Before starting this blog I put a couple of posts concerning the recent events in London
But it's stil in the news and will be for some time. The story changes in the news periodically. First the devices were detonated at varing times and now the devices on the trains all are believed to have gone off at the same time.... This is an excellent illustration of the problems with intelligence operations. Here we have events that occured in an environment that is public and it still took nearly an entire day to refine the collected data into accurate information... Although this example is actually more of discussion on the exercises of historians it does illustrate a point.
Imagine trying to determine events that will occur in the future with such inaccurate, intentionally misleading, and incomplete data. This is world of intelligence operations. It is the process of trying describe the image presented in a puzzle as far before it is completed as possible. Doesn't sound too hard does it. Now make it more interesting and will the puzzle is being put together start pouring in pieces to other puzzles, mix them up, and now you have an inkling of the difficulties. How many pictures must be assembled? What if some pieces fit into multiple puzzles - how would you know.
My experiences with intelligence dealt with the Eco/Animal Rights movement with decidedly different consequences for failure but just as difficult. We criticize those analysts that were unable to read the signs, predict the future, and know the adversary's intention like God himself (or insert the appropriate term here for your beliefs).
I must say that I honestly hate very few things, but I absolutely hate quoting television and movies. It just seems a little less worthy than quoting some great written work. This, of course, is just a personal prejudice and I digress only because I must now quote a television show - and a Brit one at that.
There is a show in the UK called Spooks
( but here in the U.S. it is called MI-5). For those unaware, MI-5
is a U.K. intelligence agency with some similarities to the FBI
- but not don't try to draw a clean connection. The U.K. is a different country with different rights and governmental structure. Anyway my point is that there is a line in an episode whena police officer is killed as a result of an MI-5 operation when the widow (and there's always a grieving widow on TV) challenges the patriotism of an MI-5 operative. And so a section leader made a statement to this effect, "You may question our methods, we certainly do it constantly, but never question our motive."
With that said let's just keep one thought in mind when we hear (or engage in) criticism of our intelligence efforts. No one, least of all those charged with identifying it ahead of time, likes to lose or look foolish. Nearly everyone gets a bloody nose from a sucker punch at least once in their life so in answer to some of the comments belittling the intel community I leave this posting. We can all "do our part" in the war on terror and still keep getting bloody noses because it's hard to figure out who in the crowd is going to punch next.
Damn this got long real quick. Sorry about that. If you persevered this far I offer one book that has some interesting reading on the topic - Cracking a Terror Network
- is written as fictional account with a CD with supplemental information. If you curious what sorts of Eco inspired threats we have check out these: Terrorist or Freedom Fighters
and The Logic of Political Violence
Enough said. I'll try and keep them shorter in the future.
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