Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thick as Thieves: The Private (and very profitable) World of Corporate Spying

When Comverse Infosys founder and CEO Jacob "Kobi" Alexander fled to Israel and later Namibia in 2006, the former Israeli intelligence officer and entrepreneur took along a little extra cash for his extended "vacation"--$57 million to be precise.

According to investigative journalist James Bamford's exposé of the National Security Agency, The Shadow Factory, Alexander was facing a thirty-two-count indictment by the Justice Department "charging him with masterminding a scheme to backdate millions of Comverse stock options ... that allowed Alexander to realize $138 million in profits--profits stolen from the pockets of the company's shareholders."

When the scandal broke, one former colleague told The New York Times, "The one thing about Kobi is that he did have a sense of entitlement," said Stephen R. Kowarsky, who was an executive at Comverse from 1985-97. "Most people are a little bit shy or self-effacing about asking for something, but not Kobi. It was easy for him to say, 'I want that. I deserve that.'"

Sounds like business as usual to me!

But there is a darker side to Verint. As investigative journalist Christopher Ketcham revealed on the muckraking website CounterPunch, U.S. intelligence agencies are wary of Israeli penetration and interception of U.S. military systems and advanced computing applications through a backdoor, called a "trojan," secretly built into enterprise architecture. Ketcham wrote,

According to former CIA officer [Philip] Giraldi and other US intelligence sources, software manufactured and maintained by Verint, Inc. handles most of American law enforcement's wiretaps. Says Giraldi: "Phone calls are intercepted, recorded, and transmitted to US investigators by Verint, which claims that it has to be 'hands on' with its equipment to maintain the system." Giraldi also notes Verint is reimbursed for up to 50 percent of its R&D costs by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. According to Giraldi, the extent of the use of Verint technology "is considered classified," but sources have spoken out and told Giraldi they are worried about the security of Verint wiretap systems. The key concern, says Giraldi, is the issue of a "trojan" embedded in the software. (Christopher Ketcham, "An Israeli Trojan Horse," CounterPunch, Weekend Edition, September 27-28, 2008)

Yet despite alarms raised by a score of federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fearful that sensitive wiretap information was finding its way into the hands of international narcotrafficking cartels, virtually nothing has been done to halt the outsourcing of America's surveillance apparatus to firms with intimate ties to foreign intelligence entities. Indeed, as America's spy system is turned inward against the American people, corporations such as Verint work hand-in-glove with a spooky network of security agencies and their corporatist pals in the telecommunications industry.

Kobi Alexander would've certainly known the drill, exploiting family connections for advantage over competitors with movers and shakers in Washington. As they say, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. Kobi's father Zvi was a fabulously wealthy oil baron who wound up running Israel's state oil company. Bamford recounts how Zvi won drilling franchises: he'd bribe African cabinet ministers, "often in partnership with the U.S. tax cheat Marc Rich, who became a fugitive and was given sanctuary in Israel."

That is, until Rich was handed a pardon during the waning days of the Clinton administration. In the aftermath of Clinton's "gifting" the tax scofflaw with a "get-out-of-jail-free" card, Rich's close confidant, attorney and convicted felon, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, denied that Rich had conspired to hide illegal profits or violate U.S. laws.

Yet despite a documentary record of shady dealings that spanned continents--and decades--a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion on Rich's petition for pardon was signed-off by none other than former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, Barack Obama's apparent pick for U.S. Attorney General.

Like Kobi Alexander and his pals at Comverse, Rich too, had a dirty little secret as CNN reported back in 2001: "Marc Rich did help the Israeli security services in some way." CNN doesn't specify how Rich curried favor with Mossad, only that he did. Which just goes to show its a small world--of one hand washing the other.

(Memo to Obama supporters: you can forget about future Justice Department investigations of Bush cronies and war criminals. Why? Shortly before entering private practice at the tony law firm Covington & Burling, Holder was Bush's Acting Attorney General until John Ashcroft's nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Out of government, Holder made a killing defending Chiquita Brands International against charges that the firm paid the far-right Colombian, narcotrafficking AUC death squad millions in "protection money" to murder labor activists. But I digress.)

Meanwhile in the heimat, enterprising innovators such as Verint are inside--deep inside--America's telephone and internet infrastructure. Keeping "America safe"--from its citizens--has become a veritable cash cow for dozens of corporate embeds busy as proverbial bees inventing new products for an alphabet-soup mix of intelligence agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DHS, DIA, NGA, NRO and NSA.

Five months after the 9/11 attacks, the security bubble was rapidly expanding and the "homeland security" market was touted by Wall Street gurus as "the next big thing" on the corporate grifting horizon.

Alexander (before fleeing to the dry, but relatively safe harbor in Windhoek) rebranded Comverse Infosys, Verint Systems, Inc., an acronym for "verified intelligence." The company, which made a fortune on a digital suite of wiretapping tools, AudioDisk, describes itself as a "a leading provider of actionable intelligence solutions for workforce optimization, IP video, communications interception, and public safety."

Soon thereafter according to Bamford, Verint was selling its "actionable intelligence solutions" to "more than 5,000 organizations in over 100 countries" world-wide, including the worst human rights abusers on the planet. And why wouldn't they? Verint's already brisk business took off like a bat out of hell after 9/11.

As USA Today reported in 2006, "Most of the growth this decade will come from building what Homeland Security Research calls 'a homeland defense infrastructure.' Growth areas are likely to include technology for surveillance and for detection of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction." Or illegal spying by unaccountable state agencies and their private partners.

According to a Business Week company profile,

Verint Systems, Inc. provides analytic software-based solutions for the security and business intelligence markets. Its analytic solutions collect, retain, and analyze voice, fax, video, email, Internet, and data transmissions from voice, video and IP networks for the purpose of generating actionable intelligence for decision makers. The company primarily offers communications interception solutions, such as STAR-GATE, RELIANT, and VANTAGE; networked video solutions that include NEXTIVA; and contact center actionable intelligence solutions, which include ULTRA. Verint Systems serves government entities, global corporations, law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, transportation agencies, retail stores, utilities, and communications service providers. (Verint Systems, Inc. Business Week, Information Technology Sector, accessed November 26, 2008)

With total revenues of $249.8 million and gross profits in 2005 of $137.1 million, Verint, while not the largest firm in the security and intelligence "marketplace" nonetheless is connected to a host of spooky clients, including the National Security Agency and their "partners" at Verizon Communications.

As I wrote back in March, whistleblower and security consultant Babak Pasdar revealed how Verizon handed the FBI and one assumes the NSA, unrestricted access to their customers' voice communications and electronic data via the Bureau's "Quantico circuit."

In a signed affidavit to the whistleblowing protection group, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Pasdar described how his unnamed client (revealed by The Washington Post as Verizon Communications), listened in and recorded all conversations en-masse; collected and recorded mobile phone data use en-masse; obtained data that the company accessed from mobile phone usage, including internet access, e-mail and web browsing; trended calling patterns and call behavior; identified inbound and outbound callers; tracked all inbound and outbound calls; and traced a user's physical location.

While Verizon and fellow telecom spy AT&T may have handed the FBI and NSA a treasure trove of their customer's personal details, niche telecom companies such as Verint, rival Narus (another spooky Israeli security firm), Siemans and Ericsson to name but a few of the multinationals that build the surveillance tools hard-wired into America's telecommunications infrastructure, have made a killing destroying our privacy.

The Ties that Bind: Verint's Spooky Board of Directors

The close interconnections amongst firms such as Verint and the U.S. and Israeli National Security States are revealed by a glance at the firm's Board of Directors.

When Kobi Alexander fled the country in 2006, Dan Bodner became the company's CEO. According to Business Week, Bodner, a Comverse Infosys insider, "served in the Israeli Defense Forces in an engineering capacity." A graduate of Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology, Bodner was previously the President and CEO of Comverse Government Systems Corporation.

David T. Ledwell, Verint's Chief Strategic Officer since 2003, was formerly the President and CEO of Verint subsidiary Loronix Information Systems, according to Business Week. Apparently Loronix has been folded into its parent company Verint, and no longer exists as a separate corporate entity. However, the firm's products made the transition. According to Verint, the former Loronix division was responsible for its Nextiva IP Video Surveillance System. The "Nextiva portfolio" is loaded with "a broad array of solutions" for video recording and analysis in the banking, critical infrastructure, retail and mass transit "markets."

Andre Dahan, CEO, President and Executive Director of Verint's parent company Comverse Technology Inc., was a former CEO and President of AT&T Wireless Services Inc., Business Week reveals. Dahan, a graduate of the Jerusalem Institute of Technology, is described as having "more than 30 years of leadership experience in the information technology industry."

