Archive for the ‘Military Intelligence’ Category

If I were a praying girl, I would be screaming “Amen and Hallelujah” from the rooftops today over the confirmation of Letitia Long as the new Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. But since I am not, let’s just discuss Long instead.

But if I may, can I comment on the fact that there are 16 Intelligence agencies in this country and we are only just now appointing a woman as the head of one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch, but it’s still akin to waking up today and feeling like it’s 1990 and not 2010. Baby, you’ve come a long way, but not long enough…

So who is Letitia Long? She is a longtime Navy-civilian professional entering the trade in 1978, where she worked in project engineering in the area of submarine acoustics, and climbed the ranks to join the Office of Naval Intelligence where she managed R & D programs.

From there, Long performed a dizzying rotation in the Senior Intelligence Executive Service while also serving as Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1994. She then completed a hat trick by joining the Defense Intelligence Agency during this time where she eventually became the Deputy Director of Information Systems and Services in 1996.

Can you say “dayamm”? I’m tired just typing all of that.

Please let this be a lesson to everyone out there who is stuck in the belief that Intelligence revolves around poli-sci, history, and computer science. Long is a trained engineer. And let’s think about that: it involves design (establishing a requirement and refining it); building (collection, exploitation); testing (production), roll-out (dissemination); and checking (feedback when it’s given).

Engineers work in teams; they are often great collaborators. They require project engineers to manage them; someone to juggle the pieces and keep in mind the bigger picture. They require communication skills to dumb-down the technical terms for non-engineers (read: clients). And most importantly, they require sound, logical thinking lest the whole contraption falls apart.

A person who can accomplish honing all of those skills is a golden egg and it looks like NGA just got theirs.


velvaleedickinsonVelvalee Dickinson (1893-1980) sounds like a name more befitting a Wisconsin cheese heiress than a WWII spy, but a spy she was and her undercover monicker of “The Doll Woman” is highly appropriate for this broad’s shenanigans.

Velvalee was born in Sacremento, California and educated at Stanford University. In the mid 1920’s, Velvalee went to work at a brokerage company in San Francisco where she met future husband, Lee. Velvalee became involved in social work which brought her into close contact with the Japanese community there. She became a member of the Japanese-American Society (fees paid by a Japanese Attache, thank you), well-entrenched with visiting members of the Japanese military and government, and hosted numerous soirees in her home for said same folks.

The Dickinsons moved to New York City in 1937 where Velvalee opened a doll shop specializing in rare and antique dolls. It was here, well under radar, that Velvalee conducted her treasonous activities.

dickinson_store1Velvalee used her doll shop as a front to send secret communiques, more specifically, steganographic messages, around the globe reporting on military activities and position. And example of an actual message: “Doll in a hula skirt is in the hospital and doctors are working around the clock”, which translated to “Light cruiser USS Honolulu is badly damaged and in Seattle undergoing around the clock repairs.”

The language of dolls apparently served up a myriad of ways certain activities could be discussed in front a casual observer without drawing too much attention. However, this was WWII. The government had a cadre of cryptanalysts on payroll examining the mail of everyday citizens and this is what led to Velvalee’s discovery.

The dame was busted by a piece of returned mail.

velvaleedickinsonfeb221942letterYup, she sent one her “letters” to Buenos Aires, but the intended recipient had moved on and the letter was returned to the US where it was intercepted by wartime censors. Thinking the correspondence was a little fishy, the censors passed it along to the FBI where it ended up in the capable hands of our favorite cryptanalyst, Elizebeth Friedman, and the rest is history.

The subsequent investigation uncovered all sorts of correspondence that had been bouncing around the country under a variety of different names in dozens of cities, but all traced their way back to Velvalee. The FBI uncovered her connections to the Japanese government in San Francisco and New York, about $25 thousand in payments made to Velvalee, and then they really went to town.

Velvaless was indicted in 1944 under a number of various charges and like the stand-up gal she was, she promptly blamed it all on her late husband who has passed away in 1942. However, medical records proved her husband’s lacked the mental faculties at the time in question due to a prolonged illness, and then the gig was up.

Maintaining her innocence until the end, Velvalee was sentenced to a ridiculously short amount of time in federal prison and was released in 1951, disappears from radar in 1954, and all we’re left with in the end is her date of death in 1980.

Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy (1947-) probably accomplishes more by 6am than most people do all day.

Born in Germany and raised an Army brat, Kennedy graduated college in the US with a degree philosophy, and then went on to be commissioned in the US Army in 1969. She served in Germany, Korea, and focused her career on Intelligence and cryptology.

Kennedy climbed the ranks and was eventually promoted to Lt. Gen. in 1997 (a historical first) when she was also named the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (another historical first). Hoo-Yah.

