by Dr. Angelika Brinkmann
Big Brother I
George Orwell, who would have celebrated his 103rd birthday on June 25, in
his various novels warned of the spread of totalitarian regimes, from the
communist Soviet Union under Stalin to fascist Spain under Franco. Today,
his message is just as relevant for the U.S. and the world at large struggelling
to find the right balance between protecting its citizens from terrorism and
preserving their individual liberties. The creator of such classic terms as
''Big Brother is watching“,'' newspeak“, ''double-think“
''unperson“ and ''some are more equal than others“ not only outlasted
but increased in importance with time. A famous offspring is a TV realiy show
called 'Big Brother' in various countries around the world .
In passing the U.S. Patriot Act in October 2001, U.S. Congress recognized that the Justice Department and FBI needed powers to speed urgent terrorism investigations;e.g. the law streamlined ''cumbersome'' requirements for obtaining court orders to tap the cellphones of suspects who moved across jurisdictions.
Other aspects of the law though, are extremely troublesome. They allow the FBI to secretly seize personal records, (National Security Letter) e.g. those showing library borrowing habits and bookstoore purchases, if a judge agrees the material is relevant to an intelligence or terrorism probe.Other records accessible: Drivers's licences, hotel bills, storage rental agreements and other commercial records. Cash deposits, wire and digital money transfers , casino credit records; patient business records and personal health information through Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order. (See Big Brother II) The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which took effect in 2003 allows the release of health information for national security purposes. It also allows the FBI to conduct searches of the homes and offices of suspects believed to be involved in international terrorism. Police powers are so shrouded in secrecy that abuses are difficult to identify. Libraries, for instance, are forbidden to disclose that searches have taken place.
On January 2, 2006, the House of Representatives by voice vote approved legislation H.R. 4659, extending the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act until March 10. These provisions establish specific procedures to consult legal counsel and seek judicial review for those whisching to challenge a National Security Letter or a section 215 order for certain records, inlcuding library records, medical records, educational records and tax return records.[judiciary.house.gov/media/pdf/patriotextension2/06.pdf] On March 7,2006 the House approved legislation that will make three changes to a House-Senate Compromise.
In 2003, when the U.S. Government responded to the 9/11 attacks with broader enforcement powers some constitutional scholars, civil liberty supporters and others worried that the U.S. Government is taking away some fundamental freedoms of U.S. citizens.
Among the points of concern:
The Department of Defense' (DoD) Total Information Awareness Program, renamed a less ominous-sounding Terrorism Information awareness program. It would let authorities use computers to search financial, phone and other records to expose terror plots.
A proposed Transportation Security Administration Screening system that could let authorities rifle through air passengers' background without their knowing it.
A new law that allows the FBI to secretly check the library records and bookstore purchases of terror suspects.
Also, in connection with the Patriot Act, the EU and the US. in May 2004 reached an agreement called the Passenger Name Records agreement (PNR). EU airlines are obliged to give U.S. authorities 34 items of information about passengers flying to the U.S. The details include names, addresses, forms of payment and telephone numbers. In May 2006 the European Court of Justice based in Luxembourg ruled that the PNR was illegal. The court ruling followed opposition by the European Parliament which argued that the deal violated privacy rights. But this time the EU has shut out the European Parliament, the EU's only elected institution, from having any say in the measure. The Commission, the EU's executive, will ask the EU Council, which represents EU governments, to terminate the present agreement and approve a mandate to negotiate a new deal by October 1, 2006, when the agreement with the U.S. expires.
So ''enduring freedom“ breeds forms enduring concern with Orwell's words providing a valuable alarm system especially for the U.S. public. By popularizing the dangers of „encroaching“ governmental powers, today's parallels can best be set off, and Big Brother will remain the warning sign respectively „writing on the wall“ it has always been.
Electronic protection or Cybergate?
