spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism
Showing posts with label NSA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NSA. Show all posts

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thomas Drake: Dismantle NSA

Former top NSA official Thomas Drake, who sacrificed his career to expose massive fraud, mismanagement and cost overruns--not to mention privacy violations--at the electronic eavesdropping agency, argues that firing its top managers won't solve the problem. Tear it down and start over, he says. READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Obama's Intel Chief Clapper Sails from Gafffe to Shining Gaffe

For someone tasked with being the nation’s top intelligence officer, James Clapper seems to get an awful lot wrong—and in so many ways.  From lying about the NSA's tracking of Americans' web habits to threats from Iran and North Korea to, 20 years ago, his reorganization of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the retired general sails on, from gaffe to shining gaffe. Yet the DNI is still a starter on the Obama team's "full court press" to sell Capitol Hill on bombing Syria.  How could that be?  READ MORE HERE.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

National Security Reporting Under Fire

A federal appeals court's decision last Friday compelling New York Times reporter James Risen to identify the source for a chapter in his 2006 book, State of War, about a CIA operation that went awry, is just the latest big blow in the government's assault on press freedom--a pillar of the Constitution.  Read more here.

Friday, July 12, 2013


With his request for Russian asylum, the NSA whistleblower has pulled up a chair at a high stakes game of Texas Hold 'Em with Vladimir Putin.  The ex-KGB agent seems to have the best cards. READ MORE HERE.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Former CIA operator Frank Snepp's revelations of how the spy agency deserted files and friends in its hasty 1975 exit from Vietnam created a media firestorm three decades ago, not unlike the one enveloping NSA leaker Edward Snowden and reporters today.

Enraged by Snepp's temerity, President Jimmy Carter's CIA and Justice Department went after him with hammer and tong.  

"The only thing separating Snowden himself from legal immolation, I believe, is the possible difficulty of extraditing him from [Hong Kong]," Snepp told me.  READ MORE HERE.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snowden's Fate: Three Days of the Condor?

James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor," the book about a CIA researcher on the run that inspired the riveting Robert Redford-Faye Dunaway film, captured the paranoia of the Watergate era.

Today, Grady weighed in at SpyTalk about renegade ex-NSA computer geek Edward Snowden and his situation:

He has four choices:  Go rogue and traitor to China (who might turn him over to us anyway as a phony gesture of good will), hope that some country somewhere will take him in with sanctuary, or hope that being a celebrity whistleblower will result in him not getting sentenced big time (poor bet) or prosecuted because a trial could reveal more than he already has.

Unless, of course, he's far smarter than we think, in which case, he spent months building a new identity BEFORE he first contacted any journalist, and now is going to turn a corner in Hong Kong and become Mister Jones who's been long scheduled for some dental and facial augmentation surgery. 

But the thing is, unless he's capitalized on this somehow, he's boxed himself up no matter what he did or does.


"Argo" this ain't. More like "Three Days of the Condor."

Edward Snowden is on his own, it appears. The CIA is hunting, not helping him.

So what's he do?  SpyTalk found several former CIA operatives to muse on what they'd do if they were in the NSA leaker's shoes.

Run, Edward, run! READ MORE HERE.

UPDATE: Russia says its would consider an asylum request from Snowden.

Monday, June 10, 2013

China's Snowden Dilemma

China has 1.3 billion reasons not to welcome NSA mega-leaker Edward Snowden. But it may well decide, in the end, to make lemonade from the lemon, and let Hong Kong keep him. READ MORE HERE.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

UK Defense Ministry Warns Against Leaks on US-Brit Web Spying

A British Defense Ministry press advisory committee, reacting to a flurry of revelations in the American press about massive warrantless US government electronic surveillance programs, quietly warned UK organizations Friday not to publish British national security information. READ MORE HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Bomb Case Will be Solved Quickly

Or so I predicted on Washington, DC's WUSA-TV-9 today.

