May 20, 2007:
The Department of Defense is still
trying to solve the problem of intelligence bureaucracies that, by their very
size and complexity, delay the delivery of needed information to the troops.
This problem can be explained by the work of British historian C. Northcote
Parkinson, who noted the counterproductive behavior of government
bureaucracies. But it has also been noticed that one of the most oppressive
bureaucracies, Soviet Union, managed to create an intelligence organization
that was, in many ways, superior to the American one.
The Soviets, like any industrialized economy, were
prey to the desire of bureaucrats to centralize power. But they still managed
to create one of the most effective espionage networks in history. Noting that,
U.S. intel establishment should have worked harder on their HUMINT (human
intelligence, or spies) capabilities. While the Soviet superiority in that area
was attributed largely to inferiority in the technical area, one can also make
the case that a police state simply has an easier time of it in developing and
using HUMINT assets. In a democracy, the side effects of HUMINT scare the bureaucrats
who, above all, are about self-preservation.
Fear of unpleasant (in the media) side effects
continues to limit the American use of spies, and human "assets" in general.
Enemies who don't care about bad press, or don't get tagged by the media for
nasty behavior (leftist terrorists tend to get a pass) have a big advantage
when it comes to spying. This often involves using violence, or threats of
violence, to recruit agents, and similar nasty business when dealing with your