28 Pages, 40 Questions
ROBERT STEELE: CIA was clearly a full participant in the drafting of these answers, many of which are utter nonsense (being effective at clandestine intelligence, all-source analysis, and open source intelligence, to take three fairly pertinent examples). The questions are the best I have ever seen over 30 years of watching this theater of the absurd. Brennan’s answers are a mix of world-class dissembling, avoidance of substance, and specious assurances. Harry Truman would be aghast at what the CIA has become. Below I offer honest answers to 6 of the 40 questions. I am always available for staff or Member testimony.
1A. How well do you think the CIA has performed recently in each of its primary missions:
CIA is broken beyond repair, and pathologically harmful in its present state. Drones and extrajudicial killings dominate its clerk-leaders’ time, its budget, and its culture. 90% of what CIA claims as clandestinely acquired information is actually a mix of hand-outs from foreign liaison services and domestically-acquired information. CIA does not do all-source analysis, its inexperienced analysts do cosmetics on very thin streams of technical collection on a handful of hard-targets, and know nothing at all about Global Coverage (e.g. Mali at the tribal level). CIA counterterrorism is non-existent, outside of prisoner interrogation in partnership with JSOG at secret prisons that still do exist (e.g. Somalia), and direct support to Mossad false flag operations intended to keep the public distracted from domestic issues. There is no CIA counterintelligence function to speak of, that remains the final career stop for those who cannot be found work anywhere else. Covert action continues to consist of contractors running drugs into the US via US military bases and rural strips in Texas and elsewhere, and a tiny handful of truly extraordinary very small operations that defy imagination and merit fulsome praise–those who do the latter are the real heroes at CIA. CIA is not central — it does NOT have access to most of the information that the National Security Agency and National Geospatial Agency collect, nor does it do more than 10% of what is possible in either clandestine collection or multilingual analog and human open source acquisition. CIA is not intelligent, its back office and desktop processing are still closer to the Soviet gulag (John Perry Barlow said this first) than Silicon Valley, and CIA is not an “agency,” there are at least seven different CIAs, only three of them legitimate.
2. What do you consider to be the appropriate role for the CIA in the collection of human intelligence, given that human intelligence also is collected by the Department of Defense and others parts of the Intelligence Community?
CIA is in theory the executive agent for Human Intelligence (HUMINT), but CIA does not understand full-spectrum HUMINT, has failed at clandestine HUMINT, and is being ignored by everyone else as the theaters, particularly the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), military services, JSOG and DIA, and even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all rush to create their own stunted and ineffective “clandestine” and “counterintelligence” capabilities. As we have all learned in the past ten years, US government bureaucracies are incapable of doing non-official cover, and US security protocols are so insane as to prevent the recruitment and proper exploitation of third country mid-career non-official cover personnel who are more like principal agents (never come inside) than case officers (employees with full access). The literature and many lifetimes of experience suggest that entrenched bureaucracies are easier to burn to the ground in creative destruction than they are to reform or even less so, transform.
The raw truth is that the US Government lacks an Open Source Agency (OSA) that would be responsible for ALL open source acquisition, processing, and sense-making in alliances with ALL of the Cabinet Departments (Whole of Government intelligence in support of Whole of Government planning, programming, budgeting, and execution), and that would also be responsible for ALL human intelligence that is legal and ethical. Intelligence is about decision-support. If 80-95% of all decision-support can be done using open sources, then the question must be asked, why are we paying $75 billion a year (actually closer to $100 billion a year) for secret technical collection that is not processed, and that produces, according to General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret), “at best” 4% of what a major commander or policy maker needs (and nothing for everyone else)?
The OSA would in turn be the starting point — the foundation — for justifying tiny new capabilities for clandestine HUMINT, clandestine SIGINT (mostly close-in and human emplaced), and clandestine imagery (the best use of stealth drones). [Measurements and Signatures Intelligence (MASINT) is a waste of money and General Flynn should be closing it down as quickly as possible.]. Without an Open Source Agency (OSA), the US secret intelligence community generally, and CIA particularly, will continue to be nothing more than corporate vaporware, a second job for annuitants, and very expensive cover for the seven CIAs three legal but incompetent, four illegal that should not be allowed to exist.
