Archive: Intelligence

In the War Against Terrorism, Intelligence Drones On

Finding a "needle in a needle stack": That's how the head of Army intelligence training described the new challenge of spying in the war on terrorism. Searching for a "needle in a haystack" would be much easier, he says, because...

By William M. Arkin | April 28, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (15)

Fighting Terrorism Ultimately Means Getting Bin Laden

He's still International Public Enemy No. 1.

By William M. Arkin | February 27, 2008; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (21)

Goodbye Spy Satellite: Anyone Know the Price Tag?

The real story behind the satellite shoot-down.

By William M. Arkin | February 21, 2008; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (54)

What to Do About Iran

The new national intelligence estimate has deflated any push, on either side, toward military confrontation. Here are ten ways to take advantage of the moment.

By William M. Arkin | December 13, 2007; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (213)

The Special Relationship

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is shaping up to have profound effects on U.S.-Israeli relations.

By William M. Arkin | December 7, 2007; 08:12 AM ET | Comments (36)

Still Secret, Still Unaccountable

The CIA's report on its failures leading up to 9/11 is a carefully vetted and sanitized document that makes it clear just how difficult it is to hold public servants accountable.

By William M. Arkin | August 22, 2007; 09:33 AM ET | Comments (49)

Let the Government Listen -- and Demand Results

President Bush signed into law yesterday a bill making legal some of the government's surveillance powers undertaken since 9/11. Critics say the law goes too far in giving the National Security Agency the ability to target whomever it wants, even...

By William M. Arkin | August 6, 2007; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (37)

Trimming the Government's Talons -- Or Not

Ever since I revealed the existence of the Pentagon's Talon database and the military's collection of information on anti-war protests, the story has careened in all directions. The sinister interpretation is that the Defense Department was or is keeping any...

By William M. Arkin | July 9, 2007; 09:02 AM ET | Comments (17)

George Tenet's Fairytale History of the Iraq War

On the morning of March 19, 2003, Saddam Hussein's son Qusay arrived at the Central Bank of Iraq with 50 goons from the regime's Special Security Organization to make a withdrawal of $1 billion in cash. President Bush's 48-hour "deadline"...

By William M. Arkin | May 9, 2007; 09:50 AM ET | Comments (13)

Tenet's Slam Dunk Support for Dick Cheney

Most reviews of George Tenet's book have focused on Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. The former CIA director's explanations of the internal administration fight over the Iraq-al Qaeda link has gone almost without comment. In the "At the Center...

By William M. Arkin | May 8, 2007; 08:32 AM ET | Comments (18)

The Tenet/Myers Now-They-Tell-Us Club

Former CIA Director George Tenet spends much of his new book removing his fingerprints from the buildup to the war in Iraq and making a case for why the core al-Qaeda terrorist threat continues to be of paramount importance. Former...

By William M. Arkin | May 7, 2007; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (60)

Let's Name Names at the CIA

I can't decide which of last week's profiles in government - Valerie Plame's turn as Congressional star witness or the FBI's warning to local law enforcement that suspected extremists are signing up as school bus drivers - is more ridiculous....

By William M. Arkin | March 20, 2007; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (111)

Predictions for 2007, and one surprising death

A surge of troops in Iraq now a foregone conclusion -- the Democratic Congress will prove to have neither the courage nor vision to stop the President -- what does 2007 hold out for national security? I've made some predictions,...

By William M. Arkin | January 4, 2007; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (21)

Wasting Time on Princess Di

I don't know which is more embarrassing or more damaging: the Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum planned for Oklahoma, or the news that the NSA eavesdropped in on Princess Diana's communications right before she died. I couldn't care less...

By William M. Arkin | December 11, 2006; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (34)

The Coming Purge at Defense Intelligence

Appointed Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Warfighting Support on July 23, 2003, Lt. Gen. William G. ("Jerry") Boykin has surely got to be the longest serving military officer in any posting anywhere. Boykin's three and a half...

