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SEPTEMBER 7, 2011
It's no longer about ‘need to know.' Our guiding principle is ‘responsibility to share.'
By James R. Clapper
It has been a decade since our nation suffered the greatest strategic surprise on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the aftermath of September 11, as the country sought to understand how such a complex attack could go undetected, much attention was focused on the intelligence community. Pundits, scholars, commentators and others quickly labeled 9/11 an intelligence failure.
Phi Beta Iota: General Clapper means well, but his Op Ed is utterly disingenous and completely out of touch with reality. Below the line is a safety copy of his Op Ed with inserted commentary.
Some suggested that on 9/11 the intelligence community was still operating in a Cold War mindset with too much of its attention and resources focused on threats from nation-states. Others argued that intelligence agencies were resistant to change and unwilling to work together. The belief that intelligence agencies failed to link critical fragments of information that could have revealed al Qaeda's plot, and prevented the attacks, began to take hold.
Robert Steele: CIA refused to share with FBI, FBI blew off two walk-ins (one in Newark, one in Orlando) and refused to authorize field probing of a captured laptop; Army destroyed ABLE DANGER prior leads rather than share them with the FBI; Dick Cheney leveraged warnings from nine nations three months prior to 9/11 to stage a national counter-terrorism exercise that allowed him to cripple normal military responses; etc. etc. It was not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of integrity at all levels across all agencies of government.
The criticisms hit the intelligence community hard. Piecing together shards of information to gain a better understanding of our adversaries' capabilities and intentions is a mission-critical function of the intelligence community, and a core competency of intelligence professionals.
Robert Steele: True. And still not done today, not even for the over-rated “national security” and “homeland defense.” A mature national intelligence community should provide decision-support to all elements of government while also contributing to the creation of a Smart Nation. At $80-90 billion a year, still contributing “at best” 4% of what a major commander needs to know, the tenure of General Clapper and his understudy Michael Vickers (Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence) must be labeled abject failures.
Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else, as published in CounterPunch, Weekend Edition, February 27 – 1 March 2009
No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence by Dr. Hamilton Bean, Foreword by Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), reviews by Robert Steele and Retired Reader (Richard Wright)
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the community had recognized that reorganization, integration of intelligence activities, and a shift in intelligence culture was necessary to adapt to evolving threats. But progress on these initiatives came slowly—too slowly to impact the events of 9/11.
Robert Steele: In fact, George Tenet, as Director of Central Intelligence, refused to implement any of the recommendations of the Aspin-Brown Commission, one reason Senator David Boren (D-OK) agreed to write the Foreword to ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000), a book ten years in the writing, against the most fierce possible opposition from all elements of the secret world. Three Directors of National Intelligence, including the most promising, the first one, failed to get a grip on the various fiefdoms largely because no President has been serious about wanting decent intelligence (decision-support). From Cheney to Obama, the White House substitutes ideology for intelligence, and civility for integrity.
The intelligence community got the message.
Robert Steele: This is specious vacuous nonsense. Still today the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has over 80 databases that analysts must access, it takes close to three days for passwords to be changed when one is forgotten (with 80 different places where one must go, one for each database), and on and on. As so clearly documented in a recent book, the US Intelligence Community — and the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense in particular, are dysfunctional. Furthermore, the secret world continues to produce less than 4% of what Whole of Government needs.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by Dana Priest and William M. Arki with reviews by Lloyd Eskildson, Robert Steele and others.
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainabilty by Robert Steele (EIN, 2010)
Ten years later, we have made great strides in addressing the shortfalls that plagued us that tragic day. We now collaborate on intelligence collection and analysis in ways that were unheard of 10 years ago. We've made significant progress in reducing the cultural, information technology and policy barriers to sharing information among agencies, and we continue to explore new strategies for integrating our intelligence efforts.
Robert Steele: In relation to a zero-base start, anything can be labeled “great strides.” This is the equivalent of CIA claiming it doubled its Chinese-speaking analysts (CIA has low standards), when it went from 4 to 8. While progress has been made, on a scale of 1 to 100, the secret world is nowhere past 30 within its own walls, and closer to 5 in relation to the 90 nations that practice Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), and the private sector.
We no longer operate largely on the principle of compartmentalization, that is, sharing information based on “need to know.” We now start from the imperative of “responsibility to share,” in order to collaborate with and better support our intelligence consumers—from the White House to the foxhole.
