For a moment I was contemplating the Guardian article ‘National borders are becoming irrelevant, says John McDonnell‘, which could be seen as a load of labour by the Bollocks party, or is that a load of bollocks by the Labour party? Anyway, the article was so shaky that it did not deserve the paper to explain the load of bollocks in there. What is however an interesting article, is the article in the National Security section of the Washington Post. The article “‘Eyewash’: How the CIA deceives its own workforce about operations” is worthy of digging into for a few reasons (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/eyewash-how-the-cia-deceives-its-own-workforce-about-operations/2016/01/31/c00f5a78-c53d-11e5-9693-933a4d31bcc8_story.html).
Initially, the very first thought I had was regarding Lao Tsu, who gave us the quote: ‘Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know‘, which is a truth in all this.
Apart from the title, the first quote to look at is: “Senior CIA officials have for years intentionally deceived parts of the agency workforce by transmitting internal memos that contain false information about operations and sources overseas“, there are a number of issues here, but let’s focus on one thread for now.
You see the second quote “Agency veterans described the tactic as an infrequent but important security measure, a means of protecting vital secrets by inserting fake communications into routine cable traffic while using separate channels to convey accurate information to cleared recipients” is at the very core of this.
No matter how you slice and dice it, the CIA has had a number of issues since 2002. The first is that after two planes got the wrong end of a vertical runway, the game changed, suddenly there was a massive overhaul and suddenly it had to deal with the United States Department of Homeland Security. In 2002 the DHS combined 22 different federal departments and agencies into a unified, integrated cabinet agency. More important, the DHS was working within and outside of American borders.
Now, the blissfully ignorant (including a host of politicians) seemed to live with the notion that under one flag and united, these people would start playing nice. Now, apart from that being a shaped a joke of titanic proportions, hilarious and all, the reality is far from that. You see, both the FBI and the CIA (not to mention the NSA) suddenly had to worry about 240,000 people, 240,000 security screenings. What do you think was going to happen? The issue of ‘false information about operations and sources overseas‘ is not an issue until you try to exploit that information, which means that you are doing something ILLEGAL (to the extent of being worthy of a shot through the back of the head). ‘Eyewash’ is only one cog in a vast machine of smokescreens that counterintelligence has to see how certain tracks of misinformation makes it outside the walls of intelligent wailing. You must have heard the story of the Senator/Governor who has a ‘friend’ in the CIA, not all those ‘friends’ are working valid paths. The intelligence community is a closed one for a reason. There is a clear chain of command, which means that the CIA has a chain of command and if a Senator or a Governor wants information, there is a clear path that he/she walks, from that point a politician gets informed if that person is allowed or has a valid reason for knowing. If anyone needs to move outside that path, you better believe that it is for political or personal reasons!
Now we get the quote that matters “officials said there is no clear mechanism for labelling eyewash cables or distinguishing them from legitimate records being examined by the CIA’s inspector general, turned over to Congress or declassified for historians“, I am not sure that this is correct. The question becomes what paths and what changes were pushed through in the last 2 administrations? I am willing to contemplate that errors have popped up since the Bush Government, yet in all this the parties seem to forget that the DHS was a political solution pushed through by politicians within a year. I know at least three companies that seriously screwed up a reorganisation of no more than 1,500 people over the period of 2 years, so what did you think would happen when 240,000 people get pushed all over the place? In addition, when a massive chunk of the intelligence section went private to get an income that was 400% better than there previous income (same place, same job), additional issues became their own level of a problem within the DHS, CIA, FBI (and again the non-mentioned NSA).
There were all levels of iterative issues in DATAINT, SIGINT, IT and Tradecraft. Names like Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden might be the most visible ones, but I feel 99.99993422% certain (roughly), that there were more. Eyewash is one of the methods essential to keep others off balance and in the dark what actually was going on, because it was not their business or place to know this. This gets us to the following quotes “But a second set of instructions sent to a smaller circle of recipients told them to disregard the other message and that the mission could proceed” and ““The people in the outer levels who didn’t have insider access were being lied to,” said a U.S. official familiar with the report. “They were being intentionally deceived.”“, now consider this quote from another source “Having DOOMED SPIES, doing certain things openly for purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to know of them and report them to the enemy“, which comes from chapter 13 of Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War‘, a book that is almost 2,500 years old, and the tactic remains a valid one. Should you consider that to be hollow, than consider the little hiccup that the British Empire faced (I just love the old titles). Perhaps you remember the names: Kim Philby, Donald Duart Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. They made a massive mess of British Intelligence, it took them years to clean up the mess those four had left behind, now consider adding 245,000 names, for the most none of them had passed CIA and/or FBI clearances. So what options did the CIA have? In addition, as we saw more and more evidence of the events linking to Edward Snowden, additional questions on the clearing process should be asked in equal measure, which leads to: ‘What options did the CIA have?’
In that light, the quote “Federal law makes it a criminal offense when a government employee “conceals, covers up, falsifies or makes a false entry” in an official record. Legal experts said they knew of no special exemption for the CIA, nor any attempt to prosecute agency officials for alleged violations” becomes little more than a joke, for the mere reason that not making the intelligence community exempt from this would be a very dangerous issue indeed. You see, today the CIA has a larger issue than just small players like North Korea, it has to deal with business conglomerates all over the world and they have become close to sovereign financial entities in their own right. What happens when a Senator chooses to take a book filled with intelligence anecdotes, just because it is an American Corporation? What happens when he gets the multi-billion dollar deal and he only has to ‘sweeten’ the deal a little? This is entering a grey area that most regard to be a grey area no one wants to touch, but what if it is not a high ranking official? What if it is just a mid-level controller, or a mere IT member looking for a retirement fund? Suddenly, this scenario became a whole lot more realistic, didn’t it?
Eyewash is just one cog in a machine of cogs, it drives a certain amount of cogs of the machine and as certain levels of Intel makes it outside of the walls, counterintelligence has a path to trot on, the article only lightly (too lightly) treads on those elements (yet they are mentioned), but the overall issue of internal dangers that the CIA (et al) faces are almost trivialised, in addition, the entire issue of the DHS and the linked dangers of intelligence access remains untouched. That is perhaps the only issue the article has. Well, from my point it has a few more, like under valuating the need for counter intelligence and the fact that this tactic had been around for around 2,500 years, but let’s not squabble on minor details.
The only additional minor detail I would like to add is that in all this is the missing component of the chain of command towards the Director of National Intelligence (which at present is James Clapper), in opposition, there is no denying that there is an issue that the internal mechanisms for managing eyewash cables were largely informal, which is an issue, even if there would be a clear document, likely higher than Top Secret within the CIA on how to identify and/or classify eyewash cables. Which now only leaves us with the Eyewash cables by No Such Agency like the CIA, but that is something for another day.