Intelligence is designed to give a
policymaker, in particular the president, an edge, to give him information that
isn’t available anywhere else that will help inform policy decisions. There is
human intelligence, which is basically running agents, finding people who can
tell you what you need to know. There’s signals intelligence, which is designed
to intercept conversations. Another key type of intelligence is satellite imagery,
or geospatial. Intelligence operations are clandestine activities
designed to gain access to something that someone else wants to keep hidden.
It can be organizing an operation to infiltrate a facility, perhaps a military
installation, or it could be to infiltrate a group. Or it could be to
recruit a human asset. There are basically two different levels of intelligence, tactical and strategic. Tactical is, what’s going to happen, when is it going to happen, how can the U.S. government take action? Strategic is more trying to put
something into the broader context. On the 9/11 case, the intelligence community
largely got the strategic warning correct. But they didn’t get the tactical,
the how and the when of the attack. The intelligence cycle starts with
requirements. You’re trying to figure out, what do you need to know. The second stage would be collection: which potential source is likely to bring the best information available? In most cases, it’s going to be more than one source. The next step is prioritization and exploitation. Far more intelligence is usually collected
than can be processed. What piece do you want to exploit
for further examination? Then it goes to analysis, and that’s
where you’re trying to figure out, what does this mean, why did this happen. And then finally it gets disseminated
to a policymaker. Intelligence officers are not policymakers.
They collect this information, they analyze it. They then give it to policymakers and the
policymakers make the decisions. Intelligence in the United States goes back
to George Washington, one of the country’s best spymasters.
The modern intelligence community has its roots in World War II and the Office of Strategic Services. They did amazing things during the war, but they had many enemies in Washington,
and two months after World War II ended, the OSS was disbanded. If you fast-forward to 1947, you had a growing Soviet threat, Churchill warning
of an iron curtain descending in Europe, the partition in India, you had a civil
war in China, and President Truman signed the National Security Act, which
established the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the
Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Act of 1947 basically
provided the structure for the intelligence community through the Cold War period.
It wasn’t until 9/11, when the 9/11 Commission made its recommendations to establish
an Office of National Intelligence that there was significant structural change
inside of the community. The reform act of 2004 established the
DNI, the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI was designed to focus on
integrating seventeen different agencies that make up the United States
intelligence community, and in particular on information sharing. The intelligence community is always evolving
and always faces new challenges. I think that one of the
biggest challenges is digitalization. It makes the amount of information
available to an analyst much broader. The key question is, how do you find the
right bit of information in that mass amount of data? How do you prioritize and
evaluate information provided by social media? Another key challenge is
going to be cyber. Which countries are engaged in this? Which groups are engaged in this?
What groups pose the greatest threat to not only the U.S. government
but to our critical infrastructure? The biggest successes of the intelligence
community really are in its ability to protect U.S. citizens on a daily basis,
to thwart and disrupt plots designed to attack U.S. citizens or U.S. interests.
Most of those wind up remaining secret because they have to.
The failures of the intelligence community usually become public. And they should.
They’re examined; you look for lessons learned, trying to make sure that
you are in the best position to protect the nation’s security.