress for resources based on intelligence provided again by the contractors - who then vote based on that intel to fund private contractors to fight a war - etc. etc. etc. (Gates for example, really really pretty, - armed services committee unanimously confirms him - the senate confirms him with only two dissenting votes - neither of which was at all rational)

Think Lockheed Martin is making any money off the Iraq war maybe?

But it’s not just a heist. The actual bureaucratic safeguards in place to prevent perversion of intelligence or biased analysis have been cut out like rewiring a circuit. Not in terms of party, but in terms of private.

And it’s not just fox-henhouse sort of stuff - actual elected officals (as we’ve seen in Cunningham) and bureaucrats (Stephen Cambone) are complicit in commissioning their own practical irrelevancy. (Guys like Clapper have never been content to be irrelevent in their lives so maybe there’s still some kick)

But, you think that a $100 billion industry heavily invested in the continuation of the GWOT is going to stop just because we get a new president?
(I myself don’t know. Been thinking of signing up for the Secret Service though.)

Anyway, it’s kind of funky when “domestic spying” is just the red herring.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:34 PM on April 3, 2008

One of the biggest reasons that more and more intelligence work is being contracted is that Congress has put hard limits on the number of people the various intelligence agencies can employ. In addition, as with most of the executive branch, intelligence agency salaries are governed by the federal government's General Schedule. When many of the skills the agencies seek, such as foreign languages, or, you know, experience with intelligence, are very rare, its basically inevitable that individuals that are capable of commanding a higher salary will, by moving to the private sector. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, and all that.
posted by gsteff at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2008

Several years ago, I found in the logs of a politically-oriented website that I co-edited.

My wife, whose blog is fairly popular within its subject area, but is mostly non-political, also got hits from

It's deeply disturbing to me that we have the military -- not just the government, but THE MILITARY -- surveilling our own population.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:00 PM on April 3, 2008

“Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, and all that.”

Most certainly. But the apparatus is such that it can turn at the hand of a smaller interest outside of public (or public rep) oversight. Doesn’t much matter if everyone in the equation is completely above board and in earnest, it still shakes out as circumventing the safeguards which is a danger. I’d argue that it’s not necessarily by design (and hell - go prove motive anyway, nightmare) but that Cunningham ( are examples that the system can be abused, and so a sign that it inevitably will be.
Just human nature to game any system. This particular one is swiftly losing oversight checks.
And yeah, you’re right about folks going to the private sector - public service has lost a great deal of the prestige it used to carry (often in lieu of salary) - but I’d argue that is at least in part because of the breakdown of transparency and the resultant cynicism.
And political interference is a big hunk of that (no teh gays as translators, etc). So there seems to be a race to the bottom - whatever the mitigating or exacerbating factors - that is systemic and reciprocating.
Hey, Joe Spook is in the private sector banking his cash, why shouldn’t I get mine (sez Joe Senator). A lot of folks in the community show a high degree of professionalism, the system should encourage that - and retention - rather than allowing folks to farm themselves out.
And really - anyone can convince themselves something is the best thing to do if their own interests (and/or paycheck) lay in that direction. No malice required - what’s good for Lockheed Martin (or whomever) is good for America. We’ve heard a thousand variants on that.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:04 AM on April 4, 2008

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