The Citadel Big Data and National Security Decision Making
In your judgment, do the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission sufficiently address the pre-9/11 operational and analytic shortcomings of both the CIA and the FBI? How might have mega-data software tools such as linked charts have helped the IC detect the 9/11 plot?
“Much as we study the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to understand the development of the American Intelligence Community and the pitfalls of intelligence analysis, we need to study al Qaeda’s surprise attack on the United States on 11 September 2001. That attack, like the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, was a watershed event in the history of American national security policy. It had a profound impact on the bureaucratic structure of the American national security apparatus that was established in 1947. It led to the creation of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security.
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The Intelligence Community was profoundly reoriented by the attacks. During the Cold War, a preponderance of IC budget, systems, and people were focused on the Soviet Union and its client states. After the Cold War, the IC was significantly downsized as part of a Clinton administration’s “peace dividend.” But after 9/11, the IC’s budget and personnel rapidly swelled with a large emphasis on the collection, analysis, and killing and capturing of terrorists from both al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. More intelligence resources too had to be devoted to support American wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Increasingly, the Intelligence Community is exploiting software to mine mega-data for counterterrorism efforts. Software can shift mega-data and graphically illustrate command relationships, personalities, locations, and financial links among terrorist group members as well as between various terrorist groups. Link analysis charts are especially helpful in illuminating terror groups in order to target them for human and technical collection efforts as well as for covert action disruption attacks.
The post-9/11 growth and operations of the IC raises some concerns. First, some observers worry that the CIA now disproportionately focuses on covert action and drone strikes in counter-terrorism efforts at the expense of traditional intelligence collection and analysis. Second, some observers worry that the IC in general and the CIA in particular have focused too much on terrorism and allowed their intelligence and expertise on nation-state targets such as Russia and China to lapse. That sets up the CIA to especially acute vulnerabilities to strategic intelligence surprise, as both Russia and China are increasingly assertive in international affairs.”