Posts from July, 2008

DNI Tells Analysts to Establish Broader Outside Ties

In a new directive that challenges the insular culture of U.S. intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell has ordered analysts to cultivate relationships with outside experts “whenever possible” in order to improve the quality of intelligence analysis.

The DNI’s July 16 directive on “Analytic Outreach” (pdf) establishes procedures for implementing such outreach, including incentives and rewards for successful performance.

“Analytic outreach is the open, overt, and deliberate act of an IC [intelligence community] analyst engaging with an individual outside the IC to explore ideas and alternate perspectives, gain new insights, generate new knowledge, or obtain new information,” the directive states.

“Elements of the IC should use outside experts whenever possible to contribute to, critique, and challenge internal products and analysis….”

“Sound intelligence analysis requires that analysts… develop trusted relationships” with “experts in academia; think tanks; industry; non-governmental organizations; the scientific world; …and elsewhere.”

There are, however, significant limits to any such relationships.

“Analysts in the IC shall never discuss classified or sensitive information with outside experts who are not appropriately cleared,” the directive warns.

But since almost everything in intelligence is considered classified or at least sensitive, that does not leave much room for analysts to “engage” and share information with outside experts who are not interested in a cleared contractual relationship with an intelligence agency.

The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, insists that even unclassified, non-copyrighted publications of its Open Source Center should be “treated as copyrighted” and “must not be disseminated to the public.”

Under such circumstances and without a modicum of reciprocity between analysts and outside experts there can be no “trusted relationships.”

The directive seems to recognize the problem. “Unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions that discourage collaboration with outside experts may increase the likelihood that alternate perspectives will not be considered and debatable judgments will remain unchallenged.”

See Intelligence Community Directive 205, “Analytic Outreach,” July 16, 2008. Other Intelligence Community Directives are available here.

Trusted Relationships and Information Sharing

Though rarely discussed, interpersonal trust is frequently a prerequisite for voluntary information sharing not only between government officials and members of the public, but even among government officials themselves.

“The effective flow of information and knowledge is facilitated through networks of trust,” a new report from the congressionally mandated Project on National Security Reform nicely observed. Yet such networks within government are fragile and sometimes non-existent, particularly when the individuals involved simply don’t know each other.

The personnel security clearance system is supposed to serve as an objective validator of a government employee’s trustworthiness, but in practice decisions to share information are often dictated by whether the recipient is trusted or not, not whether he is cleared or not.

“Trust tends to emerge between highly committed individuals on an ad hoc basis and within personal relationships,” the Project report said. “In the current national security system, however, disparate organizational cultures, parochial leadership styles and visions, infrequent face-to-face meetings, and frequent rotations of staff make trust difficult to achieve.”

Additional barriers impede communication between government and the public. Some officials seem to fear, disdain or dismiss unstructured or unpredictable interactions with members of the public. On the other hand, according to the new report, “Some NGOs … show outright hostility to the military actors in the national security system, which can greatly complicate the development and flow of knowledge among the actors and decision makers who need it.”

The new report of the Project on National Security Reform, which aims to promote a new national security act and various structural changes in the national security system, is available here.

A Reorganization of Defense Intelligence

The Department of Defense has embarked on a significant modification of its intelligence apparatus, creating a new human intelligence center within the DIA, abolishing a controversial counterintelligence agency, and reorganizing the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

A new Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) is being established at the Defense Intelligence Agency to manage, develop and execute DoD counterintelligence and human intelligence activities worldwide.

It will take over many of the functions and authorities of the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), which drew criticism for its unauthorized domestic surveillance activities, including the collection of information on U.S. antiwar groups. CIFA will be terminated effective August 3.

Unlike CIFA, the new DCHC “shall NOT be designated as a law enforcement activity and shall not perform any law enforcement functions previously assigned to DoD CIFA,” according to a July 22 memorandum memorializing the new changes (pdf).

However, the DCHC will be responsible for developing an “offensive counterintelligence operations” (OFCO) capability for the Department of Defense, which may entail efforts to penetrate, deceive and disable foreign intelligence activities directed against U.S. forces.

The new organization was described in a July 22 memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense on “Establishment of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC).”

Meanwhile, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, James R. Clapper, Jr., has moved to reorganize his office to strengthen HUMINT and CI “integration and synchronization” and to structure the office around four functional areas.

That move was first reported last week by Inside the Pentagon, which interviewed defense intelligence officials on the background and motivations for the changes, and obtained an internal memorandum outlining the changes. See “Pentagon Shakes Up Intelligence Directorate’s Organization” by Christopher J. Castelli, July 24.

See the June 18, 2008 memorandum from Under Secretary Clapper on “Reorganization of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence” (pdf), obtained by Inside the Pentagon and marked “for official use only” (not yet “controlled unclassified information”).

