by Tom Burghardt
April 5, 2010
Repression doesn't come cheap, just ask the FBI.
As the securitization of daily life increase at near exponential rates (all
to keep us "safe," mind you) the dark contours of an American police
state, like a pilot's last glimpse of an icy peak before a plane crash,
wobbles into view.
In the main, such programs include, but are by
no means limited to the following:
electronic surveillance (call records, internet usage,
covert hacking by state operatives
CCTV cameras linked-in to state
RFID chipped commodities and the
spooky "internet of things"
biometrics, and yes, the Pentagon has
just stood up a Biometrics Identity Management Agency (BIMA)
...on and on it goes.
Pity our poor political minders, snowed-under by a blizzard of data-sets
crying out for proper "management"!
Or, as sycophantic armchair warrior and New York
Thomas Friedman, would have it,
"The hidden hand of the market will never
work without a hidden fist - McDonald's cannot flourish without
McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15."
So true; yet neither can an aggregate of
repressive police and intelligence agencies function without an army of
corporate grifters who guide that "hidden hand" and not-so-hidden fist into
highly profitable safe harbors.
Call it Big Brother meets market
And so, the heat is on as America's premier political police agency
struggles to "modernize" their case file management system.
The FBI's Case
When circumstances (a massive up-tick in illegal spying since 9/11 courtesy
USA Patriot Act) forced the Bureau to store
a treasure trove of tittle-tattle of "national security interest" on
decidedly low-tech storage devices, FBI agents and their all-too-willing
helpers from giant telecommunications firms such as AT&T took to scribbling
"leads" on post-it notes.
Communications Analysis Unit (CAU) eager-beavers did so in order to
speed-up the process of obtaining dodgy "exigent letters" that smoothed over
the wrinkles (your rights!) as the Bureau issued tens of thousands of
National Security Letters (NSLs).
The secretive letters de cachet demanded everything: emails, internet
searches, call records, bank statements, credit card purchases, travel
itineraries, medical histories, educational résumés, even video rentals and
books borrowed from public libraries. The contents of such shady
administrative warrants cannot be disclosed by their recipients under
penalty of stiff fines or even imprisonment.
While such extra-legal missives are supposedly issued only in cases of dire
"emergency," the banal, ubiquitous nature of surveillance in
post-Constitutional, "new normal" regimes such as the United States, all but
guarantee that extraordinary "states of exception" are standard rules of the
game in our managed democracy.
As the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General
revealed in a heavily-redacted report in
January, with all semblance of a legal process out the window, the FBI were
caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, repeatedly violating
the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Obama administration legal eagles
cobbled together a new theory justifying the practice and have created, yet
another, accountability free zone for agents who violated the rules.
Neatly, seamlessly and silently Obama's Office of Legal Counsel (John
Yoo and Judge Bybee's old stomping grounds) granted them, wait!,
retroactive immunity for such lawbreaking. The trouble is, the OLC's
ruling is classified so we haven't a clue what it entails or how
far-reaching is its purview.
So much for the new era of "openness" and
But I digress...
The New York Times reported March 18, that
work on parts of the Bureau's cracker-jack case management
program known as Sentinel has been
While the "overhaul" was supposed "to be completed this fall," Times
journalist Eric Lichtblau disclosed that the system will not be ready
for prime time until "next year at the earliest." Overall, American
taxpayers have shelled-out some $451 million to an endless parade of
contractors, Lockheed Martin being the latest.
Delays are expected to cost,
"at least $30 million in cost overruns on a
project considered vital to national security" Lichtblau wrote, citing
But problems have plagued the project since its
Lockheed Martin, No. 1 on Washington
Technology's "2009 Top 100" list of Prime Federal Contractors, secured
some $14,983,515,367 in defense-related contracts last year and was brought
on-board to revamp the troubled case management project.
This is all the more ironic considering that the defense giant was hailed as
Sentinel's savior, after an earlier incarnation of the program known as
Virtual Case File (VCF),
overseen by the spooky Science Applications International Corporation
crashed and burned in 2006.
No slouches themselves when it comes to raking-in taxpayer boodle, SAIC is
No. 7 on the Washington Technology list, pulling in some $4,811,194,880 in
2009, largely as a result of the firm's close political connections to the
Defense Department and the secret state.
