NSA, CIA Complacency Allowed Snowden Compromise

First, before we burn NSA and CIA bureaucrats at the stake for the risk to future warfighters they might have prevented, we need to remember that it was Snowden, himself, that decided to steal a three-mile-high pile of documents that weren’t his business (and that in most cases, he didn’t even understand), and Snowden, himself, who decided to provide them to anti-American media persons and then, further, to the Russian government.

But he’s under the guardianship of his FSB owners, now. So let’s get those bureaucrats sorted out, and bring us some ever-lovin’ kindling.

The first finding is that investigators blew opportunity after opportunity to, well, investigate.

Snowden was described as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator” who intentionally lied about his past in order to promote himself….

CIA and NSA failed to recognize that Snowden was likely to betray the government’s trust and disclose significant U.S. intelligence capabilities that have been lost or restricted as a result.

NSA security officials failed to conduct a routine check of Snowden’s educational background.

Snowden is a high school dropout and listed a nonexistent school on his security clearance paperwork. They didn’t catch the lie, because they never checked.

Snowden also was granted a “top secret” security clearance … despite an associate warning security investigators he should not be given access to secrets.

He made a false complaint of harrassment. He was relieved of a position overseas for modifying software and insubordination. (The “modifying software” is the reddest of red flags, and anyone with a tech background knows what it means in personnel reliability terms. God alone knows why they didn’t open a CI case on him right then and there). Still, he left CIA, not under investigation, if on poor terms. Yet he…

…then applied for work at NSA and was hired by an NSA contractor in 2009.

What, when the CIA had already flagged him as a dirtbag? Er, no. They dumped him as a dirtbag, but never got around to setting the flag. Yes, that’s ate up.

CIA failed to update a security database with derogatory information about Snowden. As a result, NSA failed to learn of his problems at CIA before hiring him.

Incidentally, he had to take a test. What he did. since he had access to the network at admin level already, was download the answers. Hey, best test results ever. And one more flag to Snowden’s integrity — or complete lack thereof — went unnoticed.

The polyincompetent Office of Personnel Management — you know, the guys who lost everybody’s SF86 data since 1984, which now rests in the hands of more foreign powers than even Snowden’s disclosures, those guys? — then had to investigate him for the NSA gig. That’s when they caught him, right? Wrong. You already know the spoiler, they didn’t catch him. As the story says, with “an investigation later found to have been incomplete.”

How many other Snowdens are out there, having received similar half-assed, pencil-whipped investigations? Quoth the report that inspired the article we’re quoting here:

Among other flaws, the investigation never attempted to verify Snowden’s CIA employment or speak to his CIA supervisors, nor did it attempt to independently verify Snowden’s self-report of a past security violation—areas where further information could have alerted NSA to CIA’s concerns.

And as the article notes:

  • Investigators “failed to check job references”;
  • They only checked his mother and girlfriend. (Yep, they exist! Box checked);
  • His co-workers knew he was not right, “squirrelly”;
  • He “voiced sympathies for China based on meetings with Chinese hackers”
  • He defended Bradley Manning (not surprising, traitors hang together).
  • NSA had no IDS or real-time usage monitoring on NSANet or JWICS.

McDonalds protects the secret ingredients of its “special sauce” better.

His methods were not sophisticated. He used file download tools available to any beginner admin, wget and DownThemAll. There are some details in the article, and the whole who-shot-John is in the report. Redacted report (original is TS/codewords, NOFORN):

hpsci_snowden_review_declassified.pdf

 

 

48 thoughts on “NSA, CIA Complacency Allowed Snowden Compromise

  1. John M.

    Review: “Incidentally, he had to take a test. What he did. since he had access to the network at admin level already, was download the answers.”

    -John M.

  2. John M.

    I don’t get the love affair for Snowden and Assange that some on the anti-Establishment right have. Just because a snake bites my enemy doesn’t mean that I should like snakes, or even like that particular snake.

    And both of those guys strike me as real snakes.

    -John M.

    1. Keith Z.

      We can at least recognize that for the moment their venom is focused on our enamies. I am more concerned that we are now living in a world where the Russian State Media is the one revealing unpleasant truths about our elected officials because our domestic media organs aparently can not or will not do so. Never thought I would see the day where the “truth” became a wepon of the Russians.

      1. Mr. 308

        “because our domestic media organs aparently can not or will not do so”

        It’s way worseer than that. Our media is an active participant, with open comms deep inside both the party and the state and make sure to present their “journalism” “correctly”.

        We have indeed swapped places with the old CCCP in this respect.

        In fact this is what pleases me most about Trump – the fact that the media appears to have completely lost their shit and are truly worried about him, We have yet to see this all play out but as far as I can tell he is getting exactly the right people worried.

        What a truly joyful thing that is!

        1. Mr. 308

          To wit;

          http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/25/business/media/trump-white-house-press-coverage.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

          “Mr. Trump’s unconventional, sometimes hostile, relationship with the news media and his penchant for communicating through unfiltered Twitter posts threaten to upend a decades-old Washington tradition that relies almost entirely on protocol. The result, reporters and editors say, could be a loss of transparency that would hinder the press’s role as a conduit for information to the people.”

          Is anybody gonna tell them that to be such a conduit for information to the people is not, never was, and will never be their *role*? I say let them wail and gnash their teeth in anger, the more the better.

          The best thing these guys could do is to go to their libraries and ask the girl behind the desk for some books on the subject of buggy whip manufacturing.

          1. LSWCHP

            So having the president communicate his ideas directly to the people in his iwn words will result in *less* transparency than running them through the conduit (read sewer pipe) of the MSM?

            These dicks should just throw themselves into the sea.

    2. Haxo Angmark

      Assange is particularly awful. He f**c’d an ex-CIA member of the Swedish Bikini Team, and failed to call back the next day. That’s the basis for the charges against him. Make memo: drone Ecuadorean Embassy in London ASAP. Snowden? He’s a modern Whittaker Chambers. You remember him…the guy who ratted out his fellow Reds. Snowden ratted out the domestic spying operations of a criminal regime. Excellent, and more power to him. As the executioner said to the electric chair.

  3. James

    Hell,all the folks who go through proper channels as whistle blowers destroyed by our govt.,am glad folks have exposed the bs this govt. does in name of security,I expect this to get a lot worse in the name of so called safety.

  4. John Distai

    I have a subscription to the New Yorker through Audible (annual, 4 credits, delivered weekly, ~2 hours in length).

    In last week’s audio version, Malcolm Gladwell compares and contrasts the acts of Edward Snowden with acts of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers. Included is a comparison of the “categories” that describe each individual, and the motivations of each based on that categorical lens. Ellsberg was looked at as a “Whistleblower”, Snowden as not a whistleblower, but as a “Hacker”.

    Gladwell’s stuff is always interesting (to me), and I was passively listening, so I don’t remember all the details. Here’s the link to the online article:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/19/daniel-ellsberg-edward-snowden-and-the-modern-whistle-blower

      1. Hognose Post author

        Yikes. Personally I’ve always thought of him as more a midwit riding on the inventions of real scientists who aren’t as good as beating their discoveries to fit The Narrative, but he’s a talented writer. Invariably he stops short of engaging with uncomfortable ideas, but that’s not his job as I see it… his job is selling puréed science to badly-educated-but-well-credentialed liberal arts graduates.

        1. Bert

          Malcolm is indeed a propagandist. A very well paid and positioned one.

          See Ellul for some categorization of propaganda beyond the crude, top down subversive varieties.

          In Malcolm’s case? My assesment: Propaganda of the horizontal, integrative and (pseudo) rational variety.

          Malcolm cherry picks sources and omits relevant but inconenient facts. Including his financial relationships with entities, organizations and industries written about.

          But do your own research, perhaps you will see something else there.

          https://books.google.com/books?id=Zp38Ot2g7LEC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=propaganda+vertical+horizontal&source=bl&ots=eTVGbzaV7D&sig=8jVWUSFbrdfabRwveLZf60oBKtw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjf3-zLi5XRAhVi94MKHRzzA8gQ6AEIITAD#v=onepage&q=propaganda%20vertical%20horizontal&f=false

  5. William O. B'Livion

    I’ve got a “Tech Background”, hold a CISSP, and had a TS/SCI at the time Snowden did the nasty. I was working in a cleared job overseas with an “official cover” (or so I was told).

