As of today, the Information Security Oversight Office has a new director in the person of John P. Fitzpatrick, a former top security official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
ISOO, part of the National Archives and Records Administration, is a small but critical cog in oversight of the government’s security classification system. The agency has also been charged with bringing order to the mishmash of agency approaches for handling controlled unclassified information.
“A strong advocate for information sharing and protection, he has demonstrated his ability to lead and oversee change both within and beyond the intelligence community throughout his career,” Archivist David Ferriero told NARA staff in announcing Fitzpatrick’s appointment. The announcement was posted on the Secrecy News blog of the Federation of American Scientists, where Steven Aftergood wrote that Fitzpatrick is taking over at “at a particularly crucial moment in secrecy policy.”
Fitzpatrick succeeds William Bosanko, who was promoted in March; William Cira, ISOO associate director for classification management, has been filling in.
Fitzpatrick formerly served as assistant deputy director of National Intelligence for Security at ODNI and previously headed the agency’s special security center, according to his official bio. He has also worked at the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office.
A Senior Executive Service member, Fitzpatrick has a bachelor’s degree in economics and psychology from the College of William and Mary.
Former CIA chief information officer Al Tarasiuk is President Barack Obama’s top choice for CIO of the Intelligence Community.
Tarasiuk served as the CIO of CIA from 2005 to 2010. Before that, he was director of the CIA’s Information Service Center.
“Al is well known for his leadership in information sharing and intelligence integration, and his experience, distinguished career and dedication to duty will greatly benefit the entire Intelligence Community,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper said in a news release.
Just as agencies are wrapping up security reviews launched after the latest WikiLeaks breach, a coalition of open government groups is warning of possible consequences for federal employee rights.
Although improving safeguards for classified information is laudable, “we urge you not to craft policies that encourage agencies to unduly restrict free speech, or otherwise distract agencies from actually improving information security,” representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and eight other organizations wrote Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew in a letter dated Friday.
Ordered by Lew early this month and due to be finished Jan. 28, the “initial assessments” are supposed to address more than 100 different points, according to a memo posted on OMB’s web site. While no one’s quarreling with the overall purpose, the ACLU and other letter signers say they are particularly concerned about a suggestion that agencies monitor employees’ “pre- and post-employment activities” or their participation in on-line sites like WikiLeaks or Open Leaks.
“It’s not at all clear how agencies could accomplish this, and, more importantly, such monitoring sweeps so broadly as to threaten constitutional rights,” the letter says.
Federal Times reached out Friday to an OMB spokesperson for a response to the letter. Radio silence so far, but we’ll add anything that comes in.
For the record, the assessments are being overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office.
The intelligence folks aren’t commenting, but Jay Bosanko, director of the oversight office, said recently that all of the requirements listed in the memo don’t apply to all agencies. The open government coalition, however, would like to see that spelled out for the record, said Amy Bennett of OpenTheGovernment.org, which also signed the letter.
“A lot of these requirements aren’t standards-based and they aren’t rules-based,” she said.
This one falls in the “laugh so you don’t cry” category. The Afghan government and NATO has been negotiating for months with someone they thought was Taliban second-in-command Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, hoping to find a way to end the nine-year war. But it turns out — whoops! — this supposed militia leader was an imposter. In reality, he was just a shopkeeper from Quetta, Pakistan, who was running a scam. And according to the New York Times, it worked:
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
Positively identifying the members of an ultra-secret, resilient militia is not an easy task, of course. But considering the fact that intelligence failures allowed an al Qaida suicide bomber to infiltrate a CIA outpost in Khost last year and kill 7 employees, the fact that a faker could get a face-to-face meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is embarrassing — and frightening. Just imagine what could have happened if he was a killer instead of a con artist.
But the most damning statement comes from an anonymous U.S. official in Kabul, who spoke to the Washington Post:
One would suspect that in our multibillion-dollar intel community there would be the means to differentiate between an authentic Quetta Shura emissary and a shopkeeper. On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It may have been Mullah Omar posing as a shopkeeper; I’m sure that our intel whizzes wouldn’t have known.
The Washington Post this morning has a must-read story illustrating how massive, unwieldy and redundant the federal government’s post-9/11 security mission has become — and questioning whether it’s actually made us safer. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Dana Priest and writer William Arkin’s three-part, two year investigation found that “after nine years of unprecedented spending and growth”:
- Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence at about 10,000 locations nationwide.