Justice Dept National Security Division Draws Criticism

The Department of Justice National Security Division (NSD) that was formed in 2006 by the merger of several DOJ intelligence and national security elements is attracting criticism from some intelligence officials who say that it is biased in favor of the FBI or, alternatively, that it lacks the agility that an intelligence organization needs.

NSD was established in response to a recommendation of the 2005 Silberman-Robb Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction. NSD combined the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), which processed applications for domestic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, together with Criminal Division sections on Counterespionage and Counterterrorism in order, the WMD Commission said (pdf), to “give the [united] office better insight into actual intelligence practices and make it better attuned to operational needs.”

Though it has gone unremarked, NSD is now led largely by former officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Division head, J. Patrick Rowan, was a special counsel in the FBI. Matthew G. Olsen, who now heads the NSD Office of Intelligence (formerly OIPR), was also an FBI special counsel. (Previously, OIPR was led by James A. Baker, a career civil servant.) Charles Steele, who serves as section chief for Intelligence Operations in the Office of Intelligence, is a former chief of staff to the FBI director.

“OIPR’s strength was its independence,” wrote one Secrecy News correspondent who is an intelligence community employee. “Now it seems to function as an arm of the FBI. This is a step back to the 1960s.”

That claim was disputed by an intelligence official in another agency, who said the fact that these individuals worked at FBI is “almost irrelevant. There is a problem, but that’s not it.”

“The problem,” this official said, “is that every one is a former prosecutor. None of them knows much about intelligence or about FBI operations. They’re very good at what they do, but what they do is not intelligence.”

NSD, this official said, is “broken.” “The counterespionage section is stuck in the 1980s. Counterterrorism is pretty good. Oversight works okay, up to a point.” But, from his perspective, the FISA review process is still “infected” with a law enforcement mentality.

FISA reviewers at NSD “keep asking for things they don’t need and should not have,” he said. Like what? Like “who is the source of this information?” or “How much was this source paid?”

Doesn’t the record number of FISA authorizations (pdf) being processed by NSD provide compelling evidence that inappropriate barriers to surveillance, if any, have been lowered?

“Not really,” according to the official. “The high numbers are largely due to renewals” of previous authorizations. “The cases get a better scrub from FBI than from NSD.”

Is he proposing that intelligence officers staff the NSD? “No, you need lawyers, but lawyers with stronger intelligence backgrounds. There aren’t so many of those.”

Current and former Justice officials contacted by Secrecy News declined to comment. Inquiries to the Justice Department Office of Public Affairs were not answered.

Govt Files Appeal in AIPAC Case

Prosecutors in the trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with mishandling classified information filed a pre-trial appeal (pdf) on Friday. The district court, they said, should not have ruled that two particular classified documents were admissible into evidence.

In appealing the admissibility of those documents, the prosecutors also took aim at a 2006 court ruling that imposed a high burden of proof on the government to show that the defendants had specific intent, among other things, to harm the United States or benefit a foreign country. Without such a showing of intent, the Espionage Act provisions under which they are charged would be unconstitutional, the lower court ruled in 2006. (See “Ruling in AIPAC Case Interprets Espionage Act Narrowly”, Secrecy News, February 20, 2007).

In its appeal, the government blasted that prior ruling.

“The district court not only manufactured unwise and unnecessary new elements of a federal criminal offense, but in doing so exceeded its constitutional authority and replaced its judgment for that of the Congress,” prosecutors wrote.

If their reasoning were to prevail, then anyone who deals with classified information without official authorization, as many national security reporters and others routinely do, could conceivably be subject to prosecution under the Espionage Act.

The partially redacted appeal brief also appeared to reframe the AIPAC case as a traditional espionage matter, stressing the unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the government of Israel and downplaying the alleged unauthorized disclosures to the press and other persons that were prominent in the original indictment.

“Clandestinely obtaining and passing U.S. government classified information to the Israeli government does not represent participation in a ‘public debate’ to ‘influence United States foreign policy.’ The fact that defendants may have at some point in the conspiracy mixed lawful conduct with their illegal conspiracy to obtain and disclose NDI [national defense information] is irrelevant,” prosecutors argued.

See the Brief of the United States presented to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 25.

The trial of the two defendants, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, has most recently been re-set for October 28.

The new government brief was also reported in “Prosecutors Argue for More Secrecy in Aipac Case” by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, July 28.

Wyden Seeks Declassification of FISA Court Opinions

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) last week to request that it review the classified opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) Court from the last ten years and make recommendations regarding their classification or declassification.

The FIS Court not only grants (or, rarely, denies) authorization for domestic intelligence surveillance. It also from time to time reinterprets the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, producing a secret body of common law.

