Kai Bird has created an extraordinary dossier on the career history of Robert Ames in “The Good Spy.” The book begins with Kai’s one-time neighbor of his youth Robert Ames as a natural basketball player whom enjoyed rootbeer, pretzels, and monogamy rather than a stereotypical lifestyle of a spy’s levitations toward alcohol and infidelity. Robert Ames formative years are detailed as he develops into a tall, natural straight talking, native of Philadelphia and a proud 1956 graduate of La Salle University.
Through the book, Ames remains faithful to his wife and six children throughout their travels and separations but most especially faithful to his career as an influential operative in the Middle East. Kai emphasizes Ames’ understanding and sympathy of the struggles of the cultures he encounters, most especially Palestinians, in tandem with his responsibilities to CIA, which creates an interesting dynamic as Bird weaves the developments of Ames sources into a painting of friendships rather than those short of actual recruitments for CIA. It is important to note recruitment of agents by case officers during his tenure was a fine art with a small percentage of success.
Ames, fluent in language, is assigned to many locations and quickly understands their regional significance while working hard to collect intelligence through understanding his environments by pounding pavement, reading, and immersing himself into the most intimidating social scenes of his assignments. The occasional reminder is thrown in that Robert Ames continued to be assigned alongside Marines and had meals with Marines in the chow hall between opting for finer dining with his sources in the social settings of his culturally diverse assigned locations. At one point, South Yemen is noted as the worst for wear of his travels with a preference towards his assignments in Iran and Lebanon.
Once the reader is well aquainted with Robert Ames career and personality they will then be introduced to an exceptionally detailed story about Ali Hassan Salameh and the history of Black September, Force 17, and the PLO.
The political backdrop with narratives on leaders and cohorts of the PLO and CIA sets the stage for how Ames and Salameh deliver their responsibilities to their superiors while struggling to maintain a dissipating covert channel of communication and diplomacy. The deterioration of the relationship with Salameh evolves when the factions of the Iranian Revolution come to the forefront following the fractures of Lebanon and solidification of Jordan as an ally to the West.
The adage of “live by the sword – die by the sword” takes a very dramatic presence as the great game of spying eventually has Mossad and terrorism catch up to brutally terminate Salameh and Ames amongst the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment Marines in Beirut.
CNN’s Chrstine Amanpour’s blog: Former NSA Director: ‘An attack is going to come’
In the interview with General Keith Alexander, they review soundbites regarding “ThinThread” which was discontinued after the wake of 9-11. ThinThread was the NSA’s in-line encryption of surveiled domestic phone calls to discount non-international metadata and phonem algorithms.
General Alexander explains in the interview how there is a workflow with checks and balances to ensure domestic spying has legitimate ties to terrorist links. 1978′s enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) lays out procedures which the government must follow for electronic surveillance and physical searches of those whom may be engaged in espionage or international terrorism. Dedicating resources to covert channels has always been a balancing act between operating within the confines of authorized action versus collection of intelligence which greatly contributes to social network analysis.
The “Snowden Revelations” have been a hot topic for the media but are nothing new. It is a simple reminder of the American public’s selective amnesia.
These same intelligence activities were big news 8 years ago in May of 2006 when former President Bush nominated General Michael Hayden to direct CIA after General Hayden had headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. At that time, Senators on the Hill began demanding service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth come forward to explain their knowledge of secret collection for the billions of records in a national call database.
The unique fact about FISA is that it does not prohibit the NSA from the mining and analysis of data so long as personally identifiable information like names, SSNs, or addresses are excluded.
General Alexander defended recent revelations by Snowden and NSA analysts by saying “There are a series of programs; each of those help us build the picture. And if you start taking some of those off the table, the question is, when does it become too difficult for the analysts to conclude what happened? That’s how 9/11 occurred.”
General Curtis LeMay once said “Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.”
Perhaps those concerned with domestic privacy should consider the limitations of FISA.
Monsanto Co.’s wholly owned subsidiary Precision Planting LLC, which was acquired in 2012 for $210M and provides farm equipment and services to agricultural customers, discovered on March 27th unauthorized access to credit card, tax ID numbers, names, addresses, and employee W-2 tax forms of approximately 1,300 farming customers. The FBI has been asked by Monsanto to help investigate the breach and a letter was posted on the Maryland attorney general’s website on May 14th to address Maryland’s 14 impacted customers.
Precision Planting LLC is notifying all affected individuals and offering them a free year of credit monitoring and ID theft insurance.