The US National Intelligence

What biases, if any, might be common to U.S. intelligence agencies? Give two examples from history or the modern-day?

The United States is faced with the great challenge of protecting the interests of its people in the highly competitive and uncertain international system where state actors are simply concerned with the realization of national safety. Terrorism is a global security issue that actors aim at mitigating, but the achievement of the desired goal is hampered by a lack of cooperation and the application of defective methods in dealing with the problem. The National Intelligence Security is a government agency that was set up specifically to collect adequate information that should always be utilized effectively in designing strategies aimed at combating terror threats in the country. For the agency to conduct its operations efficiently, analysts suggest it has to exhibit at least three features, one of them being integration since it will enable the system to work as a team instead of working individually. The second feature is agility meaning it has to be adaptive, diverse, and mission-driven, as this would pave the way for continuous learning, which results in innovation and creativity1. Finally, the agency has to ensure its operations are consistent with the American values where the law is always followed, as this will ensure civil liberties are protected, something that will facilitate public trust and support.

Psychological studies prove that the human mind is always under the influence of internal and external factors, something that affects the collection of critical data in the US intelligence agencies. Information processing has never been accurate in the agencies because of the misconception of reality. Before going out to collect data, the agencies officials are usually of the view the suspects of terrorists are members from a certain race and religion, which interferes with an accurate analysis. The policymakers are trained to apply the rational actor theory in executing their duties with a western perception that the Arab race is aggressive and brutal to the extent of harming people without a sufficient reason2.

The officials aim at averting any risk that would interfere with the American national interests. Due to this, they tend to apply all available means in ensuring information is extracted. Unfortunately, they go for the cheaper options of forcing the perceived enemy to respond, which is harmful to the entire process. There is a tendency to underestimate the enemy given the fact the country is well equipped with modern technologies, but this has been the major reason why the country is caught off guard as far as national security is concerned. Policymakers seem to be motivated in doing their analysis with the view that certain individuals are unlikely to engage in terrorism leading to faulty decision-making. While an intelligence official is expected to engage in noteworthy research to identify the activities of terrorists, bias has always interfered with their work since they hold a certain view.

An example is given in 2002 when the US was attacked. The intelligence agencies misadvised the government to enter into war with the Middle East leaders because they were believed to harbor terrorists, something that was subject to further investigation. A number of analysts engaged in thorough research to establish whether the US was justified to send troops to the Middle East region to flush out members of the Al-Qaeda group, as suggested by the intelligence community3. The studies revealed the US was misguided in three major ways, which proved the existence of biases in intelligence collection and analysis. One of the biases stemmed from the scope of the agency’s work since they were focused on carrying out comprehensive investigations and looking into the conduct of all citizens pertaining to their participation in terrorist activities. It is currently emerging that terrorist groups are many in the American continent, as well as other places, such as Africa, Europe, and Asia. In the East African region, for instance, especially in the Horn of Africa, terrorist activities are inconveniencing service delivery given the fact governments in the region are spending too much on minimizing threats.

The African Union created a special military force in the name of AMISOM with the aim of liberating the people of Somalia, but much has to be done to improve the situation. This proves that the US intelligence agencies are biased in their analysis, something that facilitates other groups to conduct their terrorist activities uninterrupted. The second bias emanates from the application of technology in collecting and evaluating terrorism in the country since members of a certain race are the major targets. Islam is one of the world’s major religions, but the intelligence community simply tracks the activities of its leaders with the aim of branding them as terrorists. After the 9/11 attack, one of the senators in the US suggested that the intelligence community has to be made up of highly trained and experienced individuals who will offer appropriate advice to the president concerning the commitment of the country in unprofitable war. Instead of the intelligence officers giving the head of state several options at the time, they simply conformed to his personal wimps, which was prejudice.

Another example entails the recently released wiki leaks reports detailing how the US government has been spying on certain nations in an attempt to establish whether they are linked to terrorism. Instead of investigating the behavior of all nations, the US intelligence decided to spy on the traditional enemies, such as Germany, Russia, China, and other states in the Asian subcontinent. This proved that the policymakers have certain perceptions regarding the potential terrorists and their funders. In East Africa, a female British national was highly linked to the terrorist attack that destroyed one of the up-market malls referred to as Westgate. A previous attack on the American embassies in the region was linked to the Al-Qaeda cell operating in the region, but further investigations revealed otherwise because a different terrorist group that was unrelated to Al-Qaeda or the Arab race claimed responsibility.