By William M. Arkin | November 14, 2006; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (92)

On the NIE, the Right and the Left Are Both Wrong

The National Intelligence Estimate regarding trends in global terrorism, partially released by the administration yesterday in response to weekend news leaks, is not centrally about Iraq, and it is certainly not the final word on the subject.While the NIE cites...

By William M. Arkin | September 27, 2006; 07:55 AM ET | Comments (121)

The Final Verdict on Able Danger

Distrust of the White House and Congress has become so epidemic, vast numbers of Americans now accept conspiracy theories about September 11, 2001, including the most diabolical: that the U.S. government somehow was complicit and even responsible for the events.A...

By William M. Arkin | September 25, 2006; 09:19 AM ET | Comments (42)

Bush's Sweater Intelligence

When President Bush thanked Prime Minister Blair for the gift of a "sweater" yesterday, it was code. Bush was expressing appreciation for London's help in planning imminent secret operations to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria, and eliminate Iran's nuclear...

By William M. Arkin | July 18, 2006; 09:32 AM ET | Comments (38)

The Department of Homeland Security's Unlimited "Priorities"

The Department of Homeland Security's "National Asset Database," described in yesterday's New York Times," is made for mocking. The government database lists among other critical infrastructure and key resources a Pennsylvania-based Amish popcorn company, the Groundhog Zoo; a kangaroo...

By William M. Arkin | July 13, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (38)

Hoekstra's Contributions to Unchecked Executive Power

Mindful of the saying, "No one is more spiteful than a lover spurned," I read the Hoekstra letter on intelligence oversight and the affair that has unfolded in the media and the blogosphere as a comment on congressional prerogatives...

By William M. Arkin | July 11, 2006; 09:33 AM ET | Comments (16)

Should the U.S. Use Its Intelligence To Pressure North Korea?

What's intelligence for, anyway? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he was notified of the North Korean missile testing Tuesday within a minute of the first launch.  President Bush says he Rumsfeld called him "right after launch." The notification...

By William M. Arkin | July 6, 2006; 08:40 AM ET | Comments (102)

The Hero of Guantanamo

"We can't be scared out of who we are." That statement by Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the military appointed defense attorney for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, is the real victory to build upon in the aftermath of the Supreme Court...

By William M. Arkin | June 30, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (95)

The Non-American Angle of the Hunt for Zarqawi

Citizen tip-offs, on-the-beat detective work, rapid exploitation of captured operatives, documents and intercepted signals facilitated by native Iraqi speakers, a Jordanian run penetration of the Zarqawi tribe and the terrorist network. If there is one really hopeful sign in...

By William M. Arkin | June 9, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (31)

TerrorismAffairs.com

The apprehension of the Toronto gang, and the use of Internet monitoring by Canadian law enforcement authorities to track and understand them points not only to the evolved nature of worldwide terrorism since 9/11, but also the possibility of...

By William M. Arkin | June 7, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (25)

More NSA Programs to come

I'm in the field today doing research on NSA programs and won't be writing a blog.  A source plopped a list of hundreds of NSA codenames into my lap in response to my May 12 entry listing hundreds of...

By William M. Arkin | May 23, 2006; 08:09 AM ET | Comments (15)

Go, Mike Hayden!

Yesterday in his appearance before the Senate, this active duty general, this high ranking government official, this career intelligence officer, this nominee to be CIA director straightforwardly criticized decisions and actions of the Bush administration, even gingerly suggesting a...

By William M. Arkin | May 19, 2006; 08:35 AM ET | Comments (109)

Confirm Hayden, With Reservations

Mike Hayden should be confirmed as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. If his nomination runs into trouble in the Senate, there will be three reasons -- only one of which involves surveillance programs at the National...

By William M. Arkin | May 18, 2006; 08:38 AM ET | Comments (52)

NSA Surveillance is the President's Star Wars!

