2002: New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence

The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political—Chapter 15

Robert David Steele (OSS International Press, 2002)

The new craft of intelligence is the operational manifestation of the American way of “netwar,” and can provide a decisive asymmetric advantage from the neighborhood level to the national level, against non-traditional threats.

New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence

001 Decision-Support is the Raison D’être
002 Value-Added Comes from Analysis, Not Secret Sources
003 Global Coverage Matters More
004 Non-Traditional Threats Are of Paramount Importance
005 Intelligence without Translation is Ignorant
006 Source Balance Matters More
007 “Two Levels Down”
008 Processing Matters More, Becomes Core Competency
009 Cultural Intelligence is Fundamental
010 Geospatial and Time Tagging is Vital
011 Global Open Source Benchmarking
012 Counterintelligence Matters More
013 Cross-Fertilization Matters More
014 Decentralized Intelligence Matters More
015 Collaborative Work and Informal Communications Rise
016 New Value is in Content + Context + Speed
017 Collection Based on Gaps versus Priorities
018 Collection Doctrine Grows in Sophistication
019 Citizen “Intelligence Minutemen” are Vital
020 Production Based on Needs versus Capabilities
021 Strategic Intelligence Matters More
022 Budget Intelligence Is Mandatory
023 Public Intelligence Drives Public Policy
024 Analysts are Managers
025 New Measures of Merit
026 Multi-Lateral Burden-Sharing is Vital

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001 Decision-Support is the Raison D’être

The days of confusing secrets with intelligence are over.  The new craft of intelligence carefully distinguishes between data, which is the raw text, image or signal; information which is collated data of generic interest and generally broadcast; and intelligence, which is information that has been deliberately discovered, discriminated, distilled, and delivered to meet a specific decision-making requirement.  Intelligence is defined by the end product not by the source mix.  If the commander needs an unclassified answer in fifteen minutes that is one page in length, that is the intelligence objective.

002 Value-Added Comes from Analysis, Not Secret Sources

The all-source analyst can no longer rest their conclusions and their reputation on the 2% of the information they deal with, most of it from secret sources.  In an era when over 90%—some would say over 95%—of the relevant information is readily available to anyone in the private sector, and especially in the absence of processing and translation capabilities available to the mainstream profit-making institutions, it is analytic tradecraft—a truly superior ability to create value-added insights through superior analytical knowledge (including historical knowledge) and technique—that distinguishes and gives value to the new craft of analysis.[1]

003 Global Coverage Matters More

Whereas the traditional craft of intelligence has focused on hard targets, and this is natural for a conglomeration of bureaucracies established during the Cold War, the new craft of intelligence recognizes that surprise comes from unanticipated combinations and that the safest strategy for avoiding surprise, especially from non-traditional threats, is to cast a very wide net.  The new craft of intelligence demands constant monitoring of all countries and topics, not necessarily in terms of collection, but in terms of “pulsing” and change detection.[2]

004 Non-Traditional Threats Are of Paramount Importance

Terrorism, genocide, proliferation, transnational crime, and toxic bombs, to name just five, are non-traditional threats of the first order.  Disease, water shortages, and energy as well as resource conflicts are also of vital importance.  The new craft of intelligence divides its emphasis roughly equally among state, non-state, and environmental threats.

005 Intelligence without Translation is Ignorant

This requires very strong emphasis.  The failure of our government to translate all of the Arabic documents captured after the first World Trade Center bombing will stand in history as the single dumbest counterintelligence decision ever made.  Conceptually, doctrinally, and financially, we have disparaged and blocked out the reality that the really important intelligence information is more often than not going to be in a foreign language.  We must have an army of translators and a capability to rapidly scan in foreign language materials, route them to the right person, and get back accurate translations within 24 hours—for long documents, this may require a combination of 20-30 people, all working through the Internet.  America is too great a nation to be “out of touch” with the realities and perceptions of the rest of the world.  This is an easily established capability; it simply needs funding and attention.[3]

