Tim Shorrock

How Sony, Obama, Seth Rogen and the CIA Secretly Planned to Force Regime Change in North Korea

Over the past month, President Trump’s incendiary threats to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea in response to its ballistic missile program set off a chain of military escalations that climaxed this week with Pyongyang’s sixth test of a nuclear device, a hydrogen bomb three to five times more powerful than the American bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Why Does WikiLeaks Keep Publishing U.S. State Secrets? Private Contractors

When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

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Clueless Trump Roils Relations in the Pacific

Despite the attention being given to America’s roiling wars and conflicts in the Greater Middle East, crucial decisions about the global role of U.S. military power may be made in a region where, as yet, there are no hot wars: Asia.  Donald Trump will arrive in the Oval Office in January at a moment when Pentagon preparations for a future U.S.-Japan-South Korean triangular military alliance, long in the planning stages, may have reached a crucial make-or-break moment. Whether those plans go forward and how the president-elect responds to them could help shape our world in crucial ways into the distant future. 

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Korean Workers Launch Major Wave of Strikes, Winning International Support

Over the past few weeks, thousands of South Korean transport workers have gone on strike to protest against government “reform” proposals that would make it easier for employers to fire workers, weaken seniority protections won through collective bargaining and privatize some state-owned industries.

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“Digital Blackwater”: Meet the Contractors Who Analyze Your Personal Data

Amid the torrent of stories about the shocking new revelations about the National Security Agency, few have bothered to ask a central question. Who’s actually doing the work of analyzing all the data, meta-data and personal information pouring into the agency from Verizon and nine key Internet Service Providers for its ever-expanding surveillance of American citizens?

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North Korea 101: Are We Really Primed for War?

We all know it’s a crisis. Every night this week, NBC, CBS and every other media outlet in the country have led their evening newscasts with increasingly grim news out of Korea.

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Top Rumsfeld Aide Gets Cushy Contract From Spy Agency He Created

A Pentagon office that claims to monitor terrorist threats to U.S. military bases in North America -- and was once reprimanded by the U.S. Congress for on antiwar activists -- has just awarded a multi-million dollar contract to a company that employs one of Donald Rumsfeld's former aides. That aide, Stephen Cambone, helped create the very office that issued the contract.

On January 7, QinetiQ (pronounced "kinetic") North America (QNA), a major British-owned defense and intelligence contractor based in McLean, Virginia, announced that its Mission Solutions Group, formerly Analex Corporation, had just signed a five-year, $30 million contract to provide a range of unspecified "security services" to the Pentagon's Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office, known as CIFA.

According to Pentagon briefing documents, CIFA's Directorate of Field Activities "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain." Another CIFA directorate, the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, "identifies and assesses threats" to military personnel, operations and infrastructure from "insider threats, foreign intelligence services, terrorists, and other clandestine or covert entities," according to the Pentagon. A third CIFA directorate, Behavioral Sciences, has provided a "team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees."

The new CIFA contract with QinetiQ expands work that Analex has provided CIFA and its various directorates since 2003. Under its first contract, according to the QinetiQ website, Analex staffers were sifting through information "from traditional to non-traditional providers, ranging from unclassified through top secret classification using sophisticated information technologies and systems specifically designed by CIFA analysts."

The CIFA contract was awarded just two months after QinetiQ hired Stephen Cambone, the former undersecretary of defense for intelligence and a longtime Rumsfeld aide, as its vice president for strategy. Cambone is the most senior of a savvy group of former high-ranking Pentagon and intelligence officials hired by QinetiQ to manage its expansion in the U.S. market. (See boxes.)

While he was at the Pentagon, Cambone oversaw CIFA and was deeply involved in the Pentagon's most controversial intelligence programs. It was Cambone, for example, who reportedly issued orders to Major General Geoffrey Miller to soften up Iraqi prisoners for intelligence interrogators in Abu Ghraib in 2003. With Rumsfeld, he also set up a special unit within the Pentagon that alienated the CIA and the State Department by running its own covert actions without seeking input from other agencies.

The new CIFA contract comes on the heels of a series of QinetiQ deals inked with the Pentagon in the booming new business of "network centric warfare" -- the space-age, technology-driven intelligence and warfighting policies established by Rumsfeld and Cambone during their six-year tenures at the Pentagon. Other Cambone-pioneered programs that QinetiQ has won (before he went to work at their Crystal City offices that lie just two miles from the Pentagon) include military drones and robots, low-flying satellites and jamming technologies.

Cambone's appointment at QinetiQ reflects the "incestuous" relationships that exist between former officials and private intelligence contractors, said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists and a long-time observer of U.S. intelligence. "It's unseemly, and what's worse is that it has become normal," he told CorpWatch.

Aftergood pointed out the similarities between Cambone and the career trajectory of the current Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell. Following McConnell's tenure as director of the National Security Agency, "he went on to receive a seven-figure salary at Booz-Allen Hamilton, a major intelligence contractor," said Aftergood. "And now he's back at the helm of the intelligence community (IC). The problem is not so much a conflict of interest as it is a coincidence of interests -- the IC and the contractors are so tightly intertwined at the leadership level that their interests, practically speaking, are identical."

QinetiQ Evolution

QinetiQ was created in 2001 when the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) split up the Defense Evaluation Research Agency (DERA), its equivalent to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). One part of the company remained inside the MoD, but the other half was sold to the private sector and became QinetiQ.

For its first 18 months, QinetiQ was run by the MoD. But in February 2003, control slipped decisively out of government hands when 33 percent of its shares were acquired by the Carlyle Group, the powerful Washington-based private equity fund with close ties to the Bush administration. Carlyle invested $73 million in the company, and the MoD retained the other 66 percent. In an unusual arrangement, however, Carlyle was granted 51 percent of the voting shares, which meant that the investment fund and its appointed executives had effective control over the company. Carlyle sold off its remaining shares in February 2007, making a $470 million profit on its original investment.

Its initial expansion into the U.S. market was led by its first CEO, Graham Love. A ten-year veteran of DERA, where he rose to the position of finance director, Love had left DERA in the late 1990s by taking one of its divisions private. In 2003, he was brought back to head up QinetiQ's North American operations. With assistance from Carlyle's managers, Love went on the acquisition binge that made QinetiQ what it is today.

In November 2004, it bought Foster-Miller, which builds what it calls "mobile platforms" for the U.S. military, including the Talon robot, a battery-powered machine loaded with night-vision cameras and sensors that can fire both machine gun bullets and anti-tank weapons. Talons are also used on reconnaissance missions to detect mines and disarm roadside bombs in Iraq; more than 600 have been acquired by the Pentagon, according to Fortune magazine. The Foster-Miller website says Talon robots were initially developed with funds from DARPA and have been used in Special Operations missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.

