Grand Theft, Mass Murder and Legalized Lies – Book Review as Epitaph
James R. Clapper, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (Viking, 2018), 432 pages, $17.99, ISBN-13: 978-0525558644.
There was a time when I thought James Clapper was one of the top five flag officers among the sixty-five or so that I had worked with over 40 years.
I’ve known Clapper since 1994 and it is with distress that I conclude his judgment was diminished in 2007 when he became the first professional Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI), following Stephen Cambone, a political appointee himself with mixed talents.
Between the two of them, they turned defense intelligence into a spending cesspool biased toward technical collection and mass data storage, fully in line with what one author calls “Grand Theft Pentagon.”
Clapper’s tenure as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) can be summed up quite simply: one trillion dollars spent, to no good end. There is no question about Clapper’s being respected and trusted by his own professionals. Nor is there any question as to Clapper’s competence as an administrator. What is at question is the veracity of his book – and its utility to the public – when it includes twenty separate assertions that according to all available open source evidence, are lies.
In fairness to Clapper, there are three pre-existing conditions that made it much easier for him to “go along” and much more difficult for him to actually sound the alarm and insist on reform – as Amy Zegart has documented so ably, the secret intelligence system is so corrupt and dysfunctional that it can only be fixed with a Presidential mandate – “fix big or don’t fix at all.” Clapper went along to get along. The pre-existing conditions are:
01 Strategic: Pay to Play. The standard kick-back for both Senators and Representatives is 5%. They get this amount as donations to their Political Action Committees (PAC) in return for keeping the money moving and growing regardless of need or outcome. Bill Binney has provided recurring testimony on the National Security Agency (NSA) as a case in point: they are not focused on creating Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) that will put down traitors and criminals including pedophiles as well as white collar criminals looting the public treasury; rather they are there to “keep the money moving” to which I would add “and growing.” That is why NSA “leaders” killed the internally-devised and very inexpensive Thin Thread program and instead spent billions on the extremely expensive externally-devised (contractor) approach – a total failure –by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). NSA got to spend more money without actually improving, and Members of Congress were richly rewarded by SAIC and other contractors for authorizing and appropriating funds not at all related to the public interest.
02 Operational: Budget-Building. Chuck Spinney calls this the plans/reality mismatch, but in the absence of an intelligence community (IC) actually capable of evaluating all threats, programs, and costs (true cost economics), and given the corruption of both past Presidents and past Congresses all too willing to borrow ever-increasing amounts of money (which is unconstitutional) for ever-decreasing capabilities, what this really is an alternative to competition for promotion – instead of fighting for promotion within a closed system where you are either promoted or retired (or fired), the game is to build the budget, hire more people, and create for yourself endless promotional opportunities. As Bob Gates himself has pointed out, no one in Washington gets fired for incompetence. They do get promoted if they can build their budget and hire more incompetents. Expensive solutions that require more hiring and more spending, whether they work or not, are the preferred objective for any aspiring chain of command seeking to promote itself without having to compete for otherwise limited jobs.
03 Tactical & Technical: Cult of Secrecy & Covert Operations. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read on page 159 of Clapper’s book the following sentence:
I always cautioned the president and secretaries that intelligence work was about acquiring and assessing foreign secrets, not predicting events or reading minds.
This is a blatant misrepresentation of the craft of intelligence. Intelligence is about decision-support – the outputs, most of which can be unclassified – not about secret collection, processing, and analysis, a tiny fraction of the totality of threat, policy, and cost information. Intelligence is also, as my colleague Bill Binney has reminded me, about predicting “intentions and capabilities.” I agree with Bill when he concludes that Clapper went along with the prevailing pathologies (as did Mike Hayden) and misdirected secret intelligence toward excessive spending on technical collection and mass storage while neglecting human collection, processing, analysis, and actually producing useful decision-support.
What is really at issue here is not Clapper’s intelligence and integrity – both are adequate but insufficient to the challenges he faced – but rather that secret intelligence as it is now mis-managed is very expensive (both profitable and wasteful) and totally lacking in accountability. It is a private playpen, at taxpayer expense, for an extremely incestuous (relatively small) group of senior executives (government employees), contracting executives (generally former government employees), and their bankers. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), for which I have been the primary proponent since 1988, is very inexpensive and can answer almost all questions for all levels of government decision-making, while generally eradicating corruption and waste with transparent overt counterintelligence.
