Kissing Intelligence Goodbye
"Instant Closure" Will Be The Death of More of Us
By Michael Tanji | April 25, 2009
- Reliance on satellites, which take great pictures, but reveal nothing of human emotion or intention.
- Reliance on only angels and boy scouts, when the greatest threats come from demons and malcontents.
- Adherence to a system that rewards quantity, not quality; promotes generalists and relegates expertise.
A few days ago the President announced that he was not going to subject those intelligence producers who treated terrorist detainees harshly to investigations and possible prosecutions. Shortly thereafter it was announced that those who approved of the harsh treatment and conditions could very well be investigated and prosecuted. Today we learn that the government will be turning over photos of alleged abusive interrogations to the ACLU, who will no doubt make the photos public in short order. We can go round-and-round about what constitutes torture and where respective moral lines should be drawn, but the bottom line is that if you are about improving intelligence, the best course of action is - for the time being - to shut up about all of this.
No clear thinking intelligence officer can interpret the political actions associated with terrorist interrogations any other way than this: shut up and color. This is not about condoning torture or approving of harsh treatment, nor is it about going all-in on the good-cop school of interrogation. This is about recognizing that in a sufficiently challenging situation, under the most intense pressure, swimming in a sea of known and unknown unknowns, are we going to give people the room to maneuver - and make mistakes - as we march towards a goal of an effective and righteous solution?If we are not, well, you know what that means:
- We will almost assuredly go back to relying on technical means to gather intelligence, losing any ground we gained in the human arena.
- We will continue to be blindsided by demons and malcontents.
- Intelligence's slide towards run-of-the-mill government bureaucracy will be complete; "managers" will focus on headcount and budget, driving leaders and risk-takers out of business.
Rooting out and divining that 10% used to be what they paid us for.