The government is listening in on this or that call, combing through telephone records, tracking Emails and other transactions, instantly detecting anomalies and patterns in communications, building enemies lists. I spoke to a friend in the business yesterday, a...

By William M. Arkin | May 17, 2006; 08:32 AM ET | Comments (45)

There Is No Enemy's List

ABC News reported yesterday that the FBI has been examining the call records of journalists, including those at The Washington Post, as part of its ongoing leak investigations, a story that some have interpreted as connected to the NSA phone...

By William M. Arkin | May 16, 2006; 08:50 AM ET | Comments (58)

A Seamless Surveillance Culture

Despite urban legend that NSA surveillance is a news media crusade because the majority of Americans "approve" government surveillance to protect them from terrorists, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that almost two-thirds of Americans are concerned that the...

By William M. Arkin | May 15, 2006; 08:22 AM ET | Comments (89)

Telephone Records are just the Tip of NSA's Iceberg

The National Security Agency and other U.S. government organizations have developed hundreds of software programs and analytic tools to "harvest" intelligence, and they've created dozens of gigantic databases designed to discover potential terrorist activity both inside the United States and...

By William M. Arkin | May 12, 2006; 10:47 AM ET | Comments (216)

Military Intelligence is Not the CIA's Problem

The President's nomination of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be CIA director has some fretting about an out-and-out Pentagon power grab, with Donald Rumsfeld winning the final battle over who will control U.S. intelligence. Hayden, a four star Air...

By William M. Arkin | May 9, 2006; 09:15 AM ET | Comments (26)

It May Not Matter Who Runs the CIA

Everyone's got an opinion about who would make a good CIA director, yet what we don't have is a good look into the Agency, an honest view of what it is we really want and need from an intelligence...

By William M. Arkin | May 8, 2006; 09:38 AM ET | Comments (70)

Al Qaeda = Neocons: Is This What People Think?

Last Saturday, I sat on a panel asked to comment on the BBC documentary series The Power of Nightmares, a three hour argument by Adam Curtis that al Qaeda is a "myth" created by the neoconservative cabal and politicans to...

By William M. Arkin | May 2, 2006; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (75)

Blabbermouthing about Secrets

Pentagon spying and the government clampdown on the leaking of classified information are at the top of my news interests this week. Yesterday, the House version of the fiscal year 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill included language directing the Defense...

By William M. Arkin | April 28, 2006; 07:35 AM ET | Comments (43)

Congress is the Ultimate Problem when it comes to Leaks

If career CIA analyst Mary O. McCarthy goes to jail, it won't be because of the news media, the big bad mean Bush administration or the triumph of the polygraph and the security goons. It will also not be...

By William M. Arkin | April 25, 2006; 09:11 AM ET | Comments (74)

Counter-Terrorism Profiteers, With Your Money

A National Counter-terrorism Center and a Director of National Intelligence with ever greater authority. An FBI Terrorist Screening Center that can reach far and wide to local law enforcement. The Defense Intelligence Agency's Joint Task Force for Counter-Terrorism and a...

By William M. Arkin | April 20, 2006; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (57)

The F Bomb

My post "Free Speech and Patriotism" provoked many responses that took me to task for using the F word and being rude and childish in responding to a Marine Corps general who asked me whether I considered myself a journalist...

By William M. Arkin | April 3, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Spy vs. Spy in Iraq

Do we really believe that the U.S. military thinks that Russia had a spy in the middle of American war planning for Iraq or that Russia broke some American code and listened in on U.S. war preparations in 2003?  And...

By William M. Arkin | March 27, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (44)

Dots: An Apparatus of Domestic Repression?

Current and former members of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, come forth.  I believe your unit is spying on anti-war, anti-military and environmental organizations under the guise of "force protection."  Ever since Pentagon domestic spying was revealed by yours truly...

By William M. Arkin | March 24, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (28)

NSA Probe or Assimilation?