006 Source Balance Matters More

The traditional craft of intelligence has focused almost exclusively on secret sources, and within secret sources, very heavily on sources amenable to technical as opposed to human collection.  The new craft of intelligence strives to restore the balance between technical and human collection (whether secret or not), between collection and processing, between production and reflection, and between data base stuffing and directed inquires.[4]

007 “Two Levels Down”

Instead of focusing on nation-states or specific organizations, the new craft of intelligence focuses on sub-state actors and organizations at the branch level.  “Two levels down” raises the standard for acceptable intelligence very high—it requires that sub-state actors be understood at the provincial and county or township level, and that organizations be understood in terms of the personalities and resource constraints characteristic of the branch level.  This degree of granularity can only be accomplished through the new craft of intelligence and its simultaneous emphasis on the optimization of open source collection (previous rule), on processing (next rule), and on burden-sharing (last rule).

It merits comment that this rule also makes intelligence much more useful to the military and to law enforcement—military forces fight individual people and individual mobility platforms, the police go after gangs and members of gangs.  Intelligence has not been organized to this level of detail.

008 Processing Matters More, Becomes Core Competency

Regardless of whether or not secret information is part of the mix, processing matters much more within the new craft of intelligence and must become a core competency.  There are three reasons for this: first, casting a wide net that is inherently multi-lingual will increase the amount of material that must be translated and indexed; second, human productivity in the information age depends more and more on computer-aided tools; and third, only by establishing a digital network for collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination can the full resources of various governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations be brought to bear on topics of common concern such as terrorism and crime.

009 Cultural Intelligence is Fundamental

Americans have never understood cultural intelligence, in part because we have never been willing to believe that an analyst must be a native speaker of the language and have an in-depth understanding of history and religion, to be effective in studying a specific country or topic.  The new craft of intelligence elevates cultural intelligence to the highest table, above orders of battle and political or economic intelligence.  It is fundamental and all else follows from getting this bit right.

010 Geospatial and Time Tagging is Vital

It is no longer possible for even the best analysts with the best human filtering services to “make sense” of the vast volume of information that is available in English, much less in foreign languages.  It is now essential that all data have geospatial and time tags so that automated pattern analysis can impose a degree of order as well as a degree of automated change detection and anomaly detection.  International standards are needed that can be promulgated and nurtured by the cooperating national governments, with shared information benefits to those that cooperate.[5]

011 Global Open Source Benchmarking

Before pattern analysis can be useful, a global open source benchmarking endeavor is needed across all countries and topics.  Essentially, the art and science of pattern analysis from signals intelligence must now be brought over to the open source world, both in print and broadcast media monitoring.

012 Counterintelligence Matters More

In additional to automating the benchmarking process, both operational counter-intelligence and analytic specialization in denial & deception (D&D) require greater emphasis under the new craft of intelligence.  In the face of the information explosion, immigration, and other aspects of globalization, the “needle in the haystack” problem in terms of anticipating non-traditional unconventional threat attacks becomes even more difficult.  Counterintelligence is one of four core competencies needed to protect ourselves from being mis-led—the other three are cultural intelligence specialization, denial & deception specialization, and the combination of global open source benchmarking (as well as classified benchmarking) with vastly improved processing to detect anomalies and patterns.

013 Cross-Fertilization Matters More

The “chain of command” characteristic of the traditional craft of intelligence, the old paradigm, has a requirement go from the consumer to the analyst, from the analyst to the collector, from the collector to the source, and then back up the chain.  This is the linear approach, an approach that is both too slow, and too structured for fluid situations where nuances matter.  The new approach is the diamond approach, such that the acme of skill for an all-source analyst may be the ability to place a consumer with a very complex question in direct touch with a private sector expert that can create new knowledge—nuanced tailored knowledge—that is “just enough, just in time.”[6]

014 Decentralized Intelligence Matters More

In the age of distributed information, when 80% or more of the relevant information is distributed, the concept of “central intelligence” loses its meaning.  Instead of the maintaining the archival files, “knowing who knows” and being able to orchestrate a combination of “just enough, just in time” collection, specialized processing, and just the right mix of analytical talents (online and offline) becomes the core competency.  Above all, having the distributed network in place, with trusted relationships and pre-approved access, becomes more important than any sort of central intelligence organization…..we still need a national intelligence agency, but it should be the center of a distributed network.

