UPDATED 2 November 2012 to add 450-ship Navy and other military implications of intelligence with integrity
Post-9/11 reform still results in erroneous threat assessments
The 9/11 Commission concluded in its final report in 2004 that the U.S. intelligence community (IC) organization, as it was structured then, had contributed to a failure to develop a management strategy to counter Islamic terrorism. The report concluded that the traditional existing IC agencies’ stovepipes had to be eliminated and a position should be established for an administrator who would have powerful oversight authority. To accomplish this urgent task, one of the commission’s principal recommendations was establishment of the position of director of national intelligence (DNI), which would be separate from the director of the CIA. There were many arguments against establishing the position of DNI. Some asserted that had it existed before the Sept. 11 attacks, it would not have prevented them. That remains an open question. It should be recalled that the 9/11 Commission staff discovered just before its final report went to the printers in July 2004 a six-page National Security Agency (NSA) analysis summarizing what the intelligence community had learned about Iran’s direct involvement in the attack. Was this information collected before or after the attacks? As of now, we don’t know because there has been no follow-up investigation by any congressional committee or the newly established DNI.
This issue is similar to one of an NSA intercept of the Iranian ambassador in Damascus reporting back to the foreign ministry in Tehran on instructions he had given terrorist groups in Beirut to concentrate their attacks on the Multi-National Force but undertake a “spectacular action” against the U.S. Marines. This intercept was issued by the NSA in a highly classified message on Sept. 27, 1983, almost four weeks before the Marine barracks bombing. I was the deputy chief of naval operations then and did not get to see this critical message until two days after the bombing. Most key decision-makers have never seen this message.
Would a DNI have ensured that such a critical message was brought to the attention of key decision-makers? That also remains an open question. The bottom line is that personnel performance at all levels must recognize the critical nature of key intelligence and not worry about who gets the credit.
Interviews of former 9/11 Commission members showed they thought the structure of the DNI’s support should remain small, but it has evolved into essentially a new intelligence agency. It has expanded rapidly, with many large offices and a staff of at least 1,600 (as of 2010), plus untold numbers of contract personnel.
The question has to be asked: Has the establishment of the DNI improved the performance of the intelligence community? Aside from Islamic terrorist attacks such as the massacre at Fort Hood, the nation has been kept safe from Sept. 11-like attacks since the establishment of the DNI. However, it is believed that the difference can be attributed to the added investment in IC resources rather than to more centralized or cogent management of the community by the DNI.
The DNI organization has evolved into an oversight bureaucracy for much broader intelligence activities, in which it has not been entirely effective. For example, the DNI wrongly claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization in spite of the fact that its creed is to topple the U.S. government and replace our Constitution with Shariah law. There was a failure to predict and keep pace with the “Arab Spring” uprisings and their rapid evolution. During the Libyan uprising, the DNI specifically stated that he thought Moammar Gadhafi would prevail. We all know how that came out.
There also have been wrong assessments on key stages in the development of Iran’s nuclear weapon program. On Feb. 16, the DNI released a questionable gap-laden threat assessment to the Senate Armed Services Committee. It failed even to mention the terrorist group Hezbollah or any of Iran’s asymmetric “acts of war” against the United States for more than 30 years, led by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
These obviously wrong assessments raise questions about the validity of other DNI assessments in critical areas that affect not only the United States but our allies. The DNI and the IC are facing a number of major intelligence challenges involving the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea, and also China’s aggressive military expansion program. Immediate concerns involve China’s clear assistance to North Korea’s nuclear weapon program, which highlight the folly of the Six Party talks, which should be terminated immediately. China’s assistance to Iran’s nuclear weapon program – either directly or through third parties – needs to be uncovered.
The American public needs to have confidence in the DNI’s and intelligence community’s capability of providing accurate intelligence that is not politicized.
At the end of the day, having a DNI does not guarantee that there will be no more Sept. 11s.
Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.
ROBERT STEELE UPDATE of 31 October 2012. Regardless of who “wins” the 2012 presidential election, the USA will remain in political and financial fraud gridlock until such time as a coalition comes together that is able to implement two enabling reforms: the Electoral Reform Act to restore integrity to the entire electoral and governance process, and the Automated Payment Transaction Tax as recently written about in Forbes by Peter J. Reilly, “Balanced Budget And Comprehensive Tax Reform Made Simple ? The Automated Payment Transaction Tax” (28 October 2012) — this clears the debt and deficit and eliminates the corruption inherent in a complex tax code that extorts money from those who wish to be exempted, including defense contractors completely lacking in integrity. In the meantime, I personally continue to think and write about the need for the Open Source Agency, a new role for Inspectors General, and the need to integrate education, intelligence, and research under one Secretary-General, drawing down on the secret budget to fund the reinvention of education and the integration of research & development. My most important works on bringing intelligence into the 21st Century are now grouped online as Core References 2007-2013. In my view, public “administration” has failed and a new form of public governance is required, one that embraces all eight information tribes (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) with new rules, hybrid forms, and one constant (the public) to create a Smart Nation in the context of a Virginia-based World Brain and Global Game.
