INSA – How Money and Power Corrupts National Security

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA): A Field Guide  

By Tim Shorrock

INSA was originally founded in 1979 as a forum for informal discussions between the NSA and its many contractors, and had its headquarters in the National Business Park near the NSA where the agency’s dozens of contractors have their offices. INSA was reorganized in 2005 by a group of prominent contracting executives to serve as a bridge between the industry and the leaders of national intelligence. Those executives, representing Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC, Computer Sciences Corporation and Mantech International, among others, elected Michael McConnell, then and now a big intel honcho at Booz Allen, as chairman of INSA in 2005.

This relationship that was completely overlooked by the media at the time in its coverage of McConnell’s accession to the DNI. Yet INSA plays a huge, albeit hidden, role in the formulation of U.S. intelligence policy. Shortly after taking over as Director of the Office of National Intelligence under President Bush, McConnell elevated INSA into a virtual partnership with the Office of the DNI. In my mind, it symbolizes the undemocratic rot at the core of our privatized national security state.

In the interest of illuminating its role in current events, I post here an excerpt from the chapter of my 2008 book SPIES FOR HIRE that tells the story of INSA and its role in shaping the future of U.S. spying and surveillance. If this leads you to actually buy my book, which is out in paperback and available on Kindle, I’d be mighty pleased. — Tim Shorrock, Washington, June 9, 2013

INSA – “THE SHADOW IC” (Adapted from Spies for Hire)

The story begins shortly after Mike McConnell moved from Booz Allen Hamilton to become DNI for President Bush…

McConnell’s most important gesture to the contracting industry involved a little-known business association known as the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).

Originally founded in 1979 as a forum for informal discussions between the NSA and its contractors, INSA was reorganized in 2005 by a group of prominent contracting executives to serve as a bridge between the industry and the leaders of national intelligence. Those executives, representing Booz Allen, SAIC, Computer Sciences Corporation and Mantech International, among others, elected McConnell the chairman of INSA in 2005 – a relationship that was completely overlooked by the media in its coverage of McConnell’s accession to the DNI.

That was a significant oversight, because shortly after taking over as intelligence chief, McConnell elevated INSA into a virtual partnership with the Office of the DNI, and used its non-profit status to promote a dialogue within the broader IC on domestic intelligence. When it first began, that dialogue seemed innocent enough; who could argue with developing an industry consensus on this volatile issue?

But as we will see later in the book, as McConnell’s term at DNI progressed, he became the leader within the Bush administration of a drive to greatly expand the domestic reach of the NSA and convince Congress to grant immunity to companies that collaborated with the NSA in its surveillance program from its inception in the months after 9/11 to the present daSeen in this light, McConnell’s experience with INSA, and the role of his company in the Bush-Cheney intelligence regime, takes on greater significance.

For years, the most important contractor organization in the intelligence community was the Security Affairs Support Association (SASA). Founded in 1979, SASA was the premiere industry group for companies doing classified work in what IC insiders call “the intelligence space” – the CIA, the NSA and the NRO. One of its founders was Leonard Moodispaw, the CEO of Essex Corporation and one of the best-known contractors in the intelligence business. While working at the NSA in the late 1970s, Moodispaw told me, he became frustrated with his inability to speak openly with contractors “in a generic sense.” Strict agency acquisition rules required companies working at NSA to communicate only with NSA contracting officers. The contractors “could talk to me privately, but didn’t want to talk to the contracting officer because it would become adversarial,” Moodispaw explained. “That’s how SASA was born. I said, ‘there has to be a way to get everybody together without it being us pissing on each other.’”

He took the idea to Navy Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, the NSA director at the time, and won approval to start an organization to discuss broad issues of concern to both the agency and its contractors. SASA’s first project was to conduct an internal study of the NSA’s acquisitions methods. A new public-private partnership was launched; but, as usual, the actual public was nowhere to be seen. SASA’s primary function was to create a space for contractors and their government employers to schmooze in peace. Over the years, many of its events were held at highly secure intelligence facilities normally reserved for meetings of high-level national security officials.

In 1988, for example, the CIA allowed the association to hold a seminar on “Technical Shortfalls in Intelligence Architecture” in its top-secret war room at Langley. “The bubble was packed” for the event, Colloquoy, SASA’s in-house publication, reported. “It is fair to observe that it was one of the most stimulating programs in which SASA has ever been involved.” Later that year, the DIA made its Defense Intelligence Analysis Center at Bolling Air Force Base in Virginia available to SASA for an award ceremony for Dr. Edwin Land, who had developed the Polaroid camera for the intelligence community. “Many of his countless achievements remain beyond the public domain,” then-CIA Director William Webster said in presenting the award, underscoring the still-secretive nature of the industry.

