Top Secret America

By Terry Turchie · Comments (0)

The President’s nominee to become the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he was very concerned about the release of the Washington Post story, “Top Secret America.”

Clapper said the release will make it “easy for adversaries to point out the locations of contractors who are working for the government.” According to Clapper, such an extensive report on America’s intelligence network might even increase the costs of security at various installations to overcome the additional threats posed by the release of the Post series.

He disputed two of the Post’s main conclusions.

On the charge that the intelligence community is out of control, Clapper told the committee, “I believe it is under control.”

Addressing the issue of redundancy, Clapper said, “One man’s duplication is another man’s competitive analysis.”

It’s not surprising that it’s the Washington Post that got it right. The “TOP SECRET AMERICA” investigative report was carefully researched and is a good piece of journalism, but the evidence of what’s wrong in the intelligence community has been available for years to whoever was inclined to collect and analyze it. It’s painfully obvious, however, that the man slated to become the next DNI, responsible for oversight and coordination of America’s behemoth intelligence network and analysis effort, doesn’t seem to get it at all. Read More→



By Terry Turchie · Comments (2)

The Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. can carve out another section of floor space. The FBI and the Justice Department announced the arrest this week of 11 people who are allegedly part of a Russian spy ring. They masqueraded as American or Canadian citizens, used invisible ink; secret radio transmissions; and, in a modern day update of spy trade craft, encrypted messages sent over computers, to communicate with their Russian handlers. They paid mortgages and rent, blending into the neighborhoods where they lived. By all accounts they were living quiet lives, working hard and pursuing the American dream.

What they really were: part of a deep cover network of “illegal” Russian agents- recruited to penetrate important segments of American society and report information of value back to the Russian intelligence officers who directed them.

What were they really after?

They were directed to meet Americans who were either in positions of interest to the Russian government or headed that way. From cutting edge technology to White House access to scientists working in proximity to nuclear weapons facilities, they reported everything they learned about the people they met as well as what those people were doing. Their mission: exploit each contact they made, whether it was at an American company, political gathering or academic institution. The reports they generated went straight to the files of the Russian SVR- the successor to the KGB. Read More→

Categories : Espionage
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Since she signed the sweeping immigration bill into law recently, Arizona’s governor has enjoyed a rise in her popularity ratings of over 20%. This, at a time when other politicians of every stripe, color and banner are trying to ignore the fact that their own ratings are in the cellar, and headed down from there.

Those few who’ve bothered to read the new Arizona law instead of just holler about it are the only ones who aren’t oblivious to to fact that it’s closely modeled after Federal immigration laws, and does not give local police and other law enforcement officers the right to stop people indiscriminately to check their immigration status. That didn’t stop diehard Democratic opponents from giving the President of Mexico a standing ovation when he included indignant remarks about the new law in a speech to the U.S. Congress last month.

Border security is a serious issue for the United States as a whole, related directly to U.S. National Security. The fact that one political party is overwhelmed by the dogma of the left, and the other by the rhetoric of the right, has made immigration more of a hot button issue than ever since the last election – and not in a good way. Read More→

Categories : politics as usual
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In May, Dennis Blair, the retired four-star admiral who became President Obama’s first director of national intelligence (DNI), became a casualty of Washington politics when he was asked to resign his post. He’d been a dead man walking for a while:

While the timing of Blair’s departure seemed a bit abrupt, the notion that his position inside the administration was shaky has been common gossip in Washington intelligence and political circles for weeks if not months. Blair, who had a glittering career as a military leader, rising to become commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, gained a reputation as a not particularly adroit operator in the Machiavellian world of D.C. espionage politics.

Think about that for a minute: D.C. Espionage Politics. Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball said it right – and he used the right adjective: Machiavellian. Read More→

Categories : politics as usual
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On May 5th, NPR’s Morning Edition program featured an exchange about the naturalized U.S. citizen who’s been accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. It included the usual fuzzy speculation about what his motives could possibly have been:

MONTAGNE: And what do authorities say they know about why he allegedly did attempt to do this bombing?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there’s [sic] still a lot of unknowns when it comes to this case. Remember, I mean basically it’s about three days old at this point, so we dont know Shahzad’s motive. I mean we know he lost his job. We know his house was in foreclosure, and that he’d taken his wife and family to Pakistan, just a short time after he became a naturalized citizen last year.

But what we dont know is did he return to Pakistan to get a fresh start after being here for 15 years, and then fall prey to terrorist groups who saw his citizenship as an easy way for him to come here and attack? Or did he actually go to Pakistan fully intending to come back to the U.S. and launch something like this? Thats still unclear. I think we’re going to find that out, however, in the coming days, cause he’s talking.

Kathleen’s ear was caught by this, so I’ll turn it over to her:

(From Kathleen):

I’ve been challenged for years about whether Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) “wanted to get caught.” Before his execution in 2001, bomber Timothy McVeigh asserted that he’d deliberately left the rear license plate off the sedan he drove out of Oklahoma City, in order to provoke an arrest that would bring him public renown as having sparked a new American revolution. Just recently, a fellow former FBI agent wrote that he’d concluded from his analysis of Faisal Shahzad that this was another terrorist whose apparent sloppiness was deliberate, because he “wanted to get caught.” Read More→

Categories : Lone Terrorists
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The American government has committed hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decade to prevent acts of terror and identify and catch terrorists. Most of that has been used to acquire an impressive array of technical gizmos that sit mostly unused in locations all over the country.