It seems that security cameras are becoming a vital tool in the war on terrorism, raising important questions about how and where they should best be used. Is there a safe 'golden' path between the specter of terrorism and the specter of Big Brother?
London, which installed cameras in its subway systems after years of IRA bombings, appears to have found part of the answer. Within 24 hours of the bombing attempts in the city's Underground on July 21, 2005 surveillance images of two suspects rapidly spread around the world. That produced thousands of tips and the arrest of all four, including one who had fled to Italy. Suspects in the bombings that killed 56 Londoners two weeks earlier also were identified. The value is pretty obvious, but U.K civil liberties groups sense the London success will open the floodgates (pandora's box) to invasions of privacy.
But even though London has more cameras than any other city in the world, on July 7, 2005 it suffered its worst terrorist bombings since the end of WWII. Camera systems have provided important information about the second group of atttackers, but they did not prevent the first. Countries like Germany and Spain have managed to investigate terrorist attacks without constant observation ton a regular basis. But camera systems in Hamburg did not prevent 9/11.
Surveillance cameras were accepted even before the war on terror at automatic
teller machines (ATMs), convenience stores and parking garages. Most cameras
monitor public areas. They can see what a police officer, a private or professional
photographer or any other citizen can observe and record. Cameras can help
fill the gap for those places where police officers cannot patrol for lack
Obviously, the problem is how the camera and the images it provides are used. They can be of value in identifying terrorists or major criminals. Sometimes their value as automated dispensers of tickets for traffic violations or littering is questioned. A well known incidence of voyeurism was documented when it become public that cameras installed outside the Pergamomn Museum in Berlin could actually be programmed to take a closer look at Chancellor Merkel's living room and pictures surfaced in public.
In these cases, guidelines guidelines can be helpful, such as informing the public about the presence of cameras, not targeting individuals arbitrarily or based on any racial or social profil, erasing the images after a brief time except for those needed as evidence, limiting access to the recordings, punishing those who break the rules.
Should lack of privacy be a matter of concern? In a public place, in terms
of what others may see or hear (cellphones!) one may not have an expectation
of privacy, but new technology possesses nearly unlimited capabilities to
inspect and record. But it cannot asses. On the other hand surveillance technology
is valuable precisely because it destroys our expectation of privacy.Obviously,
the same technology that may help solve crimes can also be used to identify
political protesters. Mass surveillance is far outpacing legal protections.
''Smart“ cameras could match individual images against actual identity.
Backscatter x-ray can reveal individuals as if they were naked. A technology
used only for special airline passenger inspections can be used too for passengers
on the London subway. It is precisely this type of application which creates
a certain mission creepiness.
Property regulated surveillance systems may solve crime and save lives, but they are no bullet-proof protection against either every day crime or terrorist attacks. Big Brother has not arrived yet, but Little brother is already alive and needs to be educated.
The Cold War
Informed policy making and decision-making requires precise ,adequate, and
timely information and analysis. In order to make proper judgments, policy
and decision-makers require comprehensive information about the state of the
world and likely consequences of policies and actions they intend to undertake.
With the National Security Act of 1947 the CIA has been established as an independent agency within the Executive Office of the President; it was to have no domestic role of powers of arrest..
The National Security Agency (NSA), which is under special scrutiny at the moment, is a successor of the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA). Its main objective is 'Signals Intelligence'. A detaild description of the history and development of the NSA until the early 1980s can be found in: Jeffrey T. Richelson: The U.S. Intelligence Community, 1985. In his book he noted, pointing out to management issues, that due to the intelligence explosion that started in the mid-1950s and continued through much of the 1980s, the result has been strong competition for limited funds especially with regard to controlling assets and the targeting of satellites and other collection systems between tactical and national level users (p. 338). The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was created in 1978. The law established a secret federal court that must approve requests for the NSA and other agencies to conduct surveillance against anyone in the U.S.A. suspected of being an ''agent of a foreign power.“
The sprawling community in intelligence gathering has surely not supported concerted intelligence efforts and is a prime example, why intelligence is a complex business.One major source of information are spy satellite images and communication intercepts that come from a mixture of acronym agencies under Pentagon control because of their ''combat support'' role.
