The Company's Company Man: Notes on Brennan 3

I have wanted to write something on John Brennan that has to do with his post-CIA business dealings and his chairmanship of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (which dates from Spring 2007 til about a week ago).  Like most other aspects of Brennan, his business and INSA dealings disturbingly reflect the status quo at the CIA and will in practice undermine Obama's stated goals if he is appointed CIA Director.

For this diary I will be leaning heavily on Meteor Blades' review of Tim Shorrock's "Spies for Hire" and Tim Shorrock's book itself, portions of which can be read for free on Google Books.  I want to use their insights to demonstrate Brennan's involvement in the corruption of the Bush administration.

So let's begin by laying out where we need to hold Obama's feet to the fire.  Starting with a quote that Meteor Blades provides in a post-victory diary, from Obama on torture:

"The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values."
 [bolding mine]

Sounds good doesn't it.  Foot one, meet the fire.  Let's look at what Obama has said on lobbying, taken from Change.Gov:

Close the Revolving Door on Former and Future Employers: No political appointees in the Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
[bolding mine]

These are the rules Obama said he would play by, and by appointing Brennan to CIA Director he will be most certainly not playing by them.  For one thing, Analysis Corp., of which Brennan was until a week ago CEO, has received multiple government contracts, and maintains the National Counterterrorism Center's terrorist database (Shorrock, p.11).  I assume it would be impossible for the director of the CIA to ignore the terrorist database for two years.  At least, I hope so.

A responsible press would've told you this.  Unfortunately, we don't have one.  Oh and another good tidbit from Shorrock:  "TAC [The Analysis Corp - ed. note], in turn, has subcontracted the collection activities for the database to CACI International, the same company that provided contract interrogators to the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq" (p.11).  This is the company currently getting sued by former inmates.  

The outsourcing in the intelligence community is a huge deal and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance facilitates this process.  Meteor Blades notes that when McConnell took over the CIA, the media did not acknowledge he had formerly chaired the INSA, and quotes Shorrock:

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 nonprofit 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 shall see ... 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 day. Seen in this light, McConnell's experience with INSA, and the role of his company in the Bush-Cheney intelligence regime, take on greater significance.

The guy on the other side of this dialogue was John Brennan.  From Shorrock:

"In the spring of 2007, after Brennan was elected chairman of the INSA and McConnell was firmly in control at the DNI, the pace of cooperation between the Office of the DNI and the INSA stepped up dramatically.  Since that time, the ODNI and the 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." p.69

More from Shorrock:

"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...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 Web site." p.64
 [bolding mine]

Um...does that not sound like lobbying to you?  Actually, lobbyists pay money to get access to Congress to tell them what they want.  This non-profit, headed by contractors, meeting with government officials, tells the CIA what they want to do, and has their pockets lined by the CIA while they're at it. Shorrock further notes that:

"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 nonprofit 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 Amey, 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."  p.70-71

[bolding mine]

Brennan has worked to expand the murky public-private relationships in the intelligence community.  It is no small wonder that he believes telco companies should be granted immunity for collaborating in the government's eavesdropping efforts.  His company, among other companies in his "trade association" have engaged in intense collaboration with the Bush administration as well.  It would be completely in his self-interest to advise Obama to shove all investigations under the carpet and get on with collecting intelligence.  And it would be consistent with his history to see him advise Obama to continue a public-private partnership that makes lobbying seem like child's play.  And allows his friends to participate in policy-making once again.

We need major changes in our intelligence community, and John Brennan simply cannot be considered a change agent.  Let's no longer "work in secret" as Obama promises.  Let's see increased oversight over all these private contractors meeting with government officials.  Do NOT allow the intimate relationship of the INSA and DNI to continue.  As Meteor Blades says:

Without close oversight - that is, without the committed and relentless supervision of elected people with security clearances of their own - few questions can be answered. Limited congressional efforts have been initiated to enforce some oversight, to gain some transparency, to establish some control, and to just understand, but these seem like weak efforts at best. At any rate, they are too new to offer the slightest confidence that they will put reins on the private-public intelligence partnership.

And let's see Obama actually follow his lobbyist rules where it counts.  Give us the oversight we currently do not have over our private intelligence community.  And do not give us John Brennan.

My thanks to Meteor Blades and Tim Shorrock for their writing.

< CIA CYA: Notes on Brennan Part 2 | On Brennan & Torture Commissions >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Good Work (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 04:43:50 PM EST
    Brennan seems wrong for the job on several fronts.

    Thanks squeaky (none / 0) (#2)
    by lilburro on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 07:41:35 PM EST
    I figure might as well try every angle before any announcement is made.  Time to send an email to Change.gov.  

    Liburro, I appreciate your efforts to bring all of (none / 0) (#3)
    by DeborahNC on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 05:58:27 PM EST
    this information together to give us a fuller picture of Brennan. It is clear that Obama's consideration of Brennan as CIA director was inconsistent with his (Obama's) stated philosophy on interrogations, etc.

    To me, this is an example of why blogging has become such a critical tool for keeping Americans informed. In the course of my day-to-day life, sometimes I can be so busy or distracted that it becomes impossible to get exposure to many of the important news stories. But, when you and many others consolidate information from many sources into a diary, it makes it possible for me and many others who want stay informed to be able do so in less time.

    Also, blogging supports the idea of being vocal about our beliefs and holding our elected officials accountable, a subject that BTD blogged about yesterday(?).

    Thanks so much for you diary. I'm so relieved Brennan is now not being considered for the post!