Thursday, December 28, 2006


The new foreign legion?

Boston Globe via IHT:
The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks, including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and put more immigrants on a faster track to U.S. citizenship if they volunteer, according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens' serving in the U.S. military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.

Uh, yeah.

The story says that the number of soldiers who've gained citizenship through serving has increased by about six times since 9/11... but the total is still under 5,000, so we're talking about a very small piece of the pie here.

That said, it was recently reported that there are about as many private contractors in Iraq as there are active military. So, overall, the "mercenary" fears seem warranted.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Love that memory hole

"FBI Says Files In Leak Cases Are ‘Missing'": C'mon, really?

Aside: Josh Gerstein files a mean FOIA. "[A]lmost no reporters filed FOIA requests about [America's secret] detainee system. (The one apparent exception was an enterprising reporter at The New York Sun named Josh Gerstein, who actually beat the ACLU to the punch but had his FOIA request dismissed on a technicality.)"


So hard to find good help these days

Analysts recently downgraded the target share price for NSA contractor Applied Signal Technology "on account of delays in shipments and customer orders." Geez, who's running the show over there? Among others, a former NSA chief of staff.


Feel safer now? How about now?

"Contractor's Handguns Missing From Homeland Security Vault."

Friday, December 22, 2006


35 million secret pages to be released

The New York Times writes about the 25-year rule, which forces the NSA and other federal agencies to release classified information after 25 years. Many become available at the end of the month. It reports:

"The National Security Agency, the eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, has released 35 million pages, including an extensive collection on the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led to the escalation of the Vietnam War. The agency plans a major release early next year on the Israeli attack on the Liberty, an American eavesdropping ship, in 1967."

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Classified slapstick

New details on Sandy Berger's follies in the National Archives:
Berger removed a total of five copies of the same document without authorization and later used scissors to destroy three before placing them in his office trash ...

... one archives official claimed to have seen Berger fiddling with what appeared to be a piece of paper "rolled around his ankle and underneath his pant leg," Berger told investigators he was merely pulling up his socks, which he said "frequently fall down." He said "this story was absurd and embarrassing."
Three words: National. Security. Adviser.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


'We need to reset our military.'

-- President Bush to the Washington Post.

Reset. Right, like when you're playing Duck Hunt on the old Nintendo, and you miss too many times and the dog laughs at you. (Struggling for a Cheney joke.)

Some undercurrents:

LA Times: "A once-prominent Iraqi American, jailed on corruption charges, was sprung from a Green Zone prison this weekend by U.S. security contractors he had hired..."
There have been no suggestions that American officials had a role in [the] escape Sunday afternoon. But the B-movie scenario of a rich businessman hiring armed muscle to bust himself out of jail from inside the fortress-like, U.S.-protected enclave could further contribute to Iraq's image of instability and lawlessness. The flamboyant former government minister's arrest and prosecution were held up by Iraqi and U.S. officials as a rare example of good government prevailing in the new Iraq.

AZ Star: "Tucson military recruiters ran cocaine"
In one case not mentioned in the plea agreement, [a Nat'l Guardsman] is said to have recruited a Nogales woman named Leslie Hildago, then in her early 20s, to join the drug ring after he had recruited her to join the National Guard.

Iraqslogger: "Jihadists Read, Mock New U.S. Army Guide"
Notable Arabic-language comments from readers of the Tajdeed posting include "Bless you, you who have broken the U.S. and its military and made it resort to booklets." Also: "The Pentagon is distributing the booklet to save whatever is left of it!," referring to the U.S. military.


Oceana has always been fighting Eurasia

DoD nondenies CBS crimespeak.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Team HLS 4

Another installment of Team HLS (Homeland Security). We're considering it for inclusion in the Metro Spirit. Tell us what you think. Email

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Team HLS cartoon


The NSA and Princess Di

What role did the NSA play in the Princess Di case? According to the Princess Di report, which has been posted online, no role at all. After reviewing chapter 15, which discusses the allegations about the NSA and Diana, it appears there is no evidence that Di was targeted for surveillance by the NSA.

The NSA has admitted having 39 documents (124 pages) related to the princess, but people from two administrations who have reviewed those documents say there's nothing relating to Princess Di's death.

However, one attorney and writer claims to have heard an NSA-taped discussion between two women discussing hairstyles. Wow. Is "hairstyle" a code word?


