American Security Intelligence and Influences on It

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 9
Words: 2467
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College

How Failure to Share and Analyze Information Leads to Intel Failures

The American intelligence system is a diverse system, which contains different agencies with different responsibilities. Some of the most notable security agencies are the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Other security apparatuses include the National Security Agency and the State Department. Since the cold war, most of these organizations have adopted a culture of secrecy because they wanted to avoid technological eavesdropping and the interception of data through their communication systems. While this culture was supposed to protect these institutions from security breaches, it created a bigger problem of the failure to share information among the security apparatus. When this problem emerges with the failure of these institutions to analyze information, the United States (US) intelligence system faces a bigger problem of intelligence failure. This section of the report discusses the implications of the failure to share and properly analyze information within the American security intelligence system.

Poor Coordination

The failure to share and properly analyze information within the key apparatuses of the sprawling US intelligence system leads to poor coordination of intelligence activities. For example, some of the worst intelligence failures in the US (like the 9/11 attacks) trace to poor coordination of intelligence activities. Indeed, it is very difficult for the US intelligence system to have a vibrant intelligence system if most of its departments conduct their activities in isolation. The limited scope of operations for every department shows that they need to work together to create a vibrant and effective intelligence system. For example, certain institutions within the intelligence system have the sole mandate of law enforcement, while other institutions have the responsibility of intelligence gathering. If these institutions do not share information, they suffer a high possibility of failing to meet their objectives. Therefore, the failure to share or analyze information within the security apparatus leads to poor coordination and ineffectiveness within the intelligence system.


Failing to analyze information contaminates the entire intelligence system because it creates room for inaccurate or incomplete information to flow within the system. Such an eventuality may be potentially disastrous for security agencies because it may lead to fatalities or serious destruction of property. For example, by failing to analyze intelligence reports, security agencies may put their officers in harm’s way because they would be ill-prepared to manage the same security threats. Intelligence agencies should therefore not tolerate complacency within the system because national security is a very important issue for the social, economic, and political development of American society. All intelligence agencies should therefore ensure that they rely on properly analyzed information when undertaking their activities to protect the lives and properties of Americans.

Failure to Prevent Attacks

The 9/11 attacks provide a perfect example of how the failure to share information may lead to the failure of the security system to prevent attacks. The findings of the commission that investigated what happened in the 9/11 attacks (9/11 commission) showed that there was a serious intelligence failure within the national security intelligence system when intelligence agencies failed to share information regarding the terrorists. For example, the CIA knew that two hijackers of the 9/11 planes were headed to the US after booking tickets to fly to Los Angeles. Consequently, the two hijackers contributed to a series of events that culminated in the 9/11 attacks. From this intelligence failure, it is easy to understand how the failure to share intelligence information incapacitates intelligence bodies from preventing terrorist attacks. Certainly, if the CIA and the FBI shared information regarding both hijackers, they would have prevented their entry into the country. Besides, both intelligence agencies would have the opportunity to survey the terrorists and possibly obtain information regarding other tenets of their terrorist activities, such as financing and flight training.


Information sharing and properly analyzing intelligence information outlines the important factors to consider for the development of a vibrant and effective intelligence system. A compromise of any of these factors may lead to serious security breaches (as seen in the 9/11 attacks). The development of a properly coordinated intelligence system and effective intelligence service, therefore, requires all security apparatus to share intelligence information with other security agents and to analyze similar information for the establishment of a rapidly responsive security system. The law already contains provisions for the realization of these objectives; the greater task for the intelligence service therefore rests on its implementation.

How Political Correctness Influences Intelligence Processes

For many decades, political correctness has played a great role in influencing intelligence processes. This assessment shows that politics and intelligence share a very complex relationship that has a more adverse effect on intelligence, as opposed to politics. The Bush Administration especially took a great backlash from critics who believed the administration exerted its political influence on intelligence reports to paint a scenario where intelligence reports supported the administration’s policies. Mostly, such accusations emerged from the Iraq war and the Al-Qaida war in the Middle East. The influence of political correctness does not however end in the Bush administration because previous administrations have also faced the same accusations. This section of the report explores how political correctness affects intelligence.

The politicization of the Intelligence System

The national intelligence system is supposed to be impartial and neutral to political forces. However, because some political powers often want to push their agendas through the intelligence system, it is often difficult for intelligence agencies to remain impartial in their duties. Occasionally, whenever there is a change of administration, security agencies also experience a similar change in intelligence service structure. One notable change is the high turnover of agency staff that often occurs whenever there is a change of president. It is therefore common to see presidents change the entire group of intelligence personnel for officers who share the same ideology as they do. For example, a change of security personnel from republican-minded officers to officers who share democratic ideals may precede a change from a republican president to a democratic president. This change in personnel often leads to the politicization of the intelligence system because the people who drive the agencies share the same ideals. The possibility of diversity to thrive in such an environment is low because there is little room for contrary opinions. This eventuality leads to the compromise of the intelligence system through the politicization of the same. A politicized intelligence system is often ineffective in protecting the country.

Neglect Development in the Intelligence System

The intelligence system is supposed to be thorough and vigorous in the pursuit of a safe nation. Its effectiveness, in this regard, normally depends on the formulation and adherence to effective security operational policies that ensure no state officer leaves anything to chance. Security agencies normally develop these policies within a given framework of assumptions. These frameworks reflect a specific group of ideas that similarly represent government ideologies. Therefore, if the political inclination of the government changes, security policies are likely to reflect this change. These changes in security policies create an unstable framework for the execution of security operations. Notably, changes in political directions create a different set of assumptions that underlie the actions of intelligence agencies. This situation creates a potentially hazardous environment for the operations of security agencies because they may ignore intelligence information that contradicts their sets of assumptions. This outcome creates a biased intelligence system. Indeed, the same biases create a disappearance of the objectivity of the security system because security agencies are unable to process information that does not “fit” their assumptions. This situation diminishes the effectiveness of the intelligence system.