Victor DeMarines, a Verint board member since 2002 and Advisor to National Security Solutions, Inc., a "private equity firm" that focuses on "services and software" in the security and homeland defense industries, served as President and CEO of the spooky MITRE Corporation, where he worked in the "command and control" field as general manager of MITRE's Center for Integrated Intelligence Systems and oversaw the non-profit's Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Systems. Interestingly enough, from 1967-1969 DeMarines "managed MITRE's Bangkok, Thailand, site, where he helped coordinate MITRE's support for Air Force systems ... on support operations issues," according to Business Week. In addition to his duties at Verint and MITRE, DeMarines is a member of the advisory group for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) that oversees operations of America's fleet of military spy satellites.

Howard Safir, formerly New York City Police Commissioner under "Mr. 9/11" himself, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been a Verint board member since 2002 according to his Business Week profile. After his tenure as Police Commissioner, Safir became the CEO of SafirRosetti, the intelligence and security division of GlobalOptions Group, Inc., described as a firm that provides "crisis management and emergency response plans for disaster mitigation, continuity of operations, and other emergency management issues."

Larry Myers, another MITRE alumni was MITRE's Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. At MITRE, Myers' brief included work on that firms' wide-ranging contracts for computer systems for the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and "several organizations" in the "U.S. intelligence community," according to Business Week. He joined Verint's board in 2003.

Paul D. Baker, Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Corporate Communications of Comverse Technology, joined Verint's board in 2002 according to his Business Week profile. Additionally, Baker is a director with Ulticom, Inc., a firm that provides the telecommunications industry with "Mobility, Location, Payment, Switching and Messaging services within wireless, IP and wireline networks," according to Ulticom's website.

Lt. General (retired) Kenneth Minihan, joined Verint's board in 2002, according to Business Week. Described by the business publication as the "most connected" member on Verint's board of directors, after leaving his post as the Director of the National Security Agency, NSA's Central Security Service and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Minihan became managing director of the Paladin Capital Group. A private equity firm based (where else!) in Washington, D.C. Paladin's management team is loaded with heavy-hitting embeds from the security-intelligence complex, including among others, Dr. Alf Andreassen, described by his Paladin profile as having "promoted technological innovation in the area of national security ... for AT&T's support of classified national programs in the areas of Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence" (C3I). Minihan is well placed on some 17 boards of directors to implement the Pentagon's vision of creating a panoptic police state. Indeed, while at NSA Minihan oversaw that agency's transition into the digital age of surveillance.

Shortly after Minihan's appointment to Verint's board, Verizon Communications installed STAR-GATE, an intrusive communications interception system. According to a blurb on the firm's website,

STAR-GATE ... [is] designed to manage vast numbers of targets, concurrent sessions, call data records, and communications, STAR-GATE transparently accesses targeted communications without alerting subscribers or disrupting service. Verint partners with leading switch and network equipment vendors across the globe to deliver passive, active, and hybrid solutions for a wide range of communication technologies and communication services. ... STAR-GATE can manage network topologies from small, single-switch implementations to country-wide deployments. (Verint, "STAR-GATE Lawful Interception and Data Retention Compliance Solutions for Communication Service Providers," accessed November 28, 2008)

Another product marketed by Verint for security and intelligence agencies world-wide is RELIANT, described by the firm as a monitoring center for "interception compliance, evidence gathering and historical data analysis by law enforcement agencies." The Verint brochure touts RELIANT's ability "to collect, retain, analyze, investigate and distribute intercepted voice data and multimedia communications and historical data to facilitate more productive investigations and the gathering of evidence."

VANTAGE, according to Verint's product description, is specifically designed for "mass and target communications interception, investigation and analysis, including COMINT for intelligence and national security agencies." Indeed the VANTAGE monitoring center promises to deliver a "mass and target interception system" that "intercepts, filters, and analyzes voice, data and multimedia for intelligence purposes, with sophisticated probing technology for passively collecting maximum communications, with Verint’s real-time filtering mechanisms to extract the most important information, and stored data analysis for generating intelligence from data collected over time."

Amongst the "features" touted by Verint are: mass communications related to specific "areas of interest;" target interception of "known entities;" a "unified interception" and "investigation workflow" specifically designed for "intelligence generation;" the "historical data analysis of call records" conveniently "imported from service providers;" and "tools" that facilitate the "passive monitoring of virtually any type of network."

The Failure of the National Security-Surveillance State

While America turns its intelligence and security apparatus inward and targets its own citizens, especially leftist dissenters, labor organizers, environmentalists and antiglobalization activists, threats from well-trained far-right jihadis--many of whom were witting or unwitting Western intelligence assets deployed on countless battlefields from Afghanistan to Kosovo and beyond--or neo-Nazi hooligans training for the next Oklahoma City atrocity, go unaddressed.

"Reading the tea leaves" from petaflops (a quadrillion bits) of data vacuumed-up from the internet, cell phones, land lines, spy satellites, personal business transactions or CCTV cameras is not "intelligence" but the height of folly as the recently-concluded attacks in Mumbai starkly demonstrate. The Indian intelligence apparatus, particularly its Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are hardly slouches when its comes to tradecraft or high-tech security "solutions."

The close relationship built-up over decades amongst RAW and Mossad for example, did not prevent commandos with alleged links to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a militant group aligned with al-Qaeda and Pakistan's "state within a state," the Inter-Sevices Intelligence agency (ISI) from striking at the heart of India's financial center with devastating effect. While it appears unlikely that the Pakistani government was involved in the Mumbai massacre, pro-Taliban elements within ISI or the military may be seeking to enflame tensions between the two South Asian nuclear nations.

RAW, like their counterparts in the CIA, MI6 or Mossad, rely on an inexhaustible stream of signals intelligence (SIGINT), communications intelligence (COMINT), human intelligence (HUMINT) and increasingly, imagery intelligence (IMINT) from India's fleet of spy satellites to prevent attacks. Indeed, Verint and other high-tech firms have sold RAW the same equipment with the same promise of "security" that they sold their American and European counterparts. RAW's headquarters in New Delhi may sport the latest in surveillance technologies, including high-speed supercomputers and yet, 195 people's lives were snuffed-out by a determined gang of miscreants.

While high-tech "solutions" may give the cops the geolocation of young anarchists slated for preemptive arrest or which journalists may pose "problems," all the data-mining on the planet will not prevent terrorism; indeed terrorism is the reactionary handmaid of a system at the end of its rope. As the global capitalist economic crisis deepens as industry after industry succumb to the hammer blows of an historic crisis of confidence, new social and political struggles inevitably, appear on the horizon.

Although the close--and well compensated--interconnections amongst securocrats and corporate grifters capitalizing on the homeland security investment bubble will continue well into the next administration, real security in any meaningful sense of the word will only come by creating a just society. Anything less is a fraudulent exercise in self-delusion fueled by the Gordon Gekko's and Kobi Alexander's of America's (very profitable) "war on terror."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vigilant Shield 09: A Cover for Illegal Domestic Operations?

On November 17, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) concluded Vigilant Shield 09 (VS09), described in a press release as a training exercise focused on "homeland defense and civil support."

Launched by President Bush in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, NORTHCOM has been mired in controversy since its creation. Among its more dubious accomplishments were illegal domestic spying operations in conjunction with the Pentagon's shadowy Counter Intelligence Field Activity unit (CIFA) that targeted antiwar activists.

Despite CIFA's shut-down and the alleged dismantling of its TALON database (now incorporated into the FBI's Guardian Threat Tracking System), SourceWatch revealed that "in accordance with intelligence oversight requirements, the DoD will maintain a record copy of the collected data." One can't help but wonder whether that "record copy" of TALON somehow migrated into a NORTHCOM database.

But the NORTHCOM-CIFA liaison wasn't the only episode of illegal military spying on Americans to come to light. In May, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Marines, including a Colonel and the co-founder of the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Center, stole top secret intelligence files from Camp Pendleton's Strategic Technical Operations Center.

Among the documents filched by the intelligence privateers were those marked "Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information," the highest U.S. Government classification. The files included surveillance dossiers on the Muslim community and antiwar activists in Southern California.

Before being run to ground by investigators, the spy ring regularly received and disseminated secret files and surveillance reports transmitted by Lauren Martin, a Navy reservist who worked as an outsourced intelligence analyst at NORTHCOM headquarters in Colorado Springs. Martin was responsible for the region that included Southern California.

Details on VS09 are few and far-between. However, according to U.S. Northern Command News, VS09 "included scenarios to achieve exercise objectives within the maritime, aerospace, ballistic missile defense, cyber, consequence management, and counter terrorism situations."

The training exercise ran concurrently with "other Department of Defense-sponsored and international exercises to more realistically test the synchronized response of federal, state, local and international mission partners in preparation for homeland defense, homeland security and civil support missions in the United States and abroad."