ROBERT STEELE: The Admiral has a hidden agenda and is completely wrong on China as well as Iran, among other things, but he also has a point. The DNI’s to date — Negoponte, McConnell, Clapper — have all been failures, not because they lack integrity as individuals, but because the system they sought to oversee lacks integrity at every level across every function. A journalist in Australia said it well several years ago: giving a dysfunctional secret world more money is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
The three DNI’s to date have not had the vision, the grasp of the whole, nor the intestinal fortitude to shed blood and clean house across the dysfunctional agencies (while NOT building another incoherent layer of incompetence). The same goes for the various place-holders that have been given “clerkships” in charge of service and agency intelligence budgets — they move money and contribute nothing to how we devise policy, structure the force, plan and conduct whole of government operations, or care for our people on the front lines–they are also burdened with a geriatric civil service on one end and children at the other end, with no middle — no bench. Having said that, it must also be said that Paul Pillar has it exactly right–if the political and policy and budget processes are corrupt to the bone, then the only honorable course for a DNI is to muster the best possible intelligence available, resign, and present to the public a case for impeaching the President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader.
Over a decade ago I outlined, in my first book, ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, 2000), precisely what the President needed to do. [In passing, my first two books had Forewords from the past and then serving Chairs of the SSCI precisely because they agreed with my concerns.] No President [or Secretary of Defense] since then has had the combination of intelligence and integrity necessary to get it right. Over the course of the past many years, building on my 30 years of service as a military officer and clandestine operations officer and second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, I have published other concise, clear, specific prescriptions for unscrewing the White House, Whole of Government, and Intelligence. I remain an outcast and a heretic precisely because both the political-policy system and the intelligence management system lack integrity. If they had integrity, we would eliminate the position of the DNI or change it to that of Secretary General for Education, Intelligence, & Research; retire all the clowns promoted two grades/ranks over their merit, and implement just a few of my suggestions, beginning with the Virginia-based Open Source Agency as the baseline agency, under diplomatic auspices. Below I provide a handful of references, and end with seven specific things I would do if I were named DNI tomorrow, with a mandate from a President with intelligence and integrity, to do myself out of a job while creating a Smart Nation. This is not rocket science. It merely requires both intelligence and integrity at the highest levels of both the political and the intelligence spheres.
01 Create Virginia-based Open Source Agency under diplomatic auspices
02 Close down the NRO, NSA, CIA, and DIA*
03 Reconstitute NSA as the National Processing Agency
04 Reconstitute CIA as the Technical Collection Agency
05 Reconstitute DIA as the National Analysis Agency
06 Create the Global Clandestine & Counterintelligence Agency (Unilateral/Multilateral)
Military Implications [added 2 Nov 2012]:
01 Build a 450-Ship Navy with Marines Deliverable in 24 (Plt/Cobra), 48 (Co/Harriers), 72 (BLT(-)/Organic Air)
02 Build a long-haul Air Force that can deliver the Army and do a Berlin Airlift simultaneously, transfer CAS to Army
03 Create an air-deliverable Army capable of M4IS2 throughout the PPBS/E process.
04 Creates 25 Expediter DD Air-Capable and 75 Patrol Craft/Brown Water Ops with fire/air/assualt variants shared by Coast Guard and Navy
05 Create the M4IS2 Decision-Support Centre envisioned by Capt Scott Philpott, USN (Ret)
06 Re focus Pentagon Budget on the 4% of the force that takes 80% of the casualties
07 Implement Frog 6 Guidance that employs every single amputee and ends all veteran sucides
* Assumes an intelligent honest President who would have the Vice President serve as the manager of the commonwealth, while another Secretary-General for Global Engagement integrates Commerce, Defense, and State budgets into a holistic full spectrum capability. Title 10 desperately needs to be redone in order to assure honest holistic threat estimates, honest holistic strategy and force structure planning, and honest evidence-based acquisition and operations. We’ve come to the end of the line — fraud does not scale beyond today. It’s time to restore the intelligence and integrity of the Republic.