Leahy will look into domestic wiretaps

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont will use his new position as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to go after information about the NSA's domestic wiretapping program. U.S. Attorney General Alberto has refused in the past to provide such information, but Leahy's Democrats were in the minority at the time. Here's what the Brattleboro Reformer writes:

Gonzales previous committee appearances have left Leahy frustrated. In February, Gonzales flatly refused to reveal details of the president's program authorizing the National Security Agency to wiretap domestic phones used for some foreign conversations.
"Our enemy is listening," Gonzales warned the senators. The next hearing might be different if Leahy is armed with supporting documents and the ability to swear-in administration officials -- an element absent from the Gonzales hearing in February, despite Democratic complaints.
"I will look again into this issue of wireless wiretapping. Nothing frightens me more," Leahy said Wednesday. "I'm not prepared to accept answers (of), 'I can't answer that.'"

Friday, December 15, 2006


Anybody know a good real estate agent?

I'm thinking beachfront condos.


Also, and unrelatedly, NSA contractor Argon ST announced its fourth-quarter results. Company prez says: "While we are disappointed in our operating performance in both the fourth quarter and year, we remain confident that we are well positioned for future growth." No kidding.

Argon's board includes Maureen Baginski, said to be "first-ever recipient of NSA’s Outstanding Leadership Award, an award voted on and bestowed by the NSA workforce."


Problem of the day: "My fear is that if we have more troops sent to Iraq, we will just see more injuries and more deaths." -- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Solution: Turn off the television and go shopping.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Subcutaneous tracking devices: Bringing you peace of mind since 2014

A Toronto Star op-ed contemplates the "chipping" of citizens, and outlines how it might happen within a single generation:
"Employers will start to expect implants as a condition of getting a job. The U.S. military will lead the way, requiring chips for all soldiers as a means to enhance battlefield command and control — and to identify human remains. ...

"[An] unfortunately common tragedy of modern life will occur: A small child, likely a photogenic toddler, will be murdered or horrifically abused. It will happen in one of the media capitals of the Western world, thereby ensuring non-stop breathless coverage. Chip manufactures will recognize this as the opportunity they have been anticipating for years. With their technology now largely bug-free, familiar to most citizens and comparatively inexpensive, manufacturers will partner with the police to launch a high-profile campaign encouraging parents to implant their children 'to ensure your own peace of mind.'"
The author, Kevin Haggerty, has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this.

Any rebuttals?

I'm still trying to think of one. All I can think of is that it's more likely that RFID tags will soon be so widespread in consumer goods, like clothing and cell phones, that it won't be necessary to actually plant microchips under the skin.


Out of thin air

Huge new NSA facility suddenly appears on Fort Gordon’s radar
By Corey Pein

It’s a boom time for spooks. Much like the Pentagon’s Cold War megaprojects put entire cities on the map virtually overnight, the untold billions in tax dollars now pouring into the intelligence agencies fighting the Global War on Terrorism are beginning to trickle down to the local level.

And Augusta is about to get a $340-million taste of Sweet Tea.

The National Security Agency is building a massive new operations facility, dubbed project Sweet Tea. It will come complete with all the amenities: a workout room, nursing areas, a mini-shopping center, a credit union, an 800-seat cafeteria and thousands of exclusive parking spaces. Secret parking spaces.

There are, of course, actual operational national security-type elements to the project. For example, it will include a new shredder facility (for all those classified documents) and an antenna farm (to help listen in on enemy combatants like Osama bin Laden and Princess Di).

According to unclassified NSA documents obtained by the Metro Spirit, the project will relocate all existing antennas to the southern end of the new site. The location “provides the perfect look angles with no possibility for encroachment to their required line-of-sight in the future.”

The project also includes a new 7,600-square-foot Visitor Control Center, thousands of additional square feet for warehouses, a vehicle inspection facility, modular training spaces and modular workspace for the growing Navy contingent at NSA-Georgia.

The plans will also force some adaptations to existing facilities. The primary entrance to Back Hall, the socalled compartmented information facility on Chamberlain Avenue and 25th Street, will change to what is now the rear entrance.

“Anyone working or visiting Back Hall knows that space has been at a premium for years,” the document says. “To ease the growth and handle new mission personnel” in coming years, an 800-workstation facility will be added in the Back Hall parking lot.

Those 800 seats translate into 1,200 new personnel, the document notes. Equipment will be added as personnel arrive, to “ensure that the IT placed for new arrivals is current technology, is under warranty, and is the best strategy for reducing initial construction costs.”

The document says the main new structure, a 525,000- square-foot Regional Security Operations Center, should be complete by May 2010.

The NSA and its allies in the U.S. Congress have been pushing this project for years. The Defense Department requested a $340.8 million appropriation for the Georgia Regional Security Operations Center back in February. And a construction award was scheduled for Sept. 25, NSA documents show.