The intelligence technologies and policies developed in the past dozen years -- the same ones that give civil libertarians pause (and rightly, I should add) -- provide  the FBI and other investigative agencies vastly more power to solve the case than were available before the 9/11 attacks.  Watch it here.

How They Will Investigate the Boston Bombing

Former White House Counterterrorism Adviser Richard A. Clarke says U.S. security agencies have a wealth of investigative resources and techniques to employ against whomever carried out Monday's horrific bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

"While detectives and federal agents have started the laborious process of interviewing thousands of people in Boston, much of the work that is likely to be key to solving the Boston Bombing is technical and forensic," Clarke said on his FaceBook page.

Video from bystanders' cell phones, retail outlets and traffic cameras could provide quick clues to the perpetrators. The National Security Agency will also zero in on cell phone traffic around Boston and to such terrorist lairs and Pakistan and Yemen, he said. 

The resources that the government can bring to the case a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks are stupendous, said Clarke, a White House counterterrorism adviser to both Bushes and President Clinton.

"First, the FBI will stitch together hundreds of hours of video camera recordings from private and public surveillance and traffic cameras, as well as recordings made by private citizens attending the race. They will look for when the bombs might have been left behind and then examine the faces of everyone who was in the area around that time. They will try to put names to those faces, using facial recognition matching software, drawing on drivers license, passport, and visa databases."

After agents from Israel's Mossad carried out an assassination in Dubai, Clark said, "the police in the United Arab Emirates were able to recreate most of the the assassination operation by using snippets from dozens of surveillance cameras. For the FBI in Boston, a similar process has now begun."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hot Shots: CIA Contractors Edition

The CIA and other intelligence agencies came under fire for hiring too many contractors, so what did they do? Hire more!

That and other nuggets have been dug up from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s biennial report by Steve Aftergood at Secrecy News, who otherwise found the report sadly lacking in details.

The report revealed that “a written report on each covert action that is being carried out under a presidential finding is provided to the congressional committees every quarter.”

It also said the DNI “abruptly cancelled a multi-year effort to establish a single consolidated data center for the entire Intelligence Community a year or so ago, in favor of a migration to cloud computing.”

But the contractor issue was far more entertaining, in an inside-the-beltway kind of way.

“Under criticism that the number of intelligence contractor personnel has grown too high, too fast, intelligence agencies have been cutting the number of contractors they employ or converting contractors to government employees,” Aftergood wrote. “But some of those agencies have continued to hire additional contractors at the same time, resulting in net growth in the size of the intelligence contractor workforce.”

The report also offers new descriptions of the SSCI’s 6,000-page study  on CIA rendition,  detention and interrogation activities, broken down into three volumes, Aftergood reported:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hot Shots: NSA Society Edition

Oh, What Fun We Had at NSA

The NSA has released way-back issues of its “in-house technical journal,” Cryptolog: The Journal of Technical Health, from the years spanning 1974 -1997.  It “reads like an amateur computer club newsletter,” cracked Arik Hesseldahl of AllThingsD, complete with cartoons drawn in the margins.  Yet one does stumble upon the shiny object, such as an NSA employee’s account of her travels to Nice for the 1974 Seventh World Congress of Translators--which you gotta admit sounds like quite a gab fest.  Her descriptions of the gala include the riveting observation that “most of the men wore somber business suits but the women were dazzling in every kind of fancy attire and coiffure.”  We bet.

There’s no real intelligence here, but Cryptolog’s often droll accounts do shed light on life inside the black box over three decades. James Bamford, the trailblazing author of two best-selling books on the NSA, The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets, made extensive use of such unclassified newsletters to track down employees. 

--Sally Farrington, Jeff Stein

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Leak Dogs Are Gonna Bite Obama in the End

One of the salacious ironies of the John Kiriakou case is that the dogs the Obama administration has let loose on leakers are circling back, teeth bared, toward their owners.

“The Obama administration’s vigorous prosecution of leaks may yet cost it dearly,” Steve Coll writes in “The Spy Who Talked Too Much,” his autopsy on the former CIA man who revealed the agency’s torture practices and other secrets, in this week’s New Yorker.