So here’s where the career gets sticky. In 1999, Kennedy made a claim of sexual harassment against General Larry Smith. What makes it such a mess is that the harassment occurred years before. What makes it a spectacularly glorious mess is that Smith was in consideration for the post of Army Deputy Inspector General, aka “The Dude In Charge of Investigating Harassment Claims”.

Kennedy was greatly criticized for waiting 3 years before coming out with her charge against Smith, but this Agent has to admit, I see her side of things. The American Military Machine still has light years to go when it comes to its treatment of female personnel. Many friends of this Agent who serve in our military regular tell tales of what it takes to get along as a dame in uniform, and sometimes it means unfortunately keeping your yap shut when you’d like nothing more than to punch come clown in the nose. Heck, a slew of recent news reports shows the military to be about as female-friendly as a Misogyny Conference in Strip Club in Vegas. Kennedy, at the time, probably saw the incident as a no-harm/no-foul sort of situation and let it go. However, put the man in charge of investigating such behavior, and it becomes a whole new ballgame.

Like Kermit the Frog always says: It Aint Easy Being Green. Women pick and choose their battles all the time and Kennedy certainly chose hers.

Kennedy retired after 31 distinguished years in 2000. Since then, she has been an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration with regards to both the military and women’s treatment in the military, a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and recently was thought to be on the short-list of potential VP candidates for Barack Obama. And she was also inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of fame.

And to end tie this all up with one pretty bow of a cliche: A woman’s work is never done.

Kelly Warren (1966-), part of the Clyde Lee Conrad US Army spy-ring, was convicted of consipiracy to commit espionage and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1999.

Clyde Lee Conrad was a sergeant in the Army serving in Germany during the final days of the Cold War. He, along with 3 other Army personnel, including Army Private Kelly Warren, a clerk with access to top-secret documents also serving in Germany, sold NATO defense plans of Western Europe should the Soviets decide to invade. The happy recipients of this intel were Hungarian Intelligence Officials.

Not much is known about Warren except that she is from Georgia, served in Germany from 1986-1988, and it is assumed that due to her extremely low pay, Warren was induced, monetarily, to join the ring. She wasn’t nabbed until 1997 and it took until 1999 to finalize her conviction. Cohort Conrad died in prison of a heart-attack in 1998.

Kelly Warren has earned a special distinction in the case. Usually, those nabbed for espionage are middle-aged white gents. Warren is the first female in the military to ever be convicted of espionage. Her reward for such an honor is likely to be serving a full sentence and will not be released until 2024, at the age of 57.

You gotta hand it to the British Broads of WWII. This Agent is losing track of exactly how many stories there are of the dames being deposited behind enemy lines via parachute where they raised all sorts of covert-hell. Pearl Witherington Cornioley (1914-2008) is yet another one of these stories.

Pearl, although a British subject, was born and raised in France until such time the Germans invaded in 1940 and she fled to London with her family. Pearl took on a number of jobs to assist in the war effort and eventually went to work for the Air Ministry. Not happy sitting a desk job, this dame volunteered for the SOE in 1943 where she garnered mixed reviews from the critics. On one hand, she seemed to have lacked the “personality” to be a “real leader”. On the other hand, the dame was the best sharpshooter the service had ever seen, either male or female, and apparently was pretty comfortable being dropped out of perfectly good airplane.

Despite any doubts her superiors may have had, Pearl was sent to the southern Loire region in France and worked as a courier for the local resistance until their leader was captured and shipped off to the friendly neighborhood Concentration Camp. Pearl took over the unit of local farmers and is noted for having whipped the group into prime shape. During her time there, Pearl and her men disrupted a train line to Paris no less than 800 times . Also the broad who was assumed to have “lacked” the ability to lead, led her rag-tag farmers to disrupt German D-Day communications and oversaw the the surrender of no less that 18,000 German troops…effectively putting to end any further doubts regarding Pearl’s ability to lead, one should think.

After the war, Pearl married and waged her own war against the British government for failing to properly recognize her efforts. As a woman, Pearl was ineligible to receive the Military Cross and the government instead tried to bestow upon her the MBE, a civilian honor to which Pearl replied that there was “nothing civil” about her actions during the war and rejected the award.

In a 1945 letter from Pearl to the Powers That Be:

“I am honoured that the British Government should wish to decorate me, but I consider the MBE as inappropriate and do not wish to accept it. The work was of a purely military nature in enemy-occupied country. When the time for open warfare came we planned and executed open attacks on the enemy. I spent a year in the field and had I been caught I would have been shot or, worse still, sent to a concentration camp. I do consider it most unjust to be given a civilian decoration. Our training, which we did with the men, was purely military, and as women we were expected to replace them in the field. I was responsible for the training and organisation of nearly 3,000 men for guerrilla warfare. The men have received military decorations, why this discrimination with women? Precedence? When I undertook my duties in the field I did not take into consideration the fact that my mission had no precedent.”

