As we begin the final two and a half years (less seven days) of the Obama-Biden Administration, a great deal is going wrong all at once. Strategically, we are imploding around the world, with the Ukraine and Syria being but two examples of what happens when you wage war on the basis of lies — we have learned nothing from Iraq or Afghanistan just as we learned nothing from Viet-Nam, El Salvador, or Nicaragua. On the policy front we wax and wane between the incoherent (Middle East) and the insane (armed pivot to Asia). In the acquisition and contracting world we are beyond broken — the Navy cannot design ships, the Air Force cannot build a sustainable aircraft that fights as it should, and the various Cabinet departments — as well as their Congressional oversight committees — are all pursuing budget share without regard to the debt, the deficit, or the growing public outrage over a government that lies to it, spies on it, and is generally out of cash, out of credibility, and out of capacity.
I trace this collapse of America’s viability as a world power to the failure of national intelligence and the loss of national integrity. In this overview of the present state of the country’s intelligence services, I begin with context, offer an agency-by-agency catalog of malfeasance — the tip of the iceberg — and conclude with my own 12-point prescription for what Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel could do to help Barack Obama leave office with at least some semblance of a legacy.
My extensive endnotes offer many links to prior work by myself and others on this topic of national intelligence. Virtually all serious work about intelligence reform has been ignored for the simple reason that such work focuses on creating a prosperous America at peace for the 99% instead of a world at war profitable only to the 1%.
I am told the President wants Hispanics and women nominated for the highest professional offices. I am Hispanic, I am America’s “top gun” for getting intelligence right, and I am under-unemployed and immediately available. Hopefully someone with a great deal of money will point this article out to the President and suggest he give some thought to what role this Hispanic — and intelligence with integrity — might play for him.
Context — Where We Went Wrong
National intelligence is a sub-set of the military-industrial-congressional complex that was created during World War II and then refused to go away. In the years following our touted victory over fascism we imported thousands of Nazis and facilitated the escape to Argentina of thousands more along with vast stores of stolen wealth; we also created a secret covert action fund (the Black Lily Trust) undeclared to Congress or the public, a fund that we used to restore fascists to power in Germany, Italy, and Japan. We also turned Harry Truman’s 1947 idea for a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) focused on integrating already known information, into a clandestine and covert action hydra that today specializes in waves of indiscriminate assassination by drone, rendition and torture, and not-so-secret support to 42 of 42 dictators that are “best pals” to a government that, as recent history has shown, works for the banks, not for the public. Connecting the dots, we have a federal government owned by banks, managed on their behalf by politicians whose principal foreign policy objective appears to be the cultivation of dictators and the subversion of democracy, all abetting the agenda of the 1% — the banks — instead of the 99% — the public. This policy, by the by, is responsible for the flood of illegal immigrants compounding the 22.4% unemployment rate in the USA.
As an afterthought to the CIA, in 1952 the National Security Agency (NSA) was created — as an executive organ without a legislative charter — to advance monitoring of foreign signals (Signals Intelligence or SIGINT) beyond what the military services already did. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) followed in 1961, to fund satellites capable of taking high-resolution images of Soviet targets (Imagery Intelligence or IMINT). Also created in 1961 was the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), intended by then Secretary of Defense McNamara to be a coherent single point of reference for decision-support to defense strategy, defense policy, defense acquisition, and defense operations. The two technical collection agencies, being vastly more expensive than Human Intelligence (HUMINT) or Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) became the darlings of Congress, where a 5% kick-back paid to the appropriate Political Action Committee (PAC) is the standard expectation for any outlay authorized and approved by Congress that is more often than not inconsistent with the public interest. DIA, “led” in the past by flag officers unwilling to alienate the Services, was simply ignored and became a dumping ground, as did the National Geospatial Agency (NGA), for unpromotable mid-grade military officers.
On the counterintelligence front during all those years, we allowed J. Edgar Hoover, to use the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a personal tool for blackmailing elites both political and financial, while going through the motions of counter-intelligence and counter-espionage. Hoover gave his sacred mission no more than lip service, because he gained more personally by leaving traitors in power than by keeping government honest. Today, we have information suggesting that the NSA has replaced the FBI as the primary means of collecting lurid information with which to blackmail elites, while also collecting insider trading information with which to create off-budget windfalls. Meanwhile the NRO and the NGA have been far out-stripped by faster, better, cheaper commercial technology.
In 2004 we created the position of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and abolished the historic position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), relegating the DCI to being merely the Director of the CIA. This was a military financial coup explicitly intended by Dick Cheney to marginalize the CIA and place all national intelligence and covert action budgets under predominantly military control. It was accompanied by a massive expansion of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence USD(I), who proceeded to neglect counterintelligence, Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), and expert human analysis, while embracing the industrial complex focus on spending tens of billions of dollars on technical collection and arcane scientific and technical means that have yet to yield any return on investment (ROI) validated by an ethical informed professional US Intelligence Community (US IC).
Across this quarter-century of endeavor — at a cost to the US taxpayer of at least $1.25 trillion — we have a vast archipelago of very expensive contracted capabilities to collect technical information, 99% of which is not processed, while deliberately avoiding the substance of intelligence: decision-support. To this I would add two co-equal sins of intelligence: the out-sourcing of the inherently governmental function of intelligence to contractors steeped in conflicts of interest; and the startling loss of any semblance of ethics in the rush by pretentious “warriors” to do rendition, torture, mass surveillance, and assassination by drone. We have much to be ashamed of, including the fact that fraud, waste, and abuse across the larger government we are supposed to support with counterintelligence and intelligence has been on the order of 50% — over 25 years at 3 trillion a year (one trillion a year borrowed) that adds up to no less than $27 trillion. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the position of Inspector General for Intelligence in the Department of Defense (DoD) has been vacant for the majority of the time that Mike Vickers has been USD(I).