Friday, June 06, 2008

The federal government's got problems

Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that Iranian exiles who provided dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran to a small group of Pentagon officials might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.
A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the Pentagon officials' activities after only a month, and the Defense Department's top brass never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.
The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.

The above is from John Walcott's "Did Iranian agents dupe Pentagon officials?" (McClatchy Newspapers). It's not a 'fun' time to be in charge of the Pentagon. Consider what CNN's Jamie McIntyre broke on CNN Newsroom yesterday:

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We've got breaking news to tell you about that's coming to us from the Pentagon, and specifically from the Department of the Air Force. We have just learned that the top Air Force leadership is out, fired.Let's head straight to the Pentagon and our senior correspondent there Jamie McIntyre. What's going on, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this is an example of Defense Secretary Robert Gates no-excuses management style. As you said, heads are rolling over the issue of the handling of nuclear weapons and other leadership issues in the Air Force.Asked to resign, which is code for firing, is the top civilian in charge of the Air Force, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and the top military general in charge of the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mike Moseley. The two top leaders of the Air Force are being replaced because Secretary Gates has received a highly critical report of how the Air Force has reacted to an embarrassing incident last year which a B-52 bomber flew across country with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that nobody knew were live nuclear weapons until the plane landed in Barksdale , Louisiana .There were supposed to be big changes made from that. But a recent inspection of the base was less than satisfactory, and Secretary Gates just got a report on his desk from an independent investigator, a Navy admiral who has been in charge of reviewing what the Air Force has done to take care of this.It's not just this issue though. There have been a number of leadership issues in the Air Force including questions about a conflict of interest around a high-profile public relations contract that was left from the Air Force. And all of that together led Secretary Gates to decide that he was going to take decisive action.It's not unlike what he did when he heard about the shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital . In that case, he fired the Army secretary and head of the hospital there, as well -- Brianna.

Staying with government scandals but dropping back to the joint-entry Ava and I did Wednesday where we noted the VA computer systems being breached. It'll be in the snapshot in some form today and Jim will either by himself or with others not including us, write about it at Third on Sunday. A 'news' producer accuses (in an e-mail to the public site, I'm not friends with Fox "News") Ava and I of 'teasing' it out and having nothing.

We had no plans to mention and didn't go looking for it. Mike was present when we were speaking to ___ and, as he noted last night, we were talking about the 2006 computer 'problems' which AP had just broken after the government had released the information on that. In the course of that conversation a comment was made and we (Ava and I) nodded and then, a few seconds later (because we knew the AP coverage of the 2006 incident), we realized this wasn't the 2006 story he was talking about. ____ clammed up and we worked the phones. As we stated on Wednesday, the VA computer system was breached in the second half of 2007. This is not "heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you've been messing around" (REO Speedwagon) or, as the Fox "News" person accuses, us "pulling a Larry Johnson." We know the name of the suspect (and we believe "suspect" doesn't have to be used). We have not spoken to him. We have spoken to one person over the investigation. We know that what civilian computer was utilized for the breach, we know what building it was in and what floor it's on. We know that the investigation led to the building holding a second floor meeting/investigation and we know that from two civilians present during various parts of the questioning. We know who the government did and did not investigate. We know a civilian was present during the breach and the government never interviewed her -- yes, it is a her. We know the address of the building where the breach took place, we know the room number in the building where the breach took place. We know two versions the suspect gave during the investigation for the breach. We have spoken with people involved in the government and we have spoken with civilians at the site where the breach took place.

We included it in the joint-entry Wednesday because we were working the phones while writing that and were just appalled because either the investigation's findings were a white wash or, just working the phones, we were able to find out more than the government did. (That may be because the woman present during the breach never spoke to the government.) We have not spoken to the veteran who got into the VA system and he may be the only person on civilian or government sides that we haven't spoken to.

We were doing our joint-entry on Hillary and reading yet another round of guess work passed off as journalism, rolling our eyes and insulting that guess work while we wrote. We were talking (to each other) about how much time is being wasted with gas baggery and how it's being passed off as news and then decided that point needed to be made. That there is actual news out there and where are the news outlets?

Not covering it.

Not even aware of it.

We used the story to make a point.

