INSULARITY AND ANALYSIS
An interesting and provocative take on the NSA-CIA-Hayden story by Nadezhda at American Footprints:
" The CIA and NSA brouhahas have more in common than simply Gen Hayden's nomination. "Intel reform" seems to be turning into another debacle a la the Dep't of Homeland Security. And for many of the same reasons -- not just politicization by the Bush Admin's hackocracy. These problems include:
* an over-emphasis on a narrow definition of "threat" as a specific class of terrorism anignoring other threats or the context in which the threats emerge
* a penchant for hierarchical bureaucratic (and political) control -- trying to address the need for information-sharing and rapid response by shifting organizational boxes or adding top levels of "coordination" rather than breaking down silos
*a preference for big-ticket, high-tech solutions over people -- we've gone from a "military-industrial complex" to a "military-security-intel-industrial complex" in just five years, with the connivance of Congressional porkers in appropriations committees, of course.
It's not easy to assemble a coherent picture of what's really happening. Opacity comes with the territory as soon as the word "intelligence" is uttered, compounded by the Bush Admin's well-known obsession with secrecy. Also as Nell suggests, the sowing of confusion about the reform battles -- deliberate or otherwise -- interferes with the ability of journalists and Democrats to present a simple, damning narrative.
So I don't pretend to have a coherent view of what's wrong and how it ought to be fixed. Rather, I've collected below a variety of critiques that, together, help us see the puzzle a bit better. I've divided them into four broad themes:
* wrong approach to "dot connection" -- Negroponte is appropriating "Central" in the CIA's mission
* wrong agenda -- we don't do "strategic intelligence" and couldn't even if we wanted to
* wrong understanding of "intelligence" objectives and processes -- especially ignoring the importance of open source intelligence.
* the growing reliance on technical intelligence collection is the Star Wars of the GWOT -- Bill Arkin today put in print a thought I've had as I've watched the NSA saga unfold. "
Excluding the brief bits of irrelevant partisan blather, many of the methodological and organizational criticisms that Nadezhda offers in her post are spot on, though not all of them ( and even those that are off are, nonetheless, interesting). I fully endorse Nadezhda's call for a first rate OSINT effort which has already started expanding on the old FBIS. A few comments:
The 9/11 Commission Report was the political driver of Intel reform and the commissioners zeroed in on creating the DNI post as a way of resolving the perennial "wearer of two hats" conflict inherent in the position of DCI ever since the creation of the CIA. This was a mistake and the effort wasted here would have better been put toward more substantive reforms. There have been only a handful of " great" - i.e. historically important and influential - DCI's and none who mastered both running the CIA and uniting the fractured and compartmentalized intelligence community.
DCI's like Dulles, Turner or Casey were powerful primarily because they had the unstinting backing and active interest of a President, not because of the title they held. Without the consistent and high profile support of the White House, John Negroponte's position as DNI would be a pointless sinecure ( Negroponte, well aware of the political reality, is rapidly building a bureaucratic base in the IC to sustain the function of his office past January, 2008).
In terms of " strategic intelligence", Nadezhda is corect that we do this poorly but is wrong when she claims we cannot do it if we wished or that OSINT can substitute. The " strategic intel" problem is resolved by separating the need to feed the insatiable appetite for " current" information from the task list of those IC personnel who engage in espionage in order to collect secret information of strategic importance by clandestine means. Current intelligence, which requires monitoring a flow of events is best done by analysts reviewing the data provided by OSINT, SIGINT and IMINT agencies. Strategic intelligence, which requires patience and a depth of investment in HUMINT should be done by an agency devoted exclusively to clandestinity and nothing else (1).
The NIE process can then be retooled to better utilize clandestine HUMINT intelligence data to make predictive " warning" scenarios of a strategic within a global intel picture. That means disrupting the insularity of the IC by bringing in more outside experts as is often done in the NSC and engaging in deliberate cognitive exercises to break down the preexisting" frames " brought to the table by the analysts so the data can be viewed from new as well as orthodox perspectives. Analysts, in other words, do not just need more " content field depth"; they need to acquire a much greater range of analytical-methodological tools in order to widen their field of vision. It is counterintuitive but the relative lack of thirty year veteran, narrow field, experts among the IC analysts today will make reforming strategic intelligence easier rather than harder.
All in all, a impressive post by Nadezhda.
1. See Johnson, William R. "Clandestinity and Current Intelligence", Studies in Intelligence, vol.20, No. 3 (Fall 1976) pp 15-69. Johnson bemoaned the corrupting effect of " journalistic" practices on the IC.
" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli