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August 10, 2006
Did Pork Push Out Counter-Intelligence Officials?

Two officials from a new counterintelligence agency whose budget included earmarks from corrupt Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham have abruptly resigned, the Washington Post reports this morning. David Burtt and Joseph Hefferon suddenly resigned from Counterintelligence Field Activity while investigations into pork progressed at the Pentagon and Department of Justice:

David A. Burtt II, director of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, the Defense Department's newest intelligence agency whose contracts based on congressional earmarks are under investigation by the Pentagon and federal prosecutors, told his staff yesterday that he and his deputy director will resign at the end of the month. ...

Joseph Hefferon "has also decided to retire, after over 31 years of federal service," according to Burtt's message. A Pentagon spokesman yesterday confirmed they were leaving and said it was "a personal decision that they both made together." ...

Last March, as a result of the continuing federal investigations arising out of charges against former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), prosecutors said they were reviewing CIFA contracts that went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade, who had pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to bribe Cunningham.

Cunningham, now serving an eight-year prison term, in January 2004 sought about $16.5 million to be added to the defense authorization bill for a CIFA "collaboration center." A month later, he wrote Burtt a thank-you note about the center, adding, according to prosecutors' documents: "I wish to endorse and support MZM, Inc.'s work."

Burtt actually developed the concept for CIFA while serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense in the year following 9/11. CIFA coordinates counterintelligence efforts in each branch of the military as well as at the Pentagon, in what looks like a miniature model of the National Intelligence Directorate that the 9/11 Commission recommended and the US created in 2004. Like the Directorate, CIFA has grown substantially since its inception, and also has grown into its own mini-empire, with 400 full-time employees and over 800 contractors employed.

The creation of a new bureaucracy lends itself to this kind of expansion, and also to the temptation to use this as a lever for legislative favors. As we noted last month, Cunningham exploited secret budgets to pay off his contributors, especially those who made special, personal contributions to Cunningham. Burtt used a retired general employed by one of the firms implicated in the Cunningham case, MZM, as a consultant -- and MZM wound up with millions of dollars in CIFA contracts.

The simultaneous departures of Burtt and Hefferon should raise eyebrows in Congress. If the description of this agency is correct, CIFA's funding and budding empire should also get some attention. How many of these umbrella agencies do we need in our intelligence community? And why are we building these expensive bureaucracies instead of spending the money on field operations?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 10, 2006 6:36 AM

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