Robert Steele: This is simply not true. See Top Secret America. Support to the foxhole is non-existent as billions are thrown at technical collection with no regard for processing or human analytics. For a fuller appreciation of the reality that General Clapper is ignoring, see Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most).
The operation against Osama bin Laden on May 1 was enabled by the focused, coordinated efforts of multiple elements of the intelligence community. And as remarkable as that mission was, it was just the most visible example of numerous successes achieved through a renewed emphasis on the thorough integration of intelligence.
Robert Steele: An honest success would have been ten guys with silencers launched from the CIA observation post with line of sight access to the claimed safehouse, and production of the body for independent examination. Most of us believe that Bin Laden died in 2001-2002, and that CIA created a staged tableau for JSOG, and then assured the destruction of the patsy body (as with Oswald as a patsy for JFK's assassination). The entire story lacks credibility among those who study these matters in depth.
Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive? by David Ray Griffin (Olive Branch Press, 2009)
The operation against Osama bin Laden on May 1 was an example of successes achieved through a renewed emphasis on the integration of intelligence.
Robert Steele: It was actually an example of a massive failure of imagination as well as integrity. To fly sensitive equipment and a large team from another country when a CIA safehouse with line of sight to the target was easily reached on the ground and legally, and then to lose sensitive equipment to Chinese while destroying what little was left of US-Pakistani relations, all for short-term political gain, is highly questionable. The matter of whether CIA lied to JSOG and played them for fools remains to be investigated. In passing, the photo used by the Wall Street Journal is now known to have been posed–that more or less epitomizes the posturing in this Op-Ed and the state of the US secret intelligence community generally.
Today's intelligence community is innovative and capable of evolving to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex security environment. We study a range of state and nonstate threats—to our own security and interests around the globe, as well as those of our friends and allies. In the realms of counterterrorism and counterintelligence, the demands are great and the stakes are high. Every day, intelligence professionals are aggressively monitoring, preventing and disrupting potential acts of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and cyberwarfare.
Robert Steele: We have no doubt that General Clapper believes this, but he is wrong. The innovation is lipstick on the pig, NSA still cannot process more than 1% of its total take, there is no processing for all of the collection from the drones such as Gorgon Stare (50 channels of digital trash), and the US secret world refuses to grow up and actually provide decision-support for Whole of Government. See M4IS2 above.
Regional issues pose challenges that no single agency can address without collaboration. Consequently, we work as an integrated community to address issues such as how best to understand and respond to opportunities presented by the Arab Spring, how to constructively engage unstable and unpredictable regimes, and how to deal with poverty, poor governance and instability in Africa and South Asia.
Robert Steele: Given the continued refusal of the US secret intelligence community to be serious about Open Source Intelligence or Multinational Information-Sharing, this is a well-intentioned misrepresentation of the facts. Collection is out of control, integrated processing and machine-aided translation and visualizationi do not exist at a common level, and the children that do analysis for CIA as well as the retired retreads that occupy positions across the secret world are totally out of touch with the desk officers and action officers of the rest of government, and with the eight tribes of intelligence (Academia, Civil Society, Commerce, Government (state & local, international non-secret), Law Enforcement, Military (tactical and acquisition), Media, and Non-Governmental). Within communities such as Academic, to use one example, the secret world talks to perhaps 14 of the 1,400 professors actively teaching about the Middle East–the ones with clearances who are also generally white, elderly, US citizens, with limited language and recency of on-the-ground experience–and certainly few if any of those from France, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other locations much more open to the truth as an output instead of secret sources and methods as an input.
So whether confronting al Qaeda affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula or supporting law enforcement efforts against transnational criminal organizations on our southwest border, our intelligence agencies now integrate, coordinate, and aggregate information and capabilities more thoroughly than ever before.
Robert Steele: True against a base of zero, not true in relation to Presidential expectations and real possibilities. The integrated CIA/JSOG bases are in our view a crime against humanity, and all those in the chain of command responsible for the assassination of foreign nationals and the occasional American should be facing an International Tribunal or at least a proper domestic Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Outside of the false war on terrorism (which is a traffic accident, nothing more), the US secret intelligence community is utterly worthless at helping Whole of Government harmonize policies to create a prosperous world at peace (not that the policy makers want that, but intelligence with integrity helps the public force policy makers to attend to the public interest).
