Here is what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:
The ODNI released nearly eighty documents and other material including books, letters, and articles that were seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound. The collection of books was an odd combination of political or historical publications and wild conspiracies theories involving the Illuminati or the Federal Reserve. Also among the material was a copy of the 9/11 Commission Report and an Al-Qaeda job application with questions that ranged from nicknames and hobbies to whether or not the applicant would be willing to embark on a suicide mission.
The Senate failed to reach a compromise on expiring Patriot Act provisions as both the efforts to reform and renew the program were voted down. The first bill presented to the Senate was the USA FREEDOM Act, which had seen enormous success in the House. It fell three votes short. The next bill, which would have extended Section 215 for two months, also failed. The Senate will meet at noon on May 31st in a rare Sunday session to try and reach a compromise.
A documentary investigating the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program titled “Secrets, Politics, and Torture” aired on PBS. The documentary discusses the programs origins in the wake of 9/11 and the early interrogations of Abu Zubayduh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It also addresses and is critical of the film “Zero Dark Thirty” which was about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The episode contains interviews with CIA lawyer John Rizzo, former Director John McLaughlin, and Senators Mark Udall and Dianne Feinstein and well as journalist from The New York Times and The Washington Post.
A new report from the Inspector General of the Justice Department found that the FBI could not identify a major case development that resulted from Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Under Section 215, the FBI was allowed to collect business records including medical, educational, or tax information. Inspector General Michael Horowitz did say however, that agents believed the data they collected was valuable in developing other leads.
The CIA is ending its climate research program that studied how global warming could worsen conflict. Under the program, known as Medea, the CIA allowed civilian scientists to access classified data such as ocean temperatures and tidal readings. Over the last several years the issue of climate change has gained prominence among defense experts who see it as a “threat multiplier.” Though the program is ending, a spokesman for the Center for Climate Change and Security said agencies like the CIA must continue to “integrate climate change information into its assessments of both unstable and stable regions of the world.”
The British Conservative Party plans on increasing the government’s mass surveillance and detection abilities. The controversial bill, which is often known as the Snooper’s Charter, would allow Internet and phone companies to keep records of customers browsing activities, emails and phone calls, and social media use. Efforts to pass the bill were blocked by the Liberal-Democrats in the last government, but after the Conservatives won a majority in the recent election the bill could pass without opposition.
The New York Times once again defended their publication which listed the names of three undercover officials of the CIA. The executive editor for the Times, Dean Baquet, claimed their actions were justified and “important to do so for the sake of providing public accountability.” Mark Mazzetti, who co-authored the article that named the agents, cited the CIA’s increased role in military operations as justification for revealing their identities. He said; “The identity of those who are, in effect, [the CIA’s] generals is something the public deserves to know.”
photo: William J. Donovan’s whistle. (CIA)