The author tells us that NSA red flag went up on 21 June. 30 distinct warnings within NSA in June-July; 6 August was the 36th time Bin Laden briefed to President, and blown off; by 21 August FBI and CIA both knew two terrorists were in the USA–FBI assigned to a rookie who ignored it for a week and then mistakenly marked as a witness wanted, not as a terrorist armed and dangerous.
911 Commission did not visit NSA or ask NSA questions–neither the Commissioners nor the staff understood NSA or how it contributed to 911
New insights into the culture of lethargy and inter-agency competition, with details on multiple failures by CIA, NSA, and FBI–NSA had location in California but did not bother to look up area codes; CIA knew two were in US but would not tell FBI; CIA did not inform State, INS issued asylum without checking false name.
Bamford on Detail, Steele on Impact–Solid Five Stars
October 17, 2009
Phi Beta Iota: James Bamford is without peer in his understanding of the NSA. He supported it in its earlier books and turned against it in his most recent book, for the same reason we have turned against NSA: it does not provide a return on investment that is remotely tolerable by the taxpayer, who now has the added burden of warrantless wiretapping to deal with. NSA also ignored the Chinese threat that can now ride the electrical power lines into NSA’s computers, and that is the real reason they want their own power generators (see our memorandum online, “Chinese Irregular Warfare“). In our judgement, the next President and the next Director of National Intelligence need to zero out the secret intelligence community, and start over, beginning with an Open Source Agency (see THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest) and a new Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as recommended by Charles Faddis in Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.
We know Matthew Aid, his book should be considered a follow-on to the work of James Bamford, but as Bamford himself observes, the book on NSA leadership’s high crimes and misdemeanors has yet to be written–it will start with fraud, waste, and abuse, and end with warrantless wiretapping and gross dereliction of duty.
We were surprised this morning to learn that Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran whose credibility we respect, is saying that Leon Panetta and Barack Obama may be treating CIA with kid gloves for fear of being assassinated by the “insider” CIA that itself fears criminal prosecution for the death of over 100 detainees in CIA custody. Food for thought. Read McGovern’s thoughts at The Media Consortium, “Ray McGovern Warns of ‘Two CIA’s.'”
There are two sides to this matter. How many CIA’s? Does CIA assassinate U.S. citizens including leaders?
Robert David STEELE Vivas has committed himself to being intelligence officer to the public, and to the five billion poor in particular, for the balance of his life.
Below are some definitions that matter, as of 1 August 2009 [this is a work in progress, will try to complete it soon, and then future definitions will be separate postings]
BRAIN: Only a living creature can have a brain, an organic or biological device that has over billions of years evolved to its present state. The following quotation from James Bamford is instructive; it is the final sentence of his book, BODY OF SECRETS: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Intelligence Agency (page 613)
COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE (CI): Collective Intelligence overcomes groupthink and individual cognitive biases by leveraging a process of consensus decision-making that respects–even demands–diversity of inputs and perspetives. At its best it can be a society of the human mind, achieving conscious evolution as a species. CI is a return to the precepts ofthe Founding Fathers, and in particular Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The industrial era, characterized by Lionel Tiger as “The Manufacture of Evil,” separated the public from both information and elite decision-making, while still taking public money. Bureaucracy fostered secrecy, and secrecy fostered pathology. Collective intelligence restores the power of the people over their commonwealth, and neutralizes the power of vested interests that manipulate information to concentrate wealth. NOTE: a fuller definition that draws on Robert Steele’s many publications can be found at WordIQ, which tends to be more balanced than Wikipedia. Colloquial terms, each a book title, include Smart Mobs, Groundswell, Here Comes Everybody, Army of Davids, Wikinomics, and Wealth of Networks.
DATA: The raw direct human observation or articulation, raw image, raw signal, raw signature, or in machine terms, the lowest possible element of information that can be isolated in and of itself with its own provenance.
DATA MINING: The direct exploitation of information already in-hand, or procured for a specific investigation i.e. generally internally-generated and oriented. Often mis-represented as Business Intelligence. See also Knowledge Management. At its best, Data Mining is a huge fraud buster, detecting patterns of import-export tax avoidance, money laundering, and insurance fraud.