We can't know with absolute certainty if any of these changes would have led to a different outcome on 9/11, but the tangible benefits of vertical and horizontal integration are indisputable. Today we are unquestionably better positioned to provide the kind of full-scope information that leaders need to make informed decisions about how to protect our nation.
Robert Steele: This is utterly misleading. “Full scope” with integrity would have prevented the five trillion dollar costs of elective wars justified by Dick Cheney on the basis of 935 now-documented lies. Commercial intelligence can do better, at a fraction of the cost and with none of the political bias or risk, what the US secret world now refuses to do: provide decision support to all of the Cabinet secretaries, all of the agencies of government, and to Congress and the public that can and should keep Congress honest but fails to do so for lack of public intelligence.
The current state of the al Qaeda organization is a striking example of the benefit of intelligence reform and integration. We have vigorously attacked the group's leadership, striving to keep it off balance and cut off from resources. We deny it any sense of security and undermine its ability to plan, train and recruit, and we will continue to apply pressure at every turn until the terrorist organization is incapacitated.
Robert Steele: Any Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who is incapable of confronting the reality that each Taliban body has cost the US taxpayer $50 million per body, and that the failure of intelligence as a taxpayer-funded public good has led to the waste of $5 trillion in borrowed treasure, is unfit for the job. This is the equivalent of claiming to be a skilled driver while sitting in a car with no engine, no wheels, and completely off the road. Terrorism is both a tactic, and a tactic inspired by US invasions, for the wrong reasons, of Muslim lands. It takes integrity, not just intelligence, to be a great DNI.
Yet despite significant progress, challenges still remain. Not all of our systems and networks are fully integrated. Differing organizational practices complicate joint efforts, and some bureaucratic impediments remain among the intelligence community's 16 members.
Robert Steele: We are intellectually and ethical comatose, with a sucking chest wound bleeding tens of billions. More money will not fix the problem. Lacking today is leadership with a vision, a spine, and the Presidential authority needed to cut the secret world back from $80 billion to $20 billion, at the same time that Defense is cut back to $300 billion from $900 billion, and $200 billion in savings are redirected to diplomatic, commercial, and job retraining endeavors (full salary for one year for every unemployed person, contingent on their attending world-class information era training & education programs).
Moreover, in an era of greater fiscal austerity and limited investment in new programs, we in the intelligence community understand that we must find efficiencies, eliminate duplicative efforts, and focus on the nation's core needs. The hard fact is that we must accomplish these objectives under the constant threat of another terrorist attack. It is a reality that highlights the need for congressional leaders to continue to take great care when considering cuts to national security programs.
Robert Steele: With all due respect for a man who has served as best he could for over 30 years, General Clapper is completely out of touch with the needs of the Administration, Congress, and the Republic. He literally cannot compute new sources and methods, new concepts and doctrine, new clients, customers, and citizen needs. $80 billion is at least 70% waste. The collection intelligence of those who have kept both their integrity and open minds as to the possibilities assures any President willing to listen that $2-3 billion a year for an Open Source Agency under diplomatic auspices will in turn make possible the decisive, deliberative, and desperately needed cuts to intelligence, defense, homeland security, agriculture, interior, energy, and health, where 50 cents of every taxpayer dollar is known to be waste, fraud, or abuse. It is time to clean the stables.
The intelligence community exists to provide political and military leaders with the greatest possible decision advantage. We understand, now more than ever, that the best way to accomplish our goal is thorough integration of all national intelligence capabilities. And with the continued support of Congress, we will remain steadfastly focused on our mission. We owe that much to our president, to the American people, and to the family members and victims of 9/11.
Robert Steele: True, but the author has no idea how to actually accomplish these laudable goals.
Mr. Clapper is the director of National Intelligence.
Robert Steele: The September hearings planned by Congress could perhaps spark a realization that we have the wrong leaders, the wrong concepts, the wrong programs, and the wrong objectives. Instead of trying to do the wrong thing righter–something that General Clapper and Mr. Vickers excel at–we should be doing the right thing. If Congress wants to survive 2012, now is the time for Congress to reconnect to its own–and demand from the Executive– intelligence with integrity.