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Topic: Intel Matters (Read 81268 times)
Stratfor: Why Torture is Counterproductive
Reply #400 on:
December 11, 2014, 05:25:23 PM »
Why Torture Is Counterproductive
December 10, 2014 | 02:13 GMT Print Text Size
Torture is Counterproductive
Military police process incoming Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray in Cuba in 2002. (Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government had very little intelligence on al Qaeda's plans and capabilities. There was a tremendous amount of fear that the strikes were only the first of many large-scale attacks to come, and reports even circulated that the group had nuclear weapons planted in U.S. cities. The public as well as government officials were in shock and caught off guard. In hindsight, it is easy to understand how extreme fear of the unknown compelled some elements of the intelligence community to embrace the idea that harsh interrogation measures were required to understand the urgent and nebulous threat the nation was facing.
Indeed, the sense of fear and panic was significant enough to cause personnel in some agencies to override the moral objections associated with extreme interrogation tactics, which is also to ignore the widely regarded fact that torture does not produce reliable intelligence. Yet, the Senate report released Dec. 9 makes it clear that, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the results of the United States' enhanced interrogation program were negligible, and as the final analysis shows, the morally objectionable means of this program were not justified by its paltry results.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report highlights and describes certain techniques in great detail — including the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, slapping, shaking, water boarding and induced hypothermia — but does not reveal any techniques that were not already publicly known. The CIA began implementing these techniques, deemed torture by opponents and enhanced or harsh interrogation techniques by supporters, in 2002. The aim was to improve the chances of acquiring time-sensitive information from high value-targets that would be critical to national security. The thinking of the time was to employ more robust methods to uncover impending catastrophic attacks against U.S. citizens, the "ticking time bomb scenario" as it is commonly referred to.
In 2004, the revelations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq at the hands of U.S. military personnel garnered widespread coverage by domestic and international media. Images of military police harassing and violating prisoners were circulated, sparking significant controversy over whether the U.S. government employed torture against its enemy combatants, a stark violation of human rights for many as well as an infringement of the Geneva Conventions. Though the media focused on the actions of the military police, rather than interrogators, the revelations quickly led to further inquiries and deep scrutiny over the interrogation practices conducted at the prison and across the intelligence community.
Conversation: Putting the CIA Interrogation Report Into Context
The scandal led the Defense Department to quickly tighten its policies on interrogations, while each military branch emphatically trained its personnel on operating in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. However, the CIA continued to use enhanced interrogation techniques, though only for a short period and on relatively few combatants. In January 2009, President Barrack Obama signed an executive order that restricted all U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct interrogations strictly in accordance with the methods described in the U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3, a publication that is readily available to the public.
Whether the enhanced interrogation techniques implemented by the CIA equate to torture still remains a hotly contested issue in the United States. It is true that all the methods detailed in the report are intended to inflict substantial emotional or physical pain on detainees. Aside from the serious ethical concerns surrounding the techniques detailed in the Senate report, the use of torture or any technique designed to inflict some measure of pain or duress upon a detainee makes for a poor, if not counterproductive, strategy in gaining actionable intelligence. The reasons for this include the inherent nature of the interrogation process as well as the inadvertent psychological consequences of torture or harsh techniques on the detainee.
The sole objective of an intelligence-driven interrogation is to acquire actionable information through direct questioning or elicitation of a detainee. In this sense, actionable intelligence is any piece of information, by itself or as a factor in analysis, that military commanders or policymakers can use in making decisions. If an interrogator fails to obtain such information, the sole objective was not achieved, and the process was a failure. Likewise, if the intent of an interrogation was not to gain actionable intelligence, the interrogation becomes something entirely different.
Despite dramatic Hollywood portrayals of the intelligence-gathering process, interrogating a detainee is actually a very simple process. It can be looked at as an interview, though a major difference between an interrogation and an interview is that many subjects are unwilling to provide answers to pertinent questions at first. As a result, the first step in an interrogation is convincing the subject to cooperate. It is this critical phase, which the U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3 refers to as an "approach," that often receives the most attention from the public and, sometimes, even from the interrogator.
Setting aside legal and moral considerations, there is a wide variety of conflicting approaches that can be used to encourage a detainee to provide actionable intelligence. It should be noted that not all approaches are necessarily designed to evoke negative feelings in a detainee. In fact, the Field Manual 2-22.3 details several methods designed to do the opposite. The U.S. intelligence community mostly relies on approaches that generate positive feelings within the detainee, such as "emotional love" and "pride and ego up," in addition to incentive-based approaches. Outside of inflicting emotional or physical harm on a detainee, all approaches are simply conversations guided by the interrogator that would lead the detainee to willingly provide information of intelligence value. A prime example of an incentive-based approach convincing a detainee to talk is when the Detroit underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, cooperated with U.S. authorities after they brought in two of his family members from Nigeria.