DECISION-SUPPORT: The conversion of information, which costs money, into intelligence, which makes money–or achieves other goals, public, and private, of specific interest to a specific individual or body making a decision of import. See also Intelligence. An alternative for those organizations such as the United Nations that have long been abused by the confusion of secret sources & methods with the world “Intelligence.”
EARTH INTELLIGENCE (EARTHINT): Earth Intelligence, the subject of a new book (the second book to be published by the Earth Intelligence Network, the first was on Collective Intelligence) is defined by its outcome, the creation of a prosperous world at peace. We have adopted Buckminster Fuller’s objectives as our own.
The one book to read if only one, not a substitute for many,
June 27, 2004
I know Jim Bamford personally, and consider him to be one of the most capable of researchers and most objective of writers on intelligence matters. His deep personal relationships across the U.S. Intelligence Community make him the best possible reporter.For those of us steeped in the literature, that routinely read both the daily reporting and the regular books, much of what Jim has put together here will be repetitive. This is, however, the very best book to read if you only have the time for one book on the topic of 9-11, the failure of U.S. intelligence, and the corruption of U.S. policy in using 9-11 as a pretext for invading Iraq and giving Bin Laden the best possible (i.e. most stupid) strategic response to 9-11.
This is the ideal book for any citizen who wants a professional “once over” tour of the various intelligence and policy pieces that broke down and allowed 9-11 to happen, and then allowed the entire “balance of powers” construct from our Founding Fathers to fly out the window. If you want to go deeper, see my thirteen Lists and 479+ other reviews of national security non-fiction.
The book is especially strong on the Rendon Group being used to illegally propagandize American citizens with U.S. taxpayer funds, on the abject failure of George Tenet in revitalizing U.S. clandestine operations, on the failure (treated more kindly) of Mike Hayden to bring the National Security Agency into the 21st Century, and on the very unhealthy merger of the U.S. neoconservatives that captured the White House, and well-funded Zionists in both America and Israel who essentially bought themselves an invasion of Iraq–a remarkable coincidence of interests: Jews paying to invade Iraq, Iranians using Chalabi to feed lies to the neo-cons so they would be deceived into thinking Iraq would be a cake-walk, and Bin Laden never daring to dream the entire U.S. population and all arms of government–including a passive media–would “sleep walk” into what this book suggests is one of the dumbest and most costly strategic errors in the national security history of the USA.
This book is not, despite some of the ideologically-motivated reviews below, an attack of George Bush Junior, as much as it is an appalled and informed review of how a complex government collapsed in the face of 9-11, and a handful of ostensibly patriotic and very myopic individuals were able to abuse their personal power because all of the professional counter-forces: the diplomats, the spies, the military professionals, the Congress, the media–every single one was not sufficiently competent nor sufficiently motivated to mandate a more balanced policy process that could understand the many global threats (terrorism and Iraq are actually two of the lesser ones), devise a comprehensive long-term strategy, and execute that strategy using *all* of the instruments of national power, including strong global alliances that lead all governments to fight all gangs in the most effective fashion possible.
We let kids play with matches, and they burned down the house.
Deeply Researched Facts About the Secret Signals War,
May 12, 2001
I like this book because it is a deeply researched investigation of the National Security Agency, a part of the U.S. government that is always “in harms way”, and because it offers up over 15 genuine journalistic investigative “scoops”, shows how much can be learned about secret matters through persistent and professional exploitation of open sources, and paints a compelling dramatic picture of the honorable and courageous NSA employees, the less capable senior officers in the Joint Chiefs of Staff who risk their lives and do not provide them with emergency plans and air cover, and the man in the middle, LtGen Mike Hayden, whom the book portrays as a truly competent person who “gets it.” This is the stuff of history and a very well-told tale.
Among the “scoops” that I as a professional intelligence officer will list for the sake of showing how wide and deep the book goes, are:
#1. Extremely big scoop. Israel attacked U.S. military personnel aboard the USS Liberty with the intent of simulating an Egyptian attack on US forces that would permit a joint US and Israeli retaliation. Even after the ship was destroyed, with very clear evidence from NSA tapes that the Israeli’s deliberately attacked a US ship while the ship was flying US colors, President Johnson is reported to have betrayed his military and his Nation by covering this up, intimidating all survivors, and saying he would “not embarrass our allies.” In consultation with my naval colleagues, I am satisfied that the author has it right.