In January 2007, QinetiQ acquired Analex Corporation, an information technology and engineering company that earns 70 percent of its revenue from the Pentagon (after the acquisition, Analex was renamed the QNA Mission Solutions Group). Analex, which has received extensive funding from DARPA for its technologies, also holds contracts with SPAWAR, the U.S. Navy intelligence research center in San Diego, and with the U.S. Army's First Information Operations Command. For the latter, according to Analex, it provides "subject matter experts" in psychological warfare, information security, electronic warfare and general tactics in the war on terror. With $1.5 billion in defense revenue in 2006, QNA is now the 11th largest U.S. intelligence contractor. The QinetiQ story must be told without speaking to the company, however: QinetiQ officials were not available for comment on Cambone's appointment or any other matter. As for the former undersecretary of defense, "Stephen Cambone is not interested in an interview at this time," Sophie Barrett, QNA's spokesperson, told CorpWatch on January 10.

Stephen Cambone

QinetiQ's main reason for hiring Stephen Cambone was the fact that he had held the unprecedented job of commanding the full spectrum of defense intelligence agencies controlled by the Pentagon, under the 2002 legislation that created his position as the nation's first undersecretary of defense for intelligence. For example he had direct line control over the three national intelligence collection agencies, the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

He also oversaw CIFA, which he helped set up in 2003 and transformed into one of the U.S. government's largest collectors of domestic intelligence. Despite occasional criticism from the U.S. Congress for spying on ordinary U.S. citizens, it has thrived at the Pentagon during the administrations of both Donald Rumsfeld as well as Robert Gates, the current secretary of defense.

Cambone was the chief architect of Rumsfeld's so-called "transformation" policies at the Pentagon, which fused data flowing from those agencies into the Pentagon's high-tech war machine. The decisions he made greatly reduced the Pentagon's acquisitions of large weapons systems like aircraft carriers and radically increased its purchases of space-age war technologies such as communications systems, sensors, robots, low-flying satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

It is precisely these technologies that QinetiQ produces. Its work for CIFA, the company said in the release announcing the deal, reflects QinetiQ's role "as a pioneer in planning and executing the protection of government personnel, critical infrastructure and sensitive defense programs." QinetiQ is the largest suppliers of UAVs and robots to the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. It developed the Zephyr, the world's most advanced UAV, a solar-powered drone that can transmit data and pictures continuously for periods up to three months. QinetiQ also specializes in a jamming technology (called "interference protection") that protects satellite systems from outside activity. And the company is a major supplier of acoustic microsensors designed to track the movements of "insurgents" or "illegal immigrants."

For QinetiQ and Cambone, therefore, this is a match made in heaven. Cambone's insights into "national security affairs and priorities," said CEO Duane Andrews, will help shape QinetiQ's ability "to rapidly deliver solutions to the complex challenges that face our defense and intelligence customers." In other words, there was a natural fit between QinetiQ's products and Cambone's inside knowledge of the future plans and strategies behind the U.S. "intelligence enterprise."

Re-Inventing the Pentagon

Cambone's early career was shaped by his deep involvement with technologies associated with missile defense. His first job out of school was as a staffer for the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the defense and nuclear power research center in New Mexico. After that, he worked for SRS Technologies, a defense consultancy that worked closely on missile defense.

From 1990 to 1993, Cambone worked under Duane Andrews, his future boss at QinetiQ, as director for strategic defense policy in the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. There, he advocated for building a laser- and satellite-based missile defense system known derisively by its opponents as Star Wars, a cause he also took up during the Clinton administration as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During the 1990s, Cambone joined the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the core advocacy group for the cause of neoconservatism, a radical philosophy that views the U.S. as the political savior of humankind, supposedly through "exporting democracy," and advocates the use of force to expand U.S. power and influence around the world. There, he associated with many of the officials he would later serve with in the George W. Bush administration, including Rumsfeld (another Star Wars fan), Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005.

In 1998, Rumsfeld hired Cambone as staff director of a commission he chaired to study the foreign ballistic missile threat. The commission was created by the Republican-led U.S. Congress specifically as a counterpoint to the CIA, which had downplayed the foreign missile threat in a 1997 National Intelligence Estimate. Among the commission's members were Wolfowitz and former CIA director R. James Woolsey, a prominent necon with close ties to the defense intelligence industry. The final report, largely drafted by Cambone, flatly contradicted the CIA by warning of an imminent threat from North Korea and Iran, and became the centerpiece of the Bush administration's initial defense policies.

After Rumsfeld became defense secretary in 2001, he selected Cambone as his special assistant. Cambone quickly became his most trusted trouble-shooter. And in the initial months of the Bush administration, there was plenty of trouble.

Rumsfeld, with Cheney's support, set out from the beginning to "transform" the U.S. military into a high-tech, computerized fighting force designed specifically to shoot down missiles from "rogue states" and defeat counterinsurgencies and other "low intensive" threats to U.S. national security, primarily in the Middle East. None of this sat very well with the uniformed military and the defense industry, both of which were slow to embrace Rumsfeld's network centric policies and the accompanying cuts imposed on Cold War-era weapons such as aircraft carriers and artillery systems. But the grumbling stopped after September 11, which provided the opening for Rumsfeld and his allies in the administration to make intelligence the centerpiece of their new "war on terror."

In 2002, the U.S. Congress embraced a proposal backed by Cheney and Rumsfeld to create a new undersecretary slot at the Pentagon specifically for intelligence, and Cambone was given the job. The position provided enormous powers: under the law, he exercised the Secretary of Defense's "authority, direction and control" over all DoD intelligence, counterintelligence and security policy, plans and programs. That included the key national agencies, which Rumsfeld and Cambone tenaciously fought to keep within the Pentagon's command and control system (for more on this struggle, see Foreign Policy in Focus http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4795). By 2004, according to a profile in the New York Times, Cambone was presiding biweekly conference calls that included the three-star generals and an admiral who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the NGA, the NRO and the NSA. In theory, they also reported to Rumsfeld and Tenet. But Cambone, the newspaper noted, "has made himself their most active overseer."

With their newfound power, Rumsfeld and Cambone set about to give the Pentagon greater authority in the area of human intelligence, traditionally dominated by the CIA. In 2005, Rumsfeld created a new clandestine espionage branch called the Strategic Support Branch, run out of the DIA and under Cambone's control, to end what he called his "near total dependence" on the CIA. By 2005, under the command of Cambone's controversial deputy, Army Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the support branch was deploying small, covert teams of case officers, interrogators and special operations forces to places like Somalia, Iran and the Philippines, sometimes without contacting the U.S. ambassador or the CIA station chief, to launch covert military operations and prepare for future U.S. action.