    A couple comments:
    > He was relieved of a position overseas for modifying software and insubordination. (The
    > “modifying software” is the reddest of red flags, and anyone with a tech background knows
    > what it means in personnel reliability terms.

    That could actually mean a *lot* of things. We had a guy (at a different job) “modify software” that he shouldn’t have. It was more of a mistake–he meant to do it, but he thought it would do something beneficial and good. It didn’t. His problem was that when confronted he lied about it. (This was not Snowden, but a different douchebag). He was relieved of his position and escorted out of the country. The problem wasn’t “modifying software” that was the problem, but when caught he denied it. Logs never (well, rarely) lie.

    I haven’t read the whole report, so I don’t know what was meant by “modifying software” in this case. Either way it still indicates a problematic attitude.

    > Incidentally, he had to take a test. What he did. since he had access to the network at
    > admin level already, was download the answers.

    This is HORRIBLY common in the IT Industry. So common that I *assume* that if it’s test one takes at Pearson-Vue or their competitor on a computer that the person “studied” by buying a “study guide” from some place like testking.com.

    This is so pervasive in the corporate and government IT world, and government culture itself so amoral that I would hesitate to really throw a flag on this one. In certain areas it’s “business as usual” and “everbody does it”.

    Heck, large parts of the military do basically the same thing–they teach bullet pointed lessons “to the test” where the test is lifted *straight* out of the text and slides verbatim.

    This is, in part, why IT sucks so much. And why the government sucks so much. And why Government IT sucks double.

    1. Hognose Post author

      There’s a difference between what Snowden did and, say, buying a CISSP (or more commonly, various Microsoft certs, or even say an FAA exam) test guide. The test guide attempts to walk you through the whole question bank or questions very similar to the whole question bank. You can’t memorize its questions on how to (say) move a user ID on MS systems, or telnet into a sendmail server for testing (or spoofing) purposes, without actually learning something, because thee’s hundreds of questions. Sure, it’s no substitute for instruction or experience, it’s am aid.

      What Snowden did was gain access to the PC of the user who administered the test, and steal the actual test key for the test. So instead of memorizing a test bank of 750 (or however many) questions, he had to memorize the 25 or however many questions he would actually be asked, no more. That is part of why he did not perform in accordance with his test results once in the field.

      I agree that .gov IT has a weird combination of credential infestation and credential corruption. There was a gal at DHS who worked her way up to SES level using entirely faked credentials and when she was exposed, she resurfaced in six months at another agency, in a cleared SES position. (The agencies were DHS and the useless overhead agency DNI, both post-9/11 creations that exacerbated the intel community problem rather than fixed it. But that’s another story).

  6. whomever

    “The “modifying software” is the reddest of red flags, and anyone with a tech background knows what it means in personnel reliability terms”

    I’m confused. I spent a career in IT, both dev and sysadmin. And I was modifying software just about every day. What mods did he do, and why izzat a red flag?

    Signed, Confused

    1. Norman Yarvin

      From the report: “Snowden also modified CIA’s performance review software in connection with his annual performance review, by modifying the font.”

      The first part of the sentence makes it sound like a serious infraction, but the last clause takes all the seriousness away: instead it sounds like some sort of juvenile stunt — putting his supervisor’s comments in Comic Sans, perhaps, or maybe adding an emoji font so that he could put smiley faces in his own comments. I’m surprised that “the head of all CIA technical officers in Europe” took time to deal with the situation; a quick “fix that shit and grow up, dude” from his immediate boss would seem more appropriate.

