- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Daniel SaracenoDeputy chief,
Best Defense intelligence bureau
When intelligence bigwigs get together to publicly discuss the espionage racket, it often is what is not said that is significant.
Some of the intel community’s leading lights graced a conference hosted Tuesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. Throughout many hours of discussion of intelligence reform and organization, the speakers — including former Director of Central Intelligence General Michael Hayden, former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone and current Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair — never mentioned Major General Michael T. Flynn’s controversial report that called for overhauling the U.S. intelligence community function in counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, where we are fighting a war.
Rather, the discussions focused almost exclusively on how to revamp the way in which current intelligence can be shared between the seventeen member agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community. A worthy discussion to have indeed, but it focused on the mice, not the elephant in the room. Flynn talked about what the product should be; they talked about how to move it aorund.
Another missing piece of the puzzle was military intelligence — which comprises 90 percent of the U.S. government intelligence establishment.
The absence of either topic raises the question of whether the intelligence community is serious about reforms that might provide better products for the people for whom it supposedly works.
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| The Complex |