Council on Foreign Relations
ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL: (In progress) -- John spent his first career in the CIA for three decades. I had the privilege of working with him in the 1990s when he provided support to the senior policy makers at the Pentagon on the former Soviet Union. He served as deputy director and then acting director of the CIA from October 2000 until September 2004 and in this capacity has literally done the job that we're talking about today. And now, he's a senior fellow at the Merrill Center at SAIS.
So I'm going to start by setting the stage because as I prepared for this session I discovered that there is not a lot out there that actually tells you what this issue is about and where the problems are. And so I'd like to first define the topic that we're going to address.
What does intelligence support to the military actually mean?
John, as the former acting director of the CIA, can you tell us what did it mean to you as you did your job?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Liz, I think it's changing. Let me put it that way. I welcome the opportunity to think about this subject and in doing so discovered that we're living in a changing world, and there is no definitive article out there that captures everything you need to say about this subject. So we'll, I think, break some ground today.
First, I would say that it's important we not think about this subject uniquely as supporting troops in battle. That's part of it, obviously. But there's a spectrum of activities that the military engages in here that runs from preparation and planning, through deployment, through employment, to battle itself, and then post- conflict monitoring. And there's an enormous role for intelligence all along that spectrum. We can talk about that, and how well intelligence is working along that spectrum. So that's the first thing. It's a big subject.
The second thing I would say is that we have to think about this subject in terms of the war we're engaged in. Clausewitz said the first principle of strategic thinking is to understand the nature of the war that you are embarking on, and we have today a very, very unusual war. People call it the war on terror, but in truth, there are different parts of this war. The one we see every day is the war in Iraq. We see that on television, and we understand it at some level.
There's another war outside of Iraq that I think until now has been largely an intelligence war, and that's the war that is not fought necessarily in the public view and that the public doesn't know a great deal about. But it goes on every day, and it involves the degradation of terrorist networks that also threaten the United States.
So we have to think about it in terms of the nature of this war and the particular requirements of the war. We also have to think about it in terms of the fact that the world is in transition right now. We don't have a label for what we're in. We don't yet have the articles that we had at the early stages of the Cold War by George Kennan or Thomas Schelling or Wohlstetter kind of defining the era. This era is still defining itself, and whether you think the world is flat like Tom Friedman or whether you're with Paul Kennedy in thinking that we're stuck here between strategic epochs, we are at a time when the potential for surprise is enormous and where intelligence supporting the military faces special challenges.
And then, there's the nature of the enemy itself. For intelligence, years ago when I was growing up in my old business, the requirement was to detect, locate very big things: deployed strategic forces -- you could see them -- motorized rifle regiments, bombers, submarines. Today, the challenge is to keep track of all of those things and at the same time to look for very small things that are important to the military and to intelligence officers engaged in the war, whether it's a suitcase with a bomb in it, an IED, a single packet of data moving through the global information network, a single person in a city of 17 million or an apartment in that city.
So the nature of the war is very different than anything we have dealt with before. It's strange both in its battlefields, which range from Tora Bora to Fallujah to Shanksville, and in its heroes, which range from the corporal on the street in Iraq to the intelligence officer in the back alley of some remote part of the world to Todd Beamer. And so we have to kind of think about it in those very broad terms as we consider this issue of support to the military by intelligence.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you.
MCLAUGHLIN: I'll stop there.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Let me turn to Jane and ask for your perspective, as you have worked on these issues on the committee. How do you look at this challenge? What are the most important issues we face?
REP. JANE HARMAN: Well, let me first say hello to many good friends here, including my own husband, Sidney Harman, a CFR member, and tell all of you how lucky you are that Liz is moderating this panel.
If you really want expertise on this subject, she's it.
I also want to warn you that the last time I spoke at a CFR event was about three weeks ago in New York. And in the middle of my talk on the need for legal framework around the security challenges of the 21st century, our daughter, Hillary, went running out of the room, and I said, "Hillary, where are you going?" Of course I knew. And when the talk was over, I went straight to New York Hospital, where she gave birth to my first grandchild.
So -- (laughter, applause) -- thank you. So the next morning --
HARMAN: (Laughs.) The next morning, Richard Haass called up and said, "Well, what happened?" I said, "It's okay, Richard. I'm a grandma. It's fine." And then arrived in the mail a little bib that says, "Youngest CFR term member." (Laughter.) I thought it was very cute, Nancy. It's a good thing.
So -- okay. So back to the subject --
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: How do you define intelligence support to the military from a congressional perspective? (Laughter.)
HARMAN: Thank you. No, I knew what the subject was. (Laughter.)
Well, I'm glad you asked me about my perspective because I think the answer has a lot to do with who's looking at the issue. If I were DOD, I would decide that intelligence support to the military covers absolutely everything. Preparation of the battlefield, which is how they speak over there -- Dennis Reimer will tell you -- former chief of staff of the Army is here. I'll uncover him. Where are you? There he is.
HARMAN: Preparation of the battlefield to DOD means thinking ahead for every war we might be in anytime, anywhere. So Iran, North Korea, China -- I'm not predicting these wars. I'm just saying I'm sure that's -- in DOD-think, it covers everything.
In DNI-think -- I hope you all remember that we passed an intelligence reform law a couple of years ago -- in DNI-think, I hope the view is that preparation of the battlefield, which, by my lights -- or military intelligence -- by my lights is more focused on tactical than strategic intelligence, is a small piece of what we need to think about.
