Monday, April 03, 2006

Speaking Out and Up

By Melissa Boyle Mahle

CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI) John Kringen is on a public outreach mission. He has been speaking around town and in the hinterland sending the message that his shop at the CIA is changing, for the better. He is addressing head on the charge that the CIA is not responding to the recommendations of the various investigative reports recommending specific changes.

It is interesting that DDI Kringen feels a need to do outreach via an op-ed in the Washington Post. It shows that the CIA “gets it”, meaning that public confidence in intelligence capabilities cannot be restored through the more traditional methods. Historically, the CIA either ignored the issue or assured Congress in the annual threat briefing that the CIA had it covered. Note how former DCI Tenet treated 9/11 in the couple years that followed. He assured Congress that drastic changes had been made and the CIA was on the right course. His statements sounded hollow once the Iraq WMD mess broke and the investigative report showed just how little had changed.

This begs the question on whether Kringen is spinning or testifying to real progress. I actually think it is the latter. My analyst friends, although they have many gripes, tell me that they system is going through a period of dynamic change. Living through reform is hard, but at the end of the day, if done right, it is worth the pain. What Kringen needs to do better is to ease the pain and chaos a bit. Retention is a problem.

The CIA is not healthy. It suffers from poor leadership, poor performance and poor morale. Turning around such a big ship requires a dramatic change in environment. Goss has not been able to do that as he is viewed as isolated on the Seventh Floor. The outside world sees the weakness in variety of indirect ways, from the bog-down in Iraq to the endless hunt for Osama. It doesn’t see the CIA’s successes, of which there are many. The CIA needs to project these successes, in an indirect way if security will not permit otherwise. Kringen’s outreach doesn’t hurt but will not gain much traction in the absence of more tangible signs of success.

Washington Post
How We've Improved Intelligence
Minimizing the Risk of 'Groupthink'
By John A. Kringen

Nearly one year ago, President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction released its report identifying shortcomings in the intelligence community. Many of the commission's judgments dealt with analysis, the discipline I lead at the CIA. The primary criticism was that our analysts were "too wedded to their assumptions" and that our tradecraft -- the way we analyze a subject and communicate our findings -- needed strengthening.

We did not try to hide from the criticism or make excuses. Our assessment of Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities was flawed. The fact that foreign intelligence services made similar errors in no way absolved us of ours.

We in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) have been intent on improving our work by addressing the commission's recommendations -- and those of several other self-initiated and external reviews -- head-on. We have taken many steps in the past year to assure the president, Congress and the American people that they can be confident in the integrity of our assessments.

CIA Director Porter Goss has encouraged innovation and creativity in how the CIA approaches its mission. In the DI, we have been diligent in integrating fresh thinking and new perspectives into our analysis. Our in-house training center, the Sherman Kent School, features lessons learned from the Iraq WMD case; they are part of tradecraft courses taken by our analysts, including every recruit entering the DI. Our newest analysts -- and all first-line supervisors -- also have completed classes on alternative analysis and other analytic techniques.

We have established analytic tradecraft units across the directorate, including the office drafting our WMD assessments, that promote the use of alternative and competitive analysis techniques. DI analysts routinely engage academics and outside experts -- last year we did so about 100 times a month at conferences or informal meetings -- to test hypotheses and minimize the potential for being ensnared by "groupthink." And we have a staff that routinely evaluates the quality of our assessments.

We have enhanced the precision and transparency of our written products, making a point of stating clearly and upfront what we know -- and what we don't. Our analysts now offer policymakers greater context on sourcing, including an intelligence asset's access and biases, thanks to increased information-sharing between the DI and the National Clandestine Service. A computerized system for identifying recalled or modified raw intelligence reports alerts analysts to sources whose information is determined to be faulty.

