8th Annual Love-A-Spook Day — Honoring Analysts

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Bayard & Holmes created Love-A-Spook Day eight years ago on October 31 to honor the contributions of those in the clandestine services. In previous Love-a-Spook Day articles, we have focused on remarkable individuals who have made great contributions to our national security, usually at great personal risk. This year let us consider a group of spooks who will likely never receive a medal, a handshake from a US president, or even much of a “thank you” on their way out the door after decades of hard work and loyalty.

You may have met some of these spooks, and unless you are in their “need to know” zone, they probably never told you what they did.

You might live next door to one. They will discuss gardening, sports, PTA meetings and lots of other topics with you, and they will be happy to tell you about their “job,” just not their real job. The higher they are in their field and the more critical their work is, the less you will know about it. The chances are that long after they retire, they will hold to their “cover story.” The more exciting their career was, the more mundane their cover will be.

The spooks that I am referring to are those that we collectively refer to as “analysts.” They sound every bit as humdrum as Wall Street bond analysts. They aren’t.

In the military aviation world, bomber pilots are fond of saying, “Fighter pilots make movies; we make history.” Intelligence analysts might say, “Covert operatives make movies; we make history.” They would be fairly well-justified in saying it.

We in the covert operations side of the business may at times undervalue the work of analysts, and at times we become impatient with them.

From our point of view, we found it, saw it, recorded it, photographed it, and at times even blew it up. It might seem like the intelligence picture in front of us is as clear as a sunny day. If not that, then at least as clear as the best technology will illuminate a dark night or see through a fog-filled day in Beijing. So why, then, would the analysts fret or question our interpretations?

For example, when standing at a window in a foreign country observing a major terrorist come and go day after day, we operatives might wonder why action has not been taken.

From where we stand at that moment, we cannot see that the analytical team is also receiving valid information from a wide range of other sources. We may have solidly identified a nasty and dangerous jihadi skumbag. We may have a team in good position to gift said skumbag his seventy-two virgins—which are probably Chinese blow up dolls. We may even be in a position to make sure that the local cops report it as an attack by a rival group of jihadi skumbags. At the same time, some drone pilot sitting in a cargo container thousands of miles away might also be wondering why he can’t go ahead and fire. Let’s get this party started!

More experienced field spooks know better than to make assumptions about what’s going on “back at the office.”

While we in the field are ready to rumble, an analytical team may have good reason to believe that the skumbag in question is soon going to attend a meeting with a dozen higher-ranking skumbags, and if we are all patient, then we can arrange a much more profitable use of a $25,000 JDAM bomb or a $110,000 drone-fired Hellfire missile. At any price point, why settle for one dead bad guy if you can kill or capture a dozen? More experienced operatives have learned that there is always more at stake than what is in front of a single team or even entire groups of teams in a region.

It can be difficult to remain patient when suffering from a few exotic and unpleasant diseases in a filthy, dangerous corner of the world where cruise ships don’t visit while wondering how the wife and children are doing at home. We can’t contact them. It would be nice to go home. We might start telling jokes amongst ourselves about the analysts,* deputy directors, and various politicians. We have to keep ourselves laughing somehow. But let us assume then that in spite of our jokes, our team and other teams remain patient.

If the risks and the patience pay off, and a dozen jihadi skumbags find themselves trying to inflate plastic blowup dolls in hell, we will all be happy, and that happiness traces back to the analysts.

If the success story is shared with the media, the public will envision Navy SEALs, Green Berets, fighter pilots, cranky ill-mannered spooks, or any other manner of heroes as having scored another victory. Few members of the public and even fewer members of the government will stop to consider that without long hours, days, weeks, months, and in many cases years of very difficult work on the part of anonymous analysts in the background, the success would not have been possible.

Let us dispel a few popular myths about analysts.

  • They are analysts because they couldn’t cut it inthe field.

No. They are analysts because they have very high IQs, a strong work ethic, stable egos, trustworthiness, the ability to remain objective at all times regardless of their passions, and a dogged devotion to the pursuit of the truth.

  • Analysts are all alike and all do similar work.

No. Analysts are quite varied in education, skill sets, personalities, and jobs. Some might be brilliant scientists, engineers, or computer experts. They might analyze scientific data collected in the field, or they might invent new methods of analysis. Some might specialize in the personalities of foreign leaders, such as Vladimir Putin, and spend years examining every available piece of information about them. Others might specialize in counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence. There are about a dozen main types of analysts and various groups within each type. They work together as needed to meet the day’s demands for intelligence.

  • Analysts spend their careers doing the same thing on the same team.

No. The CIA and other agencies are certain that it is best for analysts to change teams after a few years so that they will not lose perspective or start missing valuable clues. A career analyst will have worked in several different areas of focus.

  • Analysts never go to the mythical and glorious field.

