Robert Steele: Intelligent Management of Intelligence Agencies, and the New Craft of Intelligence

Analysis, Budgets & Funding, Collaboration Zones, Collective Intelligence, Communities of Practice, Computer/online security, Counter-Oppression/Counter-Dictatorship Practices, Ethics, Geospatial, Hacking, History, Information Operations (IO), Intelligence (government), Key Players, Methods & Process, Officers Call, Open Government, Policies, Real Time, Reform, Resilience, Serious Games, Strategy, Technologies, Threats, Waste (materials, food, etc), Whole Earth Review
Robert David STEELE Vivas

I have begun drafting my portion of the new Handbook of Intelligence Studies (Routledge, 2013), it is a chapter early on entitled “The Craft of Intelligence.”  I pick up where Allen Dulles and Sherman Kent left off.  My graphic on Intelligence Maturity captures the essence of my thinking at the strategic level, but of course there is more to come, including the desperate need to restore integrity to all that we do.

In 1988 I ghost-wrote for the Commandant of  the Marine Corps an article that he enhanced and signed, “Global Intelligence Challenges in the 1990’s.”  At that time my focus was on the difference between the conventional threat and the emerging unconventional threat.

Now my focus is on the purpose and process of intelligence as decision-support.  We must — we will — move from secret intelligence for the few to open intelligence for the many; from expensive centralized largely worthless intelligence to free and low-cost distributed intelligence relevant to every person at every level on every issue; from intelligence as window-dressing for channeling $80 billion a year to banks and corporations, to intelligence as an integral element of every aspect of a Smart Nation.

Today Owl sent me a link to an article, Philip E. Tetlock and Barabara A Mellers, “Intelligent Management of Intelligence Agencies,” American Psychologist, 2011, pp. 1-12.  I  respect Owl, so I printed it and read it twice.

This article is completely out of touch with reality and the authors have not bothered to familiarize themselves with the literatures pertinent to their endeavor.  Out of 89 cited sources 12 are non-intelligence-related prior publications of the lead author, 1 is a prior publication of the second author, and 11 are ostensibly about intelligence but truly marginal selections.  So 12% sources on the subject, 13% self-citation, and 75% escoteric psycho-babble irrelevant to the actual challenge.  As an intelligence professional, I am offended that two ostensibly erudite individuals would dare to publish this trype without even a semblance of understanding of the subject under discussion.

See Also:

Robert Steele: The Craft of Intelligence – OLD vs. NEW

Here are a few comments and additional links:

01  The article is full of unwarranted assumptions, to include the assumption that we would not spend $80 billion a years on (secret) intelligence if we did not need to; and the assumption that the core consumers, of which there is only one (the President) have any interest at all in what intelligence does.

Cf. George Allen, NONE SO BLIND: A Personal Account of Intelligence Failure in Vietnam (Ivan R Dee, 2001); Michael Hiam, Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars (Steerforth, 2006); Paul Pillar, Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (Columbia, 2011); and Joshua Rovner, Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence (Cornell, 2011)

02  The focus on analytics, today done by the young with access to less than 20% of the relevant information and zero grounding in culture, history, multi-national diversity of views, or reality per se, is well-intentioned but wrong-headed.  The authors fail to realize that secret technical collection, generally without near-real-time processing capacity (the National Security Agency, for example, processes less than 5% of what it collects — ever), is a corporate welfare and campaign finance wagon, not really intended to produce anything.   If there are metrics to be created, they should focus on outputs and impacts, not incomes and promotions.  This was Marty Hurwitz’s last big idea, it was a good one in 1992, it is still a good one today, especially since we now know that secret intelligence produces “at best” 4% for a major consumer and nothing for everyone else.