When Porter Goss selected me as director of intelligence, he expressed his concern that for too long we had concentrated on satisfying the daily demand for current intelligence assessments to the detriment of preparing for the strategic threats and opportunities of tomorrow. What are the implications of rapid advances in technology for U.S. national security? What are the challenges and opportunities posed by Islamic political activism in the Middle East and South Asia? Is there another A.Q. Khan proliferation network out there?

The DI's strategic research program for fiscal 2006 focuses on identifying and assessing long-term trends and emerging foreign threats that go beyond today's headlines. DI analysts also participate heavily in long-term analytic projects led by our colleagues in the intelligence community, especially the National Intelligence Council. The benefit is clear: Our policymakers will have a better idea of what might lie over the horizon.

Even as we strengthen our strategic analytical capabilities, we continue to be the principal source for current intelligence analysis that the director of national intelligence provides to our most senior policymakers. Not only are we helping to staff important DNI components, but DI analysts are also in demand throughout the intelligence community.

The DI is building bench strength with highly qualified recruits to meet the demands of strategic global coverage. We brought in more new analysts in fiscal 2005 than in any year in our history, breaking our previous record by more than 50 percent. More important than the numbers, however, are the education and life experiences our employees bring to the job. Half of our applicants in process claim fluent-to-native capacity in a foreign language, and many have spent significant time in their region of specialty.

Above all, we seek to foster in each analyst a sense of individual initiative, responsibility and ownership, as well as the recognition that providing analysis vital to our national security requires challenging orthodoxy and constantly testing our assumptions. Mastering the fundamentals of tradecraft and building expertise are critical, but we also must aspire to a level of creativity and insight that allows us to look beyond the obvious and flag the unexpected. Only then can we truly fulfill our obligation to help protect the American people.

The writer is director of intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Outside Voices

How meaningful is the CIA’s new-found desire to listen to outside voices? Walter Pincus writes in the Washington Post that the CIA is listening to Judge Richard Posner and his critic of intelligence reform. I would have been more impressed if the audience was an off-site meeting for senior leadership of CIA. Instead, it was to the Office of General Council—the CIA lawyers that actually practice law.

While I have not yet read Judge Posner’s new book, I have read his earlier writings. Posner accurately framed the issue on reform as risking a mere movement of the deck chairs. In some ways, his warnings have proved to be prescient. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has turned into another layer of bureaucracy without the desired added value. I, however, do not think it is without merit. The ODNI is re-working the processes by which the intelligence community (IC) functions. This is very important because the IC cannot be transformed without fundamental changes in process from the very bottom of the structure. The problem is the ODNI has bit off more than it can chew at a reasonable rate. To outside observers, it looks like the only thing Negroponte is doing is delivering the President is morning brief. This looks bad and is bad.

If we think about how the debate unfolded on the power of the DNI, we can see that the focus was on the wrong set of issues. It was argued that for the DNI to be empowered, he had to be seen as the premier intel officer that could speak for the IC to the President. In the old structure, that was defined by physical access to the President and the one thing the DCI did every day that gave him physical access was the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). So the reformers focused on who was going to be given the authority over the PDB as the issue to define the new power structure.

The results were disempowerment of the position of the DCI, but not empowerment of the DNI. If you tease these developments out a bit, you will find that the PDB actually had a spurious relationship with the power equation. The DNI needs to be a CEO. He does not need to centralize every activity in his office suite. He does need to have firm control over the reins. If the production line is putting out faulty products, he has to be able to reach down to production management and direct change. He does not relocate his office to the factory or vice a versa. Agents of change cannot be located exclusively in the CEO suite, but must be distributed throughout the organizations earmarked for change. Finally, in the business world, a CEO would never try to change an entire enterprise in one fell swoop. There would be a business plan with bench marks so the employees could see where they fit in the transformation process. There will always be uncertainty, but at a minimum the framework would be understood. Right now, the framework, or vision, is missing.

Intelligence Redo Is Harshly Judged
A Judge Critiques 9/11 Overhaul, and Finds It Top-Heavy
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 31, 2006; A17

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner sharply criticized the restructuring of U.S. intelligence agencies last week, telling CIA lawyers that the overhaul has done nothing to rectify flaws exposed by al-Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that the changes "in the end . . . will amount to rather little."

