Phi Beta Iota: Below are the three traditional forms of covert action, and the four new forms. CIA stinks at all of them, but so does the US military. No amount of excellence at the tactical level can overcome either comatose leadership at the agency level, or a strategic thinking vacuum at the national leadership level.
Osama bin Laden spoke often of a strategy of “economic warfare” against the United States, a low-level war aimed at bankrupting the world’s economic superpower. A decade after the 9/11 attacks, it’s hard to argue that bin Laden’s strategy was ineffective. The attacks themselves, according to the September 11 commission, cost Al Qaeda between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute. They have cost America, by our estimate, more than $5 trillion – a “return on investment” of 10,000,000 to one.
Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide.
Within weeks of the attacks, the giant ears of the National Security Agency, always pointed outward toward potential enemies, turned inward on the American public itself. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established 23 years before to ensure that only suspected foreign agents and terrorists were targeted by the NSA, would be bypassed. Telecom companies, required by law to keep the computerized phone records of their customers confidential unless presented with a warrant, would secretly turn them over in bulk to the NSA without ever asking for a warrant.
. . . . . .
So much intercepted information is now being collected from “enemies” at home and abroad that, in order to store it all, the agency last year began constructing the ultimate monument to eavesdropping. Rising in a remote corner of Utah, the agency’s gargantuan data storage center will be 1 million square feet, cost nearly $2 billion and likely be capable of eventually holding more than a yottabyte of data — equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
. . . . . .
A surveillance system capable of monitoring 10 million people simultaneously this year will be able to monitor 100 million the next year — at probably half the cost. And every time new communications technology appears on the market, rest assured that someone at the NSA has already found a way to monitor it. It’s what the NSA does.
What Church likely never anticipated was the rise of the security-industrial complex, a revolving door between those generating the fears and those profiting from them.
Phi Beta Iota: NSA leadership is blatantly corrupt (this is the same person who destroyed ABLE DANGER rather than share the information with the FBI). The only good news is that NSA is also inept–it processes less than one percent of what it captures, and is essentially cheating the taxpayer at the same time that it is spying on the taxpayer. The time has come to create a whole new cadre of ethical leaders who actually understand the new craft of intelligence as decision support (outputs) instead of budget share (inputs), and to slam it back from $90 billion a year toward $20 billion a year. With the savings the next President can afford to give all displaced personnel a year’s salary and a year’s re-training toward education, infrastructure, and information-era jobs.
Ten years after 9/11, top cops in the nation’s biggest cities feel there
are still significant gaps in the intelligence and analysis they receive
about terrorism, even as the homegrown terror threat looms larger.
A survey of intelligence commanders from America’s 56 biggest cities conducted by the Homeland Security Policy Institute found the police chiefs believe the nation’s intelligence enterprise is less robust than it could be, and that 62 percent of the chiefs felt this lack left them “unable to develop a complete understanding of their local threat.”
Phi Beta Iota: The “top cops” are great people, they just do not understand that the terror threat is fradulent and that the homeland security industrial complex is working precisely as intended, wasting hundreds of billions on fraudulent dysfunctional white and white-collar employment while channeling hundreds of billions in unearned profits to the homeland security industrial complex.
Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, August 2009
Phi Beta Iota: The report is interesting, and provides a useful methodology for approaching the relationship between intangible values and tangible manifestations, but it has one major flaw: it does not provide for the reality that expelling dictators and the US from the Middle East might be related to actually seeking to create a prosperous Middle East at peace. Because of that flaw, the report also fails to point out that the best strategy against Al Qaeda is NOT to try to hunt down individual Al Qaeda members, but rather to pull out of the Middle East, stop supporting dictators (and Israel) and begin waging peace at one third the cost of war. One should not throw stones when one lives in a glass house. The USA today is a glass house on a sand foundation.
In my opinion the Washington Post series that exposed the exponential increase in the size and cost of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) was not taken seriously by official Washington and is considered a minor nuisance. That is why the only response to the series, as crafted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), was largely vintage intelligence agency boilerplate with a few bizarre additions such as the claim that the collection and analysis of intelligence are not essential government functions of intelligence agencies and so can be left to contractor personal. The series did not merit a serious response in the thinking of the Executive Branch and Intelligence Community.
In fact the series, although much touted, was a huge disappointment to readers expecting a more deeply researched and in-depth look at the IC. Clearly the craft of investigative journalism has fallen on hard times.
Also it is the case that in this country quantity always trumps quality. The growth in the size of the Intelligence Community is taken by official Washington as a priori evidence of the value it has provided since 9/11. The facts that the current IC is ruinously expensive to operate, is producing largely worthless intelligence, and has frequently failed even in the most basic warning functions are irrelevant. A bloated IC serves as ‘proof’ that political Washington is serious about protecting American citizens from terrorist threats. As with quantity, in the political arena form always trumps substance.
Phi Beta Iota: Tip of the hat to Berto Jongman for this referral. The report is a classic exemplar of good people doing what they know and what they have been told to do, rather than what they need to do–Dr. Robert Ackoff called this “doing the wrong thing righter.” It is not possible to secure cyberspace using the traditional top-down micro-management paradigm. The only way to secure cyberspace is to make it resilient by steering the private sector toward open everything including most especially open source software. Learn more at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE).
Phi Beta Iota: With a tip of the hat to Marcus Aurelius, this document is provided for information. On balance it is rich with insights that are not available elsewhere and consequently must be very highly regarded as a baseline for where US intelligence reform (and US intelligence) are today: dead, with a $75 billion a year casket that shows no signs of atrophy. Below are summary extracts both positive and negative.