The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers (Part 5)

Welcome to Part 5 of my 6-part series, The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers. Last week, we learned who controls the satellites that are controlling our minds and who knows what we really think about our relatives’ significant others.

I’ll be releasing the final (and best!) section (on CIA!) next week. But if you’d like the full essay now, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you the whole thing, for free, with a personal thank you note! Your very own thank you note from a former spy! Written in invisible ink! Just kidding. You’ll be able to read it. But sign up! Now! Go!

And be sure to check my book pageVictor in the Rubble, a satire of the CIA and the War on Terror, will be published April 15. We’ll be hosting all kinds of fun parties and events, including come-in-disguise parties in Washington, DC, NYC, and Denver. Sign up for updates! And check out my indiegogo page for more details.

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Missed Part 2? Read it here.

Missed Part 3? Read it here.

Missed Part 4? Read it here.

 

The Intelligence Community:

Smart People Looking at Computers

(Part 5)

 

Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research

State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research has the acronym INR, which makes you wonder if it’s actually the Bureau of Intelligence ‘n Research. According to its web site, it “harnesses intelligence.” I think that’s a fancy way of saying it analyzes intelligence, but I may be wrong and State’s intelligence is planning to climb a mountain.

INR produces intelligence reports to help diplomats be diplomatic. They provide evidence in a tactful way.

State Department officers are the responsible kids. Whenever NSA or CIA have a massive party and break everything, State cleans up the mess and calms down Mom and Dad when they threaten to throw the little jerks out. They also smooth things out with the neighbor whose house got lit on fire.

Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, Coast Guard Intelligence

These agencies collect and analyze tactical and strategic military intelligence for their respective branches, and as intelligence agencies, they are all under command of the Pentagon, with one exception. The Coast Guard did something to piss off someone in high places because it got sent to live with the evil stepparent better known as DHS. I could dig into reams of amended federal code that explains why and how, but I won’t, because I know DNI has it under control. We are in good hands.

Drug Enforcement Administration

These are the buzz kill guys. They are the reason you are hooked on Oxycodone and not cocaine. You might be really pissed about that if you weren’t so legally high.

They will remind you that the Taliban grow and sell opium to fund their war against us, and that South American drug cartels fly their product to West Africa, where it moves north to Europe, but not before moving through al-Qaeda and Boko Haram territory and everyone deals their deals. As a result, if you do drugs, you are fueling arms shipments and crazy ass terrorists.

I’d be really worried about this if I weren’t taking Xanax.

Department of the Treasury

Do you remember that scene in All the President’s Men when Deep Throat tells Robert Redford to “Follow the money”? That was good advice, and the Department of the Treasury was paying attention. It turns out, if you want to covertly build a nuclear weapon or amass a load of illegal weapons to use in a terrorist attack, you need to buy things. Those nukes don’t just grow on trees. They require cash. They also require willing intermediaries, who sell secrets for cash. Basically, trafficking in any product is a cash industry, and Treasury watches the money and slaps sanctions on people breaking the rules.

Department of Energy

I always imagined the Department of Energy must be full of really energetic and bubbly people. Its Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is entrusted with keeping safe the “brain trust” of DOE’s myriad plants and national laboratories, where, I imagine, lazy rats are just getting fat and happy off the system. DOE also ensures the security of our nation’s energy supply, to make sure our computers stay on and all these IC folks have something to look at.

Up Next: CIA

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The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers (Part 4)

Welcome to Part 4 of my 6-part series, The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers. Last week, we talked about the happy employees at the Department of Homeland Security and how they can’t wait to welcome you home by asking why the fuck you left the country in the first place.

I’ll be releasing a new section of this essay every week. But if you’d like the full essay now, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you the whole thing, for free, with a personal thank you note! Your very own thank you note from a former spy! Written in invisible ink! Just kidding. You’ll be able to read it. But sign up! Now! Go!