Clapper – and his book – are the ultimate manifestation of a secret intelligence system that thrives on grand theft, mass murder, & legalized lies while absolutely rejecting with malice and knowledge of falsity, the value of OSINT – and machine-assisted meta-analytics – precisely because they are not an expensive enough “solution” and even worse, would call into question 70% or more of what we waste money on now
The Back Story
I started the OSINT revolution in 1988 within the halls of government, in 1992 in the public domain after four years of being blown off by colleagues obsessed with secret sources and methods and not willing to listen to reason. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which I was proud to work for as a clandestine operations officer for nine years, has fought to marginalize me from day one. They were furious when Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) Admiral Bill Studeman, USN, agreed to speak at my first conference on Open Source Solutions in 1992, and ordered them to attend. CIA retaliated by ordering the Marine Corps to forbid me from every running another OSINT conference again, at which point I resigned from my position as the second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps Intelligence to pursue a policy revolution in the public interest – I have trained over 7,500 officers across 66+ countries, only to see all of them repressed by their own intelligence agencies being bribed and mis-directed by CIA and NSA to ignore the clear potential of OSINT.
In 2000, with the recommendations of the Aspin-Brown Commission firmly in mind, an Open Source Agency (OSA) was approved by the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of $125M toward a Full Operational Capability (FOC) budget of $2 billion, precisely as recommended by The Challenge of Global Coverage study in the 1990’s. Sadly the leadership changed and we lost our earliest chance to transform modern intelligence.
For thirty years CIA has successfully handicapped both US and foreign OSINT, insisting that OSINT is only about “media monitoring” now including social media monitoring, and that it must be “passive.” CIA refuses to allow Active OSINT, which is the organized, persistent, and broad harnessing of distributed overt human experts in all languages – the people who know the 90% that is not in English, not online, and not accessible by the rather retarded – by choice – secret world. From China to Denmark to Zimbabwe, there has been a decisive shift away from the CIA position in the past two years, and I believe the craft of intelligence is about to see a massive multinational transformation, which makes Clapper’s failure as USDI and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) all the more tragic.
In 2007 when Clapper was first feeling his way into mega-management, he appointed Colonel Vincent Stewart, USMC (today Lieutenant General and Deputy Director of the US Cyber Command) to study OSINT, and to then Colonel Stewart’s credit, he reached out to me and I gave him every possible support. He told me later that in the course of his investigations, he had never in his entire career seen more lying, cheating, and backstabbing than he encountered from secret intelligence professionals on this topic (OSINT) that they clearly saw as a budget-buster. He too, however, found that he needed to “go along” and OSINT was never properly championed by USDI.
I now realize – this is my speculative interpretation – that in 2007-2009 USDI Clapper saw OSINT the same way that Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet saw it when he commissioned the study in 1997, The Challenge of Global Coverage, in which my former boss Boyd Sutton concluded after exhaustive investigation, that we needed to spend $2 billion a year (in contrast to $80 billion a year or so on secret sources and methods) on OSINT. The number was devised by Keith Hall, then Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and previously Director of the Budget Staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in a very simple fashion: 200 countries and topics not covered by secret intelligence, times $10 million a year for a range of offline and online monitoring and international (not just US) Subject Matter Experts (SME) focused on each of the 200 topics, thus providing a “safety net” or baseline capability. As Boyd told me, when he delivered these findings to George in 1997, George said “I am locking this study up, we will speak of it no more.” Boyd’s interpretation, and my own, was that George was distressed by the fact that the study not only did not justify a massive increase in secret spending, but it actually opened to door to taking the US IC toward 100% satisfaction of all US Government (USG) decision-support needs at a tiny fraction of the cost of what we are spending on secret sources and methods that provide “at best” 4% of what a major commander needs (and nothing for everyone else).
I tried one more time, in 2010, this time with the assistance of Joe Markowitz, the former Director of the Community Open Source Program Office (COSPO), which was itself gutted in the 1990’s by then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management (DDCI/CM) Joan Dempsey, herself an intimate of Clapper’s at the time, who refused to create a community-wide OSINT program equivalent to the community-wide programs for the other disciplines. Although OMB senior staff again agreed with Joe and I that there was a need for an OSA at $2 billion a year, OMB’s approval was contingent on a Cabinet Department asking for it, and Clapper had refused to entertain our leadership and staff briefings in 2009. I have the impression that CIA has very successfully blocked my approaches to each of a secession of Secretaries of State, all of whom would have benefited enormously from this capability.