Strategic intelligence, which is the bigger picture, needs to occupy, I think, a huge number of brain cells by everyone who is in every one of the 15 intelligence agencies that compromise the orbit of the DNI. And strategic intelligence also has direct relevance to the battlefield.
For example, strategic intelligence, I think, is more likely to tell you the intentions of leaders in these countries we may be at war with. So I -- as the DNI thinks about it -- and I hope the DNI's thinking, "We have this joint command function across 15 agencies, and we need to be focused on strategic intelligence, and oh, by the way, we also know DOD is focused on tactical intelligence."
As Congress thinks about it, I think it gets caught up in our jurisdictional issues.
There are two big laws that apply.
There's Title 10 and there's Title 50, and the Intelligence Committee has jurisdiction over Title 50 and a little bit of Title 10, and the Armed Services Committee has jurisdiction over the rest of it.
So I'm not sure we ever have the best picture of this, but that doesn't prevent me from having a few opinions about this, and here they are.
Number one, everybody needs to do better. We are working on doing better, but we are not there. I think a lot of our intelligence is still, by my lights, not where it needs to be, not what David Kay has called pristine and perfect. He was quoted as saying you cannot have a preemptive foreign or military policy unless you have pristine, perfect intelligence, and I think John would agree, it ain't pristine or perfect.
I think that some of the intelligence I see -- and I did ask to see the intelligence case on Iran -- is not close to where it needs to be. I'm not going to reveal the classified information, but I did have a reaction in the briefing I got that some of this might be disinformation, not information. And I know we are passing around our intelligence case, the administration is, to the IAEA and some of our allies.
I think we need to do better to understand the plans and intentions of the Iranian government. Sure, they're blustery and they are saying they can do all kinds of things, but what do they really mean, and to understand better their technical capabilities.
So, my bottom line here is that who's answering the question will tell you how this is viewed, but surely there is a lot of room for improvement.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I'm going to follow up on that point about the need for improvement, reading you a quote from the 9/11 commission report and ask you both to comment on whether you think we are where we should be. The report described, and I'll quote, "structural barriers" to joint work and said, "The importance of integrated all- source analysis cannot be overstated. Without it, it is not possible to connect the dots. No one component holds all the relevant information."
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So now you've described a disaggregated system where we still don't have coordination, even though we wish we would.
HARMAN: It's better.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: It's better. But where are we with this? Because this connect-the-dots issue is what we believe led to the failures prior to 9/11.
HARMAN: Well, it -- yes, we do. And I think no one has missed the fact that the FBI and the CIA failed to share information in real time. The FBI also lacked certain capability to know what information it had. So, there was a lot of repair to be done, especially with the FBI. The new structures we have change what was a need-to-know culture to a need-to-share culture. And there is sharing going on. So I'm bullish on the cooperation, at least at the highest levels, between the FBI and the CIA and some of the other agencies.
But sharing isn't enough. You've also got to have good information to share. And as I said, I still think there's a lot of work to be done. It's -- everyone -- this sophisticated audience knows that our human intelligence capabilities were lacking. We -- to find out what the plans and intentions of some of the senior al Qaeda leadership are, you really need to be sitting in the cave with Osama. He's not going to talk on a cell phone that we can pick up. And he's probably too smart to leave other trails that would definitely tell us what he's up to. So you've got to be there. You've got to physically penetrate. And to do that, you've got to have somebody that is recruited who was part of that operation, or looks like he was part of that operation. We're not going to take what I have always called the white male from Yale, put him through the farm and assume that he can learn the right dialects and fit in just swell in some cave in Waziristan. It won't happen. So, we need to change some of our practices, work more closely with liaison partners, something that I have always been for and I'm still for, and be able to find that guy who is disaffected and will work for us and will definitely deliver good information.
So, then we need to connect the dots once we know that we have good dots. But remember "Curve Ball", everybody? "Curve Ball" was a bad guy. So, that -- the goal is both good intake and then good sharing.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let me -- let me comment on that, too. Jane's touched on a very important point about this war and this time, the nature of secrets and the acquisition of secrets, which is what intelligence is all about. You go back to the Cold War, secrets were shared by hundreds of thousands of people in cabinets, ministries, embassies. You could meet them at cocktail parties. There was so a vast pool from which to recruit agents. Today, the secrets we most desire are shared by a handful of people, maybe a dozen or two, who are in caves and remote locations down along the Waziristan border, and very hard to get at. And that increases the challenge for intelligence. I'll come back to the military piece of this in a second.
On the issue of sharing, I would say that -- first, I don't want to review the 9/11 commission report here. But it was a good report, but I think, remember, it did stop its inquiry in October of 2001. It did not look at what had happened after that, so that even after 9/11 itself the impulse to share was dramatically strengthened in the intelligence community. And I would say today while there are -- you know, there can never be enough sharing -- the default reaction is to share, particularly between the FBI, the CIA and organizations that are working on terrorism. A good example of that would have been in August of 2004, when we picked up a computer in Pakistan that had on it casing reports for our financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Washington. Within a matter of a day or so, those casing reports were in the hands of the building managers of those facilities and the New York City Police Department and the police department here. So the impulse is to push that information out today. And I think we've made tremendous strides there.
Now, on HUMINT, everyone says we need better HUMINT, and who can disagree with that?
