I just added “Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union”, by Stephen Budiansky, to my Books That I Recommend Tab.  At first, I felt that my interest for this topic was due to my Army service in the field.   But as I read more, I realized that the Intelligence, per se, is not the main topic.  it’s the: mismanagement, the political abuse and the potential abuses at the highest level.

General Douglas MacArthur, who had used Signals Intelligence quite successfully during World War II, chose to ignore it, as the Commander of Allied Forces in Korea.  Chinese Premier Chou en-Lai said that if Allied Forces crossed the 38th Parallel, into North Korea, China would attack.  MacArthur not only disobeyed orders, and crossed into the North, he proceeded toward the Yalu River, the Chinese border.

Numerous SIGINT reports indicated a significant build-up of Chinese forces; but, the General and his G-2 (Top Intelligence Officer) suggested that it was merely a several thousand man force.  China sent four armies—120,000 men—into South Korea, cutting the First Marine Division off at the Chosen Reservoir.  Luckily, China withdrew; but, General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of his Command, in a most public manner.


Robert S. McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, had previously been the President of the Ford Motor Company.  He apparently relied primarily on his own intellect and decisiveness; because, the Intelligence Community knew to only send him reports that confirmed his own personal conclusions.  Perhaps that appealed to his ego, since his staff felt that they should only tell him what he already knew.

In January of 1968, just prior to the Lunar New Year, various Army and Navy SIGINT reports suggested a massive build-up of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (local guerrilla) forces, at numerous locations around the country.  Johnson and McNamara were convinced that the major push would come against the Marine camp at Khe Sanh and that, lacking the troop strength for a multi-pronged attack,  the rest were just distractions.   The NVA/VC attacks hit some 100 allied locations, and all military operations soon ended.  


While some officials ignored SIGINT, or just refused to even consider it, in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon wanted to see any intercepts about him.  So, Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor told the National Security Agency that all intercepts mentioning either the President or him, were to be delivered to him personally, and only to him.  Thus, Nixon and Kissinger were exacerbating the dysfunctional relationship that already existed among the various intelligence agencies.

For his part, Kissinger was also playing one-upmanship, between the National Security Council, which he headed, and the State and Defense Departments.  (Foreign Policy was the collective responsibility of all three Departments.)   Since the NSA reported to the Defense Department, however, at least at that point, SecDef Melvin Laird advised the NSA Director that he had control of his military career, and that he should be copied on the intercepts.  Unbeknownst to Kissinger, that immediately expanded the highly secretive distribution list to three, but still leaving Secretary of State William P. Rogers out.


General MacArthur was known to be a pompous person, who readily claimed all credit for any successes, while shifting any blame to others.  Subordinates knew to shield him from whatever he didn’t want to hear. This sounds exactly like Donald Trump; however, Trump also appears to be neurotic, like Nixon, regarding what the media says about him, and he is vindictive in attacking both known and assumed personal enemies.  While Johnson was curious about reading the intercepts, he merely seemed to rely on McNamara’s pre-conceived conclusions.

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Donald Trump just nine days ago, he should have been prepared to build a relationship with the only experienced European leader, after the French Election in May.  Also, having spent her formative years, and her early scientific career in East Germany, Mrs. Merkel is much more knowledgeable in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  According to one of Merkel’s aids who attended the meeting, however, Trump wasn’t at all prepared, and he added little depth to the conversation.  None of this surprises Americans who follow his past antics.

Just considering how one type of intelligence has been misused and abused by American Presidents, as well as others in high office, I can only shutter to consider what damage a neurotic psychopath, can do, with access to all of it!   Just consider: Donald Trump has shown signs of isolating America from the world at large; that and his vowed trade wars could cause a global recession, perhaps much worse than 2008; and he has the ability to launch nuclear weapons.

Back, some 20 years ago, there were PSA’s on TV, asking parents if they know where their children are at 10:00 PM.   Well do we need a Donald Trump vision, such as: “It’s Midnight America.  Should you wonder what your President is up to?”




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  1. #1 by Ed Darrell on April 5, 2017 - 9:10 AM

    My business experience was with small companies and partnerships before I spent my longest stints in government. So I used to brush off the calls to run government like a business as probably having some value.

    But after I left government, having staffed the Senate Budget Committee (briefly) and authorizing committees, having led a small agency with several millions to spend, I became acutely aware that most businesses don’t run at all as well as most federal government agencies (mismanagement and corruption in state and local government should get a separate treatment).

    With several millions of dollars under my authority in government, we had to account for all spending down to the dollar. Laws make it clear that federal employees — all federal employees — are to blow whistles to stop waste and especially mismanagement and corruption. Little whistles blew every day, and we corrected misactions and inactions.

    My first stop after government I had authority to spend up to $50,000 without checking with my boss. I got lectured sternly about even checking in on smaller decisions.

    But I also witnessed stupendous misspending that would get government agency heads fired, or sometimes jailed. In one episode, our company spent $45 million for an automated facility that, when it was completed, could not route move materials fast enough for daily operations. Front line employees did had sorting and delivering to save the day, with no additional pay. I discovered our competitors had done almost exactly the same error, but at a larger cost. Their keeping quiet on the failure helped our company fall into the trap.

    No heads rolled. No one got reassigned. It was error brought on by exigencies, and therefore excusable. It got buried in annual reports on construction costs.

    But apart form the horror stories, the reality is that government work is teamwork of the highest order, and it take someone who can build and maintain championship teams to make things work most of the time. I know of no real estate development that runs so lean as the average federal agency (which is one reason construction is usually contracted out, and why Pentagon construction so often gets run through the wringer — it operates like a business, not like government).

    I also learned federal government is staffed by highly competent people who know the business better than almost any politician, elected or appointed. By law they are virtuous, by practice they exceed the law.

    Make the government run like business? I am reminded of Mark Twain’s laments about the Hawaiians. Missionaries went to Hawaii to teach the natives it’s a sin to work on Sundays, Twain said, only to discover the natives didn’t work on any day. After 25 years of missionary work, Twain said, the missionaries had taught the natives enough sin that they needed salvation. Success!

    • #2 by cheekos on April 5, 2017 - 3:44 PM

      Ed, thanks very much for your first-hand account. Sometimes things sound great; but, under the light of day–and actual facts–those myths sure do fall quickly by the wayside.

      Currently, my greatest concern is not about Government being run like a business, something that has been pondered, but not tried before. Rather, what about the great government workers who are of frustrated with Trump’s amateurs–who are motivated by ideology, rather than experience–and run for the doors.

      Consider the Centers for Disease Control, who worked with Doctors without Borders and WHO, on Ebola, and more recently on the Zika virus. The vague Trump Budget plans to slash CDC, but WHY?

      Ed, thanks as usual, for your well-explained personal insight.

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