Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 31, 2005

A former FBI intelligence analyst speaks out

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Investigation & Enforcement,Organizational Issues — by Christian Beckner on December 31, 2005

A former FBI intelligence analyst speaks out today in a Washington Post op-ed on the Bureau’s failures to develop a successful intelligence shop since 9/11. She alludes to a DOJ Inspector General report that criticized FBI’s treatment of intelligence analysts earlier this year, a report that noted that the Bureau’s retention of analysts was low, in part because they were treated like “second-hand citizens” and frequently assigned menial tasks .

But she notes:

It wasn’t the photocopying or the lack of promotion potential that compelled me to leave my job as an FBI analyst this year — it was the frustration of working in a system that does not yet recognize analysis as a full partner in the FBI’s national security mission.

Many of the first-hand details in the rest of the article are devastating, such as:

Analysts found that in many cases they had to operate with a dearth of information and intelligence resources. For example, not all the people carrying the title “All Source Analyst” in the division for which I worked even had desktop access to the Internet or to intelligence community e-mail and intranet servers.


There is no guidance giving field offices the information they need to direct case reporting to the appropriate analytic groups, and no policy mandating that they do so. In this vacuum, the analyst’s access to investigative data becomes almost entirely a function of personal relationships cultivated with agents in the field — a difficult task for those whose work it is to assess threats emerging across the nation and overseas.

Articles such as this confirm my long-standing belief that it was a serious blunder not to create a “MI-5” type organization to lead domestic intelligence, either within DHS at its inception or as a stand-alone entity. Nevertheless, I have been cautiously optimistic until now that the FBI would eventually adapt and get its act together on analysis. Articles like this severely dent this optimism.

A mid-course correction might be an even worse alternative at this point, although perhaps a reinvigorated intelligence shop at DHS could be the foundation for a shift of responsibility from the FBI to DHS on domestic intelligence.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn



Comment by Charlie Fugate

December 31, 2005 @ 10:57 pm

What do you see as the advantages of a new stand-alone domestic intelligence apparatus? Do you believe the advantages to be pure logistics, or do you see the quality of intelligence improving with the creation of such an agency?


Comment by Christian Beckner

January 1, 2006 @ 3:15 am


I see the advantages of a stand-alone domestic intelligence agency mainly in terms of cultural and organizational benefits. Remember how Ford used to advertise that “Quality is Job One?” In a new MI-5 like agency, intelligence analysis (rather than investigation) would be Job One. I’m not confident that the FBI can learn how to balance these competing objectives – investigation and analysis – quickly enough.

But as I said in the post, we might not have the the luxury of time to try to build something new.


Comment by Charlie Fugate

January 1, 2006 @ 8:49 am


Thank you for your reply. From my point of view, I believe that the FBI has little intrinsic analytical capability. The division of labor inherent within said proposal seems to lend itself to a sharper focus. I agree with your observation that time is the limiting factor. It may not be possible to compartmentalize the situation.


Charlie Fugate


Comment by William R. Cumming

March 11, 2006 @ 5:52 pm

The FBI reorganization post9/11 has failed. The sooner that failure is dealt with the better. Out of 30,000 employees and approximately 6,500 gold badge agents those fully fluent (level 5 on STATE Dept. exams) in pharsi, arabic, and other mideastern languages is still under 30. The FBI doesn’t get it!

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Posner: US needs an MI5

August 15, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

[…] This is an idea that I’ve supported for a long time, given all of the difficulties that the FBI has faced with changing its culture and developing an effective intelligence capability. The counterargument against this idea has always been that it’s too hard, and that it would take too long. (The 9/11 Commission considered an MI5 recommendation, but backed away from it for this reason). But we’re now five years out from 9/11, and the FBI still hasn’t fully digested its new intelligence role. How much longer can we afford to leave this institutional gap unfilled? […]

Comment by Charlie Bird

February 9, 2010 @ 6:27 pm


Nothing has changed. I have been an Intelligence Analyst for more than 6 years, and it is the same old “good-old” boys club. We are still treated like second class citizens, and there is no chance for career advancements. It is whatever the agent wants to give you based on your relationship. Total division of labor at it best. The only reason I am holding on is because of the poor economy. But, being an analyst has hurt my professional life tremendously. I advised everyone that I meet not to be lure by Hollywood and the view of the FBI and the greatest law enforcement agency. Only if you are an Agent there will be opportunities. Just wanted to let you know that it is the same crap and it does not have an intention to change. Take care.

Comment by hot yoga dvd

April 22, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

You made good quality points there. I did a search on the topic and found many people will agree with your own blog.


October 4, 2010 @ 8:09 am

We’ve got to reassess this. FBI has pretty good intelligence and sometimes the Washington Post has better intelligence. Tip: don’t read X-rays backwards. Read newspapers that way.

Kudo’s: Round 3
Franklin and Marshall College
Lillian Hellman, Litt.D, Aware of the way of the foxes who spoil the harvest…compelling.
Michigan State University
Katharine Graham, L.H.D., Uncompromising!


October 4, 2010 @ 8:27 am

Do’s: Fish early.
Don’ts: We need to regulate NYC donut shops. People are dying here. Print warning labels and pass me a bottle. Who won the egg war? Cracked some laws for sure. What’s new at Park Place? Could have donuts in the lobby. Must need a lobbyist first. Coffee is going up when it should be going down!


October 4, 2010 @ 8:33 am

Big coffee shortage. Can’t send beans to department of corrections guests. Sorry, no continental breakfast in the joint. This is worse than death row. Hot water is out here. Using coffee pot for cleaning up. Bad gas lines and you want a plumber wants. An arm and a leg. Reading How New York Went Broke. Maybe plumbing bills.


October 4, 2010 @ 8:36 am

OP: know
My miss take.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 18, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

A new history of the FBI role in INTEL and Counter-Intel has just been published in March 2012. The author also published a history of the CIA!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>