this is just the short version

The long version is here – RB

Security clearance loophole allowed ex-NSA hackers to work for UAE
Christopher Bing, Joel Schectman, Reuters, Dec 10 2019

FASCHINGSTEIN – How do you keep a coveted top-secret Pindo government security clearance while working for a foreign spy service? That question vexed Pindo intelligence operatives recruited to work as contractors for a secret UAE hacking team. But maintaining this privileged status, which allows access to Pindostan’s most sensitive secrets, wouldn’t be a problem, operatives say their employer told them. In an arrangement that highlights a potential weakness in how Faschingstein oversees an army of contractors engaged in classified projects, Pindo recruits told Reuters they were allowed to maintain the Pindo intel community’s stamp of approval even after involving themselves in foreign hacking operations. Security clearances are powerful tools. Having a Top Secret (TS) designation allows a Pindo contractor to be briefed on carefully-guarded government information. Before obtaining high-level clearances, prospective government employees often undergo more than a year of investigation and lie detector tests. The designation can lead to lucrative jobs with Pindo defence contractors, positions that often require prospective employees to already have an existing clearance to even be considered. A contractor who takes a job outside the Pindo government for several years may lose their clearance and have to be reinvestigated from scratch if they want to work for Faschingstein again. Such a lapse can make an intelligence contractor ineligible for thousands of opportunities.

Former NSA veterans who joined the UAE’s Project DREAD feared they would lose their clearances as they worked overseas, said five former operatives who worked on the programme. CyberPoint CEO Karl Gumtow, a Pindo contractor whose company ran DREAD from 2010 until 2016, came up with a solution, five former operatives said. CyberPoint told some recruits the company could preserve their clearances even while they worked for another country’s spy service, former DREAD operatives said. Founded in 2009, CyberPoint is a Maryland-based defence contractor that does work for the NSA. The company made use of a little-known rule that allows defence contractors to maintain clearances for their staff even if they do no work on relevant Pindo government contracts. In this case, Gumtow placed some operatives onto an unrelated NSA contract for which they did no work, according to former operatives and a copy of the NSA roster reviewed by Reuters. Gumtow maintained a 67-name roster for a shell contract titled “Harborview” between CyberPoint and the NSA, a 2014 document shows. Gumtow told Reuters the Harborview arrangement allowed him to ensure he could smoothly cycle his employees between classified Pindo government contracts and projects not needing a Pindo security clearance, such as DREAD. He said:

To me it’s a pretty normal thing.

He acknowledged that perhaps “one or two” of his DREAD contractors on the roster never worked on an NSA contract while at CyberPoint. In reality, at least six employees listed on the roster were Pindo operatives who did no NSA contracting work after joining CyberPoint, according to 10 operatives interviewed by Reuters. Daniel Meyer, a former executive director for the IG’s office for the ODNI, said:

Use of shell contracts is common among large intel contractors. The practice is legal and allows employees to step through a revolving door between government and non-government work for an individual contracting company without having to worry about the status lapsing. They are sort of on deck, so the agency can have a flexible pool of labour to draw from. This kind of contracting arrangement doesn’t mean the NSA is monitoring the employees.

CyberPoint’s offer to maintain individual clearances for DREAD recruits was seen as a hiring pitch to allay concerns their clearances would lapse while they worked for the UAE, said five former DREAD operatives. Ultimately, the little-understood process allows employees to maintain the imprimatur of Pindo intelligence agencies without the ongoing scrutiny that comes with working for the government. Kel McClanahan, a national security attorney who specializes in clearance law, said:

Such an arrangement could cross an ethical line, even if it was technically legal. The idea that you can do work for anyone about anything and you can keep your clearance without doing a day of work for any of these government agencies looks very sketchy. Because security clearances are so valuable in Faschingstein, defence contractors often take advantage of a system with scant oversight. It’s too difficult to police.

Yet the recruitment pitch gave some operatives confidence the programme was operating with the Pindo government’s oversight and approval. Jonathan Cole, a former DREAD operative, said:

My initial assumption was that this is a cleared, Pindo-sanctioned mission.

An NSA spox did not respond to questions about the nature of the agency’s relationship with CyberPoint, its security clearance arrangement or its knowledge of DREAD. The spox pointed to a law that took effect in 2015 requiring certain former employees to report to the NSA any work for a foreign government within two years of leaving the agency. But a former senior NSA official said the requirement is typically applied only to high-level managers and senior technical leaders, not the kind of mostly low to mid-level analysts later employed by DREAD. Glenn Gerstell, the NSA’s general counsel, said:

Those leaving the agency are responsible for protecting the secrets of the federal government for their life. They are free to undertake whatever private sector activities they want.

This is so chilling I shall chuck it in here though it’s old, I don’t think I ever saw it before – RB:

SCL: a Very British Coup
Liam O Hare, Bella Caledonia (Blog), Mar 20 2018 

The scandal around mass data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica took a new twist on Monday. A Channel 4 news undercover investigation revealed that the company’s Eton-educated CEO Alexander Nix offered to use dirty tricks, including the use of bribery and sex workers, to entrap politicians and subvert elections. Much of the media spotlight is now on Cambridge Analytica and their shadowy antics in elections worldwide, including that of Donald Trump. However, Cambridge Analytica is a mere offshoot of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL Group), an organisation with its roots deeply embedded within the British political, military and royal establishment. Indeed, as the Observer article which broke the scandal said:

For all intents and purposes, SCL and Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.