Reading through the lists of speakers at past SASA events is a voyage through the revolving door. In 1991, Duane Andrews, then the assistance secretary of defense under Dick Cheney, delivered a keynote speech at a SASA conference; after leaving the Pentagon, he was hired by SAIC and, later, QinetiQ North America, the British-owned defense and intelligence contractor, where he is now the chairman and CEO. Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, the former director of the DIA, once addressed a SASA symposium on “the role of modeling and simulation in the 21st century.” Ten years later, he was a key executive with L-3 Communications Inc. and an outspoken advocate for the contracting business.

Most of the organization’s past presidents have become major players in the industry as well. Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge, SASA’s president from 1989 to 1992, served in the George H.W. Bush administration as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and is now on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin. SASA’s president in 1999 was Air Force Lt. General James R. Clapper, who went on to head the NGA and later joined the board of GeoEye, a major NGA contractor; now he is back at the Pentagon as the under secretary of defense for intelligence (NOTE: And he’s currently Director of ODNI for President Obama).

The organization’s biggest event was its annual presentation of the Baker award for contributions to the intelligence community. The award was named after William O. Baker, the legendary former director of Bell Labs. It was once the Intelligence Community’s primary R&D center, and was responsible over the years for many key technologies, including sonar tracking systems used by Navy submarines, listening devices for the NSA and encrypted telephones used by the president and other high-ranking national security officials.

The Baker award typically represents the consensus in government and business of the most influential figure in the IC, and the award dinner was the social event of the year for agencies and contractors alike. The way SASA chose the recipients was instructive. Every year, the organization invited the departments and agencies of the Intelligence Community, the Presidential Foreign Intelligence Board and the IC’s scientific, industrial and academic communities to submit names for nomination.

These were reviewed by an awards panel selected by SASA as well as representatives of the Secretaries of State and Defense and officials with the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the CIA. The award was traditionally handed out by the director of the CIA. In 2005, it went to retired Air Force General Brent Scowcroft, who ran the intelligence board for President George W. Bush until he was pushed aside in a dispute with Dick Cheney over the Pentagon’s role in intelligence.

Other recipients include former CIA Director George Tenet; former NGA Director Clapper; Charles Allen, a former top CIA officer who is now the intelligence director for the Department of Homeland Security; and, as we saw earlier, Booz Allen’s Joan Dempsey. The awards are now being handed out by INSA, SASA’s successor organization. In 2005, SASA went through a major shakeup. Its members were trying to figure out the organization’s identity. Was it a networking organization? Or was it a trade association, like the airline groups, all about industry?

The collective answer, Timothy R. Sample, INSA’s executive director, told me, was to make SASA a “more professional association” that promoted “collaboration, that partnership between industry, the private sector, academia and government, for the betterment of what you were trying to do for national security.”

In November, 2005, SASA was renamed the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), and McConnell, then the executive vice president of Booz Allen, was chosen to spearhead the new organization as chairman of its board of directors. INSA’s founding corporations included many of the major brand names in intelligence, as well as a few new entries to the industry. Each one, according to the INSA in-house newsletter, made initial investments of between $50,000 and $150,000, and pledged at least $25,000 in membership contributions every year.

They are listed on INSA’s website: BAE Systems, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Mantech International, SAIC and the Potomac Institute, a Washington think-tank with close links to the intelligence community. The other two founding companies, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, never belonged to SASA, as the others did.

Their presence in the new organization underscores the central role that information technology now plays in the broader national security industry. “[Information technology] is now a huge part of intelligence,” says INSA spokesperson Jason Kello. Asked why the two IT giants joined an organization dedicated to intelligence, he cited INSA’s shift in 2005 from a networking association to a public policy forum. “That’s when Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard stepped forward and helped provide the founding efforts for INSA, monetarily as well as with expertise,” he said. H-P, which earned $181 million from defense contracts in 2006, is represented on INSA’s board by Tom Hempfield, its vice president for federal sales. Microsoft, which doesn’t break out its federal government earnings, is represented by Linda K. Zecher, Vice President for the U.S. Public Sector. Both executives declined to comment on their respective companies’ ties with INSA.

Given INSA’s deep roots in the national collection agencies, McConnell was a logical choice for INSA’s first chairman. When he left the organization to take the reins of the Office of the DNI in February 2007, INSA spent several months searching for a successor, and in April chose John Brennan, the President and CEO of The Analysis Corporation (NOTE: Brennan is now Director of the CIA).

