Intelligence: December 20, 1999

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: The US Army is fighting tooth and nail for Direct Down Links, that is, for direct access to the raw intelligence data from satellites, spy planes, electronic intercepts, and other "technical" means of intelligence gathering. The current line of attack is that without Direct Down Link information, Army units in combat cannot react to fleeting targets of opportunity before they disappear. In modern combat operations, units normally start from several areas, then link up en route to an attack point. The Army wants to hit these units at their most vulnerable time, when they are linking up to launch an attack. This can be a relatively small window of an hour or less. The intelligence agencies are furiously resisting the idea of Direct Down Links. To their minds, they are the only ones who can really understand raw intelligence data since they are the only ones who have access to huge files of background and historical information. Without comparing a singular raw report to the background, the report could be misinterpreted. A movement of a foreign tank unit could be seen by a division commander as an impending attack, triggering a preemptive strike. That preemptive strike could start a war that was never meant to happen if the tank unit was simply engaged in a regular rotation of troops which the home-based intelligence files might have noticed the last time it was done (before the division commander or any of his staff arrived in the theater on their own regular rotations.) The Army, however, isn't buying this, noting that the intelligence agencies could simply provide briefing books of known regular patterns that its own intelligence officers could cross-check on the spot. The Army is concerned that raw intelligence takes two or three days for the home-based civilian intelligence agencies to process, by which time it is all but uselessly out of date, and has probably been processed into incomprehensibility or irrelevance. The Army complains bitterly that during the Gulf War it received most of the useful ground intelligence after the war was over, and much of it was interpreted incorrectly by the intelligence agencies (as was shown by captured documents and Iraqis). Even if the intelligence had arrived in a few hours, the fast moving ground war would probably have overrun whatever enemy unit was being analyzed. The Army has consistently complained that the CIA and NSA really have no idea what kind of information that the Army actually needs to know. The intelligence agencies are not giving up the battle, since letting the Army process its own raw data would raise questions of why we were paying to have civilian intelligence agencies anyway, or at least why half of their job (and budget) was not simply given to the Army. The intelligence agencies note that they have to process the information anyway to maintain "the big picture" so the Army processing the same data is simply duplication of effort. The Army agrees that this duplication should be eliminated. The CIA and NSA are also concerned that ground intelligence stations capable of reading national technical intelligence sources could be captured if they were allowed to get too close to the front lines (say, within 300km). There is also concern that the small intelligence staffs in Army brigades might not have the manpower to sift through the huge volume of available data. --Stephen V Cole

BUG FOUND AT FOGGY BOTTOM: State Department security officers found a listening device inside the department's office building several months ago, but left it in place until they could verify that it was Russian. Russian embassy attach Borisovich Gusev was arrested on 8 Dec when he tried to access the device (apparently to recover its recording disks). Secretary of State Albright said she did not know how long the bug had been there, but that it was not in a sensitive area. Gusev has been given ten days to leave the US. Albright insisted that the incident did not mean that there was a mole at the State Department. --Stephen V Cole

The US State Department issued a warning on 11 Dec that there is "credible evidence" that terrorist groups plan to attack large gatherings of people during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The advisory warned Americans to avoid large crowds. The warning did not reveal which group or groups were behind the suspected plots, but government officials quietly let it be known that Osama bin Laden was behind at least some plots which specifically target American citizens. The State Department issued a similar warning in October and twice in November. --Stephen V Cole

The US Congress has increased the 2000 intelligence budget to about $29 billion, compared to $26.7 billion in 1998. With a smaller military overstretched and no longer capable of fighting two wars at the same time, Congress feels it might be a good idea to spot future wars before they arrive. [The amount of the FY99 intelligence budget was never released. CIA Director Tenet said that doing so would give a potential adversary too much information regarding developments and trends in US intelligence operations. The Federation of American Scientists sued to have the figure released, but this suit was dismissed on 12 Nov when the judge ruled that Tenet has the legal right to protect "sources and methods".]--Stephen V Cole

 


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