Trump’s Man from Contractor Land

Remember Iraq? Trapwire? Abu Ghraib?

Meet Trump’s Top Military Adviser

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Just posted at The Nation:

Over the last two days, Donald Trump has put together a national security team that will move US foreign policy far to the right.

The most shocking appointment, announced Thursday, was retired Army General Michael Flynn, a fanatical opponent of radical Islam, as his national security adviser. On Friday, Trump named Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, to run the CIA. Popeo is a member of the House intelligence committee who strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal as well as the post-Snowden “reforms” of US intelligence.

 But so far, little attention has been paid to a retired Army lieutenant general, Joseph “Keith” Kellogg, one of Trump’s closest military and foreign policy advisers. He is a former contracting executive who is considered a front-runner for a senior position at the Pentagon. He has been among the small group of advisers coming and going to Trump Towers this week.

Kellogg played a critical role in the disastrous US occupation of Iraq as the director of operations of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran the country after the 2003 invasion. Since leaving the military, he has been deeply involved in the high-tech, computer-driven style of warfare that has spawned the enormous business complex of contractors and suppliers that ring Washington, DC, from the CIA to the National Security Agency.

And with Flynn, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, now in charge of Trump’s national security team, Kellogg in a prime spot to select the officials to run Trump’s military policies. In that position, Kellogg brings 20 years of experience as an executive for some of the nation’s largest and most notorious military contractors.

To read on, click here.

 

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With Clinton, Expect Increased Tensions with North Korea

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Antiwar protesters in New York denounce THAAD deployment to Korea, Oct. 21. (NewsPro)

My latest, just posted at The Nation (with the Korean version at NewsPro):

Over the past two weeks, South Korea has been obsessed with a huge scandal involving its president, Park Geun-hye. Highly unpopular, she faces fierce criticism and protests over her mysterious relationship with a religious cultist without any position in government who apparently edited Park’s speeches and may have made critical decisions concerning North Korea.

But in Washington, where foreign-policy elites generally ignore the politics of South Korea, the obsession was over North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. He has built a small arsenal of nuclear weapons and—claiming that his country’s survival is at stake—is moving relentlessly to develop missiles capable of reaching not only South Korea and Japan but even the United States.

On October 24, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, essentially threw up his hands over Kim, expressing exasperation over the failure of economic sanctions to slow his weapons program. ““I think the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause,” he said in a speech in New York.

That same week, John Hamre, a former Pentagon official and the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admitted in a conference on Korea at the conservative Heritage Foundation that many in Washington are embracing a more militaristic approach. “I’ve been at meetings with senior US officials who say we need to change policy to formally embrace regime change,” he said. Hamre argued that such a policy would be counterproductive because it would lose China’s support for denuclearization.

So what will the next US president—widely believed to be Hillary Clinton—do about Korea? It just so happens that, as November 8 draws near, she has quietly mapped out hawkish positions on North Korea and China that would go well beyond President Obama’s policy mix of military pressure and economic sanctions.

To read on, click here.

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The 4.19 Democratic Uprising in South Korea

South Korea’s First Revolution

Through the eyes of an American boy in Seoul

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In 1960, I was living in Seoul, where my father was working for a religious organization that distributed relief aid in postwar South Korea. During the presidential elections of March 1960, I had observed truckloads of people being driven to the polls to vote for the right-wing pro-US dictator, Syngman Rhee. I was not surprised in late March when I began reading of protests throughout the country against what many Koreans said was a rigged election.

On April 19, the anger and fury against Rhee and his police state burst into the streets, when thousands of students and ordinary citizens launched massive demonstrations against the government. That night, my father, who worked in an office downtown, was trapped in his building for hours as police shot into the crowds, killing dozens. For the next few days, my American missionary school near Yonsei University was closed, and I began tracking the daily events. Every day I would cut out relevant stories from the newspapers, some of them – to my utter astonishment – censored and scratched out by the military.

By early May, Rhee had been forced out of the country, and was flown to Hawaii in a plane owned by Civil Air Transport, the CIA’s proprietary airline. For the first time in my life, I had witnessed people stand up and overthrow an unpopular government; suddenly, revolution was real to me.

Unfortunately, the “democratic spring” of 1960 didn’t last long, ending when General Park Chung Hee seized power in a military coup in May 1961. But the spirit of 4.19 lived on, through the 1980 uprising in Kwangju and the 1987 restoration of democracy. And it’s alive today as Koreans protest the drift into authoritarian rule by Park’s daughter, President Park Geun-hye.

I never forgot 4.19, and the 1960 uprising has always signified my baptism into the politics of liberation (the last photo is me in Seoul, in front of the only monument I could find in the city to those tumultuous days). Here is my record of the events, as I recorded them in my scrapbook – my first ever venture into journalism (age 9!).

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4-19-p7 4-19-p8 4-19-p9 4-19-p10 4-19-p11 4-19-p12 4-19-p13 4-19-p14 4-19-p15 4-19-p17 4-19-p18 4-19-p19 4-19-p20 4-19-p21 4-19-p22 4-19-p23 4-19-p24 4-19-p25 4-19-p26 4-19-p27 4-19-p27-1 4-19-p28 4-19-p29 4-19-p30

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1960-monument

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JFK Mystery Solved!

