Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The problem of intelligence in a post-9/11 world

By Aussiegirl

Some fruitful weekend reading is in order on the subject of intelligence gathering and analysis. In the wake of so much publicity on the failures of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the run-up to 9/11, and also the errors contained in the pre-war intelligence regarding Saddam's WMD programs, you won't do better than to read an analysis by Herb Meyer of what went wrong, how Negroponte may be the man to set things right (if he isn't bogged down with bureaucratic infighting and restructuring), and how things should be done to ensure the very best intelligence and analysis to keep this country secure and warn us of impending and gathering dangers. Considering the current state of the world, a must-read for the weekend!

Storm King Press - Will a DNI Do It Right?

It's clear from both the WMD Commission and the 9/11 Commission reports that our intelligence service blew it across the board. But it's also very clear from both reports that at their core the two truly catastrophic failures — the CIA's inaccurate National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's WMD program and the entire intelligence community's failure to grasp that al Qaeda had for years been planning to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings — were analytic failures compounded by organizational problems that kept information the collectors had gathered from reaching the analysts.

More precisely, it's clear from both reports that in each of these failures three specific mistakes were made: Dissenting views weren't taken into account, "group-think" kept the leaders of our intelligence service from realizing that they were veering way off track, and "co-ordination" among the dozen or so agencies that comprise our intelligence service — between the collectors and the analysts — was awful.

Nobody gets it right all the time, of course, but these were not the sort of mistakes that were made by previous directors of central intelligence such as Allen Dulles, John McCone, William J. Casey, and James Woolsey. That's because these men knew how to do their jobs, and how to set things up to keep such mistakes from happening.

How Bill Casey Did It

During the Reagan administration, I had the privilege to work closely with Bill Casey. Because Casey had managed Reagan's 1980 campaign, the press often portrayed him as just another pol who's "reward" was the CIA. Well, not quite. During World War II Casey had headed secret operations for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was far and away the most effective intelligence service in history. And he had kept up his interest in intelligence — and his contacts — through the post-war decades while making a fortune in law and venture capital and serving along the way in a range of senior U.S. government positions, including chairman of the Securities and Exchanges Commission. In short, Casey knew his stuff about both sides of the intelligence game — operations and analysis. We'll skip over the operations side and focus now on how he got the analysis pointing in the right direction.


At 7:19 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Great piece! Thanks for posting that. It is quite scary to think of the intelligence failures that happened pre-9/11 and who knows about post. But group think and not wanting a dissenting view is rampant everywhere you look. I guess everyone in power is too insecure to listen to someone who might be able to help them. In the entertainment field, I simply shrug it off because the product is so inconsequential. But in politics, the consequences are often deadly.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Thanks for the great comment, Esther. I completely agree with you. Let's hope someone can straighten them out and get things right.

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Pindar said...

I agree, this was a great post, that gave me a fascinating insight into what true intelligence work consists of, and how far from this our current intelligence world is. Herb certainly knows his stuff, and it seems like there were giants in those days, and now there are only pigmies.


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