Brennan, whose activities as a contractor are described in more detail in Chapter Four, had extensive experience in the Intelligence Community; he served for more than 30 years at the CIA, and was the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center when it opened in 2004. His breadth of contacts outside of the intelligence mainstream was apparently the key to his selection. “INSA’s board believes that John’s experience in reaching out to departments and agencies in the days immediately after 9/11, including at the state and local levels, best fit INSA’s role of supporting the United States intelligence and national security communities,” INSA stated in a press release.

“If anything,” Kello added in an interview, Brennan “understands that intelligence means more than just the federal area. We want to start reaching out to chiefs of police. He comes from a background with the NCTC, understanding intelligence as not just being a Washington-centric policy discussion, like how does this affect people in Kansas City and Miami, that kind of thing.” Brennan is pushing within INSA to expand the reach of US intelligence to the domestic sphere, just as McConnell is doing at the DNI.

The man who manages INSA’s day to day activities is Tim Sample, who is himself a second-generation spook. Sample’s father was one of the original members of Army counterintelligence, and spent the years immediately after World War II debriefing Russians at a US Army base in Otsu, Japan. Sample’s career personifies the cozy relationship between the IC and its contractors.

After service with intelligence units within the Air Force, he joined the CIA, where he eventually became director of the CIA’s Non-Proliferation Center. He went on to become staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he worked closely for five years with Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., the former chairman of the committee who briefly served as CIA director in 2005.ample left Congress to take a job as vice president for strategic intelligence strategies at Veridian, a major intelligence contractor that was acquired by General Dynamics in 2005.

Under the leadership of Sample and Brennan, INSA now holds regular discussions with the DNI as well as the leadership of the NSA and the CIA about industry and national security issues. In June, 2006, while McConnell was still INSA’s chairman, the Office of the DNI met with INSA to explore “long-term challenges and priorities” facing the Intelligence Community as spelled out in the DNI’s Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review (that review, INSA noted in its newsletter, “previously had not been briefed to the private sector.”)

The meeting, held at the Northrop Grumman Heritage Conference Center in Chantilly, Virginia, provided a “unique opportunity” for INSA members to “contribute directly to those who are doing the strategic planning and outlining the priorities for the DNI for the next five-to-ten years, a critical time for the Intelligence Community,” according to a press release posted on INSA’s website. The event was open only to those holding secret security clearances.

These discussions, Sample assured me in an interview, build “trust” between contractors and the agencies they serve. Private industry and the government “come at things differently, especially in today’s world,” he said. “So it’s an issue of creating that trusted environment, where there can be collaboration and conversation, and where there’s benefits to both sides without a lot of concern about tainting, if you will, industry or government along the way.” He didn’t say much about what these “collaborations and conversations” are about. But he explained, when I asked, that there are things “we want to make sure happens the right way,” because in today’s world “there tends to be a lot of knee-jerk reactions until people understand what the issues are and the goals are. So what we do is try to provide an environment where some of these discussions can be had and people feel fairly comfortable and protected.”

But protected from what? Congress? An inquisitive public, concerned about the lack of oversight in defense and intelligence? That isn’t clear. What is clear is INSA’s desire to stay below the radar screen.

In the “trusted environment” it has created, it’s difficult to tell who is from the government and who represents the private sector. On a section of its website listing INSA’s board, only the names of directors appear –  not their business and government affiliations. Board members, Sample explained, are “selected for their expertise and understanding of intelligence and national security, and serve only in their personal capacities.”

That may be true; but their government agency and corporate affiliations are exactly why they’re in the organization. Because only someone on extremely familiar terms with the Intelligence Community would even recognize their names, the nondisclosure looks much more like an attempt to conceal than anything else. INSA, in fact, is one of the only business associations in Washington that includes current government officials on its board of directors. Kello stoutly denies this: “There’s government officials on the board of the Boy Scouts, AMA, on all kinds of non-profits,” he says. But in those organizations, the high-ranking government officials are there in ceremonial, honorary roles, and don’t play a role in decision-making.

Major business organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, are led by corporate executives – Fortune 500 types – not by government bureaucrats. The three other associations representing intelligence contractors, including the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) and the National Defense Industrial  Association (NDIA), are all managed by boards of directors composed only of corporate executives. Government agencies may belong as dues-paying members, but their representatives don’t hold positions as directors.

Yet at INSA, they make up a huge proportions of the board. The CIA holds two seats; also represented are the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Army counter-intelligence, the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.* In addition to the founding companies named earlier, the board also includes representatives from the Analysis Corporation, SI International, SRA International, CACI International, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft Corporation and Hewlett-Packard Corporation.

