The Director of National Intelligence issued — and last week published — a pair of Intelligence Community Directives (here and here) that aim to improve the coordination of human intelligence collection for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.
The directives are intended “to ensure the deconfliction, coordination, and integration of intelligence activities,” including liaison with foreign intelligence services, in order “to significantly enhance the security of the nation by effectively and efficiently allocating resources.”
The basic idea seems to be to make sure that HUMINT collection agencies are not stepping on each other’s toes and that, to the contrary, they are actively assisting one another in their operations. The desired coordination “should not be pro forma,” the directives both said. “It should include the timely exchange by IC elements of pertinent and necessary information to facilitate operational success.”
See Coordination of Clandestine Human Source and Human-Enabled Foreign Intelligence Collection and Counterintelligence Activities Outside the United States, Intelligence Community Directive 310, June 27, 2016, and
Coordination of Clandestine Human Source and Human-Enabled Foreign Intelligence Collection and Counterintelligence Activities Inside the United States, Intelligence Community Directive 311, June 27, 2016.
The new Directives do not disclose any classified operations or intelligence methods. Yet they are revealing and interesting in several ways.
First, their public availability is a sign of the shifting boundaries of intelligence-related secrecy. The directives were prepared as unclassified documents and were made public on the ODNI website. By contrast, their precursor — Director of Central Intelligence Directive 5/1P on Espionage and Counterintelligence Activities Abroad(which is now rescinded) — was not publicly released.
Second, the new releases conform to and advance the DNI’s transparency policy, which promised to increase public disclosure of the IC’s “governance framework–the rules, authorities, compliance mechanisms, and oversight that guide its activities.” This is not the stuff of headlines (except in Secrecy News). There is nothing scandalous about the directives; to non-specialists, they may actually be kind of boring. But they are part of an ongoing adaptation to public expectations of greater intelligence transparency. They also represent a notable step away from “secret law,” i.e. the reliance on undisclosed mandates or internal regulations that are inaccessible to the public.
The directives, which feature lots of “if…, then…” clauses, show the emphatically rule-based character of much of intelligence policy. The directives were plainly written by lawyers. (A sample sentence: “For purposes of this Directive, the term ‘coordination’ is understood to encompass ‘deconfliction’ and ‘integration’.”). A human intelligence collector in the field may need a lawyer standing by to explain their full meaning and implications.
Apparently, though, this is nothing new.
When he joined the CIA in 1975, wrote former CIA attorney John Rizzo in his 2014 book Company Man, “I was struck by how much scope and impact CIA lawyers, even one as wet behind the ears as I was, had on the day-to-day mission of the Agency.”