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  •  NSA whistleblower Binney, Hayden, and 9/11 (39+ / 0-)

    Tim Shorrock has an excellent piece at The Nation, well worth reading for the history around the 'NSA Four' (Binney, Drake,

    Here's the first time Hayden is mentioned in the article --

    . . . Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis. Falsely accused of leaking in 2007, they have endured years of legal harassment for exposing the waste and fraud behind a multibillion-dollar contract for a system called Trailblazer, which was supposed to “revolutionize” the way the NSA produced signals intelligence (SIGINT) in the digital age. Instead, it was canceled in 2006 and remains one of the worst failures in US intelligence history. But the money spent on this privatization scheme, like so much at the NSA, remains a state secret.

    The story goes back to 2002, when three of the whistleblowers—Loomis, Wiebe and Binney—asked the Pentagon to investigate the NSA for wasting “millions and millions of dollars” on Trailblazer, which had been chosen as the agency’s flagship system for analyzing intercepted communications over a smaller and cheaper in-house program known as ThinThread. That program was invented by Loomis, one of the NSA’s top software engineers, and Binney, a legendary crypto-scientist, both of whom began working for the NSA during the Vietnam War. But despite ThinThread’s proven capacity to collect actionable intelligence, agency director Gen. Michael Hayden vetoed the idea of deploying the system in August 2001, just three weeks before 9/11.

    Hayden’s decisions, the whistleblowers told The Nation, left the NSA without a system to analyze the trillions of bits of foreign SIGINT flowing over the Internet at warp speed, as ThinThread could do. During the summer of 2001, when “the system was blinking red” with dangerous terrorist chatter (in former CIA Director George Tenet’s famous words), they say the agency failed to detect critical phone and e-mail communications that could have tipped US intelligence to Al Qaeda’s plans to attack.

    “NSA intelligence basically stopped in its tracks when they canceled ThinThread,” says Wiebe, . . . . “And the people who paid for it were those who died on 9/11.”

    The NSA Four are now speaking out for the first time about the corporate corruption that led to this debacle and sparked their decision to blow the whistle. In exclusive interviews with The Nation, they have described a toxic mix of bid-rigging, cronyism and fraud involving senior NSA officials and several of the nation’s largest intelligence contractors.

    •  Hayden led the move to intel privatization (24+ / 0-)

      More on Hayden from Tim Shorrock:

      [...] Until the 1980s, “virtually everything was done in-house,” says Loomis, who spent much of his career in the agency’s telecommunications and computer services directorate. “As for contracting for development,” he added, “that did not happen.”

      That began to change around the turn of the century, when the NSA was forced to wrestle with enormous technological changes. For most of its existence, the agency had been focused on radio and microwave signals traveling through the atmosphere. The telecom revolution and the Internet altered the game forever. Suddenly the NSA was deluged with digitized cellphone traffic and e-mail flowing across fiber-optic cables that were almost impossible to intercept. It was an “explosion,” Hayden told me at George Washington University. “And if you’re a signals intelligence organization—we eavesdrop, right?—if your technology isn’t the technology of the target, then guess what you are? Deaf!” Hayden was appointed director in 1999, when the agency was struggling to figure a way out of this conundrum.

      His solution was to turn away from the NSA’s historic legacy and privatize. “Hayden made a fateful choice,” says Drake. “If we’re not going to make it, we’re going to buy it. That was the mantra.” Hayden couched his plan as “transformation.” Trailblazer, its centerpiece, involved turning the NSA’s most precious asset, SIGINT analysis, over to the private sector, from the development to the operations stage. The idea was to use cutting-edge technologies to analyze intercepted cellphone and e-mail traffic for clues to plots against the country. But Drake, who had extensive experience as a contractor and in the private sector, says it was flawed from the start.

      •  National Security on the 'buddy system' (15+ / 0-)

        The cronyism began when Hayden chose the dysfunctional Trailblazer program over  Binney's working and Fourth-Amendment compliant ThinThread --

        corporations—and their moles inside the NSA—ran Trailblazer from the start. The fix began in 2000, when Hayden hired Bill Black, a wily NSAer who had worked at the highest levels of SIGINT in Europe as Hayden’s deputy. For the previous three years, from 1997 to 2000, he’d been working for SAIC, then a rising San Diego defense contractor with extensive contacts in the intelligence community. Black’s new job at the NSA was to carry out Hayden’s “transformation” plan by siphoning business to companies like his. To get the Trailblazer contract up and running, Black hired one of his closest associates from SAIC: Sam Visner, who had left the NSA in the mid-1990s to work as a contractor.

        Visner was a true believer. His father had been a scientist on the Manhattan Project during World War II, and according to his former associates, he saw Trailblazer as the twenty-first-century equivalent of the atomic bomb needed to win the “war on terror.” Hayden’s hiring of him and Black, the whistleblowers say, set the stage for SAIC winning the Trailblazer contract.

