The New Craft of Intelligence


Robert David Steele


The cruelest and most debilitating casualty of the Cold War was neither the economy of Russia nor the American military—it was and remains, U.S. intelligence—intelligence qua spies and secrecy, but also intelligence qua "Smart Nation."  Since World War II, an otherwise clever nation has fallen prey to several erroneous premises, among them that intelligence demands secrecy; that technology is a fine substitute for thinking; that national security is primarily about force on force and state versus state; and that the crisis of the moment is a more worthy object for Presidential interest than long-term strategic trends in water, food, energy, demography, and culture—what our Native American forebears would call "seventh generation" thinking.

            Truth, ethics, and the taxpayer dollar have been casualties of war within the U.S. Intelligence Community.  Secret wars and secret vices have fostered a culture that culminates in the deception of the President by his own best men; of the voters by a government that makes policy with a limited appreciation of "ground truth;" and of the very earnest practitioners of the art and science of intelligence, whose isolation has left them stolidly believing they are still the best and the brightest, if we all "but knew."  We are wasting today at least $10 billion a year on secret technical intelligence collection systems whose fruits cannot be harvested, and we are about to waste $60 billion over ten years recapitalizing these same secret technical collection systems, so that we might collect 100 times more information, and process still less of it.  Analysts, analytic tools, and access to open sources of information comprise the "collateral damage" of the secret war and its obsession with compartmentation.



Robert David Steele is Chief Executive Officer of Open Source Solutions, Inc. ( and author of ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA International Press, 2000).

Facing the Facts


The reality of today's world is dauntingly complex and not amenable to the kind of simplistic one-at-a-time "war as entertainment" reporting that the media has learned to dispense, nor to the narrowly-focused intelligence production process that tailors its daily production to only the President and a few others, while creating massive generic databases of classified information that do little to address the specific needs of action officers across all of the departments and agencies of government.

In the year 2000 there were 26 severe conflicts between states, 78 less severe but persistent conflicts between states, and 178 violent political and ethnic international conflicts.  Our most astute statesmen observe this—Zbigniew Brzezinski counts 87 million killed in the past century, others count 110 million (Eckhardt), 187 million (Hobsbawn), 280 million (Rummel, including democide).  Ethno-nationalist conflicts (State versus Nation) are almost half the problem, with Inter-Ethnic or Tribal Conflicts and anti-regime wars (State versus Insurrection) comprising another quarter.  State versus State are just over ten percent of the types, with decolonization wars, gang wars, and genocide comprising the balance of the last quarter.[1]  As Trotsky has said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."  One might add to this the observation that war is constantly in metamorphosis, it does not sit still or hold to any kind of steady-state form, and only constant alertness and total flexibility will allow one to adapt and confront war on its constantly changing terms.

            In addition to this plethora of under-reported and little understood real-world right-now conflicts, there are many non-traditional threats to national security and national competitiveness that defy understanding within most modern countries for the simple reason that the spies spend $30 billion dollars a year (in the U.S. alone) on the small amount of the information that can be stolen, and virtually nothing on the preponderance of the information that is openly available.  Worse yet, those who are supposed to be doing the open source reporting—the diplomats and the media—rarely venture far from the capital cities and when they do, fall prey to "shows" with pre-planned background, foreground and overflying helicopters.  One has only to read Robert Young Pelton's The World's Most Dangerous Places (Doubleday, 2000), or William Shawcross', Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict (Simon & Schuster, 2000) to understand that there is nothing intelligent about the way Washington or any other major capital is collecting, processing, evaluating, and acting upon such persuasive "ground truth."  We are a smart people, and a dumb nation.

            The greatest threat to both our security and our prosperity in the 21st Century stems from a combination of water scarcity, failed states, ethnic fault lines between nations that do not exist and states that do, and opportunistic thugs thriving under conditions of chaos.  Globalization and localization are two sides of the same coin—what happens in Africa, or along the Slavic-Islamic and Sino-Slavic borders (where water scarcity and ethnic confrontation coincide) really matters to mainstream America because "the water's edge" is no longer an effective barrier against weapons of mass destruction, epidemic disease, mass migrations, and virulent electronic vandalism, theft, and terrorism.  Peacekeepers are bringing Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) home to their wives—European businessmen are bringing terrible new forms of drug-resistant diseases to our neighborhoods, fresh from their sexual vacations in the severely infected East European and Asian environments.  From water wars to modern plagues to massive corruption and theft aided by relatively insecure global electronic financial systems, we are facing non-traditional threats of our own making, threats that are far more predictable, potent, and imminent than we accept.


On the Urgency of Getting Government Intelligence Right


However one feels about the relative importance of government in relation to corporations, religious or ethnic associations, or any of the other forms of human organization, it would seem reasonable to suggest that governments will always be needed in order to address those matters of common concern that are not profitable for corporations nor appropriate for other associations lacking three essential commonalities of government: sovereignty derived from citizenship, common arms funded by consensual taxation, and a commitment to the preservation, conservation, and good order of the larger commonwealth.