They sometimes do, and some more than others. At times, a particular analyst might be the best person for a meeting with an agent or potential agent. Analysts also may take assignments at US embassies or other foreign locations.

  • Analysts never face danger.

I wish that were true. It is not. What do you think Team Jihadi would pay for the location of the person that led the hunt for Bin Laden? What do you think they would do with that information? Before SEAL Team Six could fly to that compound in Pakistan, a large and very dedicated team led by a brilliant man worked for years to get a solid location on Osama. Many lunches were skipped. Nights at home were skipped. Vacations were missed. Sleep was lost, and who can even calculate the thousands of hours of unpaid overtime that those team members worked? They wouldn’t call it “overtime.” They wouldn’t call it anything. They won’t even tell you they were there doing the work.

So as we celebrate our 8th Annual Love-a-Spook Day, let us remember the thousands of unsung heroes that dedicate their lives to the difficult process of turning data and evidence into useful intelligence with which the president can make better decisions—the analysts.

Happy Love-A-Spook Day, Analysts,

and thank you for your dedication and hard work.

 

*To all the analysts out there, I am 90% certain that I take back 90% of the unkind jokes that “me and mine” have told about you over the years. Thank you. ~ JH

 

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Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin Charged with Spying for China…And US Made It Easy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Once again, the US government has allowed your tax money and the nation’s security to be compromised in ridiculous fashion.

On Friday, April 8, 2016, the US Navy charged an active-duty maritime reconnaissance officer with passing US military secrets to a foreign government. The US Navy filed multiple charges, including espionage, against Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin during an Article 32 hearing in Norfolk, Virginia.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin Image by US Naval Institute

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin
Image by US Naval Institute

 

Originally, the US Navy had not released the suspect’s name or the name of the country for which he (allegedly) spied because the Navy had designated the case as a “‘National Security Case.”

A “National Security Case,” according to the US military, is one which “ . . . to any serious degree, involves the compromise of a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or terrorist group; involves an allegation of willful compromise of classified information, affects our military or defense capability to successfully resist hostile or destructive action, overt or covert; or involves an act of terrorism.”

The Navy explained that, “NCIS and FBI are still investigating the details of this case, and, therefore, we cannot provide any additional details at this time.” Since then, unidentified Navy officers have identified the accused as Lt. Cmdr. Lin and the beneficiary of Lin’s espionage work as Communist China.

You remember China? It’s that country that has been rapidly expanding its military and is claiming large areas of international waters as their national domain. Yes, that China.

Though redacted, the charging document describes a depressing story in which Lin transported secret information out of the country without permission and then lied about his whereabouts when he returned to duty. The charging documents allege that Lin successfully committed espionage twice and attempted espionage on three other occasions. Lin is currently in pre-trial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Given that Lin had a high security clearance and served on E-P3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft, he likely did tremendous damage to the US.

The technical and operational information that Lin was entrusted to safeguard constitutes an intelligence coup for Communist China. The reporting on this case will understandably focus on Lin’s access as an officer in the Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group.

However, Lin had access to a whole other trove of treasure for China.

He served as the Congressional Liaison for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Finance Management and Comptroller from 2012 to 2014. In his position as liaison to Congress, Lin would have had access to a vast array of sensitive information from every part of the US Navy.

It would be easy to assume that Edward Lin went to great lengths to succeed at such a villainous subterfuge. He didn’t. It was all too easy, and anyone could do it.

Most of the outrage – all of which Lin and my beloved Navy deserve – will be directed toward Edward Lin. In my opinion, Lin is just one small aspect of a much larger problem that we should not continue to ignore.

How did the US Navy, the FBI, and the rest of the US government manage to miss Lin’s (alleged) spying for what was likely more than a decade?

In the case of the FBI, we can forgive them if their pathetically small counterintelligence efforts missed Lin. Given their lack of resources and minimal mandate, the only surprise from the FBI counterintelligence team would be if they ever actually stumble upon an espionage operation. I am not knocking the FBI agents tasked with counterintelligence. They are undoubtedly as well trained and dedicated as other FBI agents, but they simply lack the means to conduct anything like an effective counterintelligence operation.

As for the US Navy, the Department of Defense, the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branches, I am much less forgiving. For one thing, Lin was a Taiwanese-born Taiwanese citizen until he was 14 years old. I disagree with the current policy that allows foreign born naturalized citizens to so easily gain high security clearances. I’m sure it’s the more politically correct thing to do, but it’s an asinine policy.

This is not the first time that the United States has lavished secret information on a Taiwanese born “alleged” spy.

Refer to the Wen Ho Lee* case if you are uncertain of the wisdom of this policy. In any event the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the proof is in the feast that Lin served up to hostile Communist China.

If Lin is indeed guilty, then he deserves a life sentence of hard labor at Leavenworth or some obscure distant location. Most of my cohorts in the US Military and the US Intelligence Community will likely disagree with me and would prefer for Lin to be executed.

