News you may have missed #377

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Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #356

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News you may have missed #0196

  • Legal problems facing CIA are no laughing matter. They include two criminal investigations by the US Justice Department, persistent inquiries by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as legal challenges from “war on terrorism” detainees.
  • Aussie computer networks “most certainly” spied on. The Australian federal government’s computer network has “almost certainly” been targeted by cyber-spies from other countries, according to attorney general Robert McClelland. “In some incidents nation states [are responsible]”, he told reporters.
  • US still considering extraditing Philippine spy. A judge has yet to rule on whether Michael Ray Aquino, a former Philippine National Police intelligence officer who served prison time for passing classified US government documents to the Philippine opposition, will be extradited to face murder charges back home. See here for more on this strange case.

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CIA reportedly wins turf battle with DNI office

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA has reportedly won a turf battle with the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), after the White House came down in support of the CIA position on Thursday. This blog has kept tabs on the dispute, which started last May, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. Since then, various actors have sided with the two antagonists, with the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence committee supporting the DNI and Vice President Joe Biden backing the CIA’s position. But the stalemate reportedly ended on Thursday, after the White House ruled that the CIA, not the DNI, should appoint senior US intelligence representatives abroad. Read more of this post

CIA-DNI turf war over embassy posts continues

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
This blog has kept tabs on the latest US bureaucratic turf war between the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It started last May, when when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. The turf war appeared to be close to an end in July, when the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence came out in support of the DNI, arguing that “some locations may give rise to circumstances where th[e CIA station chief’s] responsibility is best met by an official with expertise derived from another I[ntelligence] C[ommunity] element”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0130

  • One in three votes for Karzai was fraudulent, says US diplomat. Hamid Karzai was fraudulently re-elected to Afghanistan’s presidency, according to Peter Galbraith, a US diplomat who was sacked last week from the UN mission in Afghanistan. Galbraith also warned that Karzai, who was handpicked by the US to lead Afghanistan following the US invasion, and whose brother is probably a CIA informant, is not credible with many Afghans following the election fiasco.
  • US lobbyist for Rep. of Georgia says Russian agents tried to kill him. Paul Joyal, former director of security for the US Senate Intelligence Committee, and a paid lobbyist in the US for the country of Georgia, insists that agents of the Russian government tried to kill him two years ago outside his Washington, DC, home.
  • Ex-CIA agent says Indian spies operating in Afghanistan. Milt Bearden, former CIA station chief in Pakistan, has told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Indian intelligence operatives were active in Afghanistan, and that “the concerns of Pakistan’s Army are legitimate in this regard”. His words appear to echo complaints expressed last June by Pakistani security officials that Indian intelligence services are helping pro-Taliban warlords fight the Pakistani army in the Afghan borderlands. However, the Pakistanis also said that Israel supplies tribal warlords “with modern technology”, including radio equipment.

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Panetta not about to resign, says US Senate intel panel head

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Insider rumors have been circulating for at least a month now, that CIA Director Leon Panetta is frustrated and is considering resigning in February, after just one year at the post. On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a bizarre statement saying that she spoke to Panetta on Monday, and that the Obama Administration appointee “has no intention of resigning, nor should he. I believe he has an important role to play”, added the Congresswoman. The CIA and the White House have both denied reports that Panetta, who last month publicly came out against a planned probe into CIA torture practices by the US Department of Justice, threatened to resign over the investigation. What is certain is that Senator Feinstein’s statement about his future will fuel, not squelch, whispers of Panetta’s impending departure, which are in fact getting stronger.

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US spy agencies still lack foreign language experts

Urdu script

Urdu script

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A US media outlet has finally followed up on the warnings, made by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last July, about the lack of trained foreign-language speakers in the US intelligence community. Following similar warnings by the US House intelligence panel in June, the Senate Intelligence Committee used the opportunity of its authorization (.pdf) of the 2010 intelligence budget to draw attention to “the continuing lack of critical language-capable personnel in the Intelligence Community, and the need to address this shortage”. According to The Washington Times, which noticed the Senate Committee’s brief but critical alert, US intelligence agencies remain “woefully short” of foreign-language speakers, let alone experts. Read more of this post

