The CIFA Family

I have been fascinated, some would say obsessed, by the Counterintelligence Field Activity, whose employees have been dropping by this site of late. Setting aside the Talon fiasco for the moment, I feel sorry for you guys. I really do.

You had the unfortunate luck of having Randy “Duke” Cunningham as your congressional sugar daddy. That’s like having Boris Yeltsin as your AA sponsor. And then the Pentagon refused to give you operational control of military counterintelligence. So your legs were hobbled from the very start.

For those of you who have never logged on to Intelink, CIFA was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to bring order to the confused world of military counterintelligence. The Air Force, Navy and Army each have their own CI shops. The thinking was someone needed to see the whole picture or clues to an unfolding terrorist plot could once again get lost in the bureaucracy. There was a bureaucratic turf war, which CIFA lost. The Pentagon failed to give CIFA authority over the other military CI folks. So the Air Force, Navy and Army could keep doing whatever they wanted.

What CIFA lacked in authority, it made up for in money. Since it’s part of the intelligence community, CIFA’s budget is classified but I heard it got up as high as $1 billion a year. That’s a great deal in the world of counterintelligence. With that much money getting thrown around, it was only a matter of time before someone like Mitchell Wade showed up.

Alternatively controlling and paranoid and charming and generous, Wade ran a solo consultancy named MZM Inc., but he dreamed of life as a big shot. Through fellow (alleged) Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes, Wade met the Duke and stole Wilkes’ act. He outbribed Wilkes and spent a million bucks to buy himself a congressman on the defense appropriations subcommittee. While Wade and Cunningham were shopping for antiques, CIFA was being stood up.

Wade apparently boasted in 2002 that he could deliver money to CIFA from Cunningham and his other buddies in Congress (without mentioning that the money then came back to Wade in the form of contracts). On a page entitled “Benefits to CIFA from Congressional Mandates Initiative Support,” Wade trumpeted one item: “Delivery of over $67.62M in the last three fiscal years over budget – no other entity within the CIFA family has accomplished this task.”

On a page entitled “Election Impact on Congressional Mandates,” Wade wrote listed a number of politicians. The list included his buddy Duke, and Duke’s buddy, Dunk, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Speaker Denny Hastert, Jerry Lewis, Allan Mollohan, John Murtha, David Weldon, and Bill Young; Senators Robert Byrd, Larry Craig, Orin Hatch, Daniel Inouye, Trent Lott, Jay Rockefeller, and Richard Shelby. At the bottom, Wade wrote “Election enchanced MZM Inc….Thus CIFA position.”

A note of caution here: Wade said a lot of things, many of which were products of his vivid imagination.

What is clear is that CIFA didn’t want to risk hurting Wade or Cunningham, its sugar daddy, even when its own employees were making their concerns painfully clear. CIFA’s Chief Technical Scientist, Theodore Wiatrak, objected over $12.5 million going to MZM, which had performed poorly on a previous contract. “I believe this is wrong and respectfully decline to participate,” he wrote in a 2005 e-mail. Similarly, Amy Dall, CIFA’s chief information officer, also opposed the choice of MZM.

Wiatrak and Dall worked for people who lacked the same courage of their convictions. There were rumors that a new car and a plasma TV screen had been supplied, courtesy of contractors, to CIFA bigwigs. CIFA employees were calling the DoD inspector general’s hotline. To no avail. In response to complaints, CIFA’s Deputy Director, Joseph Hefferon, directed that CIFA stay with MZM. (Hefferon announced his retirement last year after 30 years of federal service.) The sad truth is that Hefferon, and Director David Burtt (who also suddenly resigned), were willing to look the other way at corruption because of the money that Cunningham brought their agency.

Sometimes it seems that al-Qaeda can’t do as much damage to us as we can do to ourselves.

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