I can’t agree to that because I don’t support the death penalty. All judicial proceedings depend on the integrity and wisdom of those involved in prosecutions, and I can’t ignore that people are not perfect. For example, the government that is prosecuting Lin is the same government that was stupid enough and careless enough to make it easy for Lin to rob the taxpayers blind and endanger our national security. We now know about Edward Lin, which begs a question . . . Who do we not know about?

Regardless of the outcome of Lin’s trial, we, as American citizens, should start demanding better security standards to protect our national security and the billions of dollars in technology that we are all financing. Until our politicians have reason to think that the public is paying attention to our pathetically poor security policies, they will have no motive to fix it.

I hope that all of our readers will look beyond Edward Lin and tell their Congressweasels and their White House to start acting like adults on issues of national security. Edward Lin, if guilty, is a dangerous criminal, but this is a democracy, and We the People allowed him to do what he did.

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* Note to Wen Ho Lee:  I am not the New York Times. Don’t dream of sending lawyers in my direction. You and I have met before. I meant what I said . . . Does your hand still hurt?

Defense Industry UFOs on the Home Front!

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

With so many deadly conflicts brewing around the globe, it’s easy to lose sight of less spectacular defense news at home. Changes in the defense industry and their impacts on taxpayers are not likely to generate front page headlines with so many air strikes, battles and terrorist strikes filling the daily news reports. But sometimes, the bomb-free battles inside the Beltway can impact our national security more than anything that will ever happen in Syria or Ukraine.

 

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

 

One particular event in the defense industry might generate more impacts then were intended by the defense contractors involved. Lockheed Martin’s pending purchase of Sikorsky Aircraft for nine billion dollars has set off a ripple effect in the US defense community.

Last week, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall stated that in the future, he would seek to deter consolidation of top tier defense contractors. Kendall explained that, “Mergers such as this, combined with significant financial resources of the largest defense companies, strategically position the acquiring companies to dominate large parts of the defense industry.”

I can understand Kendall’s concerns. With the current number of large defense contractors, we are paying high prices for our high-tech military gear. In some cases, we are paying high prices for very low-tech gear, as well. Having fewer contractors might lead to less innovation and higher prices.

Kendall’s comments only surprised me because he was open and frank. In the Pentagon, that can be more dangerous than vacationing in Syria.

I am guessing that Kendall must have reason to believe that the White House shares his concerns. Not surprisingly, his comments generated what we might refer to as Unsourced Flying Opinions. To save space, let’s just call them UFOs.

A variety of “defense analysts” have been responding loudly to anyone who will listen that Kendall is creating “uncertainty” in the defense industry. According to some analysts, since large defense contractors will be uncertain about the viability of future mergers, they will be impaired in doing business.

Perhaps they will, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There has been all too much “certainty” in the defense contracting market. Certainly the manufacturing of complex high-tech defense items such as the F-35 fighter or the Gerald Ford supercarrier require a high degree of certainty once production starts, but the selection process should be an open field where the best ideas and greatest efficiencies can compete for contracts.

As Kendall pointed out, “With size comes power, and the department’s experience with large defense contractors is that they are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage. The trend toward fewer and larger prime contractors has the potential to affect innovation, limit the supply base, pose entry barriers to small, medium, and large businesses, and ultimately reduce competition, resulting in higher prices to be paid by the American taxpayer in order to support our war fighters.”

With so much money at stake, taxpayers should expect an increase in UFOs concerning defense spending and any further restrictions on defense contractor mergers. When reading the opinions of defense or national security “think tanks,” it’s a good idea to find out who funds them. You can bet that think tanks that are funded by large defense contractors are not going to think highly of Frank Kendall. As a taxpayer, I am starting to grow fond of him.

So far, the Department of Justice is wisely staying out of the debate on future defense acquisitions. Kendall has indicated that the Pentagon will work with Congress to set new policies governing defense contractors. As much as I agree with Frank Kendall’s intent, I disagree with his optimism for possible congressional action. I can easily imagine the sound of industrial strength shredders in the basement of the Capital building as underpaid staffers work overtime handling all those proposed defense contractor rules. But that doesn’t mean that Kendall’s concerns won’t have a real impact.

Kendall and his cohorts in the Pentagon have one very large ace up their sleeve.

If you want to do business in the defense market, you need happy customers, and the biggest customer of all is the Pentagon. In theory, it is only one customer, but in practice, the Pentagon can block anything involving publicly funded research and technology from sale to foreign customers. That leaves large defense contractors with a very small list of customers.

So what does this quiet and largely unnoticed battle in the Beltway mean?

