May 24, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

As I do most years, I write an article for Memorial Day discussing my thoughts on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

It is my way of reminding everyone that although the Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season and is a great opportunity to pick up appliances on sale at the local big-box store, the day is meant to pay tribute to those who went off to fight our wars, but did not return.

Since the Revolutionary War, over 1,100,000 Americans have died in our wars. Almost 100,000 of those were on my watch (1970-1998). That's too many.

The photograph above is a compilation of the 17 members of the 6994th Security Squadron who were killed in action in the skies of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. All of them were aircrew members on EC-47 reconnaissance aircraft, affectionately called by those who flew on, and loved, them - "Electric Goons."

The unofficial nickname is based on the E designator for "electronic" and the common nickname of the DC-3/C-47 Skytrain, the "Gooney Bird." Note the tail numbers of the aircraft listed below - the first two digits indicate the year the aircraft was procured, in these cases by the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943 through 1945.

EC-47 "Electric Goons" over Vietnam

These 17 airmen were communications intercept operators and analysts, monitoring Morse code and voice communications between Viet Cong (VC) units, and later communications of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). That required the linguists to be trained in the Hanoi dialect of Vietnamese, markedly different from the dialect spoken in South Vietnam.

The aircrews, operating as a team on multiple aircraft, were able to locate VC and NVA units by employing a technique known as airborne radio direction finding (ARDF) - basically triangulating the signals. Once an emitter of interest was detected, operators on multiple aircraft would all take "cuts" on the signal, passing the data to the navigators who plotted the location of the target. The resulting intelligence - target coordinates - was passed on to battle managers who more often than not directed air strikes at those locations. It was an effective mission.

Monitoring these communications mostly transmitted on low-power radios, required the mission aircraft to operate at low altitudes and low speeds - the EC-47, the electronic reconnaissance version of the venerable C-47 aircraft of World War II fame, was a perfect airframe for the mission.

Operating over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia at low altitudes searching for low-power radio signals is inherently dangerous. A slow lumbering vintage EC-47 aircraft was an easy target for enemy gunners. By the later years of the war, the NVA had moved highly-lethal Soviet-made 37mm antiaircraft guns into South Vietnam and Laos. We believe that at least two of the losses detailed below involved a 37mm gun.

These aircraft losses resulted in squadron deaths. These do not include the "front-end" crews of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and its three subordinate squadrons - the no-nonsense pilots, navigators, and engineers who got us into the target areas. Many of them also paid the ultimate price.

- EC-47P tail number 43-49201 / March 9, 1967 / callsign Tide 86 / Nha Trang AB, Vietnam / three 6994th Security Squadron members killed

- EC-47Q tail number 45-1133 / February 5, 1969 / callsign
Cap 72 / Pleiku AB, Vietnam / five 6994th Security Squadron members killed

- EC-47P tail number 43-49100 / October 8, 1969 / callsign
Prong 33 / Phu Cat AB, Vietnam / two 6994th Security Squadron members killed

- EC-47P tail number 43-48402 / April 22, 1970 / callsign Cap 53 / Pleiku AB, Vietnam / one 6994th Security Squadron member killed

- EC-47Q tail number 43-49771 / November 21, 1972 / callsign Baron 56 / Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand / one 6994th Security Squadron member killed

- EC-47Q tail number 43-48636 / February 5, 1973 / callsign Baron 52 / Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand / five 6994th Security Squadron members killed

These seventeen airmen gave their lives in service to the country. I wish all of you a pleasant weekend - there is nothing wrong with enjoying time with family and friends.

I would ask, however, that at some point, take a moment and remember what this holiday is about.

May 10, 2019

Another intelligence analyst betrays his country - collusion with a reporter?

Traitor Daniel Everette Hale - the indictment - Traitor Jeremy Scahill

Daniel Everette Hale becomes the latest in a series of intelligence personnel to be charged with either treason, espionage, mishandling classified information or divulging classified material to unauthorized persons.*

This case is a bit different, however. Here we may have active collusion between a defense contractor (Hale) - with leftist "reporter" Jeremy Scahill. I realize it is a reporter's job to uncover government malfeasance, but in this case Scahill may have crossed the line between journalism and criminal activity.

