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25 October 2011


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No one can be all things to all people. It is a given for all humans, but probably particularly for a DNI.

On balance, I'd give Jim Clapper a passing grade. I think Walter Pincus has, perhaps inadvertently put a bit of spin on the "common desktop." it is not going to be as simple as it is portrayed in his article and a huge amount of attention will be paid to the "need to know," I guarantee it.

As to Clapper's restructuring efforts at DIA, I was gone across the river before he arrived, and when I returned I was on the collection side. I must say, however, that some of the things he did needed to be done. I think DIA was rather credible on the National Estimate side, especially during the Cold War, but I also believe it was woefully deficient in the tactical support side. The Agency had both missions so some rectifications were certainly in order.

A small story: two of DIA's finest, who shall remain nameless, appeared at a major Air Force Headquarters in Europe with a scare story of huge magnitude. The Soviets were testing an optically guided stand-off missile (roughly equivalent to the EO Maverick, but not as capable). The two harbingers of doom opined that anything outside the Tab-Vee shelters would be burnt toast within minutes after "the big attack."

I was working in the intelligence shop at that particular Headquarters and I was fairly well attuned to the operational realities of the situation. I decided to give a lesson. I invited the lads to go for an airplane ride the next morning.

We got off in minimum conditions and droned around while the ever-present fog began to lift I managed to get up to 6,000 feet--the supposed launch altitude for the missile--I turned back toward the runway and tapped the instrument panel. "Okay, we are 6.5 nautical miles DME from the center of the runway. Tell me when you acquire the first target." The deadly missile was said to have a launch range of 6 nautical miles. We continued in, 5, 4,5, 4, 3.5, 3, do you see anything yet?" They didn't. I think we finally saw a C5 at about a mile and a half. We could see fighter-sized aircraft only when we were in the landing pattern.

"Remember that we were doing about 150 knots, not 450 like an inbound fighter. Target acquisition is a major problem. Do you really think this thing is the ultimate weapon? This kind of weather is very common here."

The next briefing had a lot more "possibly's" and "perhaps" scattered through it.

I think some of the things Jim Clapper did there needed to be done.

Above all, I think if there is to be a DNI there needs to be some stability. We could do worse. In fact we have, don't you think?


"...one giant data base available to all those who had a password..."

Brilliant, then we can just hire some consultants to do the thinking for us. I wonder if Mossad has some front company available to bid on that contract?

An SOB? At least you were America's SOB not some politician's.

William R. Cumming

Defer to you PL and Basilik on this one. My worry is that the dessemination process is the most flawed. After collection and analysis of course.

Neil Richardson

In terms of tactical support, how much can one do to limit the worst case assumptions that invariably gird analysis? As I recall some of the tactical data on T-72s were off the mark, but the results might've been beneficial in the long run. Before 1990, we were told to assume that the T-72 main gun round could penetrate the frontal armor of M1A1 at 1800m or closer. We only found out that wasn't the case after Medina Ridge. Tactical innovations and crew training based on that faulty intelligence was the main difference in that lopsided engagement IMHO.

I do realize that the waste of resources in terms of overall defense spending could result from faulty analysis. However, I'm not certain if some margin of safety wouldn't be necessary.



I, too, would give him a passing grade, a gentleman's "C." Well, my fiery flying friend. I don't know why you want to stand up for this man. You and I worked for a really good USAF Director of DIA. A lot of people thought he was strange, but, so what!

I dispute the claim that DIA did not do good combat support. I watched and participated in a number of air targeting efforts that were extremely effective. the 1986 raids on Libya were one case in point as was the large project that you know of but that we can't mention. DIA's support to that ingrate, Fat Norman, was superb no matter what he said tp the senate afterward, 2,000 people were devoted solely to supporting him, 500 of them seconded to his crappy headquarters in Riyadh. Daily C-130 flights of material to Riyadh, multiple data and voice lines held open 24/7 for eight months. As for the "common desktop," "a huge amount of attention will be paid to the "need to know,"" That's not much of an argument. The very bozos most likely to do again what happened in 2002 are absolutely certain to be given access. Why? Because they will be working for people like SECDEF or a four star or some such thing. "You "guarantee it?" Come now! That sounds like all the people including Wilkerson who told me in 2002 that they could "guarantee" that this or that would not happen. FA swore that he could "guarantee" that the US would never invade Iraq because the system was self limiting and would prevent it. pl



After 17 years working in intel supporting small units all the way up to the theater I&W, I think this change is necessary. It's also not new - it's just that the previous efforts failed spectacularly and this one might fail too.

I agree with you completely on the Doug Feith's of the world and and their lackeys, but I'm afraid that ship has already sailed. They've been able to play their shenanigans for years already - better information flow would be marginally helpful to them, but it would be a boon for analysts and collectors alike across the intel community. The OSP problem is one the intel community can't solve with computer systems.

The sad fact is that information sharing is currently a complete mess. It's a nightmare many of us have been forced to deal with. Some information is on hard copy. Some is on only internal organizational networks that only members of that organization can access. Some is available on outside networks, but getting access often requires sacrificing children or having a relationship with the right person. I may technically have access and need-to-know for information but there's been more than one time I didn't even know some important piece of info existed because it was cloistered away on someone's private network. It's frustrating as hell to find that out after the fact. The current "system" is information balkanization at it's worst. Currently analysts spend too much time trying to jump through hoops to get information instead of analysis. At least that's my experience - maybe it's different at the national-level organizations. This problem exists from the theater level down in my experience though it's gotten better than it was 5 or 6 years ago.

If the system works as promised, it will make things much better. If I have access and need-to-know to a certain compartment then I can be relatively sure I will actually get the needed information without any hassles. That will leave analysts with more time to actually do analysis instead of deal with all the bureaucratic BS.



I understand your point. that is probably Clapper's point as well. Is it worth another Iraq to you? pl


Well Colonel,

With all due respect, I have heard you are not a guy to get cross ways with. And if need be, you can be right much of a SOB,if the occasion warrants it.

As for Clapper, he is just another bureaucratic noodle, worming his way thru the system. What else,can you expect of the mandarins of our imperial capital?

It sure helps me sleep better at night, knowing we've got Clappers manning the ramparts. Ever vigilant for the Barbarian Hordes. Not!

Standby, here come the airliners again, sooner or later.



I think you present a false choice. Doug Feith and the Bushie's didn't need this new computer system to get us the first Iraq. Secondly, I don't think it's possible for the IC to design a system that gives analysts access to the necessary information to do their jobs while at the same time denying access to political lackeys. It's computerization in general that's to blame for that, not a new and potentially better system.

The current "system," if one can even call it that, doesn't restrict non-intel ideologues from accessing raw data. After all, the whole classification system is run by the executive branch, authorized by EO - it's not like the IC can deny them if they want access.

But frankly you are right to worry. The ability for policymakers to be their own intel analysts has never been easier and that very, very rarely ends well. Add into this open source (which exploded over the last 10 years) and it's a tough problem.

Beyond going back to paper and message traffic, I don't know how to solve that problem. Maybe Congress needs to take a greater role in this and certainly the IC needs to have it's s**t together to dispute ideologues offering their own "alternative" analysis, particularly on issues of war and peace.


highlander, I'd say we'll have a decade or so of underwear terror, x-raying babies and patting down their grandparents before we have another foreign terror threat that's real; the home grown ones, well plenty of the 1% politicians and talking heads are already calling our fellow citizens a mob. Another Tim McVeigh is probably not far off and not likely to be caught by the FBI as he'll be the color and religion they don't search for.

Jim Ticehurst

Pat...This is why I find your one of a Kind Site..Great Reading..and Very Interesting Articles and debates..Thanks..
I was Interested to read Your Opinion of Clapper..and his "Policys"..I Like to know more about those in "Power Positions"..in Our Government..and especially Intelligence related..Operations that Influence National and Executive Policy..

As a Result..I did some background on Clapper..i/e Wiki BIO..his Education..Career and Associations..and Corporate Links..
With His Shooting Star status(promotions etc) ..He had connections for sure..especially His corporate positions and all the Government Contracts those corporations got during the Bush Years.. followed by the His being hooked up to Government Intel operations/positions by Bush People in 2007... Just in time to be Nominated to Obama for Director Positions by Robert GATES ..another Bush Man..whose tenure at CIA with Casey was very suspect and destructive....accoding to Goodman and others..(Gates WIKI Bio)

I can see why you suggest the NEOCON Machine is still well entrenched and Infiltrated into many areas of Government Intelligence and other Strategic Positions..throughout The whole government System that enables them to gather all kinds of Data ..Interesting how deep thier Roots go into Agencys and Data Bases that most people don't even know or Suspect..

I agree with your Argument about the Need for those who gather Intel/Data ..and those with the Expertise to Analyse that Data and a need for them to be able to Link it to other know Information..and Form Opinions/Conclusions...it works well..when Presented Right..and a Proven Effective Method of Operations..

for example..my Brother was a Military Photo Interpretor/Analysist during Our Engagement in Viet Nam..

