December 23, 2015
The Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) have been indirectly providing intelligence on the Islamic State to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in direct contrast to the Obama administration’s agenda of regime change, in an effort to stop Syria from becoming another failed state from which terrorists can operate.
A recent investigation by renowned journalist Seymour Hersh provides clear evidence of a massive disconnect between President Obama's White House and the U.S. military regarding the handling of the Syrian situation.
The awkward situation stems from the Obama administration's insistence that there are "moderate rebel" groups to arm that are capable of defeating Assad, and the subsequent decision to provide weapons to these jihadist groups through a covert CIA program.
In spite of the "Assad must go" pledge made by President Obama and covert CIA program, the U.S. JCS instead opted to feed intelligence on the Islamic State to the Syrian government through a number of intermediary governments, the unidentified former senior advisor to the JCS told Hersh.
"Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact," the former JCS adviser told Hersh.
"The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration's policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad's got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the "anybody else is better" issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy," the unnamed JCS advisor said.
According to a report by Hersh, published in The London Review of Books:
The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama's policy would have 'had a zero chance of success'. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.The impetus behind the military’s action was a highly classified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, which made clear that if Assad were to be deposed, Syria would fall into chaos and provide an easy target for Islamic extremists to gain a strong foothold similar to Libya.
According to the report by Hersh:
A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an 'all-source' appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama's Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.' The assessment was bleak: there was no viable 'moderate' opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn't doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. 'If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,' Flynn told me. 'We understood Isis's long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.' The DIA's reporting, he said, 'got enormous pushback' from the Obama administration. 'I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.'The reality created by the CIA program to arm the "moderate rebels" is harrowing, as arms were handed to virtually any group opposing Assad’s military, including terrorist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.
In stark contrast to the White House and CIA, the U.S. military's assessment was extremely realistic: moderate opposition to Assad is a complete myth and the U.S. was arming the same Islamic extremists it had just got done fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mehdi Hasan goes Head to Head with Michael T Flynn
SERCO Signs Off on Pentagon's Privatized War Fraud (continued)
by MAYA SCHENWAR (TRUTHOUT)
SERCO Signs Off on Pentagon's Privatized War Fraud " The company also serves as a liaison between the other three contractors, and between the contractors and the government.
The Serco deal marks a new level of Defense Department privatization, according to Dina Rasor, the chief investigator of the Follow the Money Project, who founded the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
"It's gotten to the point where we're actually outsourcing the oversight," Rasor told Truthout.
Serco plays a direct role in oversight activities previously reserved for government officials, according to Rasor. When government auditors and investigators request material from contractors in Iraq, Serco now acts as their intermediary, summarizing and interpreting the documents.
"Auditors can't just go in and get source documentation from contractors," Rasor said. "Now when they want to do it, Serco gets the documentation and then sends them a summary. By putting that layer between auditors and companies, they're making it that much more difficult to get at what the fraud may be."
Serco and RCI, the Virginia-based company it later bought, both entered Iraq in 2004, with Serco managing air traffic control at two airports and RCI employed in human resources and recruiting. Yet, Serco's role grew steadily, according to criminal investigator Bob Bauman, who spent 24 years with the Defense Department and is the co-author with Rasor of "Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War."
In addition to its direct management tasks, Serco's responsibilities include analyzing bids from other contractors, assessing costs and making recommendations on how money should be obligated.
"Although Serco was supposed to provide acquisition support, they have slowly acquired more of the oversight responsibilities the DOD is supposed to do," Bauman told Truthout. "We believe they have trampled onto what should be inherently governmental functions and that could prove to be dangerous to the procurement process."
Using contractors as a mediating step between contracted companies and the government creates a "potential for conflicts of interest, both organizational and personal," according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the employment of contractors as "contract specialists," who analyze and evaluate contracts.
"A [conflict of interest] may be present when a contractor organization has other interests that either directly or indirectly (because of business or relationships with other contractor organizations) relate to the work to be performed under a contract and may diminish its capacity to give impartial, technically sound, objective assistance or advice," the report states.
Some level of conflict of interest will always be present for a contractor charged with managing contracts, according to Rasor.
"The government is supposed to be the protector of the taxpayer," Rasor said. "The contractor caters to shareholders' interests."
According to the GAO, "The panel also found that while there are numerous statutory and regulatory provisions that apply to federal employees to protect against personal conflicts of interest, most do not apply to contractor personnel."
In the absence of those provisions, Serco's contract does impose one unique regulatory mechanism: In addition to overseeing other contractors' duties, the company is responsible for some of the oversight of itself. The contract states that, prior to its assessment by the governmental Award Fee Evaluation Board, "the contractor shall submit a self-assessment," which "should contain any information that may be reasonably expected to assist the AFEB in evaluating the Contractors [sic] performance."
Beyond that self-evaluation, Serco will likely not be subject to much substantive oversight. The company's prominent new role in Iraq debuts amid a great wave of DOD oversight failures in Washington.
As the "Global War on Terror" (GWOT) continues, oversight mechanisms are understaffed, underfunded and underperforming, according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.
"Virtually the entire expanse of the DOD budget gets no oversight - certainly no aggressive oversight," said Wheeler, a former Senate staffer and GAO analyst. "I worked on Capitol Hill for over 30 years, and I've never seen it as bad as it is now."
A DOD Inspector General's Office (OIG) report, released last week by POGO, shows that OIG staffing has remained stagnant since 2000, although DOD funding has more than doubled and defense contracts have steadily multiplied.
The report states that the OIG's shrinking capabilities have left it with "gaps in coverage in important areas." These include criminal investigation personnel, staff to respond to whistleblower complaints and oversight for intelligence agencies.
"As the delta between the resources of the Department and the DOD IG grows, it will continue to stretch our resources and affect our ability to be an effective oversight function and control for the Department of Defense, and could ultimately impact our ability to provide adequate coverage of services related to the GWOT," the report states.
The DOD's marked shortage of resources and oversight personnel opens the door for an increasing number of decisions to be made in response to pressure from contractors, according to Wheeler. He cites the example of weapons procurement.
Throughout the Bush administration, many DOD weapons programs have increased in cost while production either remains the same or decreases. Additionally, the DOD has invested significant funds in unnecessary, irrelevant weapons, according to Wheeler, who points to an order of 184 F-22 fighters - $64.5 billion worth of aircraft - planes which have never been used in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In these cases, government actions are often dictated by assessments made by contractors, and costs can easily run out of control.
"If Lockheed says, 'Oops! We screwed up on the F-22! We need more money,' then Congress complies,'" Wheeler said.
Oversight from Congress itself has played little role in reining in Defense Department spending and contractor abuse to date, according to Wheeler, who holds that, though some Congress members may want to perform defense oversight, they "don't know how to do it."
Moreover, Wheeler notes, when it comes to underfunding the DOD's inspector general, Congress is to blame. The legislature decides how much money each department office should receive.
However, the past few months have seen a spate of legislation on contracting reform. And Rasor points to a number of pending fraud-related lawsuits that will come to fruition in the next few years. Ultimately, almost any increase in DOD oversight would constitute real improvement, according to Rasor.
"No one was watching the store for the first five years of the war," she said.
DOD Contracts Out Contractor Oversight
June 4, 2008
by Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t
Military Contractors Caught On Tape Bragging About Future Profits From War On I$I$