- - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper will roll out a National Intelligence Strategy this week. This will be the third such document, after reports by John D. Negroponte in 2005 and Dennis C. Blair in 2009.

The fact that members of the DNI team could carve out time to look at the long game is good news, regardless of crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere; the public battering of the intelligence community in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks; and ongoing congressional battles over issues as diverse as privacy, interrogations and computer snooping.

The latest version of the National Intelligence Strategy shows continuity with its predecessors. To be sure, there is some renaming and some rebinning: One version’s countering of violent extremism becomes another’s counterterrorism, but the overall focus is about the same.

Counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence are staples. The four countries of highest interest — Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — are constants. So is dividing the DNI’s responsibilities between mission objectives (reflecting his role as senior intelligence adviser to the president) and enterprise objectives (reflecting his community governance function).

From the first National Intelligence Strategy in 2005 and gathering momentum going forward, there has been a powerful emphasis on better integration of the intelligence community’s parts and activities. The latest strategy calls for more progress in integrating mission management and the community’s information systems.

Even without sharp turns, there are shifts in emphasis. “Cyber” was not mentioned in the 2005 document, gained some prominence as “enhance cyber security” in 2009 and emerged full blown this year as “cyber intelligence.” That includes a direction to “expand our ability to enable cyber effects operations to protect the nation and support U.S. national interests.”

That can be read as explicitly chartering intelligence support for offensive cyberoperations.

Mr. Dooley, a character of American humorist Finley Peter Dunne, once said, “The Supreme Court follows the election returns.”

I don’t think that’s true for American intelligence, but the external environment does affect things in the National Intelligence Strategy.

In the 2005 document, which I chaperoned through the approval process, we had a strategic objective to “bolster the growth of democracy and sustain peaceful democratic states.”

We were reflecting the Bush administration’s freedom agenda. Neither our objective nor the president’s strategy survived the 2008 election. Conversely, climate change worked its way into the version of the document written shortly after the election of Barack Obama.

Privacy and civil liberties have been emphasized in all three editions of the National Intelligence Strategy, but protection of personal privacy features powerfully in the latest report. The strategy can’t seem to mention data without an equally obligatory “[while] protecting privacy and civil liberties.”

If not quite reading election returns, the intelligence community is certainly sensitive to popular concerns.

Another continuity has been a commitment to diversity. The intelligence community is governed by the same legal and ethical standards as the rest of American government and society, but an operational imperative is here, too.

An intelligence community charged with global responsibilities cannot be successful without diversity of thought, culture and language.

The current National Intelligence Strategy says as much but gives an additional push by cataloging 12 affinity group identifiers (race, gender identity, sexual orientation, heritage, age, etc.) that make “individuals unique and America strong.”

The strategy also includes an important discussion on the differences among strategic, anticipatory and current operational intelligence. The last certainly has been a tyrant of time and energy for the past 13 years as the intelligence community has supported wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a global conflict with al Qaeda and its affiliates.

In the face of that reality, the paragraphs on strategic intelligence offer an important reminder of the importance of the long view and the need for a deep understanding of history, culture and language.

The anticipatory intelligence discussion is equally timely. Much has been made of what the intelligence community knew and told the administration about the rapid rise of the Islamic State group over the past year. Charges of intelligence failure and countercharges of an administration reluctant to accept realities inconsistent with policy preferences have surfaced. It’s good to remind intelligence producers and consumers alike about the need to “warn of emerging conditions, trends, threats and opportunities” and the potential for discontinuities.

Like many other such documents, the National Intelligence Strategy of 2014 might be shelved quickly. Even if it is, the effort still has been worthwhile. Dwight D. Eisenhower reminded us that even if “plans are nothing, planning is everything.”

One additional note: Critics of secrecy should note that few other services in the world publish anything like the National Intelligence Strategy for the public.

On many levels, it’s good that America’s intelligence leadership took time to look toward the horizon and jot down a few important thoughts before the red switch phone’s ringing interrupts again. The 2014 National Intelligence Strategy does accomplish that.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden is a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency. He can be reached at [email protected]


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