Tom Clancy: "Too much data, too little analytical time"

Posted in Other | 06-Apr-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Ambassador John D. Negroponte, former UN Ambassador, now Director of National Intelligence. The real art of intelligence business is to transform information into knowledge.

"Too much data, too little analytical time". That is one conclusion about the work in secret services in Tom Clancy’s novel “The teeth of the tiger”.

Tom Clancy is an expert on how secret services work or do not work.

“That’s one of the problems with the intelligence community. It’s gotten too damned big. Too many people – the organizations are always tripping over themselves”.

“They talked differently. They thought differently. And insofar as they acted at all, they acted differently”,

“As always,” he savored what the insiders knew as opposed to those who knew it not…and wished to keep it that way”.

Well observed. That is true for all secret services of the entire world.

In the aftermath of 9/11 a lot of classified and unclassified reports have been produced.. Organisational and structural changes are already completed or planned.

Recently the “Commission on the Intelligence capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction” – initiated by President George W. Bush – issued a scathing report. They say that in this respect of Weapons of Mass Destruction the services were “dead” wrong” and “This was a major intelligence failure”.

They ask for “dramatic changes” and delivered 74 recommendations how to act.

Some of these recommendations are already in place.

The fundamental problems of secret services are not organisational or structural .

These are people with leadership, imagination, accountability, wish to communicate and co-operate, dedication, courage, honesty, loyalty, integrity, trust and confidence horizontally and vertically – bottom-up and top-down.

As there is always a fight for budgets, influence and power, clandestine intra-agency and inter-agencies rivalry is a fact of life. These lessons I had to learn the hard way.

It starts with the leadership that has to deliver clear guidance “What the boss needs to know” - not what he wants to hear. He has to define the areas of interest – regions, topics, countries, leaders.

  • Collection of information is no longer necessarily the main issue. Human and technical means of intelligence fill an ocean of information. But it has to be the right information at the right time.

  • The first important step is to fish the important bits and pieces out of this ocean.

  • The real art of intelligence business is to transform information into knowledge. That requires people with the attitude and character I mentioned above.

  • All analysts must be trained and forced to come up with their conclusions and recommendations.

Their products – facts and conclusion and/or recommendations – should pass the various levels of hierarchy unchanged.

Every level has the obligation to add their comments, but nobody has the right to change the original document.

Bosses should have the chance to read what the analyst has written based upon his un-biased professional expertise..

As a side effect the analysts are highly motivated. They are aware the boss will read their document and will provide a feedback.

Whatever the organisation and structure of secret services might and will be they have to safeguard these basic principles.

We are proud to offer an exclusive interview with the then acting head of CIA – John McLaughlin – who answers the questions of our young “Editors USA”, Benedikt Franke and Benedikt Wahler, based in Washington D.C.

Question and answers reflect the decision of US President George W. Bush to nominate the career diplomat Ambassador John D. Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence.

This job – as “head” of 15 different secret service agencies - comes close to squaring the circle.

They propose to give this man “broader power”. He needs the back-up by the President otherwise the 15 agencies will play the game with him.

There is the danger that he will need another layer of bureaucracy – with the imminent risk to grow.

The fact that there are different agencies is a priori no evil. They have different missions and interests. The above mentioned commission talks about an in-built “devil’s advocacy” and encourages more “dissent within the spy agencies”. Quite often controversial opinions and open discussions with the boss can lead to a better result and decision.

Good performance of the Secret Service will gain more public acceptance and attract brilliant people who want to serve their country.