A November 5 press release described that the concurrent exercises included "U.S. Strategic Command GLOBAL LIGHTNING 09 and BULWARK DEFENDER 09; Canada Command DETERMINED DRAGON; California National Guard VIGILANT GUARD; and the State of California GOLDEN GUARDIAN."

Global Lightning 09 is a plan to use nuclear weapons in the event of a surprise attack while Bulwark Defender was described by Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive as the Pentagon's "cyberspace protection outfit."

California's Vigilant Guard and Golden Guardian were state-wide training exercises that concluded November 18 around planning for a catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault. If so, this would be an appropriate training venue for the California National Guard. Why then, fold disaster preparations into a planning scenario for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a "surprise attack"?

Described as a "Command Post Exercise (CPX)," many of the forces involved were "notional," in other words, real units and their equipment "were not deployed from their home bases."

However, the rapidly expanding role of the U.S. military in "domestic civil-support operations" and the breadth and scope of NORTHCOM "training exercises" are troubling, to say the least.

In September, Army Times revealed that the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) was deployed October 1, under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, "the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks."

As Army Times noted, the BCT's "new mission" is the first time "an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities."

Perhaps a disturbing harbinger of things to come, "military support" of "civil authorities" arises precisely during a period of extreme systemic crisis not seen since the Great Depression and points to the rapid expansion of an "emergency preparedness complex" as a discrete operational division of the U.S. National Security State.

National Exercise Program: "Emergency Preparedness" or Martial Law?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a 46-page report November 10, 2008 on the National Exercise Program (NEP). Entitled, "Homeland Emergency Preparedness and the National Exercise Program: Background, Policy Implications, and Issues for Congress," the document outlines, among other concerns, the domestic implications of military participation in national emergency preparedness drills such as VS09.

As CRS researchers point out, the Reagan-era Executive Order 12656 (E.O. 12656), "directs FEMA to coordinate the planning, conduct, and evaluation of national security emergency exercises." E.O. 12656 defines a national security emergency as "as any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States." (CRS-4)

Additionally, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8) requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, "in coordination with other appropriate federal departments and agencies" to "establish a national program and a multi-year planning system to conduct homeland security preparedness-related exercises that reinforces identified training standards, provides for evaluation of readiness, and supports the national preparedness goal." CRS avers, "The program is to be carried out in collaboration with state and local governments and private sector entities."

Indeed, Washington Technology reported November 10, that the defense giant Northrop Grumman "will conduct a national preparedness drill for the Federal Emergency Management Agency next year under a two-year, $12 million contract."

While $12 million is chump change in Washington, the Project on Government Oversight's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database lists Northrop Grumman at No. 3. With violations running the gamut, from procurement fraud, false claims, installation of substandard parts, violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, cost overruns, environmental damage--from illegal dumping of toxic waste to air pollution--the company has paid the federal government and private claimants some $465.4 million in fines and levies.

But that hasn't stopped the federal government from doing a brisk business with Northrop Grumman!

The defense giant and their partners, security heavy-hitters ICF International, Battelle Memorial Institute, Alutiiq LLC, L-3 Communications, Unitech and Interface Media Group "will conduct and evaluate the 2009 Tier 1 National Level Exercise, which is the largest and most complex national disaster drill conducted by FEMA's National Exercise Division," the high-tech insider publication reported.

As CRS points out, "NLEs examine the preparation of the government and its officers and other officials to prevent, respond to, or recover from threatened or actual terrorist attacks, particularly those involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD), major disasters, and other emergencies. NLEs address strategic- and policy- level objectives intended to challenge the national preparedness of the United States." (CRS-12)

"Preparedness Guidance" materials and processes for these exercises are overseen by DHS and include the National Response Framework (NRF), the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the National Preparedness Guidelines (NPG).

One of the first NEPs was the 1999 Top Officials (TOPOFF) simulation exercises "to assess the nation's crisis and consequence management capacity under extraordinary conditions." TOPOFF exercises enabled high-level federal officials and relevant participants to "practice different courses of action, gain and maintain situational awareness, and assemble appropriate resources." (CRS-7) Between May 2000 and October 2007, four TOPOFF exercises have been run in various locales simulating chemical, biological, pneumonic plague outbreak, as well as the detonation of an radiological dispersal device ("dirty bomb") adjacent to a power plant.

As CRS reports, many aspects of federal executive branch planning for prevention and response to "terrorist attacks" are highly classified and that classified exercises "should be a logical component of the exercise scenario and aligned with exercise objectives." What such "alignment" actually means is not specified by CRS.

As I noted in the examples cited above, VS09 and Golden Guardian, many NEPs run simultaneously, thus rendering the more dubious aspects of such "emergency planning exercises" opaque to citizen scrutiny, let alone democratic decision-making control over their breadth and scope.

For example, NLE 1-08 ran simultaneously with TOPOFF 4 as well as with DoD and Health and Human Services-based exercises. Under cover of NLE 2-08, as CRS documents, "two FEMA exercises, Eagle Horizon 08, designed to exercise the continuity of operations (COOP) capabilities of federal agencies in the National Capital Region (NCR), and Hurricane Prep 08, designed to test FEMA response to a hurricane, exercised under the same scenario. Both exercises incorporated some of the simulated intelligence materials established for three DOD conducted exercises held during NLE 2-08: Positive Response 08-2; Ardent Sentry 08; and Ultimate Caduceus 08." (CRS-14)

Ardent Sentry, Positive Response and Ultimate Caduceus were training scenarios for a terrorist-related nuclear attack as were Global Lightning and Able Warrior. What pray tell, do such exercises have to do with preparations for hurricane relief? If the federal response to Hurricane Katrina are any indication, not much. What then are such exercises designed to simulate?

CRS reports that "During the NLE 2-08 planning process, DOD and DHS held joint planning conferences. Further, DOD provided some logistical support to the DHS Eagle Horizon continuity exercise, which based its exercise control cell and some evaluation components at DOD's Joint Warfighting Center (JWFC). Both agencies anticipate future NLEs will be carried out according to timing specified in the NEP implementation plan, based on common exercise scenarios and coordinated response activities." (CRS-14)

CRS investigators state there are "two principal areas where DOD would play a significant role in the overall response: Homeland defense operations and civil support operations." The Department of Defense defines homeland defense as "The protection of United States sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggression or other threats as directed by the President." (CRS-15)

On the other hand, civil support is defined as "Department of Defense support to US civil authorities for domestic emergencies, and for designated law enforcement and other activities." While CRS claims that civil support is strictly limited to supporting civil authorities "in their response to manmade and natural disasters" or "supporting public health," the last clause, "maintaining civil order" should set alarm bells ringing.

DoD's role during such emergencies are intended to focus "principally on domestic incident management, either for terrorism or non terrorist catastrophic events." DoD would play a "significant role" in the overall response. Such definitions cover a lot of ground and are ripe with potential for abuse by unscrupulous securocrats and their corporatist partners in crime.

As Antifascist Calling has reported in numerous articles, Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning scenarios are intimately linked to top-secret Continuity of Government (COG) programs to be triggered by a "catastrophic event." Such plans include contingencies for the implementation of martial law and the suspension of the Constitution by Executive Branch fiat.

The primary DoD entity responsible for "civil support," as numerous researchers have averred is NORTHCOM and its active combat component, U.S. Army North. CRS asserts that NORTHCOM is prohibited by The Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. 1385) from executing civilian laws and a police function. But as I wrote in early October, "exercising sweeping emergency powers buried within Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs), unelected officials could suspend the Constitution, declare martial law and create an Executive Branch dictatorship that rests solely on the power of the U.S. military."

This power will transfer automatically when Barack Obama is sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief on January 20, 2009. Indeed, it would be a profound error if activists and concerned citizens fell into the trap of assuming that the potential for grave Executive Branch abuses were the exclusive domain of the outgoing Bush administration.

While the Oval Office décor may change, unaccountable Executive Branch power will remain an enduring feature of the repressive capitalist state.

DHS and NORTHCOM: Best Friends Forever

Earlier this year, NORAD and NORTHCOM participated in training exercises across the country, also in support of "civil authorities" in the event of a catastrophic attack or "natural disaster."

Vibrant Response, another CPX, was conducted at Ft. Stewart, Georgia September 18 and included elements of the Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF ("sea-smurfs"). The CCMRF would respond in the event of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incidents.

As I reported in October, "two combat units from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Army Division and the elite 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade participated in mock drills designed to 'coordinate with local governments and interagency organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency,' according to a report on U.S. Northern Command News."

As a "subordinate command" under the control of U.S. Army North, the Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) provides command and control for the CCMRF unit.