Again, this example proves that the US intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, are often reactive to terrorist attacks instead of taking a proactive approach that aims at prevention. The intelligence agencies are always expected to conduct their investigations to certain limits, which is again a source of bias since some individuals are not investigated, yet they are always mentioned in various reports. In the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military agency had specific orders to investigate only the military capabilities of the two countries instead of being allowed to establish the sources of their funds, as well as their friends globally. The war would be successful in case the intelligence agencies were allowed to establish the political culture and ethnic fragmentation in the region, as this would have allowed manipulation of the war. There was a misconception that Islam was playing a role in encouraging members to engage the American forces, but the military should have gone a notch higher to establish the existing sects within the faith since variations exist.

Explain politicization, its effect on threat analysis, and two methods used to minimize its effects. Further, explain two revolutions that are transforming threat analysis and discuss their impact on threat analysis.

The politicization of intelligence gathering is one of the major challenges facing the security agencies globally. The problem is a great concern towards threat analysis since political leaders want their ideas to be incorporated into the decision-making process, yet they have little understanding of the situation. Politicization was not an issue of concern in the United States until the recent terrorist threats. The current political class is concerned with the potential effects of insecurity on economic development. Consequently, allowing the views of politicians in the intelligence analysis degrades the mission, the expected outcomes, and the entire process. Before the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq begun, it is claimed that the US vice-president at the time, Cheney, made several trips to the CIA headquarters probably to make his contributions and those of the executive arm.

The chief of staff, Scooter Libby, always accompanied the country’s number two and was said to interfere with the quality of decisions made at the agency. When the Central Intelligence Agency maintained its stance, the vice-president is claimed to have asked similar questions for many months until his wish was granted, meaning the decision was made to satisfy the executive, but it was not the best option for the country at the time4. It was clear the US was not going to be supported globally since other powerful states represented in the Security Council, including Russia and China, were going to oppose the move. The executive wanted the intelligence agencies to confirm that Iraq was indeed supporting terrorism apart from possessing weapons of mass destruction since this would encourage other powerful countries to support the attack.

Politicization is an impediment to threat analysis in the sense that the information generated does not reflect the reality on the ground; instead, it aims at serving the interests of the elected leaders who are in control of the government. President Bush never utilized any intelligence reports in 2003 before attacking Iraq and Afghanistan because it was clear that the two countries were simply working with suspected terrorists to achieve their regional interests, and they never aimed at harming the United States5. The leadership of Iraq was facing a major challenge of dealing with the ethnic divisions that have always characterized the politics of the Middle East region6. The leadership of Afghanistan was working hard to reduce the influence of political dissidents who were determined to bring down the government.

Osama Bin Laden was simply unavoidable in the region because he had military tactics that would help Saddam Hussein and the leadership of Afghanistan in achieving the national interests. Intelligence reports confirmed further that the two countries never possessed any weapon of mass destruction given the fact they lacked the needed skills and resources to manufacture the weapons. This means the political leaders will want to use the intelligence agencies to justify their actions. Usually, each political party has a manifesto that gives strategies on how to handle various issues ranging from political, social, security to economic. For instance, the Republican Party is known to be aggressive in the sense that it would want to engage in war to justify the supremacy of the US. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is much concerned with economic development meaning it is never interested in engaging in war. Based on this, each party will want the intelligence agencies to conduct investigations that support their courses of action. In the example given above, the Bush administration ensured the CIA confirms the existence of WMD in Iraq, yet it was not true.

It is suggested that the politicization of intelligence would be minimized in three major ways, one is separating the role of the CIA director from the presidential election cycle meaning the boss should be retained beyond elections. Usually, the CIA director is expected to be the president’s ear in the sense that he or she has to collect critical data that would ensure the head of state delivers on the promises. This has a negative effect because the person in charge is never free to make policies without consulting the white house bosses. In fact, the CIA director should operate in the same way as the chairperson of the Federal Reserve, who is always in charge of policy formulation without any influence from the executive. The intelligence agencies should serve the interests of the country, but not those of a single individual. Additionally, the agencies charged with the role of intelligence gathering should be left to operate independently whereby the executive should be prevented from making trips to the agencies’ headquarters the way the vice-president visited the CIA severally. In any bureaucratic agency, there should be an advanced system of information circulation instead of interfering with the role of junior officers. In this regard, the executive should follow the established communication channel in receiving information from the intelligence agencies. Finally, the politicization problem could be resolved in case the appointment of military officials as intelligence chiefs is blocked7.