Cf.  Graphic: Tony Zinni on 4% “At Best”as cited in 2008 Open Source Intelligence (Strategic); Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else, as published in CounterPunch, Weekend Edition, February 27 – 1 March 2009; Fixing the White House and National Intelligence, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Spring 2010; As published; with corrected graphic (best); Human Intelligence (HUMINT): All Humans, All Minds, All the Time (US Army Strategic Studies Institute, June 2010; and Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most)

03  Anyone who mentions 9/11 in an article had better be prepared to demonstrate some semblance of mature understanding on the matter.  The fact is that CIA knew about 9/11 no later than April 2001, the FBI had two walk-ins prior to 9/11 (Orlando and Newark), nine nations warned us in advance, Dick Cheney scheduled the exercise for “the day” months in advance; the Israeli’s sent from Israel a complete video crew to film the event, etcetera, etcetera.

Cf. Reviews of 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs (33), especially  Extreme Prejudice – The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover-Ups of 9/11 and Iraq – The Ultimate Conspiracy to Silence the Truthand Marcus Aurelius: VIDEO Extreme Prejudice – CIA Whistle Blower [then Congressional staffer] Susan Lindauer PDX 911Truth.  There is much that is good at CIA,  but there are also elements — powerful, expensive elements — that are desperately in need of mature ethical leadership also intimately familiar with all aspects of intelligence.

04  The authors do not appear to be familiar with the divide between those who maintain that US secret intelligence is about secret collection to the virtual exclusion of all else, and those who favor a more balanced approach including multi-national, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary, multi-domain information-sharing and sense-making (M4IS2).  The authors are especially lacking in understanding the alternative paradigm for national intelligence, a paradigm that has always existed across history but has been struggling to come to the fore since 1992 and more recently, across a rapidly growing literature focused on aggregate collective intelligence processes and outcomes that are not secret, not expensive, and not centered on a national government — the intelligence is at the edges, “out of control” in a very good way.

Cf.  Graphic: Expanding the Open Source Revolution; M4IS2; Open Source Agency: Executive Access Point; Review: No More Secrets – Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence; 1992 AIJ Fall ‘New Paradigm” and Avoiding Future Failures; 1992 E3i: Ethics, Ecology, Evolution, & intelligence (An Alternative Paradigm); Tom Atlee, The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all (BookSurge, 2002); and Mark Tovey (ed.), COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (Earth Intelligence Network, 2008).  Then of course one has the earlier works of Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold, Jorgen Randers, the Meadows, and on and on and on.

05)  The article lacks understanding of either the analytic process or the overall intelligence management process from requirements definition to collection management to all that nitty-gritty stuff to presenting conclusions to busy people who can grasp just three colors: red, yellow, and green.  Particularly lacking is the requisite appreciation for the fact that everything is connected, and if we do not have a strategic analytic model and we also do not do Global Coverage, we cannot do baselines, deltas, or psycho-cultural trade-offs.

Cf.  Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community(not one of the cited sources); and Strategic Analytic Model for Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, inter alia (that’s academic for all the other stuff you should have read before contemplating this article).

06) The article summarizes “six mutually-reinforcing psycho-political processes,” 1) Hindsight distortions; 2) Outcome bias; 3) Motivated reasoning; 4) Naive realism; 5) Mis-calibration of confidence; and 6) Amplification of biases under threats.  Shees.  The CIA Mid-Career 101 analytic exercise was much more intelligent than this: talk to each other outside the  sterile communications channels, and keep your integrity.  I have never forgotten the lessons from that exercise.  The authors evidently did not trouble to study the basic texts on intelligence analysis to determine is there was any fit between their psycho-babble and what invested intelligence professionals actually try to accomplish when allowed to do so.

Cf. 1997 Davis A Compendium of Analytic Tradecraft Notes; 2002: New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence (Full Text Online for Google Translate); 2003 Davis (US) Analytic Paradoxes: Can Open Source Intelligence Help?; 2003 Medina (US) 21st Century Analysis–The Coming Revolution in Intelligence Analysis: What to do when the Traditional Model Fails; 40 Years of Doing Intelligence Analysis-Lessons; A Science of Intelligence Qua Decision-Support?;    HISTORICAL: Jack Davis, The Bogotazo; Reference: David Moore on Sense-Making; Search: jack davis intelligence works; References on Intelligence Analysis; Worth A Look: Posted from the Past Including Jack Davis on Leadership in Intelligence Analysis

07)  The article ends with a call for “embracing adversarial analysis” and concludes without ever realizing: a) that intelligence has been marginalized in the USA, b) that secret intelligence is about spending money, not providing decision support for Whole of Government planning, programming, and operations, or c) that one word, the word “integrity,” is vastly superior all by itself, to this make-believe posturing from far out in academic left field.

