Sunday, February 28, 2010

Annals of Homeland Security: Flawed Nuke Detection Program Dialed-Back by DHS

Though production lines at the fear factory are still in overdrive, the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) are scrapping plans for a new generation of "high-tech detectors for screening vehicles and cargo, saying they cost too much and do not work as effectively as security officials once maintained," The Washington Post reported.

Nearly two years ago, Antifascist Calling revealed that when DNDO awarded contracts totaling some $1.2 billion over five years to defense and security giants Raytheon, Canberra Industries (a subsidiary of the French nuclear manufacturing titan, the Areva Group) and Thermo Scientific for Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) radiation monitors in 2006, it should have been "reality-check time."

For the moment at least, it apparently is.

As late as January 2010, despite revelations that the program widely missed the mark, DNDO officials claimed that the ASP "will enhance current detection capabilities by more clearly identifying the source of detected radiation through spectroscopic isotope identification."

Notwithstanding persistent flaws and cost overruns dogging the program, the Department of Homeland Security asked for $41M in its 2011 budget request "for the procurement and deployment of radiological and nuclear detection systems and equipment to support efforts across the Department."

Why would they do that? For answers, we'd better consult defense and security powerhouse Raytheon, the project's prime contractor.

A Homeland "Security Blanket" for the Defense Industry

Clocking-in at No. 5 on Washington Technology's 2009 "Top 100 List" of Federal Prime Contractors, the company pulled-down some $5,942,575,316 in defense and security-related contracts from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, NASA, the armed forces and Department of Homeland Security.

According to Raytheon, "ASP detectors address the threat of radiological dispersal devices, improvised nuclear devices or a nuclear weapon being used by terrorists inside the United States," therefore "a more discriminating primary screening system--the ASP--is needed."

Touted as a next-gen "homeland security tool" that would provide Customs and Border Protection inspectors with the capability to detect illicit nuclear or radiological materials inside containers entering American ports, "with low false alarm rates" to boot, despite hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the program, the ASP performs no better than devices in place today.

As with existent monitors, the ASP was unable to distinguish between components required to manufacture a radiological dirty bomb from natural radiation emitters such as--wait!-- kitty litter, ceramics or bananas!

You would think the state would have considered another of the firm's more dubious highlights before awarding them with a lucrative contract for something as critical as preventing nuclear terrorism. You'd be wrong however!

According to the Project on Government Oversight's (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, Raytheon has the distinction of another No. 5 listing, though I doubt the company will tout this on their web site.

Identified by the government watchdogs as a firm with a history of "misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations," since 1995, Raytheon has been cited for some $479.2M in 20 instances of what POGO has identified as "misconduct." These include: aircraft maintenance overcharges; contractor kickbacks; defective pricing; False Claims Act violations; improper classification of costs; the violation of SEC rules; TCE contamination at Kansas Airport; an EEOC racial discrimination lawsuit; contamination of Tucson, Arizona's water supply with TCE and dioxane, "chemical solvents believed to be human carcinogens," on and on.

Come to think of it, why wouldn't they be a perfect fit for DHS! As the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has documented in a series of critical reports, the state's massive reorganization of the security apparatus under the DHS brand "involved new money--stacks of it."

According to CIR, "systematic federal efforts to measure the effectiveness of various homeland security programs and grants have been less than a complete success." And likely to stay that way in this writer's opinion, judging by DNDO's busted ASP program.

Revolving Doors, Greased Wheels

Citing a pressing need for the new gizmos, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner testified before a Senate panel in 2005, and setting the stage for the ASP fiasco, that detection machines first installed in 2000 "had picked up over 10,000 radiation hits in vehicles or cargo shipments entering the country. All proved harmless."

As 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."

But as a former airline executive famously told investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker during his probe into the 9/11 attacks: "Sometimes when things don't make business sense, its because they do make sense...just in some other way."

Since completing government "service," Bonner became a partner in the white shoe law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, specializing in "crisis management" for corporate clients.

Amongst the firm's more dubious legal "accomplishments" was their representation of the soon-to-be-installed Bush regime during the 2000 Florida recount. On December 12, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court staged a judicial coup d'├ętat and stopped the Florida vote count, thus handing the presidency to the Bush crime family and setting the stage for the most corrupt, and lawless, period in the nation's history.

Confirming suspicions that not much has changed since the Obama administration blew into town last year, the president's Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, appointed Bonner to the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Southwest Border Task Force.

Corroborating the notion that the top political echelons of the secret state are mere jump-off points for a lucrative "post-government" career, and that "homeland security" is a highly-profitable game the whole family can play, CBP's former head honcho is now a principal partner with The Sentinel HS Group, LLC, a Washington lobby shop.

According to a blurb on Sentinel's web site, the firm is "committed to assisting government entities in organizing effectively to carry out their homeland security responsibilities, and in designing and implementing effective homeland security strategies, policies, and programs."

The firm served as the "principal advisor" to the "Boeing Team" that speared the SBInet contract from DHS. Federal Computer Week reported in January however, that Napolitano "has ordered a reassessment of the $8 billion SBInet virtual border fence program in Arizona after another round of delays in the program, an official confirmed today."

The only thing that has changed in the years since the ASP boondoggle was launched, is that millions in taxpayer dollars have greased the palms of well-connected defense contractors. In turn, defense behemoth Raytheon has repaid the favor, showering some $2.2 million dollars on federal candidates in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with 55% of the lucre going to "progressive" Democrats.

And 2010 promises to be a banner year for the "best democracy money can buy." OpenSecrets.org reveals that as of January 31, the firm has already raised some $1.5 million, spending 59% of PAC dollars on congressional Democrats.

"I Cheated on the Test? Whaddaya Mean, the Government Gave Me the Answers!"

When DNDO announced the initiative back in 2006, it was trumpeted as one of the cornerstones of the Bush regime's corporate-friendly homeland security apparatus, to wit, it was sold to Congress as a front-line weapon that would prevent the smuggling of illicit nuclear materials into the heimat.

When the $1.2 billion contract was awarded, officials claimed each device would cost "only" $377,000 and would "dramatically" improve vehicle and cargo container screening.

Since those initial cost estimates, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that securocrats had deceived Congress and that each contraption would probably cost upwards of $822,000 each, with no demonstrable improvement over machines in use today.

Dialing-down the program, DNDO's acting chief William K. Hagan wrote neocon Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that the Office will "possibly use the machines only for secondary screening, at no more than about a third of the cost originally planned," Post journalist Robert O'Harrow disclosed.

Hagan wrote that DNDO's decision makes "sense, given the available performance and cost data." In other words, although the ASP has proven to be a colossal failure, let's fund a scaled-down version of the program. Is this a great country, or what!

