Thursday, November 30, 2006


Big Nike is watching you

Via Defense Tech: A "convenient and cool" new toy for health-conscious grownups is an accidental (?) homing device.

Gee, how did we ever get by before RFID?

(Note Ft. Gordon's iPod-toting linguists: Buy Reeboks.)


Reagan’s NSA chief speaks out

Retired general asks, What’s wrong with cutting and running?
By Corey Pein

Some would have you believe that only terrorists and San Francisco liberals want the U.S. out of Iraq. Retired Lt. Gen. William Odom proves otherwise. Odom ran the National Security Agency — a major employer here in Augusta — for three years under President Ronald Reagan. Now he is a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. He is also an outspoken opponent of the invasion of Iraq and the “war on terrorism,” which he derides as “a slogan” that made Al Qaeda “far more effective.” The Metro Spirit interviewed him recently.

Metro Spirit: What are your feelings on the NSA’s program of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens?

William Odom: It didn’t happen under my watch. And I’m still puzzled why somebody hasn’t tried to impeach the president for doing it. Any conservative in the United States who values his life [ought to be outraged]. In fact, the South seceded in defense of minority rights — why the hell have they forgotten them now? Ben Franklin said, “somebody who values security over liberty deserves neither.”

MS: What do you say to people, and there are plenty here in Augusta, who say that cutting and running from Iraq is traitorous act?

WO: Well, just tell ‘em they’re full of shit. They're traitors. You know what lemmings are? Yeah, they’re lemmings. We went to war for our enemies’ best interests. You ask those people why it makes sense that we went to war to advance the interests of Iran and Al Qaeda.

MS: Will the Democrat-controlled Congress change anything?

WO: No, not much. I think that what’s gonna change the course is that we’re losing the war. It’s not the Congress that’s changing things. I’ve never seen much spine on the part of the Democrats. What’s gonna change it, if anything, is that [Defense Secretary nominee Robert] Gates has thought that we have a ridiculous policy toward Iran, because they’re going to get nuclear weapons anyway. He has never thought the war made any sense.

MS: Do you think President Bush wants to invade Iran?

WO: The prime minister of Israel was here begging him [Bush] to do it. People down there in Augusta, they’re just being led around by the snout. I grew up in East Tennessee. I know what Georgians are like. I’m a redneck, and there are a lot of stupid rednecks. You can quote me saying that. Ask ‘em if they know that the United States is one of the greatest supporters of terrorism in the globe. I’m all for my terrorists, I’m just against their terrorists.

MS: So you think the Israel lobby, as you put it, was the reason we invaded Iraq?

WO: The religious right here pushed it. I don’t think the oil issue has much to do with it. Your enemies will sell you oil. Do we need to own a country to get oil from it? As much as [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez hates us, he gives us oil. The oil issue by and large is a red herring. Ask those guys after what we’ve done in Iraq, if anybody who’s gonna run Iraq is gonna be pro-American. The Iranians have been telling the Shiites, “Do what the Americans tell you.” Do you know why? Because the American democracy program was gonna put Shiites in charge. There are more Shiites in the country. Now they can kill off the Sunnis.

MS: It’s been said that Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile whose bogus intelligence helped build American support for war, was an Iranian agent. Do you think so?

WO: Of course he’s working for Iran. He’d work for anybody against anybody else. You got all those hardliners in Augusta who are suckers for any kinda city slicker. They’re suckers for this criminal banker from Jordan.

MS: You say the Iranians will get nukes no matter what we do.

WO: Just like North Korea got ‘em.

MS: So, then, what should we do? Should we pressure Israel to disarm its nuclear weapons?

WO: I don’t care whether they disarm or not. Why don’t you ask Israel to give up their weapons if the Iranians will give ‘em up, too? The Iraq war has made Israel much less secure. Al Qaeda can operate in Iraq now. How stupid can you be? The crowd I don’t know what to do about is the religious right who believe in the Book of Revelations. They used to tell me the Earth was flat. There must be some smart rednecks down there. It’s time for them to stand up.


From the Nov. 30 issue of the Augusta, Ga. Metro Spirit. Visit Find Odom's articles at



Wash. Post:
The U.S. government agreed yesterday to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oregon lawyer who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI bungled a fingerprint match and mistakenly linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain. ...
This raises the question: What good is "information sharing" if the information is wrong? The courts may be wondering that, too. The Post says Mayfield can "continue pursuing his legal challenge to the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law, which was used to obtain his personal records while he was under investigation."

There's a strong argument against the government's wide-net approach to problems like terrorism, and Darshak Sanghavi put it pretty succinctly yesterday in Slate:
[E]ven highly accurate screening tests have many false positives. Take a random airport test for cocaine that correctly identifies 99 percent of cocaine smugglers and correctly excludes 99 percent of nonsmugglers, and assume about 100 smugglers enter an airport of 100,000 passengers. Among smugglers, 99 would have a positive test, and one would be negative. But among law-abiding travelers, 999 would have false-positive tests. Thus, only 99 out of 1,098 people who test positive, or less than 10 percent, are real smugglers. So, a lot of innocent people endure fruitless internal body-cavity searches.
But then, what have you got to worry about, if you're not a smuggler.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Is oversight making a comeback?

