IntelNews / by Timothy W Coleman
Aug 21 2012 ► Aug 11. In the United States, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), “the highest-level intelligence analysis targeted at the key national security issues and concerns of the President”, is increasingly going digital. For that matter, so is much of the output produced by the US Intelligence Community at large. According to AOL Defense News, “The President and his top officials want and will get a single mobile device allowing them to access highly classified and unclassified data wherever they are”. The mobility feature is driven by a desire not to be tethered to a desk or a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).
In addition to the obvious benefits of mobility, the digitized PDB allows for a more in-depth and interactive reading of intelligence matters. In the example of the PDB, as the President reviews the nation’s most sensitive intelligence information on a specialized tablet, he can jump back and forth, click on links to take a deeper dive, see follow-up briefings, review background materials for greater context, view videos, photographs, maps and other visual aids. In fact, the PDB has gone from a static page to an interactive assessment of top intelligence concerns, landing it squarely in a quasi Web 2.0 world for the Intelligence Community.
That is not to say that the President is checking Twitter, Facebook or the Rasmussen Report’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll numbers. Instead, reports indicate the digitized hardware has been scaled way down. For obvious reasons, specific details regarding the hardware’s composition and features remain classified.
The President is not the only one getting in on the action either. The US Department of Defense is also going mobile. Realizing that the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile device technologies is not a trend line that is likely to dip downward anytime soon, the DoD is strongly pu shing for adoption.
DoD Mobile Strategy
A May 2012 report (.pdf) entitled “Department of Defense Mobile Strategy (Unclassified) Version 2.0” (no pun intended, I imagine), put out by the Office of the DoD’s Chief Information Officer, lays out three priority areas including wireless infrastructure, mobile devices, and mobile applications. As the report outlines, its mobility mission is to provide “a highly mobile workforce equipped with secure access to information and computing power anywhere at anytime for greater mission effectiveness”.
Working in association with the Defense Information Systems Agency and in conjunction with the techies at the National Security Agency, the DoD issued an official pre-solicitation request for proposals —Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Stores— on July 31. Ultimately, the idea here is to create an “enterprise-level classified and secure unclassified mobile communications services”.
As the Federal Business Opportunity pre-solicitation from DISA explains, “Mobile Device Management capability should provide the application and user level ‘traffic cop’ to enforce policy for network and end devices [to institute] the policy, security and permissions that define the functions the user is enabled to conduct”. The DoD’s app store will serve as “an online digital electronic software distribution deliver […] update and delete applications on the mobile device without the mobile device user having to return the device for service.”
There are major drivers to make the leap towards a more mobile-centric framework for the dissemination and distribution of intelligence. “Growing internal demand, rapid technological change, and increasing budgetary pressure” are driving increasing rates of mobile adoption explains Alex Rossino, Principal Research Analyst at Deltek, Inc. Perhaps more interesting is the normalcy and growing expectations of adopting mobile technologies. Two weeks ago at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in Washington, DC, Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins, Director of DISA, observed that 70 percent of current DoD personnel were what he referred to as “digital natives”, having only been in middle school or high school at the time of the terrorist attacks in 2001.
The increasingly connected and always-on civilian world, makes the DoD and relevant Intelligence Community members appear increasingly outdated and falling behind the curve as mobile adoption continues to skyrocket. In addition to the normalcy of mobile connectivity experienced by the next generation of DoD personnel and prospective intelligence employees, it is the need for more information and details by critical policy, defense, and intelligence officials that is creating a paradigm shift of sorts.
The Evolution of Intel-on-Demand
No longer will manila folders with a few pieces of paper stamped Top Secret suffice, nor will logging onto to clunky desktop terminals in SCIFs be sufficient. As the information requirements change and decision makers seek more immediate access to critical data points, the creation of a secure, mobile unified communication system is increasingly becoming necessary. While implementing mobile platforms to access, distribute, and disseminate classified information will temporarily quench the evolving demand for near instantaneous intelligence, the security risks are considerable and will prove to be a momentous challenge.
In an exclusive to intelNews, Fred Fleitz, a 20-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and current Managing Editor of the Langley Intelligence Group Network observed that putting classified information on mobile devices could lead to enormous security breaches. “This has been a sensitive issue ever since the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research lost a laptop loaded with top secret intelligence in 2000. Any electronic device containing classified information would be tightly controlled —it won’t be on the President’s iPad. Also, some very sensitive intelligence will be limited to paper copies to control and limit access”.