As I previously reported, GAO investigators revealed in a September 2008 report, that DHS massaged test results and painted a rosy picture of what, for all practical purposes, was a lead balloon.

GAO watchdogs discovered that DNDO "used biased test methods that enhanced the apparent performance" of the machines. Congressional investigators found that dodgy methodology designed to manipulate the results, allowed contractors to adjust the devices after preliminary runs, giving the appearance that ASP's performed better than they actually did. In other words, DNDO project managers handed out virtual Cliff Notes to the contractors during testing. Talk about a rigged game!

In 2009 testimony before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Committee on Science and Technology, House of Representatives, Gene Aloise, GAO Director of Natural Resources and Environment testified that "DNDO resumed the field testing of ASPs that it initiated in January 2009 but suspended because of serious performance problems. However, the July tests also revealed critical performance deficiencies."

Aloise disclosed that ASPs, like current monitors, "had a high number of false positive alarms for the detection of certain nuclear materials."

Auditors were told by Customs and Border Protection officials that "these false alarms are very disruptive in a port environment because any alarm for this type of nuclear material causes CBP to take enhanced security precautions."

However, despite earlier claims that the machines would "enhance" border security by weeding out nuclear or radiological materials that could be fashioned into IEDs, GAO revealed that DNDO planned "to address these false alarms" by modifying the devices "to make these monitors less sensitive to these nuclear materials and thereby diminishing the ASPs' capability."

Aloise told The Washington Post that "DHS's decision to abandon full-scale deployment of the ASP's is a victory for the U.S taxpayer--a savings of at least $1.5 billion--and our national security."

"As recent testing has revealed" Aloise said, "the consequences of these machines being deployed nationwide in 2007, as DNDO intended, could have been disastrous."

Fear not dear readers, in Washington's accountability-free zone failure is always generously rewarded.

Washington Technology reported on Friday, that Raytheon "has won an initial contract from the Air Force worth $886 million to develop a new element of the Global Positioning System that will improve the accuracy of information from GPS satellites."

If the firm's work for DNDO is any indication of "improved accuracy" we can expect from next-gen GPS, better dust off your compass and learn to navigate by starlight!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scannergate: Terror Scares A Boon for Security Grifters

Call them what you will: bottom feeders, corporate con-men, flim-flam artists, peddlers of crisis, you name it.

You can't help but marvel how enterprising security firms have the uncanny ability to sniff-out new opportunities wherever they can find, or manufacture, them.

After all, nothing sells like fear and in "new normal" America fear is an industry with a limitless growth potential.

While Republicans and Democrats squabble over who's "tougher" when it comes to invading and pillaging other nations (in the interest of "spreading democracy" mind you), a planetary grift dubbed the "War on Terror," waiting in the wings are America's new snake-oil salesmen.

Welcome to Scannergate!

With airport security all the rage, companies that manufacture whole body imaging technologies and body-scanners stand to make a bundle as a result of last December's aborted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Like their kissin' cousins at the Pentagon, poised to bag a $708 billion dollar windfall in the 2011 budget, securocrats over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stand to vacuum-up some $56.3 billion next year, a $6 billion increase.

According to the agency's February 1 budget announcement, funding requirements will prioritize "efforts to enhance security measures that protect against terrorism and other threats ... reflecting the Department's commitment to fiscal discipline and efficiency."

In keeping with America's unstoppable slide to the right, President Obama created a commission on Thursday by executive order promising to "fix" the yawning budget deficit by establishing--what else!--a "bipartisan fiscal commission."

Promising to "slash" the deficit, by shredding the already-tattered social safety net, disemboweling programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Obama named former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles to lead the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, BusinessWeek reported.

According to the World Socialist Web Site, Simpson, a troglodytic right-winger, told The Washington Post, "How did we get to a point in America where you get to a certain age in life, regardless of net worth or income, and you're 'entitled'?" he asked. "The word itself is killing us."

Bowles, a major fundraiser for the Clinton's, is "currently on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley, one of the big five Wall Street investment houses" as well as a director of General Motors, socialist critic Patrick Martin informs us. Tellingly, "Bowles served as chairman of the compensation committee at both companies, and still holds that position at Morgan Stanley, making him the point man for the awarding of eight-figure salaries and bonuses to the executives of both companies," Martin averred.

"Off the table," are any proposals that would slash the Pentagon's bloated budget or any of the other fiscal goodies financing the "War on Terror."

Reflecting Homeland Security's "fiscal discipline and responsibility," at the top of the wish-list are what officials describe as increased spending for Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).

In 2011, the Department says it is requesting $217.7M to "install 500 advanced imaging technology machines at airport checkpoints to detect dangerous materials, including non-metallic materials."

"This request," coupled "with planned deployments for 2010, will provide AIT coverage at 75 percent of Category X airports and 60 percent of the total lanes at Category X through II airports."

Next up is a $218.9M demand for "Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to Staff AITs." New funds are required for "additional TSOs, managers and associated support costs to operate AITs at airport checkpoints."

You can't have one without the other, so it's a real job creator and win-win all around! Right? Well, not exactly...

Annals of Homeland Stupidity

As a secret state agency, TSA has proven itself so effective in protecting us from terrorists, especially the "homegrown" variety referred to in the literature as "clean skins," that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit February 10 on behalf of Pomona College student Nicholas George.

According to the civil liberties' watchdog group, George was "abusively interrogated, handcuffed and detained for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport," by TSA, Philadelphia police and the FBI. His "crime"? George was kept prisoner because "of a set of English-Arabic flashcards he was carrying in connection with his college language studies."

Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, said in a press release: "Nick George was handcuffed, locked in a cell for hours and questioned about 9/11 simply because he has chosen to study Arabic, a language that is spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world. This sort of harassment of innocent travelers is a waste of time and a violation of the Constitution."

Memo to the ACLU: as is well known to Fox News viewers and Glenn Beck fans, only "terrorists" speak Arabic; ipso facto, George is a terrorist. How else explain his dubious interest in learning a language spoken by none other than Osama bin Laden himself!

But wait, there's more!

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported February 15 that the four-year-old disabled son of a Camden, NJ police officer "wasn't allowed to pass through airport security" until he took his leg braces off!

Inquirer columnist Daniel Rubin writes, "Ryan was taking his first flight, to Walt Disney World, for his fourth birthday." Developmentally delayed, the result of his premature birth, the child had just starting walking in March.

After breaking down the stroller, the family passed through the metal detector when, ding! ding! ding! the alarm sounded. That's when the screener told the family: either take off the leg braces or no Disney World for you, suckers.

Understandably, the family was "dumbfounded" by TSA's insensitive behavior. Ryan's father, Bob Thomas said, "I told them he can't walk without them on his own."