Ironically, just a fraction of the counterterrorism budget has been used to educate Americans about the importance of independent, individual vigilance.

Talk about bang for the buck!

New York City’s vigilance campaign “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING” can be directly credited with preventing the carnage that might have come if two street vendors had not noticed the smoke coming from the bomber’s car in Times Square and reported their suspicions immediately to the police. The swift actions by NYPD officers and the follow-up investigation by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force have led to other arrests before they could further the attack plan.

In the final paragraph of our 2007 book, Hunting the American Terrorist, we proposed what we consider the best formula for preventing future terrorist acts against America and tracking down terrorists before they can attack us again:


A year later, in our second book, Homeland Insecurity, we discussed the stress on government institutions caused by the 9/11 attacks and emphasized that the only long term remedy was adhering to the pre-eminent rule of law as an effective and enduring strategy.

The events that have unfolded over the past week are proof that vigilant citizens and professional law enforcement offer the best hope of stopping terrorism, whether it’s origins are foreign, domestic, or the deeply dangerous combination of both we predicted in 2008.

Categories : Terrorism
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When NBC first contacted Kathleen about being part of a documentary on Timothy McVeigh in 2009, the lone aerial assault on the IRS building and the Hutaree Michigan Militia arrests hadn’t happened yet. Independent producer Toby Oppenheimer was fascinated with what drove McVeigh to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 15 years ago, and wanted Kathleen’s input about her work on Lone Terrorists. Like other interviewees, Kathleen spent hours at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York last December taping her contribution, and you can see the results in a two-hour special on Monday, April 19, the 15th anniversary of the bombing, on MSNBC:


(NEW YORK, NY) — APRIL 14, 2010 — Fifteen years after the Oklahoma City bombing, Rachel Maddow brings viewers the inside story on the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil prior to the events of Sept. 11. 168 lives were lost and more then 500 people were injured that day and now, on Monday, April 19 (9-11 PM/ET), MSNBC viewers will hear Timothy McVeigh’s chilling confession in his own words for the first time in “The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist.” Drawing from 45 hours of never-before-released interview audiotapes recorded during McVeigh’s prison stay, the film reveals the bomber’s descriptions of the planning and execution of the horrific attack and offers insight into how a decorated American soldier became a dangerous, anti-government terrorist. Nine years after his execution, McVeigh’s voice from the grave resonates today as once again anti-government extremism is on the rise. The film will re-air on MSNBC on Friday at 10 PM ET and Sunday at 9 PM ET.

There’s a lot of confusion about “lone wolf” terrorists – even among many psychologists. There’s a tendency in psychology and law enforcement to define a “lone wolf” as simply someone who has no accomplices. It’s far more complicated than that. Read More→

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The President signed a new START treaty this week to “curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and material.” He had the support of China, Russia and several dozen other countries, and they all insist this new treaty will go towards preventing nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Sadly – and this is what makes it a non-starter – the treaty lacks any enforcement mechanism whatsoever. Ensuring compliance with its terms will be up to each individual country. In our view (and based on long experience in FBI counterintelligence), It’s ridiculous to expect that pretty words about cooperation in a treaty that relies on voluntary compliance are going to protect America from al-Qaeda terrorists bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and using them in a future attack. Read More→

Categories : Nuclear Terrorism
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All last week Craig Fahle, a talk show host at a big NPR affiliate in Detroit http://www.facebook.com/CraigFahleShow ran a very interesting series of interviews and commentary on “right wing extremism.”  We were invited to participate, so Terry was on with Craig for about 20 minutes at the top of the show.  You can listen to it here:  http://tinyurl.com/ykfloeo

There’s a lot of nervousness in the country right now about right wing militias and anti-government rhetoric.  The case of arrest of the “Hutaree” faction of the Michigan Militia for their actions in service of a plan to kill police was fresh – http://tinyurl.com/yhe8tnv - so Craig wanted the perspective of someone who’s actually worked cases like this. Read More→

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We’re TK Associates, and we’re joining the public debate.  In this Blog, both of us will discuss the price we’re all paying for “politics as usual” as it relates to our national security.

Take this recently revived quote from Barry Goldwater in 1964:  ”I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Well, extremism of any kind – hard left or hard right – IS a problem if it leads to violence.  We fought our own battles with it when we were in the FBI in the 1990s, and while doing it we forged a unique blend of human behavioral analysis with leadership and management savvy that solved “unsolvable” cases like the UNABOM Case and Eric Rudolf, the Olympic Park Bomber (recounted in our book 2007 book Hunting the American Terrorist).

But we discovered something else during those years in the FBI, and it worried us even more than the threat of extremist violence from the left or right.  Politicians of all stripes have consistently betrayed the public trust – and endangered U.S. national security – by succumbing to a critical addiction to the most intoxicating substance on the planet:  POWER.  We detailed our findings and called Democrats and Republicans alike on their dangerous antics in  Homeland Insecurity (2008).

Every day we find evidence of the disastrous consequences of the addiction to power in politicians who have been elected to oversee our national security.  The media will spin the news either left or right, but this is the real “no spin” zone.  You’ll see that one of us is basically conservative and the other is primarily a social liberal, but we agree on one primary principle:  the Rule of Law should prevail in mediating differences – especially the most serious and threatening ones.

Let’s talk.

Categories : Addicted to Power
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