From Analysis to Action

One criticism this author has always had of the US intelligence community relates not to their actions specifically, but rather to the overall structure and culture of the organizations, namely that they are too analytically oriented and not operationaly oriented. While occasional headlines discuss alleged CIA action and conspiracy theories abound, the fact remains that American intelligence agencies are overwhelmingly analytical with approximately 80% of the organization dedicated to analysis and not operations. Thus, I was quite pleased to read that a similar suggestion has been floated recently although I suspect in this political enviroment, it may be difficult to get off the ground.

America’s military, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies already devote thousands of people and billions of dollars to tracking down top terrorists and insurgents. But even the most successful of these efforts — like going after Iraqi militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — have been “ad hoc” efforts, with units cobbled together from different corners of the government. Report author and retired Lt. Col. George Crawford instead would like to see a permanent group with clear authority, training, doctrine and technology to go after these dangerous individuals. These “manhunting teams would be standing formations, trained to pursue their designated quarry relentlessly for as long as required to accomplish the mission,” he writes.

Sometimes, that will mean operating “in uncooperative countries.” In those cases, the teams must be prepared “to act unilaterally, with no support or coordination with local authorities, in a manner similar to that employed by Israel’s Avner team in response to the Munich Olympics massacre.”

Like the people of a country, intelligence agencies also reflect different culture, values and history. Hence, Russia is and has always been obsessed with counterintelligence from the 1500s until today. Israel, being small and constantly under siege, has small, flexible and action oriented organizations. Oversight is also dramatically different with Russian intelligence operating outside the law until the 1990s (outside, not illegally!) or the fact that British intelligence gets very little oversight from Parliament and reports directly to the PM, none of the congressional nonsense that occurs in the US. Other cultures are also (luckily) devoid of the excessively legalistic culture of the United States which prevents of from both acheiving national goals and in some cases endangers (and ends) the lives of American citizens or allies.

Chirol’s Wishlist

In order for our intelligence organizations to better serve both the American people and the national interest, the following must be done.

1) Downsizing – The size of the organization is inversly proportional to its effectiveness.

2) Action speaks louder than words – Focus more on action which includes everything from improving HUMINT to increasing the size of our operational sections and the pace of action (including assassination, rendition, sabotage, D&D etc)

3) 86 the Lawyers – Intel organizations exist to break foreign laws. Let em! And some people just need killin so let’s quit drafting memos and start sending out hit squads.

4) Less Congress – the US oversight system create extra beauraucracy, guaranteed leaks and cripples our ability to operate. The British or Israeli systems are more effective and still democratic, accountable and semi-transparent.

5) Boost our counterintelligence capability – the Chicoms have stolen ALL our nuclear warhead designs. Enough said.

6) Change the clearance process – The people we need most have the most difficult time being cleared and getting jobs.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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13 Responses to From Analysis to Action

  1. Thomas says:

    I point out that the needs of both the UK and Israel are radically different from the needs of the United States.

    Both countries are small and have long-standing, endemic, domestic, terrorist problems. There are also a number of compelling arguments that the intelligence operations of these two nations have, in point of fact, done much more harm to those countries than they ever did to preserve them.

  2. Sejo says:

    I’m trying to fit this model in the Italian scenario. What if our current PM, with all his TVs and the newspapers and the magazines, has even the complete control of our intelligence?
    Now, that would be nice: we could ask for membership in the “Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana”. And margaritas for all!

  3. Chirol says:

    Sejo: What does italy have to do with anything? Their intel agencies are a joke anyway and their culture/government is totally different hence my discussion of the UK and Israel, both functioning and prosperous democracies (though not sure about the UK anymore).

  4. Adrian says:

    We downsize because small organizations are more effective, but grow the operational sections because you want more effective operations? That doesn’t make any sense.

    IC lawyers don’t exist to make sure we don’t break any laws in Pakistan or wherever, they exist to make sure the IC doesn’t break American laws (as it has repeatedly in the past). Obviously IC operations get a lot of leeway, but not carte blanche – it’s probably OK for a CIA operation to break American money laundering laws, but definitely not homicide. So we need lawyers to interpret the law to figure out what’s OK in the gray area. It’s my impression that most of the problems that people blame IC lawyers for, are actually the fault of poorly written laws. Change the laws, keep the lawyers.

    Keeping Congress out of the loop will guarantee that once the IC screws up, it will be castrated. Keeping Congress in the loop means that Congressional members own IC mistakes. Oversight is important, and we can afford it. It’s not like we’re facing some existential struggle – we can afford to have a slightly less effective intelligence capability in order to ensure democratic control over it.

  5. spandrell says:

    ” the Chicoms have stolen ALL our nuclear warhead designs. Enough said.”
    No shit. Any links about it?