            In the age of information, getting government intelligence right matters more.  One can go so far as to suggest that in the age of distributed information, not only is "central intelligence" an oxymoron, but—somewhat paradoxically—the importance of government intelligence rises exponentially.  Government intelligence is vital for three reasons: first, only the government can nurture the common appreciation of global sources of information, the common adoption of helpful softwares for dealing with information, and the common valuation and regulation of information services; second, only the government can reasonably be relied upon to address global information—if it chooses to be "intelligent"—from the perspective of common good; and third, only the government can legitimately aspire to competency in both secret sources that demand sovereign status and due process if they are to be managed properly, and in open sources.

            In the age of information, how a government addresses the art and science of intelligence qua knowledge of the world at large, becomes more important—in fact, it becomes the core competency of government at every level—from counties across America to the States, Tribes, and Commonwealths, to the Republics and Nations, to the deliberate regional and international combinations of Nation-States established by treaty.  If government is to be the umpire and ombudsman, the arbiter of what is fair, not only for this generation but for future generations that lack any other representation today, then government must master intelligence.


Strategic Thinking


Against this panorama of non-traditional threats and active neglect from the traditionalist mandarins of U.S. national security, and with an appreciation for the new importance of national intelligence as a core competency, it is helpful to spend a moment reflecting on a capstone presentation by Colin Gray, Modern Strategy (Oxford, 1999).

            Technology does not a revolution make.  Strategy requires a holistic approach, the rather renaissance ability to manage a multiplicity of capabilities—diplomatic, economic, cultural, military, psychological, information—in a balanced manner.  War is not about the force of arms, but about imposing one's will on another.  It is not enough to have the preponderance of power; one must accept the burden of using that power.  Time is a strategic dimension that is unique for being unrecoverable—use it or lose it.  Chance and primordial violence dance with rational intelligence—war is not about organizations, but about people at their worst.  Strategic culture matters—a strong strategic culture with inferior weapons can defeat a weak strategic culture with an abundance of technology and economic power.  Small wars and asymmetric threats must receive equal attention and equal resources, but should not displace conventional global forces—both are required.

            In this strategic context, intelligence has little to contribute to foreign affairs, defense, and trade strategy and policy.  There is no intelligence analysis model that demands distinctions between strategic, operational, tactical, and technical evaluations—the threat actually does change depending on the level of analysis.  Nor does our intelligence community today do holistic analysis, fully integrating military, civil, and geographic realities to form a more reliable picture of the sustainability, availability, reliability, and lethality of any given threat.  Viewed in a strategic context that places a special premium on the time and space limits of life on a declining planet, U.S. intelligence has hit bottom.


National Intelligence Successes and Failures


There have been major successes within our traditional community of secret government agencies, and we must give credit for these, but to deny that our "main enemy" imploded rather than surrendered is to demonstrate a taste for self-congratulation that is foolish and bodes ill for future thought.  It is necessary to guard against the slightest possibility of a catastrophic "great war", but it is equally necessary to guard against a series of complex "small threats" that, taken together, could be catastrophic for the entire world.

Our successes include the creation of the newest intelligence service in the world, learning from and then surpassing the British in many respects.   Our leadership brought together the allied services in a manner never before attempted.  We broke the Soviet diplomatic code (VENONA) through great perseverance and ingenuity and we found many ways to support our crucial arms control and other strategic policy teams—until the Soviets in turn got both our codes from a traitor and our code machines from an abandoned warehouse in Viet-Nam.  While not perfect, U.S. intelligence deserves a great deal of credit for helping avoid confrontation and deter war with the Soviets.  We helped drive the development of U.S. high technology, and produced new technical wonders from the U-2 to overhead satellites to hand-held transmitters that were decades ahead of their time. We created the super-computer and many other electronic engineering marvels as part of the growth of the National Security Agency, setting the stage for America's preeminence as the software and hardware superpower of the information age.  We plumbed the depths of the ocean, not only with signals but also physically, carrying out undersea communications intercepts that no normal person would contemplate. We pulled off what is surely one of the very best of the clandestine operations in this century, making off with the entire original files of the notorious and globally-influential STASI, the East German intelligence service. 

Of these successes, only those impacting on private sector productivity, helping stimulate super-computer and satellite technology, seem destined to be remembered in the 22nd Century.  Everything else falls into the category of games people play when they have too much money and too few restraints.

            Our failures have been both subtler, and more lasting.  They have been catalogued and investigated and enumerated and nominally corrected since the very year the Central Intelligence Agency was created, "flawed by design."  From the two Hoover Commissions to the Taylor Commission to the Schlesinger Commission to the Church Committee to the Aspin-Brown Commission to the Hart-Rudman Commission, the same strategic failures are cited time and again.  Adversarial relationships, failures in planning and communications, rises in costs of technical collection without commensurate increases in scope and quality, poor performance by the Department of State in collecting overt economic and political data, lack of adequate programmatic authority on the part of the Director of Central Intelligence…the list goes on.  Perhaps our greatest and most persistent failure, however, has been our neglect of the private sector and especially of the educational system—it is impossible to have smart spies if we cannot produce educated citizens fully conscious of the international realities upon which our security depends—this is fundamental.  It is fundamental in a deeper way than anyone in power appears to appreciate—national intelligence qua Smart Nation is about embedding the strategic culture—a culture of long-term choice that favors responsible and sustainable common development over selfish consumption and greed at the personal and national level.  Our culture today is a dagger in our national heart, and it will not be improved by those who champion individual morality at the expense of global morality.[2]  These are all policy failures.