This is how the community is composed at the moment:
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency(NGIA) : Provides digital mapping to support national security; determines what targets are to be photographed, and analyzes the results
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO): Collects and analyzes information from
airplane and satellite reconnaissance
National Security Agency (NSA): The NSA is based in Fort Meade, Maryland: It collects information through a network of satellites, land-based antennas in the U.S. and around the world, and taps on telephone lines. The agency breaks codes and translates documents to distribute to various government agencies.It maintains communication-interception equipment, some of it mounted on the same satellites as those of NGIA
State Department: Produces independent analysis for U.S. diplomats
Energy Department: Monitors nuclear security issues
Treasury Department: Collects information that may affect U.S. monetary policy
Homeland Security Department: Prevents terrorist attacks within the U.S.A.
Coast Guard Intelligence organization: Collects maritime intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency: Gathers foreign intelligence, with emphasis on foreign weapon systems.
Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps: All collect and process intelligence relevant to its service's needs
A shortcoming of the gathering and analyzing of results is the fact that although the budgets of those agencies fall under Pentagon control and their chain of command leads up to the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI ) also has a major say in what they do. Decisions about which things on the ground are photographed by spy satellites are made by a group called Source Operations and Management at the NGA; that group reports not to the Secretary of Defense but the DCI, who also heads the CIA. If a spy satellite is passing over a certain section of a country at a given time and the agencay has seven requests for imagery but can meet only three of them, Source Operation decides what to photograph. In wartime,field commanders get priority.
Distortion of Intelligence
There has not been – and probably never will – a close examination
of many of the public claims made by Vice President Cheney and others compared
with available intelligence; in addition, the intelligence reports lend themselves
to different, credible narratives depending on who is constructing them. How
does one separate active distortion from the human tendency to favor information
that plays to one's biases? Or to tell one's bosses what they want to hear.
One effort to prevent the failure of pre-9/11 intelligence work (gaps) had been the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) which is to gather data about terrorist threats from agencies through the government
No oversight over night
Revelations in 1975 of the CIA misdeeds led to an investigation by a committee
headed by then Senator Frank Church. The committee published a report in 1976
that uncovered three instances of NSA spying on U.S. Americans.
In 2000, the NSA faced public accusations that new technology enabled it to sift through huge quantities of electronic communications looking for terrorists, drug dealers or other potential threats.
In retrospect, after the Cold War, it became evident where to look for some
of the problems of the intelligence community. Whereas the analytical domain
with its 'academic orientation' had been too strongly emphasized at the beginning,
a shift in perspective, it was realized later on that decisions-makers need
the analysis nearest at hand which can be turned into a decision and presents
itself for realization.