Hale served in the U.S. Air Force from July 2009 to July 2013. During that time, he was assigned as a cryptologic linguist to the National Security Agency (NSA). During this assignment, Hale deployed to Afghanistan where he supported drone intelligence collection and kinetic kill/capture operations against a variety of targets.

After he left the Air Force in July 2013, he began work for a defense contractor with duties at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). During all of this time, Hale held a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Hale was arrested on May 9 for unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Read the now unsealed indictment.

Reading federal indictments involves wading through a lot of legalese/law enforcement jargon. Here is a quick synopsis of what happened, and how Scahill acted more like a foreign intelligence officer rather than a professional journalist. In a perfect world, Scahill would be indicted as a co-conspirator and be in jail along with Hale.

In April 2013, while still on active duty and assigned to NSA, Hale sought out and personally met with Scahill in the Washington, DC. After that meeting, Scahill told Hale he wanted to tell "Hale's story" on drone operations in Afghanistan.

Contacts and meetings continued through July when Hale separated from Air Force, and beyond. Hale had provided his unclassified resume which described his participation in drone operations. He also revealed his experience in classification and declassification procedures, an indication that he fully understood the sensitive nature of classified material.

At this point, Scahill advised Hale to set up an encrypted chat capability using the Jabber program. In December 2013, Hale began work for defense contractor Leidos with duties at NGA headquarters on Fort Belvoir near Springfield, Virginia. Hale and Scahill used the encrypted chat program at least three times between September 2013 and February 2014.

Immediately after an encrypted chat on February 27, Hale accessed and printed one document marked Top Secret, and five documents marked Secret. None of the six documents were related to Hale's duties at NGA.

All six documents printed were later published in The Intercept, a publication of which Scahill is an editor and notorious for publishing classified government documents. It gained fame by publishing material provided to it by another traitor, Edward Snowden.

While employed as an NGA contractor, Hale printed 36 documents; 23 were unrelated to his duties at the agency. Of these 23 documents, Hale provided at least 17 to the Scahill; all were subsequently published in The Intercept.

On a related note, forensic analysis of Hale's computers and devices indicated the presence of Tor software and the Tails operating system, which were recommended by The Intercept in an article on how to anonymously “leak” documents. I am sure this is not coincidental.

As a professional intelligence officer, I consider what Scahill did to be tasking. In fact, since Hale obtained employment with Leidos that would place him at NGA headquarters, it will be interesting to find out if Hale was encouraged (tasked) to seek that job position by Scahill.

It further appears that since Hale began providing documents to Scahill almost immediately after beginning work at NGA, this amounts to what we in the intelligence business call "collection tasking." Note that Hale only worked for the contractor for a total of eight months, quitting one month after he provided the last document to Scahill. One could draw the conclusion that he accomplished what he had set out to do, or possibly fulfilled his taking, and then left the company.

We will eventually know exactly the relationship between the so-called journalist and his traitorous accomplice. In virtually all of these cases, the accused enters into a plea deal in return for lesser charges. In return, the accused agrees to provide a full accounting of his/her criminal activity.

Hale's lawyers will undoubtedly try the "whistleblower" defense. Whistleblowers, of course, deserve protection when they follow the guidelines. First, report via the chain of command, then the inspector general of the organization, and possibly even appropriately cleared congressional bodies. Note that the media is not among these channels.

Hopefully, Hale's future allocution will include details of Scahill's involvement into convincing, coercing, or even paying - Hale to violate his oath of allegiance to the United States, as well as a series of federal statutes.

Reporting on government operations is one thing - tasking, aiding and abetting the unauthorized release of classified national defense information is another.

We know Hale violated the law. If what Scahill did does not constitute criminal activity, it should.

* See my earlier comments on two other former U.S. Air Force intelligence linguists who have been indicted and/or convicted of similar crimes.

- Reality (is the) Winner - former NSA contractor pleads guilty

- The indictment of former Air Force intelligence specialist Monica Elfriede Witt