Other over-arching failures include the irresponsible assumption that the mission of the intelligence community is to collect secrets rather than inform policy; the facile adoption of secrecy as a defense against scrutiny of one's intellectual pretensions or operational practices; and a cultural predisposition to believe that only the keepers of secrets could understand reality, and only secrets could define reality—from such delusions come madness; with such delusions the masters of mystique have held sway over naïve policy-makers, too eager to be swept off their feet with that joyous cry, "clear the room"—and they get to stay.  Never mind the banality of what is to be said, never mind that the same information is often already available in open sources, for one brief shining moment they have enjoyed "access."

            Strategic government failures include a continuing lack of a tracking system for ensuring that policy, operations, and acquisition intelligence requirements are actually satisfied, and the continuing rejection of lower tier non-traditional requirements that could be easily satisfied with a structured open source intelligence program.  Also in this category are an excessive investment in technical collection we cannot use while we neglect our clandestine service (laughingstock of the Third World) and fail to hire analysts in sufficient number or with adequate language and cultural skills.  Our overly compartmented production and dissemination system assures that the bulk of our hard-won "intelligence" will never reach the right consumer at the right time in the right form.

In regard to traditional national intelligence, our worst strategic failures have yet to be recognized—on the one hand, we grew so inbred, so obsessive about secrecy and compartmentation, that we arrogantly chose to ignore the information explosion as a minor external (and irrelevant) distraction—since 1992 the U.S. Intelligence Community has obstinately refused to reconstruct itself to embrace and exploit open sources of information, even as other nations, such as Estonia, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden raced to create their own open source intelligence units.  At the same time, we refused to recognize the internationalization of intelligence that should have been the natural accompaniment to globalization.  We huddled with our traditional Anglo-Saxon allies, avoided engaging the substantive issue of how to provide unclassified intelligence to the 43 nations comprising the Partners for Peace and Mediterranean Dialog nations, and ignored the expressions of interest from African, Asian, Caribbean, and Latin American nations for multi-lateral open source information sharing agreements.  In the age of information, the economics of information matters more than tangible trade, and we are failing to create the over-arching global information marketplace needed to cope with the complex multi-cultural challenges facing all nations and all peoples.

            Operational government failures include a self-imposed over-emphasis on "worst-case" threats instead of "most likely" threats (or even better, most likely and long-term regional threats); a complete incapacity in the arena of low-intensity conflict and non-traditional threat warning; and the worst record for foreign language skills of any great nation.  Operational failures include especially the complete disconnect between foreign affairs, defense, and trade strategy and policy, exacerbated by the dramatic decline of the Department of State—including a terrible deficit in State "intelligence" about the world—and the excessive influence of the regional Commanders-in-Chief (CINC) who have no off-setting diplomatic or trade counterparts of stature "on the scene".

            Tactical military intelligence failures abound.  From a system that cannot respond to the needs of the company commander at the very tip of the spear, to a complete atrophy of organic collection capabilities and a loss of basic patrolling skills as well as prisoner capture, interrogation and exploitation skills, we are left to thrash around on the front lines, where the dangers are the greatest and good intelligence could actually save lives.  Technology has not helped deliver intelligence to the front line, only to inundate it with masses of digital data that cannot be processed anywhere, much less at the tactical level.  These are policy failures.  "Force protection" careerism has castrated the U.S. military—the fear of casualties is such that U.S. forces estrange themselves from local populations, huddle in heavily armored masses, and cede the battlefield to those who still have courage and are fleet of foot.

            All these things were clear in 1990-1992.  The intelligence bureaucracy did not want to listen then and it does not want to listen now, ten years and $275 billion mis-directed dollars later.  The policy bureaucracy, including the political appointees, did not care then, and it does not yet today give evidence of real interest in iconoclastic views necessary to a real transformation and "revolution in intelligence affairs."   We are about to waste another $60 billion, at least, in recapitalizing secret collection capabilities that are not needed, at the same time that we continue to neglect analysts, analytic tools, and access to open sources, capabilities that are desperately needed.


What Is To Be Done: The Big Picture


            There are four quadrants of national intelligence that the President must contemplate, and they each require dramatic realignments of resources and priorities.  Only one is secret.