In recent years, the INSA board has included a number of “seniors” within the wider intelligence community and some of the most well-connected contractors in the private sector. Among them are quite a few people we will encounter later in this book: Robert A. Coleman, the chairman of Mantech; Harry Gatanas, a former NSA acquisitions official, now with the NSA contractor SI International; and Barbara McNamara, the former deputy director of the NSA, now on the board of directors of CACI International. Booz Allen has been particularly well-represented: INSA’s board now includes Booz Allen vice presidents Keith Hall, the former director of the NRO; Leo W. Hazlewood, a former top imagery analyst with the CIA who helped found the NGA; and Joan Dempsey.

In 2007, as part of its efforts to broaden its impact within the wider Intelligence Community, INSA incorporated into its membership the National Correlation Working Group, a shadowy organization of military intelligence operatives led by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Lincoln D. Faurer, who directed the NSA from 1981 to 1985. The correlation group keeps a low profile: it doesn’t have a website, and Google searches about the group yield virtually nothing.

According to Kello, it sponsors classified-level conferences and symposiums that focus on putting real-time intelligence into strategic use on the battlefield. An NCWG pamphlet in his office described its members as “highly experienced professionals, well-versed in defense tactics and combat decision-making, and dedicated to getting verified information to the warfighter with absolute speed and with no compromise to informational integrity.”

Many of the group’s members are retired Air Force generals. And like INSA, its board of directors is dominated by contractors: Faurer, the working group’s chairman, sits on the board of directors of Analex Inc., a company we will meet in Chapter Four that does extensive business with the CIA and NSA. William R. Usher, the former Air Force general who chairs INSA’s NCWG Council, was for many years the director of Lockheed Martin’s Washington Special Projects Office; he now runs his own eponymous consulting firm.

Other board members with deep roots in the industry include Larry Cox, a former NSA technician now working for SAIC, and William Crowell, the former deputy director of the NSA under McConnell, and a senior executive with Narus Inc., a Silicon Valley firm well-known in the telecom industry for its eavesdropping technologies. Jeffrey Harris, one of its board members, previously served with the CIA and as director of the NRO.

The working group, said Kello, used to be part of the National Defense Industrial Association but “decided to move over to INSA because we fit more with their mission, which was to be a public policy forum. We were part of a thought-leadership effort, as opposed to an industrial effort.” The well-connected executives and former officials who make up INSA’s leadership have collectively decided that INSA should act as a kind of promoter for the DNI. One of INSA’s first projects, launched while McConnell was chairman, was to work with the DNI to improve the “information sharing environment” within the Intelligence Community.

This was one of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, and it was written into the 2004 intelligence reform bill that created the DNI. According to an INSA press release from February 2006, Booz Allen was hired in August 2005 to support the government “with research and analysis to help identify solutions to critical issues” involving information-sharing.

Based on this research, the DNI was to submit an information-sharing plan to Congress, and “INSA and Booz Allen will support the plan’s construction.” According to the plan, as outlined in the press release, the information-sharing would “go beyond the IC” to include federal, state and local governments.

To further its mission along, INSA launched a Council on Domestic Intelligence in the fall of 2006. The idea behind the council, Sample told me, was to “help promote the right debate so we can aim towards the right level of oversight.” The council is co-chaired by two INSA board members, Retired Army Major General Robert A. Harding and Kathleen L. Kiernan. Harding, another former DIA official, runs a consulting firm that works closely with the DIA and has, according to company literature, “become the premier government contractor for counterintelligence, human intelligence, homeland security and MASINT solutions to support our country’s fight against terrorism” (MASINT is measures and signals intelligence, a highly classified school of intelligence that can, through the use of sensors, detect chemicals and other materials in the air). Kiernan, the former assistant director for strategic intelligence for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), also runs her own consulting firm.

According to Sample, INSA’s domestic security council includes both industry and intelligence officials, and is “sanctioned by the FBI.” The council is a transparent attempt to shape public discussions about civil liberties and issues related to domestic surveillance. This, I think, is what Sample meant by having “the right debate.”

Once you say domestic intelligence, he observed, you read stories about “whether it’s what NSA’s doing, or what information phone companies are giving out, right? Usually these things are played out in the media, and people speaking on them are usually at the extremes of the issues, and you rarely get a substantive basis for the argument. And you rarely get a good solid debate on what should we be doing.” At the same time, he says, in polls taken after the New York Times disclosed the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, “generally the American people thought it was not such a bad thing if it catches terrorists.” That’s why INSA was to “promote the right debate,” he repeated.

