Thursday, October 14, 2004

Australia's own intelligence failure 

I don't usually just link to opinion pieces and leave it at that, but Greg Sheridan in the "Australian", as always, says it better:

"It's now clear that there does need to be an inquiry, preferably a full judicial inquiry, into the shocking failure of Australia's best-funded intelligence agency. This agency is much better funded than our other agencies, and unlike them has hundreds of well-paid analysts and good career structures.

"However, it's clear that it has produced the greatest intelligence failure in our history. With some notable exceptions it has suffered from group-think and a lack of contestability of views. It has failed to challenge orthodox assumptions or test them empirically.

"Although it has many clandestine sources, it is particularly weak on empirical research and field agents. The agency does do a lot of 'humint' (human intelligence) but its sources are too narrow for reliable analysis. Moreover, the recent intelligence failure involved a nation which presents no language difficulties, and is an easy operating environment.

"I am referring, of course, to the Canberra press gallery and its performance predicting, analysing and understanding the federal election. With honourable exceptions, how on earth did they come to the judgment that Mark Latham won the campaign? What was that about Iraq as a sleeper issue? Come again about Medicare Gold being bold and popular?

"These folks should never again have the gall to criticise the Office of National Assessments or the Defence Intelligence Organisation for having a little difficulty penetrating the innermost secrets of totalitarian Arab regimes, when they have trouble penetrating the innermost secrets of the Australian electorate."
As Glenn Reynolds would say, "ouch!" Mark Latham, though, did turn up to be a Weapon of Mass Destruction, at least for his own side of politics.


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