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Where the Rabbit is Likely to Pass
A. Denis Clift
President, Joint Military Intelligence College
Keynote Address, Intelligence Community Midcareer Course
15 January 2002
During World War II, a British crook, a safecracker by the name of Eddie Chapman, became a valued British double agent. When the Germans overran the Channel Islands early in the war, they found Chapman in jail there. He offered them his services; they took him back to Germany, trained him in sabotage, then slipped him into England in 1942 to blow up an aircraft factory.
Chapman made contact with the British government and reported his mission. The target factory was camouflaged so that German aerial reconnaissance would report its destruction. Chapman was sent back to Germany by the British secret service as a double agent. He was decorated by the Germans and entered into training on the targeting of V-1 buzz bombs and V-2 rockets. He reentered England where he collaborated with his British handlers, feeding the Germans false targeting data.
At the end of the war, Chapman’s British prison sentences were suspended. He was dropped by the secret service and lived several years in Algeria before returning once more to England to end his years running a health farm north of London.1
The handling of spies and the turning of agents are at the heart of intelligence operations. The challenges they pose, the skills they require, the stresses they place are central to the life of the operator. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Executive Branch and the Congress have begun to act to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the enhanced authority needed to get the job done. This includes the authority that pushes aside the 1990s policy-level reluctance to having intelligence officials deal with foreigners considered unsavory, considered criminal, considered unfit for U.S. contact.
Here, in this new era of the war on terrorism, the voice of the late Dame Rebecca West as expressed in her book The Meaning of Treason provides sage, reinforcing advice. "Not till the Earthly Paradise is established," she wrote, "and man regains his innocence, can a power which has ever been at war be blamed if it accepts information regarding the military strength of another power, however this may be obtained; and of course it can be blamed least of all if the information comes to it from traitors, for then it is likely to touch on the truly secret."2
If spies, and clandestine sources, and the expert handling of agents are more than ever important in the early 21st century, so is every other major dimension of the work of intelligence. Actionable information, strategic and tactical warning, intelligence are the air we breathe, essential to our security and wellbeing as a nation. I am very pleased to be with you this morning to touch on the changing world of intelligence and the underlying, enduring requirements of good intelligence, as you step back from your day-to-day work to take a look at the broader intelligence scene, the dynamics at play, and the implications for your own choices and directions in the next chapters of your careers.
Expert running of agents such as Eddie Chapman is one unique dimension of intelligence. Rescuing agents, exfiltrating them when they are on the verge of exposure, arrest, and execution is another part of this remarkable business. In their book Spy Dust, published last September, the CIA’s Tony and Jonna Mendez detail the complex planning and choreography involved in the exfiltration of KGB Major Petr Leonor, his wife Lara, and son Dmitri from Moscow in 1989. The improbable site they chose for the operation was the Palace of Congresses inside the Kremlin. Have any of you visited the Palace of Congresses, attended a ballet or opera performance there? It is a huge glass-walled structure, similar in many ways to the Kennedy Center, with an enormous, 6,000-seat conference hall. The escalators fly in the Palace as they do in the Moscow subway system.
It was here, in the Palace of Congresses on the evening of the performance of the ballet Coppelia – it was here, under intense KGB surveillance that they and few other American colleagues caused the Leonors to disappear. "...despite all those pairs of eyes trained to keep track of us, it was our job to overwhelm the senses of the human members of the surveillance teams ... Done right, it would be a classic demonstration of hiding the smaller motion within the larger motion – the very mantra of magic, illusion, and misdirection."3
Expert practice of denial, deception, and illusion, and expert countering of denial, deception, and illusion are of the highest priority in the evolving work of intelligence. They are rooted in the human experience. H.L. Mencken allowed that "It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place."4 They are rooted in the rich history of intelligence, the British decision, for example in World War II to take a dead body, disguise it as a staff officer – Major Martin, and float it off the coast of Spain with a locked dispatch case containing false top secret documents designed to mislead the Germans on the British strategic course of action.
One of the planners of this deception, Lieutenant Commander Ewan Montagu wrote of the need to think through the most minute details, reasoning as follows: "What you, a Briton with a British background, think can be deduced from a document does not matter. It is what your opposite number with his German knowledge and background will think that matters – what construction he will put on the document. Therefore, if you want him to think such and such a thing, you must give him something that will make him and not you think it ... you must remember that a German does not think and react as an Englishman does, and you must put yourself in his mind."5
In the 1980s, intelligence analysts came to associate S-shaped bunkers with suspect Iraqi chemical weapons storage sites. Following the Gulf War, it became clear with the destruction of chemical weapons at Khamisiyah that S-shaped bunkers were not a reliable signature. Learning from the lessons of the Gulf War continues to be of tremendous importance to the United States. To understand that S-shaped bunkers are not necessarily the storage sites for chemical munitions is to ask whether an adversary will then build phony S-shaped bunkers to deceive. The intelligence professional must ever battle the mind’s embrace of bias, its enduring passion for the status quo, its ennui at the very suggestion of the need for an alternate view.
At the Joint Military Intelligence College, we have just entered into a new partnership with the National Intelligence Council and are offering a new four-course denial and deception program available as part of our Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence degree program and as a Director of Central Intelligence Certificate Program. This advanced, graduate level work focuses on the history, the issues, the psychological and cultural aspects; the adversaries, the organizations, measures and countermeasures; and tradecraft, tools, and methodologies. These courses for credit may be of interest to you as part of your continuing professional development.
Bear in mind, we are embarking on these new denial and deception courses at a time when the Intelligence Community is accelerating through the information age, the Internet era, a dynamic with an on-rush of changes both revolutionary and far more subtle to the work of intelligence – changes in the doctrine and practice of collection, analysis and dissemination – and changes in the relationship and the mindset between intelligence and law enforcement, intelligence and the policy-maker and intelligence and the military commander.
During this war on terrorism, Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, some fitted with Hellfire missiles, are flying lengthy missions at heights of some 25,000 feet providing multi-hour surveillance of designated geography, installations, and activity. Tasking to the Predator and electro-optical video and infrared images collected by its cameras move near-instantaneously – which is to say real-time – to and from the area being surveilled, the in-theater commanders, MacDill Air Force Base, and Washington. Communications and the resulting data stream flow through a network of ground stations and satellites with part of the product traveling through the secure medium of Intelink, the classified Internet counterpart.6
The episodic, manned U-2 photography missions of the 1950s; the periodic, evolutionary satellite photography missions proceeding from the 1960s have now been joined by the current generation of surveilling UAV eyes. Imaging collection, analysis, and decision-making that once proceeded in distinct, often lengthy sequential steps are now the business of simultaneity.
At the same time that the nation forges ahead with work on the successors to Predator, Global Hawk, and the spectrum of tools of advanced surveillance and reconnaissance, think back to the technological response to the daunting intelligence challenge of half a century ago. U.S. leaders attached increasing urgency to acquiring hard facts about Soviet strategic and conventional military capabilities – a tall order when dealing with a closed-society target covering one-sixth of the earth’s land surface.
In the mid-1950s, the United States embarked on a photographic-reconnaissance satellite development program – CORONA. The challenges, not to be overly complex, were three-fold: first to build such a satellite and successfully place it in orbit; second, to have it perform its photographic mission from space; and third, to recover the film from the camera. There would be a dozen failures, four years of tremendous effort, before the first successful mission in 1960, just 110 days after the downing of Francis Gary Power’s U-2 aircraft.
The public had been led to believe that the Thor booster rockets being launched from Vandenberg Air Base were part of the unclassified environmental, space-biomedical research DISCOVERER program. During the first unsuccessful CORONA missions, even when the Thors fired successfully and the satellites attained orbit, the cameras malfunctioned. "The system was designed to operate without pressurization ... and the acetate-based film being used was tearing or breaking in the high vacuum existing in space and causing the camera to jam."7 Film experts and chemists, dedicated Americans working at Eastman Kodak, revolutionized film technology, providing CORONA with a new polyester-based film able to capture the reconnaissance–quality images required while withstanding the rigors of space.
With their photographic missions completed, the film capsules were designed to separate from the satellite and return to earth, deploying a parachute after atmospheric re-entry. The Air Force had the mission of recovering the film capsule by flying recovery aircraft just over the blooming canopy of the descending parachute and snagging the shrouds with a trapeze wire trailing from the aircraft. Here, the revolutionary CORONA system drew on a fresh dimension of American ingenuity and courage. Colonel Philip Rowe, one of the pilots for these flights would describe the mission as follows:
"An array of grappling hooks and cables hung below and behind the transport to engage the parachute. Hooking the parachute without flying into the canopy or fouling the propellers in the lines required considerable flying skill and precision ... A winch equipped with hydraulic brakes stood ready to unwind almost 1,500 feet of cable in barely four seconds as the hooks engaged the parachute. Braking would slow the cable to bring the payload into steady trail behind the plane. Then ... the winch would wind the cable to draw the parachute and payload into the cargo bay. It was dangerous work for the cargo handlers, too ... The rapidly unwinding cable could become fouled; instant death awaited the crewman caught by that metallic snake."8
I was a naval officer serving at the Fleet Intelligence Center, Pacific, Ford Island, Hawaii, in 1960. The news that Power’s U-2 had been downed, the news of his capture was a shock. The revelation of the U-2 program was fascinating. There was other news being shared in hushed tones behind our classified doors. There were rumors that certain of the Air Force cargo aircraft that could be seen launching and returning were specially configured recovery planes being flown on top secret missions, a new U.S. capability, the dawning of intelligence from space. We should feel a similar excitement, take fresh inspiration in our work in these early days of the 21st century as the talent and the genius of our colleagues and our fellow citizens continue to introduce new generations of technologies and systems contributing to the success of intelligence.
Five years ago, the novelist John LeCarre told his C-span interviewer George Plimpton that intelligence is the left hand of curiosity, that gathering, analyzing, and using information is a natural part of what we do if we are doing it well. If spies and revolutionary new technologies are more than ever important to the gathering of intelligence in this new era, expert, timely analysis is crucial if it is to be of value to the user of intelligence, if intelligence is to be recognized as doing its work well.
In the spring of 1974, I had the privilege of being named to lead the Soviet and European staff on the National Security Council. I selected a very talented young CIA analyst to become a member of this staff, a gentleman by the name of Robert M. Gates – the name may ring a bell with some of you. Today he is the President of Texas A&M University. When Bob Gates returned to CIA having served with me in the Nixon and Ford years and then with Zbig Brzezinski in the Carter years, he published a very thoughtful essay in Studies in Intelligence, a work entitled "An Opportunity Unfulfilled." That work of constructive criticism has just been declassified and published in November 2002 in the Center for the Study of Intelligence’s 50th anniversary salute to CIA’s Directorate for Intelligence.
Bob Gates examined the inability of CIA’s analysts to appreciate and act on the intelligence needs of the NSC staff and the White House. In a section subtitled "Overcoming Isolation (Ours) and Suspicion (Theirs)," Bob wrote, "To the extent intelligence professionals isolate themselves from White House/NSC officials and are unresponsive to White House analytical needs, this adversarial nature of the relationship will be emphasized and understanding of what we can and cannot do will be lacking. Thus, the Intelligence Community must take the initiative to establish and maintain close personal ties to White House and NSC officials from the President on down. It must also aggressively seek new ways to get the maximum amount of analysis before the President, even while experimenting with old mechanisms such as the PBD. White House procedures and relationships are always dynamic; accordingly, we must always be searching for new and better ways to serve our principal customer."9
Bob Gates and I are of a single mind on this issue and this intelligence challenge. We discussed it often in the Old Executive Office Building days and in the years that have followed. I currently have the pleasure of serving on the Editorial Board of Studies in Intelligence, and I was delighted in 2001 when CIA senior analyst Carmen Medina submitted an excellent essay entitled "What to do When Traditional Models Fail."
When Gates and I were working the USSR and the Warsaw Pact in the 1970s, we were dealing with closed societies. There was no Web, no Internet access. The information being volunteered by the USSR – to say the least – was not usually the information we required. Intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination were geared to ascertaining the current state of play and to estimating future developments behind the Iron Curtain. To the degree that they were or were not effectively communicating with the NSC and the White House, the role of the Intelligence Community’s Sovietologists was central. Not only could they divine the significance of any changes in the all-important line-up of the Soviet leadership atop Lenin’s tomb; they often were the only source of information on developments of importance inside the Soviet Union.
As Carmen Medina writes in "What to do When Traditional Models Fail," the Web and new information technologies are an incredible enabler and at the same time a fresh challenge to the intelligence analyst. The sources of information available to today’s policy-level consumer – whether dealing with the Russian Federation or, indeed, with any of the current, closed societies – are far, far greater than a quarter century ago. It is almost a given that today’s policy-level consumer of intelligence is quite well-informed in his or her area of interest and not dependent on an analyst for a continuing stream of routine, updating information. The analyst no longer sets the pace of the information flow. The Web, the media – electronic and hard copy, U.S. and foreign – the telephone, fax, the interaction with academics, with think tanks, with U.S. and foreign colleagues in the field, and the intelligence reporting available at the touch of the Intelink keyboard all play a part.
Today’s analyst, Ms. Medina writes, must not only have a sense of his or her consumer’s level of continuing information and knowledge. To provide value-added analysis, today’s analyst must focus more sharply on the specific needs and the timing of meeting those needs for the policy-level consumer, seek specific tasking, analyze feedback from analysis already provided, and invite and tackle the consumer’s hard questions demanding answers.10
In the war on terrorism, the analyst has a new range of challenges in serving the consumer. The analyst must deal with specific signatures of terrorist organizational and operational behavior – loosely affiliated groups, small footprints, with extraordinary efforts to conceal activities, with resulting terrorism-related data often fragmentary, ambiguous and uncorroborated.11 The challenge for the analyst of terrorism is compounded by the velocity of information and exponential growth in the quantity of information, as well as the uncertain quality of the data received.