He got the Data (photos) Analyzed them..found areas of enemy Operations ..or suspected Activity..wrote Reports and passed them up the Chain..Often right about Buildups and Hidden targets..

Strange that Gates and Clapper are in the Business of Dismanteling Agencys..and Areas of operations..That Give them more control of The data and Conclusions provided to
the Politicians..
Alot of Military Heads Rolled (And Replaced (Planted..?)during Clappers rather stillshort Swagger ..in the Chambers of Power..Talk about Networking..

The Way Obama has had to rely on these Guys due to his own lack of Experience..You would think the NEOCON Preferred Him over McCain on the last Merry go Round..because they knew obama would be easier to Manipulate..

I see it the Same way you do Col..You may be a Hard Ass..But you are a Troopers Kind of Hard ass..Hands On..
and someone who EARNED His Boots..

Warren Jason Street


Perhaps DNI Clapper realizes that we're now in the age of "nothing worth collecting anymore."

Thanks to a decade of leaks from Federal officials, what's left to collect? Everyone now knows we can listen to cell phones, break encryption, deploy drones, and track people across the globe. We have been on a decade-long killing spree that has tipped our hands to the people who really understand SIGINT disciplines and how to protect their communications. Your typical uninformed ideologue has a hard time getting used to the idea that there are people all over the world who don't want democracy, don't want to have Freedom Fries for lunch, and who know how to communicate in secret.

People who can analyze and fuse information are invaluable. But the stream of information that used to feed these people the raw material with which they could work is disappearing. When drones came about, it would have been a good idea to establish them as collecting platforms and use their killing abilities sparingly. But the demand from decision makers has been, "give us a body count that will lead the news."

There are other streams of information out there--the Internet is surely full of them. But maybe Clapper represents a bean counter's view that, without decent raw collection material, why pay premium dollars to keep all of those difficult Type B personalities around?

No offense is intended, but I'm just putting out a theory that has developed over time about why our collection efforts may be failing.



Clapper told me that I was "a threatening presence." pl



And that hurt my feelings. pl


Hell! From time to time, I and others sense you maybe a threatening presence.

I apologize for my earlier classification of you as a potential SOB when dealing with foes or obstacles. I think Mr Ticehurst's classification of you,as a Trooper's kind of Hard Ass, is more appropriate. Nothing wrong with that!


My mos in the Army was 5G20, gathererer of traffic passed on to analysts. Many a long night passed in the aeries of the IG Farben building listening to telephone conversations of people who should have known better, and monitoring endless field radio traffic that was as secure as a rural farmhouse.

I had many a long, cold hour to dwell on the particular division of labor between collectors and analysts.

Better to be warm.


Col. Lang:

"Apparently he is still intent on dealing with those pesky analysts. In his scheme, collectors and analysts would live in a completely transparent world in which there would be one giant data base available to all those who had a password."

Andy: "The sad fact is that information sharing is currently a complete mess."

The most incredible research tool on this planet at the moment is Google.

If I were Clapper, I would be attempting to harness it. It should be possible to load everything from multiple databases into a Google implementation without touching the sides.

I'm sure some bright geeks and counter intelligence types could construct the necessary permissions/firewalls system, in fact I would use Google for that too and put up a database of "who is searching for what". Searches on "Israeli dual nationality" or "name your project" in that database might perhaps satisfy one of your concerns re hemorrhaging of intelligence data.



You missed my main point which is that even though combination of these data bases in yet another linked computer network will add to the efficiency of information sharing in the IC, it will aso automatically enable some future OSP. pl



We've had google for years and it's been phased out because it wasn't very good. Google doesn't work well for intelligence since it uses link popularity at a major metric to rank search results. It also depends on an open internet where it's crawler can reach and index all the information. Link popularity doesn't work for intel's purposes and then there are the various compartments and need-to-know that gum up google's search crawler.

Jim Ticehurst

Col...I can also ..Dr.Strangelove scenarios..
or thee Whole System collapsing due to Cyber Attacks..
( or ECM's) and leaving us Blind..with no Networks..and no backups..because traditional Methods have been Eleminated..Too Much Computer and satellite Reliance..

I wonder what Decompartmenting the Chain will do to enable another Aldrich Ames who gets the "Golden Key"..to "Hal's Heart.."and knows ALL The secrets..

Certainly..There must still be "Aliens Among Us.".in the Intel/Political Community..especially Those in Basements in Politcial OSP's..and those in Corporations with Connections..


“A permissive policy on drone-fired targeted killings will come back to haunt the United States.” http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1928963

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