And be sure to check my book pageVictor in the Rubble, a satire of the CIA and the War on Terror, will be published in April. We’ll be hosting all kinds of fun parties and events, including come-in-disguise parties in Washington, DC, NYC, and Denver. Sign up for updates! And check out my indiegogo page for more details.

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Missed Part 2? Read it here.

Missed Part 3? Read it here.

 

The Intelligence Community:

Smart People Looking at Computers

(Part 4)

Federal Bureau of Investigation

At an Intelligence Community (IC) meeting, the FBI representative is the one in the corner without a chair and who is happy just to be invited, not realizing he wasn’t invited but his boss caught wind of the meeting by chance at the last second and sent whoever wasn’t out getting coffee.

That’s because the FBI didn’t used to do intelligence. Up until the 2004 IC reorganization, the FBI was a law enforcement agency. In just a few years, it had to adjust from catching bad guys and building a case to put them in jail to watching bad guys just to see what they were up to. It’s a very hard habit to break.

One of the tools FBI put in place to help it gather intelligence is the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF. These centers bring together local, state, and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies so they can share information. If anyone can explain to me how these differ from Fusion Centers, I’m all ears. I’d ask the DNI but I don’t want to hear about those goddamn Imagineers again. Fuck you, Mickey Mouse.

Defense Intelligence Agency

DIA is the CIA for the military. It conducts operations to collect human intelligence related to combat, including the military intentions and capabilities of foreign governments and non-state actors, like Gerard Depardieu, who lost the support of his government years ago.

DIA’s Wikipedia page lists a bunch of people who spied on behalf of DIA but were then found out and executed. I’m not sure if DIA realizes it can go on Wikipedia and edit all that out. It might make it easier to recruit assets, because this is not a track record to instill confidence.

National Security Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and National Reconnaissance Office

NSA, NGA, and NRO are the geeks but we totally respect them because they can do some really cool shit.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, you already know what NSA does. And so does everyone else in the world, including all the targets we really need intelligence on. When Snowden revealed the NSA spies on people, everyone was shocked that a spy agency would spy on people. But wonders never cease.

Depending on your perspective, NSA either listens in on every phone call you make and reads every email you ever sent and knows what you really think about your sister’s new boyfriend, or it has legitimately built certain capabilities that allow it to access sensitive personal information only when deemed appropriate and after a rigorous legal scrub that is not prone to human error or abuse. My guess is the reality is somewhere in between, but that doesn’t spin well in the media, so let’s keep arguing about it. But can we at least agree that, objectively speaking and politics aside, Citizenfour was kind of boring?

NGA are the map and imagery people. They can tell you the make and measurements of an airplane you can’t spot in a photograph even after they point it out to you. The group has moved around on the IC organizational chart and changed names a few times, but NGA are the guys who spotted a nuclear missile in a Rorschach picture, giving us an idea about Soviet psychology and motivation in Cuba back in 1962.

NRO manages a complex system of satellites and overhead sensors that are constantly circling above us and may be shooting our brains with waves for all we know. We don’t mind about that so much, but if a satellite goes nutty and fucks up our cell phone reception, we completely lose it.

NRO was created in 1961, but it was super secret. Pissed off about the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the U.S. realized it should get its shit together in this space race or some Russian dude would write The Right Stuff and then what would happen to Ed Harris’s career? NRO’s web site helpfully informs us that, “The existence of the organization is no longer classified today.” Which I guess is the reason I can read about it on a public NGA web site.

Up Next: State’s INR, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard Intelligence, DEA, Treasury, and Energy

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The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers (Part 3)

Welcome to Part 3 of my 6-part series, The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers. Last week, we learned about the Director of National Intelligence and its role as principal on the playground of intelligence agencies. This week, we look at the Department of Homeland Security and its many chipper employees at the airport.

