The need for actionable intelligence

The Weekly Standard has an outstanding article called "Intelligence Dominance" by  Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Roy Godson. If you thought Valerie Plame is not the model for a CIA that can win the war on terror, Shultz and Godson make a strong case for a better way. They have done their homework,  by talking to successful counterinsurgency pros around the world — in Israel,  Latin America, Northern Ireland and Iraq.  The problem, simplly, is the dearth of actionable inteligence: Knowledge about the enemy that allows us to do something effective in time to avoid catastrophe.

When we're spending $40 billion a year on intelligence and committing 150,000 men to the Iraqi front, why can't we create the actionable intelligence required to roll up the insurgents? .... we listened intently as these former practitioners discussed what to our surprise turned out to be a common set of measures——intelligence dominance was the summary term we came up with to describe the model——they had used to overcome bloody threats posed by armed groups. They convinced us that this is the wheel the United States must now reinvent if it is to win in Iraq and on other murky fronts of the war on terror.

An anecdote from an British intelligence pro sums up the kind of street—cop detail required, in this case tracking down a meeting of several IRA subcommanders in 1980s Belfast:

One of the boys in my unit had gotten pretty close to a local grocery store owner. He would see the owner two, three times a week. At one of those get—togethers the store owner happened to mention that a Mrs. McCoy had come in several times over the last week with grocery lists many times larger than the size of her normal purchases. 'You'd think she was planning to feed a small army,' the grocery man said. We put her house under surveillance, tapped the phones, all the normal stuff. Turns out it was the IRA safe house we were looking for.

Our biggest national security failures are in intelligence.  We have the best armed forces in the world, the best technology, and an inspiring wellspring of young people willing to risk their lives for us. But we also have a fat, dumb and happy intelligence bureaucracy that cannot even admit that there are systemic failures.  Naturally, Shulz and Godson point out, their plan for better actionable intelligence is meeting institutional resistance from the usual suspects.

Without picking on Valerie Plame ——— though she richly deserves it ——— she represents everything wrong at CIA.   I doubt that she would spend time getting to know the local grocer in Belfast to pick up that critical tidbit about Mrs. McCoy. Instead, Plame has been analyzing WMDs abroad, a job the CIA has consistenty failed to do, ever since Stalin's A Bomb. The latest National Intelligence Estimate giving a ten—year lead time for an Iranian bomb is a bad joke.  Nobody believes it.  Yet the Plames of this word are relentlessly promoted through the ranks, thereby institutionalizing failure.  Ultimately they end up fighting other bureaucracies, and in the case of Plame, trying to shaft the President of the United States. 

Since CIA managers cannot do their real jobs, they end up redefining them, just as teachers who cannot teach end up redefining their jobs as instilling higher self—esteem in their flunking kids. 

We are rapidly entering a very dangerous era, when Hugo Chavez  and Robert Mugabe may be able to buy their WMDs on the cheap from North Korea or Pakistan.  The Democrats are in pure psychological denial, and prefer sabotage over problem solving. Our media are a dysfunctional family, full of alcoholics and druggies who are eager to blame Daddy for all their problems.  North Korea just fired a long—range ICBM at Hawaii, which failed, as far as we know, just by sheer dumb luck. 

There is an old saying that "God protects orphans, widows, and the United States."  Before we have another 9/11 or worse, we must be able to find the tools to survive the ring of fire around this great, blessed but intellectually lazy country of ours.  Shultz and Godson have given us something to think about.

Note: Dr. Shultz is director of international security studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.Godson is a professor of government at Georgetown University and president of the National Strategy Information Center.

James Lewis   7 23

The Weekly Standard has an outstanding article called "Intelligence Dominance" by  Richard H. Shultz Jr. and Roy Godson. If you thought Valerie Plame is not the model for a CIA that can win the war on terror, Shultz and Godson make a strong case for a better way. They have done their homework,  by talking to successful counterinsurgency pros around the world — in Israel,  Latin America, Northern Ireland and Iraq.  The problem, simplly, is the dearth of actionable inteligence: Knowledge about the enemy that allows us to do something effective in time to avoid catastrophe.

When we're spending $40 billion a year on intelligence and committing 150,000 men to the Iraqi front, why can't we create the actionable intelligence required to roll up the insurgents? .... we listened intently as these former practitioners discussed what to our surprise turned out to be a common set of measures——intelligence dominance was the summary term we came up with to describe the model——they had used to overcome bloody threats posed by armed groups. They convinced us that this is the wheel the United States must now reinvent if it is to win in Iraq and on other murky fronts of the war on terror.

An anecdote from an British intelligence pro sums up the kind of street—cop detail required, in this case tracking down a meeting of several IRA subcommanders in 1980s Belfast:

One of the boys in my unit had gotten pretty close to a local grocery store owner. He would see the owner two, three times a week. At one of those get—togethers the store owner happened to mention that a Mrs. McCoy had come in several times over the last week with grocery lists many times larger than the size of her normal purchases. 'You'd think she was planning to feed a small army,' the grocery man said. We put her house under surveillance, tapped the phones, all the normal stuff. Turns out it was the IRA safe house we were looking for.

Our biggest national security failures are in intelligence.  We have the best armed forces in the world, the best technology, and an inspiring wellspring of young people willing to risk their lives for us. But we also have a fat, dumb and happy intelligence bureaucracy that cannot even admit that there are systemic failures.  Naturally, Shulz and Godson point out, their plan for better actionable intelligence is meeting institutional resistance from the usual suspects.

Without picking on Valerie Plame ——— though she richly deserves it ——— she represents everything wrong at CIA.   I doubt that she would spend time getting to know the local grocer in Belfast to pick up that critical tidbit about Mrs. McCoy. Instead, Plame has been analyzing WMDs abroad, a job the CIA has consistenty failed to do, ever since Stalin's A Bomb. The latest National Intelligence Estimate giving a ten—year lead time for an Iranian bomb is a bad joke.  Nobody believes it.  Yet the Plames of this word are relentlessly promoted through the ranks, thereby institutionalizing failure.  Ultimately they end up fighting other bureaucracies, and in the case of Plame, trying to shaft the President of the United States. 

Since CIA managers cannot do their real jobs, they end up redefining them, just as teachers who cannot teach end up redefining their jobs as instilling higher self—esteem in their flunking kids. 

We are rapidly entering a very dangerous era, when Hugo Chavez  and Robert Mugabe may be able to buy their WMDs on the cheap from North Korea or Pakistan.  The Democrats are in pure psychological denial, and prefer sabotage over problem solving. Our media are a dysfunctional family, full of alcoholics and druggies who are eager to blame Daddy for all their problems.  North Korea just fired a long—range ICBM at Hawaii, which failed, as far as we know, just by sheer dumb luck. 

There is an old saying that "God protects orphans, widows, and the United States."  Before we have another 9/11 or worse, we must be able to find the tools to survive the ring of fire around this great, blessed but intellectually lazy country of ours.  Shultz and Godson have given us something to think about.

Note: Dr. Shultz is director of international security studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.Godson is a professor of government at Georgetown University and president of the National Strategy Information Center.

James Lewis   7 23