      1. Norman Yarvin

        Of course if Snowden’s account of the situation (he found an XSS vulnerability in the software and was reporting it) is correct, it would make sense for this to get escalated to someone who could understand and mobilize people to fix it. See Barton Gellman’s defense of him for more on this:

        https://tcf.org/content/commentary/house-intelligence-committees-terrible-horrible-bad-snowden-report/

        By the way, although the way he copied documents to removable storage was all blacked out in the report, it’s easy to guess: he had a “thin client on a thick client” — a virtual machine which did its computations mostly remotely (as if it didn’t have much local storage or local compute capability) running on top of a normal desktop machine, and from the report it’s clear that this was critical to his removal of documents. So presumably the thin client was subject to controls / monitoring over what could be moved to removable storage, but the underlying machine was not. And everything inside the thin client was, with the right software, visible to the underlying machine. (Virtual machine isolation only protects the host from the guest, not vice versa.) So he could copy things into the virtual machine, then access them via the host and copy them to a USB drive.

    2. Hognose Post author

      I have to tread lightly here, as some of the details of how he engineered access beyond his duties remain classified. But he altered a server patch, presumably to give himself a back door. He failed, though, and his mod crashed the entire server farm. Then, when criticized, he went whining to senior figures over his supervisors’ heads.

      1. Mr. 308

        Have you seen Citizen Four?

        I won’t defend Snowden, but if you watch this movie you seem to get to see the real dude in process of giving these secrets away in a hotel in Hong Kong. I don’t know about the whole ‘serial fabricator’ stuff and highschool dropout and all of that. He comes off as quite sincere, very intelligent and having thought this all through in great detail. He presented this choice as the only one available to him – and a terrible one at that – and that he was trying to do the right thing when presented with all of this data,

        Was this all an act, is he in fact working for another state agency… I have no idea.

        No conclusions could be drawn from this documentary, but I will say I was surprised to see what was in there and was very glad to have watched it.

  7. Anonymous

    Snowden revealed a coverup, and these attacks on Snowden are a coverup in defense of the status quo. What is that Special Forces coverup advice about counterattacking with lies and never admitting fault?

    The CIA and other national intelligence agencies reported the Soviet Union was much stronger militarily/economically than it was. The agencies were “surprised” when the Soviet Union, their primary object of study, collapsed because central planning doesn’t work. By comparison, see the Heinlein travelogue in the book Expanded Universe for the actual condition of the Soviet Union. Do I conclude Heinlein was the only competent analyst and everyone in the national intelligence community was incompetent, and hiding that incompetence by labeling dissent “classified”? No, I conclude the purpose of the intelligence agencies is to exaggerate bogeymen to pretend to justify bigger government for militarism. I suspect anything that comes out of an intelligence agency of being fiction, and anything said in support of them as being duped by that fiction.

    Hillary’s email revealed a lot of state secrets, yet nothing bad happened because of that. This lack of consequences proves big defense is merely makework theater, to keep the losers paying taxes to the winners. Liberals are people who want a big government to do central planning. One example of such a liberal was former(?) CIA employee William F. Buckley. Read him:

    we have got to accept Big Government for the duration — for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged, given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores. […] And if they deem Soviet power a menace to our freedom (as I happen to), they will have to support large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington — even with Truman at the reins of it all.

    — William F. Buckley

    http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard6.html
    http://crookedtimber.org/2016/09/11/william-f-buckley-totalitarian-bureaucracy-apologist/
    https://adamgomez.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/partyandthedeepbluesea-1952.pdf

    1. Kirk

      “Hillary’s email revealed a lot of state secrets, yet nothing bad happened because of that. This lack of consequences proves big defense is merely makework theater, to keep the losers paying taxes to the winners. Liberals are people who want a big government to do central planning.”

      Evidence for this childlike assertion of yours isn’t likely to ever appear, because the effects of what she has done to national security aren’t ever going to be directly attributable to her piss-poor security and judgment.

      It’s just like the way the Clinton Administration did a bunch of unattributable crap that can be traced directly to setting the stage for 9/11. Jamie Gorelick set the conditions for FBI paralysis when she outlined the communications barrier she thought required between the counterintelligence side of the FBI and the criminal side. When several of the aviation training companies that were training the hijackers called in reports of their “odd” behaviors, the criminal side of the FBI had no idea that they had just been handed the pieces of the puzzle that the counterintelligence side was missing. Thus, the hijackers flew in under the radar screen that the Clintons had raised, and which Jamie Gorelick designed.

