The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The $52.6 billion ‘black budget’ for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress. … Spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The figure vastly exceeds outside estimates and is nearly 50 percent above that of the National Security Agency, which conducts eavesdropping operations and has long been considered the behemoth of the community. ‘Black budget’ summary details U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives

U.S. believes Syria used chemical weapons but says facts needed | Reuters

Oh boy. Redlines and stuff.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Syria’s government has likely used chemical weapons on a small scale, the White House said on Thursday, but added that President Barack Obama needed “credible and corroborated” facts before acting on that assessment.

The surprise disclosure triggered immediate calls for U.S. action by members of Congress who advocate deeper American involvement in Syria’s bitter civil war.

The White House said the U.S. intelligence community assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical agent sarin was used by forces allied with President Bashar al-Assad. But it noted that “the chain of custody is not clear.”

I feel obligated to once again quote Arthur Silber on “intelligence” (and suggest you take this to heart as this story unfolds):

NEVER, EVER ARGUE IN TERMS OF INTELLIGENCE AT ALL.

It is always irrelevant to major policy decisions, and such decisions are reached for different reasons altogether. This is true whether the intelligence is correct or not, and it is almost always wrong. On those very rare occasions when intelligence is accurate, it is likely to be disregarded in any case. It will certainly be disregarded if it runs counter to a course to which policymakers are already committed.

The intelligence does not matter. It is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable — and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.

… This was true in the case of Iraq; it is true — and will continue to be true — with regard to Iran; it was obviously true in connection with the Tsarnaevs (assuming they did what everyone now believes they did).

And it will be true whatever happens in Syria.

By now, we should be wary of any mention of WMD as a justification for war.

Clapper: Iran Still Not Building a Nuclear Weapon; Purpose of Sanctions is to Foster Unrest | Nima Shirazi

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and reiterated the same assessment regarding Iran as was delivered in March 2013.

The exact same statements - verbatim - were included in Clapper’s unclassified report, including the assessment that “Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Of course, as Clapper notes, Iran’s ability to potentially manufacture the components is inherent to its advanced nuclear infrastructure and is not an indication of an active nuclear weapons program, which all U.S. intelligence agencies agree Iran does not have.

[…]

During questioning from Senators following his prepared remarks, Clapper admitted - as a number of recent independent reports have shown - that the increasingly harsh sanctions levied upon Iran have had no effect on the decision-making process of the Iranian leadership, yet has produced considerable damage to the Iranian economy and resulted in increased “inflation, unemployment, [and the] unavailability of commodities” for the Iranian people.

This, he said, is entirely the point. Responding to Maine Senator Angus King, who asked about the impact sanctions have on the Iranian government, Clapper explained that the intent of sanctions is to spark dissent and unrest in the Iranian population, effectively stating that Obama administration’s continued collective punishment of the Iranian people is a deliberate (and embarrassingly futile) tactic employed to the foment regime change.

"What they do worry about though is sufficient restiveness in the street that would actually jeopardize the regime. I think they are concerned about that," Clapper said of the Iranian leadership. It is no wonder, then, why Clapper refers in his own official report to the economic warfare waged against Iran as "regime threatening sanctions."

Not mentioned in the session, of course, are the decades of repeated affirmations by senior Iranian officials that Iran rejects nuclear weapons on strategic, moral and religious grounds. Within the past six weeks, this position has been reiterated by Iran’s envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, President Ahmadinejad, and Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

Just two days ago, for instance, during a three-day diplomatic visit to Africa, Ahmadinejad declared, “The era of the atomic bomb is over. Atomic bombs are no longer useful and have no effect on political equations. Atomic bombs belong to the last century, and anyone who thinks he can rule the world by atomic bombs is a political fool,” according to a report by Iran’s state-run PressTV. He also pushed back the constant conflation in Western discourse of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. “Nuclear energy is one thing and an atomic bomb is another. This useful energy must belong to all nations,” he stated.

Furthermore, reports that Iran has continued converting its stockpiled 19.75% enriched uranium into fuel plates for its cancer-treating medical research reactor gained absolutely no traction within the Committee or Clapper’s comments. For Congress, Iran is a threat simply by virtue of having independent political considerations, inalienable national rights and refusing to accept American hegemony over its own security interests. [++]

The Washington Post has reported that there are 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in 10,000 locations in the United States that are working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, and that the intelligence community as a whole includes 854,000 people who hold top-secret clearances. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the US intelligence community and cost the equivalent of 49% of their personnel budgets.

