Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 5, 2009

Homeland and national security: Two cultures of intelligence?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 5, 2009

On the fiftieth anniversary of C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” lecture, do we confront two cultures of intelligence? The following is excerpted from a more extensive consideration of the proposed merger of the Homeland Security Council staff with the NSC staff.  I have been asked not to identify author or audience.

In my judgment integration of the NSC and the HSC, or the full integration of their respective staffs, could potentially contribute to breaking down barriers to sharing intelligence across the federal government.  Such integration would, however, potentially undermine progress – and delay further progress – in sharing intelligence information between the Federal government and its State, local, and tribal partners.  The culture of intelligence appropriate for National Security is in tension with the culture of intelligence most helpful to Homeland Security.  In the National Security domain there is a real need for protecting covert sources and methods and not communicating to possible adversaries what is known.  In the Homeland Security domain there is much greater value in sharing information more broadly and openly.  In Homeland Security there is often an advantage to self-consciously depend on open sources of intelligence and avoid covert operations in all but a few cases.  The differences between National Security and Homeland Security are healthy differences.  Fully integrating the HSC staff into the NSC staff would, I expect, discourage full development of the unique approach to intelligence gathering and analysis needed by Homeland Security.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Please consider — and contribute to — the substantive, thoughtful, and diverse comments made to this post.  While the comments suggest a widely shared goal, there is disagreement regarding how best to achieve the goal.  The relationship (or not)  of structure to substance is often referenced.  Some are inclined to be more holistic and others more categorical.  I am reminded of Isaiah Berlin’s distinction of the fox and the hedgehog.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2009 @ 9:26 am

WOW! C.P. Snow and the two cultures should always be mandatory reading for scientists and bureacrats and politicians.
As to the anonymus quote here is my take. In the old days–pre-9/11-01–raw intelligence data and reports was NEVER repeat NEVER made available to the civil agencies and of course some of them collected raw intelligence on their own–specifically STATE, AG, and DOE! Interesting definition of the INTEL community in EO 12333 as issued and now amended. What the civil agencies got in briefing or were supposed to get was analyzed data from the Intel community in various kinds of briefings. Because there was no policy or consistency in the administration of personnel security clearances or document security by the FEDS with respect to the STATE and LOCAL communities that might need such INTEL the system was not a system at all but hit or miss. Of course after the 1972 Munich Olympics, Olympic Events such as the Summer Games of 1984 (LA) and 1996 (Atlanta) the fear factor was heavily elevated at the State and Local level. None-the-less Intel arrangements were still largely ad hoc between FEDS and State and Locals and vice versa.

What is interesting in all of this is that the drive to improve intelligence sharing in the community and with State and local governments and public safety officialdom at all levels is largely derived from the comments, suggestions, and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Supposedly DHS was to fix the system after its full development. Of course we now know that despite NSA surveilling much of US Telecommunications, no system was ever developed or approved on domestic surveillance, spying, or whatever you want to call collection and analysis of activities of both citizens and non-citizens (including resident aliens) that might have not just foreign contacts and communications but also may be so-called “sleeper cells” or whatever. It is my judgement that even now no bottom up system has been designed to collect all that those civil servants see and hear at local levels that might have INTEL significance, nor have they been issued policies to protect privacy, civil liberties, civil rights or whatever, and also training and techniques for screening what might be valuable INTEL. So now we are going to have DHS almost totally eliminated from domestic intel policy and probably if HSC/NSC merge reversion to the old version of refined INTEL being passed to DHS and DHS not bothering to design poicies or procedures for what might be significant bottom up INTEL that might be valuable. Maybe I am missing something in all this but with the 20 or 30 books I have read discussing 9/11 run-up or afterwards seems to me that nothing that even makes common sense is being done on domestic intel and the problems are still being totally overlooked. Hey this is a very very fundamental and difficult issue to deal with–specifically domestic intel—and almost no oversight by Congress, no policy guidance, no procedural guidance, and as identified by the 9/11 Commission bureaucratic rivalry still rampant. I hope that Mr. Brennan and his PSD-1 review team has comprehensively dealt with the issue of domestic intel and those proposing merger of HSC/NSC also have dealt with it. And while we are talking about it I know for a fact that raw intel or processed is not passed to the White House level NSC or HSC! Why, and if not how can they do their jobs? Intel system is still out of control because while those inside the system may understand it fully, believe in its integreting there are almost none outside the system who believe in it or its integrity. Come-on Admiral Blair get with it? And Congress get to work! Please Congress review the constructs behind the issuance and amendment of EO 12333?

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2009 @ 9:37 am

Correction–Should have stated raw intel OFTEN not passed to NSC or White House. I don’t consider the PDB raw intel but have never seen anything but publically release extracts. Those unfortunately often looked more like surmise than intel. Remember the August 6, 2001 PDB sent to Bush by Tenet that headlined something like “AQ WILL ATTACK US” but beyond the headline did not in anyway in the publically released portions indicate why that headline was a conclusion soundly reached based on past pre-attack AQ warnings! And of course those warnings by AQ have continued to be issued periodically. Maybe we need a WHO for Intel that can issue world-wide warnings on threats other than disease–or that’s right Climate Change is fact not a threat–and economic crisis is a fact not a threat! Oh I am wrong, Dennis Blair has announced that the Economic Crisis is THE LEADING NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT—perhaps to CIA employee stock portfolios–after all Director Casey never complied with financial disclosure regulations either befor or after Senate confirmation. Hey he did die in active service to his country.

Comment by Arnold

May 5, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

I think the author’s description of intelligence cultures is correct, but it is not clear why council structure is so important to facilitating a homeland security culture of intelligence.

The HSC existed during the last administration, yet the evidence doesn’t support that it helped drive a homeland security-geared culture of intelligence. Indeed, a top down/national security approach seemed to dominate.

As so many official homeland security related documents are stamped “FOUO,” it seems that the state and local partners want to get in on the action, but not promote openness once they are on the inside.

Also, the notion that much of what is classified in the national security arena does not require it should also be considered.

Closer cooperation between all levels of government will come about due to policies and the actors, not seating charts.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

There is one arena in which the national security experts always have concerns and that should be largely a one-way window looking at domestic civil crisis response systems from the national security perspective. Specifically the denizens of the deepest parts of the National Security culture definitely want to insulated from large-scale, or maybe even small scale domestic issues, while they labor away on IMPORTANT national security matters. Like all the high priests of lost civilization they rely on exclusivity (meaning self-selection of their peers and subordinates that are safe culturally) and secrecy in that only the priests have a “need to know” that prevents any sunlight or objectivity from intruding into their temples. I know because once was part of the priesthood but escaped. This has nothing to do with IQ’s and competence but simply culture. In fact what I find interesting is that so-many subsets of Islam exist and yet the Intel community is not really conversant with that diversity. Perhaps the forthcoming division of Iraq and Afghanistan by religions will become of some interest. By the way if Edwin (Edward?) Luttwak can be relied upon then as stated in his “Military Strategy of the Roman Empire” (1976?) the Roman military was adept at staying out of religious wars. Essentially, the Romans seemed to allow all religions to be worshipped as long as they had no violent proclivities and no military capability.

Comment by Samuel H. Clovis, Jr.

May 5, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

There may be strong tensions between the existing national security and homeland security intelligence structures, but I am not sure the differences are healthy or supportive of national interests. If we accept that there is a difference between national and homeland security, then we might be willing to accept two separate approaches to gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence. There are certainly structural differences, and I suspect, cultural differences that perhaps make bridging the gap between national and homeland security too difficult to achieve. However, I think it’s the direction we need to go. The new paradigm ought to be that national security covers from the shores outward and also covers from the shores inward. As much I realize this may be a generation away from reality, the first step should be unifying the security councils in the White House.

The National Security Act of 1947 is under review right now through the Project for National Security Reform. I am fortunate enough to be a member of one of the many teams addressing various aspects of our national defense. I happen to be on the state and local homeland security team, working on structures that will facilitate enhancing national preparedness without breaking the bank at the state and local level. Right now, I would say the sense of my colleagues is that combining the two councils is a positive first step. As for solving the intelligence parochialism that has been part of the intelligence community culture throughout most of the history of mankind, that task is likely beyond the reach of this particular effort.

Combining the councils, hopefully, will enhance the very weak interagency processes currently in place in the homeland security arena. Similarly, if state and local governments are given a place at the big table, then perhaps the federal government will increase its sensitivities to the vagaries of budget constraints and constituent demands at the state and local level. Currently, the national government is generally dismissive of state and local circumstances. This approach has got to change, regardless of what national security apparatus is established.

Since the demise of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the federal government has had little conscience in relation to mandates, preemptions and regulatory regimes that inhibit rather than incent state and local revenue streams. Giving state and local governments presence in a robust national security council might be an important initiative that would lead to greater security both on and off shore.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

One of the problems is that most STATES and many local governments are really not up to big multidisciplenary problems not just because of funds but because of history and organizational arrangements. The result is that they know their own jurisdictions but have difficulty conceiving that that knowledge is not the blueprint for understanding other states and jurisdictions or federal issues. The result is that Governors may have been Executives but look at the long leap to the Presidency. Perhaps Homeland Security is a way to bridge the gap. Now if we just can define it?

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