Bring It On!

You Call That Intelligence?

July 30th, 2006 | by Ken Grandlund |

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is empowering. To the casual observer, these two statements may seem to say the same thing. But if you look closer, and try to understand the difference between these two thoughts, you will see that they are two diametrically opposed ideas. The former implies that control is the purpose for gaining information. The latter implies that gaining information is for personal freedom. The former conceals knowledge to maintain its control. The latter seeks out knowledge to eliminate secrecy and mistrust. The former is the tool of governments. The latter is the tool of humanity. Understanding this difference is important when looking at the reasoning and methodology of national intelligence goals and their effect on national security.

National security exists for one simple reason: governments, even stated allies, do not trust each other. This lack of trust stems directly from a lack of knowledge. In order to gain information about other nations, governments created intelligence agencies to gain knowledge surreptitiously. At the same time, governments use their agencies to conceal their own actions from other nations, again limiting knowledge. Sadly, this circular effort is self-defeating and only serves to deepen the mistrust between governments rather than minimize it. Human nature is such that we are suspicious of what we don’t know, and governments amplify that element of humanity exponentially.

There is another reason that governments mistrust each other. At face value, there are two types of governments. Although they appear is slightly different forms, you have governments that support individual freedom and governments that rule by oppression. These doctrines are incompatible. Free societies assume that oppressed societies are not oppressed by choice and take as their mission the expansion of freedom. Rivalry is natural. Conflict is inevitable. In this instance, lack of knowledge can have devastating consequences for the citizens of both nations, regular people who value freedom. In order to reduce harm, gaining knowledge becomes very important to national security.

The goal is to reform our current intelligence apparatus from one made up of competing agencies with conflicting missions to one that increases our knowledge of our foes and decreases mistrust among our allies. It should be forthright with the public and diligent in its accuracy. It should always seek to increase our national security by decreasing our need for it.

The practical mechanics would require scrapping the current cadre of intelligence agencies in favor of a three-tiered system: an “enemy intelligence” agency, an “alliance intelligence” agency, and a “public information” agency. They would not operate independently of each other, but would work in concert to reduce threats and increase alliances through a variety of methods.

Let’s begin with the “enemy intelligence agency.” The definition of an enemy would obviously include any nation or group that has attacked our country directly or targeted our people indiscriminately. But just as it would be a mistake to include every country that disagreed with us, so too would it be a mistake to exclude all countries that use oppression and belligerence to sustain power, for these could be enemies in the wings. Instead of relying on our own individual efforts, the gathering of this type of intelligence benefits all nations based on free principals. We should coordinate our efforts and share our resources in acquiring this information. All gained knowledge could go to a central clearinghouse for verification and dissemination. To do so would reduce conflicting information between allied nations resulting in cohesive strategies for confronting adversity. It would also have the effect of significantly decreasing the overall cost of acquiring the knowledge itself. Nations could share the tools, the training, the costs, and the knowledge together, building not only a stronger alliance, but demolishing the secrecy that breeds distrust. America should spearhead the creation of such an agency with candor and with urgency.

The “alliance intelligence agency,” in addition to agreeing to coordinate information on foes, would primarily be used as a tool for information sharing between friendly nations, but could also be used to lure new nations to the table. Such an agency would serve as a forum for nations to share advances in technology and medicine, helping to end the disparity between richer and poorer countries. This embraces the concept of knowledge being empowering. Alliances would be based not only on the need for resources and protection, but by a common desire to better the lives of people through the expansion of knowledge. By openly exchanging concepts and knowledge, societies could improve productivity and health standards, as well as gaining understanding of different cultural beliefs. By seeing the benefits of belonging to such an alliance, some less than friendly nations may be pressured by their citizens to change their ways so that they could enjoy the advances of humanity. This agency would seek to impart the benefits of free society without imposing a specific morality beyond that which embraces personal freedom and societal security. This ensures that cultural traditions would continue to grow alongside the new knowledge, not discarded because of it. More trust building through validation, which is never a bad thing.

Finally, the “public information agency” would be that part of the intelligence apparatus that reports to the public those goals it seeks to achieve, and the progress it is making. This is perhaps the most important element of a successful intelligence network. Since governments in free societies derive their power from the citizenry, it is imperative that those citizens trust their government. To achieve this trust, government must strive to become more transparent in its goals and the means used to get there. Such openness would reduce the element of intrigue and end unnecessary speculation among average people. It would have the effect of combating misinformation by laying the details out in the open. It would free government from having to decide what people need to know by telling them what is known, and allowing them to make informed conclusions of their own. With all citizens getting the same accurate and unembellished information, unnecessary nationalistic rivalries would melt away.

The current intelligence reform in the US Government does nothing to increase the quality or level of intelligence in our country, and as such does little to increase our security long term. While we may be succeeding in reducing the number of attacks against us at the time, our practices of using information for power, rather than to empower, will only succeed in elongating this period of international strife. With the battle between freedom and oppression currently being waged, it is in our best interest, and the best interest of people everywhere, to cultivate real and lasting alliances in order to ensure that more societies become free. Achieving that would be a real sign of intelligence.

(originally posted on Common Sense)

[tag]Intelligence Reform[/tag]

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  1. One Response to “You Call That Intelligence?”

  2. By Jersey McJones on Jul 30, 2006 | Reply

    I agree with most of what you said, Ken - but I do believe there is a “battle between freedom and oppression currently being waged.”

    Can you show me where this battle is being waged?


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