Those were heady days for Cambone: in May 2006, the New York Times would comment that Cambone's "low public profile masks his status as one of the most powerful intelligence officials in the United States." But other publications weren't so kind. Within days of the Times piece, C4ISR Journal, a military publication, described Cambone as a grim and determined ideologue. "'Unpleasant,' 'deeply unpleasant,' 'doesn't joke much' and 'Rumsfeld without the personality' are just some of the ways other reporters and analysts" describe Cambone, the Journal said.

In expanding the power and influence of the Pentagon's special forces, Cambone pushed for policies and technologies that would later make him so useful to QinetiQ, which by 2003 was beginning its expansion in the defense intelligence market. Throughout his tenure at the Pentagon, for example, Cambone pushed for increased spending on satellites, lasers and computer networks that would link the national collection agencies with soldiers and commanders on distant battlefields. In 2004, one year into the intensifying war in Iraq, Cambone proposed spending $30 billion -- one-third of the Pentagon budget for information technology -- on what he called a "transformational satellite system." This was a laser-based project run by the Air Force that would allow the national agencies and the military to share intelligence data and speed its delivery to bomber pilots and ground troops.

During this time, Cambone was also deeply involved in Pentagon planning for a multi-billion dollar "Space Radar" project, a constellation of satellites designed to detect moving and stationary objects from the skies in any weather condition and in darkness. The U.S. Congress only approved a portion of what Cambone wanted for the Air Force and Space Radar projects, however.

In 2006, Cambone presided over an intelligence community review of major intelligence and reconnaissance programs. It concluded that the Pentagon should increase its use of UAVs such as the Global Hawk, which operated at altitudes of 60,000 feet and could stay in the air for 24 hours and more. By this time, the Pentagon was also operating secret "stealth" UAVs as a substitute for satellites. (By 2008, the Associated Press reported in January, the military's reliance on UAVs "that can watch, hunt and sometimes kills insurgents" had soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, mostly in Iraq. Between January and October 2007 alone, AP found, the Pentagon had more than doubled its monthly use of drones).

Revolving Door

When Cambone's tenure at the Pentagon drew to a close, shortly after the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld in late 2006, the future course of defense spending had already been set: the big money was going to UAVs and low-orbit satellites for the transmission and sharing of intelligence data. (These projects became more crucial in 2007, when the Space Radar was declared a failure and scrapped by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.) And, in response to the increasingly sophisticated tactics of the Iraqi insurgents, millions of dollars were plowed into robots and other technologies aimed at curbing the deadly effects of homemade roadside bombs, that the military has dubbed improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

By joining QinetiQ, less than a year after he resigned from the Pentagon, Cambone has been hired to implement the very policies he helped pioneer at the Pentagon, not as a public servant but as a private businessman benefiting from taxpayer dollars. And with Cambone in the driver's seat in northern Virginia, QinetiQ is set to build on its already thriving business to become one of the premier suppliers of technology to the "intelligence enterprise" that Cambone built.

Bush Goes Private to Spy on You

A new intelligence institution to be inaugurated soon by the Bush administration will allow government spying agencies to conduct broad surveillance and reconnaissance inside the United States for the first time. Under a proposal being reviewed by Congress, a National Applications Office (NAO) will be established to coordinate how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and domestic law enforcement and rescue agencies use imagery and communications intelligence picked up by U.S. spy satellites. If the plan goes forward, the NAO will create the legal mechanism for an unprecedented degree of domestic intelligence gathering that would make the United States one of the world's most closely monitored nations. Until now, domestic use of electronic intelligence from spy satellites was limited to scientific agencies with no responsibility for national security or law enforcement.

The intelligence-sharing system to be managed by the NAO will rely heavily on private contractors, including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance.

The NAO was created under a plan tentatively approved in May 2007 by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell. Specifically, the NAO will oversee how classified information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other key agencies is used within the United States during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other events affecting national security. The most critical intelligence will be supplied by the NSA and the NGA, which are often referred to by U.S. officials as the "eyes" and "ears" of the intelligence community.

The NSA, through a global network of listening posts, surveillance planes, and satellites, captures signals from phone calls, email and internet traffic, and translates and analyzes them for U.S. military and national intelligence officials.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which was formally inaugurated in 2003, provides overhead imagery and mapping tools that allow intelligence and military analysts to monitor events from the skies and space. The NSA and the NGA have a close relationship with the supersecret National Reconnaissance Agency (NRO), which builds and maintains the U.S. fleet of spy satellites and operates the ground stations where the NSA's signals and the NGA's imagery are processed and analyzed. By law, their collection efforts are supposed to be confined to foreign countries and battlefields.

The National Applications Office was conceived in 2005 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. The ODNI, concerned that the legal framework for U.S. intelligence operations had not been updated for the global "war on terror," turned to Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Va., one of the largest contractors in the spy business. The company was tasked with studying how intelligence from spy satellites and photoreconnaissance planes could be better used domestically to track potential threats to security within the United States. The Booz Allen study was completed in May of that year and has since become the basis for the NAO oversight plan. In May 2007, McConnell, the former executive vice president of Booz Allen, signed off on the creation of the NAO as the principal body to oversee the merging of foreign and domestic intelligence collection operations.

The NAO is "an idea whose time has arrived," Charles Allen, a top U.S. intelligence official, told the Wall Street Journal in August 2007 after it broke the news of the NAO's creation. Allen, the DHS's chief intelligence officer, will head the new program. The announcement came just days after President George W. Bush signed a new law approved by Congress to expand the ability of the NSA to eavesdrop, without warrants, on telephone calls, email and faxes passing through telecommunications hubs in the United States when the government suspects agents of a foreign power may be involved. "These [intelligence] systems are already used to help us respond to crises," Allen later told the Washington Post. "We anticipate that we can also use them to protect Americans by preventing the entry of dangerous people and goods into the country, and by helping us examine critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities."

Donald Kerr, a former NRO director who is now the No. 2 at ODNI, recently explained to reporters that the intelligence community was no longer discussing whether or not to spy on U.S. citizens: "Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,'' Kerr said. ''I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity, but [also] what safeguards we want in place to be sure that giving that doesn't empty our bank account or do something equally bad elsewhere.''

What will the NAO do?

The plan for the NAO builds on a domestic security infrastructure that has been in place for at least seven years. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA was granted new powers to monitor domestic communications without obtaining warrants from a secret foreign intelligence court established by Congress in 1978 (that warrantless program ended in January 2007 but was allowed to continue, with some changes, under legislation passed by Congress in August 2007).

Moreover, intelligence and reconnaissance agencies that were historically confined to spying on foreign countries have been used extensively on the home front since 2001. In the hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, for example, the Bush administration called on the NGA to capture imagery from lower Manhattan and the Pentagon to help in the rescue and recovery efforts. In 2002, when two deranged snipers terrified the citizens of Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs with a string of fatal shootings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked the NGA to provide detailed images of freeway interchanges and other locations to help spot the pair.