#2. US SIGINT failed as North Korea invaded South Korea. Our lack of preparedness, in both systems and linguists, was dereliction of duty at the highest levels. Fast forward to Sudan, East Timor, Burundi, Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Haiti.
#3. US “Operations Security” (OPSEC) is terrible! Bad in World War II, bad in Korea, bad in Viet-Nam, bad in Somalia and bad today. This book is a stark and compelling indictment of the incompetence of U.S. military and political leaders who refuse to recognize that the rest of the world is smart enough to collect our signals and predict our intentions with sufficient effectiveness to neutralize our otherwise substantial power.
#4. Eisenhower, as President, controlled the U-2 operations over Russia and lied to the world and the people about his individual responsibility for those missions.
#5. US SIGINT failed in Arabia and against Israel. “The agency had few Arabic or Hebrew linguists and it was not equipped to eavesdrop on British, French, or Israeli military communications.” We are often unable to sort out the truth in conflicts between Arabs and Israel, and this allows Israel to deceive and manipulate American policy makers.
#6. In the early years of the Cold War, the US was the aggressor, and ran incredibly prevocational full bombing runs into northern Russia, simply to test for defenses and to see if it could be done. Young American military personnel were sent as expendable cannon fodder, with the ultimate result that Russia spent billions more on its defenses than it might have if America have been a “good neighbor.”
#7. The Joint Chiefs of Staff was “out of control” during our confrontations with Cuba, and proposed to the President of the United States that U.S. military capabilities be used to murder Americans in order to provide a false cover for declaring war on Cuba.
#8. The most senior military officers serving under Kennedy did not have the moral courage to tell him that the Bay of Pigs was a doomed operation. They allowed hundreds to die and be captured rather than “speak truth to power.” NSA provided ample SIGINT.
#9. Imagery intelligence beat signals intelligence in answering the ultimate question about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Those who practice “OPSEC” can defeat our SIGINT capabilities.
#10. US telecommunications companies have for years been giving NSA copies of all telegrams sent by foreign embassies and corporations, compromsing their private sector integrity.
#11. US military power is hollow. For both the USS Liberty and the USS Pueblo, a combination of screw-ups put military personnel in harms’ way and a combination of incapacities helped get them killed and captured. In all of Korea only six U.S. aircraft were available to help protect the USS Pueblo, and they required several hours to get ready. The South Koreans, ready to launch defense forces instantly, were forbidden to do so, US leaders being more concerned about avoiding provocation of the North Koreans than about protecting U.S. military personnel.
#12. US successes against the Russians and other targets were completely offset by the combination of the John Walker betrayal (turning over the key lists, this has been known) and the Soviet receipt from the Vietnamese (this has not been known) of a complete warehouse of NSA code machines left behind in Saigon. The Soviets have been reading our mail since 1975, and NSA did not want the President or Congress or the people to know this fact.
#13. The North Vietnamese beat us on SIGINT, with 5000 trained SIGINT personnel and a system that stretched from Guam (where the B-52’s were launched and the ground crew radios were in the clear) to the day-to-day operational orders going out to helicopters and fighters “in the clear”. The book paints an extraordinarily stark contrast between North Vietnamese competence and US incompetence across all areas of SIGINT and OPSEC.
#14. There are others, but the final scoop is summed up in the author’s concluding chapter on NSA’s race to build the largest fastest computer at a time when relevant signals are growing exponentially: “Eventually NSA may secretly achieve the ultimate in quickness, compatibility, and efficiency-a computer with petaflop and higher speeds shrunk into a container about a liter in size, and powered by only about ten watts of power: the human brain.”
The book is nothing short of sensational, for two reasons: itis the first and still the only really comprehensive look at globalsignals intelligence operations as dominated by the National Security Agency; and second, because all of his research was done using only open sources, including unclassified employee newsletters at Alice Springs, and he did a great job of making the most out of legally and ethically available information. James is still around, working on another book about SIGINT, and I believe that only he will be able to top this one.