SAIC's work on VCF began in June 2001 and was expected to be completed in 36
months. However, after shelling out some $170 million over four years the
Bureau concluded the system wouldn't work. Published reports fail to mention
whether or not SAIC was forced to hand the loot back to cash-strapped
Open-Ended Contracts -
Hitting the Corporatist "Sweet Spot"
As with all things having to do with protecting their national security
constituency from lean quarterly reports to shareholders, congressional
grifters and secret state agencies alike are adept at showering giant
defense and security corporations with multiyear, multibillion dollar
After all, high-end CEO salaries and lucrative remunerations for top
executives in the form of handsome bonuses are based, not on a firm's actual
performance but rather, on the critical up-tick in the share price; just ask
Lehman Brothers or other outstanding corporate citizens such as Goldman
Sachs. Or SAIC itself, for that matter!
Unfortunately, effective oversight is not the forte of a plethora of
congressional committees; nor are crisp, objective evaluations, better known
as due diligence, conducted by outside auditors before scarce federal
resources, which could be used for quaint things such as health care,
education or other reality-based programs, pour into any number of virtual
VCF as an
In a post-mortem of the SAIC program,
The Washington Post revealed back in 2006,
that after spending months writing 730,000 lines of computer code, corporate
officers proclaimed VCF's roll-out "only weeks away."
The trouble was, software problem reports, or SPRs, "numbered in the
hundreds." Worse for SAIC, as engineers continued running tests, systemic
problems were multiplying quicker than proverbial rabbits.
As Post journalists Dan Eggen and Griff Witte disclosed,
citing an unreleased audit of the program hushed-up by the Bureau, because,
"of an open-ended contract with few
safeguards, SAIC reaped more than $100 million as the project became
bigger and more complicated, even though its software never worked
Despite evidence that the system was failing
"continued to meet the bureau's requests,
accepting payments despite clear signs that the FBI's approach to the
project was badly flawed."
Auditors discovered that the,
"system delivered by SAIC was so incomplete
and unusable that it left the FBI with little choice but to scuttle the
David Kay, a former SAIC senior vice
president and Bushist chief weapons inspector in Iraq tasked with finding
nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction," told the Post even though top
executives at the firm were aware the project was going "awry," they didn't
insist on changes,
"because the bureau continued to pay the
bills as the work piled up."
"From the documents that define the system at the highest level, down
through the software design and into the source code itself," Aerospace,
the independent firm that conducted the secretive FBI audit, "discovered
evidence of incompleteness, lack of follow-through, failure to optimize
and missing documentation."
Even more damning, a report by computer experts
from the National Research Council and SAIC insider,
Matthew Patton, removed from the program by top executives after posting
critical remarks on VCF in an on-line forum, found that the firm,
"kept 200 programmers on staff doing 'make
work'," when a "couple of dozen would have been enough."
SAIC's attitude, according to Patton, was that,
"it's other people's money, so they'll burn
it every which way they want to."
As a cash cow, VCF was a superlative program;
however, the IT security specialist told the Post:
"Would the product actually work? Would it
help agents do their jobs? I don't think anyone on the SAIC side cared
Why would they?
After all, $170 million buys much in the way of
designer golf bags, pricey Hawaiian getaways or other necessities useful for
navigating the dangerous shoals of America's "war
As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock detailed in his essential
Spies For Hire and for
"stands like a private colossus across the
whole intelligence industry."
"of SAIC's 42,000 employees, more than
20,000 hold U.S. government security clearances, making it, with
Lockheed Martin, one of the largest private intelligence services in the
As the journalist revealed, while SAIC,
"is deeply involved in the operations of all
the major collection agencies, particularly the NSA, NGA and CIA,"
failure also seems to come with the corporate territory.
"For example" Shorrock wrote, the firm "managed one of the NSA's largest
efforts in recent years, the $3 billion Project Trailblazer, which
attempted (and failed) to create actionable intelligence from the
cacophony of telephone calls, fax messages, and emails that the NSA
picks up every day. Launched in 2001, Trailblazer experienced hundreds
of millions of dollars in cost overruns and NSA cancelled it in 2005."
Is there a pattern here? No matter.
Washington Technology reported March 31,
that SAIC's fourth quarter revenues and overall gains for fiscal year 2010
"$2.68 billion, a 7 percent increase, up
from $2.52 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009, the company
announced. Full-year revenues were $10.85 billion, up 8 percent from
fiscal 2009. Fiscal 2010 ended Jan. 31."