      We’re never going to know if we would have stopped 9/11, but that policy did prevent the right people from communicating the right things to other people who knew enough more to at least be aware of what was going on–And, that was all due to the opposite of what we in the military term “second- and third-order effects”. Just as there are effects, there are also orders of antecedents, things that set the conditions for bad things to happen.

      We don’t know, as of yet, what the long-term effects at the second and third order are going to be, with regards to the Clinton security breaches. Just like we don’t know when and where we are going to pay the price for the casual way the Obama administration allowed the OPM breaches to happen–Those were clearly disastrous, and deserved to be treated like a digital Pearl Harbor. Instead, not much in the way of news coverage, past a few second-page blurbs that didn’t explain any of the significance, and which dropped off the radar as soon as it could be dropped. When the price is eventually due the piper for those breaches, the sitting president is going to be held responsible, just as Bush was held responsible for 9/11.

      I still don’t understand why Jamie Gorelick is still a free woman, and hasn’t ever been called due for her lack of judgment and what I conclude has got to be outright malice, given her track record. She’s either an enemy of the people, or she’s got the worst luck in the history of American governance. At this point, it doesn’t matter which–She needs to be taken off the playing board, permanently.

      1. Anonymous

        Priests say if I don’t worship Zeus or Christ or the national security establishment, bad things will happen to me. These claims are all religious, because they are all nondisprovable. Occam suggests the simple explanation that all of these organizations are self-serving.

        How did the Clinton administration keep the Bush administration’s fighter pilots from shooting down the second plane before it hit the second tower?

  8. DaveP

    I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t in the same position as the English were in the ’60s in regards to counterintelligence and security : There’s something bad wrong, it’s systemic, everyone on the inside knows it… but nobody wants to admit it, because that would mean having to do something about it, and the loss of social face would be just too much to bear. So on the buearaux stumble, totally compromised and totally inadequate to their tasks… because embarrassment is more to be avoided than failure.

    1. Anonymous

      Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, US navy loses to the Soviet navy, its declared reason for existence, which threatens US ships with a nuclear torpedo.

      Millennium Challenge, 2002, US navy does a simulation wargame in which a carrier group loses to the Iranian coastal fishing fleet armed with Russian Silkworm missiles.

      USS Zumwalt, 2016, US Navy can’t build a working ship, it is defeated by itself.

      Government doesn’t “work” because it’s not supposed to “work”; it’s supposed to move tax money to the elites.

  9. LSWCHP

    Jesus wept. I just spent more than a year getting a clearance upgrade. They got references from friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues, family, etc etc back to the dawn of time. It was very, very thorough. I can’t believe this shit…it’s like your counter-intel people are compromised or incompetent, or both.

    And just for shits and grins my ex-wife told our spooks that I secretly enjoy fucking whores in Thailand. Interesting conversations ensued.

    1. Kirk

      Oh, and what’s even better? If you were an American, the OPM breach means that all that was handed, on a silver platter, to the Chinese.

      Think about that, for a second: Everything that was known about all US clearance holders, everything that was asked and answered before they got their clearances, was handled with such cavalier ineptitude that the parties responsible should have been taken out and shot. The Obama administration deliberately put a Democratic Party apparatchik whose sole qualification for the job was that she’d worked for the Democrat mayor of Denver in charge of OPM. She was warned that there were problems with security, did nothing, and approved a contract with a Democratic Party donor that had all the OPM data and password access handed off to an unqualified subcontractor that was based overseas.

      Everything we know about US clearance holders is now suspect; not a damn thing can be trusted, because of that. Clearances could have been granted based on massaged data; agents could have had identities inserted into the database, and indeed, current agents could have had their records cleaned of suspicious flags. Nothing can be trusted now, and that is going to lead to incredible problems, down the line.

      Like I said, a digital Pearl Harbor, brought to you by Democratic Party crony capitalism.

