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“Divining the Naked Truth”
A. Denis Clift
Joint Military Intelligence College
Senior Seminar Alumni Association
June 21, 2005
Thank you so much. What a pleasure it is to be here today. College Presidents like to talk to alumni – any alumni will do. Please give me the hook when I start insisting on the importance of your living trust planning and targeted class gift projections.
Jon Wiant has really taken root at the Joint Military Intelligence College. Two years ago, early in his tenure, his students gave him a gift inscribed “For Professor Wiant, Whose students love him … almost as much as he loves himself.”
The nation’s capital is the buzzing beehive we know and love as we head into the first days of summer, different than it was a century ago. Teddy Roosevelt was President then, and as Edmund Morris wrote in his splendid biography Theodore Rex: “Congress adjourned on the first day of July. The capital drowsed into its annual doldrums. … A musical paean to mindlessness lilted around the country …
In the good old summertime,
In the good old summertime!
The sun affects some people
In a manner quite divine …” 1
One of the new tunes this year, really a symphony embracing a tune, is the symphony of intelligence reform. Over the past several months, the 9/11 Commission has delivered its report. The Executive Branch and Congress have debated and acted on many of its findings. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act has been enacted. The Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction has published its findings – findings which I might add include the following quote: “The Joint Military Intelligence College … currently operates a very successful program – a structured intermediate/advanced curriculum for Intelligence Community officers from across the Community.” 2
Of importance, the position of Director of National Intelligence has been created. Ambassador John Negroponte is the first DNI – the return of the Foreign Service to preeminence in U.S. intelligence. Air Force General Michael Hayden is the first Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Mike you should know, is an alumnus of my College.
The new Director of National Intelligence and I had overlapping years as students at Phillips Exeter Academy and then served together on President Nixon’s National Security Council staff under Dr. Henry Kissinger. John was working South East Asia and Vietnam . I was working Europe and the Soviet Union .
Ah, what a relaxed, laid-back time that was. I don’t know how many of you have read The Kissinger Transcripts published by The New Press and edited by William Burr of the National Security Archive. In early 1974, I was meeting with Kissinger and others preparing for a March trip to Moscow – talks with Brezhnev paving the way for Nixon’s final summit with the Soviet leader. The book publishes the transcript of the meeting.
With the review of the status of the strategic arms talks completed, and Dr. Kissinger’s orders given, Henry turned to me. “Now Denis, what are the problems with bilateral agreements? … How, what about this HUD proposal?”
“Lynn,” and I am still quoting; I was referring to HUD Secretary James Lynn, “ Lynn has some reservations about general cooperation.”
“Every stinking God damned bureaucrat in this town has reservations about cooperation with the Russians. I am not asking about their reservations. I am not asking about their reservations. I am asking what they can do.” 3
Those were the days! Now more than 30 years later, Ambassador Negroponte continues to build on his distinguished career bringing a wealth of experience and expert knowledge to the new DNI post.
As a footnote to my reminiscing, one evening during the mid-70s, during my NSC years, Philip Habib and I were dinner partners at one of the embassy residences. A visiting prime minister was in town. Habib, Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the time said “Denis, it’s time to make an honest man of you. We think you should join the Foreign Service, and I’d like to help make that happen.” I thanked him sincerely for his good words, told him I was flattered, and in the event didn’t give it another thought. That said, I have the highest admiration for so many of the outstanding Foreign Service officers with whom I have had the pleasuring of serving. The good FSO’s language abilities, cultural and political knowledge, and skills as an information collector, analyzer, and user are a pleasure to observe.
All of this –good collection, good analysis, good operations – brings me to the advertised title of these luncheon remarks “The Elephant in Our Pajamas.” I am sure a number of you recall that moment when the famous African explorer Groucho Marx announced “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.” The African explorer had been successful in his operation. Analysis had contributed nothing to his success.
The teaching of good, insightful intelligence analysis is a top priority in the graduate and undergraduate degree programs and research at the College I am privileged to lead, the Joint Military Intelligence College . At the College’s main campus at Bolling Air Force Base, officers, non-commissioned officers, and civilian government professionals from across the Intelligence Community, the Law Enforcement Community and the Department of State are earning the Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence degree and the Bachelor of Science in Intelligence degree. The College’s degrees are authorized by the Congress. The College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The Director of National Intelligence’s National Intelligence Council – soon to be headed by Tom Fingar freshly departed from State INR for his new role as the Deputy DNI for Analysis – is partnering with the College sponsoring a post-baccalaureate denial and deception concentration of courses as part of the Master’s degree program The Master’s degree is also offered at the College’s satellite campuses at the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
The NGA campus, through distributed learning, offers the degree to NGA professionals based in St. Louis , Missouri . Additionally, through the College’s articulation agreement with the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the NGA campus offers an advanced concentration of measurement and signature intelligence courses to those enrolled in the Master’s program. For all enrolled in the Master’s program, the research and writing of a Master’s thesis is an essential part of earning the degree.
