UPDATE: Reliable sources tell me that the DNI study was hotly debated inside the DNI ExCom. The debate centered about what, if anything should be released because the numbers were so damning. In the end,the faction that supported releasing nothing won out because they convinced a majority of Intelligence Community senior execs that releasing even a community-wide total figure would lead to selective, politically or egotistically motivated leaks of greater granularity both from the Hill and within the Intelligence Community.
The big issue was exactly what regular readers of The Spy Who Billed Me already suspect: the CIA's use of industrial contract employees (i.e. private intel corporations) to perform both operations and operations support at Langley and abroad, support that was previously performed by US government employees or by individuals (not corporations) contracted directly by the Agency.
Entire clandestine capabilities have been contracted out. It's known from open sources that this includes the creation and maintenance of alias cover identities for non-official covers. Retired case officer Bob Baer wrote this week in Time of another interesting contract in Baghdad for a function that has always been performed by US government employees.
Industrial contractors still work for employees who are accountable within the Agency's chain of command, but beneath these managers are layers of management for large projects that are entirely controlled by the contractor.
In the not too distant future, a young man or woman seeking a career in
U.S. intelligence might actually find better career opportunities in
the private sector than as a government employee. In some respects,
this is already happening. This, of course, appears to fly in the face
of the intelligence community strategic human capital plan dated June
06 and released last October by the DNI.
The scope and depth of such "capability contacting" is such that it has become difficult to see how this paradigm can become anything but permanent, which constitutes an historical milestone in how U.S. government intelligence conducts its business.
As I've been writing in this blog, there is a larger revolution taking place in how America conducts her wars, both overt and covert. Some of the outsourcing is an excellent idea. Some of it should go even farther when it can help save lives in desperate situations, such as peacekeeping in humanitarian missions. However, some of the outsourcing is most likely going to have very negative consequences for this country and her national security. Our premier intelligence agency has been gutted and is barely in control of itself.
(Regular readers will know, I prefer to stick with analysis and commentary, providing a greater context and understanding of developments reported elsewhere. Given my absolute disgust of how the study on intelligence outsourcing was censored and my concern that the haphazard system of using contractors in some very sensitive areas is actually endangering national security, I'm breaking from my norm. here.)
It seems that if you scrub something so hard, sometimes you end up not getting it any cleaner. You can create so many holes, you're too embarrassed to be seen in it in public, particularly if those gaping holes would cause your ass to hang out. That seems to be the case with the Director of National Intelligence's (DNI) study on the extent of outsourcing intelligence to private contractors. I hinted Wednesday afternoon that it was being scrubbed. We it did get scrubbed alright. The DNI has blocked the anticipated release, citing national security concerns, Scott Shane of The New York Times reports.
For the first time our government actually knows the number of the use of contractors by the intelligence apparatus and that numbers so shocking and so embarrassing, they had to hide it behind claims of national security. As Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists told the Times, "What would Osama bin Laden do with the fraction of intelligence workers who are contractors? Absolutely nothing.”
And it's not like they didn't try to release the study. Its release has supposedly been imminent for days. The last time I heard this, I was reminded about when I was in East Berlin and I'd heard the first rumors that the Hungarians were planning to remove their section of the Iron Curtain. Before any big news like that was released, the Party always had meetings with the comrades to give them the information first so that they could spin the party line once the news was out. East German leadership knew the Hungarian decision would be devastating for them. For three days, I hung around waiting on contacts to come back from the big party meetings with the news. Time after time, my contacts got to the meetings to find out they had been canceled last minute. The Party leadership couldn't figure out how to spin the end of the world. Finally, the Hungarians waited no longer and made the announcement which was broadcast into East Germany by West German TV. Next thing you know, there was dancing on the Wall. Bottom line: when bureaucracies keep rescheduling the release of news, it's usually something devastating, sometimes something that could threaten an entire system.
A lot is going on behind the scenes during these bureaucratic delays. In the East German case, after that initial "Holy Crap" moment at the Central Committee, they begged Gorbachev and the Hungarians not to do it. In the case at of the DCI, you can be sure there was a "Holy Crap" moment in the Executive Committee when they reviewed the draft study.
Rest assured that every number and every sentence in that draft report had already been massaged to death to present the facts in the most favorable light. They don't just put lipstick on the pig when they have to take the porker to the Director of National Intelligence, they dress it up like a $1000 whore.
The pig got sent back for a make-over. The numbers had to be flawed. Wink. Wink. As we used to say in grad school in Michigan, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. You can can always do something with stats. It's just a matter of selecting ranges and your sample. Slice and dice enough, control a few variables, you'll eventually find something that looks decent.
Apparently the numbers were so bad, late Wednesday afternoon they gave up and decided to classify them.
Scott Shane at the NYT understood what had happened. Others weren't so astute. USA Today printed the DNI spin without question including my favorite line from the guy who wrote the study, "I don't believe we're overly reliant on contractors."
I can still hear the words of the East German Party boss, "The Wall will stand for another hundred years."