Dead Drop: June 23

OPEN SECRETS: Don’t schedule any meetings with top Brazilian officials if you have anything to hide.  The New York Times this week reported on a small brouhaha in Brasilia when the country’s top intelligence official, General Sergio Westphalen Etchegoyen, apparently met with the CIA’s station chief.  Under Brazilian law, cabinet officials are required to disclose their schedules – and thus Etchegoyen’s staff revealed the name of the undercover CIA officer.

ROLLING STONE:  Some folks have been scratching their heads as to why conspiracy-theorist filmmaker Oliver Stone recorded a sympathetic series of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  There is absolutely no connection, Stone says, to the fact that his son Sean works for “RT” – formerly Russia Today, which essentially makes the younger Stone an employee of Putin.

OSS 75th: CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered remarks last Friday marking the 75th anniversary of the Agency’s predecessor – the OSS.  Pompeo said today’s CIA continues to rely on General Bill Donovan’s playbook: “We aggressively steal our adversaries’ secrets. We rely on our agility and light footprint to operate in hard and dangerous places, regardless of whether a Station or Base is present. We apply the most advanced technology to our mission. And we rigorously produce the most accurate, timely, and insightful intelligence for our President.”

HIDING THE UNMASKING?  Some news organizations are acting surprised that National Security Council records that might reveal details of Susan Rice’s requests to “unmask” U.S. persons swept up in foreign communications intercepts are no longer held at the NSC.  Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request for such documents – and has just posted a copy of a response it got from the NSC saying that any possibly responsive documents have been transferred to the Obama Presidential Library.  Such transfers are standard – we are a bit puzzled why Judicial Watch would think that Obama-era NSC records would be currently kept at the Trump NSC.

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:

  • Butt-kicking:  You may have read about it – but if you haven’t seen the video, check it out here, where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) takes Deputy Secretary of Defense-nominee Patrick Shanahan to the woodshed for a written answer Shanahan had provided the SASC on Ukraine. In slow, measured, tones, McCain’s anger grew in a three-minute lecture as he told the nominee, “I’ve got to tell you it’s very disturbing. Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning. Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?” Shanahan said that McCain had been “very clear.”
  • Snack-gate: Don’t Snicker™, but Buzzfeed has unwrapped a scandal of major proportions at the CIA.  According to the website, back in 2012, the Agency busted a ring of contractors who had devised a way to trick vending machines into dispensing free snacks. The plot was uncovered by the Office of the Inspector General, which reportedly installed surveillance cameras that exposed workers who had made off with an estimated $3314.40 worth of munchies. The perps were in Mounds™ of trouble and were frog marched out of CIA HQ and fired. The U.S. attorney reportedly declined to press criminal charges.
  • Freedom of SOME Information: has come up with a 1978 CIA memo from the Agency’s then Assistant for Public Affairs, Herb Hetu, complaining about the impact of the Freedom of Information Act on the CIA’s image.  Hetu listed six areas of concern, noting that partial FOIA releases had provided the public a misleading impression of the truth.  Among the programs and issues mentioned: MKULTRA, the Glomar Explorer, the Israeli attack on USS Liberty, the Berlin Tunnel operation, NUMEC (a Pennsylvania nuclear materials company from which more than 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium disappeared), and the Kennedy Assassination.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news.  Here are just a few examples from this week:

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND? (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Guy Swan, Vice President for Education at the Association of the U.S. Army

“I am reading Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by retired Admiral Bill McRaven, former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command and now Chancellor of the University of Texas system.  I served with Bill in Iraq and have always admired his candor and levelheadedness.  It is a short read about a common sense approach to life with simple lessons learned during Bill’s life and career as a Navy SEAL.  I will pass it on to my son, a new lieutenant in the U.S. Army.” 


“…in 2017, there’s a much broader scope of threats operating on and across the Internet, and they are all moving faster and with greater agility. We really don’t know when we see a threat actor come online, where they’re going, or who they are going to aim at. And it might well be – much like the recent WannaCry ransomware campaign – that everybody’s in the splash zone.”

Chris Inglis, former Deputy Director of the NSA

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