Original Op-Ed Online
Strengthening Our Nation’s Front Line Of Defense
By Dennis C. Blair
Friday, December 18, 2009
Phi Beta Iota: This is a seriously misleading article, our comments are provided after each paragraph.
The legislation authorizing post-Sept. 11 intelligence reform — the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 — was signed into law five years ago this week. We are often asked whether the new organizations, authorities and additional resources have made a difference. The answer is yes.
Phi Beta Iota: In combination with the Patriot Act, which was not read before passage, the legislation has perpetuated all of the bad practices of the past and poured gasoline on the fire by giving incompetent intelligence managers more money. America is less safe today because of the combination of $75 billion a year wasted on a system that still does not process more than 10% of what it collects, still cannot do machine speed multi-lingual exploitation, and still cannot do multinational human engagement and multi-lingual open source.
To be clear, the task of reinventing our intelligence structure and integrating the capabilities, cultures and information technologies of 16 diverse intelligence agencies is massive, and it is incomplete. Problems persist in our technologies, business practices and mind-sets. I have no illusions about how challenging they will be to overcome. But there is an ocean of difference between difficult and impossible.
Phi Beta Iota: Every single criticism in ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000) remains valid today. NOTHING HAS CHANGED in the way of fundamentals. The clandestine service is still full of cowboys under official cover; there still is no processing; the CIA analysts are babies and the DIA analysts are brain dead; technical sources are too big, too late, and too expensive; the list is long. Analysts still spend a quarter of their time trying to access the disparate classified databases at the same time that the Open Source Center remains a national disgrace, unable to do multinational engagement and totally out of touch with the 80% of the information we need that is free, open, and in 183 languages we do not speak. Note: Blair has a set of Steele’s book in his possession, he obviously has not read them or this article of his would be completely different. He has no power, no authority, no vision, and with the possible exception of Andy Shepard, no one with a proven track record of knowing what is actually needed–Shepard knew in 1992 and has had to wait 17 years to be heard.
While many successes must remain classified, there are things the public can and should know about changes that have been made and how we are directing our efforts and America’s resources.
Phi Beta Iota: We speculate that the successes have largely been “foreign liaison” successes, not our own. We do not have the deep Human Intelligence capability needed to be effective in the Third World–when a teenager from California can get next to a terrorist leader and CIA cannot, that says it all. The secret world, at a cost of $75 billion a year, is providing “at best” 4% of what the President needs to know, and nothing at all for everyone else.
A prime example is the new level of cooperation among FBI, local law enforcement and U.S. intelligence agencies in the recent arrests of Najibullah Zazi and David Headley, Americans allegedly associated with foreign terrorist organizations who are charged with planning attacks in this country and overseas. In both cases, tips and leads were smoothly passed among those gathering information in this country and those gathering information overseas, including foreign intelligence services that provided information or responded to questions. These investigations connected the dots in exactly the ways the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act envisioned. However, as the case of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who has been charged with the Fort Hood, Tex., shootings, shows, we must go even further in our efforts to turn intelligence into the knowledge needed to protect Americans.
Phi Beta Iota: This is pathetic. The FBI is still hemorrhaging people faster than it can hire them because its management culture is worse than DIA’s (the first is suck up and spit down, the second kiss up and kick down). CIA and FBI information sharing is still in the rotary telephone mode, in part because the secret world has no clue how to get to integrated secure databases as they were never designed to provide secure access triage by document by person by case. The contractors are lying, the raw fact is that the USA does not have enough people eligible for clearances that can understand how to achieve cyber-security–this is all a massive scam leading nowhere.
Innovative use of information technology across agencies is enabling analysts to make use of the enormous amounts of data we are gathering and to distill insights that will help policymakers in Washington and civil and military officers in the field. Thousands of analysts form groups spontaneously, in real time, on A-Space, post insights in Intellipedia, retrieve relevant analyses from the Library of National Intelligence and interact with the tribal database for Afghanistan. These tools, among others, ensure that each piece of analysis takes advantage of work being done and that new insights are immediately available to those who need them.
Phi Beta Iota: This is almost criminally mis-representative. All of these things are disparate, used in isolation, and a tiny fraction of the whole. This also begs the question of analyst access to real expertise outside the wire–the raw fact is that analysts are largely babied being spoon-fed a thin diet of secret with neither the access or the gravitas, nor the money, to reach out and do multinational engagement. It is not possible to play cards with less than 5 of the 52 cards in the deck.
Close collaboration among collectors and analysts utilizing human, satellite and signals intelligence produced key evidence of a prospective covert uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Teamwork among different agencies in the United States and partners abroad just last week led to the interdiction of a Middle East-bound cargo of North Korean weapons.
Phi Beta Iota: Baloney. The Israelis are still spoon-feeding the leads to the US, and the US still cannot do broad area coverage. The small arms and blood diamond and criminal networks are all thriving. Taking the Office of Naval Intelligence as an example, analysts are still covering 25 out of 80 ships in hard copy cut and paste, ignoring the others (this is in a single company known to be carrying freight to Iran) because the US Navy still does not understand how to integrate Google Earth with digital data decks.
Initiatives that will make us even more effective are moving forward. More than 6,000 intelligence officers are now “joint duty” qualified, and another 5,000 are gaining interagency experience. Cross-agency teams are making steady improvements in our administrative information systems so that we can better manage our human and financial resources; the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is funding high-risk, high-payoff projects in quantum computing, identity recognition, computer network intelligence and other areas that will benefit many agencies down the line.