Maybe the deal was awarded on schedule. Maybe there was a delay. Either way, it wasn’t announced until Dec. 8, one day after the Metro Spirit started calling around with questions. The announcement was one of only eight press releases that the usually silent spy agency had issued all year.

The NSA announcement said The Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, awarded the contract on Dec. 7.

The world is full of strange coincidences. But this deal is rife with them.

Not only was the long-awaited contract ostensibly awarded the very day a reporter happened to call a Congressional staffer about it, the press release was sent out three days before the award was published on federal contracting Web sites.

It almost gives the impression that if the government hadn’t been asked, it wouldn’t have bothered to say how it planned to spend more than a third of a billion dollars.

“NSA is not in the habit of announcing these contracts. Certainly not in any kind of expedited manner,” says Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, DC.

“If the overall intelligence budget is on the order of $45 billion, only a small fraction of that is publicly reported,” Aftergood says. “The largest and most consequential programs, which have annual appropriations in the $100-million or larger category, go completely unremarked on in public. It’s a strange way to do business.”

Military and intelligence agencies enjoy the luxury of so-called black budgets, pools of money intended for top-secret projects that even members of Congress are prohibited from knowing about.

The blanket secrecy increases the likelihood of corruption, such as last year’s garish, prostitute-ridden bribery scandal surrounding former California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

“When billions of dollars each year are allocated in secret, you can be pretty confident that that money is not being adequately overseen,” Aftergood says.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that the NSA-Georgia project’s actual cost will be even higher than the $340 million that’s known to have been appropriated.

A military source familiar with cost analysis told the Metro Spirit that the facilities may wind up costing more than $1 billion.

The $286 million award for the new NSA facilities went to Phelps/Kiewit Joint Venture, which is, as the name suggests, actually two companies sharing the work and the profits. This is an increasingly common practice in the world of major military projects, where competition between lead contractors is often more theoretical than actual.

Phelps appears to be part of Hensel Phelps Construction, which, four days after the 9/11 attacks, won the rebuilding contract for the Pentagon. It was worth up to $758 million. Kiewit is not as high-profile. In 2002, one of the company’s divisions won a $15 million contract to build a vehicle maintenance facility at Fort Gordon. Both companies are based in the military contracting mecca of Virginia.

Clyde Taylor, military legislative assistant to Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, said his office spent a couple of years obtaining the appropriation. Taylor also gave credit to Georgia Rep. Charlie Norwood, whose office issued its own press release last Friday.

The need for the new NSA facility is driven by the growth in overseas surveillance activities, Taylor said. He said that the agency plans to move linguists and analysts down from its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters to the Augusta listening station, which targets the Middle East.

Billy Birdwell, chief of public affairs with the Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, says Phelps/Kiewit will probably get the go-ahead to proceed in January.


From the Dec. 14 issue of the Augusta, Ga. Metro Spirit.


More of Team HLS

Gus Green, hero of the cartoon Team HLS (Homeland Security), as a youth. We'll be posting one a day for a while. Let us know what you think. It's drawn by an Augusta cartoonist and we're considering it a for a place in the Metro Spirit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Someone, please book these guys. Coco?

The Secret Sound of the NSA, coming to you from Columbus, Ohio. Check out their cover of "Armagideon Time."


A 'slip of the tongue?'

Doubt it.

PM Olmert reveals "Israel's holiest secret."

Meanwhile, in Tehran ... David Duke and Ahmadinejad find common ground. They're, like, BFF now.

But don't worry, citizens! Watch more television!

Top story on AOL:

'Raymond' Dad
Peter Boyle Dies

Starred in 'Young Frankenstein'
Emmy-Winning Actor Was 71


EXCLUSIVE! Di wiretap transcript: 'And then, he said Okay, and I was like, Oh my God!'

Alright, so we're late to the Princess Di thing. All you need to know is: "NSA did not target Princess Diana's communications." Okay? Okay. Let's never speak of this again.

[Bill Arkin has a good take: "The real story here, which the Post seems to have missed, is that if Forstmann's communications were being monitored, an American citizen's communications, then it would have been a violation of the law. That is, unless he is a criminal or a terrorist."]


More WaPo...Looks like Gen. Jerry "My God Is Bigger Than Your God" Boykin wasn't the only one trying to put Our Lord in his rightful place as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sunni 'nough: Saudi Arabia just demonstrated why the 80 percent solution is no such thing.

Finally, here's something to ponder over lunch:

Who's thinking, "Architecture"?


Tells us about new cartoon

We're considering this cartoon, drawn by Augusta local cartoonist B. J. Wood, for the Metro Spirit. It's called Team HLS, which stands for Homeland Security. Over the next few weeks, we'll post one cartoon a day. Tell us what you think. Does it make you laugh? Email with your opinions.