After the First Gulf War ,a reassessment had taken place. (The following quotes were made in: 102/1 U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence, Review of Intelligence Organization, Washington, GPO, March 21, 1991). Hearings showed the dilemma the agencies are facing: On the one hand to deliver a good 'product', whatever that means, but also the understanding that intelligence agencies cannot be managed like companies. The term 'product' actually surfaced in the introductory remarks of then Com. Chairman David L. Boren ''better intelligence and a better product in the national interest of the United States. (Hrg. p.5)The reference to company management was made by former CIA Director William Webster: ''We can't run intelligence like a corporation.“(ibid, p.6)
Yet, it became obvious that more accurate oversight and stronger control cannot be renounced, especially for financial reasons. It turned out that the NRO had accumulated appropriation money of 1.5 bill.$ without informing Congress and against explicit orders. (Pear, Robert: Shake-up for Spy Satellite Agency over Excess Funding, International Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 1995, p.3) Those hearings also displayed the gap between aspiration and reality. (The following remarks/quotes can be found in: 102/1 U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence, Review of Intelligence Organization, Washington, GPO, March 21,1991). Next to well-known tasks, an impressive to-do-list for further justification of agencies had been assembled: to meet expectations to go for new challenges: proliferation of WMD, increased economic competitiveness, drug smuggling, terrorism, environmental change!, low-intensity conflict in the Third World, illicit export of high technology items. (p.11)
Efficiency and accountability of agencies played a major role. According to then Sen. John Glenn, tactical battlefield intelligence for 'Desert Storm' was lousy, because there was only one photoreconnaissance unit, from the New York National Guard providing pictures on a three day basis. It ended with most pilots going up getting information from those coming down.(p.12) And he added that ''...all that equipment is basically only as good as the people we have to make it work and to analyze what we get back.“(p.13)
During hearings it became obvious that most committee members would have prefered a restructuring according to modern management principles. On account of the two-part organization of the agencies , analysis and production on one side, data-gathering and comparison on the other, a reorganisation would face difficulties because of envisioned turf-wars between departments because responsibilities would have to be newly assigned. In the hearings mostly former members of the military and intelligence communities were speaking. It was left to a politician to point out the actual problem. In his opening statement, then Sen. Alfonse D'amato remarked:“The intelligence process is a supporting process – it supports policy and operations in the national security area. Any problems that may exist in policy or operations can only be solved by reforms in those areas – which are beyond the jurisdiction of this Committee.Moreover, by reforming the Intelligence Community, if that is what we choose to do, we cannot force similar reforms on the policy or operations community.“(p.14)
Big Brother II
In December 2005, President Bush acknowledged a report by the New York Times
(NYT) that the National Security Agency (NSA) conducted electronic surveillance
on U.S. citizens, in some cases without warrants.
President Bush cites a joint resolution passed by Congress on September 14,2001 that authorizes the president ''to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines“ to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks“ or ''to prevent any future acts of international terrorism“.
Critics argue the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people ''against unreasonable searches and seizures“ and requires a show of probable cause before warrants are issued allowing the government to conduct searches.
In 2002, a legal brief by the Justice Department argued the president has authority to conduct wiretaps in cases of national security.
The debate about the White House's legal justification for warrantless surveillance
of terror suspects inside the U.S.A. without specific congressional approval
remains in flux. There are those who argue that the President does not have
a blank check, like Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Sen. Judiciary
Committee. Whereas Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reiterated that the president's
war-making powers extended to domestic spying because the enemy was inside
the U.S.A. and Congress' vote authorizing use of force after the attacks represent
implicit congressional approval of the spying. Lawmakers of both parties acknowledged
there are solid legal arguments on both sides of the issue but that larger
concerns are at stake.
On May 11, 2006, John Conyers, D-Mich., and Jane Harman, D-Calif. introduced the 'Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA '(LISTEN) Act (H.R.5371), which aims at ending the unlawful practice of warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens while ensuring an important capability to fight terrorism is maintained. [house.gove/list/press/ca36_harman/May_11_2_06.html] With 50 co-sponsors, the LISTEN Act would require that the president's NSA surveillance program comply fully with the FISA and the Fourth Amendment, and makes clear that any attempt to listen in on Americans or collect telephone or e-mail records must be accompanied by a warrant. The sponsors argue that contrary to the president's assertions, the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress in October 2002, did not constitute authority to engage in electronic surveillance outside of FISA.The LISTEN Act would also provide tools to expedite emergency warrant applications and authorize funds for electronic filing and streamlined review procedures at the NSA and Justice Department. The goal is to leave no room or reason for this program to operate outside of the law.
One issue not really discussed is: What's happening with all the data, that is already constantly collected without people knowing it. Invisible surveillance: Information is increasingly collected without the knowledge, much less permission, of those giving it up.
