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FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists
March/April 2001
Volume 54, Number 2
FAS Home | Download PDF | PIR Archive
Front Page
Degraded Lands: South China's Untapped Resource
U.S. Stalls BWC Protocol Negotiations
Dual-Use Exports Liberalized
Making Your Views Heard to Congress
Another Intelligence Review Underway

Another Intelligence Review Underway

By Steven Aftergood

On May 9, President Bush ordered yet another review of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy. The President instructed Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to convene two panels, including one comprised of non-governmental experts, to assess the state of U.S. intelligence and to recommend appropriate changes.

There is no reason to expect much from the latest review. George Tenet, who has sworn under oath that disclosure of the aggregate intelligence budget number could damage U.S. national security, is unlikely to be the agent of any fundamental reform. But fundamental reform is just what is needed, according to Gregory F. Treverton, author of the new book "Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information" (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

The world of 2010, Treverton writes, "will require intelligence to be dispersed, not concentrated; open to a variety of sources, not limited to secrets; sharing its information and analyses with a variety of would-be coalition partners, including foreigners and people outside government, not guarding its `secrets' tightly."

Much of the book recounts the intelligence debates and debacles of the 1990s and will be familiar to many readers. Yet Treverton, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, leavens his account with some startling anecdotes. For example: "In the autumn of 1990, my predecessors at the National Intelligence Council predicted Yugoslavia's tragedy with a prescience that is awe inspiring. The national intelligence estimate, or NIE, concluded that Yugoslavia's breakup was inevitable. The breakup would be violent, and the conflict might expand.... Yet so far as I can tell, the NIE had no effect. None."

Treverton proposes a practical agenda including improved exploitation of open sources and increased utilization of outside experts. Above all, he says repeatedly, "the margin of what is debated publicly needs to be dramatically widened." Intelligence needs to "make its case publicly."

That view is not widely shared inside the bureaucracy. Thus, a White House spokesman said that President Bush's National Security Presidential Directive 5, which mandated the new intelligence review, will not be released.