The NGA was also used extensively during Hurricane Katrina, when the agency provided overhead imagery -- some of it supplied by U-2 photoreconnaissance aircraft -- to federal and state rescue operations. The data, which included mapping of flooded areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowed residents of the stricken areas to see the extent of damage to their homes and helped first-responders locate contaminated areas as well as schools, churches and hospitals that might be used in the rescue. More recently, during the October 2007 California wildfires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked the NGA to analyze overhead imagery of the fire zones and determine the areas of maximum intensity and damage. In every situation that the NGA is used domestically, it must receive a formal request from a lead domestic agency, according to agency spokesperson David Burpee. That agency is usually FEMA, which is a unit of DHS.

At first blush, the idea of a U.S. intelligence agency serving the public by providing imagery to aid in disaster recovery sounds like a positive development, especially when compared to the Bush administration's misuse of the NSA and the Pentagon's Counter-Intelligence Field Activity (CIFA) to spy on American citizens. But the notion of using spy satellites and aircraft for domestic purposes becomes problematic from a civil liberties standpoint when the full capabilities of agencies like the NGA and the NSA are considered.

Imagine, for example, that U.S. intelligence officials have determined, through NSA telephone intercepts, that a group of worshipers at a mosque in Oakland, Calif., has communicated with an Islamic charity in Saudi Arabia. This is the same group that the FBI and the U.S. Department of the Treasury believe is linked to an organization unfriendly to the United States.

Imagine further that the FBI, as a lead agency, asks and receives permission to monitor that mosque and the people inside using high-resolution imagery obtained from the NGA. Using other technologies, such as overhead traffic cameras in place in many cities, that mosque could be placed under surveillance for months, and -- through cell phone intercepts and overhead imagery -- its suspected worshipers carefully tracked in real time as they moved almost anywhere in the country.

The NAO, under the plan approved by ODNI's McConnell, would determine the rules that will guide the DHS and other lead federal agencies when they want to use imagery and signals intelligence in situations like this, as well as during natural disasters. If the organization is established as planned, U.S. domestic agencies will have a vast array of technology at their disposal. In addition to the powerful mapping and signals tools provided by the NGA and the NSA, domestic agencies will also have access to measures and signatures intelligence (MASINT) managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the principal spying agency used by the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(MASINT is a highly classified form of intelligence that uses infrared sensors and other technologies to "sniff" the atmosphere for certain chemicals and electromagnetic activity, and "see" beneath bridges and forest canopies. Using its tools, analysts can detect signs that a nuclear power plant is producing plutonium, determine from truck exhaust what types of vehicles are in a convoy, and detect people and weapons hidden from the view of satellites or photoreconnaissance aircraft.)

Created by contractors

The study group that established policies for the NAO was jointly funded by the ODNI and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one of only two domestic U.S. agencies that is currently allowed, under rules set in the 1970s, to use classified intelligence from spy satellites. (The other is NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.) The group was chaired by Keith Hall, a Booz Allen vice president who manages his firm's extensive contracts with the NGA and previously served as the director of the NRO.

Other members of the group included seven former intelligence officers working for Booz Allen, as well as retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, the former director of the DIA and vice president of homeland security for L-3 Communications, a key NSA contractor; and Thomas W. Conroy, the vice president of national security programs for Northrop Grumman, which has extensive contracts with the NSA and the NGA and throughout the intelligence community.

From the start, the study group was heavily weighted toward companies with a stake in both foreign and domestic intelligence. Not surprisingly, its contractor-advisers called for a major expansion in the domestic use of the spy satellites that they sell to the government. Since the end of the Cold War and particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, they said, the "threats to the nation have changed, and there is a growing interest in making available the special capabilities of the intelligence community to all parts of the government, to include homeland security and law enforcement entities and on a higher priority basis."

Contractors are not new to the U.S. spy world. Since the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the modern intelligence system in 1947, the private sector has been tapped to design and build the technology that facilitates electronic surveillance. Lockheed, for example, built the U-2, the famous surveillance plane that flew scores of spy missions over the Soviet Union and Cuba. During the 1960s, Lockheed was a prime contractor for the Corona system of spy satellites that greatly expanded the CIA's abilities to photograph secret military installations from space. IBM, Cray Computers and other companies built the supercomputers that allowed the NSA to sift through data from millions of telephone calls and analyze them for intelligence that was passed on to national leaders.

Spending on contracts has increased exponentially in recent years along with intelligence budgets, and the NSA, the NGA and other agencies have turned to the private sector for the latest computer and communications technologies and for intelligence analysts. For example, today about half of staff at the NSA and NGA are private contractors. At the DIA, 70 percent of the workers are contractors. But the most privatized agency of all is the NRO, where a whopping 90 percent of the work force receive paychecks from corporations. All told the U.S. intelligence agencies spend some 70 percent of their estimated $60 billion annual budget on contracts with private companies, according to documents this reporter obtained in June 2007 from the ODNI.

The plans to increase domestic spying are estimated to be worth billions of dollars in new business for the intelligence contractors. The market potential was on display in October at GEOINT 2007, the annual conference sponsored by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), a nonprofit organization funded by the largest contractors for the NGA. During the conference, which took place in October at the spacious Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, many companies were displaying spying and surveillance tools that had been used in Afghanistan and Iraq and were now being rebranded for potential domestic use.

BAE Systems Inc.

On the first day of the conference, three employees of BAE Systems Inc. who had just returned from a three-week tour of Iraq and Afghanistan with the NGA demonstrated a new software package called SOCET GXP. (BAE Systems Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of the U.K.-based BAE, the third-largest military contractor in the world.)

GXP uses Google Earth software as a basis for creating three-dimensional maps that U.S. commanders and soldiers use to conduct intelligence and reconnaissance missions. Eric Bruce, one of the BAE employees back from the Middle East, said his team trained U.S. forces to use the GXP software "to study routes for known terrorist sites" as well as to locate opium fields. "Terrorists use opium to fund their war," he said. Bruce also said his team received help from Iraqi citizens in locating targets. "Many of the locals can't read maps, so they tell the analysts, 'there is a mosque next to a hill,'" he explained.

Bruce said BAE's new package is designed for defense forces and intelligence agencies but can also be used for homeland security and by highway departments and airports. Earlier versions of the software were sold to the U.S. Army's Topographic Engineering Center, where it has been used to collect data on more than 12,000 square kilometers of Iraq, primarily in urban centers and over supply routes.

