US Senate blocks Pentagon plan to launch new CIA-style agency

The US Department of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Last week the United States Department of Defense flooded media outlets with press releases announcing the planned establishment of a new military intelligence organization that would rival the Central Intelligence Agency in both size and scope. Not so fast. The US Senate has just blocked the plan citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon’s existing intelligence operations. The proposed Defense Clandestine Service centers on plans to build an extensive overseas intelligence network, run by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and based on the CIA model of stations located in large metropolitan centers. The DoD said that the new intelligence organization will help the US armed forces broaden their intelligence collection from the current concentration in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the Senate, which was asked to review and approve the plan’s financial requirements, submitted under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, has refused to do so. Moreover, it issued a written rationale, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which it explicitly forbids the Pentagon using US taxpayers’ money to expand its overseas intelligence operations. According to The Washington Post, the reason for the plan’s rejection is two-fold. First, the Senate appears unhappy with the financial management of the DoD’s existing intelligence collection efforts. The Senate report cites serious concerns about the excessive financial cost and management failures associated with the Pentagon’s ongoing intelligence operations. It specifically mentions “poor or non-existent career management” for DoD intelligence operatives who are often transferred back to regular military units after undertaking “unproductive” assignments overseas, despite extensive intelligence training. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report stipulates that, before it asks for more money to build the proposed new agency, the Pentagon must “demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #333

  • Ex-MI6 officer allegedly betrayed spies. Daniel Houghton was arrested last month while trying to sell classified documents to MI5 spooks posing as foreign agents. But now the former MI6 employee is accused by British authorities of trying to trade lists of British intelligence personnel. It is unclear which nation’s spy service Houghton believed he was selling to at the time of his arrest, though it is believed that Dutch intelligence tipped off MI5.
  • NSA director under friendly fire in US Senate. US National Security Agency director, Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, spoke last Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He addressed the synergies among the NSA, the newly created Cyber Command, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the concept of cyberwar: “In general terms, I do think a cyberwar could exist”, he said, but only “as part of a larger military campaign”.

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Gates confirms CIA deal with Pakistan on missile strikes

On November 16, 2008, intelNews cited a report in The Washington Post, which revealed that the CIA unmanned drone airstrikes and military incursions in Pakistan are part of a secret US-Pakistani high-level deal. According to the agreement, “the US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the attacks while Pakistan’s government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes”. Last Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to break Washington’s part of the deal, by publicly admitting that Islamabad was indeed aware of the missile strikes. Mr. Gates was asked by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) during an open-door hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, whether the CIA decisions to fire missile missiles on Pakistani territory were “conveyed to the Pakistani government”. The Defense Secretary replied “[y]es, sir”. It is unclear whether he intended to acknowledge Islamabad’s cooperation. The Pakistani government responded on Wednesday through Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq, who denied the existence of a deal on the CIA missile strikes. The US Pentagon has so far refused to comment on Secretary Gates’ admission.

Senate Committee report blames Bush Administration for detainee torture

In 2004, after the eruption of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, the US Department of Defense dismissed the torture practices as the work “of a few bad apples”. Now a report by a bipartisan Senate committee concludes that the abuses conducted by CIA and US military guards and interrogators were direct results of the Bush Administration’s detention policies and “should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators”. The report, detailing a two-year study by the US Senate Armed Services Committee, has yet to be made public and much of it will remain classified. This being the case, it is not expected to have any impact on the Bush administration, which “continues to delay and in some cases bar members of Congress from gaining access to key legal documents and memos about the detainee program”. [IA]

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