      First thing Trump should do is re-open the investigation on this, and start cleaning house on the bureaucracy. My personal suspicion is that Snowden and Manning both were deliberate plants, and that OPM may have been breached a long time ago–Because, under the old regime, neither party should have ever been granted a clearance. Given his history, I don’t think I could have gotten Snowden a clearance for Secret, if he’d been a military member. Too many damn waivers would have been needed, but he breezed right on through, never a question asked. Same-same with Manning, although I suspect he may have gotten through based on his qualification as an affirmative-action hire, so to speak.

      1. John M.

        Was Manning an AA hire before he decided life would be better being named after an unpleasant Boston suburb?

        -John M.

        1. Kirk

          Pretty much. He was known to be a practicing homosexual by the people who granted him his final clearance.

          Fifteen years earlier, and that would have red-flagged him. For good reason–You don’t put people who are so fundamentally confused about themselves into positions of trust, or grant them access to classified material. Manning initially contacted Wikileaks out of a sense he wanted to “get back” at the person he was romantically involved with, or so went the reports I saw. The convoluted and irrational thinking that went into that set of decisions is precisely why people like him were barred from the military and positions of trust so long ago–It isn’t sexism, it’s that the typical set of other mental disorders attendant upon “gender confusion” issues militates against placing men and women who suffer from them in positions of trust.

          Note the instability of Turing, for example–His primary issue wasn’t that he was gay. It was that he was delusional enough to think that if he were to report his live-in male underage lover to the police for stealing from him, that nothing would happen and he’d continue merrily along in his job. Despite the fact that he knew the laws, he assumed that he’d just be able to blithely ignore those laws, and continue on in his career–Magical thinking at its finest.

          What is unfortunate is that mental instability usually accompanies high intelligence and creativity. Management of these people is not an easy task, nor is knowing when they’ve run off the farking rails. I’m a 95th percentile person, myself, and I’m here to tell you that the majority of my personnel reliability headaches came from the top ten percent of that scale. You need the genius for doing the analysis, but the management of them? Lord, love a duck… There are a bunch of people in that demographic that are about a half-step and a stumble away from raving loony.

          1. Hognose Post author

            Manning and Snowden are not unusual types to anyone who’s managed or led, say, Army CMF 98 SIGINT people (who I think are now CMF 37). Every one a Unique and Special Snowflake® who has been told since childhood he or she is in the one percent of the one percent and can do anything, and who usually has been surrounded by indulgent and doting enablers. Their families are often also a mess (q.v. Bowe Bergdahl).

            Re the gay/tranny thing with Manning, as far back as the seventies, the military SIGINT world was awash in gays. Most of whom served quietly and loyally, despite their alternative bedroom action. The slang for an Army linguist at the time was a “Monterey Mary,” as they were much more likely to be queer than, say, morse code intercept operators, for some reason. My guess is that CMF 98 was 20% gay in the males and 40% in the females in the mid 1980s when I got shanghaied to one of their assignments out of 10th Group. (Their personnel priority was such that the only way out was to get off active duty and rejoin SF in the USAR).

            Intel units had a lot of toleration for weirdness. There was one guy who was caught in the US housing area doing the peeping Tom thing through a window and pleasuring himself… while dressed as a French maid. He got sent to “counseling” and they restored his clearance, and anyone who protested got labeled “intolerant” and threatened with “does not support the army EO program” on OER/NCOER which translates to ASSIGN THIS GUY TO SHEMYA AND NEVER PROMOTE HIM EVER.

            You could usually tell the CI guys, they were the ones weeping in despair. Literally dozens of spies came out of this community of SIGINT collectors (NSA tends to use the military services to do the scut work of collection and low-level analysis). And almost all were ego-motivated spies. The KGB must have been just as bureaucratic and ate-up, or they’d have been running all these guys, gals, and not-quite-sures.

  10. DW

    Love your blog, full of good info & sardonic humor. So I admit surprise at your feelings toward Snowden. A complete and honest review of the work of the CIA & NSA shows nothing but failures and a waste of resources & our taxes, except for these agency violations of our rights & freedoms – now that bit they are quite good at.

    Should the good Lord take pity on us and by some miracle these agencies are wiped out, no doubt we as a country would be safer and better off, the planet would be as well.