Text Box: Intelligence I
Lessons of History
Text Box: Intelligence II
Global Coverage
Text Box: Intelligence IV
Spies, Satellites & Secrecy
Text Box: Intelligence III
Virtual Intelligence Community








The first quadrant, the most fundamental, the most neglected, is that of the lessons of history.  When entire volumes are written on anticipating ethnic conflict, and history is not mentioned at all, America has indeed become ignorant.  We have failed to honor history, and we will pay the price.  Despite the fact that most major government organizations have very talented historians who labor anonymously to keep that organization's past glories well burnished, very rarely does any political appointee or senior policymaker call for the historian to inquire: "what lessons have we learned in the past?"  There is an easy fix to this—embrace the historian, empower the historian, demand that the historian be a member of the high table that advises the new leadership in each organization—a Presidential Board of Historians would be salutary, as would a national project to digitize, index, and make accessible to the public the major works of Chinese, Islamic, and foreign tribal histories, among others.

            The second quadrant is that of global coverage.  As so many former and present Directors of Central Intelligence have been fond of saying, our $30 billion a year can only cover the top tier targets, they do not permit us to focus on the lower tier issues and countries—despite the fact that it is in the lower tier countries where the future wars are being spawned, and it is the lower tier issues such as the collapse of global public health and the vanishing of major fresh water supplies, that will decide the fate of future generations. 

Current and former Directors of Central Intelligence have failed to rise to the challenge and have failed to muster the political understanding necessary to reconfigure the $30 billion Frankenstein so that it can be effective.  So be it—let us not rely on the U.S. Intelligence Community for global coverage.  Let us acknowledge instead that global coverage by spies and secret means are unaffordable and unachievable by any single nation or corporation.  Let us set forth the need for an international secretariat to coordinate a globalization of intelligence, at least at the open source level, so that the East Timors, the Sudans, the Somalias, the Burundis of the world can be competently addressed by diverse nations and corporations working together. 

The Internet makes possible an alternative model for global intelligence that relies on distributed collection, distributed processing, distributed analysis, and shared intelligence.  Perhaps more to the point, it permits burden-sharing and Global Information Management, an extension of the concept of Corporate Information Management—one-time data entry, global access.  A structured international project to establish shared current intelligence reports on every country and issue of mutual concern, together with related experts forums, Internet and private database link tables, and multi-lingual distance learning packages, would go a long way toward increasing global consciousness and reducing the cost of basic intelligence.

            The third quadrant requires that we construct a virtual intelligence community that brings together the elements of our distributed national intelligence.


Text Box: Policy Intelligence (Federal, State, Local, Global, Non-State)
Text Box: Law Enforcement Intelligence
Text Box: Military
Text Box: Coalition
Text Box: Business Intelligence or Open Source Intelligence
Text Box: Mass & Niche Media Information
Text Box: Basic, Advanced, & Corporate Education
Text Box: Citizen Intelligence—Intelligence "Minutemen"












            We must harness the full intellectual power of the nation, a distributed network of local and state government officials, corporate officials, military and police officials, non-governmental officials, journalists, academics, and individual students and citizens—the "intelligence minutemen" of the 21st Century."  The center of gravity for both national security and national prosperity lie now in the private sector and its intellectual property as well as its accumulated knowledge.  The concepts of noosphere (Pierre Tielhard de Chardin) and "world brain" (H.G. Wells) are now an imminent reality, and the World Intelligence Center envisioned by Quincy Wright is achievable.  It is not possible for the President to be fully informed unless we open wide the channels between government and business and until we eliminate the compartmentation between secret intelligence, staff information, and private sector knowledge—the President must elevate education and information to the highest levels, and be President of a "Smart Nation."  If the President will "take charge" and permit the private sector to move forward with unencumbered encryption, not only will we save a great deal of money within government, but we will "open the doors" to the vast repositories of private sector knowledge that are now withheld from our all-source analysts for fear that we will lose a few secrets—we allow the secret tail to wag the knowledge dog.  It bears emphasis that very few corporations—whether U.S. or European or Asian—take "corporate intelligence" seriously.  As Peter Drucker has noted, we have spent virtually all of our information funds on technology and paid little heed to the importance of deliberately acquiring, processing, and acting upon external information.[3]  While the private sector has much to offer a new and expanded concept of national intelligence, government must establish "due diligence" standards that require corporations and other entities to do their homework in the external world of information.

            At the same time, we must really take the asymmetric threats that demand intelligence sharing between Federal, State, and Local levels of government much more seriously, and we must devise new means of addressing these issues.  Two new means are vital: abandonment of the assumption that secret intelligence is the only coin of the realm, and abandonment of Federally-provided secret communications as the only acceptable means of sharing information.  Just as the "system of systems" is unaffordable by our international allies, so also is it unaffordable at the local level.  The Internet, and unencumbered encryption, are the new solution.