With a membership that includes many of the companies that provide technical support to the NSA’s eavesdropping and data-mining capabilities, it’s not hard to guess what the debate, or the proper conclusions, should be. In the spring of 2007, after Brennan was elected chairman of INSA and McConnell was firmly in control at the DNI, the pace of cooperation between the Office of the DNI and INSA stepped up dramatically.

Since that time, the ODNI and INSA have jointly sponsored a series of “outreach workshops,” most of them open only to government officials and contractors holding security clearances, on a wide range of subjects relevant to the Intelligence Community. On May 30, 2007, for example, the ODNI and INSA held a workshop on “insider threats.” “ODNI has identified as issues on which it seeks engagement, including insider criminal vulnerability, insider criminal activities, insider economic espionage, and insider terrorist activity,” INSA explained in the announcement for the event, posted on its website. Companies interested in the DNI workshop were asked to send their information to INSA.

In June, 2007, the ODNI and INSA co-sponsored a “DNI Industry Day,” where contractors were invited to hear DNI officials “address budget priorities and the near-term and long-term strategy,” and “learn from the ODNI about how your company can help achieve the national intelligence strategy alignment.” The event, sponsored in part by BAE Systems, Booz Allen, Mantech, Microsoft, SAIC  and Raytheon, cost $350 for INSA members and $425 for non-members. It was open to government agencies and contractors with secret clearances; “innovative companies” who did not have clearances were invited to attend a separate event with agency procurement officials.

The speakers includes most of the leadership of the Intelligence Community, including NSA director Keith Alexander, NRO director Donald Kerr, DIA director Michael Maples and NGA director Robert Murrett (Alden Munson, the new acquisition man at the DNI, also made an appearance). Other ODNI-INSA events have focused on open source intelligence, political and economic stability in India and China, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

In September, 2007, INSA was the chief sponsor of a week of events commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the National Security Act of 1947 “and the creation of our nation’s modern intelligence and national security establishments.” It included an “anniversary gala” at Georgetown University – where INSA has endowed a special chair on intelligence studies – that was co-sponsored by the Office of the DNI (the anniversary events and the open source conference were both open to the public).

Although INSA is a non-profit, some of these activities are money-making ventures that bring in considerable revenue to INSA (the organization’s 2005 tax return shows program services revenues of $1.4 million for the year). Yet there is no competition for the contracts; they are essentially sole-source contracts that appear to be awarded at the discretion of the DNI (the DNI press office would not comment on the DNI’s ties with INSA).

Moreover, these projects seem to make INSA itself a contractor – something that the organization strenuously denies. “INSA is a non-profit,” Kello, INSA’s spokesperson, stressed to me. While the organization collects sponsorship and attendance fees, “ODNI does not pay us,” he said. “We help promote the mission INSA has, which is as a forum for enhancing intelligence policy.”

INSA’s joint programs with the DNI have alarmed some intelligence veterans, who wonder if INSA has become a way for contractors and intelligence officials to create policy in secret, without oversight from Congress. “Evidently, DNI McConnell has made it an early priority to stand up INSA as the preeminent non-profit association serving the ODNI,” an industry insider told me, on condition of anonymity. “While INSA has created multiple levels of memberships and a large connected board of both government and industry leaders, the real control remains with the big dollar founding primes. I wonder if it’s even legal for these officials to sit on an actual board of an industry trade association.”

That is not entirely clear. Scott Armey, the counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a public interest group that monitors federal contracting, said the DNI’s relationship with INSA certainly raises serious ethical questions. If government officials are attending INSA meetings on a regular basis, he said, those meetings may be subject to open meeting rules, which would require them to be open to the public.

The fact that contractors and intelligence officials are meeting under the cover of a business association – despite the fact that they are supposedly there as individuals – points to the need to expand the oversight of intelligence to include contracting. “This sounds like a self-policing program,” said Armey. “At that point, who’s really minding the store?” That’s a question that will be raised again and again as we investigate the secret world of intelligence outsourcing.


* These were the government agency representatives on INSA’s board in September 2007. From the CIA, Carmen Medina, Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence, and Caryn Wagner, Executive Director of Intelligence Community Affairs. From the DIA, Barbara A. Duckworth, Chief of Staff. From the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Terrance M. Ford, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 (Intelligence). From Army Counterintelligence, Thomas Gandy, Director for Human Intelligence, Foreign Disclosure and Security in the Office of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. From the NSA, Richard C. Schaeffer, Information Assurance Director. From DHS, James F. Sloan, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and Criminal Investigations, U.S. Coast Guard. And from the FBI, Donna Bucella, Director, Terrorist Screening Center.

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