"We are pleased to complete the fiscal year with improved operating
margin, earnings per share and cash generation," Walt Havenstein, SAIC's
chief executive officer said in a corporate press release.
"We enter fiscal year 2011 with our portfolio of capabilities well
aligned with national priorities, emphasizing areas such as
intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), cybersecurity,
logistics, energy, and health technology to fuel our growth and
shareholder value prospects," Havenstein added.
If by "national priorities" SAIC's head honcho
means the continued bleed-out of taxpayer funds into corporate coffers,
then, by all means, 2010 was a banner year!
Which brings us full-circle to Lockheed Martin and Sentinel.
DOJ Inspector General
- "Significant Challenges"
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
disclosed in a redacted December 2009 report that the Lockheed Martin system
"encountered significant challenges."
As of August 2009,
"the FBI and Lockheed Martin agreed to
revise the project's schedule, increase Lockheed Martin's cost to
develop Phase 2 to $155 million, and update the remaining costs for
Phases 3 and 4."
"Consequently" the OIG reported, "the
overall project completion date has been extended to September 2010, 3
months later than we previously reported and 9 months later than
a new report released in late March,
Department of Justice auditors revised their previous analysis. It wasn't a
According to the OIG,
"As of March 2010, the FBI does not have
official cost or schedule estimates for completing Sentinel. The
remaining budget, schedule, and work to be performed on Sentinel are
currently being renegotiated between the FBI and Lockheed Martin. While
the FBI does not yet have official estimates, FBI officials have
acknowledged that the project will cost more than its latest revised
estimate of $451 million and will likely not be completed until 2011."
That can only be music to Lockheed Martin's
As the Times reported, work on the project has ground to a halt. This was
confirmed by the OIG.
"On March 3, 2010, because of significant
issues regarding Phase 2 Segment 4’s usability, performance, and quality
delivered by Lockheed Martin, the FBI issued a partial stop-work order
to Lockheed Martin for portions of Phase 3 and all of Phase 4."
The latest set-back to taxpayers mean that the
"stop-work order returned Phase 2 Segment 4
of the project from operations and maintenance activities to the
In other words, after four years and nearly
$500 million, its back to the drawing board!
After beating out their rivals for work on a program considerably more
costly than SAIC's failed VCF, the OIG revealed that multiple issues and
problems plague the system designed by the defense giant.
"First, there were significant problems with
the usability of electronic forms that were developed for Sentinel."
The forms are supposedly the heart of the system
and the tools through which FBI repressors "manage" case-related information
deployed across the Bureau, particularly when agents add or subtract data
gleaned from the FBI's massive Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW).
Antifascist Calling reported on the
Bureau's spooky "Library of Babel," IDW, that does yeoman's work as a
Virtual Department of Precrime.
A massive project, IDW already holds more than a billion unique, searchable
records on American citizens and legal residents that the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF)
said would be used to,
"data-mine... using unproven science in an
attempt to predict future crimes from past behavior."
The IDW is one of the data-mining projects that
Sentinel will directly tap into, allowing the migration of data currently
held in the FBI's antiquated Automated Case Support (ACS) system.
The OIG report revealed,
"there were 26 critical issues related to
the functionality of Sentinel that required resolution before
deployment" and that "Lockheed Martin had deviated from accepted systems
engineering processes in developing the software code for Sentinel."
According to a review of the program by the
shadowy MITRE Corporation, more than 10,000 "inefficiencies" in the software
code may collectively result in the diminished performance of the "product."
Do these problems pose a "challenge" to either the Bureau or Lockheed Martin
The OIG disclosed that,
"FBI officials have stated that in order to
meet any increased funding requirements, the FBI plans to request
congressional approval to redistribute funds from other FBI information
technology programs to Sentinel."
How's that for creative accounting!
Repression - A Game
the Whole Corporate "Family" Can Play
With their fingers into everything from missile design and satellite
surveillance technology to domestic spying or that latest craze consuming
Washington, "cybersecurity," Lockheed Martin is, as they say, a "player."
On the domestic spy game front, Lockheed Martin were one of the contractors
who supplied intelligence analysts for the Counterintelligence Field
Activity office (CIFA),
the secretive Rumsfeld-era initiative that spied on antiwar activists and
other Pentagon policy critics.
CIFA was tasked with tracking "logical combinations of keywords and
personalities" used to estimate current or future threats. When CIFA was
shuttered after public outcry, its functions were taken over by the Defense
Intelligence Agency, where Lockheed Martin runs a bidding consortium.
