Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another TSA Nominee Goes Bad

The top job at the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has not been filled since President Obama came into power. Somehow the President has been unable to find a good candidate to nominate and every time he does, the candidate backs out for one reason or another. In this last try the candidate, retired Army Major General Harding, was nominated on March 8th and withdrew on March 25th (17 whole days).

Major General Harding is well known in the intelligence community, having served in a variety of U.S. Army intelligences posts. Upon his retirement from the Army, he was Executive Vice President of INNOLOG, before starting Harding Associates. In 2008 he sold the firm to Six3 Systems. His nomination started to unravel from a contract with the military in 2004. His firm, Harding Security Associates, provided intelligence 'debriefers' in Iraq, but after the government ended a
$49.2 million contract early in 2004, an audit found that the firm received an overpayment and collected more money for termination costs than it should have. The audit questioned $2.4 million of the final $6 million actually paid to the firm, according to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. In the end, General Harding told the committee Thursday that his firm was forced to refund $1.8 million in a negotiated settlement in 2008.

General Harding is the second nominee for TSA that has failed to pass the nomination stage.
But there is much more to this story than just a possibly corrupt nominee. This incident points out that our CIA is hiring private contractors and paying them huge amounts of money
(in this case almost 50 million dollars) to do the debriefings of terrorists! What the hell is that all about? Why are they not doing it themselves or having another government agency do it for them? Could it be that this is another example of a way the administration can give out money (our tax dollars) and rewards for political support? It gets even more apparent when you look closely and find out that the CIA is not doing this because these private contractors have special skills the CIA is lacking. In fact they had to open a special school to train the civilians! The CIA started a course it calls “debriefers,” who are to participate in detainee interrogations. (In CIA terminology, an “interrogator” is someone who applies the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” whereas a debriefer does not apply the techniques, but merely asks a detainee questions after an interrogator has designated a detainee as “compliant.”) The purpose of the course is to train the debriefers to collect actionable intelligence from high-value detainees in CIA custody. It is intended to familiarize them with key aspects of the CIA’s interrogation program, including its goals and legal authorities, the interrogation guidelines, and the roles and responsibilities of all who interact with high value detainees. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 38 ] The agency also has a course for interrogators.

This whole story stinks of corruption in the Administration. First, we have a retired Army General who starts his own company and gets lucrative a government contract to interrogate high value CIA detainees (terrorists), something that should obviously be done by CIA professionals themselves. Next that same general over charges the US government by millions of dollars and
"negotiates" refunding most of it. Then this same General, after careful vetting by the Administration, is nominated to head a major government Department! Wow, the corruption here is so thick you can cut it with a knife!

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