4. How do you view the responsibilities of the CIA to collect and analyze both tactical intelligence to support military operations in theaters of war and strategic intelligence for policymakers?
CIA should have no role at all in doing tactical intelligence for combat operations. The Department of Defense willfully destroyed all organic capabilities for tactical imagery, most but not all tactical signals, and it has never been very competent at tactical human intelligence, a few exceptions not-withstanding. While in the past CIA has been theoretically responsible for preparing Escape & Evasion capabilities including escape rate lines and safe-houses, the fact is that CIA has never respected DoD requirements and its case officers have never gone far from the capital city cocktail circuit. The only responsible approach to tactical intelligence is a measured mix of restoring organic joint service capabilities that include organic real-time sharing and sense-making, with regional multinational stations and networks along with a very refined unilateral special operations / clandestine capability that is on call globally.
CIA also stinks at policy intelligence, in part because the policymakers have learned how little CIA can do for them, and are driven by ideological and financial interests far removed from any ethical evidence-based decision-support that CIA might prepare. The sad truth is that no one now serving at the highest levels of the CIA — or any other agency — actually understands the difference between classified information versus intelligence as decision-support, nor do they respect the fact that intelligence should be central to the definition of ALL threats, the creation of national and departmental strategies that in the aggregate address ALL threats, the devising of a Whole of Government force structure and acquisition programs that are affordable and sustainable as well as relevant; and the creation of Whole of Government campaign plans that create a prosperous world at peace within which each US citizen is assured a good life safe from both domestic predation and international plagues of various sorts including illegal immigration and Chinese birth tourism. We are a stupid government that has created a stupid nation — one third of US citizens are now officially idiots according to a recent Pew study, and nothing the President, the Cabinet, the Congress, or any individual “leader” of national intelligence are doing now is going to change this. I wrote to the President in 2011, and distributed copies to Senate and House leaders as well as the DNI. There is no process in this government, at this time, to devise ethical evidence-based decision-support for Whole of Government affordable sustainable operations.
At this time CIA gets a C- for policy support to the White House, an F for policy support to Whole of Government, and an F for strategy, acquisition, and Whole of Government campaign planning decision-support.
6. What principles should govern the division of responsibilities between the CIA in the conduct of covert action under Title 50 and the Department of Defense in the conduct of similar or related activities under Title 10?
This question could usefully be expanded to ask whether we should not be considering a wholesale re-examination and reconstitution of the US federal government. Harry Truman never intended for CIA to be anything other than a central analytic capability, and he certainly never intended to create a Frankenstein version of the largely ineffective Office of Strategic Services (OSS). As a general rule, in today’s world where spies are generally transparent and citizen cell phones with Wi-Fi enables cameras are everywhere, CIA should not be in the covert action business. Covert Action by definition seeks to achieve by subterfuge that which cannot be achieved by legal and ethical means. The single most useful project CIA could address, given the right leadership and a deep commitment by the President to finally do something in the public interest, is a clean sheet re-design of the US Government as a whole. Recognizing that Global Trends 2030 was typical CIA goo of use to no one, it is never-the-less possible to use the existing CIA infrastructure and funds to convene a series of M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making) events and networks, along with a series of Open Source Everything (OSE) events and networks, and to conclude with a simplified restructuring of the government that creates Secretary Generals for the Commonwealth and for Global Engagement, along with a Secretary-General for Education, Intelligence, and Research. What we have now in the way of Congressionally-approved legislation and “oversight” is neither coherent nor effective.
9. The Arab Spring reinforced the need for timely intelligence on countries of interest to the United States that may not be at the top of the National Intelligence priorities. Do you agree that CIA needs to maintain global coverage? What do you believe is reasonable for policymakers to expect the CIA, and other intelligence agencies, to be able to anticipate in terms of major geopolitical events?
Well, first off, you evidently have not been briefed about our role is causing the Arab Spring with our secret deals and cash payments to the Muslim Brotherhood. Sorry about that, but Dick Cheney is still in charge of the US national security enterprise, and Dick Cheney still thinks Congress is a bunch of “useless eaters” that should be kept in the dark. As General Wes Clark outlined in public video, we’ve been planning this for a long time, and even though it has not turned out as we intended, I assure you that our extrajudicial killings and our bribes to various terrorist and other groups that we have ourselves nurtured to achieve a state of Perpetual War, are completely global in nature. In other words, our ability to wreak havoc is global, we just don’t actually know anything about the rest of the world at the tribal and neighborhood level.
