Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Revolution Begins On Page Five: The Changing Nature Of The NIE And Its Implications For Intelligence (Part 1 -- Welcome To The Revolution)

There has been a good bit of discussion in the press and elsewhere concerning the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program (Click here to download full text). Virtually all of this commentary has focused on the facts, sources and logic – the content – of the estimate.

It is my position that, while the content is fascinating, the most interesting story behind the NIE has to do with the changes in form that this latest NIE has adopted; that what the NIC has said is, in many ways, less interesting than the way it has decided to say it.

The NIE is arguably the highest form of the intelligence art. Typically strategic in scope and focused on only the most important issues of the day, the authors of these documents, located primarily at the National Intelligence Council, are considered to be the best analysts in the US intelligence community. The US intelligence community, with its nearly 50 billion dollar budget and its vast human and technical resources, is, likewise, the undeniable thought leader for the broader intelligence community including the up-and-coming law enforcement and business and competitive intelligence communities. This shift in form, then, implies a new, emerging theory of intelligence – what intelligence is and how to do it – that is likely to influence intelligence communities worldwide. “Emerging”, however, is the key term here. As this and other posts will highlight, the revolution may have begun but it is far from complete.

I suppose the traditional sort of place for this kind of thing is an academic journal but the experimental nature and immediate feedback of the blog format really appeal to me. I particularly like being able to make sources (if they are on the internet and increasingly they are) immediately available to the reader. I am well aware that this intersection between Web 2.0 and academia is largely seen as "service" rather than "scholarship" by most tenure committees but I don’t see how posting this research to a blog precludes cleaning it up and publishing it in a journal later and I suspect such a “finished” article will be better for the comments that it receives in advance of publication. I am also hoping that the bite size chunks inherent in blog writing, published one a day, Monday through Friday, will make it easier for me to write and for you to read…

Tomorrow: Part 2 -- Some History

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