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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 04/22/2010

Good vibes at DNI's fifth birthday party

By Jeff Stein


"I was on my way to work three lights away from this office when a red Harley Davidson pulled up next to me, blasting one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs,” CIA analyst Andrew Townes recalled Wednesday at a ceremony marking the fifth birthday of the Directorate of National Intelligence.

“I looked over and was somewhat surprised to see its rider was a man, probably in his 50s, wearing a full suit and tie,” Townes continued.

And the bedecked biker was turning into the DNI compound, too!

Now, that rocks, he thought.

“I couldn’t help but smile as I realized that this was exactly what ODNI meant to me,” Townes told the crowd, which included representives of the 16 agencies in the so-called U.S. intelligence community, along with DNI staff, jammed into the headquarters courtyard.

“This man struck me as conservative, with his dark gray suit and helmet, yet bold, with his red Harley and loud rock music,” Townes said.

Shades of Jack Nicholson in "Easy Rider." In a sequel today, would Peter Fonda drop him at DNI?

Townes is one of a couple dozen analysts in the National Counterterrorism Center’s “pursuit group,” formed at President Obama’s order after the Nigerian “underwear bomber” slipped through U.S. defenses and nearly sabotaged a Northwest Airlines passenger jet in flight on Dec. 25.

(Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was subdued by passengers and is now providing U.S. counterterrorism agencies with “not just valuable, but actionable intelligence,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told Congress last week.)

Townes, one of two rank-and-file employees picked to precede DNI Director Dennis C. Blair at the podium, said he’s thrilled with his work -- a sentiment not often recorded in the news media in the five years since the department was “stood up,” in agency-speak.

Blair has virtually no control over the Pentagon intelligence budget or FBI and lost a crucial battle with CIA Director Leon Panetta over the authority to name station chiefs abroad.

Indeed, Blair himself drew laughs later when he interrupted his lavish praise for agency employees by noting, “Some of you came here because you were sent. That’s okay….”

But Townes was having none of that.

“I can’t think of another place in the government where one person could work on counterterrorism, IC reform, analysis, and the policy – all within a year,” he said. “And I think that my experience is a testament to the close collaboration between our office’s various parts.”

Townes was followed by David Spirk, a former Marine who helped captured Kandahar airfield in 2001 and now works in the DNI’s Afghanistan-Pakistan intelligence office.

“After approximately eight years as a United States Marine intelligence professional, which actually just meant I could type,” Spirk joked, “I found my way to the U.S.
Southern Command as a Department of Army civilian,” and after a few years there, working on Venezuela and Cuba, to the DNI.

The DNI today, he said, is like “a 5-year-old” who “believes nothing is impossible.”

“And I think that’s where we as a workforce believe the ODNI is right now: Nothing is impossible.

"As long as we work hard, as long as we dedicate ourselves to the mission before us, we’ll grow; we’ll recognize our potential, and this truly will be an integrated Intelligence Community,” Spirk said, according a DNI transcript of the event.

"(Applause)," the transcript said.

Punch and cookies were served.

By Jeff Stein  | April 22, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Intelligence  
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Comments

With virtually no control over intelligence budgets the ODNI, and all of its super grades, have no value added.

Posted by: whocares666 | April 22, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Even in Vietnam we had good intelligence. The key test is to see who uses it and what they do with it and how many good decisions come from all this.

That is the test that counts.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 22, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

This is nice to read. These people are not idiots.

Posted by: Nymous | April 22, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Appointing a DNI who then sets up an ODNI with incredible numbers of supernumeraries at advanced salaries is just like appointing a Chief Surgeon Watcher to kibitz surgeons in the OR. The actual surgeon does all the work and the watcher serves cookies and punch without punch. Pure unadulterated Bureacracy 101 at work. Incredible....

Posted by: Ajax3 | April 22, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Good vibes?
For who?
Certainly not the long suffering taxpayer.
More like celebrating by another bunch of useless paper-pushing drones because they have yet ANOTHER sinecure from which to plan for retirement, internet surf and drink coffee.
AND, throw in a few foreign trips just to break up the boredom.

Posted by: graywolf98 | April 24, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

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