Posner, who has written extensively on intelligence matters, questioned "the wisdom and consequences" of the intelligence overhaul passed by Congress in December 2004, which he said was based on "a deep misunderstanding of the limitations of national security intelligence."

That misunderstanding, Posner said, came from a naive belief that intelligence agencies can somehow be made infallible. "Failure in a democratic society," he said, "demands a response that promises, however improbably, to prevent future failures. [And] the preferred response is a reorganization, because it is at once dramatic and relatively cheap."

Posner made his remarks last Friday at an off-site conference of the CIA's office of general counsel, and a revised text was made available to The Washington Post.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said yesterday that the judge was invited because he is a well-known writer on intelligence issues and that "the CIA believes its officers should hear a range of informed opinion on issues affecting their work."

Posner has a book being published next week, "Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform." His book "Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11" was published last spring.

In Posner's analysis, the director of national intelligence (DNI), created by Congress to be the president's top intelligence adviser, was given too much to do. DNI John D. Negroponte oversees the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, including those at the Pentagon. Negroponte's staff, which has grown to about 1,000, "has become a new bureaucracy layered on top of the intelligence community," Posner said.

In the process, he said, the DNI's office has absorbed "many of the responsibilities of the CIA and demoted the agency to little more than a spy service." He points out that Negroponte runs the National Counterterrorism Center, which used to be part of the CIA. The agency also prepared the President's Daily Brief, the most sensitive intelligence delivered to President Bush and his top national security team each morning, but that now is prepared by the DNI.

At the same time, the DNI has floundered in its task of coordinating the agencies within the intelligence community, according to Posner, in part because of "three distinct and largely incompatible intelligence cultures that are poorly balanced: military intelligence, civilian intelligence and criminal investigation intelligence."

The military culture, with its "up-and-out promotions system . . . discipline and strong mission orientation," views the CIA with "a degree of hostility and disdain, which the agency reciprocates," Posner said. In addition, CIA and Pentagon intelligence officers compete in strategic intelligence work, a situation aggravated by the fact that the military operates the spy satellite agencies, whose capabilities it often does not wish to share.

Meanwhile, the FBI culture, focused in the past on catching criminals, is having problems with intelligence gathering because, as Posner put it, "the aim is to prevent the crime, not punish the criminals." Counterterrorist intelligence, he said, requires "casting a very wide net, following up on clues, assembling bits of information, and often failing because there is as yet no crime."

Complicating these differences, he noted, was the "profound political imbalance" extant among the three intelligence cultures. The military "is immensely popular, immensely powerful politically" and "ambitious to expand its intelligence activities under the forceful leadership of Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld and Under Secretary for Intelligence [Stephen A.] Cambone." Posner added that for "all these reasons" Pentagon intelligence is "out of the practical control of the DNI."

He said the FBI "is also immensely popular . . . and politically powerful . . . and stubbornly resistant to change." The CIA was left, Posner said, "in a situation of considerable vulnerability, as an unpopular agency and therefore a natural scapegoat" for intelligence failures of Sept. 11 and prewar Iraq.

Posner said that the DNI should have been given only a coordinating role in U.S. intelligence, and that the CIA director, now Porter J. Goss, should have remained the president's senior intelligence adviser. That approach would have eliminated the requirement that the DNI's office build its own bureaucracy of analysts, he said.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Melissa Mahle: Commentary --

Apologies for missing the comments emailing address on both blogs.

Both are now fixed.

(Also, FYI you can always check comments once you go past the "Dashboard" and into edit one of your blogs. In "Posting," there are four selections: Create, Edit posts, _Moderate comments_, and Status -- the third one is to check and approve/reject comments. Of course, now you will again be receiving emails to alert you, rather than having to go check yourself.)


4/22/2006 3:27 PM  

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