On the other hand, I don't want to leave you with the impression that the intelligence community was or is sort of dead in the water on HUMINT. If you think of all of the advances that have been made in the war on terrorism, the lengthy list of captures that people always talk about -- whether it's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or al Masri or Abu Zubaydah, or the list goes on -- most of these came about through human intelligence, through penetration of al Qaeda. And if our HUMINT was as bad as many people think, we wouldn't have been able to get on the ground in Afghanistan 16 days after the attack and link up with people that we've been cultivating for years; or we wouldn't have been able to take down the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, the most dangerous nuclear proliferation network we've had in the world, penetrating it root and branch; or we wouldn't have been able to discern what is going on in North Korea in terms of a covert uranium enrichment program. And the list can go on.
But that said, clearly, clearly in this time, HUMINT, better HUMINT is necessary, improvements in HUMINT are necessary in order to achieve what -- if you go through the Quadrennial Defense Review, the word you most frequently see is "persistent surveillance." And people always think it comes from technical systems, but persistent surveillance can come from agents on the ground, as well. So those are my thoughts on that.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: All right.
Well, there is a big elephant in the room, so I'm just going to put it to both of you. We have our Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, and the reality is that the Pentagon still has most of the power over most of its assets. And the question is, is that a good thing? Is it better for American national security that Don Rumsfeld controls most of the intelligence assets that support the military? Is it better at a policy level? Is it better for warfighters? Is it better for the guys on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan? Because that's the issue that everyone has wrestled with organizationally, that they still have 80 percent of the budget and they still control most of the stuff that supports them.
So, take this on, please, talk about this.
HARMAN: Let me say no and no. First of all --
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Is it better?
HARMAN: It's not better.
HARMAN: It's not better. DOD has to be a part of a system, a government-wide system that builds the best strategic intelligence case, and that case is not only for the warfighter. The deal we cut on the intelligence reform bill -- and it was a very long, painful process, which DOD leadership fought tooth and nail, even beyond the end. The president finally said, "This is over." The deal we cut was that the DOD agencies, the strategic intel agencies inside DOD -- like the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office and so forth -- would all be part of the DNI system; the tactical intelligence agencies, the intel functions in the individual military services, would be out.
The way the bill is structured, the DNI has authority to build the budget and execute the budget. This figure of 80 percent or however you want to count it -- let's take that high number -- going to DOD is technically true only in the sense that most -- the intelligence budget is classified and it is buried in the Defense budget. So yes, you can say DOD has control, but the way the bill is structured, DOD -- DNI can build and execute the budget.
The bill, however, is, I often say, 50 percent law and 50 percent leadership. It's not that DNI can build the budget; DNI needs to be, as we say, forward-leaning in building the budget. And I think we have been -- we've have a bit of a slow start at the DNI. But I think -- sort of my bottom line is that the DNI has adequate legal authority to build a budget which includes DOD agencies. There is work going on to do that. There have been, by my lights, a few disappointments.
The new name, new acronym for the non-Defense intelligence budget is the NIP, the National Intelligence Program, and the new acronym for the military intelligence budget is the MIP. And so we've had a few little jokes about the MIP eating the NIP. But over time, hopefully, we will reach some parity.
And why this matters is, again, what I said at the beginning, I think, that we need a pristine and perfect strategic intelligence so that not only warfighters, but let's try presidents and let's try members of Congress, who, after all, have to make decisions about going to war, have the best possible information on which to base their decisions.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you, Jane.
And John, give us your --
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, your question is whether the new structure facilitates or not, or helps or hurts, supports the military.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: And just a -- in a more general question, not about the legislation, but about the reality in practice of who controls priority-setting and collection and analysis and dissemination in support of the military.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, just generally, and I -- as I think about the new structure and the new law, I would say it has the potential over the long term to make things better. But it is a mixed bag as of today. In terms of who has the authority over the agencies that provide support to the military, I mean, it's no secret that I testified in the debate here, recommending that the DNI -- to be created -- should have had what I would call authority, direction and control over all of the national intelligence agencies, meaning the CIA, NSA, the imagery agencies, and so forth -- the NRO. Now, that was not the choice. As Jane referred to, it was a difficult, long process that involved a lot of compromise, and I think it came out reasonably well in terms of the balance of powers between a DNI and a secretary of Defense.
Now, in the background of that, people -- people always make this into a big food fight between -- it used to be between the DCI and the secretary of Defense; now between the DNI and the secretary of Defense. The truth of it is that any leader of the national intelligence community, DCI or DNI, must have in the nation's interest a good working relationship with the secretary of Defense. It's essential. And no DNI worth his salt, no DCI worth his salt is going to turn his back on that, walk away, or try and have friction there, because at the end of the day, what's your most important mission? To protect the lives of Americans, American forces, the physical security of the United States. So you've got to be working hand-in-glove with the secretary of Defense.
Now, I want to come back, though, to -- I said this would be helpful in the long run, but probably not in the short run, a mixed bag in the short run. And sort of circle back to the previous question you asked, because I think the advances that need to occur are all about integration. They're all about integration of intelligence. And one thing I think we lack in the military intelligence world and in the world that supports military intelligence is an integration of all of the data sources, just as we still lack that on counter-terrorism at the National Counter-Terrorism Center, where you have 26 different databases arriving but CPUs stacked up under people's desks because they've got to dip into different databases. We still do not have what I would call, to bring
it down to something that we all can understand, we don't have a Google-like system that enables a commander to dip into the vast array of intelligence that's flowing above you and around you at all times and pull out the things that you need for a specific tactical mission. And you can't do that just with technology.
