- Intelligence for the 21st Century
Six years after September 11th, we still have done far too little to improve our nation's intelligence services. Too many of the 9/11 Commission's recommended reforms have stalled. Worst of all, the Bush administration has politicized intelligence and intelligence-gathering.
The first step the next President must take to strengthen our intelligence services must be to focus far more efforts and funding on the development of human intelligence (HUMINT) capabilities, particularly with regard to the Arab and Muslim worlds. While signals intelligence (SIGINT) remains centrally important to U.S. efforts—and plays to our comparative advantage in technology—it cannot substitute for HUMINT. Nowhere was this more apparent than on 9/11: months after the attacks, it was revealed that the National Security Agency had picked up electronic recordings of the terrorists discussing the attack in detail but could not translate them in time due to a lack of Arabic speakers.
What, then, is the solution? First, all of the 9/11 Commission's reforms must be implemented, including the recommendation that anti-terror funds be focused on real threats and high-risk locations. It is unpatriotic, and a threat to our national security, to turn our intelligence dollars into pork.
The 9/11 Commission's recommendations are not sufficient in and of themselves; we must go further. We need to improve the integration of our intelligence efforts across government agencies. It is particularly important that all Department of Defense intelligence be integrated more effectively than it has been. Above all, we must avoid any recurrence of the kind of stove-piping of intelligence employed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which facilitated cherry-picking and politicization. There should be no separate intelligence fiefdoms at the Pentagon or anywhere.
We also must have more cross-agency tours of duty between military officers and the intelligence agencies to foster the personal and institutional knowledge necessary for better information sharing among government bodies. In the same vein, we must work more closely with our international allies to ensure that we leverage our relationships abroad to produce and share better intelligence.
While making these advances, we must keep in mind Benjamin Franklin's declaration that "any society that would give up a little liberty [End Page 145] to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." President Bush's violations of civil liberties in the name of the war on terror have been shortsighted, unnecessary, ineffective, and un-American.
Human rights violations must stop. They violate core American values and deprive us of the international credibility we need to lead others in the struggle against Jihadism. In addition, torture does not work: it fails to produce reliable intelligence. Torture puts our troops and civilians at risk, and it costs us dearly in the war of ideas which we must win against Al-Qaida. Torture, violations of habeas corpus and the Geneva conventions, warrantless wiretapping, secret prisons—these are not the tools of a decent country. They are not the components of a realistic, principled foreign policy, and they will not be employed by my administration.
We must move beyond the errors of the Bush era to forge a system of intelligence gathering that protects American lives without violating American values.
Bill Richardson is currently the Governor of New Mexico. He previously has served as Secretary of Energy, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and a Congressman.