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Research Report

Intelligence Sharing:: Getting the National Counterterrorism Analysts on the Same Data Sheet

Daniel Putbrese
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2006
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 32
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-3)

    The 9/11 Commission’s much celebrated and often cited report identified the resistance to intelligence sharing as "the biggest impediment to all source analysis – to a greater likelihood of connecting the dots."¹ There is broad agreement that intelligence sharing needs to be improved, but there is very little agreement on exactly what information should be shared, who it should be shared with, and how exactly the sharing should be accomplished. Perspectives on this issue vary greatly, ranging from those who argue the problem was solved by the creation of the NCTC, to those who contend that the problem is worse...

  2. (pp. 3-4)

    Analysts in the national CT centers have access to the NCTC’s homepage with special access to read the NCTC daily terrorist threat summary. Each center has individuals in leadership positions that sit in the daily morning and afternoon Video Teleconferences (VTC) to discuss known threats that are in “reported information.” Communications between the national CT centers, although improved since 9/11, are still almost exclusively related to reported information. Discussion of unreported information is almost nonexistent. On the rare occasions when it does occur, it is usually above the analyst level and the discussion is centered on data considered by the...

  3. (pp. 4-10)

    Common sense dictates that the U.S. government must fix this problem between the “haves and have-nots” of data access. Those with access cannot continue to believe they are the only players in the game. Why? Because this is neither a game nor a battle over turf; it is a race to save lives before terrorist attacks occur. While this author interviewed over forty officials, the 9/11 Commission and the WMD Commission interviewed hundreds and the message to all was the same: you cannot have analysts who are working the same problem operating with different sets of data – they need...

  4. (pp. 10-14)

    As the United States heads into its fifth year since the attacks of September 11th, it is not near a solution that would optimize the analytical firepower and unique perspectives of all the national CT centers. Why not? We can safely say that it has not been due to a lack of attention, as illustrated by the recommendations made by the 9/11 and WMD Commissions and the mandates written in the IRTPA. This chapter will explore the bureaucratic tendencies in the IC to protect one’s turf that feed the culture to over-compartmentalize information. Then it will look at a recent...

  5. (pp. 14-16)

    The main legitimate reason for limiting access is due to the harm of unauthorized disclosures. No one articulates the concern more ferociously than retired CIA Director R. James Woolsey. In testifying to Congress, he explained that he believes the 9/11 Commission has some good ideas but they tilted too far when it comes to sharing information.

    “sharing is fine if you’re not sharing with the Walkers, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, or some idiot who just enjoys talking to the press about how we are intercepting bin Laden’s satellite telephone calls. Hostile infiltration into our government, or for that matter blabbermouths,...

  6. (pp. 17-19)

    The threat of leaks and unauthorized disclosures is very real and must be guarded against. But who is leaking this information? This chapter will argue that most leaks come from government officials with a political agenda, not from analysts. When leaks are made by analysts they are usually inadvertent and making better “need to know” determinations will actually help ensure the right people are read in to the program which in-turn will help decrease these types of leaks. The U.S. government needs to ensure that analysis does not suffer in the process of trying to protect information.

    The intelligence most...

  7. (pp. 19-23)

    There are so many voices crying out for intelligence reform and so many different stakeholders that decision makers are undoubtedly overwhelmed. John Brennan put it very well:

    Don’t get me wrong. Reform is needed to mesh the human and technical capabilities now scattered through the government. But instead of prompting greater integration, the September 11, 2001 attacks and the controversy over inaccurate intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq unleashed a torrent of conflicting study commissions, statutes, executive orders, presidential directives and departmental initiatives. What’s still missing is a coherent framework of reform. The rush of initiatives has resulted...

  8. (pp. 23-25)

    The IC has a long history of protecting its information by creating special compartments within compartments to limit access. There is an expression for this trend that “behind every green door there is another green door.”15 Those who believe data access should not evolve any further will no doubt use this technique to circumvent any actions taken to grant equal access to those working the same problem sets. This phenomenon is already showing itself at the NCTC. It is imperative that the DNI provide strong oversight of data access at the NCTC, and take bold actions to ensure the NCTC...

  9. (pp. 25-26)

    We are running out of time for national CT analysts to have to continue bartering for data access. No matter what the DNI mandates, he will need to watch out for the innovative ways in which agencies may try to circumvent his actions as outlined above. The DNI needs to ensure the building of a central database with powerful data mining software. It must have highly capable security features and powerful auditing tools as its unauthorized use will be a grave security threat. Instead of saying that we cannot share because of risk of unauthorized disclosures, the DNI must say...