It will be interesting to watch the ongoing transformation of the US Intelligence Community and the DoD as it continues to transition to embrace mobility and connected devices. The implications and the changes could be incremental, but the tide seems to be shifting. The need to meet the needs of intelligence producers and consumers is winning the day, as intelligence on-demand is forcing the rapid adoption of new technologies
ROBERT STEELE: Jan Herring and George Marling set the stage for real reform in the 1970’s, but the mandarins then, as with the mandarins now, loved money more than mission, and have consistently spurned, demeaned, and even ruined the iconoclasts whose vision and integrity demand that they persist in pursuing the public interest. Today we spend $80 billion a year–over $120 billion a year if you count the foolishness that passes for covert intelligence at SOCOM and DHS–for what General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret) has said is 4%, “at best” of what he needed. As long as the US intelligence community mandarins refuse to allow–if they had integrity they would demand–an Open Source Agency, fully independent–they will be in constant betrayal of the public interest, and largely worthless to the President, the Cabinet, the Assistant Secretaries, the country and desk officers, and the troops in the field.
What passes for “intelligence” today is nothing more than classified information about a very small subset of what matters, and nothing at all about seven of the ten high-level threats to humanity, nothing at all about comparative performance across the twelve core policies that must be harmonized from local to global levels, ansd absolutely nothing at all relevant to making the USA secure and competitive as Brazil, China, Indian, Indonesia and several other demographic powerhouses begin their ascendance.
The idea that the President of the United States–much less anyone else–might get something useful from a hand-held device provided by the US intelligence community is so unrealistic as to call into question the sensibility of anyone suggesting the notion. At the same time, while security is certainly an issue (and the secure communications with Washington DC continue to stink–imagine the global rot), the US intelligence community has known about “at rest” encryption and biometric security for over three decades–I first studied these terms for CIA during my rotation to the Office of Information Technology in 1986.
The plain and simple truth is that there has been no substantive change to the mind-set, the methods, or the persistent lack of accountability. We continue to reward failures with more money, and we continue to ignore the fact that the US intelligence community is not intelligent, and is completely lacking in integrity at every level, from the staffers in the White House to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to the many extra-judicial endeavors that shame America without actually producing anything other than rancid pork–and the hundreds of thousands that drink the kool-aid and go through the motions day after day. As best I can tell from the sidelines, there is no one–no one at all–now serving in the US Government that is serious about establishing intelligence with integrity for Whole of Government and Smart Nation. [In their defense, this has never existed.]
I, and a handful of others whose names are engraved in my memory, could have the US intelligence community turned around and on the right track within 180 days–and probably within 90 days if we had the authority to ignore all the idiocy that prevents the use of individual global experts and on location observers on demand. What we have today for intelligence is monstrously expensive and humiliatingly irrelevant to any decisions of substance. Political note: I learned this the hard way from Senator John Warner (R-VA) in 1992: each and every Senator has to understand that intelligence reform can be job and revenue neutral from district to district, state to state. It makes our work harder, but it can be done, especially if we can merge education, intelligence, and research at the same time, and churn the base to move three fifths of the secret money and secret bodies over to radically innovative endeavors in education and research–I have a vision of turning every redirected intelligence professional into an entrepreneur within the Smart Nation grid.
Blackberry encryption is adequate for the 20% of the questions that may require near-real-time classified answers, and anyone who thinks they need to deliver a web page to hand-held is immediately eligible for retirement–what we SHOULD have is an intelligence operations call center, perhaps co-located with the Open Source Agency on the South-Central Campus, that can receive questions, answer them verbally on the spot using both global reach to all open sources and methods, and direct access to the 80 databases that have still not been effectively integrated.
By the time anyone in a position to be angry and punitive about this (which is to say, no one on the Hill, they thrive on the money flow, not mission accomplishment), everyone who has betrayed the public trust will be long retired–and not just retired from their first job, but also from their annuitant or industry job. US intelligence is a racket that shames us all. What makes me personally very sad is that the ineptitude of US intelligence is vastly overshadowed by the corruption of the policy, acquisition, and operations processes that are ideologically and financially driven, and have virtually nothing to do with the public interest. Intelligence does not matter today–Paul Pillar has that exactly right.
Our task–those of us that persist in believing that intelligence is a profession of high honor and great challenge–is to change that. Intelligence is about decision-support–outcomes. It is not about inputs and pork processing. That is corruption incarnate. Until we have a DNI whose is incapable of dissembling and who appreciates the urgency of ending our practice of doing the wrong things righter for profit, and instead focus on doing the right things, at very low cost, for Whole of Government, and Smart Nation, we will continue to be a failed state.
Robert David STEELE Vivas