My best guess is that the Pentagon, with the approval of the White House, is simply saying that it will not allow the US defense market to be too heavily influenced by any single competitor. Getting action for something this complex and this political from Congress is unlikely. Getting a defense contract from an unhappy Pentagon is even less likely. Let’s give kudos to Frank Kendall for standing up for the taxpayers and for national security.

America’s Future Low-Budget Bomber–When $550M Just Isn’t Enough

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

For the last six months American and foreign intelligence agencies have been reading about a new stealth bomber that is being developed for the US Air Force. Most of what has been published about the new plane has not been published by the Pentagon or the US Air Force, but rather by a variety of “defense experts” and “aviation writers.”

 

Canstock 2015 Aug Money going down the toilet

 

The US Air Force and Pentagon are suggesting a cost limit of $550,000,000 per new bomber.

I am not a bomber expert, so I am happy to disclose my limitations in assessing bomber development. I am not a bomber pilot or even a pilot at all. I have never served in the US Air Force or anyone else’s air force. I am not any type of aviation engineer, nor have I ever dated one. It’s fair to say that I am not an aviation expert.

My qualifications for having an opinion on the US Air Force’s new bomber program are thus:

  • I don’t have $550,000,000.00 to give the US Air Force to pay for each bomber, and I don’t know anyone that does.
  • I am a happy US taxpayer. I don’t mind paying taxes, but I want the money to be used efficiently.
  • In the past, I have been a casual consumer of valuable products and services offered by the US Air Force, along with Marine Corps and Naval Aviation groups.

So, from this limited perspective, I offer my response to the scarce actual information and abundant “expert” opinions that have been published about the next US Air Force bomber.

For ease of communication, let’s refer to the imaginary new bomber as the “FD”—short for Flying Deficit.

Aviation “experts” thus far all agree that the greatest challenge to producing FD bomber will be the unreasonably tight price limitation of $550,000,000 per plane. To mere mortals, the price tag sounds dizzyingly high. Count me with the mere mortals.

So what does it mean that so many “aviation experts” are in a state of “deep concern” over the $550,000,000 suggested retail value for each FD bomber?

Are all of us non-aviation experts confused about the value of cash? Do we all fail to understand how difficult it is to make something fly and drop stuff on people we don’t like? Perhaps we are not all that confused.

Let us first examine what is known about the FD bomber. We know next to nothing.

We know that it will be “stealth,” like the B-2 already is. We know that it will be built for both conventional and nuclear payloads, like the B-2 already is. And we know that it will include the defense industry’s most important buzzwords. Yes, it will be like my house and my car. It will be “net centric.” Let’s all cheer for “net centric.” It sounds so nice and must cost a bunch. Right?

 

B-2 Stealth Bomber Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

B-2 Stealth Bomber
Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

 

You might find it interesting that the “experts” that are concerned about the suggested budget limitation for the FD bomber have yet to review the US Air Force’s requirements for the FD. Without knowing what the US Air Force wants to buy, they are already certain that a $550,000,000 price tag means that the next bomber will not be the best technology on the best bomber. I’m heartbroken . . . Not really.

How can well educated, experienced aviation experts suggest that the FD bomber will be an underpriced failure when the US Air Force has yet to release the actual requirements for the project?

To understand the answer to that critical question we must first understand who these “experts” are. So far, as near as I have been able to determine, they are not “aviation experts” in the traditional sense. The “experts” publishing those articles are not aviation engineers, retired US Air Force bomber pilots, or US Air Force project managers. They are, in fact, people with degrees and expertise in marketing, communications, public relations, and sales.

I was not surprised to discover that members of the Chicken Little’s The Bomber is Falling Choral Group are not bomber experts.

They harmonize well, but they don’t appear to know much about aviation, the sky, or falling bombs. What I have not been able to determine is how many of these “experts” have received free pens, free lunches, free junkets, free prostitutes, jobs, etc., from corporations that are hoping to receive a share of the “bomber windfall.” Thus far, the two competing potential prime contractors are Northrup Grumman and a team comprised of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. As is always the case when we consider opinions on large government projects, we must consider the source.

As of the time of this article, the US is in debt to the tune of $18 trillion. That figure is increasing every day, but what’s a few hundred billion between friends?

So while we accumulate debt faster than teenagers can consume pizza or congressional aids can snort cocaine, we are being told that rather than questioning the high price tag for FD bomber, we should actually be apologizing to the defense industry for expecting them to produce an adequate bomber for a measly $550,000,000 each. Shame on us . . . Not really.

My best guess is that a bomber that costs $550,000,000 each leaves lots of cash for PR campaigns peddled as “expert opinions.” Before you are overcome by shame for making the US Air Force use such a low budget bomber, you might want to drop a line to your elected officials to ask them why this, and other future projects, and so many current projects, cost as much as they do. Efficiency in defense spending will not get better until we, the taxpayers, convince Congress that, unlike them, we are not so easily boondoggled.