    When I read someone who believes Snowden a traitor, I am always reminded of what he said when they asked him in exile what he feared the most? His reply: That his actions would be in vain, as the American people would do nothing in response to his disclosures. How sadly prescient he was.

    Over 3 years later and we are more surveiled and oppressed than ever. Wake the fu@k up – there are no 3 letter agencies in that black hole of DC that gives a crap about you, me and our families.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The problem with NSA and CIA is that you do not see successes, much, because they stay classified. U-2, SR-71 (originally A-12) and satellites were all originally CIA programs. Declassified histories have been unsparing of the failures of these programs but the successes are in there.

      I will agree that as more IC analysts have become National Capital Area based and never go overseas, the quality of analyses has declined. CIA in particular produces a lot of pabulum of the on-the-other-other-hand mediocre variety, where the committee of authorship is all bureaucrats and all covering their asses.

      And agencies don’t give a crap about anything, but agencies are made up of people, and the people vary greatly. There have been some great books about SEALs and SF guys in the GWOT, but you’re never going to read one about the CIA officer who, after preparing for a NOC job, had his cover blown (by carelessness of others!) and his entire utility to the agency ruined. They would have been content to pay him back for his efforts by giving hime something to do in the HQ building or one of the dozens of overflow offices around the national capital area, for life, but he demanded and got the chance to operate in what wound up being a combat environment.

      Or the CIA guy who was doing OK running agents, including one national asset, but realized that some Army guy in the same area was doing even better (which is extremely rare), and found out why — as a drug cop in civilian life, the soldier had been running informants into DTOs for twenty years. He handed over his national asset to the reservist drug cop (and got his agency to loan him to CIA to train case officers, later). Basically the CIA guy gave up a chance at big recognition, in order to run the mission better. Never happens, but we saw it happen.

      1. Anonymous

        The problem with NSA and CIA is that you do not see successes, much, because they stay classified.

        This arrangement is carefully non-disprovable, the opposite of science, which is that evidence is publicized and results must be reproducible by critics. Maybe there are few successes and the program is a poor value, but the insiders who are told that fact don’t learn it until their retirement is dependent on their continued good behavior.

        Priests keep telling me Zeus is a god who lives on Mount Olympus, and that I should accept that claim on faith. Faith is a security hole in the brain that allows computer viruses in.

      2. DW

        I agree with you that there are successes that are not disclosed for security reasons and to protect “assets”, etc. Spying & related are messy business and the black & white lines certainly can blur gray.

        That said my position is that the stuff that has become public indicates a level of incompetence,ineffectiveness and most importantly the violation of our rights, that says these are now corrupt, politicized agencies that are no longer effective.

        I am sure that within the ranks there are still highly qualified professionals, who are probably very frustrated. Sadly, there are also many more qualified professional ex-agency folks who left because of the way these agencies function now. I submit that whatever standards and quality of folks that made these agencies whatever their reputations were “back in the day” has been dead for a long time.

        Certainly burning them down is an extreme solution ( although it solves the problem), so I am open to other proposals if you have one? Sadly based on the neocons Trump has selected, I don’t see anything changing. So my original problem remains, I do not accept the destruction/sacrifice of my liberties for the government’s “alleged” national security issues.

        I as an American citizen, I accept personal responsibility for my and my family’s security. I neither want nor give up my natural liberties for the governments supposed protection.

  11. Steve M.

    Hognose, posts like this are beyond words depressing. It is an absolute shame with terrifying consequences.

    John M, I don’t understand all the love for Assange and Snowden either. We’ll never know how many people have lost their lives due to the secrets these two fools have dumped.

    Kirk, excellent comments. I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote. Spot on!

    I do have a question for all the fine folks here. Did Snowden’s treason actually tell you anything you hadn’t already heard or known? The extent of the espionage, both foreign and domestic, should not have come as such a shock.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I will say that the degree to which NSA had rationalized domestic collection and collection (both targeting and bycatch) in the last thirty or so years surprised me. It was so untouchable in the 1980s that if you got (speaking theoretically) a KGB paylist with names and code names, you had to destroy it.

