Much has been written about how government money is used for both overt and covert military actions with no true accounting and virtually no Congressional oversight. Such views deliver the message that nobody is “watching the store” for the American citizen and that dark and unidentifiable forces are in play.

 

I’m not going to be naïve and represent that some monies may indeed be hidden from oversight, but there is actually considerable evidence which shows that when significant amounts of money are involved the funds are accounted for and do receive certain types of formal oversight. This issue is important because if you dig deeply enough you find that people in very high places do know what’s going on with the money, approve of it and enable the activities.  In fact those are often the same individuals charged with the oversight at the highest levels of an agency or in government as a whole – not that they would admit it. If there are dark forces at work, they have names and they sign off on paperwork and in many cases it even becomes public after a time.

 

I’ll start with a very concrete example, one involving executive action – the darkest of the dark operations. In 1960 a CIA action was initiated to kill Fidel Castro. When it got to the point of actually going operational and needing funding, the officer responsible for the relevant budget was ordered to simply issue the money and hide it within his general operating budget.  He refused, regardless of repeated pleas about security. His response was that it was his budget and his career that was on the line and the money involved was such that accounting questions would be asked. In the end he was read into the program, two senior officers officially ordered the money to be disbursed and the project went forward – records were kept and ultimately released. When large amounts of money are involved, things get real very quickly.

 

A few years later, two of one of the darkest and most secret covert American operations involved support of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan. Lots of money was involved and the CIA was carrying the ball; we have the records showing how much was being disbursed to the Contras and specifically to whom – and how much the IG couldn’t locate later. As far as the Afghanistan funding, matters became so public that you had a Congressman lobbying all over Washington and in the end flooding the CIA with several times the amount of money than they had requested or could handle – resulting in it being dumped in Pakistan with no oversight at all and some very bad long term consequences.

 

It’s important to remember that the CIA and other agencies have Insepctor Generals and they are often quite good at oversight, especially of money. In fact the oversight over Contra funds was so good that Congress ultimately cut off funding and in one of the worst moves in American history the President, CIA Director and SecState proceeded to fund the project with private monies and funds from overseas. A number of important government figures knew exactly what was going even though Congress had called a halt to Contra military support.

 

In more recent years we have seen various IG’s publish very public reports about expenditures and huge, very huge amounts of money thrown to the winds in Afghanistan and Iraq.  What we have not seen is either Congress or Presidents actually respond to those reports – the obvious conclusion is that even with excellent oversight over public funds, it can end but fruitless even when all the details are fully released.

 

Of course there are “true” black budgets in the sense of projects that are known, authorized and extremely sensitive from a security standpoint.  Most of those involve weapons systems, new aircraft, reconnaissance satellites and other types of spacecraft. Each has its own accounting – normally spread out among dozens or hundreds of smaller seemingly routine cover accounts – consolidated and monitored by highly cleared and project specific accountants. In that sense “black” budgets go right along with “black” engineering and development projects.

 

In the 21st Century the truly covert and deniable operations of previous decades have morphed into something much more pragmatic, integrating the covert with the overt and inserting both in “joint operations”. Since they are more public those operations actually have names and budgets and undergo high levels of spending authority and discrete oversight.

 

Well…not exactly. The first part is true, they get names, but in terms of financial control, actually so much money has become involved that it has literally broken the military budget process. The military has its own problems with Congress even on its standard, ongoing missions. Quite frequently you will find that Congress gives it money and weapons that it does not request – and refuses to authorize savings which it proposes. Raise your hand if that surprises you.

 

But in terms of today’s integrated, global operations things have become even more convoluted – largely because nobody in Congress really wants to talk about the fact that we are spending at war time levels. Which leads us to one of the major issues of military budgets in contemporary affairs. It’s not exactly a matter of dark money or black budgets but rather of throwing lots of money into one big pot outside the regular military budget.

 

It involves the creation of a gigantic “contingency fund” for ongoing operations – outside the regular armed forces budget. We all understand having some money around for unexpected events and incidents, but this contingency fund is many orders of magnitude beyond what that term normally calls to mind. And because it’s all in one big bucket and not all that broken out by detail, it has become much more discretionary and a good deal of Congressional oversight has been removed. Actually Congress seems happy about that because they don’t have to answer to how it’s spent.  It’s not exactly a black budget but in terms of control it allows discretionary spending of extreme amounts of money. See the following for more detail and some very helpful commentary.