- About 854,000 people hold top secret security clearances.
- In the Washington area, 33 complexes for top secret intelligence work — the equivalent of three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — are under construction or have been built since 9/11.
- 51 different federal organizations and military commands in 15 U.S. cities are all assigned the same job — to track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
- One senior official in the Defense Department — a so-called Super User with the rare authority to have total knowledge of the department’s intelligence workings — became overwhelmed at the amount of information being dumped on him in his first briefing, threw up his hands and yelled, “Stop!”
- Because of the crushing bureaucratic secrecy surrounding the homeland security, counterterrorism and intelligence mission — secrecy that in some cases undermines the chain of command — nobody knows exactly how much it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs it has or how many of those programs are redundant.
The Post’s article raises good questions about whether the government — desperate to show results after the Sept. 11 sneak attack — has grown its counterterrorism apparatus so large that it risks collapsing under its own weight. “These are not academic questions,” Priest and Arkin write. “Lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.”
The intelligence community is already firing back at the Post. Acting Director of National Intelligence David Gompert this morning released a statement saying “The reporting does not reflect the intelligence community we know,” but did not challenge any of the article’s specific findings. And last week, someone in the intel community leaked an ODNI memo to the Washington Times that expressed concern that the Post was going to reveal sensitive information. (The Times published the memo under the headline, “Is Wash Post harming intelligence work?” drawing dozens of frothing, angry comments.)
Adm. Dennis Blair is officially stepping down as Director of National Intelligence. Here’s the statement he just sent out to the intelligence community:
It is with deep regret that I informed the President today that I will step down as Director of National Intelligence effective Friday, May 28th.
I have had no greater honor or pleasure than to lead the remarkably talented and patriotic men and women of the Intelligence Community.
Every day, you have worked tirelessly to provide intelligence support for two wars and to prevent an attack on our homeland.
You are true heroes, just like the members of the Armed Forces, firefighters, and police whose job it is to keep our nation safe.
Your work over the past 16 months has made the Intelligence Community more integrated, agile, and representative of American values. Keep it up – I will be cheering for you.
Dennis C. Blair
Roundup of other reaction after the break:
Paula Roberts, the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s human development directorate, will be the next chief human capital officer of the intelligence community. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Roberts will oversee the design, development and execution of human resource strategies and policies to support the 16 agencies in the intelligence community.
“Paula will continue our efforts to build a diverse workforce with the technical and linguistic skills and cultural understanding necessary to help us meet our wide-ranging mission requirements,” Blair said in a statement released today.
Roberts has worked at NGA since 1978, and joined the Senior Executive Service in 1996. She will replace Ronald Sanders, the community’s first CHCO, who is retiring.
Sanders was a major proponent of creating a pay-for-performance system for all intelligence agencies based on NGA’s Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System. Congress last October suspended that system for all agencies except NGA. But by promoting the head of HR for NGA, who helped oversee and administer DCIPS, Blair might be signaling his confidence in the system.
My avatar is going to look like George Clooney, and I can’t tell you the computer skills we needed to make that happen.
Retiring – and remarkably candid — intelligence chief human capital officer Ron Sanders on an upcoming “virtual” job fair that will let job seekers adopt avatars and chat live with agency officials.
Ronald Sanders, chief human capital officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is leaving his position. The ODNI announced his departure yesterday, but spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the office would not answer any other questions until Thursday, when Sanders will speak to reporters.
Sanders joined the ODNI in 2005, and began working on a pay-for-performance system for all 16 intelligence agencies in the government. But the Defense authorization bill Congress passed last year put those plans on hold, at least until the end of 2010.
Sanders also pushed intelligence workers to spend some time working at other agencies, and required managers to have so-called “joint duty” experience before becoming senior executives. And he oversaw efforts to increase the diversity of the intelligence work force and insource thousands of contracted-out intelligence jobs.
He was previously director of civilian personnel management at the Defense Department, chief human resources officer at the IRS, and associate director for strategic human resources policy at the Office of Personnel Management.
President Obama just issued the following statement regarding yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan’s Khost Province that killed seven CIA officers and at least one other person:
To the men and women of the CIA:
I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.
These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.