Another new BAE tool displayed in San Antonio was a program called GOSHAWK, which stands for "Geospatial Operations for a Secure Homeland -- Awareness, Workflow, Knowledge." It was pitched by BAE as a tool to help law enforcement and state and local emergency agencies prepare for, and respond to, "natural disasters and terrorist and criminal incidents." Under the GOSHAWK program, BAE supplies "agencies and corporations" with data providers and information technology specialists "capable of turning geospatial information into the knowledge needed for quick decisions." A typical operation might involve acquiring data from satellites, aircraft and sensors in ground vehicles, and integrating those data to support an emergency or security operations center. One of the program's special attributes, the company says, is its ability to "differentiate levels of classification," meaning that it can deduce when data are classified and meant only for use by analysts with security clearances.

These two products were just a sampling of what BAE, a major player in the U.S. intelligence market, had to offer. BAE's services to U.S. intelligence -- including the CIA and the National Counter-Terrorism Center -- are provided through a special unit called the Global Analysis Business Unit. It is located in McLean, Va., a stone's throw from the CIA. The unit is headed by John Gannon, a 25-year veteran of the CIA who reached the agency's highest analytical ranks as deputy director of intelligence and chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Today, as a private sector contractor for the intelligence community, Gannon manages a staff of more than 800 analysts with security clearances.

A brochure for the Global Analysis unit distributed at GEOINT 2007 explains BAE's role and, in the process, underscores the degree of outsourcing in U.S. intelligence. "The demand for experienced, skilled and cleared analysts -- and for the best systems to manage them -- has never been greater across the Intelligence and Defense Communities, in the field and among federal, state and local agencies responsible for national and homeland security," BAE says. The mission of the Global Analysis unit, it says, "is to provide policymakers, warfighters and law enforcement officials with analysts to help them understand the complex intelligence threats they face, and work force management programs to improve the skills and expertise of analysts."

At the bottom of the brochure is a series of photographs illustrating BAE's broad reach: a group of analysts monitoring a bank of computers; three employees studying a map of Europe, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; the outlines of two related social networks that have been mapped out to show how their members are linked; a bearded man, apparently from the Middle East and presumably a terrorist; the fiery image of a car bomb after it exploded in Iraq; and four white radar domes (known as radomes) of the type used by the NSA to monitor global communications from dozens of bases and facilities around the world.

The brochure may look and sound like typical corporate public relations. But amid BAE's spy talk were two phrases strategically placed by the company to alert intelligence officials that BAE has an active presence inside the United States. The tip-off words were "federal, state and local agencies," "law enforcement officials" and "homeland security." By including them, BAE was broadcasting that it is not simply a contractor for agencies involved in foreign intelligence but has an active presence as a supplier to domestic security agencies, a category that includes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, as well as local and state police forces stretching from Maine to Hawaii.

ManTech, Boeing, Harris and L-3

ManTech International, an important NSA contractor based in Fairfax, Va., has perfected the art of creating multiagency software programs for both foreign and domestic intelligence. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it developed a classified program for the Defense Intelligence Agency called the Joint Regional Information Exchange System. DIA used it to combine classified and unclassified intelligence on terrorist threats on a single desktop. ManTech then tweaked that software for the Department of Homeland Security and sold it to DHS for its Homeland Security Information Network. According to literature ManTech distributed at GEOINT, that software will "significantly strengthen the exchange of real-time threat information used to combat terrorism." ManTech, the brochure added, "also provides extensive, advanced information technology support to the National Security Agency" and other agencies.

In a nearby booth, Chicago-based Boeing, the world's second largest defense contractor, was displaying its "information sharing environment" software, which is designed to meet the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's new requirements on agencies to stop buying "stovepiped" systems that can't talk to each other. The ODNI wants to focus on products that will allow the NGA and other agencies to easily share their classified imagery with the CIA and other sectors of the community. "To ensure freedom in the world, the United States continues to address the challenges introduced by terrorism," a Boeing handout said. Its new software, the company said, will allow information to be "shared efficiently and uninterrupted across intelligence agencies, first responders, military and world allies." Boeing has a reason for publishing boastful material like this: In 2005, it lost a major contract with the NRO to build a new generation of imaging satellites after ringing up billions of dollars in cost overruns. The New York Times recently called the Boeing project "the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects."

Boeing's geospatial intelligence offerings are provided through its Space and Intelligence Systems unit, which also holds contracts with the NSA. It allows agencies and military units to map global shorelines and create detailed maps of cities and battlefields, complete with digital elevation data that allow users to construct three-dimensional maps. (In an intriguing aside, one Boeing intelligence brochure lists among its "specialized organizations" Jeppesen Government and Military Services. According to a 2006 account by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, Jeppesen provided logistical and navigational assistance, including flight plans and clearance to fly over other countries, to the CIA for its "extraordinary rendition" program.)

Although less known as an intelligence contractor than BAE and Boeing, the Harris Corp. has become a major force in providing contracted electronic, satellite and information technology services to the intelligence community, including the NSA and the NRO. In 2007, according to its most recent annual report, the $4.2 billion company, based in Melbourne, Fla., won several new classified contracts. NSA awarded one of them for software to be used by NSA analysts in the agency's "Rapidly Deployable Integrated Command and Control System," which is used by the NSA to transmit "actionable intelligence" to soldiers and commanders in the field. Harris also supplies geospatial and imagery products to the NGA. At GEOINT, Harris displayed a new product that allows agencies to analyze live video and audio data imported from UAVs. It was developed, said Fred Poole, a Harris market development manager, "with input from intelligence analysts who were looking for a video and audio analysis tool that would allow them to perform 'intelligence fusion'" -- combining information from several agencies into a single picture of an ongoing operation.

For many of the contractors at GEOINT, the highlight of the symposium was an "interoperability demonstration" that allowed vendors to show how their products would work in a domestic crisis.

One scenario involved Cuba as a rogue nation supplying spent nuclear fuel to terrorists bent on creating havoc in the United States. Implausible as it was, the plot, which involved maritime transportation and ports, allowed the companies to display software that was likely already in use by the Department of Homeland Security and Naval Intelligence. The "plot" involved the discovery by U.S. intelligence of a Cuban ship carrying spent nuclear fuel heading for the U.S. Gulf Coast; an analysis of the social networks of Cuban officials involved with the illicit cargo; and the tracking and interception of the cargo as it departed from Cuba and moved across the Caribbean to Corpus Christi, Texas, a major port on the Gulf Coast. The agencies involved included the NGA, the NSA, Naval Intelligence and the Marines, and some of the key contractors working for those agencies. It illustrated how sophisticated the U.S. domestic surveillance system has become in the six years since the 9/11 attacks.

L-3 Communications, which is based in New York City, was a natural for the exercise: As mentioned earlier, retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, its vice president of homeland security, was a member of the Booz Allen Hamilton study group that advised the Bush administration to expand the domestic use of military spy satellites. At GEOINT, L-3 displayed a new program called "multi-INT visualization environment" that combines imagery and signals intelligence data that can be laid over photographs and maps. One example shown during the interoperability demonstration showed how such data would be incorporated into a map of Florida and the waters surrounding Cuba. With L-3 a major player at the NSA, this demonstration software is likely seeing much use as the NSA and the NGA expand their information-sharing relationship.

Over the past two years, for example, the NGA has deployed dozens of employees and contractors to Iraq to support the "surge" of U.S. troops. The NGA teams provide imagery and full-motion video -- much of it beamed to the ground from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) -- that help U.S. commanders and soldiers track and destroy insurgents fighting the U.S. occupation. And since 2004, under a memorandum of understanding with the NSA, the NGA has begun to incorporate signals intelligence into its imagery products. The blending technique allows U.S. military units to track and find targets by picking up signals from their cell phones, follow the suspects in real time using overhead video, and direct fighter planes and artillery units to the exact location of the targets, and blow them to smithereens.

That's exactly how U.S. Special Forces tracked and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the NGA's director, Navy Vice Adm. Robert Murrett, said in 2006. Later, Murrett told reporters during GEOINT 2007, the NSA and the NGA have cooperated in similar fashion in several other fronts of the "war on terror," including in the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. military has attacked Al Qaeda units in Somalia, and in the Philippines, where U.S. forces are helping the government put down the Muslim insurgent group Abu Sayyaf. "When the NGA and the NSA work together, one plus one equals five," said Murrett.

Civil liberty worries

For U.S. citizens, however, the combination of NGA imagery and NSA signals intelligence in a domestic situation could threaten important constitutional safeguards against unwarranted searches and seizures. Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has likened the NAO plan to "Big Brother in the Sky." The Bush administration, she told the Washington Post, is "laying the bricks one at a time for a police state."

Some Congress members, too, are concerned. "The enormity of the NAO's capabilities and the intended use of the imagery received through these satellites for domestic homeland security purposes, and the unintended consequences that may arise, have heightened concerns among the general public, including reputable civil rights and civil liberties organizations," Bennie G. Thompson, a Democratic member of Congress from Mississippi and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote in a September letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Thompson and other lawmakers reacted with anger after reports of the NAO and the domestic spying plan were first revealed by the Wall Street Journal in August. "There was no briefing, no hearing, and no phone call from anyone on your staff to any member of this committee of why, how or when satellite imagery would be shared with police and sheriffs' officers nationwide," Thompson complained to Chertoff.

At a hastily organized hearing in September, Thompson and others demanded that the opening of the NAO be delayed until further studies were conducted on its legal basis and questions about civil liberties were answered. They also demanded biweekly updates from Chertoff on the activities and progress of the new organization. Others pointed out the potential danger of allowing U.S. military satellites to be used domestically. "It will terrify you if you really understand the capabilities of satellites," warned Jane Harman, a Democratic member of Congress from California, who represents a coastal area of Los Angeles, where many of the nation's satellites are built. As Harman well knows, military spy satellites are far more flexible, offer greater resolution, and have considerably more power to observe human activity than commercial satellites. "Even if this program is well-designed and executed, someone somewhere else could hijack it," Harman said during the hearing.

The NAO was supposed to open for business on Oct. 1, 2007. But the congressional complaints have led the ODNI and DHS to delay their plans. The NAO "has no intention to begin operations until we address your questions," Charles Allen of DHS explained in a letter to Thompson. In an address at the GEOINT conference in San Antonio, Allen said that the ODNI is working with DHS and the Departments of Justice and Interior to draft the charter for the new organization, which he said will face "layers of review" once it is established.

Yet, given the Bush administration's record of using U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on U.S. citizens, it is difficult to take such promises at face value. Moreover, the extensive corporate role in foreign and domestic intelligence means that the private sector has a great deal to gain in the new plan for intelligence sharing. Because most private contracts with intelligence agencies are classified, however, the public will have little knowledge of this role. Before Congress signs off on the NAO, it should create a better oversight system that would allow the House of Representatives and the Senate to monitor the new organization and to examine how BAE, Boeing, Harris and its fellow corporations stand to profit from this unprecedented expansion of America's domestic intelligence system.

Watch What You Say

Two months after the New York Times revealed that the Bush Administration ordered the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless surveillance of American citizens, only three corporations--AT&T, Sprint and MCI--have been identified by the media as cooperating. If the reports in the Times and other newspapers are true, these companies have allowed the NSA to intercept thousands of telephone calls, fax messages and e-mails without warrants from a special oversight court established by Congress under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Some companies, according to the same reports, have given the NSA a direct hookup to their huge databases of communications records. The NSA, using the same supercomputers that analyze foreign communications, sifts through this data for key words and phrases that could indicate communication to or from suspected terrorists or terrorist sympathizers and then tracks those individuals and their ever-widening circle of associates. "This is the US version of Echelon," says Albert Gidari, a prominent telecommunications attorney in Seattle, referring to a massive eavesdropping program run by the NSA and its English-speaking counterparts that created a huge controversy in Europe in the late 1990s.

So far, a handful of Democratic lawmakers--Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Senators Edward Kennedy and Russell Feingold--have attempted to obtain information from companies involved in the domestic surveillance program. But they've largely been rebuffed. Further details about the highly classified program are likely to emerge as the Electronic Frontier Foundation pursues a lawsuit, filed January 31, against AT&T for violating privacy laws by giving the NSA direct access to its telephone records database and Internet transaction logs. On February 16 a federal judge gave the Bush Administration until March 8 to turn over a list of internal documents related to two other lawsuits, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seeking an injunction to end the program.

Despite the President's rigorous defense of the program, no company has dared to admit its cooperation publicly. Their reticence is understandable: The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation of the government officials who leaked the NSA story to the Times, and many constitutional scholars and a few lawmakers believe the program is both illegal and unconstitutional. And the companies may be embarrassed at being caught--particularly AT&T, which spent millions advertising its global services during the Winter Olympics. "It's a huge betrayal of the public trust, and they know it," says Bruce Schneier, the founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, a California consulting firm.

Corporations have been cooperating with the NSA for half a century. What's different now is that they appear to be helping the NSA deploy its awesome computing and data-mining powers inside the United States in direct contravention of US law, which specifically bans the agency from collecting information from US citizens living inside the United States. "They wouldn't touch US persons before unless they had a FISA warrant," says a former national security official who read NSA intercepts as part of his work for the State Department and the Pentagon.

