Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Importance of Human Intelligence

          History is bound to repeat itself if we as a nation do not make adjustments in regards to national defense. As we draw near the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place in the US on September 11, 2001 it is necessary to take a look at the importance of human intelligence (HUMINT). One of the major contributing factors to the attacks that took place was the downsizing in HUMINT during the Clinton administration. It is imperative to note what the importance of HUMINT is over other forms of intelligence gathering, what changes have been made since 9/11 within the intelligence community in regards to HUMINT, and why HUMINT is so effective. Human intelligence is the most important and cost effective intelligence gathering asset that the US has available to combat terrorist activity.
            It is imperative to take a look at the importance of HUMINT over other forms of intelligence gathering within the intelligence community. According to Richelson “a number of observers and commissions have suggested that both the attacks of 9/11 and the intelligence failure with regard to Iraqi WMD’s are, to a significant degree, attributable to a lack of human intelligence”.[1] It can be said that during the Clinton administration the defense budget and more specifically the HUMINT budget was cut drastically. During this time period funding also transitioned to other forms of intelligence gathering assets such as imagery and signals intelligence. During the years of 1996 to 2000 military intelligence gathering assets performed roles originally designed for the CIA, DIA, and other similar collection agencies. During this time period military intelligence gathering assets were tasked with missions of gathering information about weapons of mass destruction being shipped out of Iraq and into neighboring countries, which was completely confusing do to the fact that when the time came to look for WMDs within Iraq after 2001 there was previous knowledge that they were not there anymore. While providing this information the operators tasked with gathering this information utilized assets such as satellite imagery and thermal energy detection devices also known as MASINT, however none of this information would have been complete without a person on the ground able to see with human eyes what was impossible for satellites to see. Utilizing these other forms of intelligence gathering was useful to the operators on the ground and helped conduct intelligence gathering missions. What is interesting to note is the fact that the cost of a satellite, moving a satellite in orbit to gain view of the area of operation, and the quality of information provided by said satellite are all costly and not of high quality as compared to an operator on the ground with surveillance equipment readily available to use.
            Post September 11th, 2001 a commission was formed to detail the history of terrorist threats to the US, the events that took place on September 11th, as well as recommendations from a bi-partisan government run commission. The commission’s recommendations were based upon an analysis of the intelligence community and the discrepancies that existed at the time. Again stemming from the cutbacks during the Clinton administration the intelligence community witnessed competition between intelligence gathering agencies such as the CIA, NSA, DIA, and FBI for funding which resulted in a failure to share intelligence between associated agencies. The competition for funding created a group of agencies with a piece of the information pie each. These agencies together had a complete picture of threats to the US but separately did not have enough information to act upon such threats. In hindsight as the commission states “one missing element was effective management of transnational operations. Action officers should have drawn on all available knowledge in the government (agencies). This management should have ensured that information was shared and duties were clearly assigned across agencies and across the foreign-domestic divide”.[2] In today’s intelligence community there are liaisons that operate between respective intelligence gathering agencies that ensure information is disseminated properly to prevent such a situation from happening again.
            The effectiveness of HUMINT can be found in the teachings of Sun Tzu. The notorious tactician states “knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men”.[3]  Granted, Sun Tzu did not have such things as unmanned drones or satellites at his disposal but recognized the importance of covert and clandestine individuals behind and within enemy lines acting as a commander’s eyes and ears of the battlefield. An individual that has been involved in information/intelligence gathering understands the meaning and importance of the term “eyes and ears of the battlefield”. As an example of the effectiveness of HUMINT one source states that the intelligence community has prevented attacks on US embassies as well as international targets due to informants or foreign assets working with the US.[4] In fact since 9/11 attacks have been thwarted in Canada, the US, England, Indonesia, and a list of other countries due to the changes the intelligence community has made in regards to HUMINT. Even international intelligence agencies have fallen in line with what the 9/11 commission had suggested in regards to HUMINT and information sharing.
            Again, it is imperative to understand that if the intelligence community did not make the necessary changes post 9/11 then history is bound to repeat itself. Since 9/11 many potential attacks have been quelled internationally due to these changes. The commission, as well as other nation/states’ intelligence assets have placed an increased importance on human intelligence operations recognizing the importance of having eyes and ears on the battlefield. The effectiveness of human intelligence assets has also been recognized and appropriate changes have been made to increase the effectiveness of human intelligence assets. This can be seen in the decrease of terrorist activity especially within the United States. Budget cutbacks and competition for funding has been replaced with increased funding and liaison personnel that coordinates information sharing between human intelligence units throughout the world. In the future terrorist organizations, as decentralized units, will strive to find weaknesses within the intelligence community and intelligence gathering assets must remain flexible and communicative with other agencies in order to ensure a much safer international community. With the advancement and utilization of future technologies it will be equally important to utilize supporting elements such as satellite imagery, thermal imagery, and covert or clandestine foreign assets. These assets must not be used primarily, rather as a supplement to human intelligence operators throughout the world in order to prevent attacks such as those previously on US embassies and in New York on September 11th, 2001. Cooperation between foreign entities will also be vital to the success of international intelligence gathering units.

