According to interviews with several veteran NCTC analysts, the five-year-old center, meant to be a hub for pulling together terrorism information from across the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community to better anticipate future attacks, has a cumbersome bureaucratic structure and a questionable set of institutional values.
It’s hard to know if this is regular grumbling or there’s something fundamentally wrong the the NCTC. I wouldn’t discount either and the specific charges don’t give one a good feeling:
…the managers who preside over analysts seeking to connect the dots…are often inexperienced in intelligence analysis themselves.
A couple of years ago I was accused of being some sort of anarchist when I made the outrageous suggestion that analysts should be supervised by someone with some sort of background in intelligence. The anger that I was met with was almost palpable and I was asked to think about the feelings of existing (and potential) managers if they found out about my suggestion. I kid you not, the argument against the proposal began with an assertion that we shouldn’t hurt people’s feelings. Once I dispensed with that I was told that intelligence work is no different from any other work and anyone with management skills could run an intelligence organization.
I might have blacked out at that point from an overdose of the stoopid.
Back to the article…
Two NCTC sources told TWI this week that it is far easier to surge capabilities within Groups than it is to bring analysts across them. Surprisingly, the non-al Qaeda-focused groups “are not permitted to [study] al-Qaeda,” one said.
That’s a little disturbing. I’m not sure how to get there from here but this desire to compartmentalize analytical subjects really isn’t great when you’re trying to uncover linkages and networks. Gen. Flynn’s plan (that I wrote about last week) seems to try to get at it by cross hatching some analytical elements functionally (narcotics, WMD, etc.) with other geographically (Afghanistan, U.S., etc.). That way you’re going to have to get cross pollination of people and ideas.
I imagine we’ll be hearing more about this soon as fallout continues to…uh…fall out…from the underwear bomber.