"He [the screener] said, 'He'll need to take them off'."

Reluctantly, they complied and the family passed through, in single file. Mercifully, the child made it without falling.

Quite naturally, the parents were "furious."

Rubin reports that after demanding to see a supervisor, one of TSA's "finest" asked the couple "what was wrong."

"I told him, 'This is overkill. He's 4 years old. I don't think he's a terrorist.'"

The supervisor told Bob Thomas and his wife, Leona, "You know why we're doing this."

(Yes, we know all-too-well why you're "doing this.")

Keeping Us "Safe"

Why does TSA need nearly a half billion dollars in taxpayer-funded largesse? Because "passenger screening is critical to detecting and preventing individual carrying dangerous or deadly objects from boarding planes," grammar-challenged DHS securocrats inform us.

Right, it keeps us safe!

Wait a minute, didn't Heimat Secretary Janet Napolitano tell CNN reporter Candy Crowley on the Sunday chat show "State on the Union" December 27 that "the system worked," after a real terrorist, not a college kid or four-year-old, nearly brought down an airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear?

Perhaps what Ms. Napolitano meant to say is that the system would have worked if TSA's "Intelligence Community" partners over at the NCTC and CIA hadn't allowed Abdulmutallab, a watch listed individual, to board Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

After all, as NCTC's Director Michael E. Leiter testified January 20 before the Senate Homeland Security Committee they wanted him "here in the country for some reason or another."

Wouldn't it be reasonable then, to conclude that handing out even more boodle to corporate grifters won't keep us any safer.

Heavens no!

On New Year's eve, former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff penned a Washington Post op-ed that argued "whole-body imagers" should be deployed world-wide.

Countering critics who charge that said scanners are overly-intrusive and will do little or nothing to stop a determined individual from smuggling a liquid bomb onto a plane, Chertoff dismissed naysayers as uninformed Cassandras.

"From the outset" Chertoff declared, "deployment of the machines has been vigorously opposed by some groups." Citing charges by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) that body-scanners amount to a virtual strip-search, Chertoff said such claims are "calculated to alarm the public."

According to the former Bushist official, "it's either pat downs or imaging."

Currently TSA has fielded 40 machines at 19 airports with more on the way. Indeed, the agency handed out a $25 million contract last October to Rapiscan Security Systems for 30 more peep-show devices with funds generously provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

What Chertoff failed to disclose however, is that since leaving the secret state's employ his security consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, "includes a client that manufactures the machines" according to The Washington Post.

Nevertheless, in the wake of the Christmas Day provocation, TSA announced in January "it will order 300 more machines."

While Rapiscan was the only company to qualify for the contract "because it had developed technology that performs the screening using a less-graphic body imaging system," the Post reports that the giant defense and security firm, L-3 Communications, have jogged onto the field and are eager to grab as much as they can.

Not everyone however, is enthralled with Chertoff's shameless strategem to feather his own nest.

Kate Hanni, the founder of FlyersRights.org, which opposes scanner deployment told the Post, "Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive."

Hanni wrote a blog post January 29, citing a 2005 study published by the Canadian Journal of Police & Security Services "that there is not one end-all, be-all way to prevent terrorists from smuggling explosives on board airliners."

"The Rapiscan full-body scanner" is less than adequate when it comes to detecting liquid explosives, Hanni avers.

"In fact" she writes, "though it can depict a person's unclothed body with shocking detail (a virtual strip search), it is capable of detecting only objects within one tenth of an inch of the outer skin on a human body. Translation: A terrorist who conceals explosives in a body cavity, crevice, adult diaper, feminine protection, etc., will walk through a full-body scanner completely undetected."

But since "abusing the public trust" amounts to little more than business as usual in Washington, one can be reasonably certain that security grifters will make a killing exploiting America's latest panic: the dreaded "body-scanner gap."

Laughing All the Way to the Bank

To get the skinny on scanners however, one needs to refer to numerous investigative reports published in the press--the British press, that is.

The Independent on Sunday reported January 3, that the "explosive device smuggled in the clothing of the Detroit bomb suspect would not have been detected by body-scanners set to be introduced in British airports, an expert on the technology warned last night."

Indeed, officials at the British Department of Transport and the Home Office "already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation."

Since December's failed attack, TSA has touted the efficacy of deploying "millimeter-wave" whole body scanners that come with a hefty built-in price tag.

One security expert, Conservative MP Ben Wallace told IoS that scientists at the UK defense firm Qinetiq, a powerhouse in the "homeland security" market in Britain and the U.S., demonstrated that "the millimetre-wave scanners picked up shrapnel and heavy wax and metal, but plastic, chemicals and liquids were missed."

"If a material is low density, such as powder, liquid or thin plastic--as well as the passenger's clothing--the millimetre waves pass through and the object is not shown on screen," journalist Jane Merrick informs us.

Wallace added, "X-ray scanners were also unlikely to have detected the Christmas Day bomb."

Why then would TSA be so keen on such an enormous cash outlay for a technology with a less than sterling track record?

The Guardian reported January 18 that since the aborted attack, "investors have been quick to spot a rapid profit."

Guardian correspondent Andrew Clark tells us that Michael Chertoff's client, Rapiscan, "has seen its shares in its parent company, OSI Systems, leap by 27% since Christmas. American Science and Engineering, is up by 16% and has deployed its chief executive to have his own body scanned on live television."

The Financial Times reported January 4, that Rapiscan's "executive vice-president for global government affairs, said interest in the company's full-body scanners, which are approved for use in the US, had been 'extreme'."

"We are spending a tremendous amount of time right now answering questions about production capacity, delivery capabilities and basically mapping out positioning in airports," the executive told the Financial Times.

You bet they are!

Business analysts said that "installing scanners within the US could cost $300m--paid for, in part, by economic stimulus money."

And, as American security officials strong-arm other nations into scanning passengers on U.S.-bound flights "the outlay could double internationally," The Guardian averred.

Los Angeles-based Imperial Capital analyst Michael Kim told The Guardian, "We estimate that there are approximately 2,000 security lanes at US airports, each of which would require a body scanning machine if that's the route the TSA chooses to take. Our information is that the cost of each scanner is around $150,000."

But Rapiscan isn't the only game in town and will soon be facing stiff competition from security giant L-3 Communications.

Clocking-in at No. 8 on Washington Technology's "Top 100" list of prime federal contractors with some $4,236,653,555 in revenues, L-3 has entered the heimat market in a big way.

Heavily-leveraged in defense and security, major customers include the Defense Department, with contracts from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. While the firm's business lines include C3ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), L-3 provides extensive IT support to NSA on its illegal domestic surveillance and data mining programs.