015 Collaborative Work and Informal Communications Rise

The bureaucratic office with analysts physically co-located with one another must give way to virtual task forces comprised of the top individuals from different bureaucracies, each having a personal reputation that is more important (in terms of the analyst’s day-to-day work) than their parent organization’s reputation.  Personal “brand names” and informal peer-to-peer networks will be subsidized and nurtured by organizations that understand that only a vibrant self-directed network with global reach will attract the bulk of the relevant information—analysts and nodes will be magnets for relevant information from private sector peers.

016 New Value is in Content + Context + Speed

The traditional craft of intelligence has tended to fragment content from its context, and be largely oblivious to timing.  This is true both in the collection cycle and in the production cycle.  The new craft of intelligence recognizes that the value of any given information, apart from its relevance to the decision at hand, stems from a combination of the content in context, and the content in time.  Both collectors and producers of intelligence must be acutely sensitive to the day-to-day needs of their consumers.

017 Collection Based on Gaps versus Priorities

The new craft of intelligence respects priorities on the first pass but then shifts to gaps all the way down the line.  One pass of Global Coverage (encompassing all lower tier countries and topics) is better than one hundred passes on five hard targets and nothing at all on the rest of the world.

018 Collection Doctrine Grows in Sophistication

The new craft of intelligence trains all collection managers, and provides the tools necessary to, first, find the data if it has already been collected; second, get the data from a friendly party if it can be gotten (requires a meta-database of possible sources); third, buy the data from the private sector (requires a meta-database of best sources and prices); and fourth, last, only if the first three are not available options, task the classified or proprietary/internal capabilities.[7]

019 Citizen “Intelligence Minutemen” are Vital

In the age of constant surprise and impossible-to-anticipate mutations of the threat, no bureaucracy can be effective.  Only a global network of citizens who know what to look for and who to tell, a “hive mind”, is capable of rapidly spotting, assessing, and reporting real-time intelligence.   The new craft of intelligence respects and educates the citizen as a “virtual minuteman”, and provides a web-based means for citizen inputs to be rapidly received, evaluated, and collated with other sources of information.[8]

020 Production Based on Needs versus Capabilities

The new craft of intelligence produces what the consumer needs, when they need it, tailored to the context of their need, and by definition created for the individual rather than the organization.  The new craft of intelligence does not burn up its analysts with routine production—all production is hand-crafted to support a specific decision, and when not doing tailored production the analyst should be reflecting, training, traveling, or working in the consumer’s spaces to better understand the consumer’s intelligence needs in context.

021 Strategic Intelligence Matters More

The new craft of intelligence restores the original emphasis on strategic (estimative) intelligence, and adds strategic cost-benefits analysis to demonstrate conclusively the value of preventive investments over punitive or reactive investments.

022 Budget Intelligence Is Mandatory

The new craft of intelligence recognizes that the budget is the policy, and allocates a portion of its resources to the analysis of the budget and the identification of discrepancies between the budget and the threat. “The budget is where the trade-offs are real—priorities are set and conflicts among agencies and programs are resolved. The budget is where government, private sector, and international realities collide.” [9]  The new craft of intelligence is not bashful about highlighting for the policymaker, commander, and acquisition manager—and for the public—significant discrepancies between how the national security budget is spent and how the national security threats are actually perceived by the objective all-source intelligence professionals.

023 Public Intelligence Drives Public Policy

The new craft of intelligence recognizes that in a democracy it is the educated public that must be addressed and kept informed—the issuance of annual strategic threat assessments and quarterly operational threat assessments to the public underlie all other classified endeavors.  Presidents and Congress will not make hard decisions on the appropriation of funds for what the Commandant of the Marine Corps has called peaceful preventive measures until the need for those investments is crystal clear to the public.