There's a person here in the audience today who talked to me about this and said, you know, virtual presence sometimes means actual absence. In other words, you actually have to have people present, I think down to the maneuver level, in the military, down to the battalion level who form -- the term used these days is "joint intelligence operations centers" or JIOC. But essentially what that means is a group of people who are skilled in the disciplines that are flowing in and who have the capacity to integrate it on the spot, to connect the HUMINT report from around the corner with the picture that's coming down from space, and then have real-time tactical communication with commanders and down to at least the battalion level who are moving on a battlefield. And we had that in spots. There are people in the audience who could probably be more detailed about this than I can. We have it in spots, but it is not the universal rule, but it's the ideal that I would have in mind for improving intelligence support for the military.
HARMAN: If I could just -- I don't disagree with that for a minute. It should also go the other way.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Very --
HARMAN: The eyes and ears on the ground in Iraq may have a picture of what is going on there that some of the policy makers in the Pentagon aren't hearing, or believing --
HARMAN: -- and maybe some of the policy makers in the White House aren't, either. And so, there needs to be sharing, integration horizontally, but also vertically. And it matters, too, for Homeland Security. It's the same set of problems. The cop on the beat may see something that the FBI management would never see or understand that should be communicated up and shared around.
And so, you're right. Integration isn't just a technology issue, although that is part of it. It is also an organizational issue, and we have a lot of work to do. But that is the promise of intelligence reform is to get that integration.
MCLAUGHLIN: That -- that -- Jane's hit on a -- I want to elaborate on it, if I could. Jane's hit on a very important point here. In fact, when I talk to commanders from Iraq, the main thing I hear is exactly this, that there needs to be a system that pulls up from the ground what the corporals are seeing, what the lieutenants are seeing, what the company commanders and platoon leaders are seeing, and integrates it into a database that everyone can benefit from.
In fact, I referred at the beginning of this to a kind of strange war. One of the strange parts of this war, I think, is that the old distinctions we used to make between strategic and tactical have more or disappeared. I mean, in the age of digital cameras and embeds and Internet, what the corporal does out on the field may have a strategic consequence that would have been unimaginable in previous wars. And what the president sitting in the White House envisions -- or the secretary of Defense -- can be dramatically affected and influenced by a picture that comes up from the battlefield. And we're not quite there yet.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you, John.
We're going to have one more question among us. Then we're going to open up to the audience.
And it builds on this question of integration within the U.S. government. And Jane, you've already alluded to it. There's the challenge of working with allies and coalition partners and foreign intelligence liaison who may not actually be defined as allies or coalition partners.
Where are we with that? Are we doing better than we did before 9/11? Do we have systems in place for intelligence cooperation as we need them? I've heard Jim Jones is trying to stand something up at NATO. Is that working? Is it a good model?
HARMAN: Well, I -- Sidney Harman loves my long weekend trips where I disappear. And where I go is -- (whispering) -- classified.
But I check out a lot of this around the world, in the austere parts of the world. And actually, one of the little secrets that wasn't well known was all during -- before, during and after 9/11, those liaison relationships that we have built over many years were and are strong, even in countries where the political leaders were fighting with us and disagreeing with us over the actions we were taking in Iraq -- the liaison relations in those countries, and the military. The mil-to mil cooperation was very strong as well. And that's a good thing.
We need those folks. There's no possible way, as I said before, that we can find out what Osama's talking about in his cave if we don't have those liaison relationships. And we do have them.
And I think that liaison relationships got a bad name a few years back. It was, you know, we need to grow our own; we've over-relied on them. I disagree with that strongly. We need to have them. We also need to grow our own. And oh, by the way, we need to reach for and be able to clear hyphenated Americans more than ever -- Iraqi-Americans, Iranian-Americans -- who want to work in our intelligence community and are not getting their security clearances because grandma may live in Baghdad. And we have to find a way to clear these folks. Even if we can't clear them into every single program, they need to be cleared up to a certain level where they can share their language and cultural understanding with us. It would help us enormously to understand and penetrate the threats.
And in this year's -- in fact, it was in last year's intelligence authorization bill, too, but that never passed -- this year, again -- this year's bill contains a provision that requires us to develop a multi-tiered clearance system, so that these folks can help us.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you, Jane.
MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with Jane completely on this point. In fact, I would go a little further, maybe, and say that if I were to leave you with one thought about the war on terrorism, it would be this. There is no unilateral solution to the war on terrorism, particularly now that al Qaeda has metastasized and is now a movement that is less about geography and hierarchy and more about Internet and ideology. As an Australian friend of mine says, it's a combination of Microsoft and machetes, Kalashnikovs and tribal drums. And --
HARMAN: Sounds like Congress. (Laughter.)
MCLAUGHLIN: My point, though, is that --
HARMAN: The last part.
MCLAUGHLIN: (Chuckles.) Yeah. Tribal drums.
My point, though, is that you need shared commitment on the part of so many other countries in order to prevail in this effort around the world. And it isn't just -- Jane referred to intelligence relationships, which, I agree, have remained strong through a lot of turbulence.
I see a need, though, for closer mil-to-mil relations around the world. And it may be that the new system -- there's a new program under way at the Defense Department called Military Liaison Elements, which are deploying around the world. This is a -- we can talk more about that later. It's a system that could produce a lot of disorder in the field if it's not handled well, but it could also be a program that strengthens military-to-military relationships with countries.
Diplomatic-to-diplomatic relationships -- all of these things need to be strengthened so that at the moment when you know a terrorist is about to visit a location in some remote part of a Southeast Asian nation, for example, you can pick up the phone and say to the local service, I need you to send a policeman out to do something that the white male from Yale can't do. And you need to have that person be able to say, Happy to do it. And that takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of cultivation and a lot of joint effort and a lot of money and a lot of training, and all those things.
