by Robert David Steele, American Herald Tribune:
There was a time when I thought James Clapper was one of the top five flag officers among the sixty-five or so that I had worked with over 40 years.
I’ve known Clapper since 1994 and it is with distress that I conclude his judgment was diminished in 2007 when he became the first professional Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI), following Stephen Cambone, a political appointee himself with mixed talents.
Between the two of them, they turned defense intelligence into a spending cesspool biased toward technical collection and mass data storage, fully in line with what one author calls “Grand Theft Pentagon.”
Clapper’s tenure as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) can be summed up quite simply: one trillion dollars spent, to no good end. There is no question about Clapper’s being respected and trusted by his own professionals. Nor is there any question as to Clapper’s competence as an administrator. What is at question is the veracity of his book – and its utility to the public – when it includes twenty separate assertions that according to all available open source evidence, are lies.
In fairness to Clapper, there are three pre-existing conditions that made it much easier for him to “go along” and much more difficult for him to actually sound the alarm and insist on reform – as Amy Zegart has documented so ably, the secret intelligence system is so corrupt and dysfunctional that it can only be fixed with a Presidential mandate – “fix big or don’t fix at all.” Clapper went along to get along. The pre-existing conditions are:
01 Strategic: Pay to Play. The standard kick-back for both Senators and Representatives is 5%. They get this amount as donations to their Political Action Committees (PAC) in return for keeping the money moving and growing regardless of need or outcome. Bill Binney has provided recurring testimony on the National Security Agency (NSA) as a case in point: they are not focused on creating Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) that will put down traitors and criminals including pedophiles as well as white collar criminals looting the public treasury; rather they are there to “keep the money moving” to which I would add “and growing.” That is why NSA “leaders” killed the internally-devised and very inexpensive Thin Thread program and instead spent billions on the extremely expensive externally-devised (contractor) approach – a total failure –by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). NSA got to spend more money without actually improving, and Members of Congress were richly rewarded by SAIC and other contractors for authorizing and appropriating funds not at all related to the public interest.
02 Operational: Budget-Building. Chuck Spinney calls this the plans/reality mismatch, but in the absence of an intelligence community (IC) actually capable of evaluating all threats, programs, and costs (true cost economics), and given the corruption of both past Presidents and past Congresses all too willing to borrow ever-increasing amounts of money (which is unconstitutional) for ever-decreasing capabilities, what this really is an alternative to competition for promotion – instead of fighting for promotion within a closed system where you are either promoted or retired (or fired), the game is to build the budget, hire more people, and create for yourself endless promotional opportunities. As Bob Gates himself has pointed out, no one in Washington gets fired for incompetence. They do get promoted if they can build their budget and hire more incompetents. Expensive solutions that require more hiring and more spending, whether they work or not, are the preferred objective for any aspiring chain of command seeking to promote itself without having to compete for otherwise limited jobs.
03 Tactical & Technical: Cult of Secrecy & Covert Operations. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read on page 159 of Clapper’s book the following sentence:
I always cautioned the president and secretaries that intelligence work was about acquiring and assessing foreign secrets, not predicting events or reading minds.
This is a blatant misrepresentation of the craft of intelligence. Intelligence is about decision-support – the outputs, most of which can be unclassified – not about secret collection, processing, and analysis, a tiny fraction of the totality of threat, policy, and cost information. Intelligence is also, as my colleague Bill Binney has reminded me, about predicting “intentions and capabilities.” I agree with Bill when he concludes that Clapper went along with the prevailing pathologies (as did Mike Hayden) and misdirected secret intelligence toward excessive spending on technical collection and mass storage while neglecting human collection, processing, analysis, and actually producing useful decision-support.
What is really at issue here is not Clapper’s intelligence and integrity – both are adequate but insufficient to the challenges he faced – but rather that secret intelligence as it is now mis-managed is very expensive (both profitable and wasteful) and totally lacking in accountability. It is a private playpen, at taxpayer expense, for an extremely incestuous (relatively small) group of senior executives (government employees), contracting executives (generally former government employees), and their bankers. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), for which I have been the primary proponent since 1988, is very inexpensive and can answer almost all questions for all levels of government decision-making, while generally eradicating corruption and waste with transparent overt counterintelligence.