Dallas: The Russians Did It

In keeping with the spirit of this twisted presidential election, I have just discovered new evidence, pieced together from old clippings, that JFK was taken out by the Soviet Union in a plot masterminded by none other than Joseph Stalin himself. The proof is finally here! Please pass the word to Daily Beast, Buzzfeed and Fox News. Thanks to Nancy & Sluggo for the witty internal dialogue.

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Oligarchy of Spies

The Five Pure-Plays that Dominate US Intelligence

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Just out, in The Nation:

By Tim Shorrock

The recent integration of two military contractors into a $10 billion behemoth is the latest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions that have transformed America’s privatized, high-tech intelligence system into what looks like an old-fashioned monopoly.

In August, Leidos Holdings, a major contractor for the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, completed a long-planned merger with the Information Systems & Global Solutions division of Lockheed Martin, the global military giant. The 8,000 operatives employed by the new company do everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa.

The sheer size of the new entity makes Leidos one of the most powerful companies in the intelligence-contracting industry, which is worth about $50 billion today. According to a comprehensive study I’ve just completed on public and private employment in intelligence, Leidos is now the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.

Yes, that’s 80 percent. For the first time since spy agencies began outsourcing their core analytic and operational work in the late 1990s, the bulk of the contracted work goes to a handful of companies: Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, and CACI International. This concentration of “pure plays”—a Wall Street term for companies that makes one product for a single market—marks a fundamental shift in an industry that was once a highly diverse mix of large military contractors, small and medium technology companies, and tiny “Beltway Bandits” surrounding Washington, D.C.

As I argue below, these developments are incredibly risky for a country more dependent than ever on intelligence to fight global wars and prevent domestic attacks. “The problem with just five companies providing the lion’s share of contractors is that the client, the U.S. government, won’t have much alternative when a company screws up,” says David Isenberg, the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq.

Moreover, the fact that much of this privatized work is top secret—and is generally underreported in the press—undermines the accountability and transparency of our spy agencies. That should deeply concern the American public. “There’s so much less transparency in intelligence than in defense,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War, a study of the political and social impact of Lockheed Martin. “At least in Pentagon contracting, people can dig out conflicts of interest and cost overruns—the pieces of information you can use to get your hands on the problem.”

Fortunately, there is plenty of public information to build a profile of these companies. I’ll start this analysis with a closer look at the members of the new monopoly and a detailed explanation of how I reached my conclusions about their workforce.

• Booz Allen Hamilton, which has stood like a colossus over US intelligence as a contractor and consultant for over 30 years, is partly owned by the Carlyle Group, the politically connected private-equity firm. Booz is basically the consigliere of the Intelligence Community (known in Washington as the “IC”), serving “the Director of National Intelligence, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, National Intelligence and Civil Agencies, and Military Intelligence,” according to the company’s website. And this work can be lethal: Under a contract with Army intelligence, Booz personnel “rapidly track high-value individuals” targeted by the US military in a system now “deployed, and fully operational in Afghanistan.”

• CSRA Inc. was created out of a merger between CSC, which developed and manages the NSA’s classified internal-communications system, and SRA International, a highly profitable company with a long history of involvement in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Among scores of other contracts, CSRA, which has close ties to the US Air Force, provides 24/7 support for the “global operations” of US commands in Europe and Africa and, under a January 2016 contract, manages the “global network of intelligence platforms” for the most advanced drones in the US arsenal. And in a bizarre set of contracts with the Pentagon’s prison in Guantánamo, it was hired to help both the defense and the prosecution in the military trials of individuals accused of planning the 9/11 attacks.

• SAIC is a well-known military contractor that has expanded into spying by buying Scitor, a company deeply embedded in the Pentagon’s top-secret satellite operations. Scitor’s real value for SAIC is its reach into the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which manages those satellites and integrates downloaded signals and imagery from space for the NSA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). SAIC’s latest project: an $8.5 million contract from the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command for “aerial ISR” in Afghanistan to be partly carried out at the NSA’s huge listening post in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

• CACI International is the Pentagon contractor infamous for supplying interrogators to the US military prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. CACI recently acquired two companies doing extensive work for the NSA and the CIA: National Security Solutions (bought from L-3 Communications) and Six3 Intelligence Solutions. Both have given CACI new inroads into national intelligence. Six3, for example, recently won substantial contracts to provide “counterinsurgency targeting” to NATO forces in Afghanistan. It also just won a new Army contract to provide intelligence to US military forces in Syria—an indication of how deeply US forces are now engaged there. It’s also the only contractor I know that quantifies its results: CACI’s intelligence services have “identified more than 1,500 terrorists threatening our nation,” it claims.

Together, Leidos and its four competitors earned nearly $16 billion from government IT contracts in 2015, according to an annual listing by the trade publication Washington Technology. But the key to their dominance lies not with their revenue but with their employees—specifically, their approximately 45,000 contractors with security clearances who work alongside government employees at the NSA, the CIA, and other agencies…

Click here to read on.

 

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