Dead Drop: September 9

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STAY CLASSY DIA: Hey DIA! Leave the snark to us professionals.  According to the Wall Street Journal, over the Labor Day weekend someone running the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Twitter account decided to engage in some geo-political commentary.  On Saturday, DIA tweeted out, “Classy as always, China,” in response to stories about how U.S. and Chinese officials nearly came to blows over media access to President Barack Obama’s arrival in Beijing.  But shortly thereafter, the tweet was deleted from the @DefenseIntel twitter feed. And then a few hours later they posted: “Earlier today, a tweet regarding a news article was mistakenly posted from this account and does not represent the views of DIA. We apologize.”  At first The Dead Drop thought that the “stay classy” tweet was just one of those accidents when you leave the B team in charge over the long holiday weekend.  But then we wondered – what if this was a great marketing ploy? After all – before the gaffe, we didn’t even know that DIA HAD a twitter feed.  And now we are followers.

HORIZON CENTER: The CIA and George Washington University are holding their third annual “Conference on The Ethos & Profession of Intelligence” on Tuesday September 20th.

The full-day conference will feature remarks from senior CIA officials and a set of panel discussions that will bring together intelligence community leaders, national security experts, private sector leaders, and members of the media. It is open to the public – and free but requires tickets in advance. In keeping with the secrecy theme – the way you get those tickets is a bit cryptic.  We’ve broken the code for you.  Go to this link. On that page, enter the promotional code LIS16 and click on the “GO” button.  That will take you to a page where you have to register and “buy” tickets at the low, low price of $0.00.  Each attendee has to enroll separately.  You can’t sign up for your entire Scout Troop at once.  What will you hear when you attend?

According to the GW site: the theme of this year’s conference is “Looking over the Horizon.”  Panels will focus on the long-term global challenges and opportunities that prominent experts and CIA senior officers expect will shape the future.

Among the panels: “The View from Foreign Intelligence Chiefs;” “Great Power Rivalry: Enduring Danger or a Thing of the Past;”   “Disruptive Technologies and Digital Dilemmas;”  “The Public Trust—Outlook for Intel Oversight, Public Accountability, and Transparency;”   and “Brace for Crisis—Assessing the Potential Toll of Humanitarian Disaster.” 

AGENCY PITCH: CIA Director John Brennan spent part of his Labor Day at Yankee Stadium where he threw out the first pitch.  Major League Baseball’s website assessed it to be “a seriously good pitch.”  You can confirm that by looking at the video at the link above.  We were pleased to see that Brennan ignored Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ advice (which we told you about in July) to throw the first pitch from in front of the mound to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing bounce on the way to the plate.  Instead, Brennan strode to the mound, toed the rubber and snapped off what looked to us like an excellent overhand curve. MLB said it was “as if Brennan played some ball before heading into the world of international intrigue and espionage.” In fact, he did.  One of Brennan’s predecessors, George Tenet, writing in Time Magazine in 2013, noted that Brennan was a catcher on his high school baseball team.

GOVERNMENT WASTE MANAGEMENT: Proving that everyone reads the news with their own special filter – the publication The Environmental Leader recently wrote about how “Amazon, satellite operator DigitalGlobe, the CIA’s venture arm In-Q-Tel, and computer chip maker Nvidia have teamed up on a satellite imagery and data project called SpaceNet.”  The project will eventually include photos of half a million square kilometers of Earth and train artificial intelligence to analyze the images without human help. And what fantastic ways will they use this newly gained intelligence?  The Environmental Leader speculates that the resulting information “…could highlight waste collection needs and help fleet managers plan more efficient pick-up routes.” That’s one small step for the trash man, and one giant leap for trash cans.

FREE STOOGES! A book review called,  Are You a Mind-Controlled CIA Stooge? recently caught our eye.  The review appears in an online publication called “Foreign Policy Journal” (not to be confused with the better known “Foreign Affairs” or “Foreign Policy”).  It seems there is a book called Conspiracy Theory in America by Lance deHaven Smith, which was published over three years ago.  One of the themes is that the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” in the mid-1960s to denigrate those who weren’t buying the Warren Commission’s explanation of the Kennedy assassination.  Author deHaven Smith suggests that the federal government tries too hard to mock people who see the government’s hand behind all kinds of misdeeds.  All this got us thinking that this talk about the CIA conspiring to discredit talk of conspiracy was itself a conspiracy? 

TALK ABOUT CONSPIRACIES! According to the Macedonian International News Agency, a Turkish prosecutor investigating the recent failed coup says that Fethullah Gullen’s movement (blamed by some for inspiring the uprising) was created by the CIA.  The prosecutor cites as evidence his view that the Gullen movement has the same structure as the Mormon Church and the Church of Scientology – both of which, he says, were created by the CIA.  We did not know that!  This was quite a feat – since the Mormon Church was established in 1830 and the CIA was created in 1947.  But perhaps the Agency used Scientology to conduct time travel.

OLDS 88: The Trump campaign and friendly media touted an “open letter” this week citing 88 retired generals and admirals who have endorsed The Donald for Commander in Chief. Pretty impressive, eh?  Well, not so much.  We’ve tried and failed to come up with the exact number of retired flag and general officers out there. But it turns out there are battalions of retired generals and fleets of decommissioned admirals.  The estimates range from 4,000 to 8,000 people in those two categories.  But for arguments sake, let’s go with the lower number. In that case, the 88 represents about 2% of the potential universe.  We are reminded that four years ago Mitt Romney put out a list of 500 retired generals and admirals who were in his camp. And when you look at Trump’s list of 88 – there aren’t a lot of household names there – and quite a few have been out of pasture for a long, long time. Some were weekend warriors – reservists. So we would caution observers not to read too much into the endorsement.

Then on Wednesday, the Clinton camp raised Trump by 7 by releasing a list of 95 generals and admirals who endorsed their candidate.  That list was underwhelming too compared to the Romney total from 2012. How important are these endorsements?  Well, you remember what they did for President Romney.

Trump may have lost some votes among the current crop of active duty general officers.  At NBC’s “Commander in Chief Forum” Wednesday night, the candidate who said he already knows more about ISIS than the generals, told Matt Lauer that he would ask for a plan  from his generals to defeat the terrorist group – but that this might be a different group of generals than those currently in charge. It is unprecedented for an incoming President to make wholesale changes among the military brass – but this is an unprecedented campaign.

Got an inside scoop to share?  Drop us a note  And don’t worry, who you are will remain a tightly held secret.