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About R J Hillhouse

  • Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

    A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

    Dr. Hillhouse is an expert on national security outsourcing. Her controversial work has twice elicited a formal response by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence--the only times that office has ever publicly responded to the writings of a private citizen.

    She is a regular media guest and available for interviews.

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« Mini-KGB for Rent | Main | Jim Bohannon: Take 2. Live this Thursday »

August 07, 2007

Comments

Jay

This is a very interesting development. I heard an NPR interview with Weiner about his book, and although the CIA comes in for serious criticism, he doesn't cite it as the root of all evil, but rather presidential prerogatives leading to abuse of the CIA and its people, giving it tasks that it wasn't intended to accomplish.

The Public Affairs Office's response is notable also--as in everything the CIA does, they seem to value accuracy, especially so when someone's drawing a bead on their bureaucracy. But as we all know, a bureaucracy's first order of business is always self-perpetuation. I wonder, would the PAO have fact-checked and commented on Weiner's book pre-publication, for accuracy's sake? Is there a precedent?

J.

Dick Destiny has an interesting post on Cofer Black, specifically how he is Mitt Romney's national security advisor and media pundit. You might be interested in it.

Retired

It would be nice, just once, to read something written by someone who had actually worked with Cofer and knew him on a personal basis. All I've read so far, from Weiner, Dick Destiny and Susskind, among others who've never met Black, is cherry-picked vignettes strung together in no particular order so as portray him as someone who left government service willingly for profit. This cherry-picking technique, by the way, was earlier perfected by Doug Feith, and is what got us into our current situation in the first place. How ironic that Feith, Weiner, Susskind and Dick Destiny all use the same technique to get what they want.

I worked with Cofer. This is the guy that went across the river to the White House prior to 9/11 and warned Condi that something was about to happen and that we'd better mobilize and focus our intel and security resources to thwart an attack. It's also the guy who post-9/11 so pissed off SecDef Rumsfeld by being in the right place at the right time, the proverbial "firstest with the mostest", before Rummy knew about it that Donny pushed every bureaucratic button that he knew in order to get rid of him.

So after having his badge pulled and being heaved unceremoniously out the front door of Hqs, what was the guy who actually captured the world's most notorious terrorist and handed the scumball over for trial and an eventual life sentence several years earlier supposed to do? If he were Weiner or Susskind, he write a whiney expose. Cofer being Cofer, he did the best he could to serve in whatever capacity he was able.

Had he performed less brilliantly and more bureaucratically during his career at CIA, Cofer probably would've been D/NCS today. His biggest career flaw was that he believed in mission first and usually that left little time for politicaly correct pandering.

I would invite those who have actually worked with Cofer to respond. If your knowledge of him is limited to what you've read in books or seen on TV or in the blogosphere, spare us all, go see the latest Bourne offering, and believe that you have figured out what makes Cofer tick.

Greaseman

"Legacy of Ashes" is proof that once you win a Pulitzer, you get at least one subsequent pass from publishers on accuracy and relevance in a work of non-fiction.

If we had a choice, we would prefer to have more staffers, with all of the attendant difficulty and responsibility, because we know that this is best for the mid to long term health of the NCS. Since Congress in its wisdom has chosen the easier political course and inundated us with dollars that can only be spent on contractors, we use contractors to accomplish our near term mission and hope that our betters come to their senses in due course.

Weiner has missed all of this, along with a boatload of historical successes that he apparently thinks will just disappear if he doesn't mention them in his book.

Fortunately, there are serious scholars and students of CIA that look at both success and failure, the good as well as the bad. If Weiner is offering "Legacy of Ashes" as his application to join this distinguished group, I hope that he isn't too disappointed when he receives his rejection slip.

Tony Foresta

I have yet to read the book, but it sounds like one of tbose "slime the CIA and blame them for all the Bush government failures, abuses, and act of malfeasance and incompetence. More critical is the nature of our - the peoples - intelligence apparatus, and particularly the intelligence product.

If we are getting good intel, - then all is well in the land of OZ. If not - then we are subjected to conjured and concocted threat matrixes, that just happen to benefit the wanton profiteers in the Bush government, - then our future far less secure, and probably far less posperous.

America once had a intelligence apparatus, flawed though it may have been, working on securing and defending America.

Now we have corporations or other business structures dictating what our intelligence is and should be, - FOR PROFIT.

Intelligence is second to profit.

This vector doommed to calamity calamity.

Jay

Guess what's in my left hand?