L-3's move has already proved to be a boon to shareholders. The Guardian reported that TSA has ordered "$165m-worth of scanners, using both millimetre and X-ray technology" from the firm.

While L-3 will reap a windfall from the American people, Government Accountability Office investigators reported in 2008 that the firm has 15 foreign subsidiaries in C3ISR powerhouses such as Barbados (1), Bermuda (1), Cayman Islands (1), Costa Rica (1), Hong Kong (1), Ireland (1), Singapore (5) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (3).

As Antifascist Calling revealed February 14, moving operations offshore helped defense contractors reduce taxes owed to federal and state governments by avoiding Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance payroll taxes for American workers hired by the foreign subsidiaries.

Another statistic the firm is probably not too keen on publicizing is their prominent place on the Project on Government Oversight's (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database that tracks government contracts to firms "with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations."

Listed at No. 7, POGO reports that L-3 has been fined some $43.2M for the "Misappropriation of Proprietary P-3 Aircraft Data; Fraudulent Overbilling on IT Support Services Contracts; False Claims (Iraq Reconstruction); Bribery (Baghdad, Iraq); Court Martial of a Civilian Contractor" and for the "Overbilling on Helicopter Maintenance Contracts in Iraq."

Not that any of this matters to our corrupt representatives in Congress.

During the 2008 election cycle, L-3's Political Action Committee handed-out some $603,839 to compliant officials in Washington, according to the Center for Responsive Politic's OpenSecrets.org data base.

Democrats received the lion's share of the boodle, bagging 64%, while Republicans nabbed only 34% of the firm's congressional investments. Unsurprisingly, Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, scored $10,000 from the L-3 PAC.

In 2010, the campaign finance watchdogs report that the L-3 PAC is headed for a new record with $441,456 already on hand as of January 31, with 66% going to "change" Democrats and 33% to "conservative" Republicans.

All in all, L-3 is a perfect partner for DHS securocrats and congressional regulators, with House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), pulling down $10,000 from L-3 to "keep us safe," according to OpenSecrets.

No matter; billions in federal dollars are at stake for our corporatist masters. As is readily observable every day--from the bank bailout to the ongoing home foreclosure crisis, and from endless wars of aggression to massive domestic spying--the business of government, first, last and always, is business and the American people be damned.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

As Defense Budget Soars, Security Firms Reap Huge Profits, Go Offshore to Avoid Taxes

The Obama administration is seeking to increase the obscenely bloated U.S. Defense Department budget to a whopping $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, 3.4% above 2010's record level, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While the overall budget deficit will balloon to a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2011, the result of massive tax cuts for the rich, declining revenues, a by-product of capitalism's economic meltdown, imperial adventures abroad and general corporate malfeasance (the old tax-dodge grift), the administration plans to cut $250 billion over three years from non-military "discretionary spending" on domestic social programs.

However, as the World Socialist Web Site points out: "President Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse decades of wage stagnation, mounting poverty, and attacks on the social welfare system. On the contrary, following George W. Bush, he has seized on the crisis to redistribute wealth to a tiny financial elite through the ongoing bailout of the finance industry."

It is no small irony that despite stark budget figures and an even bleaker future for the American working class, Washington Technology reported January 28 that the "29 largest publicly traded defense contractors increased their use of offshore subsidiaries by 26 percent from 2003 to 2008."

Citing reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), journalist Alice Lipowicz disclosed that the "subsidiaries helped the contractors reduce taxes, in part by avoiding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for U.S. workers hired at the foreign subsidiaries."

Considering that the Pentagon hands out some $396 billion annually to contractors, outsourcing everything from "in theatre" construction in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to pricey "intelligence analysts" at secret state agencies, cash not spent on payroll taxes by dodgy firms slices another hole into the already-shredded social safety net.

Amongst the largest firms cited in GAO's 2008 report, updated in January 2010, Oracle Corp., operates in 77 tax havens; Boeing Co., 38; Dell Inc., 29; BearingPoint Inc., 28; Computer Sciences Corp., 21; Fluor Corp., 34; General Dynamics, 5; Harris Corp., 13; Hewlett-Packard, 14; Honeywell International, 7; ITT Corp., 18; L-3 Communications, 15; Sprint Nextel, 7.

Many of the firms are heavily-leveraged in the lucrative "homeland security" market and provide technology and "cleared" intelligence analysts, many of whom jumped ship from government service for richer, if more dubious employment, to a host of secret state agencies including the CIA, DIA, NSA as well as ultra-secretive outfits engaged in global satellite surveillance such as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

You would think these firms, flush with record profits since the U.S. embarked on its "War on Terror" in 2001, would do something as pedestrian as paying their fair share of taxes or providing benefits to workers, given severe budgetary pressures on domestic programs, dizzying housing foreclosure rates and skyrocketing unemployment.

You'd be wrong, however; dead wrong.

An "Island Paradise" Where Profits Go to Hide

Despite fabulous riches showered on shareholders by taxpayers, the Military-Industrial-Security-Complex will not rest until every dime has been squeezed from the American people, swelling corporate abdomens well-past the bursting point.

In cinematic terms, think of America's ruling elite as a horde of sociopathic zombies gobbling everything in sight. Instead of screaming "Brains!" as in Sam Raimi's cult classic, The Evil Dead, corporate zombies cry "Cash! I Need Cash!" as they take down entire nations in one rapacious bite!

A new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in January found, "Many of the top 29 U.S. publicly traded defense contractors--those with $1 billion or more in DOD contracts in fiscal year 2008--have created offshore subsidiaries to facilitate global operations. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2008, they increased their use of these subsidiaries by 26 percent, maintaining at least 1,194 in 2008."

GAO auditors revealed that corporate subsidiaries in tax havens such as the Bahamas, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Bahrain, Netherlands Antilles, Jersey, Bermuda, the Channel Islands, Luxembourg, Macao, Lebanon, Liechtenstein and Cyprus "helped the 29 contractors reduce taxes, with about one-third decreasing their effective U.S. corporate tax rates in 2008 in part through the use of foreign affiliates, lower foreign tax rates, and indefinite reinvestment of foreign income outside of the United States."

A convenient shell game since the "indefinite reinvestment of foreign income" isn't taxable until its been repatriated to the United States. What do you think the chances are of that happening any time soon?

As an added incentive that helped firms hit the old corporate "sweet spot," the congressional watchdogs found that "companies principally used offshore subsidiaries to hire U.S. workers providing services overseas on U.S. government contracts in order to avoid Social Security, Medicare--known as Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)--and other payroll taxes. This practice allowed contractors to offer lower bids when competing for certain services and thereby reduce costs for DOD."