These conversations can take time for an interrogator, however, and often span multiple sessions that are carried out over the course of days, weeks or even years. While the time devoted to garner actionable intelligence can be substantial, the interrogator's chance of successfully completing the objective is slim. The vast majority of detainees who are initially uncooperative will remain so, or at least never become cooperative in full. The necessary time to run approaches and the slim odds of success are critical barriers in an interrogation that seeks to discover imminent attacks against U.S. citizens. It is because of these obstacles — that is, to save time and force cooperation — that interrogators sought to employ enhanced interrogation techniques.
The Limits of Enhanced Interrogations
As a potential source of intelligence, interrogations are one of the least reliable and least timely methods employed by the various intelligence disciplines. While inflicting emotional or physical pain on a subject as an interrogation approach will likely elicit a quick response, those responses are not necessarily truthful or accurate, and thus the interrogation can still be a failure.
Whether looking for information on potential attacks or other, less perishable intelligence, an interrogator can gather actionable intelligence only if the subject is telling the truth and answers the questions to the best of his ability. Even if the subject is cooperating, the information he shares is not always accurate. By virtue of placing the detainee under extreme stress, torture can make it difficult for the detainee to accurately recall information from memory. Detainees may misremember details and will often fabricate information they think will end the interrogation.
All information of intelligence value, particularly any information about an impending attack, is time sensitive. For the vast majority of interrogations, the information acquired can only be as recent as the date when the subject was detained, and it begins losing value immediately. A detainee who has been in detention for years will not have intelligence on a pending attack — even information that is a few days old could very well be useless. The capture of an insurgent or terrorist leader could place any attack plans on hold, or the remaining leaders could redraw them, thus making the detainee's knowledge outdated and less valuable. For this reason, when compared to the numerous other means by which the intelligence community collects intelligence, an interrogation makes a poor source of intelligence when attempting to thwart attacks.
To understand why torture provides little benefit over approaches permissible under Field Manual 2-22.3, it is important to consider the perspective of the interrogator and the detainee.
Before entering the booth with a detainee, every interrogator is armed with a dossier on his subject and a list of collection requirements — broad, open-ended questions on an array of subjects that policymakers, military commanders or others in the intelligence community may have. Background information about the detainee can range from a complete lack of knowledge to an enormous collection of various intelligence reports that collectively proves the detainee's role within an enemy organization as well as the likely topics on which the detainee will have information. Regardless how much information an intelligence agency has on a detainee, there is always a high degree of uncertainty as to what the detainee actually knows.
Many detainees choose not to cooperate at first. They employ interrogation-resistance strategies of some fashion to avoid divulging pertinent information. These methods vary and are taught and shared by militants inside and out of detention facilities. Even before meeting their interrogator for the first time, most detainees are aware of what information they need to safeguard, often having an expectation of what questions they will be asked during the interrogation.
Sometimes it is obvious when a detainee chooses to remain uncooperative; the detainee may remain completely silent, respond to questions with inappropriate answers or attempt to take charge of the conversation. Even when they appear to be cooperating, the interrogator can never be entirely confident the detainee is responding to questions to the best of his ability or, more important, accurately sharing his information. Fortunately, interrogators are trained in numerous tactics to assess the truthfulness of a detainee's stories, but even when skillfully employed, such techniques do not provide guarantees, nor do they help build cooperation.
There are many reasons for a detainee to resist direct questioning. Whether such reasons are ideological in nature or based on fear of reprisals, a detainee must actively make the decision to provide his interrogator with accurate information. Without the desire, the detainee simply will not respond, regardless of any interrogation approach. Many advocates of enhanced interrogation techniques believe the detainee will choose to provide accurate information to stop the pain.
In order to help an approach, an interrogator must build rapport with the subject. They must develop a relationship where credibility exists in both the interrogator and the detainee. It is only after doing this that an interrogator can accurately assess the truthfulness of a detainee's responses. Rapport helps the interrogator establish a baseline for the detainee and understand his typical behavior and mannerisms, developed through conversations discussing pertinent and non-pertinent matters. Likewise, building rapport helps bolster the credibility of the interrogator. It is particularly helpful when using incentive-based approaches and makes the interrogator's other planned approaches more effective. Using harsh techniques or torture complicates the rapport-building process, making it harder for an interrogator to discern between lies and truth.
