Review: The Future of American Intelligence

2 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)

Future IntelVery Poor–Old, Tired, Out of Touch,

February 18, 2007

Peter Berkowitz

Although I respect Retired Reader very much, and have found his reviews to be very accurate, I take a special interest in the intelligence discipline and the price was right for simply taking a look directly even knowing more or less what I was buying into.

This is a very sad little book. It is the last gasp of the old dogs and the new neo-con puppies trying desperately for relevance in a world that has passed them by. The only two guys in this book that actually know what they are talking about are Reuel Marc Gerecht, former case officer, whose chapter could have been done in two lines:

1) Cut intelligence budget by three quarters, “giving money to CIA is like giving crack to a cocaine addict;” and

2) End official cover and go to a very small cadre of truly extraordinary non-official cover officers.

and Kevin O'Connell, who has the most coherent topic overview.

I will take each of these five shallow and largely out of touch (which is to say, witless about the much larger literature outside the neo-con self-licking self-absorption cone).

The Era of Armed Groups by Richard Shultz. I have to say first that Shultz is a phenomenally good academic, and his edited work “Security Studies for the 21st Century” remains a standard for the field. His chapter in this volume is 20 years too late. I will mention only one seminal work: General Al Gray, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, “Global Intelligence Challenges of the 1990's” as published in the American Intelligence Journal, Winter 1988-1989. General Gray and I (as the senior civilian founder of the Marine Corps Intelligence Command in 1988) championed this for four years inside the US Intelligence Community, from 1988-1992, and from the National and Military Intelligence Boards down, *no one wanted to hear it.*

Truth to Power? Rethinking Intelligence Analysis by Gary Schmidt. This has a core idea that is correct, that further centralizing both intelligence and homeland security is the *last* thing we should be doing, but it is completely lacking in any understanding of the 18 functionalities needed for desktop analysis such as conceptualized by Diane Webb in 1986, it does not understand the NIMA Commission Report of 1999 on the paucity of funding for integrated and distributed sense-making and broad sharing, and it completely misses the true breadth of multinational, multiagency, multidisciplinary, multidomain information sharing and shared analytic endeavors.

Restructuring the Intelligence Community by Gordon Lederman. This is an especially pathetic piece of work by the young man that was purportedly responsible for Open Source Intelligence reflections on the 9-11 Commission, where Lee Hamilton understood the issue from the Burundi Exercise when OSS.Net beat the entire US Intelligence Community overnight on the topic of Burundi, with just six phone calls. This young man is regurgitating portions of the 9-11 Commission report while neglecting the extraordinary failures of that Commission across a number of fronts. This particular chapter is the last gasp on top of the last Commission from the era of the walking dead.

A New Clandestine Service by Rauel Marc Gerecht. Gerecht could still be saved, he just needs new company. He packs the two ideas mentioned above into 35 pages. There is no mention of the five-part plan for saving the Clandestine Service by limiting new hires to one-fifth, and spreading the other four fifths to mid-career US citizen hires who have already created their cover and regional access (and are 4-level language qualified before being considered); mid-career third country principal agents; mid-career rotationals from other countries for regional Stations focused on targets of mutual concern; and straight one-time “it's just business” approaches to businessmen for specific tactical technical or other accommodations.

The Role of Science and Technology in Transforming American Intelligence by Kevin O'Connell is not bad as a superficial overview, and with more detail, more charts, and better documentation, could actually become useful. He was the staff director for the NIMA Commission, and while he is astonishingly superficial here (“data mining” are the only two words in his chapter covering what can be better understood by looking at the charts I have posted on Amazon for the book, “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything,”), he does address some challenges. His most important idea, which I credit to Jim Clapper and Mike Hayden, is that of Horizontal Integration–I did not see any mention of the equally important point made by Mike Hayden to the Intelink Conference in Boston a couple of years ago, which is that all dots must start connecting to one another from the moment they are ingested, not just in the finished production phrase. In general, however, he completely misses the reality that the US Intelligence Community is inside out and upside down (see the Forbes article on “Reinventing Intelligence”) and the next President will be well served by reducing secret intelligence to $15 billion a year, while re-directing the rest of the money to Digital Natives, Serious Games, and the Way of the Wiki (the title of my next book on intelligence).

Bottom line: This book is not worth buying unless you want to understand just how impoverished the extreme right and the neocons are with respect to the most important topic of our time, NATIONAL intelligence. You would be much better off using my lists at Amazon, and systematically reading my summative reviews of the thoughts of vastly more competent authors with vastly more diverse and nuanced views. This book is NOT about the future of American intelligence, which will be NOT Federal, NOT Secret, and NOT expensive. This book is the dying breath–an accurate representation–of the good-hearted but myopic bureaucrats that got us to today because they could not think for themselves, and were stuck in the military-industrial system, running on auto-pilot with no end in sight.

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