As you may be aware, the US Marine Corps tried to redirect the national intelligence community in 1992 toward Global Coverage, and particularly toward low-intensity high-probability threats. I was the lead writer in that effort, and ultimately resigned on 1 April 1993 and spent 20 years trying to help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Partnership for Peace, and the African and South American nations create their capabilities for legal ethical holistic intelligence. CIA undermined that effort, calling it “Open Sores,” and has steadfastly refused to become more intelligent or to reconnect to its integrity, since then.
In 1995 the Aspin-Brown Commission sponsored a benchmark exercise in which I, with six phone calls, smashed the entire US secret intelligence community over one week-end (one business day), producing French ten meter imagery, Russian 1:50 combat charts with contour lines, tribal orders of battle including technicals, the top academics, the top journalists, and some special reports for Prime Ministers in Europe on Burundi and Rwanda. On that basis, the Aspin-Browsn commission recommended that Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) be a top priority for DCI attention and for funding. George Tenet chose to ignore all of the Aspin-Brown recommendations, but he did commission a report by Boyd Sutton, The Challenge of Global Coverage, that concluded that we needed to spend $1.5 billion a year exclusively on open sources of information relevant to Global Coverage. The number was established by Keith Hall, 150 topics or countries not now covered, $10M each. When George, who was looking for a justification for more secret programs, received the report, he dismissed the possibility of investing in open sources, and told the delivering officer, “I am locking this report up, we will speak of it no more.” It merits comments that because Lee Hamilton watched Robert Steele win the Burundi Exercise in 1995, Lee Hamilton supported one of the few totally competent staff members of the 9/11 Commission in putting an Open Source Agency (OSA) on pages 23 and 413 of the 9/11 Commission Report, an otherwise useless document that will join the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination in the annals of bad history. OMB seniors agree that the OSA should be under diplomatic auspices, a sister agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), rather than a secret agency. This idea may finally be about to get an honest public hearing.
To do Global Coverage, one needs mature subject matter experts who have a deep holistic (Whole Systems) grasp of reality, an appreciation for True Cost economics, and the credibility to connect openly with non-US citizens that have historical, cultural, linguistic, and ground truth competencies that no US citizen with a Top Secret clearance is capable of acquiring — or if acquired prior to entry on duty — maintaining. We investigate and harass analysts that have the temerity to talk to “too many” foreigners. CIA has no idea what the top ten high-level threats to humanity are, nor are they able to do useful policy decision-support because they do not do domestic compare and contrast, or holistic forward-thinking anticipatory governance decision-support.
The Open Source Center (OSC) does not do 90% of what could be done in the open source world because they are exclusively reliant on T-1 lines piped into cubicles, and are still a distressing mix of grand-mothers, young kids, and aging US citizen contractor butts in seats, without the global street-level face to face access and deep historical, cultural, and linguistic “boots on the ground” that are essential. They also have no budget for obtaining exactly the right answer on a just enough, just in time basis from non-US citizen field experts, and they compound their ignoroance by classifying whatever they produce, which is inevitably open source information rather than decision-support — they produce classified non-secret information, the ultimate fool’s errand in a complex world where sharing, not secrecy, is the predominant value.
To do Global Coverage we need an Open Source Agency (OSA). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has twice approved this, and although our financial situation is dire now, an OSA would pay for itself in less than a year as it combined with the Congressional Research Service and other formidable collections of intellect, to help identify waste that can be cut while still protecting jobs and revenue district by district, state by state AND providing the decision-support necessary to reconstitution the Department of Defense (four type commands — Big War, Small War, Peace War, Home War — and a 450 ship global navy, a long-haul air force, and an air-liftable army, all of which allow the closing of our very expensive and unnecessary bases all over the world — including 44 around Iran).