DNI responses to Senate questions declassified

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Don’t bother reading through the 40 pages (.pdf) of responses given last February by the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to questions by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. There’s not that much new information in it, and it turns out DNI Dennis C. Blair even resorted to plagiarizing part of an article on an alleged Russian attack on US satellites originally printed in Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, with no attribution. Instead, you can save time by taking a look at the observations made on the 40-page document by Steven Aftergood, editor of the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News bulletin. It was, in fact, a Freedom of Information Act request by Aftergood that prompted the release of the document in the first place. Read more of this post

US spy services hiding true employee numbers, says Senate panel

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has voiced disapproval of the high numbers of contractors employed by America’s intelligence organizations, and has censured US intelligence agencies for hiding their actual personnel numbers. The criticism follows a Congressional testimony last week by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair, who claimed that the intelligence community has come up with its own definition of inherently governmental. The term refers to government jobs that are too sensitive to be outsourced. In his presentation, Blair revealed that private contractors now constitute 25% of the entire US intelligence force in all 16 agencies of the US intelligence community, but he said this share shrunk by 3 % last year, as the intelligence agencies revised their definition of jobs that cannot be outsourced. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0042

  • Postcards containing Cold War spy messages unearthed. The postcards, containing chess moves, were posted in 1950 by an unidentified man in Frankfurt, thought to have been an undercover agent, to Graham Mitchell, who was then deputy director general of MI5. The problem is, researchers are not quite sure whether the cryptic text on the postcards is based on British or Soviet codes, because Mitchell was suspected of being a secret Soviet agent at the time.
  • Is NSA actively mapping social networks? There are rumors out there that NSA is monitoring social networking tools, such as Tweeter, Facebook and MySpace, in order to make links between individuals and construct elaborate data-mining-based maps of who associates with whom.
  • US Senate bill would disclose intelligence budget. The US Senate version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization bill would require the President to disclose the aggregate amount requested for intelligence each year. Disclosure of the budget request would enable Congress to appropriate a stand-alone intelligence budget that would no longer need to be concealed misleadingly in other non-intelligence budget accounts.

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Senate intelligence panel takes sides in DNI-CIA dispute

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
In a report issued last Thursday, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has come out in support of the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in its dispute with the CIA over who should appoint CIA station chiefs abroad. This blog has kept tabs on the bureaucratic turf war, which erupted last May, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of CIA’s senior representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials have denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to the position, as “simple insanity”. Read more of this post

Most influential CIA lawyer in history “retires” over torture

John Rizzo

John Rizzo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Finally, someone’s paying attention to John A. Rizzo, the CIA Acting General Counsel who is preparing to step down from his post despite being termed “the most influential career lawyer in CIA history”. In a well-researched article for The Los Angeles Times, Greg Miller explains the reasons behind Rizzo’s sudden departure from the Agency. Remember those internal CIA memos the US Justice Department released last April? Among other interesting facts, the memos revealed the names of government lawyers behind the Agency’s secret detention and torture program. Along other, more publicly known names, such as those of “aggressive interrogation” advocates John Yoo and Jay Bybee, several of the memos contained legal advice by Rizzo, who acted as what one CIA official described the Agency’s “legal enabler”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Israel Lobby Ousts US Intelligence Nominee

Chas Freeman

Chas Freeman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The near-hysterical reaction by Washington’s pro-Israel lobby against Charles “Chas” Freeman’s candidacy for National Intelligence Commission (NIC) Director has paid off. On Monday, Freeman, a State Department official with 44 years’ experience in the US diplomatic service, decided to withdraw his nomination to head the NIC –the government agency that works with the US intelligence community to compile national intelligence estimates. On February 26, Freeman, who was US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, was nominated for the job by Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair. Blair had said the veteran diplomat would bring with him to the post “a wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense, diplomacy and intelligence”. But Freeman’s nomination was met almost immediately with vehement opposition from pro-Israeli lobby groups in Washington. Republican members of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as at least ten House Representatives, began a vocal campaign to stop Freeman’s NIC candidacy. Chief among the pro-Israel lawmakers were two Jewish Democrats from New York, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Steve Israel. Along with another usual suspect, “independent” Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, they described Freeman as a “controversial” diplomat with “strong political opinions”, who “appear[s] inclined to lean against Israel” with “statements against Israel [that] were way over the top”. Read article →