HARMAN: Liz, could I just add one thing, one more thing before you -- and that is -- we haven't said this yet, but to underscore how critical it is for pristine and pure intelligence and how we need it more than ever and how important it is for those able people in our intelligence agencies -- and they're fabulously qualified, especially the ones abroad. I think that maybe there's a relationship; you get out of Langley and you get your brain cells back.
MCLAUGHLIN: Everything works better overseas. (Laughs.)
HARMAN: I'm sure that's right. But at any rate, they're doing an amazing job -- how important it is now for all of these folks to speak truth to power. If we have learned anything from the intelligence debacle leading up to Iraq, it should be about the costs of not speaking truth to power. And John may disagree with me; I think a lot of the intelligence products were very good, actually. I read them all, finally. I think some of the sources were poor, especially for the NIE -- that's the "Curve Ball" problem. And hopefully we will correct that. Let's not make that mistake again in Iran. But I don't think the whole picture was communicated adequately to the policy makers, and surely not to Congress. And the -- there's a little sign over the main entrance at Langley "And the truth shall set you free", and the goal here is for people to be insulated from political pressure and to use their brain cells and to use the technology and to use their training to get the best possible picture of what the threats are out there, and then to be sure that those products are the ones that the policy makers read. They may ignore them, but cherry-picking and pressuring are not okay. And I -- I just hope that, if there's anyone in this audience who is going back to work in an intelligence agency, that you take that message back.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I just have to say I can't disagree with anything Jane said about speaking truth to power. I mean, that's the central ethic of the intelligence business. That is the central ethic. And that is at the CIA the thing that ought to distinguish it from all other institutions in the intelligence business. It is global, multi-disciplinary, all-source, but most important of all, it's non-departmental. It's not affiliated with any department that makes or implements policy. So, yes, speaking truth to power is enormously important.
I don't want to go back -- I'm happy to go back over Iraq and the pre-war intelligence. I have some views on that that are, perhaps, a little different from Jane's. But I don't think that's what we're here for.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Now let's move to questions. I'm going to ask you please to wait till the mike gets to you and to stand up and state your name and your affiliation. Jim Moody?
QUESTIONER: Jim Moody, Merrill Lynch. Before my question, just quickly, I commend to both of you and anyone in the audience to look at what I consider a stunning interview with Karen Kwiatkowski, who was a lieutenant colonel in the intelligence units within the Pentagon during the war -- run-up to the war in the Middle East section, and she describes in very disturbing detail how that was corrupted within the Pentagon, by political appointees within the Pentagon. It's a stunning interview. It's in the C-SPAN Q&A.org, if you want to look at it.
My question is this. How do we get -- going back to Clausewitz, how do we get -- understand the nature of the conflict better? Let me just give you a brief vignette.
I was in Pakistan not long ago. I was arranging a visit to a number of villages. I asked the consulate general there if he could come with me. He said, Oh, no no, we can't do that. Our security people have zero tolerance. I could only go with armed escort -- which would have destroyed his whole purpose of going. How do we get our people out into understanding the culture? What did --
You know, the war on terrorism, terror is a means, not a(n) ideology. So there's something behind the terror which we need to understand better. We need better contacts. So it isn't -- we've got to figure out how we get our people overseas out into the field to learn more about it. Reaction from you?
HARMAN: Well, one of the things the hard-working, courageous members of the House Intelligence Committee do is we get out there. I report where I've been after I get back. (Laughs.) But we have been out and about. And you see a lot, if you get out of the -- I haven't been out of the green zone in Iraq. I haven't, but some members of Congress have. But I have been out of the equivalent in many countries, and it's pretty scary and dangerous out there. But it is true, and it's surely true of some of our, you know, station people around the world, that they are stuck in compounds and that they can't go out. And if they can't go out, how in the world can they get accurate, timely and actionable intelligence about what's going on out there?
We -- again, in these intelligence bills, which are the vehicle Congress has for better or worse -- we have pressed for more out-of- embassy platforms, for more ways to push people away from diplomatic settings. I don't think you're meet al Qaeda at a cocktail party, unlikely. I don't they drink. So start there. Maybe an Internet cafe in some austere part of the country would be good, or, you know, a cave.
But I think we have to work on that, and I don't think we do close to a good enough job. And again, it's -- that's a piece of the puzzle. I agree with something John said. You really have to put a lot of stuff together, and something I don't think we understand well enough yet is how to discern the intentions of governments and leaders of groups that we're interested in. They can make a lot of noise, but that doesn't actually mean they're going to do something.
MCLAUGHLIN: I have two or three quick thoughts on that.
First, I can't go into the details, but speaking on behalf of CIA people -- and I think Jane would agree -- they get out a lot more than -- yes, they're confined in -- they get a lot more than you might imagine, including in some very rough parts of the world.
Second, it's important, I think, that we in the strategic end of our intelligence preparation that we engage -- to get to your point of understanding the enemy and the world -- that we engage the outside world a lot, and there's a movement to do that, I think, under the DNI's auspices with a couple of initiatives. But we've always done that. But we need to do more. And my time now in the outside world, in the academic community, strengthens my belief that there is tremendous expertise resonant outside the intelligence community eager to help and eager to bring those perspectives to bear.
So we need a more structured way to do that, to integrate those views in.
And I'll stop there, yeah.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Jonathan Karl, ABC News.
Congressman, if I can come back to what you said about Iran and about the quality of U.S. intelligence on Iran -- you alluded to the
fact that the administration has gone around to members of IAEA and Security Council with a, you know, classified briefing -- this is what the case basically against Iran, the case they have a nuclear weapons program.