024 Analysts are Managers

The new craft of intelligence elevates the all-source intelligence analyst to oversight status as a manager.  Unlike the traditional craft of intelligence where analysts are hired right out of school and “grown” over time, the new craft of intelligence hires analysts at mid-career, after they have achieved a personal standing and complete fluency at the expense of the private sector.  To handle secrets the analyst must be one of America’s top ten cited authorities in their given area of expertise.  In this context, all analysts become individual branch chiefs, responsible for managing relations with a senior set of consumers; for managing a network of external counterpart authorities; for managing a substantial open source support fund; and for managing the tasking and evaluation of classified assets.[10]

025 New Measures of Merit

All elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community will no longer be evaluated in terms of gross results (messages intercepted, images taken, agents recruited, reports produced).  Instead each collection or production individual will be evaluated in relation to how well they are contributing to the larger community.  Technical managers will be expected to destroy old systems in order to create newer ones; case officers will be expected to focus on multiple-source reporting instead of single-source reports—in essence becoming operational analysts; analysts will be evaluated based on their achieving a balance between consumer relations, travel, training, reflection, and production to include ad hoc answers orchestrated among various experts with no formal product actually created.[11]

026 Multi-Lateral Burden-Sharing is Vital

Finally, and this is the last and the most important rule for the new craft of intelligence, it is imperative that multi-lateral burden-sharing be the foundation for all intelligence concepts, doctrine, organization, and funding.  This does not preclude unilateral compartmented operations, but it forces the entire system to respect the fact that more often than not there is a cheaper, faster, better solution to be had through multi-lateral burden-sharing.  This is especially true for non-traditional threats from cultural traditions that we do not understand very well—such as terrorism rooted in extremist Islamic groups.[12]  Most multi-lateral sharing will revolve around web-based exchanges of unclassified information with successively smaller amounts of secret, top secret, and codeword information being shared, over the web, with varying numbers of multi-lateral partners, both in and out of government.  The age of the “virtual intelligence community” has arrived.

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Figure 36: The New Global Integrated Intelligence Community

The “what” of intelligence must inevitably change once the new craft of intelligence is adopted.  The days of planned production are largely over.  Instead the intelligence analyst, whether in government or in the private sector, must focus on four distinct levels of support to their decision-making clients.

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Figure 37:  Four Levels or Forms of Intelligence Support[13]

Each of these levels or forms of support requires a different kind of source mix, different processing capabilities, and different personalities.  Hybrid intelligence units, for instance, help desks, may be found necessary to properly mix and match government and private sector skill sets.  It will be especially important to devise new means for mixing personnel with varying degrees of “clearance” for restricted information.  Translators and open source specialists should not be held to the same arcane background requirements as those handling our most sensitive secrets.

In essence, the next generation of intelligence community leadership is going to have to come to grips with the reality that most of the experts are going to be in the private sector and only available “by the task” rather than as full-time employees.  Our personnel systems, including our benefits system, are going to have to change.  Money is going to have to be redirected away from secret technical collection systems toward clandestine human and all-source analysis capabilities, while also funding a global grid of open source information collection, digitization, and translation.  Lastly, the intelligence managers of the future must understand that it is the citizen taxpayer that funds national intelligence, and it is the citizen taxpayer that must be informed as to the threats facing our Nation.

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Figure 38: New Balance for the New Craft of Intelligence

The new craft of intelligence is personal, public, and political.  I would not have it any other way, and hope that the citizen taxpayer will join me in demanding that our government revitalize and enhance our intelligence community along the lines suggested here.  We can become a Smart Nation.


[1] Jack Davis, founder of the precursor to the Harvard Executive Program on Intelligence and of the Intelligence Successes and Failures Course, author of the series on analytic tradecraft, is the absolute master in this arena.  He and his teachings should be much more prominent as we transition to the new craft of intelligence, and he should be a full partner, together with Gordon Oehler and a few others who were a decade or more ahead of their time, in defining the analytic skunkworks of sources, tools, and techniques that is needed to catapult all-source analysis out of the basement and back into the running as a serious profession.

[2] A commercial example may be helpful here.  In the early 1990’s the French steel industry funded a very strong competitive intelligence campaign against other steel industries.  In focusing only on steel, they completely overlooked the plastics industry that was busy creating a vast array of substitutes for automobile parts and other traditional steel elements.

