Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

Analytical grumblings

Ackerman has  an article about analytical dysfunction in the NCTC (h/t ATCT):

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.


As if earthquakes, poverty and instability weren’t enough

So, the U.S. is taking some heat for dominating access to the airport in Port-au-Prince and squeezing out aircraft with humanitarian assistance in favor of those carrying American military personnel.  Perhaps now we know why* (h/t YT):

Dumping the dead in hurriedly excavated mass graves without proper rites is seen as…a

… zombies — dead bodies brought back to life by supernatural forces who could persecute the living.

Haitian officials say so far at least 50,000 bodies have been dumped in mass graves outside the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince, in what they view as the most efficient way to dispose of the fast-rotting corpses from Tuesday’s disaster.

*Note:  Editing of this story may have significantly changed it’s meaning from the original during the english to kooky paranoid translation which occurs here at the TwS world headquarters.

And if, somehow, you haven’t found a place to help out those in Haiti yet, here’s a link to Doctors Without Borders who do good work.

Society is only three missed meals from anarchy…

I think that quote was from Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy but it’s been awhile since I read it so forgive me if I got it wrong.

I was thinking about that as I’ve been reading about the security situation in Haiti.

Mark’s got a good round up of security concerns and describes some of the problems pre-earthquake.

Even before the earthquake, feelings towards internationals, the UN, ranged from support to resentment. With so much aid unable to get through, it may now resurface. Pre-disaster, there had been a rise in violence over the holiday period (shooting by men on motorbikes); and political tension was growing as elections approached.

Having just completed a move to Haiti shortly before the earthquake, Mark is now considering the consequences of going back (he and his family were in Florida at the time).

Global Voices has a nice review of the unfortunate bottleneck of humanitarian assistance trying to work its way into the country.

And then they do another article describing the use of the term ‘looting’ and reports of violence in the capital.