I’ll be releasing a new section of this IC tour every week. But if you’d like the full essay now, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you the whole thing, for free, with a personal thank you note! Your very own thank you note from a former spy! Written in invisible ink! Just kidding. You’ll be able to read it. But sign up! Now! Go!

And be sure to check my book pageVictor in the Rubble, a satire of the CIA and the War on Terror, will be published in April. We’ll be hosting all kinds of fun parties and events, including come-in-disguise parties in Washington, DC, NYC, and Denver. Sign up for updates! And check out my indiegogo page for more details.

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Missed Part 2? Read it here.

 

The Intelligence Community:

Smart People Looking at Computers

(Part 3)

Department of Homeland Security

DHS is the kid your mom invited to your birthday party even though you and your friends all think he’s a weenie, but your mom is trying to teach you a lesson after you pushed him down the slide last week. You and your friends still call him Mushroom Man behind his back. And sometimes to his face.

This is because DHS took a bunch of agencies that already existed and pulled them, or in some cases part of them, into its fiefdom. This caused a lot of animosity and confusion. Good thing there was a DNI to unconfuse things.

Created by a small-government Republican president, DHS has 240,000 employees and is now the third largest federal agency (after the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs). According to its web site, its duties are “wide-ranging,” which is a nice catch-all phrase that sounds better than, “Um, we couldn’t really define what falls under Homeland Security, so fuck it. Wide-ranging.”

DHS created Fusion Centers, which I imagine must have the sound of monks chanting in the background and eucalyptus aromatherapy candles burning to create a soothing ambience. But in reality, these are places for local, state, and federal officials to exchange information. And because everyone at every level wants to be helpful and prove they have a role to play in protecting the homeland, they create watch lists of anyone who might be a threat, including anti-war activists, pro-life protesters, pro-choice protesters, and Rand Paul supporters. The enemy is everywhere.

Perhaps DHS’s biggest success has been creating fear in order to let people profit from it. Find a way to say you’re protecting someone from terrorists, and the department’s leaders or former leaders will have DHS give you money to buy whatever you want to buy from a company who happens to be their client or on whose board they happen to sit. It has created a wonderful circus act to make it look like a lot is happening to keep us safe but actually ensures a cushy retirement for a select few. Need a teleprompter so your tiny town in Louisiana can meet “the national priority to expand regional collaboration”? Here’s $2,700. Want an armored personnel carrier to patrol your local Easter egg hunt? Take $200,000. Those wily terrorists could strike anywhere, at anytime.

A good example of leveraging fear is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the smiling and helpful people in blue uniforms at airports who make you strip and then take pictures of you to laugh at later (or, as revealed in a Politico piece, to look at while fooling around in the back office). DHS oversees TSA, and in the wake of the Underwear Bomber scare, former DHS head Michael Chertoff publicly pushed for TSA to purchase 300 Rapiscan machines, even though he and many DHS staff knew the machines were not very effective. Did I mention that Rapiscan was a client of Chertoff’s consulting company? I didn’t? Oh, well neither did Chertoff, who proved his ability to coordinate and cooperate on behalf of his and his clients’ bank accounts. I believe that is the efficiency and connecting the dots we were looking for.

DHS also oversees Customs and Border Patrol, the smiling and helpful people who welcome you back into the country by asking why the fuck you left in the first place.

And why are all of DHS’s employees always smiling and helpful and never rude? Because DHS consistently ranks low or dead last on employee morale surveys in the federal government. DHS employees leave their department at twice the rate of other federal agencies. Even DHS employees want to call it Mushroom Man and shove it down the slide.

Up Next: FBI, DIA, NSA, NGA, and NRO

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The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of my 6-part series, The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers. Last week, we learned about “essential” and “non-essential” employees and how secure we must be because we have so many intelligence agencies. This week, we’re discussing the Director of National Intelligence, who is super important (on paper).

I’ll be releasing a new section of this series every week. But if you’d like the full essay now, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you the whole thing, for free, with a personal thank you note! Your very own thank you note from a former spy! Written in invisible ink! Just kidding. You’ll be able to read it. But sign up! Now! Go!

