In Search of Intelligent Intelligence

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Not a big surprise that the review of America's intel ops before the Iraq war finds big flaws. The report's phrase "dead wrong" is apt but jarring considering the lives lost in the ongoing operation.

The panel's proposal that a point-person under the new director of national intelligence be responsible for information sharing "in order to break down cultural and policy barriers" is a testament to just how far we still have to go. There should be no turf-war barriers at this late date.

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  1. There should be no turf-war barriers at this late date.

    HA! We’re talking the federal government here!

  2. Anybody who thinks there will ever be a an end to infighting between government agencies doesn’t understand how the budgeting process works in Washington. They’ll keep the “really good” information to themselves if they think it’ll help them get additional funding in future years…it’s survival of the least effective.

  3. “Bush, accused of hyping the intelligence on Iraq in order to pursue a costly war with a deadly aftermath, and his inner circle escaped direct blame.”

    Slimy buckpassing by the administration – what a shocker. As if Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice were just passively receiving reports from the intel branches. Anyone more aware than Teresa Schiavo over the past three years knows how ridiculous that is.

    Let’s not forget that the Office of Special Plans was created in the Pentagon, at the direction of the administration, in order to provide “intelligence” that presented a MORE dire picture of Iraq’s WMD programs.

  4. You know, I don’t claim to know what the ideal solution is, but I’m skeptical that any amount of reshuffling will somehow magically eliminate turf wars.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the CIA, NSA, DIA, all the other acronyms, and intelligence units in various other agencies were all magically put under One Big Acronym (OBA) and given a single director. Let’s ignore the question of whether redundancy can provide valuable multiple perspectives and all that, and whether specialization has its virtues.

    I have a hunch that something as big as the OBA would have to have some subunits or divisions or whatever you want to call them. They might not correspond to the current list of acronyms, but one way or another the thing would probably have some internal dividing lines. Whether they corresponded to different functions, different regions, or different Senators getting their pork (the Robert Byrd Center for Intelligence and the Ted Stevens Institute for Counter-Terrorism), the point is that there would be divisions.

    I have a hunch that turf wars would continue. It would be inevitable in an agency that big.

    I don’t claim to know the best way to reduce the harm done by turf wars, but consolidating acronyms and creating a new authority should not be assumed to work automatically.

    Also, a thought that I have on redundancy and specialization:

    While one can never assume that government bureaucracies were intelligently designed, neither should one assume that the evolution is always random. There is at least one good reason why the FBI, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of State, and Dept. of Defense all have their own intelligence agencies/units/divisions/whatever separate from the CIA: Each of those departments or bureaus performs functions that overlap with intelligence to some extent.

    Say that all the agencies are consolidated into the OBA. No doubt there will be times when OBA agents need to interact with, say, diplomats, soldiers, nuclear scientists, or FBI agents.

    For those people outside the OBA who have significant intelligence needs, it’s possible that some specialized job might arise in their department. Maybe it would be called “intelligence liaison.” And, like any public sector operation, the natural tendency of the “intelligence liaison” would be to add more personnel and resources over time. Partly due to the usual bureaucratic turf wars and lust for funds, but maybe, just maybe, military commanders find it useful to have their own people who are proficient in intelligence matters rather than outsourcing the job.

    Why do I have a hunch that these in 20 years some of the intelligence agencies will arise in new guises that are independent of the OBA director?

  5. Following up on thoreau’s notion of redundancy:

    The various agencies should be acting as intelligence entrepreneurs, marketing intelligence products and services to various customers (the President, cabinet secretaries, CongressCritters, etc.) The intelligence entrepreneurs get “paid” when their customers testify at the annual budget hearings. Good, accurate, timely intelligence gets your agency rewarded. Inaccurate, late intelligence gets penalized. Secretaries can hire an agency to look into particular matters, and agencies can take entrepreneurial fliers into areas that no one is currently asking about, but sources indicate something that will eventually be interesting is developing.

    Ideally, all of the intelligence agencies would be independent agencies, instead of the current situation where most of them are under some cabinet secretary. Making them independent means no secretary feels compelled to protect turf; he’s just interested in the goods and services provided by his suppliers.

    With the plethora of intelligence agencies, it seems we have the rudiments of an intelligence market. Why don’t we give it a try?

  6. ” U.S. intelligence on Iraq was “dead wrong” in almost all cases before the Iraq war and U.S. intelligence on Iraq was “dead wrong” in almost all cases before the Iraq war and flaws are still all too common throughout an American spy community that requires a major overhaul, a presidential commission reported on Thursday.”

    Give me a break! The idea that the reason we were told lies about Iraq having WMD and terror connections is because of “flaws throughout the American spy community” and “cultural and policy barriers” amounts to a cover up for those lies.

    We were lied to on purpose because the neocons in and out of the Pentagon intended to fabricate a pretext for why American blood and money should be spent in a war that they had long advocated as something that would be good for the Israeli government.

    It’s the lies and the liars themselves that have caused to so many needless American deaths that should be investigated, instead of making logistics excuses for them.

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