Building rapport does not always mean the detainee will develop positive feelings toward the interrogator, and even some approved approaches require developing an uncordial relationship. However, placing the detainee under the stress of extreme emotional or physical pain will halt any relationship building as the detainee focuses on his pain. Because an interrogator is never quite certain of what a detainee knows, the detainee under duress or pain may be subjected to questions he may truthfully not know the answers to. In this situation, a detainee will be pushed to say anything necessary to stop the pain, including lies.
Even if the detainee actually has an answer that would satisfy his interrogator, he can still use resistance techniques. Resisting subjects often provide a detailed response that barely answers a given question. They also provide harmless nuggets of truth in hopes of persuading the interrogators of their full cooperation. Again, having prior intelligence on the detainee and building rapport is crucial to spotting these resistance techniques.
Not all inaccurate information provided by the detainee is necessarily a result of his being uncooperative. When being questioned under duress or pain, a detainee may simply lie to make up for a lack of knowledge. More common, however, is that all people have varying abilities to accurately recollect events, descriptions and conversations. Interrogators, particularly those tasked with gathering information on pending attacks, must strive to obtain the smallest details from the detainee. This can significantly challenge any person's memory, especially someone under extreme stress. Details of a story may become more difficult to remember, and if under extreme stress, the detainee may fabricate a critical detail, even when largely telling the truth, in order to satisfy the interrogator.
While the need to uncover imminent terrorist attacks in the chaos directly after 9/11 was clear, several years of results have made it obvious that using enhanced interrogation techniques is not reliable. Other interrogation approaches, specifically those still permitted by FM 2-22.3, in concert with building a rapport with a detainee, yield far more reliable results. Additionally, using other intelligence-gathering methods under the human intelligence discipline, or methods from other disciplines such as signals intelligence, have proved more productive. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report only confirms this fact, acknowledging what the intelligence community already knows.
Read more: Why Torture Is Counterproductive | Stratfor
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Stratfor in 2009: Torture and the US Intel failure
Reply #401 on:
December 11, 2014, 05:27:53 PM »
Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure
April 20, 2009 | 17:47 GMT Print Text Size
Dissecting the Chinese Miracle
By George Friedman
The Obama administration published a series of memoranda on torture issued under the Bush administration. The memoranda, most of which dated from the period after 9/11, authorized measures including depriving prisoners of solid food, having them stand shackled and in uncomfortable positions, leaving them in cold cells with inadequate clothing, slapping their heads and/or abdomens, and telling them that their families might be harmed if they didn't cooperate with their interrogators.
On the scale of human cruelty, these actions do not rise anywhere near the top. At the same time, anyone who thinks that being placed without food in a freezing cell subject to random mild beatings — all while being told that your family might be joining you — isn't agonizing clearly lacks imagination. The treatment of detainees could have been worse. It was terrible nonetheless.
Torture and the Intelligence Gap
But torture is meant to be terrible, and we must judge the torturer in the context of his own desperation. In the wake of 9/11, anyone who wasn't terrified was not in touch with reality. We know several people who now are quite blasé about 9/11. Unfortunately for them, we knew them in the months after, and they were not nearly as composed then as they are now.
Sept. 11 was terrifying for one main reason: We had little idea about al Qaeda's capabilities. It was a very reasonable assumption that other al Qaeda cells were operating in the United States and that any day might bring follow-on attacks. (Especially given the group's reputation for one-two attacks.) We still remember our first flight after 9/11, looking at our fellow passengers, planning what we would do if one of them moved. Every time a passenger visited the lavatory, one could see the tensions soar.
And while Sept. 11 was frightening enough, there were ample fears that al Qaeda had secured a "suitcase bomb" and that a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city could come at any moment. For individuals, such an attack was simply another possibility. We remember staying at a hotel in Washington close to the White House and realizing that we were at ground zero — and imagining what the next moment might be like. For the government, however, the problem was having scraps of intelligence indicating that al Qaeda might have a nuclear weapon, but not having any way of telling whether those scraps had any value. The president and vice president accordingly were continually kept at different locations, and not for any frivolous reason.
This lack of intelligence led directly to the most extreme fears, which in turn led to extreme measures. Washington simply did not know very much about al Qaeda and its capabilities and intentions in the United States. A lack of knowledge forces people to think of worst-case scenarios. In the absence of intelligence to the contrary after 9/11, the only reasonable assumption was that al Qaeda was planning more — and perhaps worse — attacks.
Collecting intelligence rapidly became the highest national priority. Given the genuine and reasonable fears, no action in pursuit of intelligence was out of the question, so long as it promised quick answers. This led to the authorization of torture, among other things. Torture offered a rapid means to accumulate intelligence, or at least — given the time lag on other means — it was something that had to be tried.