William Binney’s experience with Thin Thread – an inexpensive elegant way to find the needles in the digital haystack – mirrors my own with OSINT, which is an inexpensive elegant way to do global coverage and achieve 100% decision-support capability at the strategic, operational or policy, tactical, and technical (acquisition) levels. Clapper, Hayden, all of the so-called leaders of the US IC have not only focused on spending as much money as possible as foolishly as possible, but they have discarded the Constitution and the ethical obligations associated with the oaths of office. Below is Bill’s summary of the situation, which I take to be a signal (pun intended) failure by Clapper and Hayden particularly.
As I summed it up for the Intelligence Policy Committee in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, drawing on Snowden’s materials, mass surveillance is very bad for five reasons:
First, mass acquisition of everyone’s data (emails, texts, calls) creates an omni-powerful central government that achieves Stasi-like, Gestapo-like, Stalinist-like, capabilities.
Second, mass acquisition makes the analysts dysfunctional – we are not doing the meta-data pattern analysis and anomaly detection but are instead burying the analysts with noise, which is why they can no longer achieve any sort of early warning on anything. We have lost the ability and the human skills necessary to predict “intentions and capabilities.”
Third, mass acquisition has turned the US IC – NSA particularly – into forensics agencies (basically a law enforcement job).
Fourth, mass acquisition has been weaponized for political purposes, with US IC agencies (as well as allied agencies such as GCHQ ) using their capabilities for political advantage.
Fifth, mass acquisition is extremely expensive in its demands for data storage with its attendant energy and water consumption levels, and is doomed.
Put most simply, whatever modest achievements Clapper may claim since the mid-1990’s when he took over the General Defense Intelligence Program (GDIP) as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), his career suffers from two tangible sucking chest wounds:
01 He failed to leverage OSINT and remained stuck at 4% performance after spending a trillion dollars.
02 He allowed NSA under Hayden to destroy Thin Thread and both machine-assisted meta-analytics and human analysis, and instead embark on a massive unconstitutional very expensive and ultimately doomed attempt to spy on everyone digitally, particularly and illegally including all US citizens.
Review of the Book
There were three aspects of the book that I found useful.
First, I was glad to read Clapper’s history and learn that he was doubly-blessed. His father was a founding Colonel in the Air Force SIGINT service; and he was selected as an aide to a flag officer early on. In combination it is clear that Clapper – whose intellect and integrity I admired in the early 1990’s – climbed quickly with those two assists, and later in life, as a trusted water-carrier to neo-conservative Bob Gates.
Second, the chapter “Consumed by Money” is worthy of inclusion in mid-career courses, and also noteworthy for observing that we are spending 20-25% of our total secret intelligence budget on Information Technology (IT) – but in a very significant omission, Clapper neglects to point out that for all that money, we process less than 1% of what we collect, and simply do not have the “tools for thinking” that CIA itself identified as necessary in 1985-1989.
Third, the chapter “Snowden” is in my own view both a study in denial and a study in hypocrisy – but I acknowledge that people I respect feel very strongly to the contrary. I am particularly galled by Clapper’s praise for Mike Hayden, who is richly deserving of being recalled to active duty for court martial – this is a man who violated the Constitution twice, first in engaging in warrantless wiretapping and mass surveillance at NSA, and then in fully embracing rendition and torture and then drone assassinations with a 98% collateral damage ratio, at CIA. The idea that Snowden’s leaks are a threat to national security when compared to NSA’s 100,000 interception points across America and its many back-doors inserted into Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, and other products with the active complicity of the leaders of those companies (in gross violation of all their fiduciary responsibilities) is for me absurd.
The book falls short on multiple fronts. Sadly, it fails to actually outline lessons learned and a vision for an effective USG intelligence function capable of answering decision-support needs across all functions and levels of government. This book does not remotely approach the substance of my own writings, or the three hundred books on intelligence by others that I have respectfully reviewed. There is exactly one good idea in this book, on page 139, where Clapper, via his ghost writer, articulates the need for a separate consolidated intelligence authorization and appropriation, eliminating the fragmentation, duplication, and mismanagement of the individual intelligence elements within each Cabinet Department. I agree.