United States Intelligence Community (Wikipedia).

1,271 government organizations working on national security and intelligence.  The Washington Post report in question noted that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

If this isn’t an indication that the Leviathan is out of control, I’m not sure what is.

(via letterstomycountry)

Scholars and spies: A disastrous combination | Mark LeVine

Buried in a just published Washington Post exposé on the expansion of spying operations by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) is a sentence that should send shivers down the spine of any researcher, journalist, student or scholar working in the Muslim world, regardless of whether she or he is an American citizen:

“Having DIA operatives pose as academics or business executives requires painstaking work to create those false identities, and it means they won’t be protected by diplomatic immunity if caught.”

I’m glad to know it takes “painstaking work” to create the “false” identity of a scholar (it’s most likely not as hard to fake being a businessman, given the CIA’s long history of using front companies for its espionage activities). But I have little doubt that the US intelligence and defence communities would do so if they believed such a cover could help better collect and/or produce actionable intelligence. Indeed, it’s quite likely they wouldn’t need to fake it, as there are likely many “scholars” who would willingly sign up for the job.

[…] One might ask, given the far greater levels of violence in which the intelligence community and military are involved, is the (re)joining of scholars and spies really worth getting up in arms about?

Yes, it is.

It’s hard enough to go to a region of the world where one’s government is engaged either in violent activities through war, occupation or drone activities (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen), supports the oppressive policies of the local government (Morocco, Bahrain, Israel, Egypt, etc) or as bad, is actively engaged in espionage against it (Iran, Sudan), and try to win the trust of social, religious and/or political activists who would naturally be on the radar of their own and foreign intelligence services. Such relationships will be even harder, if not nearly impossible, to develop if it becomes known that the US government is actively using scholars (and, we can presume, journalists) as covers for intelligence operatives.

Equally bad would be the agreement by universities, without the consent or even knowledge of their faculty and students, to provide covers for clandestine intelligence operatives, thereby putting legitimate scholars at risk without them having any idea of their so being. Such a situation would permanently taint every scholar engaged in research in the field in the Muslim majority world, or with diaspora Muslim communities in Europe or North America.

However it is done, such practices would undoubtedly make it well-nigh impossible either to produce the kind of well-researched and objective knowledge that is crucial for accurate policy-making by governments, or to know when the research being produced is done explicitly to promote clandestine strategic ends, or is in fact deliberate disinformation or is otherwise tainted as the product of espionage or otherwise clandestine activities. [++]

Obama Administration Moves To Expand Spy Network Of Pentagon in “Major Adjustment For National Security” | Jonathan Turley

The Obama Administration has announced that it will seek the expansion of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to include a wider range of espionage operations. The move, which has attracted little attention, would create a large spy network in the Pentagon as the same time that the CIA is moving to build more of an independent air force and military operational capacity.

There seems [to be] little concern that we are eliminating the long tradition of keeping military and intelligence operations separate — to avoid the concentration of power in these agencies. We will now have largely duplicative operational capacities in the Pentagon and CIA, with each able to launch large military or intelligence operations.

The DIA expansion will include as many as 1,600 “collectors” in positions around the world to expand clandestine operatives in the Pentagon. They want to monitor large Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China — areas overlapping with the CIA.

The agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, admitted recently that “This is a major adjustment for national security.”

The DIA expansion also adds to a burgeoning security state both domestically and internationally. The Obama Administration has expanded national security powers and actively sought the establishment of a Nixonian “Imperial Presidency.” With the Administration’s opposition to transparency and increase in security forces, the concern is that the center of gravity in our system is shifting dramatically toward clandestine and national security services. Once again, there is little opposition under a civil liberties movement which has been eviscerated under Obama. Congress is unlikely to present much opposition with most Democratic members seeking to protect Obama from such criticism rather than maintaining any check or balance on the Executive Branch. The result is the appearance of a runaway security system that is both adding operational abilities and reducing oversight pressures. A dangerous combination.