I will end by saying that this is probably the most important questions of all, and that there is an answer, but it is an answer that demands that the Secretary of State agree to sponsor the OSA, and the Secretary of Defense agree to fund it. As conceptualized, the OSA would feed all open sources in all languages and mediums to the high side in real time — leaving no basis for complaint from the claissifed mandarins — while also creating General Tony Zinni’s recommended National Monitoring and Planning Center (NPMC), and my own concept of a Multinational Decision-Support Centre (MDSC) that would use military channels to harvest open source information from across the eight tribes of information (academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) in each country. Over time we would create our own unilaterally-funded and managed networks of experts on every threat, every topic, every location but we must first grasp the reality that the future is about multinational sharing, not unilateral secrecy.
18. Foreign language proficiency often is a crucial enable of the CIA’s intelligence activities. In your opinion, has the CIA been successful in developing the foreign language capabilities of its workforce? If confirmed, what steps will you take to improve the foreign language capabilities of the CIA workforce?
CIA’s workforce can be divided into two parts: those that deal with humans or information relevant to preparing foreign intelligence, and those that support them. The sad truth is that less than 20% of the CIA workforce speaks a foreign language, and generally at the 3 level instead of 4 or 5. Because 90% of CIA’s “clandestne” reporting comes from foreign liaison counterparts that speak English, or legal travelers interviewed in the USA in English, CIA has been living an official cover lie for decades. In the 1950’s it had a much more capable and international workforce, but Viet-Nam militarized the CIA, corrupted the CIA, and was a cancer that is today proving fatal. CIA has lost its way. It is beyond repair in its present form.
A MAJOR reason for CIA’s debility is the conflict between a security policy that demands the hiring of second generation or better US citizens that can be cleared and have no remote foreign bonds or obligations, and the reality that those with deep historical, cultural, and linguistic understanding are generally not clearable. CIA’s personnel people are first class, but they cannot overcome idiocy at the management level and among the security goons that cannot comprehend nuanced loyalties and sophisticated management of multinational personnel to arrive at “best truths.”
The clandestine service is addicted to living impunity with official cover and the analytic service is still suffering from the delusion that giving children access to secrets will make them all-source analysts. CIA’s entire hiring paradigm is lunatic. Hiring a few Arabs without college degrees at high grades does not comprise a reform (and certainly not a transformation) in CIA’s foreign language capability. The official language of CIA is English, and the official primary “source” for each CIA analysts is their dumb desk-top terminal, which is also primarily an English-language source.
As a side note, Chase Brandon was the CIA officer trotted out to Career Trainee classes in 1979, and he is still the one guy trotted out for public display as well as the classes. If CIA were challenged to produce ten case officers fluent in Swahili (level 4 or level 5), and forced to have them tested independently, CIA would fail just as they would fail in Hindi, Punjab, or Somali. They simply do not do foreign languages and especially languages beyond the obvious first fifteen. Global Coverage outside the capital cities, talking to people who do not speak English, is not how CIA does business. Since 90% of open sources relevant to understanding ground truth is not online and not in English, this incapacity applies across the board at CIA — to clandestine operations (more properly foreign liaison), to open source acquisition, and to analytics.
The balance of the questions, all excellent, receive pro forma answers that are at best diplomatic dissembling and at worst flat out lies. CIA has learned nothing in the past twenty years, and neither has the DNI. A wise President seeking savings would cut the entire secret intelligence community by 20% each year for five years running, while standing up the Open Source Agency (OSA) and directing one quarter of the secret budget cut each year toward completely new capabilities rooted in OSA studies of what OSA cannot do. Both CIA and the DNI and the other agencies have no bench — 9/11 and the money following 9/11 have given another decade of employment to people who should have retired in the 1990’s. At Defense, a wise President would cut 5% each year for six years running, and give the Secretary of Defense a free hand in completely restructuring the place — the regional theaters are a waste of real estate, money, and manpower; the Services are dishonest to the bone; and acquisition as well as research & development are out of control. There is much to be done. All good things benefit when one can rely on intelligence with integrity. That is not the case today in the USA. The truth at any cost reduces all other costs.
A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else. Dostoevsky
The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information]. Ellsberg to Kissinger
Top managers’ information is invariably either biased, subjecive, filtered or late. . . . Using intelligence correctly requires a fundamental change in the way top executives make decisions. Gilad
The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community. Jung
When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it. Seelert