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee reached an internal compromise on how to deal with the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. The committee decided to become part of the program. Since December, when The New York Times revealed the...

By William M. Arkin | March 7, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (36)

The Problem With Information Anarchy

In our Google-ized world, everyone's an expert and knowledge isn't solely in the possession of either the traditional experts or the government. That information anarchy was evident in the release last weekend of a set of audiotapes of Saddam Hussein...

By William M. Arkin | February 22, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

Able Danger and 9/11 Heartstrings

Under Secretary of Defense Stephen Cambone testified before Congress yesterday that 90 people spent some 6,500 hours searching through documents and interviewing people involved in the Able Danger program and that they were unable to find any evidence that...

By William M. Arkin | February 16, 2006; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (25)

No Big Deal, Pentagon Says

Oh my goodness, Donald Rumsfeld, says. Well-meaning, honest mistakes: "no big deal." That's how the Secretary of Defense describes his Department's own admission to Congress that the Pentagon "inappropriately" collected information on anti-war and anti-military protestors in the United States. ...

By William M. Arkin | February 9, 2006; 09:45 AM ET | Comments (15)

It's all about the Dots

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' defense of NSA warantless surveillance today before Congress today is expected to stress not only the President's powers during wartime, but also contain an attack on "misinformed, confused" news accounts, according to Time Magazine.  High...

By William M. Arkin | February 6, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (44)

NSA Expands, Centralizes Domestic Spying

Code Name(s) of the Week: DIAZ, Emergejust, Freedom, Highpoint, PASSGEAR, Viceroy The National Security Agency is in the process of building a new warning hub and data warehouse in the Denver area, realigning much of its workforce from Ft. Meade,...

By William M. Arkin | January 30, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (77)

PR? A Pat on the Back to Hayden

Yesterday's remarks by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former NSA director and now Deputy Director of National Intelligence, got unfair treatment in The Washington Post today. The Post focused on the PR blitz, and on what Hayden didn't say, ignoring...

By William M. Arkin | January 24, 2006; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (19)

Pentagon Collects Thousands of Names?

I've said in these pages that I believe the Bush administration's characterization of warantless NSA surveillance is limited but wonder what else it might be trying to cover in its zeal to protect the revealed program.  I've criticized Congress in...

By William M. Arkin | January 23, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (28)

Pentagon Says We're Sorry

The administration argued yesterday that the President has the Constitutional authority to order warantless surveillance, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez delivered a new legal defense to Congress of the National Security Agency's surveillance activities and Vice President Dick Cheney spoke...

By William M. Arkin | January 20, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (47)

NSA's Worldwide Appetite

The New Zealand Sunday Star Times has been filled with its own NSA scandal of sorts for the past week, and it provides some real insight into our own secret world.  The papers of former Prime Minister David Lange have...

By William M. Arkin | January 18, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (9)

More Compartmented Programs

The Navy has issued a new regulation heavily restricting the use of compartmented security classification to preclude or impede oversight of sensitive programs. After an internal Navy audit begun early last year found that secrecy was being used to restrict...

By William M. Arkin | January 13, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (16)

More Oversight on Spying?

Codename of the Week: Sudden Spirit The increasingly partisan scandal over warrantless NSA surveillance will likely have little impact on the eavesdropping and data collection initiated since 9/11, as I said yesterday. But outrage on Capitol Hill could upend the long-standing...

By William M. Arkin | January 6, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (51)

Fear of Spying

The President and Vice President have now made it simple: The NSA was only spying on a small number of potential Americans communicating with suspected terrorists overseas.President Bush, speaking on Sunday: "This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks...

By William M. Arkin | January 5, 2006; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (77)

The Curious Section 126 of the Patriot Act

What is it that the National Security Agency began doing after 9/11 that necessitated Presidential authorization for warantless surveillance? We have all learned in the past week that the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act of 1978 contains provisions that allow...

