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December 11, 2007

A 'Perfect Storm': When ODNI's 'Walmart Approach' To Intelligence Gathering Is Combined With The NIE Authors' Political Agenda (Updated)

I had to think twice about which category to put this post under - "political news and commentary"or "Iran." I blame my confusion on an intelligence community that has trouble separating their own political views and agendas from the facts, while putting out half-truths in intelligence reports in order to influence foreign policy. After considerable consideration, I've decided on the more appropriate - "political news and commentaries." After all, it seems to me that we all ought to be asking if the misguided release of a half-truth NIE resulted from the actions of political hacks inside our intelligence community, from a Wal-Mart approach to intelligence gathering (placing "Acquisitions Excellence" ahead of anything involving the National Clandestine Service and image intelligence), from Iran's deceptions in the course of being actively engaged in the support of terrorism, regional destabilization, and nuclear weapons development, or all of the above - politics chiefly among them.

As Captain Ed writes of the NIE in his NCRI: NIE Half Right (the wrong half):

[...] The authors got the reaction they apparently desired at home, but have been blasted abroad for their reversal. The British and the Israelis have scolded the American intel community for its gullibility; both went so far as to go public with their disgust, a remarkable and pointed development.

Even the IAEA hasn't bought into the NIE. Today, they announced that they will seriously consider any information the NCRI brings to them in analyzing Iranian intentions. Too bad that the ODNI didn't do the same.

If the ODNI expected to raise American credibility with this estimate, they have failed miserably. Other nations may not want to go to war with Iran, but they don't buy for a moment that Iran stopped pushing for a nuclear weapon. Even Bush didn't want to go to war, but to keep pushing for economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Iran to negotiate. Now those efforts have been crippled by the NIE -- and Europe understands that it might bring war faster than ever.

[...] This gambit by a few in high places within the intel community has backfired. It has exposed them as political players, attempting to twist intel in order to justify their view of foreign policy. They did it so baldly and so badly that the White House could leave it to our allies to point out the obvious, and even the administration's non-allies in the IAEA.

Ed's post is on the latest challenge to the credibility of the NIE, this time coming from the NCRI which says that after checking with their sources inside Iran (HUMINT: trench coats on the ground, intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact), Iran is still pursuing nuclear arms:
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which first exposed Iran's nuclear fuel program in 2002, said it published information three years ago alleging that Tehran had restarted weapons-related work after a short break.

NCRI officials said they checked back with sources inside Iran after the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released, and those informants reported that work on nuclear weapons was still being pursued at three sites.

"The clerical regime is continuing its drive to obtain nuclear weapons," Mohammad Mohaddessin of the France-based group, listed as a terror organization in the United States, told a news conference in Brussels.

In other words, as Jules Crittenden puts it, "Uh Oh, trouble in paradise." It's becoming more and more clear that certain people in our intelligence community have either been duped or are more political hacks than loyal Americans (traitors?):
"The unfortunate thing about all of this is that, amid clear patterns of deception from a nation that is actively engaged in the support of terrorism and regional destabilization, we risk being immobilized by a debate over whether we are being deceived or not."
"... immobilized by a debate over whether we are being deceived or not." Perhaps that was the NIE authors' intent.

However, regardless of their intent, clearly problems exist in our intelligence communities' gathering of intelligence. In her piece titled, "The ODNI's Wal-Mart Approach to Intel," R. J. Hillhouse writes about certain disturbing trends in the Intelligence Community:

In the bureaucratic world of high government offices, the order in which priorities are are presented in a list is carefully determined to accurately present priorities. The pecking order is everything, whether the bureaucracy was in the old Soviet Union or is in inside the Beltway. This silly stuff matters.

So within that context, slide number 5," DNI Priorities" is an Intelligence Community jaw-dropper:

DNI-Priorities_thumb.jpg

"Acquisitions Excellence" is placed before "Strengthen NCS and IMINT Discipline Managers." Now its unclear what the heck strengthening a mission manager is and why this is necessary, but it is significant that the ODNI now places "Acquisitions Excellence" ahead of anything involving the National Clandestine Service (i.e. HUMINT or trench coats on the ground to the rest of us) and image intelligence. I can only surmise that this means we're now going to win the War on Terror like Wal-Mart took over the retail world: through a top-notch supply chain.

Move aside, HUMNINT and IMINT, we've got contracts to execute!

[...] data indicates that the government is not at all impaired when it comes to buying and purchasing, unless, of course, $42 billion spent toward private contractors--70% of the Intelligence Community budget--is not enough. There is still $18 billion not allocated to contractors.

It's not the ability to buy that's being lost--it's the ability to spy.

Contracting out or outsourcing can be useful and be both cost-effective and time-efficient with military and personnel security matters, and in many cases involving technical development and even intelligence gathering - so long as key elements necessary for the success of the mission are not sacrificed. In failing to emphasize "trenchcoats on the ground" (the preferred method and that used chiefly by the NCRI and our allies) and image intelligence, our intelligence communities set us up for being duped - as is almost certainly the case involving Iran. The ODNI's policies of what J.R. Hillhouse calls "ODNI's Wal-Mart Approach to Intel," hasn't worked, isn't working, and is not going to protect us in the future.

Take then, ODNI's Wal-Mart approach to intelligence gathering, combine that approach with the NIE authors' twisting of intel in order to justify their view of foreign policy, a "deception from a nation that is actively engaged in the support of terrorism and regional destabilization," and what do we have? We have a perfect storm of conditions resulting in something called the National Intelligence Estimate.

And as Captain Ed offers, "Bush didn't want to go to war, but to keep pushing for economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Iran to negotiate. Now those efforts have been crippled by the NIE -- and Europe understands that it might bring war faster than ever."

Related: Iranian opposition: Teheran resumed nuke program in 2004

Cross posted from Hycscience



Posted by Richard at December 11, 2007 11:30 AM





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