Clapper – and his book – are the ultimate manifestation of a secret intelligence system that thrives on grand theft, mass murder, & legalized lies while absolutely rejecting with malice and knowledge of falsity, the value of OSINT – and machine-assisted meta-analytics – precisely because they are not an expensive enough “solution” and even worse, would call into question 70% or more of what we waste money on now
The Back Story
I started the OSINT revolution in 1988 within the halls of government, in 1992 in the public domain after four years of being blown off by colleagues obsessed with secret sources and methods and not willing to listen to reason. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which I was proud to work for as a clandestine operations officer for nine years, has fought to marginalize me from day one. They were furious when Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) Admiral Bill Studeman, USN, agreed to speak at my first conference on Open Source Solutions in 1992, and ordered them to attend. CIA retaliated by ordering the Marine Corps to forbid me from every running another OSINT conference again, at which point I resigned from my position as the second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps Intelligence to pursue a policy revolution in the public interest – I have trained over 7,500 officers across 66+ countries, only to see all of them repressed by their own intelligence agencies being bribed and mis-directed by CIA and NSA to ignore the clear potential of OSINT.
In 2000, with the recommendations of the Aspin-Brown Commission firmly in mind, an Open Source Agency (OSA) was approved by the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of $125M toward a Full Operational Capability (FOC) budget of $2 billion, precisely as recommended by The Challenge of Global Coverage study in the 1990’s. Sadly the leadership changed and we lost our earliest chance to transform modern intelligence.
For thirty years CIA has successfully handicapped both US and foreign OSINT, insisting that OSINT is only about “media monitoring” now including social media monitoring, and that it must be “passive.” CIA refuses to allow Active OSINT, which is the organized, persistent, and broad harnessing of distributed overt human experts in all languages – the people who know the 90% that is not in English, not online, and not accessible by the rather retarded – by choice – secret world. From China to Denmark to Zimbabwe, there has been a decisive shift away from the CIA position in the past two years, and I believe the craft of intelligence is about to see a massive multinational transformation, which makes Clapper’s failure as USDI and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) all the more tragic.
In 2007 when Clapper was first feeling his way into mega-management, he appointed Colonel Vincent Stewart, USMC (today Lieutenant General and Deputy Director of the US Cyber Command) to study OSINT, and to then Colonel Stewart’s credit, he reached out to me and I gave him every possible support. He told me later that in the course of his investigations, he had never in his entire career seen more lying, cheating, and backstabbing than he encountered from secret intelligence professionals on this topic (OSINT) that they clearly saw as a budget-buster. He too, however, found that he needed to “go along” and OSINT was never properly championed by USDI.
I now realize – this is my speculative interpretation – that in 2007-2009 USDI Clapper saw OSINT the same way that Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet saw it when he commissioned the study in 1997, The Challenge of Global Coverage, in which my former boss Boyd Sutton concluded after exhaustive investigation, that we needed to spend $2 billion a year (in contrast to $80 billion a year or so on secret sources and methods) on OSINT. The number was devised by Keith Hall, then Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and previously Director of the Budget Staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in a very simple fashion: 200 countries and topics not covered by secret intelligence, times $10 million a year for a range of offline and online monitoring and international (not just US) Subject Matter Experts (SME) focused on each of the 200 topics, thus providing a “safety net” or baseline capability. As Boyd told me, when he delivered these findings to George in 1997, George said “I am locking this study up, we will speak of it no more.” Boyd’s interpretation, and my own, was that George was distressed by the fact that the study not only did not justify a massive increase in secret spending, but it actually opened to door to taking the US IC toward 100% satisfaction of all US Government (USG) decision-support needs at a tiny fraction of the cost of what we are spending on secret sources and methods that provide “at best” 4% of what a major commander needs (and nothing for everyone else).
I tried one more time, in 2010, this time with the assistance of Joe Markowitz, the former Director of the Community Open Source Program Office (COSPO), which was itself gutted in the 1990’s by then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management (DDCI/CM) Joan Dempsey, herself an intimate of Clapper’s at the time, who refused to create a community-wide OSINT program equivalent to the community-wide programs for the other disciplines. Although OMB senior staff again agreed with Joe and I that there was a need for an OSA at $2 billion a year, OMB’s approval was contingent on a Cabinet Department asking for it, and Clapper had refused to entertain our leadership and staff briefings in 2009. I have the impression that CIA has very successfully blocked my approaches to each of a secession of Secretaries of State, all of whom would have benefited enormously from this capability.
William Binney’s experience with Thin Thread – an inexpensive elegant way to find the needles in the digital haystack – mirrors my own with OSINT, which is an inexpensive elegant way to do global coverage and achieve 100% decision-support capability at the strategic, operational or policy, tactical, and technical (acquisition) levels. Clapper, Hayden, all of the so-called leaders of the US IC have not only focused on spending as much money as possible as foolishly as possible, but they have discarded the Constitution and the ethical obligations associated with the oaths of office. Below is Bill’s summary of the situation, which I take to be a signal (pun intended) failure by Clapper and Hayden particularly.
As I summed it up for the Intelligence Policy Committee in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, drawing on Snowden’s materials, mass surveillance is very bad for five reasons: