Searching for Answers: US Intelligence after September 11. (Intelligence)

By Graham, Bob | Harvard International Review, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Searching for Answers: US Intelligence after September 11. (Intelligence)


Graham, Bob, Harvard International Review


Bob Graham is a United States senator and chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a body that provides legislative oversight for the intelligence agencies of the US government. A Democrat from the state of Florida, he was a primary author of the USA Patriot Act, signed into law by US President George Bush in October 2001, which began the process of US intelligence reform after September 11. The 2002 US Intelligence Authorization Bill included a five-year plan sponsored by Senator Graham aimed at improving the intelligence capabilities of the United States. He is also presently co-chairman of the joint US House-Senate investigatory committee reviewing the terrorist attacks and reevaluating US intelligence operations and agency structures. Senator Graham is one of the foremost authorities on the largest intelligence organization in the world.

Before joining the Senate, Graham served as a Florida state legislator and as governor of Florida for two consecutive terms (1979-1987). He was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and is now serving his third term. As a leading moderate Democrat, his major initiatives in the Senate have been related to drug control, Medicare, and forest preservation.

Senior Editors Richard Re and Kristen Eichensehr interviewed Senator Graham to discuss intelligence's potential contribution to the war against terrorism and the international cooperation this effort requires.

HARVARD INTERNATIONAL REVIEW:

How would you describe the way US agencies have interacted with foreign agencies before and after September 11? How do you think they should interact with foreign agencies in the future?

One of the fundamental realities of the United States intelligence community is its relative youth. Most European powers have intelligence services that go back at least to the Napoleonic wars. The United States has had an historic attitude of antipathy toward the craft of spying. We do not like spying on people, listening to their telephone conversations, opening their mail. It was not until World War II that the United States developed an organized agency; and that was a military one. As soon as the war was over, that military organization was abandoned. Two years later; US President Harry Truman recognized that the Soviet Union had changed from a wartime ally to a Cold War adversary and that the United States did not know enough about this adversary. So in 1947 the first civilian intelligence agency; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was established. In the Cold War, the United States had a series of relationships with foreign intelligence agencies, known as liaison relationships.

During that later phase of the Cold War, those relationships became less important as we were able to use our own technology--especially satellite technology--to gather information and became less dependent on human-derived intelligence. Since the end of the Cold War, as our target of concern broadened from the Soviet Union and its allies to 30 or 40 countries around the world, the relative importance of human intelligence, especially when conducted in cooperation with other countries, has increased. And that has been accelerated as a result of the events of September 11. As an example, the United States had limited experience in Afghanistan, and so worked to establish effective liaison relationships with Britain, Russia, and Pakistan. Our own agencies were limited in both cultural and linguistic understanding.

So the short answer is that since September 11, there has been an increase in our interest in cooperating with other governments' services. And I anticipate that our experience in Afghanistan will be a harbinger of an accelerated set of liaison relationships in other countries where we will be more actively engaged as we go into the next phases of the war against terrorism.

How might a mature interagency cooperation scheme play itself out in coming months and years? …

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