[1] Jeffrey T. Richelson , The US Intelligence Community, 5th ed. (Colorado: Westview Press, 2008), 529.
[2] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, (New York: Norton, 2004), 353.
[3] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by Lionel Giles, edited by Dallas Gavin, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004), 59.
[4] Chris Dishman, "Looking to future, CIA should focus on human intelligence." Christian Science Monitor, August 06, 1997. International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed July 28, 2011)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The American Dream By The Provocateur Network

Recommended viewing for every American. This is the foundation of the impending American revolution or dissolution....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Intelligence Community Issues

As we near a decade since the attacks on September 11th it is important for the Intelligence Community to take a look back and reassess. Three issues that I see as continuous problems that confront the US Intelligence Community are the depleted human intelligence assets, officials and organizations within the intelligence community not being held accountable for failures, and a need for change as noted in the 9/11 Commission Report. Taking note of the “2025 Global Trends Final Report” we can see how the US Intelligence Community will be effected if these issues are not addressed. It is imperative that the IC continue to adapt and display its usefulness, as well as cost effectiveness. According to SunTzu “raising a host of a hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of the State”, in regards to how cost effective it is to employ human intelligence agents versus deploying troops.[1]
      Depleted human intelligence assets (HUMINT) are something I am familiar with. During the Clinton administration funding for HUMINT assets was cut back to the point that military Special Forces and intelligence units played a major part in gathering information and acting as HUMINT assets. As noted in the US Intelligence Community “a number of observers and commissions have suggested that both the attacks of 9/11 and the intelligence failure with regard to Iraqi WMDs are, to a significant degree, attributable to a lack of human intelligence” as evidence of the issue of depleted HUMINT.[2] Continuing to utilize HUMINT whether international, host nation, or homegrown to conduct and analyze intelligence and counterintelligence operations is a must. These human assets fill the gaps that other intelligence methods such as COMINT and SIGINT cannot fill, and answers the questions that items such as satellite imagery cannot answer.

                Responsibility for failure is a reoccurring issue in the IC, however restructuring and removal from office has taken place after past failures within the IC. Richelson points out “the danger of ignoring the key role that individuals play in organizational success or failure can have unfortunate consequences. Individuals not held responsible for significant failures may repeat them. The message conveyed by allowing those failures to go unpunished is that there is no penalty for failure, and that such individuals will not be replaced by people of greater competence, courage, and integrity”, in regards to how responsibility for failure is a major issue with in the IC.[3]

                Post 9/11 attacks, a need for change within the IC became apparent. Too many government organizations competing for tight funding of operations and analysis within the IC ensured the entire picture of what was going to happen on September 11, 2001 was missed. Information sharing between agencies was not utilized and as a result the 9/11 Commission promoted the idea of liaisons between agencies tasked with intelligence gathering and processing in regards to the US’s threats. Restructuring and retooling was needed in order to try to prevent attacks such as these from happening again. As noted in the 9/11 Commission Report “the need to restructure the intelligence community grows out of six problems that have become apparent before and after 9/11: structural barriers to performing joint intelligence work,…lack of common standards and practices across the foreign-domestic divide,…divided management of national intelligence capabilities,…weak capacity to set priorities and move resources,…too many jobs (or tasks asked of the former DCI),…too complex and secret”.[4]

                When referencing the Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World report you will find four possible global scenarios: “A World Without the West, October Surprise, BRICs’ Bust Up, and Politics is Not Always Local”.[5] There are a few underlying themes in this report and these scenarios that should concern the intelligence community. Future possible conflicts over a shortening supply of natural resources due to over population are the issues that reign across each of these scenarios. In order to combat these issues the IC will need to be utilized for clandestine monitoring of compliance with use and distribution of shortening supplies of natural resources as well as waste management and environmental impact due to over population. The US does not need to lean towards a “New World Order” as some conspiracy theorists suggest, the US IC can help maintain the stability of the position of the US as a super power independent from a global or collective effort to stabilize the global economy, international relations, and natural resource management. 

                As we, as a nation, draw closer to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks we should put some faith in the intelligence community’s ability to adapt to the times and our government to provide sufficient oversight and transparency. We will also need our IC and government leaders to recognize that there is a depleted HUMINT supply, they need to be held responsible and hold themselves responsible for failures, and both groups must recognize the need for change and restructuring. 

