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Weekly Intelligence Notes
4 February 2000

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During the last week in January, NSA's backbone data processing computer system crashed and was down for four days, from Monday to Friday. NSA spent $1.5 million on emergency repairs and consultants to put the system back into operation. The failure was not attributed to adversarial action, nor to delayed Y2K problems, but to system overload. NSA stated that no important intelligence information was lost. All of the intercepted material was saved and processed later.
The crash caused concern in Congress. SSCI Chairman Senator Richard Shelby said that a technical advisory group appointed by his committee two years ago found NSA "an organization in desperate need of organizational restructuring and modernization of its information technology infrastructure." HPSCI Chairman Porter Goss said the incident demonstrates a "lack of management attention"in the past and a "chronic underfunding of infrastructure at NSA." Goss' HPSCI committee has criticized NSA for failing to modernize its computer-processing capability while committing huge amounts of money to upgrade its worldwide system for intercepting communications. (Ed. Comment - in the real world, this is not necessarily an unusual budgeting strategy in the Washington theater - funding collection systems first, then have the new collection capability drive funding for processing upgrades -- been there, done that). (Wpost 2Feb00, p.A19; Pincus) (Jonkers)

-- DCI George Tenet presented a global overview of the worldwide threat in 2000 to the Senate Select committee on Intelligence on 2 February 2000. He provided the following assessment on the situation in the Caucasus and Central Asia:
Chechnya has significance for the Caucasus and Central Asia, a part of the world that has the potential to become more volatile as it becomes more important to the United States. As you know the US has expended great effort to support pipelines that will bring the Caspian's energy resources to Western markets. One oil pipeline is expected to pass through both Georgia and Azerbaijan. Western companies are trying to construct a gas pipelines under the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan through Azerbaijan and Georgia en route to Turkey. Although many of the leaders in the region through which the pipelines will flow view the United States as a friend, regime stability there is fragile. Most economies are stagnating or growing very slowly, unemployment is rising, and poverty remains high. This creates opportunities for criminals, drug runners and arms proliferators. It also means the region could become a breeding ground for a new generation of Islamic extremists, taking advantage of increasing dissatisfaction. There is not much popular support for Islamic militancy anywhere in Central Asia or the Caucasus, but as militants are pushed out of Chechnya, they may seek refuge - and stoke militancy - in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.
See the CIA website for the complete text of the speech.  (Jonkers)

RUSSIA, GEORGIA AND CHECHNYA SITREP -- Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and his Georgian counterpart Kakha Targamadze announced on Jan. 22nd that they agreed to begin joint border operations --codenamed Undercover -- to police the Chechen-Georgian border, according to a Russian radio report.. If true, this may significantly impact on the resupply of arms and ammunition to the Chechen bands and may diminish the level of Chechen operations. The channels of abundant supply of modern arms and ammunition to the Chechen (insurgents, rebels, extremists, bandits - take your pick) , is, of course, one of the unscrutinized and unpublicized mysteries of the Chechen conflict.
Georgian state policy has apparently adapted to the reassertion of Russian power in the Caucasus region. A few weeks into the Chechen campaign, in early November 1999, Georgia insisted that it would unilaterally patrol and seal the border. But in December Russia dropped paratroopers at the top of the Argun Valley, the most accessible connection between Chechnya and Georgia, and sealed the border themselves. Now, Georgia appears to have agreed to participate in a joint operation, which means having a Russian military component on Georgian territory. Seen in the larger context of the US and Western push for influence in the region (i.e., the "Great Game" of oil, pipelines and geopolitical power), the Chechen war also sends a signal of stronger Russian reassertion of interests to the local regimes, at least for the moment. (Russian radio and Stratfor Global Intelligence 25 January 2000, (Jonkers)


According to an article by James Risen in the New York Times, a classified report by the CIA's Inspector General concluded that top CIA officials impeded an internal investigation of former DCI John Deutch's mishandling of large volumes of "enormously sensitive" classified material. The IG report stopped short of accusing Mr Tenet or his aides of violating any laws.