*-Collection frenzy: Data mining is big business. Companies collect data from public and private sources process and analyze it and sell it to buyers ranging from private companies to the CIA. Even if single items may not be intrusive, birth certificates, credit histories, real estate deeds, insurance claims etc., if combined, present an initimate picture. In case of erronous or false data, a person has no way to know or demand to fix it. One recent example: A Chicago Tribune reporter googled and combined, analysed and assessed and did find names, phone numbers of front companies , secret training facilities. Like a gigantic puzzle, information was dissiminated to online libraries, in data banks, like Lexis Nexis, or could be tracked down with the help of a search engines. Looked at individually they did not amount to anything, but in combination, they were a revelation. The CIA issue is not transferable to Germany. In Germany, personalized data are basically not publicly available. But in a country with no real public registration system the combination of social security number, drivers' license, identities can be compiled and have to be available in case of credit audit purposes. But Germany has its share of data collecting attempts too: the electronic health card, biometric passport,excessive storage of all telephone and internet connections, possible extension for toll regestration for crime fighting. This still is restrained by strong data privacy acts.
Another trend is placing a computer chip on everyday, non-electronic objects, e.g. to better track inventory of consumer goods. Chips can be used to store information about an object or to command it to do something. Emerging wireless technologies are making communication easier. Wireless Internet technology (Wi-Fi) is best known for allowing laptop users to surf the web.But chips can also use Wi-Fi to communicate. Radio frequency identification (RFID). This chip can transmit data farther which makes it ideal for tracking packages in a store or warehous.
*-Data theft: Every other month, breaches involving banks, credit card processors, and data brokers demonstrate to millions of people a vulnerability to identity theft.
*-Personal information/surveillance software:Easily accessible high-tech tools, a growing array of inexpensive software can secretly monitor computer activity, not only of children but spouses, neighbors as well, to tiny hidden surveillance cameras and GPS devices that can track a person's location like''black boxes“ the size of cigarette packs have been installed in more than 40 million vehicles to monitor speed, seat-belt use and more.
The Orwellian vision was about state-sponsored surveillance, now it is a person-to-person level. The motivation to spy has existed from the beginning of time. Information, ''the need to know“ can be like a drug and knowledge is power, as the saying goes, so the urge is to have more. The downside of this 'personal monitoring' is obvious: You may find out something you rather could have done without, or would not have liked to know, like your spouse visiting websites, doing stuff online, your kids as well. How to react in case they find out one has been spying on them? Personal monitoring is a double-edged sword.
Most people do not consider 'googling' someone/something is spying, but it can be. Preferably, this is idle curiousity, a kind of 'soft-surveillance'- to plug someone's name into a search engine and see what turns up.But the truth of the matter is: It is all about trust. Does one need to have verification of every little thing somebody says? The computer monitoring software to keep an eye on children's online activities or GPS watches that allow parents to monitor children out of concern for saftety has to be balanced with trust.
Whereas in Germany a debate about electronic security in hospitals was revived after two patients vanished in Berlin hospitals, one of whom was found dead six days later, there are high-tech assisted-living facilities in the U.S. where patients are monitored 24/7. They already use sensors to determine the whereabouts of Alzheimer patients, a measure that is only being discussed in Berlin hospitals. In the U.S., residents and staff wear small black infrared badges that send invisible signals to sensors distributed around the facility. Upon registring for the facility, residents decide who can access the information collected through the technology and are given full control over the information.
Tracking technology should be used rather carefully and very selectively because it is changing the rules and norms of our society. There is a tendency to more insecurity because people do not know if they are being watched or monitored. There is more cautiousness and a certain degree of paranoia. Who is watching me? Little Brother, Big Brother? It is going to become a challenge in life and lifestyles (like ''Do I order this online and thereby reveal a 'see-through-customer'?“ to find and preserve privacy.
Much like on the personal level, spying on those who pose a threat to the
U.S. and the world community at large cannot easily be separated from monitoring
everyone else - as can be seen in the Bush's administration wiretapping of
international phone calls and collecting a database of domestic phone records
in the U.S. The question is: Where is the 'balance' in watching the administration?