Within this academic construct, students in the Master’s program are able to select an analysis concentration with courses on strategic warning and analysis, estimative intelligence analysis, political/military analysis, advanced military capabilities analysis, estimative analysis on the People’s Republic of China , the analysis of terrorism, as well as a thesis on some aspect of analysis.
One of the fascinating dimensions of this work is the challenge of trying to divine others intentions. There are those who would protest that their secrets are not that difficult to divine. In his story “The Secret Life of James Thurber,” Thurber wrote “Let me be the first to admit that the naked truth about me is to the naked truth about Salvador Dali as an old ukulele in the attic is to a piano in a tree, and I mean a piano with breasts.” 4
Wish that it were as simple as that. When a coup occurs somewhere in the world, when a coup is successful, a critical component is the secrecy involved. In his memoir The Philosophy of the Revolution, Gamel Abdel-Nasser wrote: “I thought of assassinating the ex-King and those of his men who tampered with our sacred traditions. In this I was not alone. When I sat with others our thoughts passed from thinking to planning. Many a design did I draw up those days. Many a night did I lie awake preparing the means for the expected positive action. Our life was, during this period, like an exciting detective story. We had great secrets; we had symbols; we hid in the darkness and arranged our pistols and bombs side by side.” 5
Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, the challenge of divining intentions, ferreting out secret plans, has become vital to the security of the nation. This summer, recognizing the global war on terrorism’s voracious appetite for good analysts, the College is offering a post-baccalaureate terrorism analysis emersion seminar, a seminar that proceeds from the proposition that intelligence is an unbroken web of analysis and all-source collection applied to a substantive target – terrorism.
A month after it was first announced, the seminar was fully subscribed with active-duty and civilian intelligence officers from across the Services and intelligence community. The initial part of the course will introduce a comprehensive, conceptual framework for the analysis, to include complexity, military capabilities and intentions, political-military dimensions, and the forecasting of terrorist planning and possible attacks.
Concurrently, the students will examine the different disciplines and capabilities of all-source collection, with emphasis on how best to draw on these capabilities in gathering information on terrorism. In this initial phase, the students will also address the work of indications and warning as applied to terrorism.
Moving beyond this opening phase, the students will begin the substantive portion of the course, a case study of Hezbollah. The case study begins with an introduction to the Middle East and to Lebanon in particular. The focus then shifts to Hezbollah. The objective of this phase of the case study – Hezbollah today and its historical evolution – is to have the students understand the history, the factors, and the drivers that shape the organization today.
Using a refined set of assumptions to guide their work, the students will apply alternate futures methodology to develop four alternative futures for Hezbollah. To validate these futures, the students will develop a future history for each end state. Rounding out their analysis, the students will develop an all-source collection plan and indications and warning framework for each alternate future.
In the course of this seminar, the students will be divided into competitive analytical teams that will operate independently during the Hezbollah case study. Toward the conclusion of the seminar, each team will report its results. The final analytical step will be the comparison of each team’s results, seeking to identify how and why the teams may have differed, and what this informs about analysis.
If, as the faculty leading the seminar anticipates, the students’ research and findings warrant sharing, they will be compiled, published, and disseminated to the Intelligence Community. In future iterations of the seminar, the research topic will shift to other terrorist groups, with the College’s broader goal of building a terrorism research library.
Seminars such as this are part of broader teaching and research on the College that are addressing crucial issues such as the challenge of effectively meshing foreign intelligence with domestic, or national, intelligence and law enforcement in this age of terrorism. I noted that during the recent election campaign in Great Britain , Prime Minister Tony Blair took a group of British magazine editors on a tour of No. 10 Downing Street. In the State dining room he said, “There is a portrait of King George. When he was around, we still had America .” 6 Great Britain no longer has America , but the United States thanks to George III has the most remarkable set of checks and balances of any nation, any government in the world.
These checks and balances stand to serve us very well if we are to mesh foreign and domestic intelligence successfully recognizing as we do the challenge that comes in safeguarding individual liberties at the same time that we safeguard security. The two are not compatible. A tension is created, and if we are to succeed and flourish as a democracy we must maintain that tension.
