Monday, April 12, 2010
Being in the communications business, I find it troubling that we can't work together to come up with a cohesive, cogent strategy for gathering intelligence and delivering our message to the rest of the world.
I'm speaking of The New York Times story about the CIA tattling on a Defense Department official for using private contractors in an intelligence gathering operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. CIA's reason: "That's our job."
Then The Washington Post reported that computer experts at the Defense Department had shut down a CIA Web site that was spying on insurgents.
In response, Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week ordered Pentagon officials to find out if there were problems in our so-called information operations. Months earlier Gates announced he was trying to get a handle on who was spying on whom and how much it was costing.
Some say our information operations - getting good data to allies and spreading disinformation to enemies - have been a shambles since 1999 when the U.S. Information Agency was disbanded in a cost-cutting move, a "peace dividend."
One could argue the insurgents and terrorists do a better job of public relations and disinformation than we do, despite the millions and possibly billions being spent across several agencies.
Like Dr. Doolittle's pushmi-pullyu - the llama with a head on each end of its body - anytime you have two or more bureaucracies doing the same job you're begging for inefficiency, confusion and failure.
In 2005, President George W. Bush and Congress created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to fade the heat focused on the intelligence community after Sept. 11, 2001, and the weapons of mass destruction fiasco.
Patrick C. Neary, deputy director of the relatively new agency, in an analysis of the current state of our global information operations, wrote: "The American people should know that the quiet they sense is not the peace of security assured by the best intelligence, but the deadly silence of the graveyard we are collectively whistling by."
That's pretty effective communication.
I just don't like the message.