Excessive Harmonization of Security Activities

It is often a common occurrence to see different security agencies differing in opinion regarding how to manage security matters. These differences in opinions stem from the differences in policies, the scope of operations, and ideologies that inform the activities of the security agencies. This difference in ideology is an acceptable issue in the implementation of security policies because it creates a balanced system of operations within the intelligence system. However, political affiliations and influences within the intelligence system distort this balance and create excessive harmonization within the intelligence system. While some people may argue that increased harmonization within the intelligence system is good for realizing improved coordination within the same system, excessive political interference denies security personnel the opportunity to engage in rational and constructive discussions regarding differences in opinions and interpretations of security issues.

The excessive harmonization of security activities creates an unfortunate occurrence within the intelligence system because the security agencies often fear to have many diverse opinions, thereby failing to analyze their findings. This fear especially comes from a similar fear of experiencing political repercussions. Most security agencies, therefore, dance to the same political tune because they do not want to upset their “masters.” Like the development of neglect within the intelligence system, the excessive harmonization of security activities also creates an unfavorable environment for security agencies to operate in.


After weighing the findings of this section of the paper, it is correct to say that political correctness does not help to improve the activities of the intelligence system. Instead, when security agencies strive to abide by the same political philosophy, there is an excessive harmonization of security activities and the development of neglect within the security system. These factors lead to the over-politicization of the intelligence system and the creation of biases within the same system. Objectivity is similarly lost and comprehensively the intelligence system becomes ineffective.

Intelligence Collection Strategies

National security agencies have different methods of collecting intelligence. A key purpose of collecting intelligence is to reduce the ambiguity between the actual security situation and the external observations that security agencies observe, or hear. Through the collection of intelligence information, national security agencies can ascertain the authenticity or accuracy of a given piece of information. In the last decade, information technology has played a key role in the collection of intelligence information. It is therefore unsurprising to hear security agencies collecting information by intercepting emails, telephone calls, and such like modes of digital communication. However, these intelligence collection strategies pose a big problem of infringing on civil liberties. Through this conflict, this section of the paper conducts a fact-based analysis to explore intelligence collection strategies and their potential impacts on civil liberties.

First Amendment Rights

The first amendment rights, as envisioned in the American constitution, protect the right of speech and the ownership of information. The provisions of the first amendment create a need for national security agencies to respect the same rights, even as they gather intelligence to protect national security. The conflict with the first amendment rights therefore emerges when determining the extent that national security agencies use materials (protected as free speech) on criminal proceedings. One argument that surfaces in this scenario are the acknowledgment of a thin line that distinguishes the protection of national interests and the protection of free speech. This argument also stipulates that society needs to understand there is a cost of respecting the first amendment and national security interests. Certainly, the creation of digital dossiers for every American citizen and using the same information for criminal prosecution poses several civil liberty infringements that need to be managed amicably. Since it is difficult to have a “black and white” solution for the infringement on civil liberties and the protection of national interests, it is prudent to minimize the dilution of the first amendment rights when collecting intelligence information.


One way that security agencies use to collect intelligence information is intercepting digital communication for purposes of national security. By intercepting digital communication, the state often infringes on the right to privacy, as outlined in the constitution. However, it is still important for national security agencies to protect the citizens by detecting and analyzing digital information that may be potentially hazardous to the public. These conflicting roles create conflict. Nonetheless, the Intelligence Service Act and the USA-Patriot Act address much of the discussions concerning privacy issues. These acts try to regulate privacy infringement concerns because they outline how the state should use the information that it has collected from the public, and when to use them for criminal proceedings, or not. Despite the existence of these acts, the state has often found itself in contravention of the right to privacy by using “private” intelligence information to protect national security. From this understanding, it is crucial to say that security agencies need to be careful in how they collect intelligence because they should not infringe on the right to privacy, regardless of their intentions to protect national security.

Counter Arguments

Since the 9/11 attacks, the American intelligence community has strived to re-organize its operations so that it can manage future security threats of an unknown or unprecedented magnitude. This reorganization prompted the 9/11 commission to propose a raft of recommendations, some of which suggested the infringement of certain civil liberties and privacy rights. For example, the 9/11 commission proposed that state and federal governments should share information through the development of common fusion centers. However, the existence of different civil liberties and privacy rights would reduce the effectiveness of the intelligence system by reducing the efficiency of information sharing. The provision to share information between state and federal governments would also infringe on certain civil liberties, as outlined in the constitution. This situation caused a problem regarding how the government would protect national security and at the same time respect civil liberties. The overall recommendations, therefore, set out a platform for a compromise between the ability of states to gather intelligence information and the duty of the state to protect civil liberties. This compromise aimed to harmonize the rules governing information sharing and the collection of intelligence information.


American civil liberties stand at the center of the vibrancy of American society. Since these liberties are important to Americans, it is highly unlikely that the public would tolerate a contravention of the same liberties, regardless of the reasons. However, since national security concerns are equally important for the survival of American society, it is incorrect to assume there would be an absolute solution to this matter. Therefore, it is similarly incorrect for security agencies to infringe on civil liberties and likewise, it is incomprehensible for the public to believe that reliable security intelligence would suffice if the government does not infringe on certain civil liberties to protect the country. A compromise is therefore inevitable. Here, the compromise should be that the law should only allow the contravention of civil liberties to the extent that it is necessary. This provision should also have a specified period that stipulates when the state may infringe on such rights. The government should also be highly transparent to ensure this compromise works.