The importance of these checks and balances was understood and embraced by General Hayden when he testified in his confirmation hearings “That American intelligence agencies needed to push ‘right up to that line,’ established under privacy laws in using eavesdropping, surveillance and other tools to gather information … he told the committee that it would be vital to ensure ‘that we are not pulling punches, that we are using all the abilities that Congress has given us under the law. We all know [he said] that the enemy may be inside the gates and that Job 1 is to defend the homeland.” 7
We can place the nature of the current challenge in historical context by recalling the principal conclusion of the Church Committee in its 1976 report on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. “The excesses of the past,” the Committee wrote, “do not however justify depriving the United States of a clearly defined and effectively controlled domestic intelligence capability … The Committee’s fundamental conclusion is that intelligence activities have undermined the constitutional rights of citizens and that they have done so primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied.” 8
We can examine the nature of the current challenge in the work of present-day scholars such as Michael Ignatieff writing in his 2004 book The Lesser Evil – Political Ethics in an Age of Terror . “When democracies fight terrorism, they are defending the proposition that their political life should be free of violence. But defeating terror,” he writes “requires violence. It may also require coercion, deception, secrecy, and violation of rights. … Rights do not set impassable barriers to government action, but they do require that all rights infringements be tested under adversarial review.” 9
If adversarial review is to be effective, there must also be a review of the currency of the checks and balances mechanisms – executive, legislative, and judiciary. And here, it is useful to recall President Bush’s words on intelligence reform of last August. “The 9/11 Commission,” he said, “also made several recommendations about the Congress, itself. I strongly agree with the commission’s recommendation that oversight and intelligence – oversight of intelligence and of the homeland security must be restructured and made more effective. There are too many committees with overlapping jurisdiction, which wastes time and makes it difficult for meaningful oversight and reform.” 10
Those studying these early days of intelligence reform, examine the President’s executive order of last August establishing the National Counterterrorism Center – a Center now reporting to the President, an executive order stating, in part, that the Director of the Center shall “support the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice and other appropriate agencies, in fulfillment of their responsibility to disseminate terrorism information consistent with applicable laws, executive orders and other Presidential guidance, to State and local government officials and other entities …” 11
This language is of such importance with its 21 st century perspective that intelligence is no longer solely a national enterprise trained beyond our borders and serving the highest national authorities. National intelligence must now extend its services to the 50 states and local needs of the nation.
If the National Counterterrorism Center is to be effective, it must act on the 9/11 Commission’s call for the exercise of imagination. It must act on novelist John LeCarre’s observation that “intelligence is the left hand of curiosity, that gathering, analyzing, and using information is a natural part of what we are doing if we are doing it well.” 12 If we are doing it well, we will be startled by the talents and the contributions to be drawn on from across the nation. If we are doing it well, we will be amazed by the new paradigms for gathering, analyzing and using information.
And, if we are successfully meeting the challenge of fusing foreign and domestic intelligence to safeguard the nation against terrorist acts, we will be embracing and acting on other of LeCarre’s words, these through his character John Landsbury: “The value of intelligence depends upon its breeding. Unless you know the pedigree of the source you cannot evaluate the information. We are not democratic,” Landsbury said. “We close the door on intelligence without parentage.” 13
- Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex, Random House, New York , 2001, pp. 119 and 126.
- The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 428.
- The Kissinger Transcripts, Edited by William Burr, The New Press, New York , 1998, pp. 227-228.
- James Thurber, The Thurber Carnival, Harper & Brothers, New York , 1945, p.31.
- Gamal Abdel-Nasser, The Philosophy of the Revolution, Mondiale Press, Cairo , 1959, p. 33.
- “The Masochism Campaign,” David Remnick, The New Yorker, May 2, 2005 , p.86.
- “No. 2 Intelligence Nominee Testifies on Privacy Rules,” Douglas Jehl, The New York Times, April 15, 2005 , p. 16.
- “Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans,” Book II, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, 94 th Congress, 2 nd Session, Report No. 94-755, Washington, D.C., April 26, 1976, p. 289.
- Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil – Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, Princeton University Press, Princeton , 2004, pp. vii-viii.
- President’s Remarks on Intelligence Reform, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040802-2.html
- Executive Order National Counterterrorism Center http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040827-5.html
- John LeCarre, CSPAN interview with George Plimpton, 1997.
- John LeCarre, A Murder of Quality, Hill & Company, Boston , 1962, p.15.
This page was last updated January 25, 2013.