[1] SunTzu, The Art of War, ed. Dallas Galvin, trans. Lionel Giles, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003), 199.
[2] Jeffrey T. Richelson, The US Intelligence Community, 5th ed. (Westview: 2008), 529.
[3] Ibid. 529
[4] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, (Norton), 408.
[5] Global Trends Final Report 2025 (accessed 05/23/11)

California’s Budget Crisis: A Step Away From the Past and a Move Towards the Future

The issue that Californians feel is most important is the issue of the budget. The state currently runs a deficit of close to 30 billion dollars. The current Governor feels that an approach of raising taxes, focusing on education, and utilizing government subsidies are the answer to the budget crisis. If I were to propose budget adjustments to Governor Brown I would first draft my proposed solutions and post them on a website to gain public interest. Once public interest is gained public support and financial support would be necessary to promote the proposed solutions. Once interest, support and proper advertising is achieved the proposed adjustments can be presented in an attempt to influence policy makers.

A look in to the previous budget problems of California and the solutions that were implemented is important to look at in order to formulate proper solutions to combat the current crisis. California in the past has raised taxes and increased tax percentages on items such as vehicle registration in order to generate income for the budget. These solutions may have temporarily solved a much greater problem but have continued to not generate a balanced budget on a consistent basis. Governor Brown in his revised state budget states “based on a rebounding economy and higher state tax revenue, the revised budget calls for general fund spending to rise above its previous proposal for the 2011-12 fiscal year, from $84.6 billion in January to $88.8 billion today. The revised number still represents a $2.8 billion reduction from the 2010-11 general fund budget. Total state spending, which includes federal money and revenue dedicated to specific programs, would rise to $132.5 billion, about $5 billion higher than in the current fiscal year”, in regards to what the state faces currently.(1) His solution includes raising taxes, allocating tax revenue for education, subsidizing health and human services, and cutting the state work force.

Proposed Solutions:
Eliminating tax shelters is a step in generating more tax revenue. According to one accounting website “the Franchise Tax Board estimates that California lost as much as $2 billion in tax revenue over the last four years due to abusive tax schemes, which generally have no business purpose except to hide income and reduce taxes”, which is 2 billion dollars that could go towards state jobs instead of cutting the state workforce.(2) Governor Brown proposes to cut the state workforce by at least 5500 employees. This cut of employees means 5500 new unemployed drawing unemployment benefits from the state instead of putting more tax dollars back into the economy. California specifically has also noticed a rise in businesses leaving the state because of high taxes as compared to states like Nevada where small business taxes are waived.

Utilizing government subsidies to become the leader in alternative energy product development, distribution, and exportation would pay off in the long run for the state as a product such as this could be sold internationally. Reports show that with the increase in global population the globes natural resources will be strained creating conflict. If one of those resources sought after by the world is a cost effective alternative energy resource then related businesses in California would thrive as natural resource exploitation has done for the Middle East region. This research and development would also create jobs which in turn would generate more tax revenue not only from the workforce but from sales of the alternative energy product. Costco currently sells individual solar cells with battery packs as an idea of what I am explaining here.

History has shown that strong economies have started out with a vast agriculture infrastructure. California, with its prime soil and weather for growing, should be the world leader in agriculture as a form of self-sustenance, to export to other states, and export internationally. A recent report states “in 2008, the value of California agriculture exports reached an all-time high of $12.9 billion, a 16 percent increase from 2007”.(3) This is a positive index to California’s ability to bring in revenue by providing an export.

I strongly believe that in times of financial crisis the federal government should intervene and allow for a certain percentage rebate on federal taxes collected from the state that can go back to the state as a stimulus package. If Californians were able to pay a smaller percentage in taxes to the federal government and that small percentage were to go back to the state then the state would not have to cut jobs, funding for social services, or raise taxes.

A controversial proposal that could be considered would be an effort to spur the California tourism industry. I feel that if developers were allowed to build coastal casino resort communities in California with the intent of incorporating a heavy tax on the industry in the state then that money could go to subsidize education in the state in much of the same way the California Lottery is supposed to. This proposal would also provide jobs, local industry would thrive, and California would become even more of a travel vacation destination.

The budget crisis of California can be fixed but our leaders must take a look at how past economic and financial budget plans have or have not worked. If our leaders continue to try solutions that haven’t worked in the past then the state will continue to have the same results. California can pull out of the current budget crisis with a combination of Governor Brown’s proposal as well as: growth in California’s agriculture industry, becoming a leader in alternative energy export, instituting a federal tax break for states in financial crisis, the elimination of tax shelters, and a spur in the California tourism industry. These proposals show a removal from past failed solutions and a move towards increased jobs, increased state tax revenue, and increased funding for education, as well as a balanced budget.

(1) “California Governor’s Revisited State Budget at a Glance”, The Associated Press, (May 17, 2011) (accessed 05/23/11)

(2) William A Mathews, Georgi Gabrielyan and Daniel A. Sumner, “California International Agriculture Exports in 2008”, AIC Issues Brief, (March, 2010) (accessed 05/23/11)