Torture and the Moral Question
And this raises the moral question. The United States is a moral project: its Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that. The president takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution does not speak to the question of torture of non-citizens, but it implies an abhorrence of rights violations (at least for citizens). But the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase, "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." This indicates that world opinion matters.
At the same time, the president is sworn to protect the Constitution. In practical terms, this means protecting the physical security of the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Protecting the principles of the declaration and the Constitution are meaningless without regime preservation and defending the nation.
While this all makes for an interesting seminar in political philosophy, presidents — and others who have taken the same oath — do not have the luxury of the contemplative life. They must act on their oaths, and inaction is an action. Former U.S. President George W. Bush knew that he did not know the threat, and that in order to carry out his oath, he needed very rapidly to find out the threat. He could not know that torture would work, but he clearly did not feel that he had the right to avoid it.
Consider this example. Assume you knew that a certain individual knew the location of a nuclear device planted in an American city. The device would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the individual refused to divulge the information. Would anyone who had sworn the oath have the right not to torture the individual? Torture might or might not work, but either way, would it be moral to protect the individual's rights while allowing hundreds of thousands to die? It would seem that in this case, torture is a moral imperative; the rights of the one with the information cannot transcend the life of a city.
Torture in the Real World
But here is the problem: You would not find yourself in this situation. Knowing a bomb had been planted, knowing who knew that the bomb had been planted, and needing only to apply torture to extract this information is not how the real world works. Post-9/11, the United States knew much less about the extent of the threat from al Qaeda. This hypothetical sort of torture was not the issue.
Discrete information was not needed, but situational awareness. The United States did not know what it needed to know, it did not know who was of value and who wasn't, and it did not know how much time it had. Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don't know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well. In such a case, you know you will be following many false leads — and when you carry torture with you, you will be torturing people with little to tell you. Moreover, torture applied by anyone other than well-trained, experienced personnel (who are in exceptionally short supply) will only compound these problems, and make the practice less productive.
Defenders of torture frequently seem to believe that the person in custody is known to have valuable information, and that this information must be forced out of him. His possession of the information is proof of his guilt. The problem is that unless you have excellent intelligence to begin with, you will become engaged in developing baseline intelligence, and the person you are torturing may well know nothing at all. Torture thus becomes not only a waste of time and a violation of decency, it actually undermines good intelligence. After a while, scooping up suspects in a dragnet and trying to extract intelligence becomes a substitute for competent intelligence techniques — and can potentially blind the intelligence service. This is especially true as people will tell you what they think you want to hear to make torture stop.
Critics of torture, on the other hand, seem to assume the torture was brutality for the sake of brutality instead of a desperate attempt to get some clarity on what might well have been a catastrophic outcome. The critics also cannot know the extent to which the use of torture actually prevented follow-on attacks. They assume that to the extent that torture was useful, it was not essential; that there were other ways to find out what was needed. In the long run, they might have been correct. But neither they, nor anyone else, had the right to assume in late 2001 that there was a long run. One of the things that wasn't known was how much time there was.
The U.S. Intelligence Failure
The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda's intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.
That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn't need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.
Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.
The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator's tool kit.
At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn't.
If you know that an individual is loaded with information, torture can be a useful tool. But if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That's not when you use torture. That's when you simply point out to the prisoner that, "for you the war is over." You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.
U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.
The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.
Read more: Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure | Stratfor
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POTH: Panel- no penalty for CIA's search of/raid on Feinstein's computers
Reply #402 on:
December 20, 2014, 10:24:53 AM »
WASHINGTON — A panel investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.’s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone involved in the episode, according to current and former government officials.
The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.
While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report, the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress. But its decision not to recommend anyone for disciplinary action is likely to anger members of the Intelligence Committee, who have accused the C.I.A. of trampling on the independence of Congress and interfering with its investigation of agency wrongdoing. The computer searches occurred late last year while the committee was finishing an excoriating report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
The computer search raised questions about the separation of powers and caused one of the most public rifts in years between the nation’s intelligence agencies and the Senate oversight panel, which conducts most of its business in secret. It led to an unusually heated and public rebuke by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is the committee’s chairwoman.
Three C.I.A. technology officers and two lawyers had faced possible punishment. In their defense, some pointed to documents — including notes of a phone call with Mr. Brennan — that they said indicated that the director supported their actions, according to interviews with a half dozen current and former government officials and others briefed on the case.
The panel’s chairman is Evan Bayh, a Democratic former senator from Indiana who served on the Intelligence Committee. Its other outside member is Robert F. Bauer, who served as White House counsel during President Obama’s first term.