Not that workers derived any benefit from this "special" arrangement; in fact, the use of off-shore tax havens by defense grifters had dire consequences when workers lost their jobs.

"In one state," GAO auditors revealed, "we reviewed documentation for about 140 former employees of several contractors who were denied unemployment benefits in 2009. State workforce officials indicated these benefits were denied because the employees worked for a foreign subsidiary and not an American employer."

Interestingly enough, many of the global hidey-holes used to shield corporate wealth from the IRS have long been identified by law enforcement investigators and political researchers as prime money-laundering venues for the international drugs trade.

This is hardly surprising. Considering the close proximity of U.S. covert operations, illicit arms- and drug trafficking, and general subversive activities carried out by the CIA and other members of the "Intelligence Community," what better way for defense firms to keep it "all in the family" so to speak, then to stash war-derived loot in discrete locations.

As researcher Alan Block described the metastatic growth of the tax-haven phenomenon in his groundbreaking work, Masters of Paradise: Organized Crime and the Internal Revenue Service in the Bahamas, "professional criminals were those who took it upon themselves to organize crime. Their true work was the process of organizing crime itself."

Block's description is all the more appropriate considering that it is the American militarist state that "took it upon themselves" to organize corporate looting on a planetary scale. After all, resource wars, military interventions or the standing-up of death squad states through CIA fomented coups, directly benefit imperialism's real, indeed only, constituents: U.S. multinational corporations.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

A futile exercise perhaps, given that our corrupt representatives in Congress, "change" Democrats and troglodytic Republicans alike, will do nothing to close tax loop-holes big enough to sail an aircraft carrier through.

And why would they, since the largest contributors flooding congressional campaign coffers with cold, hard cash are the same firms that reap the benefits of corporate-friendly tax codes, as the Center for Responsive Politics points out.

Just for kicks, let's take a look at some of the worst malefactors, firms whose stated mission is to "protect" heimat citizens while inflating the bottom line through the creative use of foreign subsidiaries.

Aside from "taking advantage of foreign government markets for commercial work," the GAO reports, "a key benefit of using offshore subsidiaries cited by contractors and other experts we spoke with was the ability to reduce overall taxes."

Indeed, "one defense contractor's offshore subsidiary structure decreased its effective U.S. tax rate by approximately 1 percent equaling millions of dollars in tax savings," which of course did nothing to reduce America's swelling deficit or ameliorate crashing social services for millions of workers.

GAO "identified some defense contractors that used subsidiaries registered outside the place of contract performance to support DOD service contracts abroad. These offshore subsidiaries had no staff or business activity where registered."

I don't know about you, but I don't think Netherlands Antilles or the Cayman Islands have ever been major manufacturing hubs producing ballistic missiles, spy satellites, supercomputers or other assorted goodies for the National Security State!

Typically however, GAO discovered that for "one contract task order we reviewed, more than 80 percent of the contractor's staff were employed by its offshore subsidiary."

Tellingly, "while five of the six contractors in our case studies said that reducing FICA tax payments was the primary reason for using offshore subsidiaries," the auditors concluded that "this practice also allowed the contractors to reduce costs by avoiding state and federal unemployment insurance taxes for U.S. personnel working overseas."

"For U.S. citizens performing certain work outside the United States," we're informed that "federal law requires only American employers to pay unemployment taxes; foreign subsidiaries are not defined as American employers under the law."

Therefore if a worker is "let go," the enterprising grifter is off the hook for unemployment payments. Pretty neat trick, eh!

Flying the Friendly Skies ... With the CIA!

What do these studies tell us? It pays to have friends in high places! Let's take a peek at just two of the 29 firms profiled in GAO's 2010 report as well as their earlier 2008 investigation.

The Boeing Company (Boeing): Washington Technology lists Boeing as No. 2 on their Top 100 list of federal contractors with $10,838,231,984 in overall revenue.

Primary government contracts include projects for NASA, the Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. One subsidiary, and contract, which the giant firm isn't too keen on publicizing is Jeppesen International Trip Planning, the booking agent for CIA torture flights.

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, the firm is being sued by victims of the Bush administration's illegal practice of "rendering" (kidnapping) so-called "terrorists" into the hands of torture-friendly regimes or to CIA "black sites" in Europe and the Middle East.

The ACLU's landmark litigation on behalf of the victims, Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. seeks to hold the Boeing subsidiary accountable for planning and providing logistical support for CIA "ghost flights." The Obama administration, like their Bushist predecessors oppose the suit on grounds that "vital state secrets" will be disclosed.

On February 10, the British High Court ordered Britain's secret state to release documents disclosing MI5's collaboration in Binyam Mohamed's torture. Mohamed is a litigant in the ACLU's suit against Jeppesen.

The Guardian reported that "MI5 faced an unprecedented and damaging crisis tonight after one of the country's most senior judges found that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a 'culture of suppression' that undermined government assurances about its conduct."

In response to the release of previously classified documents by the British government, as promised, the U.S. Government has threatened that the disclosure "would cloud future intelligence relations with Britain," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile back in the heimat, Boeing and Jeppesen's corporate officers continue to hold get-out-of-jail-free cards from the Obama administration.

As investigative journalist Jane Mayer revealed in The New Yorker back in 2006, Bob Overby, the managing director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning, said during a breakfast for new hires in San Jose, Calif., "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights--you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way."

Technical writer Sean Belcher blew the whistle on the firm and told Mayer that Overby, extemporaneously extolling the virtues for the corporatist bottom line, said: "It certainly pays well. They"--the CIA--"spare no expense. They have absolutely no worry about cost. What they have to get done, they get done."

But facilitating CIA torture flights wasn't the only, or even the most lucrative, enterprise driving Boeing's close collaboration with the National Security State.

Little known outside the security industry, Boeing's Defense, Space and Security division (DSS, formerly Integrated Defense Systems or IDS) is the firm's intelligence unit.

With some 71,000 employees, most holding top secret clearances, DSS is probably the most profitable of the firm's divisions with some $32 billion in revenues, about half of Boeing's annual earnings.

According to investigative journalist and security analyst Tim Shorrock, writing on CorpWatch's Spies for Hire collaborative research web site, DSS "has close ties with the NSA and the intelligence community's signals intelligence units. It has an important office about a mile from the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, in an industrial park filled with NSA contractors."

And within DSS, its most important intelligence unit is the Advanced Global Services & Support division.

According to Boeing, Advanced Global Services & Support "is the advanced arm of the Global Services & Support business unit ... responsible for driving the development, growth and transition of innovative, knowledge-based logistics capabilities for Global Services & Support. With a central focus on the emerging network-centric logistics marketplace, Advanced Global Services & Support is working on deploying integrated solutions for end-to-end (factory-to-foxhole) logistics. Its focus--'readiness transformation'."

