U.S. Intelligence Community as Land of Make Believe

Blog Wisdom
Richard Wright

To the Editor:

The Intelligence Community Group at LinkedIn is full of smart folks whose thinking either supports or complements the long-standing views of the Phi Beta Iota collective.  Specifically, there is a general feeling that the U.S. Intelligence System is really morally and systematically broken.  RW

The U.S. Intelligence Community as the Land of Make Believe

Integrity: undeviating adherence to a code of behavior; honesty

Chuck Spinney has a good point in criticizing the big five institutions (CIA, DIA, NGA, NSA and NRO) of the U.S. IC for allowing intelligence findings to be corrupted by political influences. [PBI: Lack of Integrity = Being on Wrong Side of History]  These five institutions and the ODNI constitute the U.S. Intelligence System from which most national intelligence is derived. Yet, it seems to me, that corruption is only part of the story.  The corruption that Spinney speaks so eloquently of really is symptomatic of what Robert Steele Vivas has repeatedly identified as a lack of integrity by the senior management staffs of big five and of the system itself. This combination of corruption and lack of integrity has produced a pretty nearly complete collapse of U.S. intelligence capability.

The impression that I have is that producing actionable or even useful intelligence is no longer the primary goal of the U.S. Intelligence System. Yes intelligence reporting is still going on, warning intelligence is still a concern, and there is a major, if incompetent, effort to provide support to military operations (SMO). Yet there is no sense of drive or purpose in production of intelligence, and indeed President Obama appears to routinely go outside of the Intelligence System for strategic intelligence, for example on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further, although there is a concern, warning intelligence, which is what is really meant by “predictive” intelligence is largely ineffective. So what is an $80 Billion Dollar intelligence budget for 2011 really buying? Well judging by the efforts of the DNI General Clapper (USAF ret.) and the intelligence agencies to avoid GAO oversight, it can be guessed that that money is not being used for the purposes that it is intended for. So how is that $80 billion going to be spent?

This is of course speculation, but the big five intelligence institutions are after all bureaucratic structures with all the behavior patterns of large bureaucracies. So suppose that rather than producing intelligence, the primary goal of these institutions has become to survive as institutions and if possible to grow in size (both numbers of employees, physical structures, and budgets) and power within the National Security Establishment.  Since intelligence production is no longer a primary goal, large budgets can be sustained by a variety of ploys. The technical intelligence agencies (NGA, NSA added by NRO) use continuing purchases of increasingly elaborate collection platforms that are increasingly inappropriate for the type of collection really needed in the 21st Century and using a collection philosophy that is overwhelming the system with material that cannot be processed in any kind of timely manner. This of course allows the technical agencies to argue that they must spend even more money on what Steele correctly calls contractor vapor ware to pretend to process the take from these platforms. After personnel cost, these platforms and processing systems constitute the bulk of the $80 Billion.  CIA not to be outdone is continually and expensively tinkering with its National Clandestine Service (NCS) with the seemingly utopian goal of improving human intelligence (HUMINT) collection both in quantity and quality. DIA is probably the least expensive of the big five agencies, but is also the most useless. Indeed, DIA was originally established (by Robert McNamara) to coordinate and collate the intelligence produced by the five military intelligence commands. DIA has so far strayed from its original purpose that when the Aspen Commission met in the mid-1990’s to reform the Intelligence System after the end of the Cold War, it was seriously proposed that a position be created at DOD to coordinate the military service intelligence agencies.

In short if this theory is correct, the U.S. is paying $80 billion dollars to perpetuate an Intelligence System that is no longer an authentic intelligence producing system, but a self perpetuating bureaucracy whose only goal is to survive and grow.

Phi Beta Iota: Emphasis added above.  The lack of integrity in national intelligence will continue until there is a major (and perhaps nuclear) catastrophe that causes the public to fully appreciate the loss of integrity in the US political and economic systems, both of which favor a very expensive, very ignorant, very unethical US Intelligence System.  We really must stress, once again, that decision support should not be federal, should not be secret, and should not be expensive.  The US Intelligence System is now the worst of all worlds, lacking ethics, intelligence, leadership, management, or purpose.  It is a disgrace to the Republic and should be shut down in increments of 20% a year, replaced by an Open Source Agency under diplomatic auspices and able to provide open decision support to Whole of Government as well as Multinational Multiagency hybrid networks across all topics.  The next Director of National Intelligence should be a person who understands this and can make it happen by sheer force of personality, reporting to a Vice President directly interested in Education, Intelligence, and Research as the catalyst for restoring the Republic.

Cite as:  Richard Wright, “U.S. Intelligence Community as Land of Make Believe,” Journal of Public Intelligence, 31 March 2011.  Short link:  http://wp.me/pE94O-auS

See Also:

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corruption

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Defense)

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Lack Of)