Are you saying you don't think that they've made the case effectively?
And what do you mean by disinformation?
HARMAN: Well, I was speculating.
What I said was -- and, you know, after the -- my personal Iraq experience, I've become a better consumer of intelligence. And I ask every single time, "How many sources did you have? How confident are you of your sources? How did you analyze the information? How qualified are your conclusions? Were there any dissenting views? Who was involved?" You know, a whole little cataclysm that I have developed when I go through this.
On Iran, I read in the newspaper that we were shopping this case. This has to do -- this was in the newspaper -- about Iran's capability to put a nuclear warhead on missiles. I have no question that Iran is a dangerous place, so don't let me tell you that there's any doubt in my mind.
The issue is how capable are they, and what are the real intentions of Iran's leaders? And I think the jury's out on both of those.
So at any rate, I and some others -- but it was my request -- were briefed in a classified setting on the material that the U.S. is shopping around. And all I'm saying is I remain skeptical. Lots of unanswered questions and conjecture that I have is that if I were Iran and I wanted to put out disinformation, it might look a lot like what our government is claiming is information. And I can't tell you that's true, but I can't tell you it's not true. And I want to be absolutely sure that we base decisions, especially tough decisions like what are the next steps with Iran -- and I surely hope they are diplomatic because I think those are our best options -- on pristine and pure intelligence, or the closest we can get to that.
I think we have learned the hard way -- we have had the hard experience -- I hope we have learned from the hard experience.
QUESTIONER: Barry Blechman, DFI International.
In terms of support for the military, I wonder if you'd address what I consider the most perplexing case of failure of our intelligence, which is the case of our war with North Korea. We've been at war with North Korea for 55 years, and as far as I can tell, we know next to nothing about the situation. We don't understand the political leadership and its decision-making, we know little about their missile and nuclear program except what we can sniff or see when they drag a missile out on a test stand, we don't really understand their relationship with China or with other countries.
After all this time -- and it's not "males from Yales," there's lots of Korean Americans, we have an ally over there which presumably people could have been recruited from, there are refugees.
Why haven't we been able to do that after all this time?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think a couple of -- first, I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I mean, there is more that we could know about all of these countries, that's for sure. But I could recite some things we know about North Korea that have been learned through intelligence that are, I think, pretty impressive, and upon which you can build a deeper understanding.
Just to mention them, we do know a fair amount about their missile program, including their long-range missile plans. We know in, for example, assessing the Taepo Dong I launch in 1998 that they demonstrated the ability to separate stages at altitude, and ignited altitude, and send a missile far down range. There's a lot we know about their missile program.
It was intelligence in the fall of 2002 that came to the conclusion, I think persuasively -- perhaps not pristine, but persuasively -- that North Korea had a covert uranium enrichment program. And had we not come to that conclusion and basically knocked the framework agreement off the pedestal it was on, North Korea would not be up in the headlines now as a big issue; it would not be the preoccupation that it is for the United States at the same level of intensity.
And we know a lot about their, you know, food production and caloric consumption, and so forth.
What we don't know, and what always frustrated me personally, is the difficulty of understanding the issue of critical mass in North Korea. You can cite a lot of evidence for growing disaffection, stresses on the population, and so forth. But it's very difficult ever to assess the point at which you achieve critical mass in that society that would lead to some sort of implosion or collapse or something that would be catastrophic for the United States. I do believe we would have good warning, on the other hand, of their intention to initiate any hostilities. I think our intelligence is very good on that.
Now, I'll finish just by saying why is it so difficult? Well, this is probably the most opaque society in the world. It is the
society that is most insulated from the outside world. A few people get in, as you know, but not many. And few people get out. There are no external opposition groups of any consequence to work with. And they have -- going to this gentleman's question earlier, they have a culture that I think leads us often to underestimate their capacity to endure pain and suffering. We look at what they endure and we say, well, you know, why haven't they collapsed? Well, they have a culture that stresses independence, that stresses endurance, that stresses pride, and so forth, in degrees that we probably can't begin to imagine here.
So the bottom line, I think we've done better than you may suggest. But yeah, sure, we have a long way to go there.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Jane has a comment.
HARMAN: I would just add, I have actually been there once with some Intelligence Committee colleagues. It is a weird and totally isolated place. I was only in Pyongyang. We couldn't get out of the city, although we tried.
And I surely agree with John that it's a very tough target. But we've made it tougher because in the last three-plus years -- maybe it's four by now -- we've surged all our resources, including most of our intelligence people, human beings, into Iraq to focus on that target, where force protection is the dominant issue, trying to keep our soldiers and American civilians alive, which has been a huge challenge. And we don't have to go into why that had to happen. I would say it was very poor planning that led to this. But we suffered because of that because we haven't had enough brain cells on North Korea, Iran, China, Russia. Russia's changed a lot -- nobody should be missing this; you can read it in the newspapers. But also, all you need to do is talk to some of the countries that surround Russia to learn how worried they are, especially about -- on the intelligence side.
So I would hope that we will find the way to do more about these tough targets, which could be, and in some cases are bigger existential threats to us than Iraq is.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: On Russia, I just want to --
MCLAUGHLIN: Could I just add a point on that? That the DNI -- we'll see how this works out, but the DNI has designated people, a single person to work across the community on some of these targets, like Korea and Iran.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: On Russia, I just want to suggest that you also take a look at a recent council task force report, "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do" --
HARMAN: Ah! How could I have missed that?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: -- which is illuminating.