And be sure to check my book page. Victor in the Rubble, a satire of the CIA and the War on Terror, will be published in April. We’ll be hosting all kinds of fun parties and events, including come-in-disguise parties in Washington, DC, NYC, and Denver. Sign up for updates! And check my indiegogo page for more info!

Missed Part 1 of the series? Read it here.

 

The Intelligence Community:

Smart People Looking at Computers

(Part 2)

Director of National Intelligence

A few years ago, people in the Intelligence Community failed to connect the dots. I’m not sure why they were playing connect the dots when they should have been paying attention to intelligence reports about terrorists wanting to kill us, but as the narrative goes, they really struggled to find number 99 and see the picture of the plane.

It’s an unfair narrative, in my opinion, but I will leave that for the historians to decide. In any case, that was the narrative that stuck because it was really expedient. The “intelligence failures” that led to the September 11 attacks and allowed us to invade the wrong country as a response were considered “systemic failures,” which allowed us to place blame everywhere and nowhere at once. When you can blame the system, no one has to feel bad about their individual role. It’s really convenient.

It also means you can fix it. If there’s a weakness in the system, rather than individuals making some awful decisions, people can change the system to ensure it won’t happen again. If something is the fault of individuals and bad decisions, that’s scary because there’s no effective way to counter it. Any system will always have some idiots.

So in 2004, lots of people in Washington set out to fix the intelligence system. They determined that there were too many agencies in the Intelligence Community (IC) that weren’t communicating well with each other. There were just so many agencies, and no one knew the others existed and so there was no communication between them, because when you have too many agencies it’s a lot of work to talk to them all. So people in Washington found the only logical solution: Create another agency. And thus was born the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

The role of the DNI is to coordinate cross-agency cooperation and to cooperate with cross-agency coordination and to de-conflict through cooperation and coordination across all government agencies associated with coordinating all cooperation regarding the national security of the United States. Or something like that. Ask anyone at the DNI and they’ll tell you their mission is “still evolving.” But basically, the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act placed all sixteen agencies that had even the most tangential intelligence role under a new layer of bureaucracy in the name of efficiency and never forgetting and never letting such a systemic failure happen again. Twelve years and at least five new terrorist groups later, I think it’s fair to say: Success!

If the IC were a school, the DNI would be the uncool principal. He has to make sure all the kids play nicely together and to break up turf wars, like when the FBI wants to play basketball and the CIA is like, we were here first, and the FBI is like, this basketball court is in the United States, we own it! And the CIA is like, “Haven’t you seen Homeland? We do all kinds of shit in this country!” And the FBI is like, “In real life Carrie Mathison would never be able to run around chasing terrorists in this country. That’s our job!” And the CIA is like, “Hey, the show has its flaws but it’s a compelling story!” And then the DNI would make them both write an essay about how they could better coordinate in the future.

The DNI, however, has no authority over any of those agencies. He only has authority over his own staff. So if the math teacher (NSA) and history teacher (State Department) start fighting, he can’t fire either of them. The DNI does have authority over some IC centers, though, like the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which in turn has no authority over anyone who actually does counterterrorism. But they can recommend someone do something, and they all have multiple computer monitors, so they must be important.

The building that houses NCTC was created by Disney Imagineers. I’m not making that up. When I toured the place, this fact really excited the people who worked there and they mentioned it over and over again, especially when anyone asked, “What exactly do you do here that isn’t already done elsewhere?” It was a good way to change the subject, like jiggling a shiny object in front of a baby. “How is this not totally redundant?” “Look at our fancy urinals, designed by Disney Imagineers! Piss in it and it turns magically into a happy fountain that plays It’s a Small World!”

As I said, the DNI oversees but has no real authority over sixteen different agencies. They each have their own personality and foibles. Let’s take a look…

Up next: The Department of Homeland Security

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