[3] Apart from funding, which is easily obtained now that we understand the depths of our ignorance and past incapacity, we must still overcome security mind-sets that persist in thinking that only people with security clearances can be allowed to translate captured materials.  This is simply absurd and we need to get over it.  The nation needs a global network of translators, some with clearances, most without, who can be surged up for any challenge.

[4] If applied to the classified community, the new craft of intelligence, as a very rough rule of thumb, would limit collection costs to 60% of the total intelligence budget (with one sixth of those costs, or 10% of the total, for clandestine collection), with the other half evenly divided between Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (TPED) and analysis.  The increased investment in processing (including the use of the Internet for global collaborative work) would help reduce standing armies of intelligence specialists while enhancing the professional qualifications of the remaining analysts and considerably expanding the range of experts from other governments and the private sector that be tasked on an “as needed” basis.

[5] In 1988 or 1989, at a General Defense Intelligence Program (GDIP) conference, Keith Hall, then the head of Budget staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and I, had this conversation.  We both agreed that all-source fusion was impossible until every datum from every discipline carried with it time and geospatial location tags—and implicitly—was available within an all-source processing system.  Despite the best of intentions, all of our intelligence community leaders in the past decade have failed to focus on fundamental such as this one.

[6] The new craft of intelligence will create risks and uncertainties of its own as it develops.  For example, when the analyst places a consumer in direct touch with a source, there needs to be some means for the analyst to monitor and evaluate what the source is telling the consumer, and to provide the consumer with editorial/analytical input on possible gaps in the source’s understanding.

[7] This is an order of magnitude improvement in the craft of intelligence.  Combined with the other new rules and especially the empowerment of analysts, the new craft of intelligence can be said to be a double order of magnitude better than the traditional craft.

[8] Alessandro Politi, one of Europe’s foremost commentators and practitioners on the new craft of intelligence as it applies to the future needs of the European community, devised the term “intelligence minuteman” during his participation in the first international open source intelligence conference in December 1992.

[9] Mr. Don Gessaman, former Deputy Associate Director for National Security at the Office of Management and Budget until his retirement in 1995,  has taught me what little I know of the federal budgeting process.  Budgeting matters, not just as a source of funds, but as a source of insight for where intelligence is failing to make its case with sufficient urgency.  “It isn’t policy until it’s in the budget.”

[10] Intelligence analysis is a craft in itself, and well-beyond routine scholarship.  However, the new craft of intelligence recognizes that it is easier to teach the new craft of intelligence to a mid-career expert in the subject matter under consideration, that it is to make an intelligence analyst deeply expert in a subject matter.  The new craft of intelligence shifts to bulk of the opportunity cost to the private sector and uses the marketplace to pre-screen mid-career hires.

[11] I have recently confirmed, with very great dismay, that the training and level of expertise among both our clandestine case officers and our all-source analysts has sunk to new lows, in part because of exceptionally poor management over the past decade.  Case officers are incapable of recruiting (and often denied permission to recruit), while analysts are doing even more cutting and pasting of information and generally unable to “connect the dots.”  I understand that in the aftermath of 9-11 an outside survey found all the information necessary to predict and prevent 9-11 in the archives—but it was so scattered, and the individual analysts so diverse focused, that it simply never came together, not even in the Counterterrorism Center created for this precise purpose.

[12] The new craft of intelligence will create new complexities that will have to be dealt with over time.  For example, as increased reliance is placed on collectors and analysts outside the traditional bureaucracies, much more emphasis will have to be placed on achieving a common training baseline (in effect, bringing others up to the level of the best of the all-source professionals) while also carrying out constant validation exercises and quality-control evaluations (as well as denial & deception counter-analysis).  Ultimately, all-source analysts will again be the high priests of knowledge.

[13] This figure was devised by Mr. Jan Herring, former National Intelligence Officer for Science & Technology who went on in retirement to become the father of U.S. business intelligence and be a co-founder of the Academy of Competitive Intelligence.