This is happening at a time when both the military and its spy agencies are more dependent on the private sector than ever before, and an increasing number of companies are involved. In the 1970s, when Congress acted to stop domestic spying programs like Operation Shamrock, in which the NSA monitored overseas telegrams and phone calls, the communications industry was in its infancy. "It was basically Western Union for cables, and AT&T for the telephone," says James Bamford, who revealed the existence of the NSA in his famous book The Puzzle Palace and is a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit. "It's much more complicated now." In fact, today's global telecom market includes dozens of companies that compete with AT&T, Sprint and MCI for telephone and mobile services, as well as scores of Internet service providers like Google, Yahoo! and AOL that offer e-mail, Internet and voice connections to customers around the world. They are served by multinational conglomerates like Apollo, Flag Atlantic and Global Crossing, which own and operate the global system of undersea fiber-optic cables that link the United States to the rest of the world. Any one of them could be among the companies contacted by intelligence officials when President Bush issued his 2002 executive order to obtain surveillance without FISA approval.

Nobody's talking, though. Asked if AT&T, which was recently acquired by SBC Communications, is cooperating with the NSA, AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said, "We don't comment on national security matters." He referred me to a recent AT&T letter to Representative Conyers, which stated that AT&T "abides by all applicable laws, regulations and statutes in its operations and, in particular, with respect to requests for assistance from governmental authorities." MCI, which was acquired in January by Verizon, and Sprint, which recently merged with Nextel Communications, declined to comment. Attorney Gidari, who has represented Google, T-Mobile, Nextel and Cingular Wireless (now part of AT&T), believes that "some companies, both telecom and Internet," were asked to participate in the NSA program. But he suggests that only a limited number agreed. "The list of those who said no is much longer than most people think," he says.

The NSA, some analysts say, may have sought the assistance of US telecoms because most of the world's cable operators are controlled by foreign corporations. Apollo, for example, is owned by Britain's Cable & Wireless, while Flag Atlantic is owned by the Reliance Group of India. Much of the international "transit traffic" carried by the cable companies flows through the United States (this is particularly true of communications emanating from South America and moving between Asia and Europe). The NSA could get access to this traffic by sending a submarine team to splice the cables in international waters, as the agency once did to the Soviet Union's undersea military cables. But that is an extremely expensive proposition, and politically dicey to boot--which is where the US telecoms come in. "Cooperation with the telcos doesn't make NSA surveillance possible, but it does make it cheaper," says Schneier, the technology consultant.

According to Alan Mauldin, a senior research analyst with TeleGeography Research in Washington, DC, it would be possible for US intelligence operatives to gain access to transit traffic from anywhere in the country with the cooperation of a US company. "You could be inland, at an important city like New York or Washington, DC, where networks interconnect, and you could have the ability to tap into the whole network for not only that city but between that city and the rest of the world," he says. Foreign-owned cable operators, says Gidari, are also required by US law to maintain security offices manned by US citizens, with background checks and security clearances at the landing sites in Oregon, Florida, New Jersey and other states where fiber-optic cables come ashore.

The government has gone to great lengths to insure law-enforcement access to foreign-owned telecom companies. Take the example of Global Crossing, which owns several undersea cable systems and claims to serve more than 700 carriers, mobile operators and ISPs. Three years ago, as Global Crossing was emerging from one of the largest bankruptcies in US history, it was purchased by ST Telemedia, which is partly owned by the government of Singapore. As part of the US approval process (which occurred at a time when Global Crossing was being advised by Richard Perle, then-chairman of Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board), the company signed an unprecedented Network Security Agreement with the FBI and the Defense Department. Under the agreement, which is on file with the Federal Communications Commission, Global Crossing pledged that "all domestic communications" would pass through a facility "physically located in the United States, from which Electronic Surveillance can be conducted pursuant to lawful US process." (Global Crossing declined to comment.) Legal experts say the wording is significant in the context of the NSA spying flap, but cautioned not to read too much into it. "These agreements are not uncommon in the industry," says James Andrew Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They provide assurances that US interests won't suffer damage with foreign ownership."

History proves a good guide to how the NSA would go about winning cooperation from a telecom company. When telephone and telegraph companies began assisting the NSA during the 1940s, only one or two executives were in on the secret. That kind of arrangement continued into the 1970s, and is probably how cooperation with the NSA works today, says Kenneth Bass III, a Justice Department official during the Carter Administration. "Once the CEO approved, all the contacts [with the intelligence agencies] would be worked at a lower level," he says. "The telcos have been participating in surveillance activities for decades--pre-FISA, post-FISA--so it's nothing new to them." Bass, who helped craft the FISA law and worked with the NSA to implement it, adds that he "would not be surprised at all" if cooperating executives received from the Bush Administration "the same sort of briefing, but much more detailed and specific than the FISA court got when [the surveillance] was first approved."

For US intelligence officials looking for allies in the industry, AT&T, MCI and Sprint have a lot to offer. In 2002, when the spying program began, AT&T's CEO was C. Michael Armstrong, the former CEO of Hughes Electronic Corp. At the time, Armstrong was also chairman of the Business Roundtable's Security Task Force, where he was instrumental in creating CEO COM LINK, a secure telecommunications system that allows the chief executives of major US corporations to speak directly to senior members of Bush's Cabinet during national emergencies. Randall Stephenson, a former SBC Communications executive who is now AT&T's chief operating officer, is a member of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of executives from the communications and defense industries who advise the President on security issues related to telecom.

Those executives, all of whom hold security clearances, meet at the White House once a year--Vice President Cheney was the speaker at their last meeting--and hold quarterly conference calls with high-ranking officials. (Asked if the NSA surveillance was ever discussed at these sessions, committee spokesman Stephen Barrett said, "We do not participate in intelligence gathering.") AT&T also makes no bones about its national security work. When SBC was preparing to acquire the company last year, the two companies underscored their ties with US intelligence in joint comments to the FCC. "AT&T's support of the intelligence and defense communities includes the performance of various classified contracts," the companies said, pointing out that AT&T "maintains special secure facilities for the performance of classified work and the safeguarding of classified information."

MCI, too, is a major government contractor and was highly valued by Verizon in part because of its work in defense and intelligence. Nicholas Katzenbach, the former US Attorney General who was appointed chairman of MCI's board after the spectacular collapse of its previous owner, WorldCom, reiterated MCI's intelligence connections in a 2003 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We are especially proud," he wrote, "of our role in supporting our national-security agencies' infrastructure, and we are gratified by the many positive comments about our service from officials at the US Department of Defense and other national-security agencies." MCI's general counsel--who would presumably have a say in any decision to cooperate with the NSA--is William Barr. He is a former assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency and served as Attorney General during the Administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Sprint Nextel is top-loaded with executives with long experience in national security and defense. Chairman and CEO Gary Forsee is a member of Bush's telecom council (as is Lawrence Babbio, the vice chairman and president of Verizon). Keith Bane, a company director, recently retired from a twenty-nine-year career with Motorola, which has worked closely with US intelligence for decades. William Conway Jr. and former FCC chairman William Kennard are managing directors of the Carlyle Group, the Washington private equity fund that invests heavily in the military and has extensive contacts in the Bush Administration.

