With much respect and admiration to those honorable professionals within the intelligence profession:
Many have forgotten what the true goal of a National Intelligence Service actually is. Intelligence is about bringing information in an understandable and clear decisive manner to those in government who hold the power to make decisions for us all. Intelligence is about decision-support--about answering the question!
It is the goal and challenge of those in the intelligence agencies to educate policy makers in an effort to improve our national security, our national financial position and to assure our place as a leader in the cultural international world stage. The art of providing intelligence is involved in discovering information, discriminating between what is valuable and what is not, and distilling that information into an intelligence briefing for a governmental decision maker. Human sources of intelligence are critically important. The willingness of those, with important critical information pieces to share, to talk to us, is based not only on our approach to them, but the general political and cultural climate of trust established between people.
Thus, when we allow violations of human rights to occur, during what was alleged to be an intelligence gathering interrogation process, we change the entire environment for all potential intelligence sources, especially those critical human sources with unique intelligence of value. For each prisoner tortured from whom we gathered questionable information, which can’t stand up in a court of law, and may just be the ravings of someone, who wanted the torture to stop, we have lost countless other human sources of information that now have shut their doors to us.
Brutal force, deception and dishonorable conduct do not elicit trust between an interrogator and a subject, which is one of the best ways to gather information. Most intelligence is not covert intelligence, but instead comes from freely available public sources. A very small percentage is from closed or classified sources and even less from covert sources. The accessibility to sources of intelligence is a gauge of the cultural openness between nations and cultural groups.
Have we learned nothing from the Challenger disaster on Jan 28, 1986? The Space shuttle Challenger disaster showed us how Group Think can lead to faulty decision making. The US intelligence agency staff are a cohesive cultural group, with a unique professional culture and social structure. They live in a world of top down authority through a highly regimented chain of command, as strict as any military discipline in commanding respect for hierarchy and authority. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the James Bond Intelligence Agent running around the world and doing his own thing is just a fictional fantasy.
In real intelligence work persons placed in difficult circumstances are asked to make hard decisions based on established protocols, their training and their own inherent moral and ethical standards. Like most professions the intelligence community has a professional standard of conduct and persons within that professional culture try to respect that standard of conduct. But when there is poor leadership from the top or faulty structural organizational components and a provocative situational context (ie: terrorist threat) then Group Think leads to faulty cognition and eventually to defective decision making. This leads to a low probability of successful outcome and possibly a disaster.
Leadership is critical and so I personally am holding the President of the United States, Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to an expectation that they are strong enough in their own ethical and moral grounding to be able to accept the hard difficult truths that come out of this investigation into the Torture Memos. I expect them to follow that truth to the organizational, procedural, and structural changes that need to be made within the intelligence community. To address changes needed in the protocols that govern their actions. To demand appropriate individual accountability be assigned to those who used collective rationalization, illusion of conformity, mind guards, stereotyping, censorship of ideas, and the illusion of morality to make our intelligence community decision making process go astray.
Enormous difficult truths are the test of a true leader, who must recognize the risk of taking the difficult pathway and stepping forward with courage to face the challenge of changing the course of history. Truly great leaders have each taken this step: Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandella and many others. It takes great leaders to take on these difficult issues, so addressing this lesson of our past mistakes is an essential step on the pathway to a more robust effective intelligence service, one that can tell truth to power, so the leaders of this nation can make the difficult decisions that protect us all.
A simple Quaker Lady
Dr. Janet Parker DVM
Executive Director, Medical Whistleblower
P.O. Box C