DCI George Tenet made the following statement in this regard: "... the bottomline is that a complete investigation was done, decisive action was taken and steps have been implemented to improve our security process. At the conclusion of the IG's investigation last August, I made the tough decision to suspend the security clearances of my former boss and predecessor. Copies of the IG report were provided to our Congressional oversight committees at that time. The IG report did not conclude that anyone intentionally impeded the investigation..." Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla) Chairman of the HPSC/I, said he was satisfied that both Tenet and CIA Inspector General Britt Snider had appropriately handled the Deutch case.
There are obvious questions of law, politics and national security involved in this matter. In addition, James Risen drew a comparison of the treatment of the former DCI with Los Alamos computer scientist Wen Ho Lee (who some think is a possible scapegoat for DOE's years of deficient counterintelligence security policies and practices). Both placed extremely sensitive files on their unclassified home computers in violation or regulations and law. Both deleted large number of files from their computer when they found they were under investigation. One is accused of treason, the other merely of "sloppy" security practices. One is denied bail and sits in jail, the other received a slap on the wrist. At least from the open source information available, there are reasonable grounds for reporters to raise questions. The DCI, however, has stated that the two are not comparable. "In one instance, there is an inent to do harm to the United States. That's a legal judgment that's been made. In the other instance, a similar legal judgment was not made."
Be that as it may, for intelligence professionals, aside from the potential harm done to national security, the key question is: what kind of the example has been set by a senior official -- and particularly the DCI? And how is this treated? The reported offense involved storing some of the nation's most sensitive national secrets on a home computer that was also used to access pornographic internet sites and send and receive e-mail. As such it was obviously accessible to hackers and foreign adversaries -- although the DCI stated that there was no evidence that Deutch's unsecured home computer had been hacked into, he also said there was no sure way to tell that it had not been.
If all this turns out to be true, it must be profoundly disturbing to both current and former professionals in the intelligence community. As can be documented with historical examples, "sloppy" security practices can harm the nation as much as deliberate espionage - or even more. "Sloppy" security practices cannot be tolerated for the rank and file, who are asked to follow the law and the example set by superiors. "Sloppy" security practices are no excuse for the high-risk behavior reported. The dismissal of the problem by writing it off as "sloppy security practices" won't do. We must wait a further reassertion of moral authority, personal responsibility and leadership in this case. (New York Times, 1Feb2000,J. Risen; AP 3 Feb Tom Raum; Wpost 2 Feb p.A8 , Loeb and Pincus; CIA at (Jonkers)

WEBSTER COMMISSION REPORT -- The Commission on the Advancement of Law Enforcement, chartered by Congress and headed by former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, has published a 185 page report, finding that lack of coordination among law enforcement agencies is a glaring weakness that makes the US more vulnerable to global crime and terrorism. The report further finds that there has been "poor integration" of domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering. It therefore recommended that the attorney general get authority to direct all federal law enforcement policies and practices. Another, and more controversial recommendation was that the FBI should get control over the enforcement functions of the the Drug enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF / Treasury Department). This is unlikely to be implemented. (Wpost 2 Feb2000,. p. A8; D.Vise) (Jonkers)

REVISED RUSSIAN CONCEPT ON NATIONAL SECURITY -- On January 14th the Russian Government published a 21-page Concept on National Security that broadens the possible scenarios in which Russia would consider using nuclear weapons from the previous national security document published in 1997.
Previously the formulation was that nuclear weapons could be used "in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state." The new document states nuclear weapons could be used "in the case of the need to repulse an armed aggression, if all other methods of resolving the crisis situation are exhausted or have been ineffective." Changes to the 1997 document were stimulated by the reaction against the US/NATO attack on Yugoslavia and Western criticism of Russian actions in Chechnya. The new document views the West as increasingly confrontational. It criticizes the US for trying to create "unilateral" solutions to global problems with military force, "sidelining the basic standards of international law," and asserts that "the level and scale of threat in the military sphere is increasing." Specifically, the document holds that NATO's use of force outside the alliance's borders, without sanction from the United Nations -- and the incorporation of this practice into alliance doctrine last year, "is fraught with the threat of destabilization of the whole strategic situation in the world."
In the past this type of document have been mostly useful in gauging the thinking of the Russian military and political elite. This type document is not binding, and are often rewritten or ignored. Russian policy in defense and foreign affairs has been quite ad hoc. Also, the document could have worse -- it could have included language allowing an "early first use" of nuclear weapons, but that was not included. (Wpost 15Jan2000, p.A21) (Jonkers)

DOMESTIC TERRORISM -- A freelance writer for the magazine Salon, Dan Savage, published an article in which he claims to have gone on a self-appointed clandestine operation by working on the volunteer staff of Presidential candidate Gary Bauer, with the objective of infecting the candidate with his "flu bug and all". Described as a gay journalist, he said he licked the doorknobs, telephones and coffee cups in the Des Moines office where he worked, and put a pen in his mouth and gave it to the candidate when he asked him for an autograph. The reason for the action was his opposition to Gary Bauer's position on homosexuals. In writing about his exploit, Savage wrote "Score! My bodily fluids - flu bugs and all - were all over his hand!" State Republican officials in Des Moines were said to have asked the local prosecutor to launch a criminal investigation. (Wpost, 3Feb2000, p.C1) (Jonkers)

NETWORK SECURITY -- Most company and personal computer networks are wide open to attacks by dedicated hackers. David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, alleges that some of the most powerful tools traditionally used by intelligence agencies - which allow them to "overhear conversations and read our mail" - have been privatized and used by new "privateers"-- former intelligence officers who are out now, offering their skills on the open market. He advises that companies that want to protect themselves against these electronic attacks should invest in counter-intelligence.
Companies are more vulnerable than they realize. Firewalls may not do the job. If installed right out of the box, they usually contain default passwords and other trapdoors that allow smart hackers to get in. Packet sniffers on a cable allow one to read everything on the cable loop. DSL technology is harder to crack - but not impossible. Ignatius concludes by saying that "civil libertarians still seem to focus their angst on privacy threats from government intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but they're way behind the time. Like everything else in the global economy, snooping has been privatized." (Wpost 30Jan00, p.B7; D. Ignatius) (Jonkers)