            A critical aspect—a vital pre-requisite to Presidential success in this arena—will hinge on adherence to the bi-partisan Aspin-Brown Commission's observation that it is the intelligence consumers, not the intelligence producers, that are responsible for addressing intelligence questions that can be answered "predominantly" by open sources of information.  At the same time that we implement the reforms discussed below, it is imperative that every government department, agency, and commission dramatically enhance its internal ability to access premium external information (information that must be bought because it is valuable and represents marketable expertise) and to integrate that premium unclassified information with internal staff information and provided classified information as needed.  The ultimate "all-source" analysis capability must be restored within the departments and agencies of government, not within the intelligence community.  The Cold War created an over-reliance on the intelligence community for analysis that has had a debilitating impact on the rest of the government's ability to think for itself—the entire government must relearn and apply the proven process of intelligence, do deliberate collection, processing, and analysis of unclassified external information, and get out of the deep rut it is now in—accepting at face value all that is provided free to it by other governments and non-government actors (all with an agenda of their own) and frequently full of deception, untruths, and gross inaccuracies.

Last but not least come spies, satellites, and secrecy.  The human condition has not changed, there is still great evil in the world, and it is all too easy for evil people to obtain weapons of mass destruction, to carry out electronic attacks on our financial systems, to engage in activities capable of killing hundreds if not tens of thousands.  America and other nations will always need their spies and their secrets, and we honor that need.  On a solid foundation of open source intelligence, in the context of history and with the power that comes from tapping into all sources of knowledge within the nation, spies, satellites and secrets can provide the President with a decisive advantage.  In the absence of those, however, spies are isolated, satellites are expensive, secrecy is counter-productive, and we lack intelligence.


Congressional Consensus—A Suggested Approach


In a Congressional context, where consensus must be achieved, this translates into three distinct and overlapping spheres of influence.  The traditional sphere of interest, that of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, while vital, is narrowly focused on the most sensitive matters.  They are only concerned with the fourth quadrant, the one dealing with the existing intelligence bureaucracy, and even then they must pay due heed to the fact that the great majority of the intelligence program is within the Department of Defense and therefore the purview of the Armed Services Committees. 

The second sphere of interest may be labeled as that of "government operations".  It is essential that we move quickly to bring the U.S. government, and its state and local counterparts, into the information age.  There needs to be a generic informational infrastructure that can be used throughout the government, in every agency, department, service, commission, and advisory council, in order to access unclassified external information that is for sale.  There needs to be an international information infrastructure that dramatically improves our ability to share and exchange normal unclassified information with other governments and with non-governmental organizations.  Under the general oversight of the committees responsible for government operations as a whole, but involving every single functional committee, there needs to be a concerted effort to define a government-wide program for accessing and paying for external information—as opposed to information technology.

The third sphere of interest goes well beyond government and involves the very intellectual, cultural, education, social, and business fabric of the nation.  We can label this sphere that of the "committee of the whole", and suggest that every single Senator and Representative must be actively engaged in sponsoring legislation beneficial to their individual states and districts.

It is in this context that the traditional divisions of authority between foreign affairs, defense, judiciary, trade, intelligence and all other committees must be modified.  Every element of government requires a substantial improvement to its ability to harness external information; at the same time, there is a need for a truly national intelligence endeavor that embraces the private sector.  It will be difficult, but the Senate and the House of Representatives must examine this program first as a committee of the whole, then in relation to government operations, and only last, as a narrowly focused foreign affairs-defense-judiciary-trade-intelligence issue.


What Is To Be Done: The Nuts and Bolts of It


Regardless of whether or not one ascribes to the need for a truly national intelligence community, or for the globalization and localization of intelligence, there is some reconstruction that must be undertaken.

            At the highest level of Presidential action, there is a need for a Presidential Board of Historians and a national project to digitize, index, and make visible to the public the rich material available from Chinese, Islamic, foreign tribal, and other histories that are relevant to our future security.  There is a need for a federally-funded international secretariat as well as a domestic secretariat to nurture both global coverage and a domestic virtual intelligence community.  All three of these initiatives are addressed by the fourth recommendation below.  At the highest level there are ten specific recommendations which, taken together, could rapidly improve the provision of international information to the President, Congress, and the public, and in this way both improve our decision-making on complex foreign affairs, defense, and trade matters; and also internationalize education and create public intelligence.

            First, the President must prevail in asserting that intelligence is about informing policy, not about collecting secrets.  Secrets are an end to the means, not the end in itself, and those that forget this fact endanger the Republic.  Needed is a Director-General for National Intelligence, serving within the White House, and holding programmatic authority over all classified and unclassified intelligence collection, processing, and analysis funds.  The existing Director of Central Intelligence position should be renamed to that of Director of Secret Intelligence (DSI), with full programmatic authority over all classified elements.       

Second, the President should adopt the recommendation of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and create a Technical Collection Agency but he should go two steps further and break a new Clandestine Service Agency out of the overly bureaucratized Central Intelligence Agency, while also converting the National Security Agency into the National Processing Agency, a single point where all imagery, signals, human intelligence, and open source intelligence can be sliced, diced, visualized, time stamped, and molded into usable grist for the all-source analysts and their consumers.  There is only one place in this Nation where the combination of super-computing power and human first echelon foreign language analysis capabilities exist in depth, and that is at Fort Meade, Maryland.  In comparison to their capabilities, all other agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, are nothing more than "mom and pop" shops.  We must focus our efforts, with one agency for technical collection, another for clandestine human collection, a third for all-source processing, and finally, below, one devoted exclusively to analysis.