 

http://blogs.cfr.org/davidson/2015/06/16/how-the-overseas-contingency-operations-fund-works-and-why-congress-wants-to-make-it-bigger/

 

 

One of the effects of the changes in American military operations and of this new extra-military fund is that more and more activities are authorized and operated under the control of the Commander in Chief (CIC). In some ways that’s good as it allows flexibility and quick response, but when combined with Congress’s refusal to involve itself by defining American military operations, it is one more example of Congressional responsibly (and blame) shifting. It also empowers the CIC to an extent not seen outside full scale, declared war. This is the military environment which the new Trump Administration will face; it has become incredibly complex. And its financial and budgeting context can be as challenging as its operational elements.

 

It will be interesting to see if with a new administration in place, Congress attempts to insert itself more fully into such matters, or simply leaves it all in the CIC’s lap as they have been wont to do previously.

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

11 responses »

  1. Marv Kramer says:

    I detect an urgent need for some type of POLITICAL SONAR.

    • That would be a really great invention! I think its fair to say that Congress has probably left the military more befuddled than ever before; the gap between what they say and what they do (Congress that is) is constantly growing and they have increasingly rebuffed proposals for cost reduction. In a few instances that has some reality to it, particularly in regard to the A-10, but in many others its being driven entirely by what projects are producing jobs in what Congressional district. The same thing can be seen with the Space Launch System forced on NASA. That sort of thing is pretty obvious even without a sonar. My guess things are going to get a great deal murkier with the new administration. Military weapons systems have very long lead times and big changes in troop levels are equally hard to adjust…you just can’t jump in and out of those activities.

  2. Avinash says:

    President Eisenhower warned us.Sadly we did not listen.

  3. Anthony M says:

    Conscious this is really more relevant to a previous post but the recent discussion around Facebook and ‘fake news’ in the media ties in very well with your earlier discussion of the security threats around information warfare element of psyops.
    In the assumption that many people will not pay up front for online news (but pay rather by being manipulated by advertisers) there may need to be some compulsion to force companies to develop systems and standards that act to detect and highlight (or possibly remove) false news. Some sort of quality mark for fact checked news (even a sliding scale to allow for items with minor errors) might be useful.
    This would of necessity lead to a small area of ‘fact checked’ news with rest clearly labelled as ‘caveat emptor’.
    There are risks with this as everything, including risks of error in a litigious age as well as manipulation, but at least the debate on this is beginning.

    • This is an issue I’m truly concerned about, for many reasons. One of most immediate concerns – as well as one of the most difficult to address – is the fact that political figures and commentators both seem eager to pick up news that matchs their agendas or editorial directives. They repeat the stories and when they are proven to be false they may recant – but in our contemporary environment it seems that once a story registers, it quickly bores in for people who relate to it and nothing shakes the listener from that point on. I can think of some solutions for that but I’m not even sure that the public is upset by such things any longer.

      There seems to me to be a grave danger that facts are no longer valued – a phenomena that is also affecting science and scientific opinions. If that is not scary enough, I’m also becoming suspicious that some sorts of domestic political psywar (to call it what it really is) have been in play for some years now – involving not news stories per se but carefully crated Facebook posts that involve images which lead to widespread sharing. The images sometimes appear to be a local news item which actually has national or political ramifications. Often it becomes almost impossible to find out where such things begin and reappear over and over again.

      There is some indication that email messages crafted as news items began to be used the same way several years ago…inserted cunningly into certain demographic groups and forwarded in what became viral fashion. It would be interesting to do a pattern analysis study of false stories to see if there may be organized driving forces behind them.

      Such false news stories, crafted Facebook items and email news bytes may have become tools of political conditioning, not subliminal but with the same impact and effects.

      • Marv Kramer says:

        We’re facing a dilemma similar to what the Allies were facing with the Wolfpacks of Nazi submarines…..We were losing the sub-surface war. Not until the perfection of sonar did the balance of power take a significant shift in favor of the allies.