After the NYT had reported about the wiretapping in December 2005, USA Today on May 11, 2006 disclosed that the NSA has been compiling a huge database of domestic phone records. Now, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider a bill by its Chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter R-Pa, basically asking to consolidate various lawsuites challenging the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program. It would send the issue to a special court created by the FISA which approves or in rare instances denies – wiretapping requests. In this respect, Congress could explicitly state that the president might have such an authority and therefore fail to guard its constituents privacy; it would also deepen the risk.
A more adequate approach could be to reaffirm the FISA court's role and require that the administration either comply with the 1978 FISA law or propose changes because it is inadequate to fight today's global war on terror. Sen Specter's bill calls for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to determine the constitutionality of the president's electronic surveillance program. It recognizes the importance of protecting the U.S. by keeping the program secret while guarding civil rights.
In November 2002, U.S. Congress appointed the ''National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks upon the United States'' also known as 9/11 Commission. It was chaired
by Thomas Kean, a republican and former New Jersey governor and Lee Hamilton,
a former democratic congressman from Indiana.
The official commission was tasked with investigating government failure, that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks. It disbanded in July 2004 after issueing its recommendations. It has since been operating with private funds at the 9/11 Public disclosure project to monitor government progress.
Since the commission's final report in July 2004, the U.S. government has enacted the centerpiece proposal to create a national intelligence director. But there are delays with respect to other suggestions such as improving communication among emergency responders and allocating federal terrorism-fighting money so it goes to states based on risk level. The two most prominent being New York and Washington D.C. , which have more people and symbolic landmarks. But it has stalled in congress, in part over the level of spending and turf fights over which states should get the most dollars.
Could the U.S. have known about and stopped the attacks? Like the 9/11 report,
a commission back in 1946 after the strikes on Pearl Harbor in December 1941
raised some of the same questions. That report concluded that different branches
of Intelligence (then Army and Navy) failed to share information that in combination
might have presented a warning. Clues were missed, tips from subordinates
were ignored; officers failed to use their imagination to extrapolate from
what they knew – similar to their 2001 successors who did not imagine
al-Qaeda flying planes into buildings.
This coincidence leads to two assumptions:
1.Hindsight is always biased. Years after the event, pieces of the puzzle
may form a striking picture, but given the circumstances it is rather improbable
that either incident could have been prevented before they occurred. Scapegoating
is a waste of time.
2.Deterring terrorism is an enormous task at least as the weaknessess in U.S. intelligence gathering proves. It folllows that there cannot be a quick bureaucratic fix.
Obviously, some reorganization is needed. In 1947, after the Pearl Harbor
report, the U.S. created the CIA to gather, analyze and coordinate all intelligence
efforts. It was created with the intent to make sure no such disaster ever
happens again. Well, the CIA did not predict 9/11, it did not forsee the collapse
of the Soviet Union or detect the spy within their own ranks, Aldrich Ames,
who sold information to the Russians until he was caught in 1994. Much about
intelligence gathering changed in the course of time. The ''intelligence community“
grew to include 15 different agencies. No matter how the reorganization is
to take place: One major problem is the Department of Defense which controls
80% of the money.
Under President Jimmy Carter, efforts were made to give broader authority to the CIA director (DCI) with little change. Some aspects deserve closer attention: The CIA for most of the time still spies on Cold War enemies and was unable to infiltrate al-Qaeda or the Taliban while a young American, John Walker Lindh, had no such problem.
The concept of pre-emptive strike
It was President Kennedy who remarked '' We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril“. So the concept of pre-emptive strike was introduced during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Ever since then, the U.S. has considered pre-emptive action a foreign-policy option. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration propelled it up the line from customary place as a last resort. In 2002 President G.W.Bush restated that one weapon in the U.S. Arsenal would be to hit America's enemies befort they hit the U.S.