            Third, the President should elevate the importance of analysis by refocusing the Central Intelligence Agency exclusively on analysis, renaming it the National Intelligence Agency.  Two hundred new mid-career language-qualified analysts should be hired full-time, and 1,000 part-time mid-career or senior analysts—with language and foreign area skills—should be hired as adjunct all-source analysts, remaining in place at their parent institutions.   They would comprise both the early warning net for Global Coverage, and the Intelligence Reserve. Offices of signals, imagery, measurements, and open source intelligence analysis should be restored or created within the National Intelligence Agency.

            Fourth, the President must overcome the objections of those obsessed with secrecy (the producers of intelligence), as well as the objections of those too embarrassed to admit their internal deficiencies (the consumers of intelligence), and create a Global Knowledge Foundation funded at no less than $1.5 billion a year, to take on the hard but exciting task of assuring the best possible access for U.S. policymakers, U.S. corporations, and the U.S. public to international information relevant to national security and national prosperity.  The role of this organization will be to fund and facilitate government-wide access to international open sources, not to carry out analysis or any other function of government.  This organization could also serve as the international secretariat for coordinating a global burden-sharing network to cover all countries and all topics on a 24/7 basis, and to do so in a way that enables the information to be available to all citizens for free—in this way we can accelerate the internationalization of education called for by both Senator David Boren and Mr. David Gergen.

            Fifth, the President must understand that Embassies have become ineffective in the past few decades, and a dramatic restoration of our diplomatic representation as well as our ability to collect foreign overt information is required.  Two initiatives are suggested: first, that each Embassy be reconstructed such that existing secure spaces are occupied by an inter-agency team of analysts, and provided with funds for the purchase of local knowledge under legal and ethical terms; and second, that each regional theater commander-in-chief be upgraded, with a diplomatic and trade counterpart, to establish "super-Embassies" capable of orchestrating the full range of U.S. policies and capabilities in their region.  Such super-Embassies should have at their disposal a special highly-qualified battalion of Foreign Area Officers (FAO) to be known as "ground truth" specialists, responsible for traveling their assigned areas of responsibility without ever attending a cocktail party or wearing a suit—responsible for walking in the bazaar, listening to the people, and seeing for themselves the actual conditions on the ground.  Acting always as an overt observer, using only legal and ethical means, such a cadre would perhaps double, overnight, our appreciation of actual local conditions, and lessen our susceptibility to shallow media reporting, false official reporting, uninformed Embassy reporting, and overpaid untrue clandestine reporting.  This program would be completely "purple" and would take the now severely abused FAOs out of their services and into a new FAO career service that would include a leavening of diplomats, commercial attaches and private sector Presidential appointees.  This new service would become the President's "telescope" and would not be subject to manipulation by local Ambassadors or military commanders, nor would it be subordinate to any single Cabinet official.  It could be conceptualized, for the sake of clarity, as an independent international "audit" organization that is also an overt collector of ground truth.

            Sixth, the President must understand that American business is under attack from all sides and needs a structured defense.  We should not steal secrets on behalf of American business, but we can at least provide for an effective common defense in the form of a dedicated Federal Bureau of Investigation division, a new division, dedicated to protecting U.S. business interests world-wide.  Such a division would have three arms—the existing infrastructure protection element; a global counterintelligence element dedicated to protecting U.S. businesses overseas; and a "hot pursuit" special operations element capable of carrying out extraordinary chases in cyberspace.  The Freedom of Information Act must be changed to prevent its use by allies and others who steal proprietary information through its loopholes, and we must restore the faith of the business community in our government's ability to protect their proprietary information.  At the same time, it must be made clear to our business community that "due diligence" is no longer limited to fiduciary matters, and that a proper regard for both accessing external information and protecting internal information is mandatory.

            Seventh, the President must "localize" the proven process of intelligence by funding the establishment of state and local intelligence capabilities such that there is eventually a national network and a shared capability for spotting and arresting terrorists and other threatening elements without regard to jurisdiction and without having legal barriers to hot pursuit.  America has forgotten how to think at every level of government and business.  The proven process of intelligence—requirements definition, collection management, source discovery and validation, multi-source fusion, compelling presentation—is an essential part of transforming American into a Smart Nation.  These legal ethical methods must be embedded across the land.

            Eighth, the President must eliminate export restrictions on encryption and recognize that the greatest opportunity of all faces us.  We can raise the Internet's security level to where it can handle Presidential communications.  The moment we do that, we embrace the world and make it possible for an extraordinary variety of multilateral relationships to bloom in cyberspace.  The preponderance of the knowledge and information that America needs to prosper in the 21st Century is in the private sector and more often than not also in a foreign language and stored somewhere else.  We must give up control in order to gain control—we must empower the Internet in order to leverage the Internet.  A Digital Marshall Plan that simultaneously extends the Internet to every clime and place while making unencumbered encryption and stable Application Program Interfaces available to the world will serve America well.  The National Security Agency is defunct as a secret signals agency—its most important value to our future will be as the brain of the firm rather than the ear of the firm.  Processing rather than collection is the heart of the matter now.

