And Now For Something Entirely Different…

A long time ago, quite by accident, I spent some time working for the CIA. I was young. I was only the lowliest grunt, but I overheard many things. It took me years of reading and thinking to process what I heard and saw, to put it all in context.

Think of the CIA as a very complex clock. The most complex clock. We all know what a clock is and how to use it, but this clock is so intricate that there is no way to know how it works. It is so intricate that no one person, especially not the CIA Director, has complete knowledge if its parts and workings.

The CIA has a huge public budget, but everyone knows it also has a “black” budget, which is not public and the amount of which is known only to very few. Many its the parts are also self-financing, as I saw first hand. Often this self-financing takes the form of criminal activities, such as drug running, arms sales, assassinations, and money laundering. Add it all up and you have an organization with immense resources.

The CIA also has its own armies of mercenaries and paramilitaries. Some of these are permanent; some are raised for specific tasks. Of course, the law says they can’t operate within the US, but the law isn’t what it used to be.

Now add to this the budgets and resources of the NSA, for it is hard to say where one begins and the other ends. The power of the NSA to surveil has grown exponentially with the rise of new technologies. It now has tools that make it almost impossible to escape. There are databases of fingerprints, DNA, iris scans, surveillance camera footage, satellite photography, email, ISP, telephone, employment and medical records, to name but a few.

This wasn’t necessarily dangerous until NSA began to bring them together and mine their data. But now they have, and are doing it more every day. Now they have ever more sophisticated tools to use that data. Powerful search algorithms, facial and voice recognition, GPS locator’s, INTERNET trolling programs, and who knows what else.

Most of these data and conclusions drawn from studying them are available to the CIA and the military. But the CIA sees it first and decides who else gets what. They are the top of the pyramid, the all seeing eye.

The military is second fiddle. They can only use the data they are given, and what they get can be chosen to mislead them to make predetermined conclusions that fit the CIA’s interests.

Which brings us back to the increasing number and power of CIA paramilitaries. They can operate outside of the military chain of command and outside of legal review. How can you command or review what you aren’t even sure exists? How can you be sure that they don’t operate in the US?

You can’t.

The new administration will probably seek to grow and use these forces even more. The problem is, no administration can fully control them. Lack of control leads to abuse of power. The CIA’s use of assassination, torture and criminal self-financing campaigns go back to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s power and resources were nothing then compared to now. The CIA is now strong and autonomous enough not just to carry out US foreign policy, but to direct it.

And, legal or not, it can operate in the US with impunity. How would you know?

As Robert Heinlein pointed out: “Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny.” We are now well beyond that beginning.