THE SECRET WAR AGAINST HANOI : Kennedy's and Johnson's Use of Spies, Saboteurs and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam, by Richard H. Shultz Jr. HarperCollins, 1999. ISBN 0-06-019454-5.
In January 1961 President John F. Kennedy, having just taken office, was informed of intelligence estimates showing that North Vietnam was intensifying a campaign of murder, mutiliations,kidnappings, ambushes and armed attacks in its effort to take over South Vietnam. Kennedy's angry response was to try to do to North Vietnam what it was doing to the South. Kennedy initiated a set of covert actions that, as Richard H. Shultz Jr. says in his illuminating account of the consequences of Kennedy's decision, would "put Hanoi on notice that there was a price to be paid for its attempt to subvert South Vietnam."
Kennedy, in typically bold but also impetuous fashion, believed in unconventional warfare, which he felt needed to be developed to respond to the unconventional methods of global Communist subversion. And, as Mr. Shultz explains in "The Secret War Against Hanoi," that tenet got the United States into the biggest set of covert actions undertaken during the cold war. Mr. Shultz subjects the secret effort, which lasted from the early 1960's to 1972, to a searching, critical, dispassionate analysis. His book, which focuses on the activities of the Studies and Observation Group, or SOG, as the secret warfare organization was called, is impressively researched and soberly presented, though not so soberly as to smother the passion that Mr. Shultz has for this subject. One cannot help but be impressed by the derring-do of many in the American armed forces. 
But reading it is also a 400-page lesson in how not to wage special war against a determined and badly understood foe. In Mr. Shultz's telling of it, the secret war, which was not so secret to the North Vietnamese, was conceived almost without considering the nature of the enemy.
Among the points made clear in this history is Kennedy's critical role in increasing American involvement in the war. Contrary to the sentimental views of some historians -- and revisionist filmmakers like Oliver Stone -- Kennedy showed no sign of souring on the war and wishing shortly before his assassination to bring about an American disengagement. On the contrary, in Mr. Shultz's account, Kennedy was so impatient to get results that when the C.I.A. failed to do so, he transferred the operation to the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara enthusiastically backed it.
"Mr. Secretary, I hear what you are saying, but it's not going to work," William E. Colby, the chief of the CIA's Saigon station, told Mr. McNamara at a meeting in 1963. North Vietnam was what one CIA analyst aptly called a counterintelligence state where total control of the population made the task of stirring up trouble almost impossible.
If Kennedy's era was characterized by a reckless ignorance of the Vietnamese reality, President Lyndon B. Johnson's was saturated by political caution. The most effective covert operation, especially in its early years, was the dispatching of reconnaissance teams across the borders into Laos and Cambodia to call in air strikes on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam's essential infiltration route to South Vietnam. Mr. Shultz cites a North Vietnamese general interviewed after the war who said that the only way the United States could have prevailed was to cut the trail.
Mr. Shultz then elaborates on the bureaucratic obstructions of SOG's cross-border reconnaissance. The most serious of these came from the State Department and from major figures like W. Averell Harriman and Kennedy's ambassador to Laos, William H. Sullivan, who were concerned that cross-border excursions would ruin the neutrality arrangements that Harriman had negotiated in Laos in 1962. That concern, combined with inconsistent and hesitant policies by the Johnson administration, enabled Hanoi to increase its defenses along the trail and to step up its operations while SOG was inactive. Mr. Shultz attaches great importance to the 1962 Laotian accords, which in his view essentially gave the game away to the North Vietnamese.
But he also shows, apart from American bureaucratic weakness, that SOG soon began to experience terrible casualties as North Vietnam strengthened its defenses. In 1969 one American ended up killed, wounded or missing in every other reconnaissance mission. "It was basically a waste of effort," the American commander in chief in Vietnam, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, told Mr. Shultz of the missions. Mr. Shultz believes that this need not have been the case. Still, the unblinkered account he gives leads to the conclusion that, however brave and potentially useful it may have been, the secret war against Hanoi was close to a wasted effort the way it was conducted during the long and tragic American military engagement in Indochina. (New York times, 1-12-00, Richard Bernstein) (courtesy R. Heibel)
NOTE: Professor Shultz will address the AFIO luncheon meeting on 20 March at the Ft Myer O'Club - call 703 790 0320 for reservations)


WIN articles, commentaries and critiques are based on open sources and written or edited by the Producer/ Editor (Roy Jonkers) Commentary and opinions included are those of the Editor or others listed in the byline of each article.

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