Like Cambridge Analytica, SCL group is behavioral research and strategic communication company. In 2005, SCL went public with a glitzy exhibit at the DSEI conference, the UK’s largest showcase for military technology. Its ‘hard sell’ was a demonstration of how the UK government could use a sophisticated media campaign of mass deception to fool the British people into the thinking an accident at a chemical plant had occurred and threatened central London. Genuinely. Board members include an array of Lords, Tory donors, ex-British army officers and defense contractors. This is scandal that cuts to the heart of the British establishment. SCL Group says on its website that it provides “data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations worldwide.” The organisation boasts that it has conducted “behavioral change programs” in over 60 countries and its clients have included the British MoD, the Pindo State Dept and NATO.

An FoIA request from Aug 2016 shows that the MoD has twice bought services from SCL in recent years. In 2010/11, the MOD paid £40k to SCL for the “provision of external training.” In 2014/2015, it paid SCL £150k for the “procurement of target audience analysis.” In addition, SCL also carries a secret clearance as a ‘list X’ contractor for the MOD. A List X site is a commercial site on British soil that is approved to hold UK government information marked as ‘confidential’ and above. Essentially, SCL got the green light to hold British government secrets on its premises. Meanwhile, the Pindo State Dept has a contract for $500k with SCL. According to an official, this was to provide “research and analytical support in connection with our mission to counter terrorist propaganda and disinformation overseas.” This was not the only work that SCL has been contracted for with the Pindo government, the source added. In May 2015, SCL Defense, another subsidiary of the umbrella organisation, received $1m (CAD) to support NATO operations in Eastern Europe targeting Russia. The company delivered a three-month course in Riga which taught “advanced counter-propaganda techniques designed to help member states assess and counter Russia’s propaganda in Eastern Europe.” The NATO website said the “revolutionary” training would “help Ukrainians better defend themselves against the Russian threat.”

What is clear is that all of SCL’s activities were inextricably linked to its Cambridge Analytica arm. As recently as Jul 2017, the website for Cambridge Analytica said its methods has been approved by the “UK MoD, the Pindo State Dept, Sandia and NATO” and carried their logos on its website. Mark Turnbull, who joined Alexander Nix at the secretly filmed meetings, heads up SCL Elections as well as Cambridge Analytica Political Global. His profile at the University of Exeter Strategy and Security Institute boasts of his record in achieving “campaign success via measurable behavioural change” in “over 100 campaigns in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.” Turnbull previously spent 18 years at Bell Pottinger, heading up the Pentagon funded PR drive in occupied Iraq which included the production of fake AQ videos. Turnbull’s involvement is just one sign of the sweeping links the company has with powerful Anglo-American political and military interests. The firm is headed by Nigel Oakes, another old Etonian, who, according to the website PowerBase has links to the British royals and was once rumoured to be an MI5 officer. In 1992, Oakes described his work in a trade journal thus:

We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler. We appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to agree on a functional level.

The President of SCL is ‘Sir’ Geoffrey Pattie, a former Conservative MP and the Defence Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government. Pattie also co-founded Terrington Management, which lists BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin among its clients. One of the company’s directors’ is wine millionaire and former British special forces officer in Borneo and Kenya, Roger Gabb, who in 2006 donated £500k to the Conservative party. Gabb was fined by the Electoral Commission for failing to include his name on an advert in a number of local newspapers arguing for a Leave vote in the Brexit referendum. SCL’s links to the Conservative party continues through the company’s chairman and venture capitalist Julian Wheatland. He also happens to be chairman of Oxfordshire Conservatives Association. The organisation has also been funded by Jonathan Marland who is the former Conservative Party Treasurer, a trade envoy under David Cameron, and a close friend of Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby. Property tycoon and Conservative party donor Vincent Tchenguiz was also the single largest SCL shareholder for a decade. Another director is Gavin McNicoll, founder of counter-terrorism Eden Intelligence firm who ran a G8+ meeting on Financial Intelligence Cooperation at the behest of the British government. Previous board members include ‘Sir’ James Allen Mitchell, the former PM of the previous British colony St Vincent and the Grenadines. Mitchell has been a privy counselor since 1985. The British military and royal establishment links to SCL are further highlighted through another director Rear-Adm John Tolhurst, a former assistant director of naval warfare in the MoD and aide de camp to the Queen, whose third cousin ‘Lord’ Ivar Mountbatten was also sitting on SCL’s advisory board, but it’s unclear if he still holds that role. The above examples barely scrape the surface of just how deep the ties go between the UK defence establishment and SCL. Indeed, it seems evident that the organisation is a product of murky alliances formed between venture capitalists and former British military and intelligence officers. Unsurprisingly, they also happen to be closely tied to the higher echelons of the Conservative party. International deception and meddling is the name of the game for SCL. We finally have the most concrete evidence yet of shadowy actors using dirty tricks in order to rig elections. But these characters aren’t operating from Moscow intelligence bunkers. Instead, they are British, Eton-educated, headquartered in the city of London, and have close ties to Her Majesty’s government.

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