In May, NORAD and NORTHCOM participated in National Level Exercise 2-08 (NLE 2-08) under the overall command of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to a report by U.S. Northern Command News. NLE 2-08's main focus "was to provide realistic training" for CCMRF personnel in response "to a simulated chemical attack on the Seattle waterfront followed by a similar simulated attack in Whatcom County, Wash." Some 1,200 CCMRF personnel were deployed during the exercise.

But planning and consequence management in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack or natural disaster isn't all that NORTHCOM's up to. Indeed, back in April, U.S. Northern Command News reported that both DHS and NORTHCOM are planning refine their existing intelligence relationship, said the top DHS intelligence official during a recent visit to USNORTHCOM headquarters.

"We have a number of areas where we've already agreed that we will begin new initiatives together, where we will do joint projects together, where we will do intelligence analysis together, where we will work to understand what NORTHCOM is doing in exercises and training," said Charles Allen, the DHS undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis.

The intelligence divisions of DHS and USNORTHCOM are "extraordinarily compatible," Allen said, and the organizations have the same goals. (Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs, "USNORTHCOM, DHS refine relationship," U.S. Northern Command News, April 10, 2008)

As I reported last week, citing a leaked planning document published by the global whistleblowing group Wikileaks, intelligence and security agencies across the federal spectrum including the FBI, DHS, USSS, NGA and NORTHCOM conspired to squelch dissent during the Republican National Convention.

Apparently, this is what DHS Undersecretary Allen meant when he described how the intelligence arms of both organizations were "extraordinarily compatible."

Allen told U.S. Northern Command News that strengthening the relationship between DHS and NORTHCOM intelligence "will promote more efficient and effective information sharing," and that "the American public benefits because the intelligence community at the federal level is working together in new and different ways."

As if the militarization of society and the destruction of our civil liberties were something we should embrace! How's that for an Orwellian twist on the phrase "public benefit"? But as the philosopher Voltaire once quipped, "the history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the history of crime."

And so it is as America breathlessly awaits the dawning of the new "change" regime.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preemptive Policing & the National Security State: Repressing Dissent at the Republican National Convention

With "preemptive policing" all the rage in Washington, the whistleblowing website Wikileaks has done it again, exposing how repressive trends in the U.S. had real world consequences for democracy during September's Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On November 15, the global whistleblowers published a leaked planning document "Special Event Planning: 2008 Republican National Convention," a dense schematic used by repressors who targeted activists, journalists and concerned citizens during the far-right conclave.

Labeled "Limited Distribution/For Official Use Only," Wikileaks believes that the dossier is "potentially legally significant due to upcoming legal cases over the mass arrests at the convention."

Compiled by Terri Smith ( the Branch Director for Response, Recovery and Mitigation at the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency (HSEM), the 31-page file offers a veritable bird's-eye view onto the close coordination amongst federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Pentagon's U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) during a so-called National Special Security Event (NSSE).

The enabling authority for squelching dissent during NSSEs is partially derived from the 2006 National Security Presidential Directive-46/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-15 (NSPD-46/HSPD-15), a top secret dictate from President Bush.

According to a statement by Roger Rufe, Director of the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), before the House Homeland Security Committee on July 9, 2008, NSSEs "are significant domestic or international events, occurrences, contests, activities, or meetings, which, by virtue of their profile or status, represent a significant target, and therefore warrant additional preparation, planning, and mitigation efforts. The designation process for NSSEs is established by NSPD-46/HSPD-15, Annex II and HSPD-7."

Rufe goes on to describe the "mission" of an NSSE Special Event Working Group (SEWG) as one which will a unified interagency planning and coordination effort for Special Events and to ensure coordination of Federal support to the designated event. The SEWG identifies events that may require a coordinated Federal response and collectively coordinates Federal assets to bridge any capability gaps identified by state and local partners that have not already been addressed by exhausting local mutual assistance agreements. Within this process, the mission of OPS is to act on behalf of the Secretary and his HSPD-5 responsibilities to integrate DHS and interagency planning and coordinate operations for designated Special Events in order to prevent, protect, respond to and recover from terrorist threats/attacks. (Roger Rufe, "Statement," House Homeland Security Committee, July 8, 2008, pp. 1-2)

Several elements comprise the SEWG: five senior managers from DHS' OPS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Secret Service (USSS), and the DHS Office of Risk Management & Analysis (RMA) and, as revealed in the Wikileaks document, representatives from the Pentagon's U.S. Northern Command.

During the RNC, the "lead federal agencies" heading up repressive operations were the USSS, FBI and FEMA. On Saturday, August 30, 2008, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department executed search warrants on three houses. According to the Friends of the RNC 8, the police seized personal items and arrested eight RNC Welcoming Committee organizers, charging them with "conspiracy to riot in the 2nd degree in the furtherance of terrorism," a felony which may land these activists in prison for many years under provisions of Minnesota's PATRIOT Act.

During the RNC, operations were coordinated by the Multi-Agency Communications Center (MACC), described in the Wikileaks file as "a centralized communications and coordination center operated 24 hours a day during the NSSE."

In St. Paul, the MACC was "staffed by representatives from all participating operational security entities, local government operations, and public and private institutions who are responsible for the critical infrastructures of power, gas and telecommunications."

MACC's "Work Product," according to the document (p. 14), will provide: "Timely dissemination of information to all entities participating in operational security, crisis management, and consequence management. Provide the Common Operational Picture to support decision-making and command and control activities," and "serve as the centralized coordination center for security-related activities."

Described as "the coordination point where these resources could be used for a crisis or consequence outside of the NSSE," the MACC was the organizational hub and speartip where federal, state, local law enforcement and "private institutions" interacted "at any time during the event to utilize the event's public safety resources to assure that the normal delivery of public safety responses from their agency were uninterrupted."

A perusal of the "MACC Seating Chart" (p. 16) affords additional insight into the resources brought to bear against journalists covering the RNC and citizens protesting the crimes of the Republican party and their Bushist minions.

The first tier is comprised of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN DOT), Minnesota State Police (MSP), Hennepin County, Ramsey County, St. Paul Police Department (SPPD), USSS and the FBI.

The second tier, in addition to representatives from the Minneapolis and St. Paul Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Service personnel, are staffed by three representatives from NORTHCOM. Additional NORTHCOM "seats" appear on the "third tier" of the HSEM chart, along with proxies from the Minnesota National Guard's Joint Task Force (JTF-MN), FEMA, USSS and the FBI.

MACC's fourth tier was staffed by a host of federal law enforcement entities including officers from the ultra-spooky National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). As I have documented in several articles, most recently on November 9, NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence (IMINT) derived from America's fleet of military spy satellites "flown" by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). In other words during the RNC, America's spymasters were providing satellite intelligence to federal, state, and local law enforcement, some of which quite possibly, were used to target the homes of activists and media workers or coordinate attacks on demonstrations.

While there is no indication in the MACC "seating chart" that the National Security Agency (NSA) was directly involved in providing "lead federal agencies" with signals intelligence (SIGINT), the fifth tier reveals that U.S. telecoms, all of whom are NSA private partners in warrantless wiretapping and driftnet data-mining were "present and accounted for" during the RNC.

Indeed, prominent places "at the table" were filled by Verizon Communications, Verizon Wireless, QWEST, Sprint and AT&T. Attorneys involved in defending the RNC 8 and other protesters "preemptively" arrested, would be well-advised to subpoena these company's records and determine whether or not corporate telecoms handed SIGINT over to federal, state and local repressors.

The Wikileaks dossier also reveals that Saint Paul Operations Center Command Posts were staffed by an entity labeled "other federal." Here one finds the FBI's Joint Operations Center (JOC) and the Bureau's Intelligence Operations Center (IOC).

Both entities have been linked during NSSEs and the surreptitious surveillance of Americans to privacy-killing FBI "packet sniffing" operations formally called Carnivore (DCS-1000). Now called Red Hook or DCS-3000, software installed on America's telephone, internet and wireless infrastructure can monitor all of a target's internet, wireless and text messaging traffic. Digital Storm, or DCS-6000, captures and collects the content of phone calls and text messages, while Magic Lantern is a keystroke surveillance tool that can be installed remotely via viral e-mail attachments. Wired reported in 2007, that Magic Lantern is a "computer and internet protocol address verifier or CIPAV," one that

...gathers a wide range of information, including the computer's IP address; MAC address; open ports; a list of running programs; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer's registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL.

The CIPAV then settles into a silent "pen register" mode, in which it lurks on the target computer and monitors its internet use, logging the IP address of every computer to which the machine connects for up to 60 days. (Kevin Poulsen, "FBI's Secret Spyware Tracks Down Teen Who Made Bomb Threats," Wired, July 18, 2007)

According to documents released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2007, the Minneapolis Field Office was one of 57 sites for the Bureau's collection of "post-cut through dialed digit information." Technological heavy-lifting originated from the FBI's Science & Technology Law Unit, Engineering Research Facility located in Quantico, Virginia.