Cf.  Journal: Reflections on Integrity UPDATED + Integrity RECAP; Robert Steele Biography & Linked Publications

Why have I taken precious time away for “The Craft of Intelligence” for this, apart from the fact that Owl sent it to me precisely to provoke a response?  This article represents everything that is wrong with academia, and embodies everything that is wrong with both the secret intelligence world and the government generally — neither is “managed.”  To manage something you have to have a realistic grasp of the threat, a deep appreciation for how to think strategically, an ability to plan and program all sources of national power, and most of all, an ability to understand that intelligence (decision-support) cannot be  limited to one customer or one agency or one topic.  Everything is connected.  Nothing less than grasping all information in all languages all the time will do.  Achieving that requires the deliberate rejection of all of the axioms that have characterized intelligence “management” to date, including secrecy and a complete lack of accountability, largely because the primary benefit politicians get is the standard 5% contribution for every delivered secret earmark; and the primary benefit flag officers and senior civil servants get is the cushy second job following their early retirement.

Cf. ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (2000); THE NEW CRAFT OF INTELLIGENCE: Personal, Public, & Political (2002); INFORMATION OPERATIONS: All Information, All Languages, All the Time (2006); and THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest (2008); INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (2010); and THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth, & Trust (2012).

Now I am going to read a book I have been eagerly waiting for, by one of my personal heroes, David Weinberger.  I will review this book on Amazon and here at Phi Beta Iota in a day or two.  The sub-title alone captures the essence of what I and others have been trying to teach these past twenty years:

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room (Basic, 2012)

See Also:

2012 Reflexivity = Integrity: Toward Earth/Life 4.0

2010 The Ultimate Hack Re-Inventing Intelligence to Re-Engineer Earth (Chapter for Counter-Terrorism Book Out of Denmark)


People in cybernetics have not spent much time thinking about the intelligence activities of govt, except perhaps the coup in Chile against Allende and related activities.  But with internet, participatory methods, and your idea of open source intelligence, it seems to me we should give more thought to the subject.  Cybernetics is always struggling to demonstrate its relevance, its practical utility.  Your emphasis on integrity vs. bureaucratic politics is certainly consistent with science and cybernetics.  Yet we have spent little time studying why people do not handle information rationally and appropriately.  Why do people do things they know are counter productive for the organization as a whole?  Obviously some attention has been given to the subject, but not much.  The Cap Sci discussion should be quite interesting.

Robert Steele:  Coercion does not scale, nor does administrative “law” and top-down “oversight.”  Only transparency, truth, and trust scale.  Where we have gone wrong during the Industrial Era is in reducing the human — whose brain does scale — to a commodity, while striving to micro-manage from the top down.

See Also:

Robert Garigue at Phi Beta Iota

John Robb: Four Sources of Trust, Crypto Not Scaling….

Worth a Look: Liars and Outliers – Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive (Bruce Schneier)


The seven sins of omission and commission are:

1) Looking at the world as things, not relationships. Things can be seen.  Things can be counted. Things can be manipulated. Relationships are invisible. Relationships can rarely be quantified. Relationships can be designed.

2) There are few “secrets” in the world of complex, emergent systems. Today secrets are right in front of us but we do not know how to see, interpretive and intervene. It is not getting behind the “Iron Curtain,” it is to see through the threads of the cultural fabric and understand how the informational/narrative knots are tied and can be untied, if necessary.