        Those manipulating the “tools of political conditioning” are operating at the sub-surface level. Any group with the knowledge of the deepest levels of the sub-surface systems of control and with adequate technology along with the proper input of data would have a similar power to that of sonar.

        The “body politic” in many ways is similar to the human body. The human body became more observable with the perfection of MRI. I suggest it is possible to have a similar technology for observing the “body politic”……it would be Political Sonar.

      • That’s a very important idea and I think it would be possible – however you would need a mix of advanced data mining, intelligent pattern matching and social media post tracing applications. Its the sort of thing the NSA could certainly develop, something very possibly a handful of major universities could attempt but otherwise it would be a major task for either a foundation or a high tech business mogul. The problem is whose mission it falls under, for NSA to tackle such a thing the the political conditioning programs would have to be designated as a threat and tasked by the NSC. That would only happen if indeed Russia were felt to be using such tactics for external political influence.

        Other than Russia, the potential suspects seem to me to be domestic organizations or wealthy individuals with political agendas. The Koch brothers could launch such manipulative efforts – certainly the history of ALEC shows that such subtlety exists in terms of low profile, almost covert, political manipulation. But who would carry the mission to detect and deal with them?

        I heartily endorse the concept, I think is doable – but I can’t see how it actually comes about? Nor do I see any particular political group or power complex acknowledging such influence programs, much less willingly giving them up.

  4. Marv Kramer says:

    I would suggest that Political Sonar has already been developed and has been successfully employed against strategic “nodes” since the mid-80’s.

  5. Anthony M says:

    On an optimistic note…
    I was having an unrelated conversation with my 16 year old son, who I would say is not overly worldly wise. He mentioned that one of the leading players of the football (soccer) team he supports was actually having a scan for a possible injury…he had doubted the story but now felt it was correct.
    I asked him what he meant and apparently the story had appeared on Facebook, and he says he is usually sceptical of such news unless it is confirmed on multiple sources. At the moment he is limiting his fact checking to sport, but I asked him to describe how he checked it…
    Turns out he has set up multiple news feeds from different organisations (both sides of the Atlantic) plus one or two more specialised websites. He fact checks such items for himself across these sites before believing them! As you can imagine I was suitably impressed by that.
    He then went on to show me several sports related ‘false news’ items on his Facebook page. This set of skills should serve him well in the future and seems to be the sort of ‘self help’ approach we all need to develop. Sadly he did say that not all his friends were so careful and there lies the strategic risk.

  6. Anthony M says:

    Just to add…
    I wouldn’t assume this ‘false news’ problem is all politically / intelligence driven.

    We’ve probably all experienced the ‘Chinese whispers’ game were stories get changed in re-telling and there may be quite a bit of that.
    At the next layer up quite a bit of this may be commercial. I can see that fake sports stories may influence betting patterns for example and, if I understand it correctly (and not properly fact checked) some people admit to creating fake news they think will be more widely shared in order to generate advertising revenue at certain sites.

    There are indeed clear possibilities for psyops in all of this. In a sense it is a greatly amplified version of sponsoring newspaper articles or books with a propaganda slant that went on from all parties in the Cold War (and presumably before that). It’s the scale of reach of the message and the speed of dissemination / impact that is on a whole other scale.

    Sadly these techniques will no doubt be of use to all nations and major ‘players’ so there will be little incentive to totally control it.

    The ability to identify fake news and rapidly label it as such will be a useful counter strategy for nation states under attack from other players in this way, so such techniques may well develop for that reason. Also I can see a commercial model for some news organisations based around thorough fact checking, but it is unlikely to reach the mass audience who don’t want to pay for news.
    So education and self help may be our best bets as individuals but that leaves society as a whole very vulnerable to manipulation as nations and organisations learn how to maximise impact.

    (Goodness,… that started out on an optimistic note and I’m convincing myself as I type of the seriousness of it…!)

    • Very good points Anthony and I certainly concur; if we could get the average citizen to simply follow your son’s practices it would be major progress and cause for some optimism. I’ll be posting again on this today, linking in an excellent analysis of the new “news” reality – it details a picture of the environment that has emerged and identifies individuals of all stripes who are quite conscious of how to play games with it. In the end there is clearly only one immediate solution; something Americans in general used to practice – then along came social media.

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