The unit provides "horizontal integration" for "Intelligence Community customers" such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).

"In December 2007" Shorrock writes, "Boeing formed a new Intelligence and Security Systems (I&SS) division that appears to combine many of the company's services for foreign and domestic intelligence. Based in Washington, D.C., I&SS has a workforce of about 2,000 people at nine locations nationwide, and includes four program areas: Advanced Information Systems; Mission Systems; Security Solutions, which includes SBInet (the electronic wall being built on the US-Mexico border); and Advanced I&SS. According to a company press release, the new division 'enables increased focus on the complex challenges faced by our homeland security and intelligence community customers. ...I&SS will improve our ability to bring comprehensive, net-enabled capabilities to meet our customers' dynamic requirements'."

Much the same can be said of Boeing's imaginative use of tax-havens. According to GAO's 2008 study, Boeing maintained 38 foreign subsidiaries in major airline manufacturing hubs such as Bermuda (6); Cayman Islands (1); Gibraltar (2); Hong Kong (4); Ireland (4) Netherlands Antilles (2); Singapore (3); and U.S. Virgin Islands (16).

Spying for Dollars

Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC): One of the largest defense contractors operating under the radar, CSC is No. 9 on Washington Technology's Top 100 list of prime federal contractors with some $3,435,767,906 in revenue.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based outfit's business includes consulting, systems integration and outsourcing, and their major customers include the Defense Department, NASA, Navy, Army, Air Force, Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Department and Department of State.

In his essential book Spies for Hire, Shorrock has described CSC as "one of the NSA's most important contractors," managing "global information networks and produces and disseminates intelligence products, including specialized expertise in the area of imagery processing and archiving."

"After 9/11" Shorrock writes, "CSC formed a new business unit to go after homeland security and intelligence work," including contracts with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Shorrock reveals that one of the "mission critical" consortiums that run DIA global operations "is managed by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). ... The CSC team includes CACI International and L-3 MPRI. This last company is one of the largest private armies in the world, and would have at its disposal hundreds of paramilitary officers who would fit in exceedingly well with the DIA's secret intelligence teams in the Middle East and North Africa."

According to the firm's web site, CSC's Intelligence Analysis and Operational Support division "applies advanced information technology, expert knowledge, best practices, and business process improvement in all phases of the intelligence cycle (planning and direction, collection, processing, analysis and production, and dissemination)."

"At the enterprise level," CSC informs us, "our prowess in systems integration, engineering, and consulting help create IT infrastructures and ways of doing business that put the right tools in the right hands at the right time, so that intelligence staffs and decision makers can get on with the business of protecting the country."

With no end in sight, the data-mining growth curve continues along its merry way, integrating and analyzing the electronic communications of Americans "captured" by CIA, DIA, FBI, NCTC and NSA data miners and their partners in the telecommunications industry.

Accordingly, CSC "develops and integrates automated tools for unique requirements of specialized intelligence analysts." Tools that enable secret state agencies to "Capture and mine information from multiple sources in multiple languages; Collaborate in real time with fellow analysts; Create models in which to store working data and test hypotheses; Discover insider threats by tracking network behavior; Automatically analyze and visualize complex data using intelligent software agents."

As with hundreds of other firms who trade top secret security clearances as if they were trading cards, CSC provides "experienced, cleared intelligence professionals who perform intelligence analysis, database construction and population, editorial support and quality assurance, production and collection management, analytic tradecraft training, on-the-ground acquisition of unique data sets, and foreign language support."

Conveniently, CSC has some 1,200 employees who they rent to the secret state at a premium price "who meet DCID 6/4 eligibility requirements and have access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special Access Programs (SAPs)," i.e., Pentagon, CIA and NSA "black programs" only known by code words that escape congressional scrutiny, or indeed any democratic oversight.

The firm's "Information Refinery" is touted as an "innovative approach to open source intelligence that captures multilingual information from the Internet and other publicly available sources, then mines, refines and translates it for use by government intelligence analysts and decision makers."

Translation: CSC, on behalf of secret state "stakeholders" surveil web pages, blog posts and other electronic communications and "assist" spooks in transforming data, including First Amendment-protected free speech into grist for the "actionable intelligence" mill.

One would think a red-blooded, patriotic American firm like CSC would do their all for "God and Country," and pay their fair share of taxes, considering the billions of dollars in contracts the firm has speared from the government. Think again, chumps!

GAO reports that CSC has 21 subsidiaries "in jurisdictions listed as tax havens" by the federal government. Some of the firm's global operations are located in tech manufacturing powerhouses such as Bermuda (1); British Virgin Islands (4); Costa Rica (1); Hong Kong (5); Ireland (2); Luxembourg (2); Macao (1); Singapore (4); Switzerland (1).

Despite the fact that "DOD officials were aware of the roles offshore subsidiaries played in the DOD contracts we reviewed," GAO investigators found that "contracting officials stated that the use of offshore subsidiaries did not negatively impact contract schedule or performance."

After all, $708 billion does a lot of talking!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Flight 253: Intelligence Agencies Nixed State Department Move to Revoke Bomber's Visa

Rightist demagogues, as they are wont to do, prattle-on how they, and they alone, can "keep America safe"--by shredding the Constitution.

Waging a decades-long psychological war against the American people, corporatist thugs embedded within the National Security State assure us that secrecy, deceit and imperial adventures that steal other peoples' resources are the one true path to national prosperity and universal happiness.

But what happens when those charged with protecting us from attack, actually aid and abet those who would kill us, and then handsomely profit from our slaughter in the process?

During a January 27 hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Under Secretary of State for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy, testified that the visa of accused bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, wasn't revoked at the specific request of secret state agencies.

Kennedy, a Bushist State Department holdover, was the former Director on National Intelligence for Management and headed the transition team that set up the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2005 under former Ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, a veteran of U.S. covert operations since the Vietnam war.

Given the avalanche of media interest, fueled by Fox News and the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, whether or not the suspect should have been read his Miranda rights, the only coverage of the hearings that reported Kennedy's explosive testimony, was a brief article in the Detroit News.

Claiming that "revocation action would've disclosed what they were doing," Kennedy said that allowing the alleged terrorist to keep his visa would have "helped" federal investigators take down the entire network "rather than simply knocking out one solider in that effort."

A "soldier" (indicted criminal) who would have murdered 300 air passengers if the detonator concealed in his underpants hadn't serendipitously failed to explode the device.

As Alex Lantier wrote February 3 on the World Socialist Web Site, the latest in a series of significant revelations "has been buried by the media." The socialist critic avers: "As of this writing, nearly a week after the hearing, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have published no articles on the subject. Nor have the broadcast or cable media reported on it."

