Imperative of Intelligence Reform

September 11 and the Imperative of Reform in the U.S. Intelligence Community – Additional Views of Senator Richard C. Shelby : When the findings and recommendations of the congressional joint inquiry into September 11 were published last year, Senator Shelby (R-AL) independantly released a lengthy document detailing his “additional views”. Its interesting and more readable than most such discussions, and Shelby proposes some fairly radical concepts:

Intelligence collectors – whose status and bureaucratic influence depends to no small extent upon the monopolization of “their” information-stream – often fail to recognize the importance of providing analysts with “deep” access to data. The whole point of intelligence analysis against transnational targets is to draw patterns out of a mass of seemingly unrelated information, and it is crucial that the analysis of such patterns not be restricted only to personnel from a single agency. As Acting DIA Director Lowell Jacoby observed in his written testimony before the Joint Inquiry, “information considered irrelevant noise by one set of analysts may provide critical clues or reveal significant relationships when subjected to analytic scrutiny by another.”

This suggests that the fundamental intellectual assumptions that have guided our Intelligence Community’s approach to managing national security information for half a century may be in some respects crucially flawed, in that it may not be true that information-holders – the traditional arbiters of who can see “their” data – are the entities best placed to determine whether outsiders have any “need to know” data in their possession. Analysts who seek access to information, it turns out, may well be the participants best equipped to determine what their particular expertise and contextual understanding can bring to the analysis of certain types of data.

Also notable is his assertion that hard wiring our intelligence community to deal with the terrorist threat is “precisely the wrong answer, because such an approach would surely leave us unprepared for the next major threat, whatever it turns out to be.” Rather, “we need an Intelligence Community agile enough to evolve as threats evolve, on a continuing basis.” [via FAS’s excellent Secrecy News]