Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Another Round of Reform in the FBI-Will it Make a Difference
There is another long-overdue reform brewing in how the FBI handles terrorism cases. This one, six years after 9/11, would finally bring together analysts and field agents in an effort to spot trends and set investigative strategies.

This has been a crying need for analysts to be elevated above their traditional second-tier status to be given more say in driving counterterrorism. The career paths available, the status within the agency and other factors mitigated against attracting the best and the brightest there.

This is a worthwhile endeavor, but one that is likely to run into entrenched institutional norms and conceptions that have consistently hobbled serious reform efforts in the past, to our detriment.

A new book and depressing book by Amy Zegart, Spying Blind, argues that there were 12 major intelligence reform studies from 1991 and the end of the Cold War, to just before 9/11.

Out of those, she finds 340 terrorism-related reforms, almost all of them the major themes of the 9/11 Commission, where most were recommended again.

Of those 340 recommendations, mostly directed to the CIA and FBI, only 35 were fully implemented. Another 30 were partially implemented and seven were implemented to an unmeasurable extent, meaning that 79 percent of the total-268 recommendations-were not acted on at all.

Many of those that were implemented, she notes, were "minor recommendations that urged continued study of a problem rather than adoption of a particular solution."

Her argument, and I am still reading the book, so I don't know how much I agree with her in the end, is that organizations matter more than the individuals in the organizations.

In other words, in the proper organization, intelligence will flow across what are now stovepipes and the rational self interest of different stakeholders in the process will be toward reform rather than against it.

Did 9/11 change the dynamic? It would seem that only a little. Efforts to reform the intelligence community, even driven by a sense of urgency, Congressional pressure and public outcry, have brought less than a full refocusing of the community in the four areas where change was most needed (again, I am stealing from Zegart, where she found almost unanimous consensus in the reform recommendations for these);

1) Lack of Coherence or "corporateness;"
2) Lack of attention by the IC and policy makers in setting intelligence priorities;
3) The need to revitalize human intelligence capabilities. I would say this is slowly turning around, but has a long way to go.;
4) Roadblocks posed by personnel and intelligence sharing bottlenecks.

So, it will take high-level pressure to make sure this latest attempt at fundamental and long-overdue reform is not another stillborn effort to remake the IC into more nimble and efficient creature for the 21st century.

And read the book, it is thought-provoking.

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