July 8, 2007
By R.J. Hillhouse
Red alert: Our national security is being outsourced.
The most intriguing secrets of the “war on terror” have nothing to do with al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. They’re about the mammoth private spying industry that all but runs U.S. intelligence operations today.
Surprised? No wonder. In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed — and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.
Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I’m told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) — the heart, brains and soul of the CIA — has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
These firms recruit spies, create non-official cover identities and control the movements of CIA case officers. They also provide case officers and watch officers at crisis centers and regional desk officers who control clandestine operations worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times first reported last October, more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism — Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan — is made up of industrial contractors, or “green badgers,” in CIA parlance.
Intelligence insiders say that entire branches of the NCS have been outsourced to private industry. These branches are still managed by U.S. government employees (“blue badgers”) who are accountable to the agency’s chain of command. But beneath them, insiders say, is a supervisory structure that’s controlled entirely by contractors; in some cases, green badgers are managing green badgers from other corporations.
Sensing problems — and possibly fearing congressional action — the CIA recently conducted a hasty review of all of its job classifications to determine which perform “essential government functions” that should not be outsourced. But it’s highly doubtful that such a short-term exercise can comprehensively identify the proper “blue/green” mix, especially because contractors’ work statements have long been carefully formulated to blur the distinction between approvable and debatable functions.
Although the contracting system is Byzantine, there’s no question that the private sector delivers high-quality professional intelligence services. Outsourcing has provided solutions to personnel-management problems that have always plagued the CIA’s operations side. Rather than tying agents up in the kind of office politics that government employees have to engage in to advance their careers, outsourcing permits them to focus on what they do best, which boosts morale and performance. Privatization also immediately increased the number of trained, experienced agents in the field after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Even though wide-scale outsourcing may not immediately endanger national security, it’s worrisome. The contractors in charge of espionage are still chiefly CIA alumni who have absorbed its public service values. But as the center of gravity shifts from the public sector to the private, more than one independent intelligence firm has developed plans to “raise” succeeding generations of officers within its own training systems. These corporate-grown agents will be inculcated with corporate values and ethics, not those of public service.
And the current piecemeal system has introduced some vulnerabilities. Historically, the system offered members of the intelligence community the kind of stability that ensured that they would keep its secrets. That dynamic is now being eroded. Contracts come and go. So do workforces. The spies of the past came of age professionally in a strong extended family, but the spies of the future will be more like children raised in multiple foster homes — at risk.
Today, when Booz Allen Hamilton loses a contract to SAIC, people rush from one to the other in a game of musical chairs, with not enough chairs for all the workers who possess both the highest security clearances and expertise in the art of espionage. Some inevitably lose out. Any good counterintelligence officer knows what can happen next. Down-on-their-luck spies begin to do what spies do best: spy. Other companies offer them jobs in exchange for industry secrets. Foreign governments approach them. And some day, terrorists will clue in to this potential workforce.
The director of national intelligence has put our security at risk by classifying the study on outsourcing and keeping the truth about this inadequately planned and managed system out of the light. Much of what has been outsourced makes sense, but much of the structure doesn’t, not for the longer term. It’s time for the public and Congress to demand the study’s release. More important, it’s past time for the industry — an industry conceived of and run by some of the best and brightest the CIA has ever produced — to come up with the kind of innovative solutions it’s legendary for, before the damage goes too deep.
Anti-war mother backs Bush’s impeachment
July 8, 2007
Cindy Sheehan, the soldier’s mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.
Sheehan said she will run against the San Francisco Democrat in 2008 as an independent if Pelosi does not seek by July 23 to impeach Bush. That’s when Sheehan and her supporters are to arrive in Washington, D.C., after a 13-day caravan and walking tour starting next week from the group’s war protest site near Bush’s Crawford ranch.
“Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership,” Sheehan told The Associated Press. “We hired them to bring an end to the war. I’m not too far from San Francisco, so it wouldn’t be too big of a move for me. I would give her a run for her money.”