            Ninth, we should be very cautious about sponsoring covert action (or "special activities") such as understood by the Central Intelligence Agency.  Ted Shakley's deputy Bill Blair, speaking in the aftermath of Laos, said, "We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed, and we didn't get much for it."  The Islamic faith as a whole, and all of the lower tier former colonies and exploited ethnic groups, are mad enough at us as it is.   If we play it straight we are more likely to win hearts and minds with the righteousness of our basic principles and the sincerity of our faith.  As a general rule, paramilitary and armed opposition covert action (i.e. all covert action other than managing agents of influence and selected media placement operations) should be done by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in close consultation with but not under the control of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Alternatively, since covert action does constitute a "third option" between diplomacy and overt armed force, it may be time to consolidate these capabilities in a new small agency that is under the direct oversight of the Secretaries of State and Justice and the Attorney General.

            Tenth, and last, the President must place much greater emphasis on the importance of "soft power" and the nurturing of favorable feelings toward America before threats emerge. Selectively we must increase elements of Program 150 to restore the Department of State and extend our representation to nations that are not on the map but very real, to non-state actors with considerable wisdom about environmental and other issues, and toward the private sector.  A leavening of our government with mid-career business, academic, and journalist experts will require additional positions—there is no better place to start a government to private sector "exchange of hostages" than in the Department of State.  The Peace Corps should be tripled in size, and the Agency for International Development doubled in size and focused on water scarcity, disease containment, the transfer of energy technologies and efficiencies, and the rapid adoption of information-sharing tools in every corner of every country on earth.  A University of the Republic, working with major universities in every State, Commonwealth, and Tribal Territory, could focus on mid-career programs to create cohorts of key people from across the various sectors comprising the "virtual intelligence community."  Its focus would be on teaching policy-makers, acquisition managers, operators, and logisticians the new craft of intelligence, and in passing help intelligence professionals better understand the brave new world of unclassified intelligence.

Deliberately, we have not addressed the substance of foreign affairs, defense, and trade.  The above initiatives are the minimal mandatory reforms that must precede substantive reforms in the various departments, for the fact is that today the U.S. government and other governments are operating on a fraction of the relevant information available from the international community.  Our policies, our operational plans, and our acquisition programs are uninformed about strategic generalizations highly relevant to Presidential decisions about both the imminent (Colombia) and the distant (water wars).  We have done little to devise strategies and programs for non-traditional threats that are important but not urgent—the ones that will determine the security and well-being of the "seventh generation."


On Technology and Intelligence


As the Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency concluded this past year, our greatest failure in the information technology arena has been with regard to Tasking, Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (TPED).  We have not made the investments and the great leaps forward needed to keep up with our secret technical collection, and are completely unprepared to handle the flood of legally and ethically available multi-lingual open source information (most of which is not digital—or in English—and must be converted and translated).

            There are five aspects of this that merit Presidential attention and bi-partisan legislation.  First, it is essential that a global standard be established that finally provides every datum in every medium (imagery, signal, print, etc.) with an international time stamp and a geospatial coordinate appropriate to the datum's relation to a point on the earth.  Only in this way will we set the stage for automated all-source fusion, not only in the classified world, but in the private sector as well.  Second, we must establish legislation mandating the stability and transparency of Application Program Interfaces (API) in order to establish a common railway gauge in cyber-space, and unleash the power of plug and play third party software.  The eighteen distinct functionalities for an all-source analyst workstation, identified by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1986, still are not real because the government has failed to steer the private sector toward interoperability, and instead spent billions trying to jury-rig incremental classified solutions.  Third, and it merits repetition, we must stop constraining private sector and international encryption so that secret and non-secret information can finally be handled within a true "information commons" rather than in the existing information "archipelago" where all too often critical information sinks to the bottom.  Fourth, while Extended Mark-Up Language (XML) offers a potent foundation, we must go further in defining data attributes that cannot be stripped from either hard-copy or electronic data and that will permit copyright, and other legacy rights to be maintained irrespective of who touches the data.  Fifth and last, we must be gravely concerned about the fact that our young analysts are falling behind, not only in understanding their subject matter, but in understanding the information technology that is being used to force-feed them what they "need to know."  We must improve the documentation of our software code (a perennial problem) but we must also legislate requirements for the publication of all algorithms, assumptions, and other underlying means of hard-wiring outcomes within software.  A wise person once said that novices argue about the data, journeymen argue about the models, and real experts argue about the underlying assumptions and algorithms.  We have no real experts in the U.S. Intelligence Community on this latter topic, and we need to at least have an oversight capability.  Leading a coordinated effort to achieve these five "steering" tasks would be an excellent alternative mission for In-Q-Tel.