But as with CIFA, the DIA's Defense Counterintelligence and Human
Intelligence Center, relies heavily on the unproven "science" of
data-mining and its offshoot, link analysis.
Data-mining by corporate and secret state agencies such as the FBI seek to
uncover "hidden patterns" and "subtle relationships" within disparate
data-sets in order to,
"infer rules that allow for the prediction
of future results," according to a 2004 Government Accountability Office
Sentinel will undoubtedly deploy data-mining
techniques insofar as they are applicable to "managing" alleged foreign
"terrorism plots," but also domestic dissidents identified as national
the Sentinel program has apparently hit a
brick wall in terms of operability, it is also clear that the FBI and other
national security agencies, will continue their quixotic quest for
technophilic "silver bullets" to "manage" domestic dissent.
That such endeavors are illusory, as with the Pentagon's "Revolution in
Military Affairs" that promised always-on "persistent area surveillance" of
the "battlespace," the deployment of high-priced sensor technologies and
data-mining algorithms assure securocrats that "total information awareness"
is only a keystroke away.
While "situational awareness" may be an illusive commodity, when it comes to
data storage and the indexing of alleged national security threats, systems
such as Sentinel or the Investigative Data Warehouse, as well
as the broader application of predictive data-mining to map so-called
terrorist "nodes" expand the operation and intensification of the
"surveillance society" ever-deeper into social life.
As Tim Shorrock revealed in
CorpWatch, in 2004 and 2005 Lockheed
"acquired the government IT unit of
Affiliated Computer Services Inc., inheriting several contracts with
defense intelligence agencies and Sytex, a $425 million
Philadelphia-based company that held contracts with the Pentagon's
Northern Command and the NSA/Army Intelligence and Security Command.
By 2007 the company employed 52,000 IT
specialists with security clearances, and intelligence made up nearly 40
percent of its annual business, company executives said."
According to Shorrock, one of the firm's,
"most important intelligence-related
acquisitions took place in the 1990s, when the conglomerate bought Betac
Corporation. Betac was one of the companies the government hired during
the late 1980s to provide communications technology for the secret
Continuity of Government program the Reagan administration created to
keep the U.S. government functioning in the event of a nuclear attack."
As readers are aware, secretive
Continuity of Government programs went into
effect after the
Details on these programs have never been
revealed, although investigative journalists have discovered that some
portions of COG have to do with the national security indexing of American
citizens in a massive, classified database known as
As investigative journalist Christopher Ketcham revealed in 2008,
"well-informed source - a former military
operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community -
says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s
and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has
been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive
judgments of targets' behavior and tracks their circle of associations
with 'social network analysis' and artificial intelligence modeling
Ketcham's source told him that,
"'the more data you have on a particular
target, the better [the software] can predict what the target will do,
where the target will go, who it will turn to for help,' he says. 'Main
Core is the table of contents for all the illegal information that the
U.S. government has [compiled] on specific targets.'
An intelligence expert who has been briefed
by high-level contacts in the Department of Homeland Security confirms
that a database of this sort exists, but adds that 'it is less a
mega-database than a way to search numerous other agency databases at
the same time'."
Shorrock writes that,
"Under a 1982 presidential directive, the
outbreak of war could trigger the proclamation of martial law
nationwide, giving the military the authority to use its domestic
database to round up citizens and residents considered threats to
national security. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
and the Army were to carry out the emergency measures for domestic
And one of the "biggest winners" was
"a consulting firm composed of former
intelligence and communications specialists from the Pentagon. Betac was
one of the largest government contractors of its day and, with TRW and
Lockheed itself, dominated the intelligence contracting industry from
the mid-1980s until the late 1990s."
"Its first project for the Continuity of Government plan," Shorrock
reveals, "was a sole-source contract to devise and maintain security for
the system. Between 1983 and 1985, the contract expanded from $316,000
to nearly $3 million, and by 1988 Betac had multiple COG contracts worth
Betac was eventually sold to ACS Government
Solutions Group and is now a unit of Lockheed Martin."
While it is de rigueur, particularly since the
rise of the
Obama administration, to deride
critics who point out the perils of an out-of-control national security
state armed with meta-databases such as Main Core and secretive COG programs
as "conspiracy theorists," such "whistling past the graveyard" is done at
great peril to an open and transparent democratic system of governance based
on accountability and the rule of law.