      As to Snowden, I don’t think he stoke all those documents out of concern about privacy, originally, but out of narcissism — he’s the textbook Millennial Unique and Special Snowflake®. I don’t think he did it with a concrete plan to bring it to Russia or China, either, but that was in the back of his mind as a fallback plan.

      No doubt he lectures his FSB handlers on how Putin should be running Russia, and no doubt they roll their eyes behind his back. Just like his supervisors on contracts, at CIA, and at NSA used to do.

      Here’s a question for a thinking man. When he was on the run and desperate to find an enemy of the United States that would give him asylum, he didn’t do what a lot of caught spies have done, and try to walk in to a Russian or Chinese embassy. Instead, he made contact with certain very specific journalists.

      Think about that, a guy who had more intel planning documents and more intel take than he could read, went directly to a couple of very specific journalists. When the people he wanted to talk to were actually intelligence officers in services adverse to the United States. How did he know these scribblers could make the connection for him?

      1. Steve M.

        Thanks for the reply. Nothing about the domestic collection surprised me, but I had nothing to go on. I have always figured with the increased use of computers and software to do the collecting, we would end up with massive data banks being formed. Government is lazy at its core, so it is extremely easy to collect information, harder to sort it, and extremely hard to utilize it properly. I suppose Snowden’s stupidity was a confirmation to a hunch.

        That all being said, I failed to pay much attention to Snowden, which I really should have. I appreciate your continued efforts in explaining this mess.

  12. DAN III

    Gee Blog Author, it appears to me that all Snowden did was rat out the criminals of Mordor-on-the-Potomac.

    Yet, if there is a criminal among us I care to name the foreign scoundrel whose social security number issued in Connecticut could not pass E-Verify, whose birth father was a Kenyan national and thus did not meet Art 2, Section 1, Clause 5 requirements of the USC and whose paternal grandmother stated the aforementioned was born in Kenya. His name from his Indonesian citizen days being Barry Soetoro. You know him as Barack Hussein obama. The usurping, conspiring scoundrel you proudly refer to as “the President”.

    You attack Snowden for being a high school dropout yet neither you nor any other citizen has seen a copy of soetoro-obama’s high school diploma, college transcripts or alleged college degree(s) and or passport, Indonesian or US.

    For my money Snowden is a hero. If anyone should be in chains it is soetoro-obama for the damage he has done and continues to do, to this once great nation.

    The damage done by soetoro-obama is insurmountable. While you and others bemoan deaths allegedly occurring from Mr. Snowden and Mr. Assange’s expose of documents deemed too secret for the common man, none of you dare to attack soetoro-obama’s open border invasion policy. A policy that has allowed invaders to this nation to rape, murder and steal the lives of thousands of American citizens.

    If there is blood on anyone’s hands it isn’t Snowden or Assange’s hands. It is on the hands of the usurping, soetoro-obama and those who support his high crimes by refusing to acknowledge his usurpation of the highest elected office in the land.

    Claus von Stauffenberg was considered a traitor by the regime he opposed. Edward Snowden is considered a traitor by the regime he opposed. Any similiarities between regimes is only coincidental.

    1. Steve M.

      Snowden is not a hero. Obama and Snowden are the same. Both of them were hired into positions beyond their capabilty. Both of them were put in their respective positions by people that failed to understand and take their responsibilites seriously. They were both bred from the same petri dish. Both have caused unimaginable damage to the United States. Both are “usurping, conspiring scoundrels” as you said.

  13. soapweed

    Yep, by golly, that CIA is a standup outfit……. may be a paraphrase as in: disband those cocksuckers and fling the pieces to the far corners if the earth…….bless their hearts…..Soapweed

  14. Dan

    I’ve been curious about this for a while now — Snowden, when in Hawaii, was supposed to have a pretty attractive girlfriend. What happened to her after his traitorous actions? Is she still around? In the US? Overseas? With Snowden?

    Was she just a honeypot?

    1. Bert

      She eventually followed him to Moscow. They are still together, AFAIK. Girl trades a paying gig dancing in Waikiki for unemployed/MOSCOW IN WINTER?!

Comments are closed.