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The IC Can’t Go Back. It Must Go Forward

LINKEDIN | DECEMBER 10, 2020 | CARMEN MEDINA

I was asked recently whether the Intelligence Community, and CIA specifically, would be able to go back and return to normal in a Biden presidency.

My answer was NO!

You might think that I was blaming the damage done to the CIA’s credibility and claim to authority in the past four years.

And there is that. But my real point was that the IC and the CIA should not WANT to go back to the way things were. The “way things were” wasn’t optimal then and has become less so in the last four years. 

What would an optimal Intelligence Community look like?

First, it would not default to secret information, usually expensive to gather and narrow in its scope, to answer the most important questions of our policymakers and about our world. The legislation that established the Director of National Intelligence asked the Intelligence Community to explore more seriously the potential that Open-Source information had for meeting our sense-making needs. Fifteen years later, the space still begs to be charted. The analytic product that is prepared for policymakers still relies on secrets collected by the intelligence-industrial complex. The policymakers usually have to be in secure facilities to access this intelligence and the professionals who prepare it aren’t able to work from home. These restrictions have proven problematic during the pandemic.

The reliance on secrets was the founding vector of the Intelligence Community. And it made sense then. We were the victors in a World War where we had gained essential advantage by uncovering other countries’ secrets. And then our fickle ally, the Soviet Union, became a dangerous opponent who controlled all essential information. The priority for national security was to discover what Moscow and later Beijing wanted to keep hidden. And no amount of reading of Pravda or the People’s Daily would tease out everything we needed to know. The Intelligence Community’s first directive had to be the collection and analysis of secrets.

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safehouse2021
https://safehouse.global

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