Confessions of a Drone Tech
Armed drones targeted 121,000 people with technology this woman helped work on. She wants you to hear what happened next.
Posted by AJ+ on Mittwoch, 26. April 2017
Armed drones targeted 121,000 people with technology this woman helped work on. She wants you to hear what happened next.
Exclusive: A founding Russia-gate myth is that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hacked into and distributed Democratic emails, a falsehood that The New York Times has belatedly retracted, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry, June 29, 2017 on Consortiumnews.com
The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards – that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails – is false.
New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)
On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.
In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”
However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”
The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.
The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.
Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.
Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.
Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.
In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this selective approach has worked, such as the phony determination of the Reagan administration pinning the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.
Hillary Clinton at the Code 2017 conference on May 31, 2017.
CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.
The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.
Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed State Department and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.
Since Clapper’s and Brennan’s testimony in May, the Times and other mainstream news outlets have avoided a direct contradiction of their earlier acceptance of the 17-intelligence-agencies canard by simply referring to a judgment by “the intelligence community.”
That finessing of their earlier errors has allowed Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats to continue referencing this fictional consensus without challenge, at least in the mainstream media.
For instance, on May 31 at a technology conference in California, Clinton referred to the Jan. 6 report, asserting that “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.”
The failure of the major news organizations to clarify this point about the 17 agencies may have contributed to Haberman’s mistake on June 25 as she simply repeated the groupthink that nearly all the Important People in Washington just knew to be true.
But the Times’ belated correction also underscores the growing sense that the U.S. mainstream media has joined in a political vendetta against Trump and has cast aside professional standards to the point of repeating false claims designed to denigrate him.
That, in turn, plays into Trump’s Twitter complaints that he and his administration are the targets of a “witch hunt” led by the “fake news” media, a grievance that appears to be energizing his supporters and could discredit whatever ongoing investigations eventually conclude.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
(By Paul R. Pillar and Greg Thielmann, June 27, 2017 on Defense One)
Will Trump follow the Bush playbook and start a war with Iran?
The ingredients are in place for the United States to repeat a scenario that has cost us dearly in the past: the misuse of intelligence to muster public support for an unwise war. Fifteen years ago, Bush administration officials led the nation to invade Iraq based on their own political agenda more than facts. This time the adversary would be Iran, the target of unrelenting hostility from the Trump administration.
Donald Trump’s presidency has quickly become one of the most deeply troubled and unpopular ones in American history. Although Trump led voters to believe during the campaign that he did not want a new Middle East war, foreign wars have long been a favorite way of diverting attention from domestic troubles and reviving popular support. The administration has refused to build constructively on the Iran deal in addressing other regional problems. It’s an agreement Trump says he reviles even though it significantly restricts Iran’s nuclear program. Trump officials only grudgingly have admitted that Iran is complying with that accord. More recently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is speaking openly of regime change as a U.S. objective in Iran, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis long has spoken of Iran as if it were the root of all problems in the Middle East.
The enormous blunder of invading Iraq in 2003 offers valuable lessons of how intelligence is apt to be misused in such a situation. The promoters of that war portrayed their action as based on intelligence, but it was not. Iraq had been on the neoconservative hit list for years. President George W. Bush issued orders to prepare to invade Iraq, and Vice President Dick Cheney was publicly declaring that there was “no doubt” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of destruction before the intelligence community had even begun work on what would become an infamous intelligence estimate about Iraqi weapons programs. As then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz later admitted, the weapons topic was not a prime mover of the war but merely was, for bureaucratic reasons, “the one issue that everyone could agree on.”
On the other big issue that the Bush administration used in its pro-war campaign—a supposed alliance between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda—the campaign contradicted intelligence community judgments. The administration ignored altogether what turned out to be the most important intelligence judgments about Iraq, which concerned the likely communal strife and security mess that would ensue after Saddam was ousted. It ignored as well the accumulating evidence from U.N. inspectors after their return to Iraq that the October 2002 intelligence estimate’s conclusions about WMD program reconstitution were wrong.
“Those wishing to pick a fight with Iran have no shortage of material from which to cherry-pick intelligence.”
The determination of policymakers to follow a specific course of action can subtly influence the judgments of intelligence officers who know what their customers strongly want to hear. More conspicuous is the public use by policymakers of bits of intelligence to lend authority to their case, even if a more objective and systematic use of the intelligence would not support the case. The Bush White House insisted on including in a presidential address a juicy tidbit about supposed Iraqi purchases of uranium, despite being warned by intelligence agencies not to use that report because its validity was questionable.
Most important is the unwarranted framing of a policy issue as if it were an intelligence issue. The presumed existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was falsely treated as if it constituted a case for an offensive war, even though—as the Iranian nuclear agreement demonstrates—warfare was hardly the only possible or effective policy response to such a challenge.
Those wishing to pick a fight with Iran have no shortage of material from which to cherry-pick intelligence. The intelligence reporting so highlighted might refer, for example, to Iranian material support to militias or clandestine attempts to gain influence in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere. But such cherry-picking ignores important context – including Iran’s limited military capabilities relative to those of its neighbors . While Iran has a large ballistic missile program, it does not have nuclear warheads, as two of its regional neighbors do, or long-range missiles as do three other states in the region. Iran also has no modern air force, like those of its potential enemies.
When Bush was urging a doubtful Secretary of State Colin Powell to help make a public case for invading Iraq, the president said, “Are you with me on this? Time to put your uniform on.” But nobody outdoes Trump in demanding loyalty. The intelligence community is not immune to such pressure. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reportedly spends more time in the White House compound than at his community office. He and the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, already have defended Trump before Congress by deflecting questions in open session about the president’s demands regarding the investigation of Russian influence in U.S. elections.
Trump already has admitted to cherry-picking information to justify a national security decision he already had made. He used a memorandum from the deputy attorney general about Jim Comey’s handling of one case as justification for firing the FBI director. Trump later acknowledged he had already decided to fire Comey because of another case: the Russia investigation.
If a similar technique were used to rationalize publicly a war against Iran, the intelligence community could do little to stop such misuse, let alone to stop the war, no matter how well it did its job. That job would be to provide policymakers the best possible information and analysis about what Iran is doing. It is outside the bounds of the community’s proper role to favor or to oppose specific policies, and especially to do so publicly. Avoiding a repeat of the Iraq fiasco will depend instead on responsible voices of opposition in Congress and elsewhere.
Paul R. Pillar is former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia.
Greg Thielmann is a member of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association, a former office director in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and a former staffer of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. Read more about the history here.
The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.