I searched in vain for learned information about where the various intelligence disciplines from Human Intelligence (HUMINT) to Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), to Measurements and Signatures Intelligence (MASINT) or the various functional domains from analysis to counterintelligence to processing, might be improved. I note with pointed dismay that then Major General Vince Stewart, USMC, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who once championed OSINT within USDI, is mentioned only once in this book, and I put that down to Vince having the balls to publicly suggest that DIA today is irrelevant. Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, USA, Vince’s predecessor, agreed with my own appraisal in 2014 of DIA as totally dysfunctional. OSINT is of course not mentioned in this book.
At a political level, this is a book of lies that not only refuses to acknowledge the multiple false flag operations (I ran a false flag operation for the CIA) used to start wars of profit on the basis of lies, it also continues to retell many lies Clapper told while serving as DNI, the two most important lies being that NSA does not spy on US citizens (it actually collects every email and every phone call of every US citizen with those of Members of Congress being the highest priority); and that the Russians hacked the election. Clapper’s vitriolic hatred for our President Donald Trump is clearly captured in the following quote on page 399:
We have elected someone as president of the United States whose first instincts are to twist and distort truth to his advantage, to generate financial benefit to himself and his family, and in so doing, to demean the values this country has traditionally stood for. He has set a new low bar for ethics and morality. He has caused damage to our societal and political fabric that will be difficult and will require time to repair. And close to my heart, he has besmirched the Intelligence Community and the FBI – pillars of our country – and deliberately incited many Americans to lose faith and confidence in them.
These are insulting words, malicious words, presumably with knowledge of falsity, and they also violate the standing order against disrespect for the President by any serving or retired member of the Armed Forces.
Among the many misrepresentations that Clapper and his ghost-writer integrate into his book are these, all part of the official narrative, and all known to be and documented to be lies:
● 9/11 
● Assange in Sweden 
● Benghazi 
● Bin Laden Raid 
● Boston Bombing 
● David Petraeus Firing 
● Gulf of Tonkin 
● Hillary Clinton is a Saint 
● Intelligence Community Fails Because of Others 
● Intelligence Community Has Ethics 
● Intelligence Community is Apolitical (No Witch-hunt) 
● Intelligence Community Speaks Truth to Power 
● Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction 
● ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria / Levant) 
● North Korea Unwilling to Denuclearize 
● NSA Not Spying on US Citizens (or Members of Congress) 
● President Donald Trump is Disgrace to America 
● Russians Penetrated Democratic National Committee (DNC) Computers 
● Russians “Hacked” the Election 
● Syrian Use of Chemical Weapons
The two most significant omissions in this book – apart from its lacking substantive value in relation to reforming and transforming the craft of intelligence to enable evidence-based governance in the public interest – are counterintelligence, and OSINT. Other than repeating the fabricated narrative about the Russians as the “main enemy” (the Cold War line in cyber-clothing) Clapper ignores what one author calls “Friendly Spies” among whom Zionist Israel clearly stands out.
I strongly suspect that Clapper is fully aware that the pedophilia entrapment and blackmail operations of suspected Mossad officers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell are being carried out with the complicity of the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Zionists are also the primary force behind computer penetrations on Capitol Hill, such as those carried out by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her Pakistani “patsies” on behalf of the Mossad.
I strongly suspect that one reason Clapper does not address counterintelligence in this book – the traitors among us – is because he is well aware that Israel – Zionist Israel – is America’s greatest enemy when it comes to the subversion of the US economy, the USG, and US society (e.g. via Hollywood and its culture of pedophilia long promoted by Disney and the likes of Shirley Temple), but Zionist Israel and the Zionist secret police and lead censors in the US, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are the “trusted flaggers” for #GoogleGestapo, controlled across the board by the Zionists on behalf of the Deep State, with the primary mission right now of digitally assassinating conservative voices and subverting the Presidency of Donald Trump.
His deliberate omission of OSINT is to be expected and is a minor footnote within his larger epitaph.
He ends his career with a whimper as the consummate bureaucrat unable to produce a truly great book.
After completing my endnotes I conclude that Clapper – however much he might be respected by those he has worked with – has betrayed the intelligence profession and the Republic. Together with John Brennan, Mike Hayden, and George Tenet, he represents – whether intentionally or unwittingly – the profound loss of intelligence and integrity and imagination within the US secret intelligence community.
IMAGE Credit: Collage and original Benghazi graphic created by Robert David Steele.