Its Only Money
The posting of Jim Bamford’s Politico article on today’s Public Intelligence Blog or rather the accompanying comment on it by Robert Steele [Jim Bamford: How 9/11 Fearmongering Grew NSA Into a Very Expensive Domestic Surveillance Monster] identifies the principal problem with the outrageously expensive NSA. His comment is directly related to earlier comments he made on a Wall Street Journal article written by General Jim Clapper (USAF ret.) the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) [David Isenberg: Jim Clapper Claims Transformation — Robert Steele Comments on Each Misrepresentation] Steele did a brilliant job of refuting the claims that General Clapper advanced in this article about how much the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has improved since 9/11. Yet the article really wasn’t serious to begin with because it obviously was written with the purpose of telling the American people what the General wanted them to know. I am sure it was vetted carefully by his staff and possibly CIA as well.
In the interests of clearing the air a bit I would like to add a couple of comments of my own to supplement those that Steele has made.
In the wake of 9/11 people, who did not know what they were talking about, had a good deal to say concerning the “lack of sharing” within the IC. In point of fact NSA and its technical counterpart the National Geo-spatial [Intelligence] Agency (NGA) are required by law to make their products available to analysts holding the proper clearances in entire IC as well as the President and his National Security Staff. The real lack of sharing was and is between the FBI and CIA. The FBI is unwilling to share because its agents fear damaging ongoing investigations while CIA is unwilling to share because its intelligence officers fear compromising sensitive sources. Had this issue been approached with integrity and directly between the two agencies it could have been resolved years ago.
General Clapper argued that the changed “culture” within the intelligence community had made its members much more efficient at dealing transnational terrorist and criminal organizations. Neither CIA nor NSA has a clue on how to deal with widely dispersed networked type of organizations. Indeed CIA has yet to build a realistic model of the organizational structure or personnel staffing of al Qaeda. CIA’s current methodology of using ‘targeters’ to find and track individual al Qaeda members is simply doing what the original CIA Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) was doing in the 1990s. Indeed their analytic approach is the same as used during the Cold War with “Soviet Type Armed Forces” (the actual name of a class that many of us attended).
Finally there are Bamford’s article and Steele’s comments on it. Steele in his comments went right to the heart of the matter by noting that NSA was incapable of processing more than a small percentage of the material it collects on a 24/7 basis. This goes directly to an issue that General Clapper clearly did not wish to discuss in his article: for all the money being poured into NSA specifically and the IC more broadly, how much return in enhanced security are we really getting? It would not seem to make much sense to continue to spend even more money for collection systems to collect ever more traffic if what is being gathered now can’t be adequately processed.
Robert Steele: Emphasis added above. Richard Wright (Retired Reader at Amazon) focuses on the longest largest divide in the US intelligence community itself, as well as the complete abject failure of analysis as a whole and analysis in relation to crime and terrorism, but it bears mention that other divides are equally unattended to by the current leadership:
1) The secret world ignores 90% of the full-spectrum threat to obsess on counter-terrorism (badly).
2) The secret world ignores 90% of the Whole of Government customer base, while badly serving the President and a few senior national security officials. It is worthless on strategy, acquisition, campaign planning, and tactical real-time actionable intelligence in 183 languages.
3) The secret world ignores 90% of the relevant sources (in 183 languages) and methods (modern human and machine processing that is commonplace within major insurance and financial companies).
On a scale of 100%, ten years after 9/11, the US secret intelligence world earns a grade of 10% (not just failing, but a dishonorable discharge and shame for all eternity). The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) are been impotent since their inception, and appear content to continue in that fashion.