Messages left with Pelosi’s staff were not immediately returned. The White House declined to comment on Sheehan’s plans.
She plans her official candidacy announcement Tuesday. Sunday wrapped up what is expected to be her final weekend at the 5-acre Crawford lot that she sold to California radio talk show host Bree Walker, who plans to keep it open to protesters.
Sheehan announced in late May that she was leaving the anti-war movement. She said that she felt her efforts had been in vain and that she had endured smear tactics and hatred from the left, as well as the right. She said she wanted to change course.
She first came to Crawford in August 2005 during a Bush vacation, demanding to talk to him about the war that killed her son Casey in 2004. She became the face of the anti-war movement during her 26-day roadside vigil, which was joined by thousands. But it also drew counter-protests by Bush supporters, many who said she was hurting troop morale.
Disenchantment with Democrats
Sheehan, who has never held political office, recently said that she was leaving the Democratic Party because it “caved” in to the president. Last week, she announced her caravan to Washington, an undertaking she calls the “people’s accountability movement.”
“I didn’t expect to be back so soon, but the focus is different than it was before,” Sheehan said Sunday. “Instead of talking and making accusations, we’re going into communities and talking to the people who’ve been hurt by the Bush regime. We’re finding out how we can help people.”
Sheehan, who will turn 50 on Tuesday, said Bush should be impeached because she believes he misled the public about the reasons for going to war, violated the Geneva Convention by torturing detainees, and crossed the line by commuting the prison sentence of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. She said other grounds for impeachment are the domestic spying program and the “inadequate and tragic” response to Hurricane Katrina.
Libby was convicted of lying and obstructing justice in an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.
Sheehan said she hopes Pelosi files the articles of impeachment so Sheehan can move onto her next projects, including overseas trips for humanitarian work. But if not, Sheehan said she is ready to run for office.
“She let the people down…”
“I’m doing it to encourage other people to run against Congress members who aren’t doing their jobs, who are beholden to special interests,” Sheehan said. “She (Pelosi) let the people down who worked hard to put Democrats back in power, who we thought were our hope for change.”
Pelosi was elected to the House in 1987 and became the first female speaker in January.
Sheehan said she lives in a Sacramento suburb but declined to disclose which city, citing safety reasons. The area is outside Pelosi’s district, but there are no residency requirements for congressional members, according to the California secretary of state’s office.
July 7, 2007
By JENNIFER LOVEN
President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers on Saturday of being unable to live up to their duties, citing Congress’ inability to pass legislation to fund the federal government.
“Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people’s money wisely,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “This moment is a test.”
The White House has said the failure of a broad immigration overhaul was proof that Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill cannot take on major issues. “We saw this with immigration, and we’re seeing it with some other issues where Congress is having an inability to take on major challenges,” said spokesman Tony Fratto.
The main reason the immigration measure died, however, was staunch opposition from Bush’s own base — conservatives. The president could not turn around members of his own party despite weeks of intense effort.
The immigration bill was the top item on Bush’s domestic agenda. With its demise, Bush was left to focus on the annual appropriations process and reining in federal spending.
Twelve annual spending bills dole out approximately one-third of the federal budget. They must be passed each year by Congress, before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, but lawmakers began considering this year’s batch just in mid-June. The House has passed half and the full Senate has not yet taken up any.
“Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time,” Bush said. “I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time. ”
Democratic leaders say they are behind because an emergency spending measure funding the war in Iraq came first. They also had to pass an omnibus measure cleaning up last year’s appropriations mess. Then, the Republicans who then controlled Congress failed to pass into law a single spending bill for domestic agencies save the Homeland Security Department — a situation that brought little complaint from Bush.
With the Senate and House now in Democratic hands, this year’s bills are producing skirmishes with the White House that also are causing delays. Almost every domestic bill already has attracted a veto threat because it exceeds Bush’s proposed budget in certain areas.
All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request. Bush put it in terms of a five-year outlook, and said their budget plan would be $205 billion bigger than his over that period, and would include “the largest tax increase in history” by allowing some of his tax cuts to expire as planned.
