Yes, Director Brennan Should “Center-Ize” The CIA

Yes, Director Brennan Should “Center-Ize” The CIA

Aki Peritz, writing on the November 24, 2014 website, Overt Action, argues that — by all means — CIA Director Brennan should “center-ize” the CIA. Brennan’s proposed changes include “potentially merging the Analytical and Operational Directorate’s, in a way similar to how the Counterterrorism, Counterproliferation, and Counterintelligence Centes (CTC, CPC, and CIC) respectively are run,” Mr. Peritz writes. “Analysts and case officers would be sitting ‘cheek-to-jowl in the same office; instead of being firewalled from each other in different parts of the headquarters. This would be the CIA’s most radical restructuring since the Agency’s founding after the second World War,” he wrote.

“If this reporting proves generally accurate, this would be a welcome change, for, and, at the CIA,” Mr. Peritz contends. “For too long,” he argues, “most analysts and operators have been artificially divided from each other — for bureaucratic reasons, hindering both Directorates’ missions. If executed correctly, merging the talent and skill-sets of CIA case officers and analysts across the CIA –could demolish old structural barriers; and, create great value to both the analytical product, and operational efforts.”

Mr. Peritz goes on to describe how these artificial barriers can undermine the analytical and operational communities ability to provide the best available operational and analytical judgment; and, in fact, be counterproductive to such an outcome. In one glaring instance, Mr. Peritz describes how “years ago,” he went “to talk to another colleague in a regional office who was completing a paper about a Middle Eastern country’s political dynamics. As a former CTC analyst,” Mr. Peritz writes, “I had solid reporting indicating that his conclusions, were in fact, off base; but, I couldn’t share it with him because it was found in raw data cable traffic — traffic I had access to, but he didn’t.” Mr. Peritz said he “implored” his colleague “to reconsider,” but, because he couldn’t share what he felt was compelling data that would have probably changed his colleague’s mind, he was politely rebuffed; and, “the paper went out as written — with incorrect conclusions.” “Reforming the system and allowing line analysts access to the raw traffic generated by case officers — might have avoided this,” he asserted. Left unsaid, was Mr. Peritz ultimately vindicated and proven correct — or, was the ‘truth’ more nuanced and less clear? What kin of difference does Mr. Peritz think it might have made otherwise — harder to say of course and subjective — but, just saying.

Having said all that, Mr. Peritz acknowledges that such significant does not come without risk; and, attempting such “major structural overhaul of such a large,” long-standing, institution — “is always a tricky business.” “The formation of the Department of Homeland Security, and its subsequent dysfunctions is a great example,” Mr. Peritz contends, “of what happens when long-standing, federal Agencies and Departments are mashed together with great haste. The details count.” I would also add the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to that observation as well.

“But,” at the end of the day, Mr. Peritz concludes that this proposed overhaul of the analytical and operational directorates out at CIA is one that should be “strongly considered, even as the actual blueprints are being worked out.” “If the leaders of America’s premier intelligence agency decide to commit to jettison a bureaucratic superstructure that has been in place more or less, since the 1940s, this would be a welcome evolution at the CIA — in its quest to confront the threats and challenges of a new century,” he concluded.

I tend to agree. I also think that the number of intelligence analytical ‘failures’ can in part be attributed to the kind of artificial separation Mr. Peritz describes, as well as the lack of analytical risk-taking, and a management that is risk-averse; and, tends to discourage out of the box analytical thinking. Other more fundamental change is needed, like the creation of a Technical Collection Service, and , perhaps even putting some of our intelligence collection and analytical gaps — some of them — out in the Open Source, World Wide Web — and see what the wisdom of the crowd/crowd sourcing can provide. Certainly, what we have and are doing in the analytical realm isn’t providing the return on investment that we should be getting and demanding. And, we might be pleasantly surprised. V/R, RCP

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