            Technology is not a substitute for thinking, but analytic tools and standards that permit the full and secure integration of secret and non-secret information are the very crux of the matter if we are to be a Smart Nation.  A Digital Marshall Plan should have strong educational and standards elements and nurture an infinite variety of secure multi-lateral information sharing paths—we can impact on global security and prosperity—including our own—by helping extend the information superhighway to all points on the globe.


Concluding Thoughts


There are some "first principles" that must be acknowledged if we are to be effective in the age of globalization and information.

            Power is no longer top-down, unilateral, nor based on secret sources.  Power is now bottom-up, multi-cultural, and based on open sources that nurture consensus.

            Seventh generation thinking is essential.  How will today's decision affect children 210 years down the road?  What public intelligence must we have to achieve consensus, apply common sense, and make smart long-term choices?

            Intelligence is about answering questions, not about stealing secrets.  Intelligence must fully integrate the knowledge of the private sector, it must be responsive, cost-effective, credible, and reliable.  Above all, it must be loyal to the Republic's higher principles and purposes.  There is no room for intelligence professionals that choose mystique over substance, compartmentation over convenience, denial of access over sharing.

            Ultimately, intelligence is about people rather than technology.   America has good technology, but it has better people, and we must do what we can to transfer the proven process of intelligence down to the state and local levels at the same time that we globalize intelligence and create web-based burden-sharing arrangements will all manner of traditional and non-traditional partners.

            Ultimately intelligence is about the strategic culture and the strategic education of the people. Intelligence in the 21st Century is an all or nothing proposition—either you "get it" and connect and share intelligence with one another, or you don't.  You either have a Smart Nation, or you do not.

            An alternative intelligence community is forming today.  Citizens, empowered by the Internet, are rapidly devising new means of devining truths that their governments are either ignorant of, or intent on concealing.  The information war is not between nations, but between organizations and individuals.  America must commit to becoming a Smart Nation that integrates all four quadrants of intelligence—the lessons of history; shared Global Coverage; the harnessing of all elements of national intelligence writ large; and spies, satellites, and secrecy.  In the information age, war is not about weapons; it is about ideas and the underlying values that inspire the ideas.  We are at war today, a total war.  This war demands that America mobilize every citizen, internationalize every classroom, and integrate every piece of open source information available to the Nation into one large mosaic supportive of effective Presidential decision-making across a range of complex foreign affairs, defense, and trade issues.  The benefits of creating a Smart Nation through the reform of national intelligence will cascade down to local government; across to our business, media and academic communities; it will extend to international non-state actors; and it will ultimately serve to create an information shield considerably more relevant to our future security than any single diplomatic, military, or economic initiative.

            We are a smart people, but a dumb Nation, and we desperately need to do much more than recapitalize a few spy satellites.  The problem with spies is they only know secrets.  National intelligence reform must start and end with common sense, and it must be restructured, with firm Presidential leadership and the engagement of every Senator and Representative, so that it is firmly focused on being a public service acting in the long-term public interest.


Further Reading


·         Bruce Berkowitz and Allen Goodman, BEST TRUTH: Intelligence in the Information Age (Yale, 2000), 224 pages.

·         James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency—From the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century (Doubleday, 2001), 721 pages.

·         Craig Eisendrath (editor), National Insecurity: U.S. Intelligence After the Cold War (Temple University Press, 1999), 296 pages.

·         Arthur Hulnick, Fixing the Spy Machine: Preparing American Intelligence for the 21st Century (Praeger Publishing, 2000), 248 pages.

·         Loch Johnson,  Bombs, Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs: Intelligence and America's Quest for Security (New York University Press, 2000), 288 pages.

·         Mark Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy (Congressional Quarterly Press, 1999), 276 pages.

·         Willard C. Matthias, America's Strategic Blunders: Intelligence Analysis and National Security Policy, 1936-1991 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), 367 pages.

·         David F. Rudgers, Creating the Secret State: The Origins of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1943-1947 (University Press of Kansas, 2000), 246 pages.

·         Robert D. Steele, ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA International Press, 2000), 495 pages.

·         Gregory D. Treverton, Reshaping National Intelligence for an  Age of Information (Cambridge University Press, 2001), 282 pages.

·         Amy Zegart, Flawed by Design: the Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC  (Stanford University Press, 2000), 342 pages.


Web Sites of Note


·         Canadian Intelligence Studies (

·         Come Back Alive "Ground Truth" (

·         Future of Intelligence (

·         History of Intelligence (

·         Intelligence Resource Program (

·         Links to International Media (

·         Literature of Intelligence  ( 

·         Open Directory Project (

·         Open Source Marketplace, Archives & Distance Learning (

·         Strategic Intelligence (


[1] Berto Jongman, World Conflict & Human Rights Map 2000 (PIOOM, Leiden University).

[2] Zbigniew Brzezinski, OUT OF CONTROL: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-First Century (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993).

[3] Peter Drucker, "The Next Information Revolution", Forbes ASAP (24 August 1998), p. 46.