“Recently, FBI agents have been interviewing administration officials about any role they might have had in providing classified information to David Sanger, of the [New York] Times, who last year disclosed the administration’s role in cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear program,” Coll reported.

What’s sauce for the goose is even saucier for the gander. FBI agents on the case, who tilt against liberal windmills anyway, must be smacking their lips.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who Is Lisa Monaco?

Lisa Monaco is a smart cookie, no doubt about that. And a true-blue Democrat.

The Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School grad, who turns 44 in February, has climbed so steadily through the government’s national security ranks that her new job as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama seems almost preordained. Rumors are flying that she may even replace Bob Mueller at the FBI before too long.

Yet it’s almost certain that few people outside of Washington’s insular national security world will ever have heard of her.

That’s because, unlike her predecessor John Brennan, she’s been an oiler in the machinery room of counterterrorism, not a boss man from one of the alphabet agencies -- CIA, FBI, NSA and the like.

But she has had friends in high places, starting with Joe Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Monaco worked there as research coordinator from 1992 to 1994, according to the questionnaire she filled out during her confirmation process 20 years later to be assistant attorney general for national security.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kiriakou Plea Provokes Bitter Name-Calling Among Lawyers

Is John Kiriakou a leaker or a patriotic whistleblower?  Some rare, public name-calling among lawyers close to the case has broken out over the question.

Some of the ex-CIA man’s most fervent supporters claim the government is persecuting a patriot who helped expose CIA water boarding and the other “enhanced interrogation techniques” many people equate with torture.

The Justice Department begs to differ, of course. It argues the case is simple: Kiriakou “repeatedly” disclosed classified information and the names of covert CIA employees to journalists.

So far, it has been winning. Kiriakou’s lawyers last week lost a key pre-trial ruling when the judge in the case said the feds would not have to prove that Kiriakou meant harm to the United States by exposing the interrogation program to public scrutiny.  

That set-back, apparently, led his lawyers to seek a plea deal with the feds, which one source said might amount to two-and-a-half years in prison. A hearing is scheduled for 11 tomorrow morning in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

[Update: Kiriakou and the Justice Department finalized the deal in court on Tuesday, the former CIA man pleading guilty to one count of illegally disclosing the identity of a covert agent. He's expected to spend 30 months in prison.] 

Even as a plea deal was only rumored, Kiriakou’s most staunch defenders were denouncing his lawyers, which include famed Washington defense attorney Plato Cacheris, for taking it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

U.K. 'Spy-in-a-Bag' Mystery Piques U.S. Interest

If spy agency operative Gareth Williams brought his bondage and bike-racing hobbies to the Washington area during his many visits to NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, he practiced them with a discretion worthy of his profession. 

The British media has been in a frenzy for almost two years over Williams, a codes-and-cyphers whiz, since his lithe body was discovered zipped up in a carryall bag in the bathtub of an MI6 safe house in London, in August 2010.

Today the NewYork Times presented the bizarre and fascinating case, an intoxicating mix of spy work and sexual picadillos, to an American audience in a front page piece, generating a big buzz in national security circles.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Will a Woman Helm U.S. Intelligence Next Year?

Women have run Britain's domestic counterterrorism agency, and a woman may soon run France's foreign espionage service. Three American women with similar credentials could possibly emerge from the shadows in an Obama, Clinton or McCain administration.

CQ Politics (05/30/2008)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mike Chertoff Takes See-No-Evil Stance on NSA Wiretaps

As more allegations of questionable wiretapping emerged last week, the former federal judge faced an unprecedented interrogation on the Homeland Security Department’s relationship with the NSA.

CQ Homeland Security (03/07/2008)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

State Secrets Abuses Come to a Boil

The government's practice of fending off suits by former intelligence agents and civil rights groups by invoking the 'state secrets privilege' is coming under heavy fire.

CQ Politics(02/01/2008)