Multiple intelligence agencies: a blessing or recipe for failure? Part 3

/By Dov Lachman/

The first part of this series listed the federal and military intelligence organizations and their respective roles. The second part focused on the drawbacks of having a multi-pronged array of 17 different bodies and the resulting potential for failure.

Compartmentalization: it is only proper at this point, to cite the advantages of having multiple intelligence agencies, apart from the old Roman wisdom of “divide and rule”. In this context, Edward Snowden, the person who most likely caused the greatest headache ever for US intelligence bodies, is probably the best example. There is no doubt the risk exemplified in over-exposure of information to one person is far greater at the organizational level. Thus, compartmentalization between entities, though they are in charge of close fields, is very much advised.

When you list independent US intelligence agencies and count 17 of them, you in fact do not take into account many others which apply near-autonomous intelligence arrays, such as the NYPD, the LAPD or the FBP, the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Like many other intelligence bodies, these ones, though they are not part and parcel of US intelligence community as such, have many and varied intelligence requirements for their ongoing operations on the one hand, and on the other, they are potential providers of a great deal of high quality intelligence information, garnered through their ongoing investigations and gathered by their case officers. The intelligence gathered, for instance across US prisons, housing some 7 million inmates (in total, each year), is no doubt considerable, important, vital, comprehensive and potentially highly beneficial to most independent intelligence agencies. One can only assume what part of this flurry of data reaches other organizations, and at what frequency and quality.

Each intelligence organization, much like business or production arrays, practices a three-stage procedure of input, processing and output: obtaining raw, varied intelligence data (input), conducting analysis and assessment (processing) and finally, presentation (output).

At least the two outer layers (input and output), and some would add the middle layer (processing) too, are much the same in all intelligence organizations, so the intuitive question this raises is why is there no cooperation or intersection across the board between these intelligence bodies at any of the processes in the chain of intelligence – given that the “means of production” are 17 fold?

It is important to note, or even examine, whether the supreme goal of US intelligence organizations has ever been defined. Given that “providing early and general information to defend the US” is the proper, albeit very general, definition, you can really revolutionize global intelligence conceptualization.

Upon mapping global threats in general, and those the (for example) administration would like to tackle in particular, the current and future targets may be defined. Out of those targets, you can define the intelligence targets and the products expected of them, reduce the number of intelligence bodies by two thirds and suffice with five which would have a thematic and geographic orientation.

The five bodies would “supply”, each in its respective field of expertise in intelligence production, the layers of input and output, and will also handle the processing layer, which is the most complex, as it comprises intelligence assessment in the framework of which the human element is crucial.

Carrying out the tasks of processing intelligence ought to be done orthogonally: dealing with multiple intelligence issues from many and varied perspectives, and no longer in a one-dimensional or two-dimensional way.


Courtesy of: iHLS Israel Homeland Security

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