Speaking as one with his nose to the window, it's easy for those-in-the-know to dismiss the efforts of writers such as Weiner, who can write only from what they can legitimately gather in the open source arena. He's come in for some criticism here--and elsewhere--and probably for good reason. And there are those who could write more authoritatively about intelligence, but this presents the chicken-and-egg problem in that they are unable to do so. Those who can write about it, with varying degrees of success, often misread what's out there, but only because they don't have that extra 10 percent that clarifies everything. Writers like Weiner also have foibles and overlook, say, success stories that a pro might think were noteworthy. But that's their take. As they say in the book business, if you don't like it, write your own book!

Then get it past the PRB.

The public has an interest in understanding how the IC works and what is happening. The more sophisticated among them know it's not like James Bond. But it doesn't seem fair to criticize them for not knowing that which is deliberately--and most often legitimately--withheld from them.

kelley b.

When war becomes a business, intelligence serves the bottom line.

The CIA is seeing the natural result of the embrace of the dark side. If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Some individuals- say, Poppy Bush- in the CIA appear to have had the idea 30 years ago or more they could use private corporations to propagate their own agendas. They've been building their own Companies ever since.

Now these Companies aren't the CIA, and these individuals certainly aren't the CIA, but here's the rub: they think they are.

My genuine sympathy goes to those public servants who realize the depth of the water we're swimming in, and the size of the fish whose fins are cutting the water around us.

But what do my sympathies count? I'm a private citizen, a geek with a glimmer of vision on an issue I can not begin to understand because I do not have the full information. But there lies the problem.

This issue can not be addressed until a majority of American citizens want it fixed, but most Americans don't see the problem, much less agree on its solution.

Tony Foresta

Word kelly b.. My understanding, conspiratorial though it may be, it that the CIA and the entire US intelligence apparatus is actually two mutually exclive factions. One is working to secure America, - the other is fascist and working the fatten the offsheet accounts of certain fascists who have visited upon America over the years, but are now securely ensconsed in the Bush government.

These two factions are engaged in mortal combat for control of the intelligence apparatus, and the 60bn someodd blackworld budgets.

Tragically, the darkside is winning, and the fascists are working like demons to ceal the tomb.


Bryan

As a former HUMINTer, I would like to add that the CIA should be less concerned with correcting perceived inaccuracies and more concerned with not involving itself in situations where it has to defend itself anyway. Even after 9/11, the system -- as well as those including the FBI, DIA, et al -- is still broken; we are safe not because we haven't been attacked, but because they haven't tried. What with the continued in-fighting and internal state of disrepair, it's a wonder we can protect anything anymore. Plus, with the alarming deluge of private contractors, its a wonder loyalty is such in a muddled state and nothing goes right.

Tony Foresta

And you and I know August 13, 2007 that they "Al Quaida", - or excuse me while I laugh my ass off - but the "evildoers" are planning to attack us again when their damn good and ready. Al Quaida is the certain proof of the Bush governments incompetence or perhaps complicity. Every office, agency, organization, and individual in the US government was defeated on 9/11 by 19 jihadist massmurderers, (15 of them Saudi) backed, directly and indirectly financed by elements in the lybrinthine corridors of the House of Saud, and malignancy of wahabism practiced and proselytized by the shaitans masked and imams in Saudi Arabia.

Oil aside, Saudi Arabia in not our friend!!! If there is any real intel, - (and I trust and hope there is) eventually, comewhatmay, nomatterwhat, America must confront Saudi Arabia. The rest of this horrorshow and costly bloody TV spectacle is nightmarish Kabuki theater. Well,... there is the wanton profiteering>

Porter

Ms R. J. Hillhouse! My hat is off to you! Thank you so very much for your insightful, truthful comments on the shortcomings of Tim Weiner's "Legacy of Ashes". During my 26 year career in the intelligence business I was involved in a few of the "ashes" depicted by Weiner as failures. It's easy from the prospective of history to criticize and I really do not have a problem with that. I am often a Monday morning quarterback myself. But Weiner was off base on many things that are so well documented in the public record through Congressional hearings or document disclosures. Thanks for taking him to task!

I am so pleased by the CIA's public comments on the book as well. I was never a fan of the old policy of neither confirm nor deny. While the Company is not by any means a "public" organization and is answerable only to the President and to Congressional oversight, an informed public makes political decisions on public policy issues. If the public is only informed by books like Legacy, then they are ill-informed and we as a country will suffer because of it.

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Acknowledgements

  • A tip of the hat to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock who inspired the name of this blog with his path-breaking 2005 article, "The Spy Who Billed Me."

    Shorrock has a dedicated web page on outsourcing in intel. It links to many of his articles which are must-reads for anyone interested in the privatization of intelligence.