As security expert, whistleblower and CEO of Bat Blue Corporation Babak Pasdar disclosed in a sworn affidavit to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) back in February, Verizon Communications allowed the Bureau and other security agencies virtually "unfettered" access to the carrier's wireless network via the FBI's so-called "Quantico circuit."

Collectively, these highly-intrusive (and patently illegal) FBI programs are called DCSNet, an acronym for Digital Collection System Network. As Wired revealed in 2007, DCSNet "connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is is far more intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure than observers suspected."

The profound interconnections amongst federal security agencies such as the FBI and the nation's private telecoms acting in concert with securocrats is but one indicator of the breadth and scope of America's high-tech corporatist police state. Wired reports,

The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone's location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation.

The numbers dialed are automatically sent to FBI analysts trained to interpret phone-call patterns, and are transferred nightly, by external storage devices, to the bureau's Telephone Application Database, where they're subjected to a type of data mining called link analysis.

FBI endpoints on DCSNet have swelled over the years, from 20 "central monitoring plants" at the program's inception, to 57 in 2005, according to undated pages in the released documents. By 2002, those endpoints connected to more than 350 switches. (Ryan Singel, "Point, Click ... Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates," Wired, August 29, 2007)

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that the FBI no longer feels compelled to obtain judicial oversight or even the consent of cell phone operators when deploying base station-faking technology that it employs for the illegal geolocation of mobile users.

Known as Triggerfish, documents obtained by the ACLU in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department, detail how the technology pretends to be a cellular base station to which handsets connect and identify themselves. By claiming to have "lost" the unique identifier of a targeted mobile phone, Triggerfish then "asks" the phone to resend its unique details.

It had been assumed that a warrant was necessary before the Bureau could begin tracking an individual's cell phone. However, as the ACLU clearly reveals in the documents, under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the FBI has been able to obtain dodgy pen-trap orders from all-too-compliant judges on the FISA court. During the RNC, these signals were probably routed via Triggerfish to the JOC/IOC: game over for "Text Mob" protest organizers.

When federal, state and local law enforcement entities raided the homes of activists and media workers in St. Paul, the Bureau knew which activists and which computers, cell phones and other electronic devices to preemptively seize.

On August 30, 2008, the FBI were joined by some 30 St. Paul police armed with tasers, pepper spray and automatic weapons when they surrounded the house where I-Witness Video and Democracy Now! journalist Elizabeth Press were meeting.

People inside were forcibly detained and photographed, while police made a record of the journalists' names and addresses. A warrant was served, covering all the journalist's equipment, including privileged notes, computers, cameras, video tapes and communications equipment.

Five other members of I-Witness Video who were not present during the home invasion were detained for more than three hours, preventing them from documenting three other simultaneous raids in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Additionally, members of the Glass Bead Collective were also illegally detained and had their notes and equipment confiscated by the Minneapolis police.

The Wikileaks document also reveals that the Defense Department's Joint Task Force Minnesota (JTF-MN) was a key player in the St. Paul Command Operations Center. Indeed, Major Jon Dotterer, the Operations Officer attached to JTF-MN documented in a Power Point presentation, "As many of you may have scene [sic] on the news the MN National Guard was used in support of the St Paul Police Department at the Republican National Convention. Our QRF [Quick Reaction Force] was used to give the local police forces the flexibility and freedom to use their assets at other critical points of interest."

Dotterer's briefing details how JTF-MN "coordinates with civil authorities," primarily HSEM, and "provides [a] response element" and "activates for [a] major contingency." What Dotterer doesn't reveal is that JTF-MN is also an active component of U.S. Northern Command.

To conclude, the Wikileaks document provides new and startling information how federal, state and local law enforcement entities acting in concert with corporatist "private partners" during September's Republican National Convention, conspired to deny American's their right to peacefully protest against the far-right Republican party.

With resources drawn from the FBI, USSS, DHS, NGA, FEMA and NORTHCOM, the repressive capitalist state coordinated its response to oppositional currents in the U.S. by launching preemptive attacks on RNC protest organizers and journalists.

Fully in step with the "countersubversive" mind-set underpinning the Bushist "war on terror," one that equates dissent with terrorism, recourse to preemptive policing by our corporatist masters is indicative of the precarious state of a system facing total crisis as it stares into an abyss of its creation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's Intelligence Agenda: More of the Same from the "Change Administration"

While expectations may be high that the incoming Obama administration will reverse many of the worst features of the Bush regime--from warrantless wiretapping, illegal detention, torture, "targeted assassinations" and preemptive war--now that the cheering has stopped, expect more of the same.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party."

With hyperbolic "change" rhetoric in the air, Obama is relying on a gaggle of former intelligence insiders, warmed-over Clinton administration officials and "moderate" Republicans, many of whom helped Bush craft his administration's illegal policies.

With U.S. street cred at an all-time low, due in no small measure to Washington's hubristic fantasies that it really is an empire and not a rapidly decaying failed state, ruling elites have literally banked on Obama to deliver the goods.

During his run for the White House, the Illinois senator may have mildly criticized some of the administration's so-called "counterterrorism" policies including the Bushist penchant for secrecy, the disappearance of "terrorist" suspects, driftnet surveillance of American citizens and legal residents, CIA "black site" gulags and the crushing of domestic dissent.

But in the few scant days since the November 4 general election, the contours of what Democratic party corporatist grifters will roll-out come January 20 are taking shape. Citing Obama's carefully-crafted public relations blitz on the campaign trail opposing illegal spying, the Journal reports:

Yet he ... voted for a White House-backed law to expand eavesdropping powers for the National Security Agency. Mr. Obama said he opposed providing legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided warrantless surveillance, but ultimately voted for the bill, which included an immunity provision.

The new president could take a similar approach to revising the rules for CIA interrogations, said one current government official familiar with the transition. Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight. (Siobhan Gorman, "Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact," The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008)

The "current government official" cited by the Journal fails to specify precisely what it means to "keep the road open" when it comes to torturing prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Considering that top Bush administration officials "repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency," as ABC News reported back in April, and that "high-level discussions about these 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were so detailed ... some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed--down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic," one is left to ponder what "much greater oversight" would actually mean.

Perhaps such "oversight" entails a cosmetic shake-up at the top rungs of U.S. intelligence agencies? The Washington Post reports that "The nation's top two intelligence officers expect to be replaced by President-elect Barack Obama early in his administration, according to senior intelligence officials."

But would the replacement of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, a former admiral who oversaw spooky Booz Allen Hamilton corporate contracts with the "intelligence community," and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, an Air Force general who implemented Bushist warrantless wiretapping programs while NSA Director, represent "change" or continuity?

While some Democrats may oppose retaining America's top spooks because of their public support of Bushist policies, "other Democrats and many intelligence experts," according to the Post "give high marks to the current cadre of intelligence leaders, crediting them with restoring stability and professionalism to a community rocked by multiple scandals in recent years."

With a subtext arguing in favor of retaining McConnell and Hayden, Post journalists Walter Pincus (who has a dubious history of collaboration with the CIA as researchers Daniel Brandt and Steve Badrich note) and Karen DeYoung, cite unnamed "intelligence officials" who think their early departure "could be seen as politicizing their offices and setting a precedent for automatic turnover when the White House changes hands."

Hilariously (though I'm not laughing), Pincus and DeYoung cite the case of Bush's retention of George J. Tenet as CIA Director as a "stabilizing move," one viewed favorably within the Agency. Tenet, a Clinton appointee and political insider was a primary architect of intelligence forgeries, along with Bushist minions in the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President when "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy," prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

According to the Post, both men have expressed interest in keeping their perches atop the U.S. "intelligence community." And why wouldn't they? According to Secrecy News the October 28 release by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that the 2008 budget for the National Intelligence Program amounted to $47.5 billion, not counting an additional $10 billion in spending on the Pentagon's Military Intelligence Program.

It should be kept in mind the $57.5 billion doesn't include the Pentagon and other intelligence agency's "black budget" for undisclosed programs and "special operations" hidden within ultra-secretive "special access programs" (SAPs) kept off the books. According to defense and security analyst William M. Arkin,

There are also additional categories "above" Top Secret called "special access programs" that are used to protect presidential, military, intelligence, anti-terrorism, counter-drug, special operations, and "sensitive activities," as well as classified research and development efforts where it is deemed that extraordinary secrecy is needed to protect capabilities and vulnerabilities. Special access programs are regulated by statute and are defined as deliberately designated programs where "need-to-know" or access controls beyond those normally provided to classified information are created. The clearance and access requirements are identical to, or exceed, those required for access to sensitive compartmented information, and SAPs require special (and expensive) security, access, and communications measures. (William M. Arkin, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World, Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005, p.18)

Additionally, we have no way of determining what other secret slush funds are available to the "intelligence community" from a welter of illegal ventures such as the laundering of illicit funds by CIA intelligence assets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Balkans, Colombia and Mexico. Derived from the international narcotics trade and "cleansed" as they pass through a series of off-shore banks and U.S. financial institutions, far-right narcotrafficking assets involved in the murder of trade unionists, journalists, leftist opponents or indeed, the 9/11 attacks which kick-started America's "war on terror," are readily available for planetary-wide U.S. "special operations."

