Saturday, October 29, 2005

More thoughts on intelligence:

Organizations must focus on managing a viable intelligence process, rather than stay focused on churning out intelligence products. The intelligence process, reflected as behavior, requires the active, on-going, and cogent participation from a variety of sources in order to assimilate products related to data, information, and knowledge in order to determine the existence of potential threats. Like Einstein’s notion of time as a flowing river which may be observed through a hollowed tube so as to be able to witness only the fleeting presence of ‘now,’ so too intelligence agents of organizations must focus on the moving information stream through a fixed lens; what is critical is the observer retain as much of what has been observed to in order to make sense of what will be observed. Based on what is observed, the intelligence agencies must be capable of making real-time assessments, which are intended to impact future events. Too often information from the external environment is pigeon-holed and used to generate unimaginative responses. Consider an example from the private sector, Shawn Fanning, an 18 year old, in 1999 created an application that enabled to share audio and video files with their peers – Napster. Napster allowed users to download music of their choosing and create their own unique libraries. The best response from the Recording Companies was to file a legal lawsuit, a weak and unimaginative response. All the lawsuit could achieve was to slow down Napster’s development and fuel the development of several legalized clones of Napster. The Recording Companies are still trying to play catch-up to capture their lost market share.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Intelligence Management and Agile Operations:
Lack of coordinated organization among those charged with insuring the domestic tranquility of the United States contributed to the devastation of September 11th. When Castro entered Havana on New Year’s Day of 1960 there were no U.S. diplomats in Cuba because of the holiday and when India tested two nuclear weapons in 1998 no analysts were working, despite satellite evidence of nuclear test preparation six hours before detonation, because it was a Sunday. These circumstances greatly affected any possibility for an agile response to the events. In most instances, the information available to the organization was more than sufficient. However, because the agencies failed in the intelligence process, electing instead to use information selectively in an effort to provide and intelligence product, they were unsuccessful at the act of intelligence. Using a historical perspective for our criteria, we have observed that unless each of the described elements is present in the intelligence process, value and usefulness from intelligence products is diminished.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Some more thoughts on intelligence

Intelligence as a construct is multi-faceted and often convoluted. There literatures of psychology, biology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, competitive and government intelligence, and others are rich in studies that examine the construct of intelligence. I draw from these disparate literatures to present the view of intelligence as a process signifying ‘intelligent behavior’ rather than as a product of some intelligence activity. The accepted practice of regarding intelligence as a ‘product’ is not merely erroneous, it is dangerous when it accompanies an implied acceptance that the task has been completed and interrelated intelligence mechanisms either shut down or are relegated on to other matters. The Trojan decision to ‘accept’ the gift that had apparently been left behind by a dejected Greek adversary led to an action based on a product of intelligence, i.e., there was little consideration as to what that ‘gift’ might actually represent. The subsequent activity by the men of Ulysses, however, was predicated on an intelligence process. The error begins when information is misrepresented as the intelligence product, especially while the information, and the further intelligence that may become available, is evolving. This was the case in the decisions that led up to the Iraq War, if we were to assume that there were no hidden agendas. Members of the government were presented with, as many have called, “intelligence reports” on Iraq’s weapons capability. This line of thinking favors the product view of intelligence, and is flawed. What was presented to members of the government were “information reports” that needed to be evaluated intelligently! As we now know, this did not happen, instead government officials assumed the reports to be intelligent and did not feel the urge to apply their intelligence on them to draw their own conclusions regarding the information presented.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thoughts on Language:

Limit to language also limits thought and to limit thought is to limit the possibility of alternatives. Language is the most common medium through which information is transferred. But communication can be restricted depending on what type of language is used. The use of ‘restrictive’ language such as mathematical expressions, while capable of transferring highly structured pieces of intelligence also restricts the audience to those capable of translating the expressions. Alternately, when a high variety in language is present, as in interpretive communications, e.g., art or propaganda, meaning looses the preciseness because of the use of symbols and the ‘possibilities’ of meanings. Not surprising then, terrorist groups, use art and photos to transmit ‘emotive’ messages between stations while technically advanced groups employ more complex languages that can confound simple phenomena. To contemplate the confusion that language can cause consider the following, the word Al-Qaeda literally means ‘base’, ‘home’, or ‘foundation.’ The term was originally used to signify the place from which the Taliban attacked Soviet adversaries. Though the word has become synonymous with Bin-Laden’s organization for most westerners, captured or alleged terrorists disavow allegiance to Al-Qaeda because to them, the word has no substantive meaning. This notion provides an example of a problem that develops when an intelligence agency has little or no experience with the culture or language of their indigenous contacts.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sorry for the long absence. I have been busy writing my thesis. I have now submitted it for review to my committee. Let us wait and see. I have my fingers crossed. Cheers!