        In April 2001, the NSA awarded the first part of the contract to SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and TRW, which was absorbed into Northrop Grumman in 2002. Their job was to “define the architecture, cost, and acquisition approach” for the project, according to a 2001 NSA press release. The results of their deliberations were announced in September 2002, when the NSA, as recommended by the companies, awarded the prime contract, called the Technology Demonstration Platform, to SAIC. It was initially worth $280 million. SAIC’s team included Northrop Grumman, Boeing and CSC—the company where Visner now works.


        [Persecuted whistleblower Thomas] Drake sat in on many of the Trailblazer meetings and claims the concept setup was a scam. He told me that the four companies agreed secretly that the prime contract would go to SAIC, while they would divvy up big chunks of the subcontracting among themselves. Later, as a material witness for the Pentagon’s OIG, he provided investigators with hundreds of documents relating to the bidding and award process for Trailblazer; they remain classified, and Drake can talk about them only indirectly. Most crucial, he says, were statements he collected from NSA officials showing that agency leaders had told their procurement office to hand the award to SAIC. “The orders came from the very top,” Drake says. “They just ensured it was weighted in a way to award it to SAIC and its subcontractors. That was the deal.”

        •  Cronyism at its worst and with no compunction (14+ / 0-)

          whatsoever about building "a corporate transformation" of NSA capacity to spy on Americans and businesses and allies while failing in its most important criteria of protecting our country. They failed on 9-11.

          In 2004 the DoD IG report criticized the program (see the Whistleblowing section below). It said that the "NSA 'disregarded solutions to urgent national security needs'" and "that TRAILBLAZER was poorly executed and overly expensive ..." Several contractors for the project were worried about cooperating with DoD's audit for fear of "management reprisal."[5] The Director of NSA "nonconcurred" with several statements in the IG audit, and the report contains a discussion of those disagreements.[14]
          This is the glaring failure of lobbying, the revolving doors of DC and our politicians.

          And it's affecting our national security.

          A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

          by bronte17 on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 06:50:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Drake said they had a system ready for rollout (7+ / 0-)

        In your link, Drake mentioned Thin Thread, which accomplished what NSA needed to do, legally.

        It seems pretty clear to me that Hayden did not make a mistake in choosing Trailblazer over Thin Thread. He wanted to deliver profit to cronies.

        A lot of what we are seeing is not stupidity, but corruption. Legal corruption, but corruption.

        •  Much more about the corruption (5+ / 0-)

          in the Shorrock piece linked above.  It's an excellent and informative read.

        •  An Iraqi refugee in video Q & A (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, CroneWit

          said to an auditorium full of Americans back in 2008 words that should ring in our ears with shame:

          In Iraq, Americans are famous for corruption.
          This same intelligent, tired man said
          I had to admit that for 40 years I had been wrong, thinking America is a good country.

          Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

          by geomoo on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 02:04:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think it's more widespread (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dumbo, geomoo, WisePiper, CroneWit

            There seems to be a worldwide breakdown in a sense by the ruling class that they have some obligations to the rest of humanity, geomoo. It's not as if China and Russia are paragons.

            And, as always, there's a balance. There has always been corruption among US leaders. Nixon never did quite explain the vicuna coat (and other gifts) in his Checkers speech.  But corruption by some was balanced by some really excellent people.

            What shocks me is not so much that the United States has tortured, murdered, and invaded other countries. What shocks me is that no member of Congress has been willing to go to jail or even go on a hunger strike--not even a limited fast!-- to protest these things.  

            But I have no illusions. There are few heroes among the wealthy and powerful anywhere right now.

            •  I can blow off a little bit of corruption. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Like the Virginia governor and his kids stealing Hot Pockets to take back to school.  Who gives a shit.  Hot Pockets.  The other stuff was much more egregious but the case wasn't helped when they included Hot Pockets in the story.  It's like bitching about people wasting pencils.

              There's always going to be at least a little bit of corruption.  It's like arthritis, one of those diseases you learn to live with by managing the pain.  Not acceptable.

    •  So... Hayden killed our intelligence capacity (18+ / 0-)

      just prior to 9-11... most likely so a bush crony could get millions of taxpayers dollars for their faulty product.

      And this rat bastard still has a job?

      Kinda like how our soldiers were equipped with faulty armor by a bush crony and how their showers were equipped with faulty electricity by Cheney's Halliburton.

      Boeing, Computer Sciences Corp and Booz Allen Hamilton were the "participants" in the setup of Trailblazer (and its massive millions that were wasted).

      We all know Booz Allen Hamilton fame... Snowden's employer among other things. But, that Computer Sciences Corp is also a real piece of work. CSC didn't pay taxes for 3 years (2008-2010) while racking up $1.67 BILLION in profit from taxpayer monies. Spent almost $5 MILLION in lobbying for that taxpayer slush fund they get. And Computer Sciences arranged rendition flights for the CIA between 2003-2006.

      As for the investigation into the worthless Trailblazer program, when it was reported to the Inspector General, his report was 90% redacted, of course. We'll never know what the investigation found.

      The complaint was accepted by the IG and an investigation began that lasted until mid-2005 when the final results were issued. The results were largely hidden, as the report given to the public was heavily (90%) redacted, while the original report was heavily classified, thus restricting the ability of most people to see it.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

      by bronte17 on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 06:31:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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