The self-proclaimed “The Kerr Group”'s short item declares some basic truisms about analysis and organizational structure: lack of coordination, competition, redundancy and overtaxing of finite resources in proliferating government-run intelligence centers (not to mention intelligence functions now increasingly outsourced to the private sector) undermnine efforts to provide accurate and comprehensive analysis to national policy makers. Well DUH.
We will not delve into dry discussions of the intelligence cycle, product creation and dissemination and the role of policy makers. We'll save that for a bleak day.
Instead, Kerr is talking primarily about organizational matters within the Community. He bemoans the competing analytic functions in the still struggling Agency, the newly emergent DNI apparatus, competing counter terrorism centers (the Agency Old Guard still have not adjusted to their grimmer reality that the Agency is no longer the pre-eminent intelligence entity) and other competing entities in the Community.
In a pre-Bush Administration world, Kerr's points would be well taken. But. Competition and rivalry is precisely the point. In a way that the Agency Old Guard still can't comprehend. New organizational and information silos — created in the name of eliminating silos — all serve an overriding purpose of distracting, fracturing and rendering inert the existing and still non-compliant intelligence community.
A unified and holistic analytic capability is exactly what an ideological regime does not want — whether here or elsewhen in history. Accordingly, Kerr's ideal remains severed from political and ideological realities in the Imperial City.
A unifed and holistic analytic function and its intelligence community can occur on two basis: (a) the ideological regime is triumphant and confident that it has the cadres in place to allow consolidation and integration that will not threaten its apriori ideological world view; or (b) there is a restoration of political decision-making to an essentially empiricist and fact-based decision-making.
Choice (a) does not look likely given the disarray and dysfunction of the Bush regime as it lurches in its twilight. Choice (b) even should it occur, would still require the political will to then overcome normal bureaucratic and institutional rivalries, competition and jealousies. The default and likely outcome? More competition, overlap, dysfunction and far from Kerr's hoped-for “holistic” approach. We look forward to being surprised and proven wrong.
On a related note, the micro furor over the demise of the ineffectual and not-to-be-lamented 'Alec Station' (named after Scheuer's son) aka as Bin Laden Station is equally off the mark. It was a jury rigged effort by Tenet back in the day. The unit was the first time the Agency set up a “station” for a specific individual. And likely the last. The small and resource starved staff did not have many native Arab speakers, but reliant on FBIS (Scheuer does not speak, btw). They also failed to get really any, let alone capable, DO officers involved prior to 9/11 knowing it was a career cul de sac.
Although it did have Bin Laden located once for a clumsy cruise missile strike of dubious effectiveness, it never got as close to Bin Laden as Peter Bergen and others did. The record of Bin Laden Station is one of failure. The Clinton Administration did not help matters. But the Agency is simply lying when it blames its operational failures on Dick Clarke and others. Scheuer — an analyst — was a poor choice to head the unit, having no field experience, contacts or sense of operational realities. This showed. They never penetrated al Qaeda at any meaningful level and relied on a crusty remnant of the Agency's (or rather mostly Milt Bearden's) former 1980s Afghan networks for what little on the ground intel it was able to glean.
Its dissolution means nothing in terms of effectiveness to the overall community effort. Ignore the blathering of those in the Opposition who fall too easily into the false dichotomy of Agency == Anti Bush == Always Right and the Administration as the locus of evil. The latter may not be far off in terms of its ideological impact. But the former is definitely not the case. Too many different channels have Bin Laden related information and sources, such as the military in Afghanistan, etc. If the Opposition is truly different from the Bush regime and rooted in the reality based community, it should eschew cheap political props like maintaining an irrelevant and ineffective staff for the sake of appearances. That Kerry writes silly letters “demanding” its restoration,etc. merely demonstrates how clueless he and others are — or what they will do for cheap political stunts.
Oh, the Jedi reference in the title? Simply this: the Jedi demise came about because they became too smug and set in their internalized view and sense of mission to detect that they were being used by malignant forces set upon their destruction. Malignant forces they were blindly serving. Until it was too late. The rest should be clear . . .