Tuesday, May 05, 2009

On the matter of Intelligence....

From Keith Taylor:

The Bush administration justified its invasion of a country which posed no threat to us because “everybody” believed the intelligence. Not everybody. Navy Times published this early in the current Gulf War. KRT



Keith Taylor

I always figured that the most important part of intelligence would be intelligence. Now it shares top billing with loyalty. Both have been taken to new levels. Loyalty has been taken a level up, intelligence a level down.

I have a bit of an insight into this intelligence business because I was once a spy, sort of. The Navy designated me a cryptologist as a young lad of 18 and I worked in that field for 22 years, nine months and 11 days. Although it sounds impressive and I brag about it a bit, cryptologist is not much more than a highfalutin word. Mostly I was a specialist in radio things. We listened to radio signals not meant for us.

Other guys were supposed to figure out what those signals meant regardless of whether it was good news -- or, more importantly, unexpected news. Intelligence is often not conclusive. Folks have to infer things from bits and snips of data collected from here and there. Still the information should be based on what is most likely to be true.

But things don’t always work the way they’re supposed to work. One thing I learned was that no matter how important the job or how many brains it took to do it, the guys who crank out intelligence are humans just like us regular guys. Even people with high IQs share our very human trait of wanting recognition, even praise, for their work. Few things bring praise faster than telling the boss what he wants to hear. And it’s there for the taking. Like looking into a crystal ball, a zealous analyst can infer all sorts of things from nebulous information.

Is there any other way to receive lavish praise from a superior than to tell him what he wants to know? Better yet is there any way to be considered loyal. Our new CIA director, Porter Goss is the one who promoted loyalty to a new level. He is even said to have told the CIA to purge those considered disloyal in favor of those who support the Bush policy in a war – a war that’s gone awry because of poor intelligence by the way.

Looking at the changes being made in our top spy outfit I fear that poor intelligence will soon give way to no intelligence. Sure Goss claimed his spooks would be pure “We provide the intelligence as we see it, and let the facts alone speak to the policy maker.”

Sounds great but he also said “We do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.”

What would a trained analyst would infer from that bit of information?

I was always told that the best immediate use of intelligence was to win battles. The Battle of Midway is often used as an example of the value of knowing what the enemy was going to do. Information gleaned from radio intercepts indicated Japan would attack Midway in early 1942.

Other information, much of it suggested by Japanese actions, indicated the attack would be on the Aleutians. Admiral Chester Nimitz had to make a choice. He couldn’t defend both because his fleet was decimated after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was under pressure from Washington to defend the Alaskan islands.

If he guessed wrong his career would be over. He made a choice based on the reliability and honesty of his top cryptologist, Commander Joseph Rochfort. Nimitz defended Midway and surprised the Japanese fleet which was trying to surprise us. We won the battle and probably shortened the war by a couple years.

What if he had felt his loyalty would have been to skew the intelligence to agree with his bosses?

I would offer some advice to those who crank out intelligence and those who provide guidance to them. It was the best I ever received. In 1947 an old boatswain’s mate, apparently cut from a different cloth than most nabobs, told me, “Let’s stop this damned beating around the bush and you tell me the *$%^(^$ truth! This is getting serious!”

So is this boats. I wonder there is anybody in the spooky world of espionage today like the old boatswain’s mate? My crystal ball is ominously murky on the subject.


//Keith Taylor is retired from the Navy after 23 years as an enlisted man and as an officer in the field of cryptology. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com //


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