HARMAN: Liz knows everyone in the audience. Isn't that impressive?
MCLAUGHLIN: It's amazing.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: A lot of old friends here.
QUESTIONER: Michael Krepon, the Henry L. Stimson Center. A question for you, Congresswoman Harman. Do you have the sense after the reorganization of the intelligence community that it's doing better in telling truth to power?
And I have a specific hobbyhorse, which is this deal with India, which seems to be based on some pretty huge assumptions. They're every bit as big as the assumptions that we relied on to go into Iraq: that we can narrow the consequences just to India, for example.
So I guess my question to you is, do you have a sense that the intelligence community either volunteered or was asked to scrub these assumptions, to give a proliferation impact assessment of this deal before it was done?
HARMAN: Well, I'm glad you raise that, because I really don't know the answer to that.
I personally have my doubts about the India deal, and they were not helped by my reading -- again, in the newspapers -- you learn a lot in the public press, and it is a good thing that now there's a bigger focus on public source intelligence. But at any rate, what I read was that this deal had been kicking around since the Nixon administration, and no administration would touch it, and all of a sudden this administration takes it.
I think there are a lot of serious issues. And in addition to all the other serious issues, the timing, to me, is suspect, because it sends, to me, a message to Iran that if you never join up with the NPT (sic) in the first place but you wait a long time -- (chuckles) -- it sounds like the argument about immigration, doesn't it -- and you wait a long time, something good might happen to you.
I haven't seen the intel on the India deal. I don't know if it was asked for. I surely hope it was. And I will check on what it was. If it was ignored and there was serious concern there, which there may have been, that would be a very bad sign. So I appreciate your asking me to look at it, and I will.
MCLAUGHLIN: I would only add that sometimes it's important, I think, to realize that intelligence isn't going to be pristine and pure, that whatever intelligence there was may have been arguable. It often is arguable. Intelligence is very often incomplete. It's been -- there's no formula for perfection. So I doubt that anyone came in and said, "Here is an intelligence case that absolutely persuasively tells you you should or shouldn't do this deal."
I wasn't there, so I don't know. But we're getting a little caught in the idea that intelligence has the answer to everything. Intelligence sometimes helps you think about the problem, and you still have to make a policy judgment. If it -- it doesn't always give you the answer, no matter how good it is.
HARMAN: Yeah, but no intelligence doesn't help you make a good decision in a dangerous world.
MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't help you either.
And I can think of cases where intelligence was pure and pristine. The A.Q. Khan take-down is a good case -- perfect intelligence operation.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Please, the young woman sitting right here, behind Sidney. Yes.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Esther Brimmer, Johns Hopkins University. I want to follow up on this question about the role of reaching out, particularly to allies and partners. And we have of course been very careful today to distinguish between allies and partners. And indeed in our traditional long-standing allied relationships, we have, in a sense, developed intelligence cooperation as part of having a long- term strategic interest with our permanent allies.
My question is, how are you thinking about that now? And particularly, should we ask greater things of our allies? And are we asking things of our partners that maybe we shouldn't, because we may not share long-term strategic interests with some of our partners? How do we think about that when we need a wide source of information, yet we may be dealing with different countries with whom we may or may not have longer-term interests? We need the intelligence, but do we always have the long-term interests to back it up? Thank you.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think it comes down to whether you share a specific interest with a country to do something. Is it in both of your interests to do it? And Jane alluded to some instances -- and you can fill in the blanks -- but countries that opposed our entry into Iraq who nonetheless remained good intelligence partners, not necessarily on Iraq, but on issues across the board during that period. And it's because they shared an interest, because they had an embassy that was under threat, just as we did, and they wanted to share intelligence on it, or because they had an airline industry that was under threat and wanted to share intelligence on it.
There are other cases where, you know, I think you need people to do something for you, it's simply a necessity, and you cannot do it yourself. It's just that simple. You cannot do it yourself.
You're operating in their country under their legal system. And you may be asking them to break the law in order to do something for you. And you need that web of relationships.
HARMAN: I agree. And I -- but I also say, just as there may not be pure and pristine intelligence, not every issue is black or white. There are shades of gray, nuanced relationships. Madeleine Albright wrote a marvelous op-ed a couple weeks ago in the Los Angeles Times about how we hurt ourselves in the world if we see it in terms of good guys and bad guys. And so, as we think about the partners we need for today or tomorrow and they think about the partners they need for today or tomorrow, I think we should be somewhat open-minded and try to build stronger relationships. After all, as John mentioned earlier, these threats we face -- and the war on terror is not an apt phrase. Terror is a technique, it's not an enemy -- maybe -- I don't know. A lot of people have bigger, longer names. But whatever it is, the 21st century threats are transnational, and they are now worldwide, and your neighbor can be the suicide bomber who blows you up. And he may be, or she may be a close friend of yours, and you never notice. Think Leeds and London.
So, I think we need to work on this problem together. And if that turns out to build stronger interconnections among the countries of the world, I think that'd be a very good outcome.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: The gentleman behind Suzanne. Yes. Sir.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Pat Holt. I used to work for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a long time. And during that time I was the committee's point man with the intelligence community. And I would like to ask Mrs. Harman particularly about the experience -- her experience in how forthcoming the Intelligence Committee is with supplying intelligence to Congress.