There's another group of companies, largely overlooked, that could also be cooperating with the NSA. These are firms clustered around the Beltway that contract with the agency to provide intelligence analysts, data-mining technologies and equipment used in the NSA's global signals-intelligence operations. The largest of them employ so many former intelligence officials that it's almost impossible to see where the government ends and the private sector begins. Booz Allen Hamilton, the prime contractor for Trailblazer, a huge NSA project updating its surveillance and eavesdropping infrastructure, employs several NSA alumni, including Mike McConnell, its vice president, who retired as NSA director in 1996. (Ralph Shrader, the company's CEO, joined Booz Allen in 1978 after serving in senior positions with Western Union and RCA, both of which cooperated with the NSA on Operation Shamrock.) SI International, a software and systems engineering company with NSA contracts, recently hired Harry Gatanas, the NSA's former director of acquisitions and outsourcing, to oversee its $250-million-a-year business with US intelligence and the Pentagon. Science Applications International Corporation, another big NSA contractor, is run by executives with long histories in military intelligence, including COO Duane Andrews, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence.

Are firms that cooperate with the NSA legally culpable? Bamford, who is not a lawyer but probably knows more about the NSA than any American outside government, says yes. "The FISA law is very clear," he says. "If you don't have a warrant, you're in violation, and the penalty is five years and you can be sued by the aggrieved parties." Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, adds that US law "not only prohibits unauthorized wiretapping; it also prohibits unauthorized disclosure or use of illegally wiretapped information. As long as you were doing that, you're potentially liable." Schneier, the technology consultant, harbors no doubts either. "Arguing that this is legal is basically saying we're in a police state."

But Gidari, the Seattle telecom attorney, believes that companies would be insulated from legal challenges if they had assurances from the government that the program was within the law. He also says Congress has passed legislation granting immunity to companies operating under "statutory grants of authority" from the government. "It's not a slamdunk, but it is a good-faith defense," he says. Former Justice Department official Bass agrees but says reliance on oral requests from US officials is another matter: "If they didn't get the type of legal assurances the FISA provides for"--such as a written statement from the Attorney General--"there could be some legal exposure." But a full airing of the legal issues raised by the surveillance program may be a long time coming. "The likelihood of any enforcement absent a change in administration is zero," Bass says.

A Skewed History of Asia

Washington, DC -- On the Sunday before US troops seized the city of Baghdad, Paul Wolfowitz went on television to sell his vision for a future Middle East. A free Iraq, he said, would serve as a democratic beacon for the region just as Japan was the model for Asia. "The example of Japan, even in countries that had bitter memories of the Japanese, inspired many countries in East Asia to realize that they could master a free-market economy, that they could master democracy," he told Fox News Sunday.

Wolfowitz, who was President Reagan's Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, is turning history on its head. Japan was not the inspiration for the democratic upsurge that swept through East Asia in the 1980s. Instead, it was the junior partner to the United States during the cold war, when Washington created an alliance of anticommunist dictators who supported American foreign policy while repressing their own people. Those policies didn't inspire democracy in Asia; if anything, they helped to stifle it.

The symbiotic relationship between Washington and Tokyo was forged in 1948, when the United States "reversed course" in its occupation of Japan to focus on the containment of communism. Almost overnight, US policy shifted from punishing Japanese bureaucrats and industrialists responsible for World War II to enlisting them in a global war against the Soviet Union and China. The shift was symbolized by Nobusuke Kishi, who was prime minister from 1957 to 1960. Kishi was minister of commerce and industry in the wartime Tojo Cabinet and labeled a "Class A" war criminal for helping run Japan's colonial empire in Manchuria.

"The part of Japanese imperialism which was made powerless after the defeat in the war wanted, of course, to revive itself," Muto Ichiyo, a Japanese writer who worked closely with the US antiwar movement in the 1960s, once explained to me. "But they knew perfectly well that the situation had changed. They knew also that fighting against America again would be both impossible and purposeless. So they adopted a very clear-cut strategy: Japan will concentrate on the buildup of the economic base structure of imperialism, while America will practically rule Asia through its military forces."

Japanese industry profited handsomely by supplying the Pentagon with steel, munitions and even napalm when the United States fought wars in Korea and Vietnam. Then, as Washington propped up South Korea's Park Chung Hee, the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and Indonesia's Suharto with vast quantities of military aid, Japan kept their economies alive with financial aid and investments from Mitsui, Sumitomo and other big corporations. Japan's collaboration with Washington was carefully hidden from the Japanese public but greatly appreciated by American leaders, as shown from newly declassified documents stored in the National Archives.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser, met with Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka to discuss Japan's role in post-Vietnam Asia. Nixon, according to a White House transcript, told Tanaka that he "realized that Japan has a special problem with respect to playing a military role in the Pacific and Asia." But "Japanese economic influence could be decisive in many areas," he added. "It is in our interest that there be a strong, vigorous Japanese economy, so that Japan could play a vital role in Southeast Asia."

Tanaka was happy to oblige, telling Nixon that Japan "should cooperate with the Southeast Asian nations and the ROK [Republic of Korea] in providing both aid and investment." In South Korea, which Nixon and Tanaka agreed was "essential" to Japan's security, he said Japanese aid would "create a situation in which disaffected South Korean elements are not tempted to serve North Korean interests." Tanaka's promises pleased Nixon, who "hoped to see not just a United States policy, but a US-Japan policy for Asia."

In Wolfowitz's rosy view of history, the millions of Koreans, Filipinos and Indonesians who rebelled against their authoritarian governments were following in Japan's footsteps. That is false. In reality, democratic activists in those countries endured torture, imprisonment and military repression imposed by governments backed by the Pentagon, financed by Japan and tolerated by Wolfowitz and other American officials in the name of US national security.

On April 7, Wolfowitz told the Washington Post that he "met quite a few dictators up close and personal in my life." Indeed he has. It was under Wolfowitz's watch at the State Department that Reagan invited South Korean military dictator Chun Doo Hwan to the White House in February 1981, nine months after Chun murdered hundreds of demonstrators in Kwangju. And it was Wolfowitz, who was US ambassador to Indonesia during the 1980s, who urged Congress to look beyond the "important and sensitive issue of human rights" to acknowledge "the strong and remarkable leadership of President Suharto."

A more accurate analogy between postwar Asia and US policy today would be the United States installing friendly leaders in Baghdad willing to do US bidding in the Middle East, and subservient, pro-US governments providing the economic underpinning to the new US imperialism. Then, after decades of US-imposed "democracy," the Iraqi people would rise up to forge their own future. That's how long it took Asians to reject the idea that democracy doesn't grow out of the barrels of American guns.

Tim Shorrock is a Maryland freelance journalist who who grew up in Seoul and Tokyo and has been reporting about Asia, globalization and finance for more than twenty years, for many publications at home and abroad.

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