The president said Democrats are embracing “the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past,” and vowed to stand firm for fiscal restraint. Republican lawmakers have pledged to support him and sustain any vetoes.
“No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity,” Bush said. “And I have made it clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road.”
The president also applauded a new jobs report, which showed employers adding 132,000 jobs, paychecks growing solidly and the unemployment rate staying at a low 4.5 percent in June.
Bush said the evidence that the once listless economy is regaining energy is a result of his insistence on lowering taxes and spending.
“Democratic leaders in Congress want to take our country down a different track,” he said.
July 10, 2007
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., apologized Monday night for “a very serious sin in my past” after his telephone number appeared among those associated with an escort service operated by the so-called “D.C. Madam.”
Vitter’s spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press.
“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter said in the statement. “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there – with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”
The statement containing Vitter’s apology said his telephone number was on old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey was accused in federal court of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends, however, that her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business.
Vitter, 46, a Republican in his first Senate term, was elected to the Senate in 2004. He represented Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004.
Vitter and his wife, Wendy, live in Metairie, La., with their four children.
Palfrey’s attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, told the AP, “I’m stunned that someone would be apologizing for this.” He said Palfrey had posted the phone numbers of her escort service’s clients online Monday, but he did not know whether Vitter’s number was among them. Vitter’s statement was sent to the AP’s New Orleans bureau Monday evening.
Palfrey’s Web site contains 20 compressed files of phone records, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. No names are listed, only phone numbers. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and wrote that she was posting the records “to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information.”
Silas Lee, a political analyst and pollster in New Orleans, spoke Monday about the possible political impact on Vitter.
“In the short term, I think the issue will dominate the discourse for a few days and weeks, and though he’s up for re-election in 2010, it should dissipate by then,” Lee told WWL-TV in New Orleans.
“But for some of his very conservative constituents, it might not be as easy. In their mind and eyes, they may not be able to forgive. The majority may overlook it in time depending on his job performance and how sincere voters believe he wants them to forgive him.”
Earlier this year Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., asked the Supreme Court to delay the criminal case against her – a request the court denied in May. Her attorney had argued that it was unfair to proceed against Palfrey because her assets remain seized in a civil forfeiture case, meaning she lacks the money to hire an attorney of her choice.
Randall Tobias, a senior official in the State Department, resigned in April after ABC News confronted him about his use of the escort service. He admitted that he had hired women to come to his Washington condo and give him massages but denied that he had sex with the escorts.
Palfrey threatened for months to release her client list, which led prosecutors to accuse her of trying to intimidate potential witnesses.
Contending that her escort service was legal, Palfrey revealed details of its operation on ABC’s news magazine “20/20” on May 4. At the time, ABC said it could not link any information provided by Palfrey to members of Congress or White House officials but did find links to prominent business executives, NASA officials and at least five military officers.
Prosecutors contend that Palfrey knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years were engaged in prostitution. She claims that she operated a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” and that the women signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said.
Palfrey pleaded guilty to pimping charges in 1991 and was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison.
July 9, 2007
By LAURIE KELLMAN
President Bush directed former aides to defy congressional subpoenas on Monday, claiming executive privilege and prodding lawmakers closer to their first contempt citations against administration officials since Ronald Reagan was president.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Bush had cited executive privilege in resisting Congress’ investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys.
White House Counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith in withholding documents and directing the two aides — Fielding’s predecessor, Harriet Miers, and Bush’s former political director, Sara Taylor — to defy subpoenas ordering them to explain their roles in the firings over the winter.
In the standoff between branches of government, Fielding renewed the White House offer to let Miers, Taylor and other administration officials meet with congressional investigators off the record and with no transcript. He declined to explain anew the legal underpinnings of the privilege claim as the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees had directed.
“You may be assured that the president’s assertion here comports with prior practices in similar contexts, and that it has been appropriately documented,” Fielding wrote.
Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House panel, left little doubt where the showdown was headed.
“Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally,” the Michigan Democrat said.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the posturing was a waste of time and money and a distraction from the questions at hand: Who ordered the firings, why, and whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should continue to serve or be fired.
Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats’ threat of taking the standoff to court on a contempt citation was spurious because the prosecutor who would consider it is a Bush appointee.
“On a case like this, does anyone believe the U.S. attorney is going to bring a criminal contempt citation against anyone?” Specter said in a telephone interview. “The U.S. attorney works for the president and it’s a discretionary matter what the U.S. attorney does.”
Historically, such standoffs over executive privilege are resolved before the full House or Senate votes on referring a congressional contempt citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. But rather than cooling off over the July 4th holiday, Bush and Democrats returned from the weeklong break closer to a legal confrontation.
The last contempt finding Congress sought to prosecute was against former Environmental Protection Agency official Rita Lavelle in 1983. The Democratic-led House voted 413-0 to cite her for contempt for refusing to appear before a House committee. She was later acquitted in court of the contempt charge but was convicted of perjury in a separate trial.
Just before Congress left town, Bush invoked executive privilege on subpoenas lawmakers filed for any documents Taylor and Miers received or generated about the firings. On Monday, Bush again invoked privilege on the women’s scheduled testimony for this week. Through their attorneys, Bush instructed the pair not to testify on the firings.
Lawmakers said they had plenty of questions to ask the women outside the privilege claim.
Both officials were included on e-mails about the firings released earlier this year by the Justice Department, and Miers at one point suggested the firings of all 93 federal prosecutors. Taylor also could have sent e-mails on a Republican National Committee account outside the White House, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who insisted those communications were not covered by executive privilege.
The dispute squeezes Miers and Taylor between the president’s instructions and the possibility of being held in contempt of Congress. Their lawyers did not respond to requests for comment, but Leahy said he expects Taylor to appear before his panel Wednesday, as scheduled. It was unclear if Miers would appear before Conyers’ committee the next day.
Fielding invoked executive privilege in dismissing a Monday morning deadline set by Conyers and Leahy for the White House to explain and list which documents it was withholding from their committees.
“We are aware of no authority by which a congressional committee may `direct’ the executive to undertake the task of creating and providing an extensive description of every document covered by an assertion of executive privilege,” he wrote.
Bush’s counsel, a veteran of executive privilege disputes, cloaked his tough rejoinder to the Democratic committee chairmen in gentlemanly language. But his message was unequivocal: The White House won’t back down.
He argued that the committees’ “open-ended” investigation into the firings had no constitutional basis, in large part because the president has the right to hire and fire his own political appointees.
Fielding cast the impasse as a natural constitutional tension between branches of government and complained that Leahy, D-Vt., and Conyers had accused the White House of acting in something other than good faith. He called for “a presumption of goodwill on all sides.”
Democrats didn’t bite.
“The president seems to think that executive privilege is a magic mantra that can hide anything, including wrongdoing,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democrats’ 2008 election campaign operation.
After getting report, attorney general said he knew of no wrongdoing
July 10, 2007
By John Solomon
As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,” Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.
Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.
The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI’s use of an anti-terrorism tool known as national security letters (NSLs), well before the Justice Department’s inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.
‘In the context’ of inspector general reports
Justice officials said they could not immediately determine whether Gonzales read any of the FBI reports in 2005 and 2006 because the officials who processed them were not available yesterday. But department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that when Gonzales testified, he was speaking “in the context” of reports by the department’s inspector general before this year that found no misconduct or specific civil liberties abuses related to the Patriot Act.
“The statements from the attorney general are consistent with statements from other officials at the FBI and the department,” Roehrkasse said. He added that many of the violations the FBI disclosed were not legal violations and instead involved procedural safeguards or even typographical errors.
Each of the violations cited in the reports copied to Gonzales was serious enough to require notification of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, which helps police the government’s surveillance activities. The format of each memo was similar, and none minced words.