Just a brief preface, I started out when it was a good day if Allen Dulles even answered the phone. (Laughter.) And then things got better, and with Bill Colby they were very forthcoming. I got him in a lot of trouble, as a matter of fact, but he was popular on the Hill. George H.W. Bush was an easy DCI to get along with on the Hill. His son is quite different, my impression is. And this question arises because I am under the impression that the community has gotten much more tight-lipped about Congress than it was in the days of the
Church committee and the established intelligence committees. And would you comment on that, please?
HARMAN: Well, you're right. Things have changed enormously, and I don't think only with respect to the sharing of information with the intelligence committees. They were stood up in the -- to use intelligence speak -- in the mid-'70s as part of the Church committee -- well, Church committee reforms, and then the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed in 1978 envisioned that both a new secret court and the House and Senate intelligence committees would oversee what actions were taken to eavesdrop on Americans. And there was a pretty robust function for a long time. That is no longer true. Not only is there fierce partisanship in all parts of Congress -- I'd say less on the House Intelligence Committee than any other place that I know. But that surely doesn't mean none, and it surely doesn't mean very little, but less than elsewhere. There's fierce partisanship across the Congress. But also, this White House in particular has the view that Congress is an inconvenience, that the Constitution starts with Article 2, which is the power of the executive, and there is, to quote the vice president, "all the authority we need" to do a series of things. And never mind that Congress passes the law and writes the checks. And so, it's a big problem.
In terms of sharing information with the intelligence committees, way too little information is shared. And that has been true, I think all eight years that I've served on the committee. But it is truer now. And with respect -- I'm surprised no one has asked about the NSA program. But anyway, it is my view that there is a continuing violation of law in the administration's failure to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the details of that program. About half the members of each committee have now been briefed, but the National Security Act of 1947 requires full and complete briefings unless it's a covert action program, and the program we're talking about is essentially a foreign collection program.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: All right, we have reached -- we've got to move on, because we have one minute left, and he's got to leave with her, so I'm going to let Sid Harman have the final question -- (laughter) -- and then Jane's got to run to a mark-up.
While he's standing up waiting for the mike, I'll tell you, this is some good news -- it's not on this topic, but in a half an hour, Congress is marking up -- or the House -- a comprehensive port security reform bill, which is also moving through the Senate. So we actually might do something useful following the Dubai World Ports issue.
QUESTIONER: That comment, Elizabeth, leaves me with 37 seconds. (Laughter.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: It was planned.
HARMAN: Okay. So.
QUESTIONER: My views of this material are informed by my life in the world of industry. And as I look at that digital world, it has become increasingly clear to me that many, many firms are captive of the view that structure handles all problems. Those companies in this digital world who cling to the structures that are vertical, linear, sequential, synchronous, frequently the company is a failure. And the companies in that digital world who think about these things in terms that are horizontal and non-synchronous, are the ones increasingly successful.
And so I ask in a kind of parallel question, how open are we and the leadership in your world to unorthodox approaches, unorthodox thinking, non-synchronous attitude?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Do you want to take the question, John? Or either one of you go.
HARMAN: Well, John wants to talk about it. I apologize to all for running out the door in two minutes.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, we've got to stop. So --
HARMAN: But I have had a full dose of unorthodox thinking in my household for many long years -- (laughter). And the answer is: Not open enough.
A Sidney Harman idea that some of you may not yet have heard is to pull together a Manhattan Project to try to think ahead of those who are planning to attack us, I know about -- plotting to attack us also. I know about some of the things the CIA is doing that are very forward-leaning. They may be classified, so I'm not going to reveal them. If they're not, John will tell you. But some very good ideas.
But if we don't get more imaginative -- I think it was -- I read it today. Someone was saying that the problem on 9/11 was that we weren't imaginative. It was -- who said that? Some brilliant policy person, anyway -- probably in this audience. But if we don't get more imaginative and more creative, in addition to having structures that permit us to break down the stovepipes, share information, and be mission-focused in terms of how we use resources, we'll never get there.
Just one last comment. All of you know this. Al Qaeda, in addition to being the most backward organization on the planet, wanting to move us back to the 14th century, or whatever, is also one of the most sophisticated organizations -- not just al Qaeda, but its copycat -- you know, it's the McDonald's franchises -- in using the Internet in terms of recruiting, broadcasting, including recipes for your favorite bomb, routes to drive, all kinds of pictures of secret places, et cetera -- amazingly capable. And it has taken us a while to catch up. I hope we're ahead. I would like to think we're ahead. But at any rate, we may not be ahead, and they may be ahead tomorrow.
So everything, honey, that you are saying is correct and I agree with you. (Laughter.)
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: John, one minute.
MCLAUGHLIN: One of my great disappointments in the discussion about intelligence over the last couple of years, Sidney, has been that it has been all about structure and organization, for the most part, and that the actions taken have dealt with structure and organization, when in fact I think today the problems of intelligence have very little to do with structure and organization. They have to do with things that are much more prosaic, and in some cases more challenging. Fusion of data is one thing we talked about. We need a Manhattan Project to do that, for example. The technology is out there, the policy is difficult to have that Google database, if you will, that people can reach into.
The whole time I was in government I had a sign in my office, that all employees saw, that said, "Subvert the dominant paradigm." Someone had given it to me as a young analyst -- maybe Liz saw it when we were working together. But the whole point was to say challenge the conventional wisdom, don't accept what you see in front of you, don't believe your eyes, and so forth.
Now, you know, to some degree we succeeded, to some degree we failed. But I think the intelligence business ought to have as its central ethic to challenge the conventional wisdom and to challenge what seems obvious.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Join me in thanking our speakers. Thank you both. (Applause.)
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