In response to a motion filed by the ACLU last year, Judge John D. Bates of the FIS Court acknowledged (pdf) that the Court had issued several “legally significant decisions that remain classified.” The anomaly of secret law, including classified FISA court rulings, was explored in an April 30, 2008 hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Sen. Russ Feingold.

“It is impossible for Congress to evaluate the effectiveness of the nation’s surveillance laws without a thorough understanding of how the court is interpreting those laws,” wrote Sen. Wyden. “This is exactly the kind of issue that the Public Interest Declassification Board was created to tackle.”

The PIDB is a congressionally-chartered presidential advisory board that is supposed to provide recommendations on classification policy and to review the classification status of contested documents. It is composed of private sector personnel appointed by the President and the Congress. The current chairman is Martin Faga, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Although the PIDB statute authorizes the Board to act on congressional requests, such requests are supposed to be “made by the committee of jurisdiction,” not by individual members. Consequently, it is uncertain whether the PIDB will act upon Senator Wyden’s letter. PIDB officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Costs of Major U.S. Wars

U.S. military spending on the war in Iraq has nearly matched the cost of the war in Vietnam, according to a new Congressional Research Service analysis (pdf) of the financial costs of wars throughout U.S. history. And total post-9/11 U.S. military spending has exceeded the cost of Vietnam by a considerable margin.

The ongoing war in Iraq has incurred an estimated $648 billion to date, and total post-9/11 military spending including the Iraq War, Afghanistan and other terrorism-related military expenditures has reached $859 billion, the CRS reported.

The Vietnam War (1965-1975) cost an estimated $686 billion in 2008 dollars, the CRS said.

The total cost of the American Revolution (1775-1783) was $101 million, or about $1.8 billion in 2008 dollars.

The cost of World War II (1941-1945) was about $4.1 trillion in 2008 dollars, and consumed a massive 35.8% of gross domestic product. The Iraq war represents 1% of GDP today.

These estimates include various caveats and limitations spelled out by CRS.

“All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not include costs of veterans benefits, interest paid for borrowing money to finance wars, or assistance to allies,” the CRS report indicated.

“Comparisons of costs of wars over a 230 year period… are inherently problematic,” the new report cautioned. See “Costs of Major U.S. Wars,” Congressional Research Service, July 24, 2008.

China Naval Modernization, and More from CRS

Some other noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following (all pdf).

“China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress,” updated July 10, 2008.

“Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues,” updated June 27, 2008.

“Defense Contracting in Iraq: Issues and Options for Congress,” updated June 18, 2008.

“U.S. Civilian Space Policy Priorities: Reflections 50 Years After Sputnik,” updated June 20, 2008.

Authorized Classification Markings in U.S. Intelligence

Classification and dissemination control markings that may be used in the U.S. intelligence community are listed in an official register (pdf) that has recently been approved for release by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The document includes authorized abbreviations and some non-U.S. dissemination control markings, along with citations to statutory or other authority and brief guidance as to proper use. The lightly redacted document does not include certain unpublished access controls or code word designations.

See “Authorized Classification and Control Markings Register,” Director of National Intelligence Special Security Center, 12 May 2008.

Bill Gertz Explains Importance of Confidential Sources

In advance of his obligatory appearance in a California court on July 24 regarding possible violations of grand jury secrecy, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz filed a sworn declaration (pdf) describing the importance of confidential government sources and their role in his work “related to the growing threat from the People’s Republic of China.”

“Confidential sources provide information necessary to the reporter’s function of keeping the public informed of events of national interest,” he explained. “Without the information provided by confidential sources, these events — or important aspects of these events — would remain shielded from public and congressional scrutiny and oversight.”

“In my experience U.S. government employees are willing to provide sensitive government information only to those reporters and journalists whom they trust,” Mr. Gertz wrote. “A reporter who is forced to disclose the identity of a U.S. government employee who had confidentially provided information for a news story would irreparably damage his and others’ ability to cover similar stories in the future.”

“From a broader perspective, if compelled disclosure of the identities of confidential sources becomes commonplace, it would have a very damaging chilling effect on potential sources throughout government at all levels, in the business community, and across a wide spectrum of public and private organizations whose operations and activities affect the American public,” the Gertz declaration said.

But Tai Mak, one of the defendants in the criminal case reported in the 2006 story by Mr. Gertz that led to his pending subpoena, said the court should aggressively pursue its investigation of the apparent violation of grand jury secrecy.

Tai Mak, who has pleaded guilty to export control violations, urged the court not to quash the subpoena against Mr. Gertz.

“The improper leak of Grand Jury material puts extremely important constitutional and other substantial rights at stake,” the Tai Mak brief (pdf) stated. “It is necessary and appropriate that the parties, the Court, and the public, be apprised of all the facts and circumstances that are relevant to the protection of those rights.”