It will be mentioned in the snapshot today (the first time it will make into a snapshot) and Jim will write or lead the writing of something for Third (that we won't participate in) this weekend. Our big concern was always with Jim who loves this sort of thing while we take the attitude of we-don't-break-news. We will not comment on what Jim writes. We will answer some specific questions for Jim. We know Mike will be more forthcoming about the conversation between ___ and ourselves that he observed. If the incident becomes news before this site goes dark, it's very likely Ava and I will provide commentary on what the MSM is missing as they report it. The government's official version is not reality. Again, we found out more than the official investigation (summarized for us on the phone by someone participating in the investigation) found. In the end the suspect is of far less interest than what happened and how. There are breaking news stories to be found in that story as well as human interest ones. On the latter, there's a human interest angle that the media will most likely miss because it's not in the official investigation and when we found out about that (from civilians) and called ____ (who was surprised we had run down as much as we could) we were told that those investigating did not believe the suspect about that portion of the story. That portion was actually true. It does seem outlandish but if the breach becomes news and it's left out of the MSM, that will be surprising because it's the easiest thing to prove (all it requires is for people to use their own eyes and is as basic as whether the sky is blue or red).

Our point in including it on Wednesday was that we were sick of the MSM typing up gas baggery and printing it on the front page. Cheap, easy, phoned in crap passed off as news and as news worthy of the front page. We offered one example of a story we knew about that was actual news and was not being reported. I'll add one more thing to that, the New York Times regularly files from the location (not NYC) of the city the breach originated in. (The city where the civilian computer was used to breach the VA's computer system.) A breach takes place, a government investigation ensues (in a city not know for a lot of big news happening -- my opinion and not trying to be insulting), how do reporters there not know about it?

So we'll mention it in the snapshot, Jim will write (or lead the writing of) something on it at Third and, except as media critics, Ava and I are done with it other than deciding whether or not to pass it on to friends in Congress. It is a story, it is news and it goes to how unsecure the VA computer system is.

Part of the reason for the delay in this morning's entries is Jim saw the Fox "News" e-mail and has badgered me to write something here. My attitude was to laugh (Fox "News" offering insults and I'm supposed to be offended?). So blame Jim for the delays in anything going up here. (Seriously, not joking.) I have no interest in originating 'breaking news.' You can consider the snapshot later to do as by Ava and myself since she'll be pulled in for this part of it. Whatever Jim writes will involve a great deal of speculation. We're not outing our sources and Mike only knows one of them. I doubt that source will provide Jim with information but he may be willing to listen to what Jim thinks he's gathered and say "yes" or "no." Whether Jim nails it or is off the wall, I won't be commenting on what Jim writes Sunday. Ava and I spoke with primary sources in the government and out. We spoke with people involved the investigation and over the investigation, we spoke with people at the building where the breach took place. We spoke with civilians present during parts of the investigation. We spoke with people that the government never spoke with even though those people could offer key pieces to the puzzle.

I told Jim the big issue he needs to focus on is not the who but the how because that is the most damning part of the story. Whether he does that or not (he's gone through our cells trying to figure out which numbers on outgoing calls are people who provided us with information), is up to him. But it's the same thing I'd toss to Fox "News" or anyone at an actual news outlet. Don't get bogged down in the person/suspect (who did, by Ava and my research, breach the VA system), focus on how. That takes the story far beyond one person and one breach. (And the 'official version' uses conjecture when it comes to the suspect -- we were able to find out exactly why the person breached the system and have no need to use conjecture because we spoke to the woman present during the breach. Someone, again, that the government never saw fit to interview. We are taking her word for why the breach occurred and we're going by the gut on that, yes. But we're also going by other aspects of the story and the fact that we find her completely believable.) The "who" is part of the story but the big story is the "how." The "who" really doesn't matter in the big picture but the "how" goes to the weaknesses in the VA system and "how" it will continue to happen. We think higher ups at the VA should be paraded before Congress to explain how the "how" happened.

Now when Ava and I write whatever it is will be writing shortly, Jim will probably hit the roof, I've already written more here than we've given Jim verbally. Chances are that will be the case in the snapshot as well. That's not my problem, I didn't want to cover this. As a result, Jim may end up with nothing but a summary but that his fault because he insisted that this be covered here.

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