Serious or Not Serious IX
Government investigators Monday panned the administration’s efforts to share vital counter-terrorism information among the large number of federal agencies involved in protecting the U.S. homeland, an endeavor senior intelligence officials say is a litmus test of the success of the nation’s new intelligence czar.
“More than 4 years after Sept. 11,” wrote investigators for the Government Accountability Office, “the nation still lacks the government-wide policies and processes … for guiding and integrating the myriad of ongoing efforts to improve the sharing of terrorism-related information critical to protecting our homeland.”
OK, nothing new here so far . . .
Deputy Director of National Intelligence Gen. Michael Hayden, one of the officials responsible for leading the Bush administration’s terrorism information-sharing effort, acknowledged that it would be a vital test for the huge government shake-up that brought his office into being.
“Frankly, this is the pass/fail aspect of the legislation,” he said, referring to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which established the director of national intelligence to manage the 16 U.S. spy agencies. “If we don’t get this right, all the other things become far less effective.”
Recognition of the problem and acknowledgement of the seriousness. Good, good . . .
But Meyerrose [New DNI CIO] also said that there was already “a lot of information-sharing going on.”
In fact, he said, the “large volumes of information” available to U.S. intelligence analysts and other officials “at the stroke of a keyboard,” risked overwhelming them. “There’s so much information-sharing that piling more hay on the haystack doesn’t make the needles easier to find.”
Gaaaahhhh! That’s not information sharing, that’s data access! Data + Data = Information; Information + Information + Judgment = Intelligence. How soon everyone forgets. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.
[Meyerrose] said the “real gauge” of success was not the volume of information being shared, but “the ability to sort through to find the right information in time to make it relevant for whatever task you have in hand.”
The key elements in that process were “discovery” — finding out what resources or potential partners there might be, and “access” – making sure that the right people could use the resources and collaborate with partners.
The proof is on the screen. When my IC pals can search and rank and connect and share as well as I can from the workstation I am using right now (in my basement though not in my PJs) we’ll know they are serious. If we are not going to break down your stovepipes, we should at least connect them together. Horizontal not vertical is the watchword. Capture the effectiveness of the informal networks and leverage the technologies that let people collaborate. Call it “Intelink 2.0” if you want, but move forward smartly. Look to Omaha, look to the Open Source community (the other one), look and then act.
That DSB report can’t come soon enough.