The Future of US Intelligence

By Winn, Arthur C. | Parameters, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Future of US Intelligence

Winn, Arthur C., Parameters

The four books reviewed here address the future of US intelligence. However, each has a different focus.

US Representative Curt Weldon, Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in his Countdown to Terror, states: "This book is an act of desperation. I bring it before you, the reader, because I could not get our intelligence community to act on it, though my source has proven his credibility, and though the information he provides predicts a major terrorist attack against the United States."

The complete, and more revealing, title of the book is Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America ... and How the CIA has Ignored it. Theorizing on why the intelligence community stubbornly refuses to work with his source, Ali, Congressman Weldon postulates several theories: incompetence, obsolete approach, institutional memory, and fear. He states: "Simply put, the United States at this moment cannot afford to become entangled in war against Iran. The intelligence community may fear that this is precisely what could happen by working with Ali." Congressman Weldon has briefed George Tenet, then Director of the CIA; Stephen Kappes, then deputy director of operations (since resigned from the CIA); and Porter Goss, the current CIA Director, on Weldon's contacts with his source and on the type of information that he believes Ali can provide.

Copies of Ali's reports to Congressman Weldon from April 2003 to September 2004 are presented in Chapters 2 through 16. A brief introduction provides historical context and highlights the reports and their significance. A handwritten letter from Ali dated 7 March 2005, addressed to Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, is included in Appendix One. Dr. Pry had accompanied Congressman Weldon on a trip to Paris for the first visit with Ali in April 2003. The reader should especially note Ali's contention that "within the USA, all important targets are being protected. Consequently, two dirty bombs shall be used before the end of 2006; one within the US, one in the Persian Gulf close to Saudi Arabia." The book's Appendix Two is the result of a Congressional Research Service search of LEXIS-NEXIS; it shows that Ali's record of forecasting is consistent with his claim that he has access to sensitive, inside information derived from high-ranking sources within the government of Iran.

In Weldon's Chapter 17, "Conclusions and Recommendations," he addresses the following topics: "Clinton Administration Intelligence Failures," "The 9/11 Commission and Congressional Intelligence Reform," "Our Intelligence Services Have Long Been Dysfunctional," and "Grand Strategy for Winning the War on Terrorism." The author's comments are well worth reading, although the reader will most likely agree with some and disagree with others.

The second book under review, Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11, by Richard A. Posner, is a rewarding read that is worth re-reading. The author is a judge on the US Court of Appeals in Chicago and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

Posner's focus is on the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The act is based on the 9/11 Commission's analysis and was signed into law by President Bush on 17 December 2004. Judge Posner's thesis draws into question both the soundness of the commission's analysis and the Intelligence Reform Act itself--the implication being that "the organization" was to blame for the faulty analysis.

The author's concern is that a top-heavy, Rube Goldberg-style reorganization may increase rather than reduce the dangers that face us. He reviews the effects of the legislative action to "see how that action so far altered the commission's recommendations as to leave the issue of the organization of the intelligence system in considerable flux.

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