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Intel community gets new CHCO

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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.

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Quote of the Day

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Sorry, Ron.

Sorry, Ron.

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.

Intel CHCO Ronald Sanders stepping down

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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.

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Obama: CIA bombing casualties “part of a long line of patriots”

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The Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., anonymously honoring fallen officers

The Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., anonymously honoring fallen officers

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.

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Suicide bomber kills 8 Americans in Afghanistan

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A suicide bomber killed eight Americans yesterday at a CIA base in Eastern Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that most — if not all — of the victims were CIA employees or contractors. At least one Afghan also was killed, the Post said.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost, near the Pakistan border. The Post said the bombing is “believed to be the deadliest single attack on U.S. intelligence personnel in the eight-year-long war and one of the deadliest in the agency’s history.” In 1983, eight CIA officers were killed in a devastating truck bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.

UPDATE: Apparently seven of the eight dead Americans are CIA officers, according to a memo from CIA Director Leon Panetta obtained by the Post.

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2009 intelligence budget: Almost $50 billion

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How much does the (civilian) government spend on intelligence? $49.8 billion last year, according to Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, who released the 2009 spending figure earlier this morning.

That figure includes only the non-military intelligence budget. Blair said in a conference call earlier this year that the entire intelligence community budget is $75 billion — suggesting that the military intelligence budget, still technically classified, is about $25.2 billion.

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CIA Director Panetta on his way out?

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CIA Director Leon Panetta

CIA Director Leon Panetta

ABC News today reported that strife is growing between CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and the White House, and said Panetta might not be at Langley for much longer. The CIA and Obama administration are officially denying any shakeup, but ABC says Panetta let loose a profanity-laced tirade at the White House last month over the Justice Department’s possible investigation into CIA torture of terrorism suspects and threatened to quit. And that’s not all:

In addition to concerns about the CIA’s reputation and its legal exposure, other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration’s intelligence structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.

“Leon will be leaving,” predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official, citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also “uncomfortable” with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he did not know about until he took the job.

[...] Six other current and former senior intelligence officials said they too had been briefed about Panetta’s frustrations in the job, including dealing with his former Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives.

One of the officials said the White House had begun informal discussions with candidates who were runners-up to Panetta in the CIA director selection process last year.

One of the candidates reportedly has begun a series of preparatory briefings.

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WSJ: "Democratized intelligence" through Google Earth

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The intelligence community has talked about using open-source data for years, but a George Mason University doctoral candidate and his cohorts are taking the concept to the next level. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that Curtis Melvin and about a dozen other “citizen snoops” — some of whom are former military analysts — have spent the last two years using Google Earth’s satellite images to map out the infrastructure of North Korea.

It’s not easy, since North Korea is perhaps the most secretive country on the planet. Melvin and others sift through news reports, photographs and eyewitness accounts, and then try to match landmarks to the satellite photos from Google Earth. They’ve pinpointed what they believe are nuclear reactors, nuclear missile sites, transportation and electrical infrastructure, more than 1,200 dams, 47 restaurants, palaces and a water slide for Kim Jong Il and other North Korean leaders, and the country’s massive gulags:

Joshua Stanton, an attorney in Washington who once served in the U.S. military in South Korea, used Google Earth to look for one of the country’s notorious prisons. In early 2007, he read an international news report about a mass escape from Camp 16, which the report mentioned was near the site of a nuclear test conducted the year before.

No pictures of Camp 16 are believed to have been seen outside the country. But Mr. Stanton had pored over defector sketches of it and combed the map for familiar structures. “I realized I had already noticed the guard posts” on Google Earth the previous year for the nuclear test site, he says.

Mr. Stanton traced what he believed is Camp 16′s boundary, enclosing nearly 300 square miles, and those of other large North Korean prisons and shared them with Mr. Melvin. The fences aren’t easy to follow because they go over mountain ridges, he says. But satellite images often reveal gaps in the vegetation along the fence line, because trees are cleared on either side to prevent people from climbing over.

The project, North Korea Uncovered, can be downloaded here.

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Controversial intel appointee withdraws

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Charles Freeman, who was President Barack Obama’s pick to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council, is blaming a so-called “Israel lobby” for orchestrating strong online opposition to his appointment. Freeman was criticized for his connections to the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council, past statements critical of Israel, and his perceived leniency on the Chinese government’s repression of political dissent.

Freeman released a statement Tuesday after taking himself out of the running:

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country.

The National Intelligence Council advises the President and the Director of National Intelligence on mid- and long-term strategy.

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Panetta confirmed as CIA director

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The Senate last night voted to confirm Leon Panetta as the CIA’s new director. Panetta and new Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair have promised to reduce the size of the intelligence community’s contractor work force, and pledged to bring interrogation positions almost entirely back in house.

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