Friday, December 08, 2006


RSOC it to me

Charlie Norwood's office announced a big construction contract at Ft. Gordon today. Watch the Metro Spirit for more...but for now, here's the release:

National Security Agency Operations Center
Project Moves Forward at Fort Gordon

(Fort Gordon, GA) - U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) today announced that a construction contract has been awarded for a new operations center for the National Security Agency/Central Security Service Cryptologic Center in Georgia - NSAG.

"This is a great day for America's security and intelligence forces, for Fort Gordon, and for the CSRA," says Norwood, who lobbied extensively for the facility in recent years. "We're now cleared for groundbreaking, and that means we've passed the last conceivable hurdle to the center becoming a reality."

[Knock on wood!]

Norwood says infrastructure improvements and expanded national security missions at Fort Gordon were critical to the Fort's staying off the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list ...

According to the U.S. Army, a contract for $23,127.979 was awarded this week to Phelps/Keweit [sic] Joint Venture of Chantilly, Virginia, for construction of the operations center, with an estimated completion date of June 29, 2010.


To destroy your sensitive files

... don't mess around with generic-brand degaussers. Buy an NSA-approved degausser today!

Document Type: Presolicitation Notice
Solicitation Number: HM1575-06-T0010
Posted Date: Oct 12, 2006
Original Response Date:
Current Response Date:
Original Archive Date:
Current Archive Date:
Classification Code: 36 -- Special industry machinery
Set Aside: Total Small Business
Naics Code: 333319 -- Other Commercial and Service Industry Machinery Manufacturing

Contracting Office Address

Other Defense Agencies, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, St Louis Contracting Center (ACSS), Attn: ACSS Mail Stop L-13 3838 Vogel Road, Arnold, MO, 63010-6238


... Requirement being solicited is to provide NSA Approved Destructor and NSA Approved Degausser, installation, customer training, and warranty maintenance. Both items must be on the NSA CSS Evaluated products list for high security disintegrators and degaussers. ...


Maintaining a false sense of security

That seems to be an overriding concern these days. Complete security is impossible, so we make a meaningless show of force.

We'll scan container ships for radiation -- but only those that departed from a few ports, and not other kinds of cargo ships. Because we can't check them all. Trade would grind to a halt.

We'll randomly check some people's luggage at the airport, but not everyone's. Because we can't. The check-in would take longer than the flight.

We'll post conspicuous, heavily armed guards in some tourist areas. Why? Apparently, this makes a lot of people feel safe.

We'll search some people's bags on the New York City subway, just because we can.

Meanwhile, we'll leave the chemical plants unguarded, and we'll continue selling automatic weapons to anyone who wants one. Terrorists don't use guns? Right.

The same dubious thinking about security also applies to privacy. Google's chat program, for instance, automatically saves and stores every transcript on the company's servers. To reassure people that their conversations won't be recorded and used for nefarious ends, Google lets you check a box that promises your chats won't be saved. You have to check another box each time you chat to make sure the other party can't save the transcript.

But even if you believe that no digital trace exists of your conversations, what's to keep the other party from copying it down as you type, or taking screenshots?

Don't think too hard about it. Just check the box. You're "off the record," okay? Trust us. Now, just let us see what's in your bag. There, there. Don't you feel safer?


'Axis of Weasels' was better

It's reassuring to know that our society has progressed. Now we have PhotoShop!


Card-carrying member

The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff explains how to get your hands on your "file." Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


In other news

Wired: "Privacy Board Knows Number of Americans Targetted by NSA but Won't Share the 411"

"Had Congress wanted us to be an indendepent agency, it would have made us independent."
So says a member of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Board.

CQ: "Fine Print in Defense Bill Opens Door to Martial Law"

“The changes to the Insurrection Act will allow the President to use the military, including the National Guard, to carry out law enforcement activities without the consent of a governor,” [Sen. Patrick Leahy] said.

Wired, again: "DHS Passenger Scoring Illegal?"

"A newly revealed system that has been assigning terrorism scores to Americans traveling into or out of the country for the past five years..."
Which reminds us of North Korea's categorization of its citizens into three groups: "Loyal," "Wavering" and "Hostile."

Media Matters: O'Reilly's banging the drums again

Big Brother Bill says,
"If Iran takes over Iraq and then fosters a revolution inside Saudi Arabia, which Iran wants to do, and overthrows that kingdom and gets control of all the oil and says we're not selling to the USA, we are going to level that country, because you, [caller], need gasoline to live. See? Now that's the biggest example I can give you."
IHT: "Rights group says Indian military assistance fuels repression in [Burma]"

We can't just blame China anymore.
"It is shocking that a democracy like India would offer military assistance to Burma's brutal military dictatorship, which is likely to use that assistance against the civilian population," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.


