American Samizdat

Saturday, January 06, 2007. *
A little research on "An Admiral taking over as commander of Central Command...
Retired Vice-Admiral McConnell is not without some experience in these matters: Nominee played big role in outsourcing intelligence

McConnell, a retired Navy vice admiral, led the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996 before joining Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a consulting firm based in McLean, Va.

White House officials confirmed McConnell's appointment to replace Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte but declined to be identified by name because the nomination has not been formally announced.

McConnell's nomination and confirmation by the Senate would come amid two current trends in intelligence gathering: the emphasis on technology, and the heightened role of private contractors in analyzing data and preparing reports that once might have been written by government intelligence officers.

In this case, experience is not necessarily a good thing:

Booz Allen has received at least $50 million in Pentagon contracts since November 2005, records show. Some involve remnants of the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" program. Congress killed the program in 2003 amid concerns it would invade the privacy of ordinary Americans. The $63 million contract signed with Booz Allen in 2002 called for the firm to develop a single system to collect and search through huge databases of government, personal and business records for signs of terrorist activities. McConnell signed that contract on Booz Allen's behalf.

Work on that contract has continued, according to federal contracting records, which show the Pentagon paid Booz Allen about $2 million under that contract during 2006, most recently on Sept. 26.

Spokesmen for the White House, Pentagon, Booz Allen and Negroponte's office all have declined to comment on the contract.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he will question McConnell about the program and intelligence contracting.

"It's a critical concern," says Wyden, who led the efforts to kill TIA in 2002.

Congress did not "kill" the TIA program as this article suggests. Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld as much as confirmed that the only thing they did was to change its name.

This is essentially the massive database that the US FBI and Department of Homeland Security are currently using to monitor all US citizens to assess their "terror scores", prevent them from travelling, and prosecute them for crimes they have not committed, but may commit at some future date (based on the questionably statistical nature of their lifestyles, purchases and personal communications).

There's a lot of concern about the system's reliability
. On the one hand, nobody can see or correct anything that goes into it, so "...civil liberties and privacy advocates warn that granting broad access to such a system is almost certain to invite abuse and lead to police mistakes.

"Raw police files or FBI reports can never be verified and can never be corrected," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that they're creating another whole system that is going to be full of inaccurate information is just chilling."

On the other hand, I'd be just as concerned that it works precisely as it is intended to... which is to say, many nominally innocent people will be langouring in newly-built detention facilities to ease the minds of a small number of fearful, rich, white xenophobes. The Scylla and Charibdis that McConnell wants us to navigate runs between a world with no privacy rights (if it works) and a world of spurious arrests (if it doesn't). Rather than scrapping the whole thing (as a sensible sort would), McConnell and his ilk have embraced the worst of all possible worlds and promise to deliver both.

It's exactly the sort of mentality I have come to expect from these sorts. Quibble over the details all you may (e.g.; Individuals made mistakes in the invasion of Iraq), but never, NEVER question whether the policy itself is flawed (e.g.; The invasion of Iraq was, by itself, a mistake).
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:23 PM
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