Go ahead and argue against that! I dare you.

Not surprisingly, Pearl eventually got her way and her proper accolades and died peacefully this last February at the ripe of age of 93 in her beloved France.

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926 ) was one rip-roaring, bad-ass skirt. An academic, travel writer, explorer, cultural anthropologist, diplomat and spy, this broad can reasonably claim to be the founder of modern day Iraq.

Bell, daughter of a famous industrialist and clearly born into a life of British privilege, first gains props for being the first woman to graduate Oxford with a degree in history. Her wanderlust kicked in after graduation when after visiting an uncle who was the British Minister in Tehran, Persia (you know this place better as Iran), Bell wrote her first book Persian Pictures.

Bell spent a number of years bouncing about the continent learning mountaineering, archaeology, and picking a language or two (Actually it was 6. This bird had an enormous brain). In 1899, Bell found herself again in the Middle East where she became the human bridge from the Middle East to Europe, publishing books, mapping the area, photographing ruins and learning the culture. In 1909, Bell came into acquaintance with T.E. Lawrence. You might know him better as Lawrence of Arabia.

In the outbreak of WWI, Bell joined Army Intelligence in Cairo, Egypt. She proved her worth to the organization in teaching her “superiors” the local languages, customs and ways of political maneuvering. We Americans only recently wised-up about this in Iraq and now employ the practice called “Human Terrain Analysis”.

After a year, Bell finally managed to get her bad-self sent to Basra (Iraq) where she and T.E. Lawrence organized the revolt made so famous in the movie.

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1919, it was Bell who was commissioned to provide analysis of the area. Nearly a year later, Bell presented what many feel to be a definitive report on the subject that rather strongly supported Arabic leadership, but this went clearly against the agenda of her superiors and Bell found herself put out.

So here’s the important lesson to be learned in Intelligence and political infighting: Decision Makers do well by listening to their analysts. Bell’s recommendations were ignored because the British wanted strict control of oilfields without any thought or care as to how this would affect the region. And it wasn’t so much that Bell contradicted what they wanted to hear, I’m sure the old “What does she know? She’s just a girl” played no small role in this scenario as well.

Which is shame, because while Bell’s influence established the modern day borders for Iraq, the failure of the Decision Makers to heed Bell’s advice, is clearly seen as history repeats in modern day Iraq as differing cultural values and religious ideologies still plague the area. Just as Bell said it would.

To her credit though, Bell stuck it out and aided the newly crowned King of Iraq and acted as a King’s advisor in local customs that influenced everything from business to politics. Bell even went as far as to supervise to the appointment of the King’s cabinet. But Bell was burnt out and exhausted by the end of it. She is famously quoted as saying “I’ll never engage in creating kings again; it’s too great a strain”.

The years took their ultimate toll on the Uncrowned Queen of Iraq. Heavy smoking, desert climate and some vicious malaria ravaged Bell’s health. She developed a not pleasant chronic lung condition (possibly lung cancer) and eventually overdosed on sleeping pills in Baghdad in 1926. She was interred in the British cemetery with a large outpouring of people to mourn her death.

Other accomplishments in the extraordinary life of this dame include the founding the of Baghdad Archaeological Museum and Bell’s appointment as Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

And the final lesson to be learned here: History is not always written by the victors. “History” is often written by the schmoes lucky enough to have met an American writer and broadcaster who glamorize certain men’s adventures without getting all the facts straight. As was the case with Lowell Thomas popularizing “Lawrence of Arabia” and leaving our gal Gertrude out in the cold.

Time to get Gertrude out in the spotlight where she clearly belongs.

The first thing you should know about Colonel Karen Cleary of the US Air Force is that she has a bigger brain than you. I’m not saying this facetiously, seriously, check out this pedigree:

1987 Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Cornell University NY
1992 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base AL
1995 Master of Science in International Relations, Troy State University
1999 Master of Military Operational Art and Science, Air Command and Staff College
2002 Air War College, seminar program, The Pentagon
2006 Master of Science in National Security Strategy, National War College

It should not surprise you then that Col. Cleary recently stepped down from National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), to take on the position of Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at the U.S. Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

All that and a mother of three.

We skirts here in the US may not have our act together enough to a get a broad in the White House, but I take comfort in the fact that a dame like Col. Cleary is our Eye in the Sky.