Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Listening for only what you want to hear

Courtesy of a poster over on bartcop nation comes this transcript from last Friday's News Hour:

DAVID KAY: Well, first of all, every analyst ought to be asking his own questions. We're overlooking the fact that this show is at the cadre of analysts were writing this were not well-trained themselves. Certainly the managerial layer has a responsibility. The NIC has that-- the National Intelligence Council-- that produced the NIE.

They didn't do contrary analysis; they did the lowest common denominator agreement. I think one thing of the political pressure though that we're overlooking is after 1995, there was only one element of glue that kept us able to keep sanctions in place and have any international allies, and that was Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the presumed weapons of mass destruction. So it meant that there were two levels and two standards that were applied.

Any information that showed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was accepted and reviewed and welcomed with very little scrutiny. Evidence that didn't fit that pattern had a much higher bar to pass, because if the weapons went away, if they weren't there, the U.S. had no Iraq policy and no allies for an Iraq policy. That's a vicious type of pressure.

This is what happens when the intelligence community becomes politicized. When the future prospects of agents and analysts becomes dependent upon how their output matches with the desired result then it is inevitable that the whole process will become corrupt and unreliable. I don't have the link available, but several years back I read an article in either The Atlantic or The American Prospect that discussed how the Reagan administration politicized the analysis wing of the CIA. The Reaganites didn't like it when the analysts would tell them that the Soviet Union wasn't a big threat. So they put in place people who would bring the proper perspective to the job.

The result was an intelligence community that was caught off-guard when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And an intelligence community that didn't see 9/11 coming.

And an intelligence community that vastly over-inflated Saddam Hussein's capabilities.

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