The Obama intelligence transition team is led by former National Counterterrorism chief John Brennan and former CIA intelligence analysis director Jami Miscik, according to the Journal. But what the Journal fails to mention however, is that Brennan was a former president and CEO of the The Analysis Corporation (TAC) and the first chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), as investigative journalist Tim Shorrock reported in his essential book, Spies For Hire.

Much of TAC's business is with with the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) where Brennan worked for three years. As Shorrock points outs, "In fact, the NCTC is one of the company's largest customers, and TAC provides counterterrorism support to 'most of the agencies within the Intelligence Community,' according to a company press release."

During the 1990s, TAC developed the U.S. government's first terrorist database, called Tipoff, for the State Department. In 2003, management of the database was transferred to the NCTC which Brennan managed. By 2005 Tipoff had morphed into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), the mother of all federal counterterrorism databases and the "wellspring" for watch lists distributed to airlines, law enforcement, border posts and U.S. consulates world-wide. According to Shorrock, in 2005 TAC won a $2.3 million contract in partnership with CACI International "to integrate information from the Defense Intelligence Agency into the TIDE database."

INSA, according to Shorrock is one of three "business associations representing intelligence contractors" and the "one with the closet ties to the government," which "primarily represents contractors working for the NSA and the CIA." And SourceWatch reports that among INSA's leading members can be found such corporate heavy-hitters as the scandal-plagued BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Computer Science Corporation, General Dynamics, Hewlett-Packard Company, Lockheed Martin, ManTech International Corporation, Microsoft and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Indeed, current DNI Mike McConnell, was INSA chairman between 2005-2007 before heading up the Office of National Intelligence.

According the The Washington Post, Brennan "is one of several names that have surfaced, including Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), as possible replacements for McConnell or Hayden." One can almost hear the clink of glasses amid popping corks in corporate suites across Virginia and Washington!

What do we know about Jami Miscik, Obama's other intelligence transition team leader? According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Miscik "served as Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration from 1995 to 1996." In the run up to the Iraq war, Miscik played a key role in concocting fake intelligence about Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" and "links" to al Qaeda that were used by the Bush administration to sell the war to the American people. During this period, as head of the CIA's analytical division she suppressed reports from Company analysts that rejected Bushist claims as unfounded.

More recently, Miscik was "the Global Head of Sovereign Risk at Lehman Brothers" according to the CFR. "In this capacity," Miscik's biographers write with a straight face, "she assesses geopolitical and economic risks for the firm's senior management and clients." But with the multi-billion dollar collapse of Lehman Brothers amid allegations of massive fraud and management corruption, the failed firm is now under investigation for dodgy "structured products" and "mini-bonds." One can only wonder what advice the incoming Obama administration would seek from Miscik or indeed from CFR!

Once the Obama team is in place come January 20, will the crimes of the Bush regime be investigated by Congress or will gross criminality be prosecuted by a new team at the Department of Justice? Don't hold your breath.

The Washington Post reports that while "political considerations affected every crevice of the department during the Bush years," Ron Klain, Al Gore's former chief of staff who now occupies that position for Vice President-elect Joe Biden, dismissed calls to overhaul the Department and compared "preelection brainstorming sessions of Democrats" to "an escalating composition of woes." Post reporter Carrie Johnson writes,

Obama will have to do a careful balancing act. At a conference in Washington this week, former department criminal division chief Robert S. Litt asked that the new administration avoid fighting old battles that could be perceived as vindictive, such as seeking to prosecute government officials involved in decisions about interrogation and the gathering of domestic intelligence. Human rights groups have called for such investigations, as has House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

"It would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time calling people up to Congress or in front of grand juries," Litt said. "It would really spend a lot of the bipartisan capital Obama managed to build up." (Carrie Johnson, "Obama Team Face Major Task in Justice Dept. Overhaul," The Washington Post, November 13, 2008)

But as we've come to expect from the corporate media, Johnson failed to investigate Litt's own conflicts of interest when it comes to probing Bushist crimes by CIA and other intelligence officials. As Glenn Greenwald observes, "This brazen defense of lawlessness articulated by Litt is now as close to a unanimous, bipartisan consensus across the political establishment as it gets."

Indeed, Litt's argument in favor of impunity for mass murder, torture and lawless spying by high political officials, particularly the President and those closet to him such as Vice President Richard Cheney, mean they literally are exempt from the rule of law.

Greenwald reports that during his tenure at the Justice Department as the head of the criminal division under Bill Clinton, Litt

...spent much of his career as a federal prosecutor, aggressively prosecuting and imprisoning all sorts of ordinary Americans. He was one of the most vocal advocates for prohibiting government-proof encryption technology in order to preserve the Government's ability to access people's computer communications as part of criminal investigations, and was part of a Clinton DOJ that very aggressively pursued even garden-variety drug cases and used mandatory sentencing guidelines to ensure harsher sentences for common criminals. (Glenn Greenwald, "Post-Partisan Harmony vs. the Rule of Law, Salon, November 13, 2008)

While prosecuting and imprisoning low-level drug offenders and the poor is an absolute moral obligation for Litt and his ilk, hauling lawbreaking corporate and political clients before a court of law, like the impeachment of felons occupying high-office, is "off the table." Greenwald points out that as a partner at Arnold & Porter, an "up-armored" corporate legal behemoth, the company brazenly announced on Litt's Arnold & Porter page that he represented several employees of intelligence agencies "in connection with criminal investigations. None has been charged."

While the Post may depict him as an objective analyst, Litt is no more than a shill for well-heeled, "covered" clients. Indeed, if he represents CIA, NSA or White House officials involved in illegal intelligence and surveillance programs Greenwald writes, "that obviously motivates his insistence that investigations not be pursued." And so it goes...

Memo to Obama supporters: the new product roll-out is a smashing success, "change" has come to Washington, the corporate grift continues. Any questions?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Space-Based Domestic Spying: Kicking Civil Liberties to the Curb

Last month, I reported that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) space-based domestic spy program run by that agency's National Applications Office (NAO) had gone live October 1.

Federal Computer Week reports that Charles Allen, DHS' Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis, told the 5th annual GEOINT Symposium on geospatial intelligence in Nashville late last month that, "DHS' imagery requirements are significantly greater, in number and scope, than they were at the department's creation, and will continue to grow at an accelerating rate as the department's mission-space evolves."

Indeed during Hurricane Ike, U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the first time flew the Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle in "support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's relief efforts," the insider tech publication reported.

As readers are well aware, the Predator B carries out "targeted assassinations" of "terrorist suspects" across Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The deployment of the robotic killing machines in the United States for "disaster management" is troubling to say the least and a harbinger of things to come.

Despite objections by Congress and civil liberties groups DHS, in close collaboration with the ultra-spooky National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency that develops and maintains America's fleet of military spy satellites, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) that analyzes military imagery and generates mapping tools, are proceeding with the first phase of the controversial domestic spying program.

NAO will coordinate how domestic law enforcement and "disaster relief" agencies such as FEMA will use satellite imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by military spy satellites. As I wrote earlier this year, unlike commercial satellites, their military cousins are far more flexible, have greater resolution and therefore possess more power to monitor human activity.

Testifying before the House Homeland Security committee in September, Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, called for a moratorium on the domestic use of military spy satellites until key questions were answered. Steinhardt said, "Congress needs to act before this potentially powerful surveillance tool is turned inward upon the American people. The domestic use of spy satellites represents a potential monster in the making, and we need to put some restraints in place before it grows into something that will trample Americans' privacy rights."

Needless to say, a feckless Congress has done virtually nothing to halt the program. As The Wall Street Journal reported in early October, Congress' "partial funding" of the office "in a little debated $634 billion spending measure," means that NAO is now providing federal, state and local officials "with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery."