Lantier charges that "despite--or perhaps more accurately, because of--the fact that this information exposes the official government story of the near-disaster to be a lie" the corporate media is fully complicit in the cover-up.

Weeks after the incident, it is now clear that intelligence agencies did far more than simply "watch" a potential terrorist. That they gave Abdulmutallab a leg up, bypassing airline security systems put in place after 9/11 that would have prevented him from boarding that plane, is also crystal clear.

The question is: was a reckless calculation made that gambled the lives of 300 air passengers for ruthless political purposes? If so, was it designed to destabilize the Obama government, thereby binding it ever-closer to a permanent, unelected, security apparatus that feathers its nest by serving the only constituency that matters--giant energy firms, defense-related corporations and those who finance them?

Is this scenario being played out in Washington where Republican right-wingers like Senators Susan Collins (ME), Tom Coburn (OK), John McCain (AZ), John Ensign (NV) and Lindsey Graham (SC), but also neocon Democrats such as Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), demand that the accused be turned over to the military for "special handling," thereby ratcheting-up pressure for increased domestic repression?

Just as pertinently, is this what White House insider Richard Wolffe meant when he said on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann January 4 that the "president is leaning very much towards thinking this was a systemic failure by individuals who maybe had an alternative agenda." (emphasis added)

For weeks now, the Obama administration and the media have played the same broken record: despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a multitude of security agencies, ranging from the CIA, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a satrapy of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, "failed to connect the dots."

But as I have documented in previous reports, most recently on January 22, citing multiple domestic and foreign intelligence warnings, including a walk-in interview at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, by the suspect's own father, a former top official in the Nigerian government, consular officials and CIA officers passed the warning up the food chain--where it sat.

Abdulmutallab on the CIA and NCTC's Radar

The revelation that various agencies of America's shadow government made a deliberate decision that allowed Abdulmutallab to board Flight 253 is more extensive than previously disclosed.

Newsweek revealed February 2 that "a single intelligence community database operated by the CIA, known by the code name 'Hercules'," held all the "'bits and pieces' of intelligence that White House officials believe could have led U.S. authorities to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before last December 25."

However, even though the agencies had assembled information on the suspect in a single computer system where it was readily accessible to analysts, anonymous "intelligence officials" told journalist Mark Hosenball that "all source" analysts at CIA and NCTC "which both had access to 'Hercules,' were unable to assemble the intelligence scraps in time to prevent Abdulmutallab from boarding his Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underpants."

The unnamed officials told Hosenball that the failure to stop the suspect "validates assertions by White House and congressional investigators that the alleged lapses in the handling of intelligence related to Abdulmutallab did not stem from a failure of sometimes turf-conscious spy agencies to share information with each other."

"Instead," Newsweek reports, "they point to the intelligence analysis carried out by the CIA and NCTC."

As I previously reported, citing a January 18 investigation by The New York Times, the National Security Agency "learned from a communications intercept" that a man named "'Umar Farouk'--the first two names of the jetliner suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab--had volunteered for a coming operation." Additional NSA intercepts in December "mentioned the date of Dec. 25, and suggested that they were 'looking for ways to get somebody out' or 'for ways to move people to the West,' one senior administration official said."

Running for cover, an intelligence official told Newsweek: "The volume of any database doesn't matter much. That, by itself, doesn't get you anywhere." An interesting spin, when one considers the multibillion dollar expansion by NSA, as investigative journalist James Bamford reported last November.

The official continues, "Nor does the mere fact that the NCTC and the CIA have shared access to material. The key is knowing what to look for, how to bring together different bits and scraps of information that--on the surface and in an ocean of data--don't appear to be connected." Conversely, knowing which "bits and scraps" to ignore from a parapolitical perspective, may have played an equally critical role in a presumed analytical "lapse."

"This is hard stuff," the anonymous source pontificates. "It's not a case of punching in a couple of search terms, sitting back, and waiting for enlightenment. Once you know the answer, it seems easy. But in real life, you don't get the answer ahead of time."

Really?

To the contrary, as with the September 11, 2001 hijack team, the Flight 253 affair seems to indicate that the decision to allow Abdulmutallab to board the plane was a political, not a law enforcement decision that led analysts not to "connect" more than a few of the "dots."

As we now know, prior to 9/11, the Pentagon's Able Danger unit had amassed terabytes of data on al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States. According to published reports, the unit had obtained detailed information on ringleader, the drug-addled Mohammed Atta, and other members of the suicide squad. Yet just scant months before the atrocity, the unit was shuttered and the data destroyed.

Corporate media and the 9/11 Commission have advanced two contradictory propositions on Able Danger's demise: the Pentagon unit hadn't gathered intelligence on Atta and claims to contrary were overblown or they illegally obtained information on ordinary Americans and were shut down for inadvertent spying.

However as researcher Paul Thompson revealed in The Terror Timeline, Able Danger had identified Americans, only they were the wrong Americans. According to Thompson, the unit pegged "future National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and other prominent Americans as potential security risks" over their illicit dealings with foreign governments.

How's that for an inconvenient truth!

As with earlier warnings of impending terrorist strikes, political efficacy trumped the safety and security of the American people. This is underscored by January 20 testimony by NCTC Director, Bushist embed Michael E. Leiter, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

CongressDaily revealed that Leiter told the senators, "I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

Journalist Chris Strohm disclosed that intelligence officials "acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities," a fact now confirmed by Patrick F. Kennedy's January 27 testimony before the House Committee.

Similar to the Detroit News report on Kennedy's admission, to date, not a single media outlet picked-up the trail and investigated CongressDaily's chilling disclosure.

Burying the Evidence, "Moving On"

Corporate media are chock-a-block with reports of efforts by right-wing Republicans and some Democrats to brand the Obama administration as "soft on terrorism."

As readers are well aware, Antifascist Calling doesn't carry water for the Obama administration; a government that has rightly been characterized as a slick makeover of the previous regime. However it must be acknowledged, unlike Bushist torture freaks, in Abdulmutallab's case constitutional norms were followed and a criminal suspect lawfully charged for an egregious act.

In "new normal" America however, not disappearing a suspect into a gulag, subject to tender ministrations by "enhanced interrogation" specialists (torturers) is viewed as a bad thing in our debased political culture.

Meanwhile media stenographers scrupulously ignore, with a single-mindedness one has come to expect from totalitarian regimes, considerable evidence that elements of the intelligence-security apparatus could be charged as accessories before and after the fact with Abdulmutallab's alleged offense.