Phi Beta Iota: This is severely misleading, and should be understood in the context of tens of thousands of contractors doing jobs that are inherently governmental. “Joint duty” qualified does not impress us–being a prior service veteran and a graduate of War College who has seen combat duty both in uniform and as an intelligence professional is where we need to go. CIA rotations to other agencies less Energy are still a joke; CIA detailees to the Commands are lightweights (the ones we have met). IARPA is of dubious value–we were doing FaceTrace in the 1980’s, and progress now, thirty years later, is hardly a claim to fame.
The new National Intelligence Strategy provides the blueprint for further improvement in effectiveness. All U.S. intelligence organizations collaborated this year to articulate our shared mission and objectives. The strategy puts unprecedented focus on cybersecurity, counterintelligence and the impact that problems such as pandemic disease, climate events, failed states and scarce natural resources have on global stability. It recognizes the role of intelligence in identifying common interests and defusing threats in such issues as energy, trade, drug interdiction and public health.
Phi Beta Iota: Our comments on this incestuous self-licking ice cream cone of a non-strategy are a matter of record at Reference: National Intelligence Strategy 2009.
Like our armed forces and first responders, intelligence professionals are on the front lines in defense of this country. Their operations are already collaborative between and across agencies to an extent that was unheard of five years ago. Continued commitment and investment in this reform are vital. If we become complacent now, or pessimistic about future progress, and revert to stovepipes and turf battles, full transformation will never be achieved.
Phi Beta Iota: When unheard of improvements from a baseline of zero mean you are now at 5 on a scale of 100, we are not impressed. Even the National Geospatial Agency (NGA), among the most enlightened of the scattered pieces, still has legacy issues, still cannot do on demand 1″50,000 combat charts for the Third World (and still does not have 90% of the world “on the shelf”). What we really need is a General Accountability Office (GAO) scrub of the entire secret world. The claims of success and improvement are disingenuous at best, while the concealment of the varied sucking chest-wounds is outright dishonest–lies kill ones comrades. The truth at any cost–including cost to one’s ego–reduces all others costs–including the cost of blood, sweat, tears, and treasure for lack of a proper national intelligence capability.
Continued reform will also not be possible without a full commitment from the inside. Every intelligence agency, director, manager and employee has a role in breaking down the remaining impediments to integration. I find that the overwhelming majority of intelligence officers recognize the importance and benefits of integration. While taking pride in their individual skills and agencies, they are eager to cooperate with others to accomplish the common mission. This is most true in the field — overseas and closer to home at fusion centers in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Phi Beta Iota: Baloney. Giving them more money while keeping the DNI neutered without programmatic power made them worse, not better. We had this conversation with the Deputy Director of DMA in 1996–reform will only be achieved when we churn the base, and the only way to churn the base is to cut every secret agency by 20% every year for five years running, and then restore 10% in new initiatives at the same time. We need to convert individual contractors to government-employee status, and being closing down the Potemkin Village we have constructed at taxpayer expense. The DNI means well, but lacks the vision, the authority, and the team to effect real change.
It has been famously argued that information is power and, therefore, should never be shared. The Sept. 11 attacks showed the fatal flaws in that logic. Our nation is becoming safer every day because we are aware that information increases in power only when it is shared. Our mission is a fully integrated intelligence community, and there is no turning back. My most urgent priorities are to permanently instill this new culture and to use every tool at my disposal — from joint duty to recruitment and communications — to build a generation of intelligence leaders for whom this culture is business as usual.
Phi Beta Iota: We agree with this last paragraph. Sadly, the DNI has no idea how to actually engage all of the customers for intelligence outside the White House; how to engage all of the contributors to intelligence outside the beltway, or how to do multinational engagement with everyone beyond the water’s edge. The DNI is toast. Sorry ’bout that.
The writer is director of national intelligence.
The commentator is not the director of national intelligence, just an average American who can read. Put bluntly, this entire web site covers everything that the secret intelligence “leaders” have no idea how to address.
2009: Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Trilogy
Definitions: M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing & Sense-Making
DNI References: Director of National Intelligence et al (IC) (21)
Graphic: Intelligence Leadership
Journal: CIA Opens Climate Center–the Reductionism and Irrelevance Continues within a “Dumb Nation”
Journal: Constant Technical Stare vs. Engaged Brain
Journal: Cyber-Security or Cyber-Scam? Plus Short List of Links to Reviews and Books on Hacking 101
Journal: Design Thinking for Government
Journal: Director of National Intelligence Reverses Progress–Time to Rethink Everything
Journal: DNI Describes Losing Hand
Journal: FBI, Still Deaf 8 Years After 9-11
Journal: Integrity 101 for Presidential Aides
Journal: National Intelligence? Revolution in Military Affairs? A Stock-Taking
Journal: Secret Intelligence Costs Taxpayer $75 Billion a Year
Journal: Surveillance State Expands Part II
Journal: The Intelligence War Not Fought
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Journal: US Lacks Basic Intelligence at the Top
OSS/EIN Books on Intelligence: Books (OSS/EIN) (9)
Review: Spies for Hire–The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing
Review: The Design of Business–Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage
Search: The Future of OSINT [is M4IS2-Multinational]
Summative Book Reviews: Intelligence (Government/Secret) (272)