“This enclosure sets forth details of investigative activity which the FBI has determined was conducted contrary to the attorney general’s guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection and/or laws, executive orders and presidential directives,” said the April 21, 2005, letter to the Intelligence Oversight Board.
The oversight board, staffed with intelligence experts from inside and outside government, was established to report to the attorney general and president about civil liberties abuses or intelligence lapses. But Roehrkasse said the fact that a violation is reported to the board “does not mean that a USA Patriot violation exists or that an individual’s civil liberties have been abused.”
Two of the earliest reports sent to Gonzales, during his first month on the job, in February 2005, involved the FBI’s surveillance and search powers. In one case, the bureau reported a violation involving an “unconsented physical search” in a counterintelligence case. The details were redacted in the released memo, but it cited violations of safeguards “that shall protect constitutional and other legal rights.” The second violation involved electronic surveillance on phone lines that was reinitiated after the expiration deadline set by a court in a counterterrorism case.
The report sent to Gonzales on April 21, 2005, concerned a violation of the rules governing NSLs, which allow agents in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations to secretly gather Americans’ phone, bank and Internet records without a court order or a grand jury subpoena. In the report — also heavily redacted before being released — the FBI said its agents had received a compact disc containing information they did not request. It was viewed before being sealed in an envelope.
Gonzales received another report of an NSL-related violation a few weeks later. “A national security letter . . . contained an incorrect phone number” that resulted in agents collecting phone information that “belonged to a different U.S. person” than the suspect under investigation, stated a letter copied to the attorney general on May 6, 2005.
At least two other reports of NSL-related violations were sent to Gonzales, according to the new documents. In letters copied to him on Dec. 11, 2006, and Feb. 26, 2007, the FBI reported to the oversight board that agents had requested and obtained phone data on the wrong people.
‘I was upset…’
Nonetheless, Gonzales reacted with surprise when the Justice Department inspector general reported this March that there were pervasive problems with the FBI’s handling of NSLs and another investigative tool known as exigent circumstances letters.
“I was upset when I learned this, as was Director Mueller. To say that I am concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement,” Gonzales said in a speech March 9, referring to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. The attorney general added that he believed back in 2005, before the Patriot Act was renewed, that there were no problems with NSLs. “I’ve come to learn that I was wrong,” he said, making no mention of the FBI reports sent to him.
Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “I think these documents raise some very serious questions about how much the attorney general knew about the FBI’s misuse of surveillance powers and when he knew it.” A lawsuit by Hofmann’s group seeking internal FBI documents about NSLs prompted the release of the reports.
Caroline Fredrickson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the new documents raise questions about whether Gonzales misled Congress at a moment when lawmakers were poised to renew the Patriot Act and keenly sought assurances that there were no abuses. “It was extremely important,” she said of Gonzales’s 2005 testimony. “The attorney general said there are no problems with the Patriot Act, and there was no counterevidence at the time.”
Some of the reports describe rules violations that the FBI decided not to report to the intelligence board. In February 2006, for example, FBI officials wrote that agents sent a person’s phone records, which they had obtained from a provider under a national security letter, to an outside party. The mistake was blamed on “an error in the mail handling.” When the third party sent the material back, the bureau decided not to report the mistake as a violation.
The memos also detail instances in which the FBI wrote out new NSLs to cover evidence that had been mistakenly collected. In a June 30, 2006, e-mail, for instance, an FBI supervisor asked an agent who had “overcollected” evidence under a national security letter to forward his original request to lawyers. “We would like to check the specific language to see if there is anything in the body that would cover the extra material they gave,” the supervisor wrote.
Sometimes the FBI reached seemingly contradictory conclusions about the gravity of its errors. On May 6, 2005, the bureau decided that it needed to report a violation when agents made an “inadvertent” request for data for the wrong phone number. But on June 1, 2006, in a similar wrong-number case, the bureau concluded that a violation did not need to be reported because the agent acted “in good faith.”