Allen told the GEOINT Symposium that while "geospatial efforts are being coordinated across agencies," technical hurdles must be overcome in order to improve geospatial IT applications. Federal Computer Week avers,

For developing future satellite imagery capabilities, Allen recommended diversity, availability, survivability and flexibility for future systems in a satellite and modular payload system similar to what was advised by the Marino Report in July 2007 to the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

"It describes an architecture that allows for short time between launch as well as an option for variable modalities. This kind of diversity is what I believe will be necessary to assure adequate collection of a wide array of targets," Allen said. (Alice Lipowicz, "Geospatial Intelligence Use Grows at DHS, Official Says," Federal Computer Week, October 30, 2008)

What those "variable modalities" are were not spelled out by Federal Computer Week. However, the Marino Report was released by Chesapeake Analytics Corporation, an under-the-radar Arlington, Virginia-based private defense contractor that describes itself "as a 'boutique' consulting firm" for senior executives "in the geospatial technology sector." The report itself was written by Defense Group Inc. (DGI), a spooky Falls Church, Virginia defense contractor for NRO and NGA. According to their website, DGI "customers" include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and "numerous Intelligence Agencies."

As we have seen however, the use of satellite imagery during "national security events" such as last summer's political conventions in Denver and St. Paul may have aided FBI and local law enforcement in their preemptive raids on protest organizers and subsequent squelching of dissent. One wonders if this is what DGI refers to when they write that the company "performs work in the national interest, advancing public safety and national security through innovative research, analysis and applied technology"?

NAO's launch is all the more troubling since an independent review of the program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the department has been less than forthcoming that NAO complies with privacy laws and doesn't violate the Posse Comitatus Act.

The 1878 law prohibits the military from playing a role in domestic law enforcement. Since the 1990s however, Posse Comitatus has been eroded significantly by both Democratic and Republican administrations, primarily in the areas of "drug interdiction," "border security" as well as "Continuity of Government" planning by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

Despite objections by GAO auditors DHS securocrats held up the release of their 60-page report, citing its "sensitive nature." The September 15, 2008 report, entitled "National Applications Office. Certification of Compliance With Legal, Privacy, and Civil Liberties Standards Needs to Be More Fully Justified," is now in the public domain and was finally released November 6, two days after American national elections.

It makes for a very troubling read. In their November 6 cover letter to congressional committees, the GAO writes:

Citing a growing need to use classified satellite information for civil or domestic purposes, in 2005, an independent study group reviewed the future role of the CAC [Civil Applications Committee] and concluded that although the civil domestic users were well supported through the CAC, homeland security and law enforcement users lacked a coherent, organized, and focused process to access classified satellite information. (GAO, "National Applications Office Certification Review," GAO-09-105R, November 6, 2008)

However, the "independent study group" cited by GAO was neither independent nor predisposed towards limiting the deployment of military spy satellites for domestic "missions." Indeed that report, "Independent Study Group, Civil Applications Committee Blue Ribbon Study," (September 2005), was the product of a panel comprised solely of securocrats and defense and security contractors who stand to make a bundle on NAO. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed last year, the intelligence-sharing system to be managed by NAO,

...will rely heavily on private contractors including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance. ("Domestic Spying, Inc." CorpWatch, November 27, 2007)

Indeed, the "independent study group" was appointed by Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence who himself was a senior vice president for ten years with the spooky Booz Allen Hamilton corporation. McConnell oversaw that firm's extensive contracts in military intelligence and information operations for the Pentagon, Shorrock reported in March 2008.

GAO investigators have determined that while DHS "has established procedures for legal review, it has not yet fully addressed all outstanding issues regarding how the planned operations of the NAO, as described in the department’s certification documents, are to comply with legal requirements. Specifically, DHS has not resolved legal and policy issues associated with NAO support for law enforcement." As investigators outlined:

DHS originally did not fulfill agency requirements to identify privacy risks and control mechanisms but recently has taken steps to do so. At the time of NAO certification, DHS did not fully explain how the office would comply with widely accepted privacy standards, such as the need for personally identifiable information to be accurate, secure, and used only for limited purposes. Specifically, the NAO's original privacy assessment did not identify or analyze the risks that NAO operations might not meet these standards, nor did it specify measures to mitigate such risks. In response to discussions with us regarding these shortcomings, the Privacy Office developed a revised assessment that represented a substantial improvement in identifying privacy risks and mitigating controls to address them, such as providing appropriate oversight and building a process to identify and correct inaccurate information. However, differences between the review procedures outlined in the revised privacy impact assessment and those in the standard operating procedures raise questions about whether the specifics of the NAO's privacy protection controls have been clearly established. (GAO, op. cit. p. 4)

While paltry recommendations towards mitigating potential civil liberties' and privacy abuses by NAO were submitted to the DHS Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis (Charles Allen), GAO found that "specific measures have not yet been developed to address the potential for improper use or retention of information provided by the NAO and the potential for impermissible requests to be accepted as a result of a reliance on broad annual memorandums as justifications." In other words at NAO, as at other intelligence agencies across the war on terror's domestic "battlespace," it's business as usual.

Three categories of classified satellite information are to be provided law enforcement by the National Applications Office:

* Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)--GEOINT is defined as "the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Geospatial intelligence consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information."

* Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT)--MASINT is defined as intelligence "derived from measurements of physical phenomena intrinsic to an object or event." These phenomena can include the following types:" electro-optical, infrared, laser, spectral, radar, polarimetric, high-power or unintentional radio frequency emanations, geophysical, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear."

* Electronic intelligence (ELINT)--ELINT is defined as "technical and geolocation intelligence derived from non-communications electromagnetic radiations emanating from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive sources. It does not include oral or written communications." Thus, ELINT could include intelligence based on signals from machines, such as computers, but not telephone conversations or other communications between individuals. (GAO, op. cit., p. 25)

While DHS has yet to resolve legal and policy issues associated with NAO support for law enforcement operations, the Office still continues to identify such support as a key element of its "mission." Indeed, DHS' Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office did not resolve how NAO will comply with the applicability of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, Posse Comitatus and the Reagan-era Executive Order 12333 that limits how federal intelligence agencies collect information on U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Citing lax standards in NAO's legal review process, GAO found that "the process for developing and approving annual memorandums for MASINT and ELINT has not been delineated. Such procedures are an important control in assuring that access, retention, and sharing of information is properly constrained."

However, as the eight long years of the Bush administration have demonstrated, any and all measures to "constrain" out of control federal spy agencies and their privatized assets in the corporate world have been rebuffed. Indeed, congressional oversight of the "intelligence community" and the Executive Branch is a joke--at the expense of an informed citizenry and democratic institutions accountable to the American people.

While DHS claims that data gathered for law enforcement purposes will be "in compliance with privacy and civil liberties laws and policies of the United States," the GAO found that "by broadly sharing information with non-federal users, who are not bound by the Privacy Act, personal information could be at risk of being used in ways not specified when it was originally collected." Considering that some 70% of U.S. intelligence assets are employees of private security and defense contractors, NAO is a civil liberties disaster waiting to happen.

GAO revealed four key areas where privacy risks have been identified:

1. An individual may be unaware that personally identifiable information will be collected about him or her in response to a request processed by the NAO.

2. Personally identifiable information may be collected, analyzed, or disseminated in a manner that makes the information inaccurate.

3. Personally identifiable information may be misused by a requestor.

4. Associated technology may improve so dramatically that qualitatively new capabilities will enable the gathering of personally identifiable information in ways that are impossible today, thus creating new potential privacy risks. (GAO, op. cit., p. 44)

DHS claims these issues will be mitigated by "providing appropriate oversight" and by "building a process to identify and correct inaccurate information, and ensuring that the DHS Privacy Office and DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties remain critical components of all review processes as new and improved technology is developed."

In other words, we're to rely on DHS to police itself and that agencies critical to Office operations such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will simply hand over America's most closely-guarded intelligence secrets to federal civil rights attorneys for appropriate "oversight." Talk about a blind leap into the darkness!

Let's be clear here and shed whatever illusions one may have about the outcome of last Tuesday's election. Despite the overwhelming rejection of the Bush administration and their surrogates by the American people, the incoming Obama administration will pay lip-service to civil liberties and the rule of law. This however, will amount to no more than a better public relations campaign, image management and product roll-out. America rebranded.

But as we have seen throughout the unfolding disaster that is the "war on terror," the Democrats have been fully complicit with the crimes of the Bush regime. From the USA Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, immunity for criminal telecoms, "preemptive policing," torture, financial fraud and the looting of the economy by capitalist grifters, not to mention the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, threats against Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela--indeed any nation that doesn't toe the imperialist line--the Democrats have been Bush's most faithful and reliable partners.

While the GAO's report is a welcome addition to the already voluminous catalogue of Bushist horrors, one can expect that NAO's law enforcement "mission" will quickly--and quietly--come on line. After all there's bundles of cash, courtesy of the American people, that need to be spread far and wide!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Annals of Crony Capitalism: Nuke Detection Machines Fail, Again

You've got to hand it to the Bush administration. No matter how pitifully their "homeland security" projects perform, money talks.

Back in June, I reported on one such pet project under development by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP).