The road to war in Iraq was marked by a disturbing fact: Based on intelligence
reports, many accused Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but
top intelligence organizations in both the UK and the U.S. failed to provide
an accurate picture of Saddam's weapons. These findings demonstrate the weak
link in the Bush's administration's doctrine of pre-emptive action against
rogue states that threaten U.S. security. Outlined in September 2002, the
doctrine was used to help justify invading Iraq without a hostile act by Saddam.
In the aftermaths of 9/11, the doctrine's aim, striking an enemy before it attacks, makes sense. But obviously only with the knowledge that danger is real and imminent. Like with the Soviet Union before, solid intelligence about an enemy's intent and capabilities has proved to be shaky.
Better inelligence alone cannot provide the certainty needed to make pre-emption a central point of U.S. Foreign Policy. Misinterpretation is nearly an integral part of intelligence procedures. So is political manipulation. Diplomacy and ground inspections should have equal weight in intelligence and may help avoid dangerous debates in the future.
Libya is one example where these efforts paid off. After years of sanctions and months of secret talks with the U.S., Libya allowed inspectors to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. It also allowed inspections and the international community to its great surprise discovered a nuclear program far more advanced than intelligence analysts had thought possible. Joint diplomacy and inspections could avoid overreliance on seemingly good intelligence that too often turns out to be bad.
From Assessment to management
On June 23, 2006, the NYT and other news organizations disclosed that in
order to catch criminals the Bush administration sought and gained access
to a confidential network known as SWIFT (Society for Worldwide International
Financial Telecommunication), a Belgian consortium that tracks international
transactions. According to remarks by then Treasury Secrtary John Snow that
organization helped locate financiers of operations,chart terrorist networks
and bring terrorists to justice.
In order to use the program the Administration invoked the 'International Emergency Economic Powers Act' which allows broad authority to respond to an ''extraordinary threat“. Congressional approval was not sought, therefore checks and balances which are the public's only chance against government misdemeanour were not made. The present U.S. administration once again demonstrated a favor for 'clandestine' behavior which started years ago by insisting it would imprison anyone it wished on terrorism charges secretly, indefinitely and without trial.
Because the administration thinks its action are beyond review it ignored the fact that Congress had established a special court to expedite wiretaps in terrorism cases, as did Congress itself.
So, where to go to for advice? It started with George Orwell; another well-known
writer is Harold Pinter. In his Nobel Prize lecture for Literature in 2005,
he refered to something he wrote in 1952: “There are no hard distinctions
between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what
is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both
true and false.“ As a writer, he would still stand by those assertions,
but as a citizen, he would have to look more closely. He goes on to write:“....the
majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not
in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that
power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance
of the truth, even the truth of their own lives.What surrounds us therefore
is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed. (Harold Pinter:Art, Truth&Politics,
The Nobel Foundation 2005, http://www.svenskaakademien.se/litiuminformation/site/page.asp?
The most important task yet to accomplish for the intelligence community is to establish a working framework for putting pieces of terrorist plots together, quickly responding to them and correcting errors.
The two antagonists in this game are: how to manage the open-ended war on terrorism and how to meet the day-to-day needs of frontline troops. A major issue is whether or how much a civilian national intelligence director should share control of much of the most important intelligence-gathering with the Pentagon, which controls about 80% of the U.S. intelligence budget. According to the 9/11 commission ,such a 'czar' would help the nation's many intelligence agencies to share information and elimate blind spots.
Even though there is still a lot of support for fighting the war on terrorism
in the U.S., there is an equally strong resistance to needless invasions of
privacy, secret government and executive arrogance.
As for the intelligence process, the goal should be to form a process in a way that differing opions should be listened to. A list of accountable criteria as to when agencies need to confer with each other needs and what privacy rights and other information needs to be guarded. In its present organisztional form, the intelligence community is lost both in translation and cooperation.