The war on terror has been extended to cyberspace, and this is due to the influence of internet communication in advancing or fighting terrorism. Terrorists do not have adequate knowledge on how they can use computers to plan and execute their attacks, but the little idea they have makes them very dangerous. America realized the importance of computers for storing information that can be used to plan terror attacks. That is why this government is committed to ensuring that it creates a connection between its counter-terrorism agencies and internet service providers. It is important to explain that most information obtained from computers used by terrorists help security officers to know what action to take to combat terrorist activities. In addition, the information has also been used for intelligence purposes where security officers have located training grounds, sponsors, and supporters of terrorism. This information is important in preventing future terrorist attacks on Americans. There is the need to explain that terrorism is not an American problem but a global issue that must be understood from its roots. The American government is committed to ensuring that computers are not used to advance terror plans on innocent civilians, which explains why its anti-terror unit works with cybersecurity departments to ensure people do not store information that may be dangerous to their lives8.

The counter-terrorism and cyber security programs established will involve the transformation of the resilience and security options of the United States since it suffered the 2001 attack. National security was not a top agenda in the United States, and most government officials had neglected the need to organize the military and intelligence to ensure there were no possibilities of terror attacks. However, the Washington DC and New York attacks were a turning point in the history of America because they challenged the government to identify weaknesses in its security systems. The commission formed to investigate the issues discovered that lack of surveillance and cyber information contributed to the success of the attack. The events that followed challenged America to establish a strong link between its security forces and cyber communication to ensure no terror-related communication was passed into or out of America.

Bibliography

Clark, Robert. Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach. Washington, D.C: CQ Press, 2010.

Farrall, Leah. “How al Qaeda Works.” Foreign Affairs, 3.1 (2011): 128-138.

George, Roger, and Bruce, James. Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2008.

Roach, Morgan and Gianella, Adam. “Foreign Militants Complicate Crisis in Northern Mali.” The Foundry, 3.1 (2010): 1-12.

Roggio, Bill. “Belmokhtar claims Algerian raid, slaying of hostages for al Qaeda.” Long War Journal, 3.2 (2013), 34-56.

Roggio, Bill. “US Adds senior AQIM commander to terrorist list.” Long War Journal, 3.1 (2013): 1-19

Torres, Soriano. “The Evolution of the Discourse of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Themes, Countries, and Individuals.” Mediterranean Politics, 16.2 (2011): 279-298.

Walther, Olivier, and Dimitris Christopoulos. “A Social Network Analysis of Islamic Terrorism and the Malian Rebellion.” CEPS, 5.1 (2012): 1-38.

Footnotes

  1. Bill Roggio, “Belmokhtar claims Algerian raid, slaying of hostages for al Qaeda,” Long War Journal, 3.2 (2013), 37.
  2. Robert Clark, Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach (Washington, D.C: CQ Press, 2010), p. 34.
  3. Leah Farrall, How al Qaeda Works, Foreign Affairs, 3.1 (2011): 128-138.
  4. Olivier Walther and Dimitris Christopoulos, “A Social Network Analysis of Islamic Terrorism and the Malian Rebellion.” CEPS, 5.1 (2012): 21.
  5. Morgan Roach, and Adam Gianella, “Foreign Militants Complicate Crisis in Northern Mali.” The Foundry 3.1 (2010): p. 31.
  6. George Roger and James Bruce, Analyzing Intelligence: Origins, Obstacles, and Innovations (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2008), p. 12.
  7. Bill Roggio, “US Adds senior AQIM commander to terrorist list,” Long War Journal, 3.1 (2013): 16.
  8. Soriano Torres, “The Evolution of the Discourse of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Themes, Countries, and Individuals.” Mediterranean Politics, 16.2 (2011): p. 298.