Despite intense focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East in the last decade, U.S. spy agencies are still lacking in language skills needed to talk to locals, translate intercepted intelligence and analyse data, according to top intelligence officials.
Telegraph, 20 September 2011
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks prompted a major push for foreign language skills to track militants and trends in parts of the world that were not a Cold War priority.
But intelligence agencies have had to face the reality that the languages they need cannot be taught quickly, the street slang U.S. operatives and analysts require is not easy, and security concerns make the clearance process lengthy.
As recently as 2008 and 2009, intelligence officials were still issuing new directives and programs in the hopes of ramping up language capability.
“Language will continue to be a challenge for us,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a congressional hearing last week.
“It’s something we’re working at, and will continue to do so, but we’re probably not where we want to be,” he said.
Phi Beta Iota: Languages are not hard–what is hard is the “leadership” culture incapable of leading. US citizens by birth are never going to learn foreign languages as needed. There are just TWO solutions, both executable today, all it takes is integrity at the top, long missing:
1. Exempt case officers and others “on the street” from the idiotic security clearance requirements. Hire to qualifications and manage to risk. This includes restoration of the “principle agent” category as well as the third-country subject-matter expert category. They never see secrets, they just do what they do, very well.
2. Adopt the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) model of regional field stations in which multinational cadres of case officers and analysts are supported by US money and US technology. Again, they never see secrets and are firewalled during active ops.