In a $1.2 billion taxpayer-financed deal shared by Raytheon, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Canberra Industries (a subsidiary of the French nuclear manufacturing titan, the Areva Group), the defense contracting giants claimed that the ASP would provide port officials with a reliable means of detecting illicit nuclear or radiological materials smuggled inside containers entering U.S. ports. It was alleged by DHS' Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) that the ASP

...will enhance current detection capabilities by more clearly identifying the source of detected radiation through spectroscopic isotope identification. The ASP program provides significant improvement in the detection of special nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and weapons grade plutonium, differentiating between these and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). ASP variants include rail, mobile, and re-locatable systems. (Department of Homeland Security, DNDO, "DHS Public Release BY08/DNDO - Advanced Spectroscopy Portals (ASP) - Passive Detection Systems," February 12, 2007)

DNDO claims the system as currently designed is superior to what is already in place and that the ASP has demonstrated "low false alarm rates." (Which isn't saying much since current monitors have an abysmal track record and have failed to distinguish between the components of a radiological dirty bomb and natural radiation emitters such as kitty litter, ceramics and bananas!)

Back in 2005, Reuters reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Robert Bonner testified before the Senate that since the first devices were installed in 2000, "they had picked up over 10,000 radiation hits in vehicles or cargo shipments entering the country. All proved harmless." Security analyst Bruce Schneier wrote at the time, "It amazes me that 10,000 false alarms--instances where the security system failed--are being touted as proof that the system is working." Not much has changed since then.

Despite DNDO's extravagant claims, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a stinging new report stating that assertions made by the office cannot be backed up by statistical evidence.

The GAO's September 2008 report entitled, "Combatting Nuclear Smuggling: DHS's Phase 3 Test Report on Advanced Portal Monitors Does Not Fully Disclose the Limitations of the Test Results," demolished DNDO claims. In polite bureaucratese, GAO auditors declared that DHS massaged the test results and painted a rosy picture of what, for all practical purposes, is essentially a corporate boondoggle. Indeed, GAO auditors found,

Because the limitations of the Phase 3 test results are not appropriately stated in the Phase 3 test report, the report does not accurately depict the results from the tests and could potentially be misleading. In the Phase 3 tests, DNDO performed a limited number of test runs. Because of this, the test results provide little information about the actual performance capabilities of the ASPs. The report often presents each test result as a single value; but considering the limited number of test runs, the results would be more appropriately stated as a range of potential values. ... DNDO's reporting of the test results in this manner makes them appear more conclusive and precise than they really are. The purpose of the Phase 3 tests was to conduct a limited number of test runs in order to identify areas in which the ASP software needed improvement. While aspects of the Phase 3 report address this purpose, the preponderance of the report goes beyond the test's original purpose and makes comparisons of the performance of the ASPs with one another or with currently deployed portal monitors. (GAO, "Combatting Nuclear Smuggling: What GAO Found," September 2008, p. 5)

The auditor's aver, "if an ASP can identify a source material every time during a test, but the test is run only five times, the only thing that can be inferred with a high level of statistical confidence is that the probability of identification is no less than about 60 percent." Which means the ASPs failed at least 40% of the time to identify nuclear materials that could be used in a devastating attack.

Additionally, when the program was cited for "lapses" back in June, the Phase 3 tests were not to be used by DHS Secretary Chertoff to certify the program. Yet DNDO securocrats now state according to GAO investigators, that the less-than-stellar Phase 3 tests "will be relevant to the Secretary's certification that the ASPs represent a significant increase in operational effectiveness." However, DNDO "does not clarify in what ways the results will be relevant."

But as investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker has written on more than one occasion, "When things don't make business sense, sometimes its because they do make sense... just in some other way." Perhaps, DHS is giving us another glimpse of that process at work.

The Washington Post reported that the DNDO "derided the findings as 'misleading and not substantiated'." And that GAO auditors "failed 'to acknowledge the depth and breadth' of the program's test campaign." GAO replied to DNDO's criticism and stated,

DHS comments that our draft report failed "to acknowledge the depth and breadth of the ASP test campaign, which is by far the most comprehensive test campaign ever conducted on radiation detection equipment." However, our report describes previous ASP testing and some of our prior findings about that testing, and notes that ASP testing continues in 2008. More importantly, the extent of testing is not the issue at hand. In our view, regardless of how many tests are performed, the tests must employ sound, unbiased methodologies and DNDO should draw and present conclusions from the test results in ways that accurately and fully reflect the data and disclose their limitations. (GAO, op. cit. p. 18)

During an earlier round of testing, the GAO had found that the DNDO's "estimates for detection rates were overstated and that the costs of the machines were significantly understated," according to the Post.

Originally slated to cost $500,000 per unit, the eventual price tag has ballooned upward and the latest estimates claim each machine will now cost taxpayers some $778,000. While chump change by current lax standards, it does raise significant questions as to the efficacy of congressional oversight of government handouts to defense and security contractors, many of whom are extremely generous when it comes to campaign contributions.

According to, the Raytheon Political Action Committee (PAC) has disbursed some $1,709,060; Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. PAC, $161,017 and Areva subsidiary Cogema Framatone PAC $117,000 in campaign contributions during the 2008 election cycle to Democrats and Republicans, a veritable bipartisan "spread the wealth around" subsidy to grease squeaky congressional wheels!

Additionally, reports that 2008 campaign contributions from the defense industry amounts to $20,670,429 with the Democrats narrowly edging out Republicans (51%-49%), reflecting where the "smart money" is going this year!

Considering the general climate of corruption that pervades Washington and corporate board rooms in America, do the dubious test results uncovered by GAO reveal a wider problem? Let's take a look.

With some 80,000 employees, many in possession of coveted Top Secret or above security clearances, Raytheon clocks in at No. 4 on Washington Technology's list of "2008 Top 100 Government Prime Contractors." And with $5,170,829,645 in government-related revenue, the multinational giant pulled in some $4,762,068,432 in defense spending dollars.

However, according to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Raytheon was No. 5 on that organization's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD). According to POGO, Raytheon was cited for some $475.6 million in what the organization called its "Total Misconduct Dollar Amount."

From aircraft maintenance overcharges, contractor kickbacks, defective pricing, the improper export of defense items, False Claims Act violations, drinking water contamination in two Arizona cities, securities litigation, violations of SEC rules, through charges of racial discrimination and a lawsuit by EEOC, one can only conclude that being a well-connected multinational defense giant means "never having to say you're sorry"!

POGO had no information of wrongdoing on Raytheon's other two partners in the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal deal, Canberra Industries and Thermo Fisher Electric.

But wait, there's more!

GAO investigators testified before Congress in 2007, that DNDO's Phase 1 "tests did not constitute an objective and rigorous assessment of the ASPs' capabilities because, among other things, DNDO conducted preliminary test runs on source materials to be used in the tests, and then allowed the vendors to adjust their ASPs to specifically identify the source materials to be tested."

Sweet, isn't it? Like taking an exam and have all the answers before you sit down!

It now appears that the same faulty methodology was applied to Phase 3 testing, and as noted above, DNDO will argue that those tests, indeed all test results, including those in which the "vendors" adjusted their equipment to meet predetermined criteria will be used by DHS Secretary Chertoff to issue a favorable certification for the ASP program. (This is a technical "innovation" we have seen on the political front; to wit, as the Downing Street Memo revealed when "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the [Iraq invasion] policy").

None of this of course, comes as a surprise. Despite capitalism's economic meltdown, large defense and security contractors will continue to flourish as Washington's "war on terror" inexorably advances on the home front. According to Washington Technology,

Raytheon reported a third-quarter net income of $427 million, or $1.01 a share, up from $299 million, or 68 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue reached $5.86 billion, up 12 percent. The Waltham, Mass., company also raised its financial guidance for 2008 and it expects stronger profits and sales next year. ("Defense Firms Thrive Despite Downturn," Washington Technology, October 24, 2008)

Indeed, Raytheon's Chief Executive and Chairman Bill Swanson told security and defense analysts "that he is optimistic that U.S. defense spending will hold up in the face of the current economic crisis," the technology insider publication reported.

Swanson said, "A lot of people want to predict doom and gloom. I don't see it from that standpoint." Nor would I, if I were in a similar position!

As the Associated Press reported, in 2007 Swanson received a $15 million compensation package from the defense giant that included $1.23 million in salary, $3.05 million in "non-equity incentive plan compensation," and $575,699 "in other compensation, including use of company aircraft and a company car, home security and financial planning services." How's that for hitting the corporatist "sweet spot"!

Despite the inescapable fact that the American people remain vulnerable to terrorist smuggling of nuclear materials into the heimat, and despite a veritable $1.2 billion flim-flam by giant multinationals aided and abetted by the corrupt and infinitely corruptible Department of Homeland Security, regardless of which party of capitalist grifters win tomorrow's general election, expect that "business as usual" will continue along on its merry way.

And you can take that to the bank!