The trade of Intelligence is variously thought to be an art or a science. In that spirit I have decided to place "Alnval's" piece on the major issue facing the US Intelligece community on The Athenaeum. pl
"I enjoyed reading your Bush’s War interview segments on Frontline's website. Your description of how one selects and manages the minds who are necessary to create the finished intelligence product was interesting. It is similar in concept to the basic Organizational Development stuff taught to wanna-be managers in every B-School in the country.
You also reminded me that intelligence mavens now use the same techniques in arriving at decisions as do successful managers in private corporations. Before, I’d always had in mind the stereotypes of the omniscient Yale professor or Bletchley Park’s Alan Turing from whose mouths perpetually dropped golden truths. That even their work needed to be discussed, cross-checked, and subjected to the review of other experts in order to ensure that the information being gathered was relevant to the question being asked just didn't occur to me." Alnval
"T" sent this, apparently from St. Andrews U, (or at least from one of their e-mail accounts). There is a lot of truth here. Nevertheless, I would say that there is a lot of good work being done by consultants in areas in which, to be frank, the government does not have the intellectual resources that can be marshaled by the contractor companies. It is true that the big "beltway bandit" companies are very good at feathering their own nests. One of the principal ways they do that is by hiring as "Vice President in charge of Intelligence Projects" or something like that men who were directors of the biggest agencies in the IC. pl
"It's true that laying responsibility on contractors for our current mess, even the parts in which they were specifically involved, is ridiculous. However, it is valid to say that the contracting process is broken, or at least has become so flawed that it is impacting our republic in a negative way. I worked as the 'college kid' supporting the retirees you mention for one of the large contractors out at Tysons for several years. To generalize from my experience, these retired military/intel/GS personnel are public servants whose motivations are honorable and patriotic, and sometimes selfless. On a personal level, they would do their jobs with the same level of commitment, professionalism, and sense of duty that I'm sure they had while in actual public service (i.e. variable, but largely on the good side). However, the problem was that at the end of the day, they were working for a private company that was out to make a profit. This is true no matter what the PR departments of Lockheed, Booze, SAIC, or Bechtel churn out. On an employee level, many contractors are out to protect and serve their country and to support their family. On a corporate level, however, they are out to make a buck. Period. In other words, this profit motive always outweighed, in my experience, any lower level desire to either serve the country, or - more disturbingly - even to get the job done. Of the 3 major contracts on which I worked, I felt that 2 of them were both major wastes of taxpayer money and damaging to our national security. The waste came from the fact that the work quality (i.e. 'mission accomplishment') was always subordinated to the real goal of extending or expanding the contract, getting the next one, and making more money. In other words, the focus was on just doing the job well enough to convince the customer to buy more. But, whatever, companies are out to make money and try to make as much as possible while the gettin's good. Good on 'em. The damage to national security is of course more important and my real concern. I won't claim that the work we were doing in these contracts was somehow central to the survival of the republic, but they were a couple of multi-multi-million dollar programs that were touted in the media as pieces of what makes us safe, secure, and warm and fuzzy in this 'new and dangerous world.' The problem was that for all the money we were paid, we never actually achieved our stated missions on those two contracts. We were hired, we worked often long hours, we submitted deliverables, we met technical contract requirements, but we never really achieved the true goals of the project. I.e. on a particular critical infrastructure contract, we never actually developed a system capable of protecting the critical infrastructure. But we did get paid, and satisfy the contract, and even got it extended for another few years to fix the problems. In my view, this was not for the negligence of the workers, but because of a management structure that clearly had other priorities. We did get lots of new contracts, of course, but from my naive eyes I didn't really see how we ever finished the job we were paid to do. But now I'm starting to think that that just wasn't the point in the first place. Now if one loves Michael Moore and thinks that all threats are fabricated in order to make more money for the military-industrial complex, then all this is unsurprising and irrelevant. But, like most US citizens, I think that we actually need most of the what contractors are supposed to be doing to be done and done well. The intelligence work is an prime example. However, from my experience, the taxpayer gets mismanaged work and have to pay out of the $%@# for the privilege. Anecdotes of this abound: e.g. BAH's DHS contract, SAIC's FBI computer system and their Iraq Media Project, CACI's interrogation contract. I understand that many of the contracts started out as a blind plea for help from the government to confront multiple problems at once after 9/11 and with the start of Iraq, and that many contracts suffered from unclear or contradictory government requirements or even direct meddling from Straussian know-nothings. But the contractors at a corporate level bear much responsibility. They have completely exploited this situation to provide high priced crap. Lots of money spent, no actual solutions, initial problem still around (presumably to be solved by another contract). So, my question as a citizen is why has our government allowed itself to accept and continue to purchase poor quality work, especially in these critical areas? Most immediately, I saw that the government procurement officers (also very good people on the whole) simply did not have the resources (time, authority, and sometimes experience) to effectively resist the whirlwind caused by the revolving door between government and the private sector. This seems to be the underlying bureaucratic problem that needs to be fixed. Under-resourced contracting officers and poor procurement oversight leads to corporate exploitation of government needs. I think that is essentially what Eisenhower said would lead to bad things. Of course, some or much of this might be a deliberate effort of the Bush/Cheney anti-Constitutionalists, and as the former head of OMB was indicted, I wouldn't find it surprising. But I think that this is a deeper problem. I think that the relationship between government and contractors, especially related to national security, was not settled when Smedley Butler or Eisenhower spoke of it, and it is definitely not settled now. I guess it is just yet another real issue that is being simultaneously exacerbated and ignored in our current slide towards Empire." T
"Over the past six years, a quiet revolution has occurred in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing to corporations and away from the long-established practice of keeping operations in US government hands, with only select outsourcing of certain jobs to independently contracted experts. Key functions of intelligence agencies are now run by private corporations. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed in May that 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to contractors." The Nation
Yes. That is true. They hire people like me. The corporations they are talking about are mostly ones that muster retired or former intelligence professionals as individuals or teams to work for the IC.
Why? The IC has expanded massively over the last six years. Retirees are often the best people. They were when they were still working for the government. Washington is an expensive place to live. Like me, many retirees could live more cheaply and probably better somewhere else. This process keeps them in the government's service.
Why would they not just keep working for the government? If you ask that, you have never worked for the government. Honestly, the government pays poorly. It would be easier to go fishing than continue to put up with the bureaucratic bull that the government hands out for peanuts, Consultants don't get treated badly by the bureaucratic "brass." If they are, they go fishing.
The idea that the retirees were somehow responsible for the pre-war mess is "bull." That happened because of the gutlessness of the leaders of the major agencies and the "scourge" wielded by the neocons. pl
David Habakkuk has been good enough to give us his thoughts on the "Counterintelligence State" with regard to its relationship to the thinking and teaching of Leo Strauss and his associates and "children." pl
"Alarmed by the takeover of the US intelligence apparatus by philosophers, hawks and ideologues, former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern formed the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. The Pentagon's claims about wmd in Iraq were "an intelligence fiasco of monumental proporti-ons," said McGovern. He claims that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz established their own intelligence unit because the CIA wasn't giving the hawks the "correct answers." Joining the chorus of criticism of politicized intelligence, Patrick Lang, a former director of Middle East analysis at the Pentagon's DIA said that Rumsfeld set up the OSP to undermine the CIA and DIA and then mounted a threat-assessment campaign that was "political pro-paganda," not intelligence. " Barry in article linked below.
and David Habakkuk in a letter to me concerning the S&S paper. pl
Sidney Smith sends us this interesting view of the future of HUMINT. My ony quibble with it is his natural belief that foreign agents can not be recruited in the context of unfavorable political conditions. People are more complicated than that. pl
The goal, at least on one level, seems straightforward, First, understand the architecture described in Col. Lang's essay, "Clandestine HUMINT in support of counterinsurgency operations". Then adapt this architecture to today's world. By adapt, I mean apply the apparatus in such a way that it takes into account the differences between combat operations in VN provinces in 1968 and our global struggle today against takfiri jihadists as well as our combat operations during the US occupation of Iraq.
In some ways, I speculate, Gen. Petraeus was tasked with the same when he wrote the COIN manual. But, at least in my opinion, he failed to take the basic principles and then pitch them out into a post modern world -- one with profound differences from those days of Trinquier and Galula.
To describe the creative process involved, I offer an analogy -- admittedly a strange one. But just as Immanuel Wallerstein took the Marxist dialectic and pitched it beyond the bounds of national dynamics and placed it within an entirely new global perspective, the same must be done with the principles underlying the HUMINT operations that at one time took place in Phuoc Long Province. The point here is to illuminate the creative process or methodology involved, not the Marxist dialectic! It is the type of creativity that leads to a new school of art.
Surely there needs to be changes in the present structural apparatus in Iraq and a return to that which was in place in VN by 1968. That's a given
But, just as importantly, I further speculate, the USM and USG must recognize that HUMINT requires a different personality type. It is a type of charisma or, if you prefer, a charism. To quote from Col. Lang's essay, "The difference in performance seems to have been largely a function of leadership."
Tim Spicer -- who heads Aegis Defence Services Ltd. -- does not appear to have the charisma or leadership ability to head HUMINT. "Spicer is a mercenary" as the WAPO article quoted Robert Pelton. So one cannot help but draw a conclusion that there is a thin line between the spirit underlying the private security contractors in Iraq and that described in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Simply put: MPRI, Blackwater and all the usual suspects have not evidenced this charisma. Odds are high that their efforts will not lead to "intelligence gathering", much less safeguard the people of the US and Britain. They represent the corporation, not the flag. And by flag, I mean a sacred duty is imposed.
The key to HUMINT, I surmise, is the point of contact between one representing the US flag and a potential "agent". Such a contact between the two, I would think, must be based on clearly defined interests. What does the potential agent desire? What is his or her aim? And, then, can the US representative help in such a way that it also furthers US operational goals? Common aims are needed but not sentimentality. After all, it was once said that sentimentality is but an echo of brutality.
At least right now, the opportunity for making such contacts is nil. So, as a start, because of changes over the last 40 plus years, perhaps it is best to view Phuoc Long Province as the world. Or to put another way, Bernard Fall's Street Without Joy is now a World without Joy. And the principles set forth in Fall’s chapter, "The Future of Revolutionary Warfare", must be pitched out beyond local boundaries and now apply to a global village.
The aim is to increase the opportunities that allow a US representative to meet potential agents. Besides obvious structural changes in the present apparatus, global leadership must act in such a way that those involved in HUMINT can reach potential agents. The internet has created a global village, so the "commander-in-chief", the SecState, and -- yes -- the US Attorney General must act in way that they increase the possibility of creating HUMINT.
Perhaps it is the idea of a strategic HUMINT, as contrasted to tactical HUMINT. National leadership somehow must become imbued with the charisma that increases the opportunity for "intelligence gathering". It must become part of their sacred duty.
Without that adaptation, it seems that "intelligence gathering" will fail to materialize. Why should a potential agent support the US when he or she reads the internet everyday and knows about Abu G? And, of course, the question of our US relationship with a post 1967 Israel is always there. It will not leave and we cannot remain in denial.
And, finally, once there is an opportunity for a point of contact, then the one representing the flag must be able to communicate using symbols that the potential agent understands. In our current conflict, the symbols are religious. If we cannot adapt to using these religious symbols, we will fail and should not be "over there" in the first place, at least in my view. Best I can tell, no evidence exists that we are using such symbols successfully. Sid"
You can read the essay that Sid is referring to below at "The Missing Factor." pl