Dead Drop: November 4

NIP AND TUCK. Last Friday, the Director of National Intelligence released the budget figure for the National Intelligence Program  (NIP) for FY2016.  It was $53.0 billion. The Pentagon released the number for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) which came to $17.7 billion.  Neither outfit included past years amounts for comparison – but the folks at Secrecy News did the research for you. The NIP was up $2.7B from the previous year and the MIP up $1.2B. To quote Everett Dirksen,  “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”

DRAFT DODGE DIES:  On Monday, the CIA finally released Volume V of its internal history of the Bay of Pigs debacle.  The Agency successfully fought for years to prevent the release of the 180-page-long document, which had been sought in numerous FOIA requests, saying that it was an incomplete draft.  A recent change in the law, championed by the National Security Archive, however, removed that argument for withholding documents more than a quarter century old. You can tell the CIA is still not happy about being forced to release the document.  Agency historian David Robarge explains in a cover letter that the CIA fought the release because of the chapter’s “serious shortcomings in scholarship, its polemical tone, and its failure to add significantly to an understanding of the controversy over the Bay of Pigs operation—much of which has now been discussed in open source histories and memoirs.”

HACKSAW RIDGE: There was a special screening of the bloody WWII flick Hacksaw Ridge at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington last Friday.  Director Mel Gibson and actors Vince Vaughn and Luke Bracey were present along with an audience full of veterans, members of the faith community, and current and former government officials.  The movie is about Desmond Doss, a self-described “conscientious cooperator,” who served as an Army medic in WWII but for religious reasons refused to touch a gun.  Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Okinawa where he was credited with saving 75 lives.  Among those present at the screening were Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, rumored prospective Secretary of Defense (in a Hillary administration) Michele Flournoy, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Oliver North.  Following the flick, there was a panel discussion moderated by Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Jack Jacobs. The Dead Drop recommends the movie, we give it two flamethrowers up – but “trigger warning” – the film, which opens nationwide this week, is very long and VERY graphic. If you don’t have PTSD by the time you enter the theater – you may by the time you depart.

JCS CHIEF-STAKES: Among the interesting emails stolen from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta’s Gmail account and released to the world by WikiLeaks is this one. National Security Council official Christopher Kirchhoff wrote to Podesta on March 30, 2015 updating him on the pros and cons of four main candidates to become chairman of the JCS.  The players included then-Vice Chairman Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, USMC Commandant Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Mark Welsh, and PACOM Commander Admiral Sam Locklear. Kirchhoff describes Dunford (the eventual winner) as being viewed as “weak on strategic thinking” and Winnefeld as “often too abrasive to military and civilian leaders.”

UNRELIABLE SOURCES: Buzzfeed News “World Correspondent” Ali Watkins posted a story this week quoting independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin as saying he was aware of the CIA’s controversial interrogation program during the time he was a case officer for the Agency but that he did not participate in it. In an apparent effort to cast some doubt on McMullin’s bona fides, Watkins quotes former case officer, convicted felon, and self-proclaimed “whistleblower” John Kiriakou as saying,  “(McMullin’s) career as he professes it to be just doesn’t make it any sense.” Watkins quotes Kiriakou as saying, “I was chief of counterterrorism operations in Pakistan, and then I was the chief of the counterterror group in the [Osama] bin Laden unit…and I have never heard of this guy.” Here is the interesting part: It is Kiriakou who is inflating his resume – not McMullin.  The Dead Drop has checked with multiple CIA alumni who tell us that Kiriakou never held the positions he now claims to have had. On the other hand – respected former senior CIA officers tell us McMullin was the real deal.

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of semi-interesting stuff

  • SPIES AND THE BLUE NUN: We saw a press release this week about a book by 94-year-old Peter Sichel, a German-American who worked for the CIA during its early years – and went on to make millions peddling the Blue Nun wine brand.
  • NUKES AND WINE: Speaking of wine, there is an event sponsored by the Vint Hill Craft Winery & the Cold War Museum set for Sunday November 6th. Colonel Bruce Slawter (USAF Ret.), a two-time former military attaché at the U.S Embassy in Moscow will talk about the failed Soviet coup of 1991. Tickets cost $25 and include a glass of wine and a $10 donation to the Cold War Museum, which conveniently is located next door to the winery.  (BTW- “Colonel Slawter” sounds like a name made up for a bad cold war novel, doesn’t it?)

Network News: In which we point out a few of The Cipher Brief Network members making news during the past week:

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

Mike Vigil, former Chief of International Operations, DEA:

“Rudolfo Anaya’s book, Bless Me Ultima, is on my nightstand. I selected the novel because the author vividly captures the colorful folklore of my home state, New Mexico.”


“There are certainly many areas where Silicon Valley, law enforcement, and the government can collaborate to find workable, practical approaches to keeping our nation secure while protecting the rights of citizens. Starting from the shared commitment to American values, there is plenty of room for progress. Let’s not get distracted by calls to weaken encryption; rather, let’s focus on areas where policy reform is needed and forward progress, together, is achievable.”

-Nuala O’Connor, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology

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