The Wall Street Journal reported in its December 19 edition, that President-elect Barack Obama is slated to choose retired Vice Admiral Dennis Blair as his Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
Blair's choice as DNI would further cement Pentagon control over America's intelligence apparatus. Currently, Air Force Lt. General Michael V. Hayden, a former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) is CIA Director while retired Vice Admiral and former chief at NSA, Mike McConnell is the current Director of the Office of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the chief of America's 16 spy agencies...
Agencies overseen by the ODNI include: the Central Intelligence Agency; Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency; Army Military Intelligence; Defense Intelligence Agency; Marine Corps Intelligence Activity; National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; National Reconnaissance Office; National Security Agency; Office of Naval Intelligence; the Department of Energy's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and Coast Guard Intelligence; the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration; the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; and the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Half of the agencies comprising the "Intelligence Community" over which the ODNI has statutory authority are embedded within the Pentagon. But this doesn't quite tell the tale. ODNI is headquartered in McClean, Virginia, the capitol of militarist corporate grift. It employs some 1,500 people, largely drawn from the world of private intelligence contractors where top secret and above security clearances are marketable commodities. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock wrote in his essential study, Spies for Hire:
The bulk of this $50 billion [intelligence budget] is serviced by one hundred companies... The analogy between the intelligence industry and the military-industrial complex famously described by President Eisenhower in 1961 is fitting. By 2006, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 70 percent, or almost three-quarters, of the intelligence budget was spent on contracts. That astounding figure...means that the vast majority of the money spent by the Intelligence Community is not going into building an expert cadre within government but to creating a secret army of analysts and action officers inside the private sector. (Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 12-13)
Among the firms embedded at ODNI are corporate heavy-hitters such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton and SAIC. A glance at the Project on Government Oversight's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD) find all four firms prominently on display...
Blair served as the President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), which describes itself as "a non-profit corporation that administers three federally funded research and development centers to provide objective analyses of national security issues." However, according to the Journal,
he didn't recuse himself from involvement in a study of a contract for the F-22 fighter jet. At the time, he was sitting on the board of a subcontractor on that program, EDO Corp. The inspector general found in a 2006 report that Mr. Blair violated the institute's conflict-of-interest standards but didn't influence the outcome for the study. Mr. Blair resigned from IDA over the matter, and he also stepped down from the EDO board. (Siobhan Gorman, "Obama Picks Military Man, Blair, as Top Spymaster," The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2008)
Sounds like more "change" from the "change president" to me! But other conflicts of interest are more troubling.
Iridium Satellite LLC, is a privately held firm based in Bethesda, Maryland and is one of a nexus of companies that have extensive contracts with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the ultra-spooky outfit that designs and flies America's fleet of military spy satellites. As ODNI, Blair would oversee NRO operations. As Tim Shorrock reported,With an estimated $8 billion annual budget, the largest in the IC, contractors control about $7 billion worth of business at NRO, giving the spy satellite industry the distinction of being the most privatized part of the Intelligence Community (Spies for Hire, op. cit., p. 16)
Iridium, according to its website, maintains a "constellation" of "66 low-earth orbiting (LEO), cross-linked satellites operating as a fully meshed network and supported by multiple in-orbit spares. It is the largest commercial satellite constellation in the world..."
But what Admiral Blair and other Iridium board members are not likely to trumpet during Senate hearings, USA Today reported in 2003,In an odd twist, the new Iridium is 24% owned by an investment firm controlled by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman of Saudi Arabia.
The prince used to own a minority chunk of the old Iridium in partnership with the Saudi Binladen Group, the company run by Osama bin Laden's family. So in a way, some of the money that gave a start to the world's most notorious terrorist partly funded a communications system helping the U.S. military blast Saddam's army. Now that's globalization. (Kevin Maney, "Remember those 'Iridium's going to fail' jokes? Prepare to eat your hat," USA Today, April 9, 2003)
Depending on one's point of view there's nothing odd at all, just business as usual!
The company's board of directors include, among others, Chairman of Iridium Holdings LLC, Dan Colussy, former CEO of United Nuclear Corporation and Chairman and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the defunct Pan American World Airlines. According to William Blum's definitive account, "Pan Am has a long history of collaboration with the CIA." Dennis Blair. Alvin B. "Buzzy" Krongard, the former Chairman of the Board of the investment banking firm Alex Brown Incorporated and Executive Director of the CIA. Steven Pfeiffer, a senior partner and Chair of the Executive Committee of the high-powered law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski. Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and two-term Governor of Pennsylvania. Lest we forget, amongst Ridge's other "accomplishments" was his 1999 signing of a death warrant for framed-up journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, while Jamal's case was on appeal.
Pretty "smart" company Blair keeps! Which just goes to prove, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Strange v.3
It's nice to see the Companies are going to continue to run the Company, often with Saudi controlling interest: