In the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East Paul Pillar reaches into his bottomless bag of excuses for why the IC – in particular the CIA – is blameless for 9/11 and pretty much everything else:
I promised Zen a more thorough response, so here goes . . .
Our inability to recruit people with the right skills and employ our HUMINT capabilities in a particular manner has been addressed before – with more colorful language – here and other places. The point is clear: to kill fleas you have to lay down with dogs.
If you toil in Bolling you are familiar with the halls/walls/offices built out of file cabinets. Cabinets that few have ever seen opened in years, if at all. So it is with both caution and dread that I point out how an organization really interested in building a physical environment where people can concentrate and think (and yes, collaborate) puts their money where their rhetoric is.
As the Kent’s Krew points out:
We think there are lessons in these designs which can be distilled for the new IC. We are certain that given the option, many of the best and brightest would vote with their feet in favour of such environments – should they ever become available in an enlightened organization.
Let the panic begin.
The FBI would like to build a giant biometrics database.
The Director of National Intelligence is about to argue that the intelligence community should gain access to all Internet traffic transiting the US.
These and other grabs for data are decried by privacy advocates and those who fear the rise of a police state in the US. This isn’t an unreasonable concern but it is largely unwarranted, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.
From the Enterprise Resilience Management Blog:
ho believes he knows of information relating to these proposed
patents will be able to post this online and solicit comments from
others. But this will suddenly make available reams of information,
which could be from suspect sources, and so the program includes a
‘reputation system’ for ranking the material and evaluating the
expertise of those submitting it.
“reputation system” – how the wiki-fied, blogosphered IC can sort the wheat from the chaff and cast off the last vestiges of the old way of doing things.
Now, to find out the status of that reform book draft . . .
Beltway Bandits offering up expensive and cumbersome gaming solutions to Uncle Sam: look out!
I was sitting at a picnic table Thursday afternoon talking with a revolutionary who last year bombed an American Apparel store.
I didn’t think she was all that dangerous. As far as I could tell, she was just a big-time radical in the Second Life virtual world.
My Second Life alter ego, Caro Zohari (an avatar who has much
nicer hair than I do), was interviewing a spokeswoman for the Second
Life Liberation Army (SLLA), an “avatar rights” group that has sprung
up in the Linden Lab-created virtual world with the objective of
fomenting a “democratic revolution” to oppose Linden’s supposedly
Couple of things strike me:
- Assuming SL doesn’t but the kibosh on madness like this, it would be an interesting way to test out a variety of pol-mil-legal responses to terrorist, insurgent, or radical activist activity; not just the sticks but the carrots too. A live political and military science lab if you will.
- People who are going to dismiss this as just game play are ignoring the potential to radicalize otherwise “normal” people via this medium. There are some people who can’t separate fantasy from reality and the consequences can be grave.
- Do the normal rules of HUMINT and SIGINT apply in SL? Do we assume everyone in SL is a “US Person” or do we take advantage of the fact that no one online knows you’re a dog and maximize the medium for both the actual take and the lessons learned?
If Linden let’s the activity continue, I could see the need for a weapons toolkit that allows for real-world flexibility but does not impact the underlying system; you want targets to suffer losses for the sake of realism, you don’t want rouge external malcode shutting down the system. Maybe its artificial (ahem) but you want to keep the experiment going as long as possible I would think.
Maybe this is where you get some preliminary answers to questions about the effectiveness of generational warfare.
Intelligence analysis “must be objective and independent of political considerations,” …
“The IC will seldom have the requisite depth and breadth of
expertise to provide all of the insights and detailed answers demanded
by our customers. To satisfy their needs, the IC must tap outside
expertise and build and expand relationships with non-intelligence
government agencies, academic, business, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), and think tank communities, both domestically and
internationally, while addressing the counterintelligence and security
obligations that are inherent to such initiatives.”
Developments like Intellipedia are a single step on the path to reform in these areas, but it is still insiders talking to insiders. Anyone who has tracked these issues for longer than a day knows how well that can turn out. A really bold and significant step? Open up the (U)-version to the public through the Open Source Center (and the OSC itself for that matter). You want deep and broad expertise, diverse opinions, and 24/7 production? I don’t care how many universities and think tanks you line up and cloister behind a firewall, it isn’t going to match the output of a global Army of Analysts.
Charlie Allen on following the conventional wisdom:
“Don’t listen too much to what others are telling you,” Mr. Allen said. “Constantly re-examine your assumptions.”
There was a time not that long ago when he backed the ideas of a few obscure folks who thought there was intel gold in what others said was a mountain of garbage: He/We were right and they were wrong, again.
If would also like to say that if anyone is going to make DHS intel work – and it has been broken from the get-go – it’ll be Charlie, but then I thought that about Gen Hughes too, and it’s not like the latter was some kind of slouch.
At a time when most of his peers are pretending they can still golf or contemplating the fine print in their long-term care plans, he’s still slugging it out for 15-hours a day. He could have sold out long ago and lived off the fat of his Rolodex, but there is a different beat playing on his mental iPod.
I still think a purge is in order, but if you had to make exceptions . . .