By William M. Arkin | December 23, 2005; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (68)

The Pentagon Breaks the Law

The National Security Agency story has pushed military spying on anti-war groups off the front pages, and the Pentagon appears to have seized upon administrative error to explain away its slide into domestic spying. The Department of Defense now says...

By William M. Arkin | December 22, 2005; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (92)

S&M at the Congress

The White House now says that it briefed Congress more than a dozen times on its warantless surveillance of U.S. persons.  "Congress" in this regard refers to a handful of lawmakers -- sometimes called the "big eight" by the intelligence...

By William M. Arkin | December 21, 2005; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (51)

Inside NSA's World

Every day, the National Security Agency intercepts and records more that 650 million "events" worldwide: radar signals, radio and data transmissions, satellite, cell and land-line telephone calls, faxes and e-mail and text messages and chats over the Internet.  "The fact...

By William M. Arkin | December 20, 2005; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (56)

The American Battlefield

The Pentagon now says that it has ordered a "review" of the collection of information about U.S. citizens, particularly those who pose no plausible terrorist threat, after my NBC Nightly News piece ran Tuesday and my blog yesterday revealed some...

By William M. Arkin | December 15, 2005; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (45)

Pentagon Domestic Spying

An NBC Nightly News piece yesterday on domestic spying by the military featured yours truly discussing an intelligence database of 1,519 "suspicious incidents" that covers the period July 2004-May 2005.  The database -- which I obtained from a military source...

By William M. Arkin | December 14, 2005; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (60)

Military Identity Confusion

In these days of identity theft, one can never be too careful. So isn't it a little strange that the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) can write a "special report" on "Production and Use of Fraudulent Military Identification Cards" and...

By William M. Arkin | November 30, 2005; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (29)

Domestic Military Intelligence Is Back

Code Name of the Week: CornerstoneYesterday, Walter Pincus reported in The Washington Post about the Defense Department's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), certainly one of the more mysterious Pentagon agencies, and one that is at the center of the Defense Department's...

By William M. Arkin | November 29, 2005; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (83)

Another Saddam (and U.S. Intelligence) Massacre

The list of crimes committed by Saddam Hussein against his own people and the international community is long, but once again the former Iraqi President was granted another delay in his trial, a trial that is initially slated to focus...

By William M. Arkin | November 28, 2005; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (50)

Origins of the Iraq Mistake

(Second Part of a Series)  Scott Ritter and George Bush have something in common. They both strongly believed, at critical junctures in each of their lives, that the "intelligence" they possessed allowed them to make a definitive conclusion about Saddam...

By William M. Arkin | October 19, 2005; 11:11 AM ET | Comments (76)

Israel's Secret Hand in Iraq Inspections

(First of a two-part series) On October 8, 1994, weapons inspector and former Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter arrived in Tel Aviv, setting in motion a nine year odyssey that ultimately led to the current Iraq war. Ritter, who...

By William M. Arkin | October 18, 2005; 03:34 PM ET | Comments (143)

Another Law Under Assault

The post-Katrina agitation to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act comes in the wake of another assault on a venerable protection of the rights of Americans, namely the web of Executive Orders and regulations restricting military and civilian intelligence agencies from...

By William M. Arkin | September 29, 2005; 07:19 AM ET | Comments (13)

Disabling Able Danger

In April 2000, Able Danger, only months old, was abruptly shut down. Caught violating Reagan administration Executive Orders and Defense Department and Army regulations restricting intelligence agencies from collecting information on United States "persons," the highly compartmented cell within the...

By William M. Arkin | September 28, 2005; 08:27 AM ET | Comments (7)

The Secret History of Able Danger

Ever since Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) claimed in August that Pentagon analysts had identified 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in early 2000, a secret intelligence operation code named Able Danger has become the latest fantasy of left and right wing conspiracy...

By William M. Arkin | September 27, 2005; 08:38 AM ET | Comments (38)

 

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