DNI Tells Analysts to Establish Broader Outside Ties

07.30.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a new directive that challenges the insular culture of U.S. intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell has ordered analysts to cultivate relationships with outside experts “whenever possible” in order to improve the quality of intelligence analysis.

The DNI’s July 16 directive on “Analytic Outreach” (pdf) establishes procedures for implementing such outreach, including incentives and rewards for successful performance.

“Analytic outreach is the open, overt, and deliberate act of an IC [intelligence community] analyst engaging with an individual outside the IC to explore ideas and alternate perspectives, gain new insights, generate new knowledge, or obtain new information,” the directive states.

“Elements of the IC should use outside experts whenever possible to contribute to, critique, and challenge internal products and analysis….”

“Sound intelligence analysis requires that analysts… develop trusted relationships” with “experts in academia; think tanks; industry; non-governmental organizations; the scientific world; …and elsewhere.”

There are, however, significant limits to any such relationships.

“Analysts in the IC shall never discuss classified or sensitive information with outside experts who are not appropriately cleared,” the directive warns.

But since almost everything in intelligence is considered classified or at least sensitive, that does not leave much room for analysts to “engage” and share information with outside experts who are not interested in a cleared contractual relationship with an intelligence agency.

The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, insists that even unclassified, non-copyrighted publications of its Open Source Center should be “treated as copyrighted” and “must not be disseminated to the public.”

Under such circumstances and without a modicum of reciprocity between analysts and outside experts there can be no “trusted relationships.”

The directive seems to recognize the problem. “Unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions that discourage collaboration with outside experts may increase the likelihood that alternate perspectives will not be considered and debatable judgments will remain unchallenged.”

See Intelligence Community Directive 205, “Analytic Outreach,” July 16, 2008. Other Intelligence Community Directives are available here.