  6. Ralph Hitchens says:

    The PRC pretty much undoubtedly had at least one modern US warhead design handed to them but I doubt they stole the rest. Through osmosis with the USSR before the split and their own test program I believe they came up with all the warhead design information they needed. Anyway, I think the last thing the IC (or the government at large) needs is more counterintelligence. Think of it this way: CI=paranoia. Go ahead and ramp it up, see where that leaves you. Security and productivity have an inverse relationship.

    Apart from that, what Adrian said. I also think that what we have these days is less an intelligence problem than a police problem. Greater international law enforcement cooperation and information sharing will help a whole lot more than unleashing the spies and thugs.

  7. Jupiter says:

    I’m not sure that I understand what advantage a so-called ‘manhunt team’ would offer that the current existing agencies do not. The CIA got word of Saleh Ali Nabhan’s location, got together with some military special ops types, and the ad hoc team cobbled together executed a quick, precise killing leaving only shells and smoke in their wake. What exactly are we improving upon here?

    That there are areas in which the Intelligence Community remains deficient goes without saying, but neither the creation of yet another intelligence agency nor the vague wish-list items Chirol posted (which could be summed up as ‘kill more, care less”) seem to offer much to address them. One point in favor of an Intel Community focused on analysis over “sending out hit squads” is that an analyst’s binder has never flown a plane into a building or held our embassy personnel hostage.

  8. lirelou says:

    Speaking for military intelligence only, there are simply too many analysts working in too many headquarters that merely cut and paste from higher or adjacent command’s products to produce their own ‘analysis’, usually for a general officer and his staff. A judicious cutback of such positions would reduce the number of ‘analysts’ without cutting back the quality of analysis. Furthermore, there are simply too many over-ranked bureaucrats occupying GG-14 and 15 positions. What is really needed is a national level civilian military intelligence command whose upper echelons are staffed solely by military officers and presidential appointees who oversee an centralized civilian military intelligence corps whose members are selected, trained, promoted, and assigned, both within and without the U.S., based upon demonstrated merit and devotion to duty. Such a Corps should be placed in a civil service status comparable to federal law enforcement officers (which includes DEA analysts), thereby obviating any worries about overtime or compensatory time.

    Just my off the cuff thoughts.

  9. Sejo says:

    Possibly nothing, Chirol. Still, I think it’s one of the funniest places on Earth.
    I was just kidding, anyway. Please, don’t get angry.

  10. Chirol says:

    Sejo: I’m not upset but was trying to understand your mention of a completely unrelated issue. That’s all!

  11. Sejo says:

    Well, taking the issue from afar: I was – in a kiddish way – trying to imagine what direct control of the intelligence could be in the wrong hands.

    For sure, and I truly agree, Italy isn’t the best example of a Western democracy. We’re the best example, in fact, of what Americans think of European nations: bureaucratic mess, spread out corruption and – why not – a socialist way of dealing with the socio-economical contraddictions of the society. I think that socialism, both Marxist or liberal/antiauthoritarian, is not the reason for many of our faults as a country – I blame actually the social doctrine of the Roman church – but that’s another story.

    You wrote «(…) the fact that British intelligence gets very little oversight from Parliament and reports directly to the PM, none of the congressional nonsense that occurs in the US. Other cultures are also (luckily) devoid of the excessively legalistic culture of the United States which…».
    To be honest, I think that that legalistic culture is what has made a society so great and admired. So clean in its relations between its members. To have made a political class so responsive to the citizens’ mandate. But, as I have identical conclusions as yours related to how the intelligence community, in a Western country, in this era, should be organized, I may be wrong.
    Still, even as I don’t think that Obama is a Cuban agent, a socialist or whatever, I wonder if complete powers over the CIA and the other agencies, with few or no control from the Congress, could make him more similar to a presidentissimo. Him or someone else: even if I don’t like him so far, I’m not obsessed with the remarks the press or a wide spectrum of the Americans make.

    So, to conclude: I skipped the core of your consideration to concentrate – almost unconsciously – to what has scared me. Describing it in a childish way, for which I beg your, and your readers’, pardon.

  12. Percy says:

    Interesting discussion. I happened to find the original report — which is much more deliberative and even-handed than the “alarmist” tones of the Wired article — at The report mentions that the author, LTC Crawford, also wrote a book called Manhunting: Reversing the Polarity of Warfare His vision is much broader than the simplistic “hit squads” touted by Wired Magazine. The book posits that, with an organization exclusively dedicated to interdicting human networks, the United States might avoid full-scale warfare, by concentrating on the individuals or network at the center of the problem. He illustrated his remarks with the story about Lord Wellington at Waterloo, who. when Napoleon Bonapart rode within range of the British guns, admonished his artillery officer: “I’ll not allow it! It is not the business of generals to shoot at one another!” He contrasts this with L. Paul Bremer’s Baghdad press conference nearly two hundred years later, when he announced the capture of Saddam Hussein: “We got him!” A compelling contrast. It might work!