3) Kinetic action, leadership decapitation, wars all create vacuums. Nature and human societies do not allow vacuums to exist long without it being filled and fed by potential evil doers and better story tellers. The cultural information processing creating narrative structures and the unique cultural IMAGE acts a living organisms and respond, provide feedback and evolve even under pressure of violence. In Iraq on the night of Shock and
Awe the universal ground truth on people’s tongues was Allah Ackbar “Allah is greater than this.” This statement made our superior force irrelevant to narratives of oppressors and outsiders requiring the ultimate sacrifice
through suicide bombers and IEDs.

4) Simplistic models of intelligence can only control simplicity systems. Complex models of intelligence are required to regulate human systems. The systems Law of Requisite Variety states that the regulatory system must be as complex as that which it regulates. Control of a system is a nice myth, the issues all relate to regulation, governance and navigation.

5) Psychological, individualistic bias channels intelligence through our culture and is dysfunctional in community based identity cultures. Seeing the world through the lens of oversized personalities may make for a great issue of “Psychology Today” but makes for bad policy and even worse intelligence. The behavioral levers used by the PsyOps people may be able to play on people’s fears in how to “break” a person, push the buttons of chaos to bring down governments/people but do not have the tools and minds “For all the Kings horses and all the Kings men to put ………. back together again.” CIA cultural teams know how to deter, disrupt and destroy but do not have the intelligence models and understanding of change to build and empower.

6) Externally imposed change – Power: Classic view of military, economic and political power as effective when the lessons of the post 2000 world is that cultures have been weaponized through effective techniques of terrorism, narcotics sub cultures and over professionalization of financial systems. How does a weaponized culture form? How do you defuse weaponized cultures? How to you empower through information, intelligence and innovation the stabilizing subsystems of a culture? There is a difference between “Power” and ‘Empower.” It is the difference between one way linear concepts of humans and society and the feedback loops of information processing integral to all living systems.

7) Externally imposed change – Values: Classic values based change and intervention assumes a blank tablet or Tabla Raza upon which to write its view of the world. A colonization of the “others” mind is a simplistic view of change where the Law of Unintended Consequences becomes operational through lack of knowledge of the dynamics of the system and the Eco dynamics of our ideas/actions, their ideas/action. Information must be generated by the dialogue between outsider (emic) and inside (etic) observations. The information needed is generally right in front of an observer not tainted by purpose, objective, mission nor good intentions which are one-dimensional and linear. Unintended consequences of good intentions arise when we “kick the can down the road syndrome of Good Intentions.”  “It’s Our Thinking, Stupid”

See Also:

Graphic: Business Intelligence Hits the Wall

Graphic: Information Operations (IO) Cube

Event: 22-24 Aug 2012 Denmark European Intelligence & Security Informatics Conference

My Talk With Tom Atlee: Primer on Citizen Intelligence

Review: Holistic Darwinism: Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Bioeconomics of Evolution

Robert Garigue: Truth & Trust as Security Requirements

Stuart Umpleby: Papers on Reflexivity, Soros Reviews

Who’s Who in Peace Intelligence: Dave Warner


Our generation made progress in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. Our parents generation beat the Great Depression and won a world war. Now I, suggest, we face another, and perhaps greater challenge: The transition from exploitation to stewardship, from the Industrial Market paradigm to something new with more positive outcomes for all. We have to accept that the Industrial Market paradigm of the past several hundred years is fatally flawed by an internal contradiction: a demand for continuous growth, fueled by extraction which, on the other hand, is the principal driver of climate disruption. Climate instability, of course, threatens the viability of the environment we all depend upon, if not the lives of our grandchildren. The failure of the Industrial Market applies fully to any and all political philosophies that have embraced it. Be they communist, socialist, capitalist etc. Whether they be in the East or the West. It is inescapable.


Your comments might be considered a tad harsh, and the good professor will undoubtedly feel you’ve missed the point of “accountability ping-pong,” not understanding that your own point is that there is no accountability of any sort anywhere.  Tetlock’s claim to fame is proving that statistics are more reliable than expert judgment, which assumes statistics — he does not seem to be troubled by the reality that statistics for most matters are either non-existent or so unreliable as to make the experts appealing.