In a new course on terrorism analysis introduced at the Joint Military Intelligence College this past November, we are providing our students with an educational foundation – conceptual, methodological, and case specific – structured to broaden their professional knowledge and expertise to a point where they will be able to apply what they have learned to a broad range of evolving strategic and tactical terrorist challenges.
The two-term, 20-week graduate seminar is designed to enable the intelligence professional studying at the College to:
- apply this framework to the study of a terrorist group drawing on case study methodology;
- apply forecasting methodologies, based on the evolution of the terrorist group, to identify four possible alternate futures for the organization; and,
- based on the foregoing analyses, critically examine existing all-source collection plans and indications and warning indicator lists, and develop all-source collection and I&W indicator lists for the target group’s four alternative futures.
If I started with World War II and the British double-agent safecracker Eddie Chapman, I will close by returning to World War II and Allen Dulles’ observations on counterintelligence and counterespionage during his years as OSS chief in Switzerland – this bearing in mind President Truman’s observation that, "The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know."12 Dulles came to admire the Swiss officials who inspected travelers’ papers at border stations on trains bound for the Swiss interior. He noted that they paid special attention to each traveler’s shoes that the law-abiding Swiss were meticulous about clean footwear, and that dirty shoes were an indicator that the individual in those shoes might be entering the country illegally. In keeping with this Swiss practice, Allen Dulles offered a broader observation, "In a free society counterespionage is based on the practice most useful in hunting rabbits. Rather than look for the rabbit one posts oneself in a spot where the rabbit is likely to pass by."13
We are at a point where we as a government and as a nation in the war on terrorism are learning how best to post ourselves in a spot where the rabbit is likely to pass by. We are at a point of major reorganizing of the government with the shaping of the new Department of Homeland Security, with fundamentally important implications for the work of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In a recent article in The New York Times, David Johnson summarized the state of play as follows: "The Bush administration, in its fight against terrorism, is slowly chipping away at the wall that has existed for nearly three decades between domestic law enforcement and international intelligence gathering in an effort that senior officials said was vital to waging war against Al Qaeda and other terror networks. ... ‘The old structure worked pretty well through the cold war,’ one senior government official said. ‘But with 9/11 there was a sense that this is a new game and there is a new threat and there must be a new approach.’"14
We are turning a new chapter in American history as it relates to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, law enforcement, and the nation’s security. The Joint Congressional Committee investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks has issued its majority and minority reports criticizing the Intelligence Community for the role it played and recommending major amendments to the National Security Act of 1947 to include the creation of a new cabinet-level Director of National Intelligence, with sweeping new authority, responsibility, and accountability.
We are at a point of fresh demands and fresh opportunities in intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination – and in intelligence leadership and management – opening career doors and career advancements, many unthought-of in the past. It is a splendid time to be in the work of intelligence. I wish each of you well as you go through those new doors and realize those advancements.
- "Safecracker Eddie Chapman Dies: Spy for Britain in WWII." The Washington Post, 17 December 1997.
- The Meaning of Treason, Rebecca West, Phoenix Press, London, 2000, p. 192.
- Spy Dust, Antonio and Jonna Mendez, Atria Books, New York, 2002, pp 247 and 255.
- H. L. Mencken, HTTP://webpages.ainet.com/gosner/quotations1/topics/lies and deceptions.
- The Man Who Never Was, Ewan Montagu, J.P. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1954, p. 45.
- Predator, A Global Option, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Fact Sheet, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., San Diego, California.
- "Corona: America’s First Satellite Program," Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C., 1995, p. 19.
- "The Star Catchers," Colonel Philip A. Rowe, Jr., Air Force Magazine, Washington, D.C., 1995, p. 75.
- "Opportunity Unfulfilled," Robert M. Gates, DI 50th Anniversary Edition of Studies in Intelligence, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 57.
- "What to do When Traditional Models Fail," Carmen A. Medina, Studies in Intelligence, Volume 45, No. 4, 2001, pp. 35-40.
- "Information Sharing of Terrorism-Related Data," Statement for the Record for the Joint 9/11 Inquiry by Rear Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, U.S. Navy, Acting Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C., October 1, 2002, p. 4.
- Truman, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992.
- Great True Spy Stories, Edited by Allen Dulles, Harper & Row, New York, 1968, pp. 130-131.
- "Administration Begins to Rewrite Decades-Old Spying Restrictions," David Johnston, The New York Times, November 30, 2002.
This page was last updated January 25, 2013.