Fixing Intel Part 2

Last time I spoke about how the Flynn report discussed how critical leadership was to an effective intelligence system.  It also had a number of other observations and recommendations that are worthy of consideration.

The emphasis on fighting the temptation to overclassify intelligence products.

Each paragraph of every report will be kept to the lowest classification level possible. The reports will inevitably incorporate classified data, but unclassified versions of every report will be available.

How often does your local (or state or regional) law enforcement/homeland security/fusion center agency release reports available to the general public?  Why shouldn’t the public be able to have access to assessments about the criminal environment?  There’s quite a bit that can be released without compromising investigations, revealing sources and methods or tipping off criminals.

One of the things I really liked about the report was how it distinguished between the analytical, collation and dissemination functions.

…analysts will be too busy to shoulder this organization and dissemination role alone, they will be augmented by “information brokers” who are focused on storing information and making it available to all elements with a demand for information—including Afghan partners and non-government actors. Through commonly used databases, information brokers will organize and make available the data gathered by analysts.

How great is that?

One of the problems in law enforcement is that the term ‘analyst’ has been applied very broadly to cover not just the various varieties of analyst (crime, intelligence and investigative) but also data entry personnel, information discriminators (those who just pass along information without adding any content to it), and others.  The community is long past due needing to clearly defining these roles.  Of course, that means the agencies themselves need to clearly define what it is they want to do.  Are they an information hub designed to get information from producers to those who can use it?  Are they interested in providing courtroom support to officers in the form of charts and timelines?  Are they providing investigative support in terms of phone, money or other analysis?  Or something else entirely?

I also found it interesting that they recommended having analysts focus geographically rather than functionally.

…having all analysts study an entire province or region through the lens of a narrow, functional line (i.e., one analyst covers governance, another studies narcotics trafficking, a third looks at insurgent networks, etc) simply cannot produce meaningful analysis.

…having all analysts study an entire province or region through the lens of a narrow, functional line (i.e., one analyst covers governance, another studies narcotics trafficking, a third looks at insurgent networks, etc) simply cannot produce meaningful analysis.

Traditionally, analysts domestically have been organized in a similar way to operational units to provide direct case support.  That means they’ve been functionally organized (narcotics, corruption, white collar, etc.).  Crossover between groups is possible but presents hurdles.  I’ve always thought having analysts organized ‘perpendicular’ from operational elements  (the cops organized functionally and analysts geographically or vice versa, for example) would increase the opportunities for information sharing and, more importantly, identifying trends and linkages that otherwise would get missed.

Another recommendation was to push analysts out to the lowest possible level to make sure information can be analyzed close to its source of collection.  The additional benefit being that of networking which would facilitate communication after that analyst returns to the mothership of the J2 (or where ever).  I’m a huge proponent of that and think only good can come of it provided the following issues are addressed:

  1. As mentioned in the report, analysts should generally be in support of but not attached to these elements.  “The direct support status protects the analyst from being misused by a company commander while giving the analyst an incentive to provide information to the battalion S-2 and beyond.”  The functions of this analyst is to “retrieve information from the ground level and make it available to a broader audience…”, and act as a liaison with getting needed intelligence resources.  The analyst can NOT be used as additional administrative or data entry support.
  2. The analyst needs to be sent out to the field with a list of intelligence requirements.  They need to have a more defined purpose than just ‘Go check it out and see what they do out there.’  And those intelligence requirements need to be updated as old ones are addressed.  Requirements need to go beyond just arrest reports (or, ‘kenetic incidents’ as the report puts it) to capture the contextual information that almost always gets left out of police reports because it’s irrelevant to the prosecution of a subject.
  3. All of this requires a collection plan which, in turn requires a leadership which takes an active role in intelligence planning.

This all is connected to the fact that intelligence analysts don’t often get the type information they need to do the products they’re supposed to.

The problem is that these analysts – the core of them bright, enthusiastic, and hungry – are starved for information from the field, so starved, in fact, that many say their jobs feel more like fortune telling than serious detective work.

The deficit of data needed by high-level analysts does not arise from a lack of reporting in the field…Nor, remarkably, is the often-assumed unwillingness to share information the core of the problem.

The most salient problems are attitudinal, cultural, and human [emphasis added]. The intelligence community’s standard mode of operation is surprisingly passive about aggregating information that is not enemy-related and relaying it to decision-makers or fellow analysts further up the chain. It is a culture that is strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders.

Oh, trust me brother (uh, I mean Sir).  It’s pretty clear how little influence analytical products have.

But, there are additional sources of information that are frequently ignored.  Coming from open source reporting, ‘non-community’ organizations (NGOs, community groups, etc.) and other data.

This vast and underappreciated body of information, almost all of which is unclassified, admittedly offers few clues about where to find insurgents, but it does provide elements of even greater strategic importance – a map for leveraging popular support and marginalizing the insurgency itself.

Feel free to apply this same critique domestically.

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One response to “Fixing Intel Part 2

  1. Spot on with the grid left-right up-down approach to analysis – means at least two sets of different eyes on the same info…works in the lessons world as well…

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