Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Intel seminar: The things left unsaid

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 ...

douglemoine/flickr
douglemoine/flickr
douglemoine/flickr

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.

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.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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