Can Jim Baker dance?

With all eyes on the Baker report (a dud, the consensus has it), Israel's new minister for strategic affairs -- a real hardliner, judging by this profile -- is meeting with Condi today.

In other words, while we're talking Iraq, Iraq, Iraq -- and getting nowhere -- the people who matter are talking Iran, Iran, Iran.

The minister tells The New York Times: “The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea," and, “We must also be prepared to deal alone with this problem.”

Hm, preemptive strike? Or...what? If you rule out diplomacy, what else is there?

Not that we'd engage in speculation in this forum. Until Jim Baker says it's a problem, we're not going to worry about it.

* * *

About that Baker report: Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi summed it up nicely yesterday morning.
In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush's Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago.
Not true! Some of us were too enthralled by Dancing With the Stars.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Looks peaceful enough from space


The US Navy just reasserted control over a multinational task force patrolling the southern Persian Gulf. Stories here and here and here and here.

Presumed context:

Iran, of course, is the elephant in the room, and the Strait of Hormuz is the, uh...great...big...whale (ok?).

Footnote that's more interesting than the news:

A few Heritage hawks point out some problems with the US Navy's minesweepers and note that "Iran’s mine warfare capabilities may pose a more persistent challenge than is commonly accepted."

Iraqi perspective:

"Iran is the beneficiary of this current situation." So says Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesman. He's interviewed here, and it's interesting if not groundbreaking stuff. He says "bureaucratic competition for power" within America dooms its project in Iraq.


The misuses of SIGINT

Martin Streetly, who edit's Jane’s Electronic Mission Aircraft, worries that overreliance on tactical signals intelligence spells trouble for future coalition warfare and for the health of society in general. An overview of his article is available here, but you need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing. (Nuts.)

Streetly writes:
A plausible scenario suggests that [war on terror] operations in southwest Asia are unlikely to long outlive the current Bush and Blair administrations, leaving a SIGINT capability that is overly developed in the tactical area playing catch-up in strategic realms, such as the monitoring of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and other global hotspots.
Who's worried about nuclear proliferation? We're all about nuclear proliferation.

The editor also sees "increasing danger inherent in the attractions of SIGINT as a tool to combat domestic terrorism, with all the inherent dangers for civil liberties such a 'surveillance' society offers."

Civil liber-wha?

Monday, December 04, 2006


The Office

FAS's Secrecy News got a copy of an employee survey recently given to America's intel workforce. "To ensure your anonymity," the survey cautions, "do not write anything on this survey or the return materials that would identify you personally."


Steve Aftergood explains:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting an
annual survey of intelligence community employees to lay a
foundation for future reforms of personnel practices.

The survey asks IC employees to evaluate a range of issues from
workplace environment and job satisfaction ("How satisfied are you
with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?") to
attitudes towards other intelligence agencies ("How easy or
difficult is it for you to collaborate with members of the IC who
are outside your own IC agency?")

There are no wrong answers (wink wink).


Rebuild Abu Ghraib, too, while you're at it

In all the weekend ruckus over the Rumsfeld memo, Juan Cole singles out one of Rummy's parting nuggets of advice that I didn't hear mentioned anywhere else:

"Rumsfeld openly admits that he wants to run Iraq just like Saddam did," Cole writes.

He cites the ex-SecDef's suggestion to "Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period."

Says Cole:
I mean, bribing people to be your puppets is bad enough, but citing Saddam's policies as an example for how Iraq should be run is absolutely outrageous.
Get with the program, professor! Don't you know it's the Iraqis' fault?


'Is James Bond responsible for the Iraq War?'

No, seriously. The gist of Richard Cohen's argument is this: If GWB had said Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa according to Russian intelligence or Italian intelligence, "We'd still be laughing."

But because the bogus story came from British intelligence, which we all know is very exacting and debonair, we bought it hook line and sinker.

In a roundabout way, Cohen is saying that the Bond films helped Bush sell his intelligence the same way that Top Gun helps Air Force recruiters -- by making the whole thing same easy, exciting and infallible. You have to wonder, would people put so much trust in the powers of Homeland Security without shows like 24 and CSI? Probably not... Some people, though, have always preferred Stripes.

Anyway: interesting essay.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Who didn't see this coming?

"The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds..." -- Wash. Post


'New Normal' Holidays

By Newsday's Doug Marlette

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