Authors note: Faith in U.S intelligence since the fallout from Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning’s revelations has dropped to record levels. Top Secret Writers has some terrific articles on the current situation I advise one reads. There is also an excellent discussion about Snowden on Allison Hope Weiner’s “Crime Time” show I encourage one to watch). (1) (2)
While PRISM is in the title, this article is not strictly about it. I see the Intel program as but one manifestation of some deeper problems. Namely, how much information is enough? Further, why should U.S. citizens and allies have faith in the often substandard, private contractors used by U.S. intelligence agencies?
In addition, what does it mean when spook-filled Fortune 500 companies participate in democratic elections? Moreover, how right was Dwight D Eisenhower after all?
PRISM is a genteel name for the NSA’s SIGAD US-984XN data mining operation. As insidious as PRISM is, it is simply just another footnote in the long history of the NSA’s ECHELON system, which has been in existence since 1948. (3)
ECHELON is a means by which the leading countries in the “Anglosphere” (Britain, U.S.A, Canada, Australia, and little old New Zealand) share information on threats or targets as designated by the NSA. These nations became tied together via the signing of the UK/USA Agreement in 1946. (4) Thanks to the “Five Eyes”, the United States and the NSA have full coverage of the globe.
The World Is Not Enough
One would think that this would be enough. In a sane world it would be. However, the CIA, FBI, DIA and the NSA are not wholly sane, and they have spent billions of dollars between them in Internet surveillance since the Homeland Security Act.
While their publicity departments report victories in their nefarious fields of covert operations, has the tons of money spent been worth it? They should know their mass information collation to prevent terrorist attacks is grossly inefficient, as intelligence commentators like ex-CIA analyst Bruce Riedel have commented:
“The United States, in particular, has become a global epicenter of intelligence work–4.2 million US citizens, more than 10% of the country’s population, have some form of security clearance. However, this aggressive intelligence gathering does not make for better-informed government agencies or higher quality security policy. Instead, excessive information collection leads to information overload on both the individual and institutional levels, impairing the US intelligence community’s ability to do its job.” (5)
Incompetence, Corruption and Unintelligence
The different intelligence agencies are all involved in turf wars, and nothing has changed since the Cold War. Their information sharing is poor, and the relationship between the CIA and NSA, for example, has always been strained at the higher levels. Could Snowden have been a limited hangout by the CIA, to discredit them, and fool the public with outdated information? (6)
While an intriguing possibility, the fact still remains both agencies have forsaken objective assessment, and data analysis for digital information collation from private companies. The NSA, for example, contracts out 70 percent of its operations. (7) Moreover, adding to the mess of inter-agency turf wars, the companies federal agencies utilize have more power than their employers.
Take the friendly guys at SAIC, for example.
SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) led a group of companies who in a period between 2002-2006 ripped the NSA off for over one billion dollars with their disastrous Trailblazer project. All manner of allegations swung back and forth about kickbacks and bonuses.
Nonetheless, SAIC was never charged with wasting the NSA’s funds, yet this is unsurprising. According to Donald Barlett and James Steele of Vanity Fair, SAIC are amongst Washington’s favored sons. (8)
–> The FBI ditched SAIC for incompetence in overhauling their woeful computer network post 9/11.
–> SAIC ripped off the Air force in 1987. They created an LCD screen for jet fighters, which they hawked around to USAF brass. To assist in the con, they hired tech magazine “Engineering Design News” to help promote the screen. The problem was the screen was little more than an assortment of old TV sets, cobbled together so as SAIC could squeeze more money out of the contract.
–> In the late 90’s, they over charged the USAF $25 million for cleaning up toxic waste at Kelly Air force base in Texas. They paid a paltry $2.5 million dollar fine and accepted no responsibility. (9)
–> They had a gig to set up a television network in post Saddam Iraq for $15 million. They went against the advice of the station manager who wanted a BBC style channel. Instead, they created an odious Pentagon and George Bush plugging one, which the hamstrung station boss called “every bit as bad as what Saddam had established”. The Iraqis unsurprisingly thought the station sucked, and when handed back to them, the channel itself became a hub of anti-Americanism. SAIC, however, walked away with a cool $85 million.
–> Concerned whistle-blowers in any department SAIC worked in have run the gauntlet of losing their jobs or worse.
To cut a long story short SAIC and their list of negligence spans everything from environmental damage, to screwing up security at the Athens Olympics in 2004. While they did considerable work investigating Diebold’s shocking Maryland voting machines after the 2003 election debacle, their defense of democracy is highly ironic. (10)
At What Cost to Democracy?
A number of high-level intelligence figures sit on the boards of companies like SAIC, and it should come as no surprise these companies make political donations. (11) Hence, what does this mean for the body politic?
Intelligence agencies like the CIA (whom some say run SAIC) have a tradition of using front companies, and making use of their allies in congress. However, this seems to have increased dramatically since 9/11. In 2009, SAIC stated they were “a policy neutral organization”.
Yet as one commentator pointed out why would they “spend $20 Million dollars on lobbyists?” (12)
Dwight was Right!
SAIC is but one of a number of intelligence agency sponsored companies keeping us “safe” from terrorists. (13) Hence, President Dwight D Eisenhower’s famous “Military Industrial Complex” farewell speech from 1961 is haunting (14).
It is a shame conspirahypocrites are all over this statement and have trivialized the comment. It is also silly when journalists call him a “conspiracy theorist”. Ike had simply seen it all, and he was making a well-observed statement about the potential misuse power.
He was, therefore, being a conspiracy rationalist.
Therefore, we have to be thankful for intelligent and rational arguments from ex-politicians like Gary Hart whose story “The Intelligence-Industrial Complex” was a surprisingly excellent article from the usually average to poor Huffington Post. (15)
Hart’s experiences dealing with U.S intelligence agencies in the 70’s during the Church Committee left a distinct impression on him. (16)
Indeed, anybody keen on learning about a U.S. politician with real integrity should check out the proud legacy of Senator Frank Church. (17)
References & Image Credits:
(2) The Lip
(3) Philip C From NYC
(4) National Archives
(5) The Free Library
(6) Progressive Gazette
(7) Policy Mic
(8) Vanity Fair
(9) Biz Journals
(10) Global Research
(11) Influence Explorer
(12) Political Correction
(13) Oxford Journals
(14) The Daily Beast
(15) Huffington Post
(17) Spartacus: Church F
(18) Prism Logo
(19) NSA Logo
(20) Stephen D. Melkisethian via photopin cc