Congress gets a briefing from a "civil liberties" panel on the administration's Swift financial records surveillance program. The panel says it's all good.


The reach of NSA spying

Have you ever called Afghanistan? The NSA is still listening.

According to Reuters last December, the volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the National Security Agency without court-approved warrants was much larger than the White House has acknowledged.

But according to the New York Times, nearly a year later, the nation still doesn't know how great that reach may be and Congress is still undecided about how to deal with the spying.

"For all the sound and fury in the last year, the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program continues uninterrupted, with no definitive action by either Congress or the courts on what, if anything, to do about it, and little chance of a breakthrough in the lame-duck Congress," the Times writes.


Philosophy and the NSA

Wikipedia defines ontology in two ways: "The term ontology has its origin in philosophy, where it is the name of a fundamental branch of metaphysics concerned with existence. According to Tom Gruber at Stanford University, the meaning of ontology in the context of computer science, however, is 'a description of the concepts and relationships that can exist for an agent or a community of agents.' He goes on to specify that an ontology is generally written, 'as a set of definitions of formal vocabulary.'"

Somehow, the intelligence community uses this applied philosopy. And they're talking about it this week "in the shadow of the National Security Agency." Read about it here.


Fort Gordon NSA employee dies

Curtis Lee Adams, 38, of Atlanta, died of a heart attack on Nov. 14, 2006. According to his obituary, he had been working in Augusta, Ga., for the National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, since January.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


NSA wiretapping comes under scrutiny

According to The New York Times, "the Justice Department’s inspector general said Monday that his office had opened a full review into the department’s role in President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program and the legal requirements governing the program."

This will allow an investigation into procedures that allow the National Security Administration to monitor, without obtaining warrants from the court, communications between Americans and people outside this nation who are suspected of terrorism.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Across the pond, realignment

From Cryptome (gotta love Cryptome) we hear vaguely that some changes are in store at Menwith Hill, described here as "the premiere NSA electronic surveillance station in Europe. "

How could it not be, with all those big orbs?

FAS (gotta love FAS) describes Menwith Hill as "the principal NATO theater ground segment node for high altitude signals intelligence satellites." FAS tells us that it won the NSA's "'Station of the Year' prize for 1991 after its role in the Gulf War," and many other interesting things.

Anyway, the Pentagon release is pretty damn vague, which isn't surprising, I guess. Are they shuttering the SIGINT operation there or what? Is it a lot of nothing? If something truly interesting was happening, would they announce it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


'Bomb Iran'

That's one neocon's policy advice, as relayed by the Los Angeles Times.

One wonders: Then what?

Scott Ritter (yes, that Scott Ritter), offers an alternative view, in an excerpt from his new book "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change."

A couple of weeks ago Ritter was talking about his book with Sy Hersh on C-SPAN. I'm paraphrasing here, but Ritter said that whenever he heard someone advocate a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran, he'd ask that person to "pick a city."

That is, to pick an American city they wouldn't mind seeing wiped off the map in retaliation.

So, what will it be Detroit? New York? Atlanta?

Seems like a fair question. Anybody out there wargaming this?


A class in National Security Administration

Apparently, people can train in national security administration at the University of New Haven. Here's one class:
"NSP 648:'Achieving Excellence in National Security Administration.' This course will consist of a survey of the methods used by effective administrators and managers, in the private sector, to achieve their strategic objectives. The survey will be supplemented by focused conversations about how these well researched and practiced methods could be applied to administrative challenges within the national security enterprise."


Bush and warrantless wiretaps

Some people think President Bush should be impeached. Why? Tim Collins summarizes a possible reason: "Whereas the president authorized the National Security Administration to engage in warrantless wiretaps of American citizens in violation of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the doctrine of separation of powers, and the express will of Congress in establishing the fisa courts." (See Mother Jones)

Do you think the NSA is listening to this?


Let them eat duct tape

Homeland Security contracting is a mess, says a consultant's confidential audit reported in the Washington Post. That's not exactly a revelation, at this point, but there are some nice details in the story. For example: "At the outset, the team of acquisition specialists could not locate 33 of the 72 contract files it had selected for the review, so the consultants had to select 33 others."

Memo to Chertoff: Blame the consultants.

No, wait. Blame the Washington Post.


Army Strong, with the munchies

The CBS News affiliate out of Denver investigates the rising use of "moral waivers" by Army recruiters, which allow them to accept gang members and dope smokers. The report says:
With a high demand for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has struggled to meet its recruiting and retention goals in past years. However, in the 2006 fiscal year, the Army exceeded its goal by enlisting 80,635 new troops. ...

Nationally, the Army has increased its acceptance of moral waivers from 7,640 in 2001 to 11,018 in 2006.
At the same time, the age limit was also increased, and the aptitude requirements were lowered.



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