Sunday, January 16, 2005

Not so intelligent? 

Hindrocket at Powerline is not impressed with the recently released National Intelligence Council's report on the "2020 Project":
"Is this really the best our intelligence agencies can do? So far, I've seen nothing that couldn't have been written by any reasonably well-informed person."
The problem is that, thanks to both its internal culture as well as popular culture, the world of intelligence has been overly mystified, because it is supposed to be... well... secret. In reality, overwhelming majority of information received and digested by the intelligence services comes from open, publicly available and non-classified sources. Which is why if it seems that a given report could have been written by any reasonably well-informed person, it's because it could have been written by any reasonably well-informed person. One with a lot of time on their hands, to add a small caveat. Because virtually all the information is "out there" for anyone to see, what we should really expect from the intelligence services is skillful synthesis and analysis; joining the dots, telling us what all of it really means. Again, none of it is strictly speaking intelligence work and it almost makes you think that the "2020 Project" and other similar initiatives could be outsourced to think-tanks.

There is still, of course, the matter of the small amount of classified information that does - or at least should - go into such assessments. However, as a Marine intelligence officer and Powerline reader indicates, even here there are problems:
"These big unclassified 'way aheads' written by the intel community are invariably bureaucratic, unimaginative and pointless. They are a waste of manpower to write and a waste of time to read. Unfortunately, the classified stuff the policy makers get is pretty much the same. Two reasons: 1) everyone is afraid to make an 'assessment' (prediction) that will turn out wrong. This attitude is puzzling because... no one ever gets fired! And 2) Classified raw data is so bad. Human intelligence is laughable."
This - the overarching problem of intelligence gathering and analysis, and not how many different bodies should be swapping information with each other - should be the subject of the true "intelligence reform."


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?