Friday, November 5, 2010

The Threat of Politicized Intelligence

If new US National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon needs a reminder of how stark the enemy threat is, he need look no further than today's discovery of printer cartridges rigged like explosive devices aboard UPS airliner cargo holds that left Yemen bound for Jewish Synagogues in the United States. A dry run? You bet. And not just to test the holes in air cargo security systems, but to test the reaction time and responsiveness of our national security apparatus.

The backroom maneuvering that led to Donilon's ascent and the departure of his predecessor, Gen. James L. Jones (USMC Ret), is a dangerous reminder of what happens when politics enters the world of intelligence gathering, analysis and policy-making. Donilon, whose reputation as a backroom Democratic Party wheeler dealer precedes him, would do well now to shed that skin and get down to the serious business at hand in containing and controlling threats that are approaching four-dimensional complexity against American--and global--security interests.

History is replete with bad decisions made by men and women charged with securing America who lamely, selfishly and often purposefully politicized intelligence for narrow political objectives. Those failures should serve as a reminder to Donilon and the team he assembles that America's enemies are lurking and waiting for any sign of weakness to attack us. And attack us they will.

During both the Clinton and Bush presidencies, political machinations repeatedly overtook good judgment in assessing the vast amounts of intelligence gathered by the most formidable surveillance apparatus the world has ever known. Bill Clinton repeatedly ignored warnings and advice from people in and out of government about the storm brewing inside Islam's radical fringe. On September 11, 2001, the hypothetical threat--ignored and politicized for so many years--became a harsh reality. We are living with the consequences of that misjudgment today.

Much of the failure to deal with militant Islam inside the Clinton presidency came from his national security team, which (with the exception of former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke) had little practical experience with military campaigns, counterterrorism strategies, guerrilla warfare tactics or other facets so critical to ensuring modern-day security. They repeatedly, and with increasing stridency, politicized intelligence gathering, analysis and policy responses. Sudan, on which I write from personal knowledge and experience, was a prime example of what America can never afford to allow again.

This article is taken from The Washington Post "On Leadership" Guest Insights and its particularly relevant in today's intelligence environment.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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