In his prepared statement to the House Committee, Kennedy asserted that "following his father's November 19 visit to the Embassy, we sent a cable to the Washington intelligence and law enforcement community through proper channels (the Visas Viper system) that 'Information at post suggests [that Farouk] may be involved in Yemeni-based extremists.' At the same time, the Consular Section entered Abdulmutallab into the Consular Lookout and Support System database known as CLASS."

When it was discovered that officials in Abuja had misspelled the suspect's name "information about previous visas issued to him and the fact that he currently held a valid U.S. visa was not included in the cable."

Despite the misspelling however, "the CLASS entry resulted in a lookout using the correct spelling that was shared automatically with the primary lookout system used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and accessible to other agencies."

In other words, even though the initial Embassy cable misspelled Abdulmutallab's name, the "lookout" notification sent out to intelligence agencies, specifically DHS, should have warranted further action. And it also appears that initially it did.

As both the Los Angeles Times and CongressDaily reported, Customs and Border Protection agents obtained the suspect's name from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment or TIDE database, maintained by the NCTC and planned to question Abdulmutallab when Flight 253 landed in Detroit on arrival from Amsterdam.

However, as CongressDaily subsequently revealed, CBP agents "had information about alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab three days before his departure" and not during the flight as the Los Angeles Times report initially suggested.

As we now know, information fed to NCTC's database contained specific warnings from the State Department--as did the CIA's "Hercules" system as Newsweek reported, and "that White House officials believe could have led U.S. authorities to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before last December 25," according to the newsmagazine's anonymous sources.

Why did the State Department fail to revoke the accused terrorist's visa?

When questioned by Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Kennedy told the panel, "We will revoke the visa of any individual who is a threat to the United States, but we do take one preliminary step."

Kennedy explained, "We ask our law enforcement and intelligence community partners, 'Do you have eyes on this person and do you want us to let this person proceed under your surveillance so that you may potentially break a larger plot?'"

The Undersecretary added: "And one of the members [of the intelligence community]--and we'd be glad to give you that [information] ... in private [closed session]--said, 'Please, do not revoke this visa. We have eyes on this person. We are following this person who has the visa for the purpose of trying to roll up an entire network, not just stop one person.'"

In other words, despite multiple sourced reports from American and overseas security agencies that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was planning to launch an attack, probably on Christmas Day, deploying an asset identified by NSA intercepts as a "Nigerian" named "Umar Farouk," high-level intelligence officials, claiming to have "eyes" on the alleged AQAP operative, a suspected suicide bomber to boot, allowed him to board an airliner packed with nearly 300 passengers and crew.

In a prepared statement to the Committee, NCTC Director Leiter said, "Let's start with this clear assertion: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should not have stepped on that plane. The counterterrorism system failed and we told the President we are determined to do better."

However, neither House Committee members, nor the corporate media which suppressed the story entirely, challenged Leiter's statement of a week earlier when he testified before a Senate panel that intelligence agencies allow watch listed terrorists to enter the country "because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

If Leiter's testimony was taken under oath, he should be brought up on charges of perjury since he next asserted that "Intelligence Community analysts who were working hard on immediate threats to Americans in Yemen did not understand the fragments of intelligence on what turned out later to be Mr. Abdulmutallab, so they did not push him onto the terrorist watchlist."

This claim, as with practically all the "facts" released to the American people by the White House, Congress or by the secret state agencies themselves, is a rank mendacity.

As Newsweek's unnamed sources claim, CIA and NCTC analysts did have access to an "intelligence community database," "Hercules," and that it held all the available data on Abdulmutallab and "validates assertions by the White House and congressional investigators" that the failure to stop the bomber were not due to bungled efforts "to connect the dots."

As I reported last month, during a December 22 meeting at the White House, President Obama was briefed by top officials from the CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security "who ticked off a list of possible plots against the United States and how their agencies were working to disrupt them," as The New York Times disclosed January 18.

Last month, Newsweek reported that "intelligence analysts had 'highlighted' an evolving 'strategic threat'," and that "'some of the improvised explosive device tactics AQAP might use against U.S. interests were highlighted' in other 'finished intelligence products'."

"Finished intelligence products" on an evolving plot to destroy an airliner are hardly "fragments," as Leiter deceitfully testified to the House Committee. Cheekily, NCTC's head honcho falsely claimed that his agency, the recipient of billions of dollars in taxpayer largesse, "did not correlate the specific information that would have been required to help keep Abdulmutallab off that Northwest Airlines flight."

Citing the need to "improve" intelligence capabilities by accelerating "information technology enhancements, to include knowledge discovery, database integration, cross-database searches, and the ability to correlate biographic information with terrorism-related intelligence," Leiter implies that billions more in handouts to security contractors are needed to "solve" the problem.

This from the Director of an agency that under his watch wasted more than $500 million on its flawed Railhead project to "upgrade" the TIDE database, an initiative "crippled by technical failures and contractor mismanagement," as the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and congressional investigators revealed back in 2008.

Contractor hanky-panky aside, the problem is not one of technical "upgrades" to an agency that seems more concerned with facilitating the entrance of terrorists into the country "for some reason or another" than stopping them.

Rather, it is imperative that the American people demand that Congress and the Executive Branch, which in theory, controls the gaggle of alphabet-soup satrapies in cahoots with the most rotten and predatory sectors of the U.S. ruling class, clean house and bring to book, the rightist elements aligned with the petroleum-intelligence nexus who continue to deploy terror gangs such as al-Qaeda as strategic assets.

That they do so regardless of the cost, to the American people and to the victims of illegal U.S. wars and occupations, is a sign that the system, verging on bankruptcy will soon veer even further out of any effective democratic control.

How else can one interpret Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair's chilling assertion to the Senate Committee on Intelligence that he was "highly certain" that al-Qaeda "or one of its affiliates" will attempt a large-scale attack on American soil within the next six months," as The New York Times reported.

"We judge that al Qaeda maintains its intent to attack the homeland, preferably with a large-scale operation that would cause mass casualties, harm the U.S. economy or both," Blair wrote in his annual threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

As investigative journalist Russ Baker wrote in his essential book, Family of Secrets, "Authoritarianism thrives in a climate of fear, and the [Bush] administration invoked fear continually. But when it came to security, there was the usual exemption for large corporate entities [and] the tattoo of terror was relentless, especially during the political high season."

Not much has changed since Barack Obama became president. Many of the same dodgy players who ramped-up production lines at the fear factory for the Bush/Cheney team are still in place, doing what they do best: hitting the corporate "sweet spot" for their clients in the Military-Industrial-Security-Complex.

In the weeks since the attempted destruction of Flight 253, one thing is certain: the White House, Congress, the intelligence agencies and their handmaidens, the corporate media, are participating in a massive cover-up.

And as we enter the "political high season," what might come next is anyone's guess.