The panel’s specific conclusions are still being finalized, and it could be weeks before they present a report to the C.I.A. But officials said that the five agency employees had been informed that the panel would recommend that they not be disciplined.
The results of such investigations, known as accountability boards, are not normally released. But given the public nature of the dispute, it is expected that some of the conclusions will eventually become public.
“The process is ongoing,” said Dean Boyd, the C.I.A. spokesman. “We haven’t seen what it says, so it’s impossible to comment on it.”
When the controversy over the search erupted, Mr. Brennan offered a vigorous defense of his agency. He later apologized after the C.I.A.’s inspector general concluded that the agency had improperly monitored the committee’s activities. The inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers had read the emails of agency investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information.
Mr. Brennan has enraged senators by refusing to answer questions posed by the Intelligence Committee about who at the C.I.A. authorized the computer intrusion. Doing so, he said, could compromise the accountability board’s investigation.
“What did he know? When did he know it? What did he order?” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in an interview last week. “They haven’t answered those basic questions.”
The computer controversy erupted last December amid a dispute between the C.I.A. and committee Democrats and staff members over the conclusions of the torture report, which was released last week. As it does today, the C.I.A. disputed the report’s findings that brutal interrogation tactics yielded no crucial intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks. During a committee hearing, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, revealed the existence of a previously unknown internal C.I.A. report that he said backed up the committee’s findings.
“If this is true,” Mr. Udall said, “this raises fundamental questions about why a review the C.I.A. conducted internally years ago — and never provided to the committee — is so different from the C.I.A.’s formal response to the committee study.”
By then, agency officials had already suspected that committee investigators had found the internal review, which was ordered in 2009 by Leon E. Panetta, then the C.I.A. director, and has come to be known as the “Panetta review.” Working for years from the basement of a C.I.A. facility in North Virginia, Senate investigators reviewed millions of digital files related to the interrogation program. But the Panetta review was not supposed to be one of them, and agency officials suspected that Senate investigators had somehow gained access to parts of the C.I.A.’s computer network they had been prohibited from searching.
C.I.A. officers searched their logs to see if they had inadvertently given the Panetta review to the Senate. When they determined they had not, officials brought the matter to Mr. Brennan, who authorized what he has called “a limited review” to figure out if Senate staff members had obtained the documents.
The inspector general’s report included details of a conversation last December, when Mr. Brennan called the home of one of the C.I.A. lawyers under investigation. According to two people with knowledge of the inspector general’s findings, the lawyer wrote a memorandum about the conversation that said Mr. Brennan told him he needed to get to the bottom of the matter.
Much of the dispute between the Senate and the C.I.A. revolves around what rules governed the computer system used by Senate investigators as they wrote their report. The C.I.A. made the documents available to the investigators and created a search function that allowed them to locate documents based on key words. The rules for accessing the network were established in a series of memos and letters, not one formal document.
The flip side of this is rather obvious
Reply #403 on:
January 03, 2015, 04:37:12 PM »
F.B.I. Employees With Ties Abroad See Security Bias
The F.B.I. is subjecting hundreds of its employees who were born overseas or have relatives or friends there to an aggressive internal surveillance program that started after Sept. 11, 2001, to prevent foreign spies from coercing newly hired linguists but that has been greatly expanded since then.
The program has drawn criticism from F.B.I. linguists, agents and other personnel with foreign language and cultural skills, and with ties abroad. They complain they are being discriminated against by a secretive “risk-management” plan that the agency uses to guard against espionage. This limits their assignments and stalls their careers, according to several employees and their lawyers.
READ MORE »
I wonder what is behind this?
Reply #404 on:
January 09, 2015, 05:31:19 PM »
Prosecutors Said to Recommend Charges Against Former Gen. David Petraeus
The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said, leaving Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to decide whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison.
The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information.
Mr. Petraeus, a retired four star-general who served as commander of American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has said he never provided classified information to Ms. Broadwell, and has indicated to the Justice Department that he has no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial.
READ MORE »
The Missing Pages of the 911 Report
Reply #405 on:
January 16, 2015, 02:06:01 PM »
POTH: Condaleeza Rice testifies
Reply #406 on:
January 16, 2015, 08:58:02 PM »
WASHINGTON — White House officials favor two primary tactics when they want to kill a news article, Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, testified Thursday: They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong.
Sitting across from a reporter and editor from The New York Times in early 2003, Ms. Rice said, she tried both.
Testifying in the leak trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, Ms. Rice described how the White House successfully persuaded Times editors not to publish an article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. James Risen, a Times reporter, ultimately revealed the program in his 2006 book, “State of War,” and said that the C.I.A. had botched the operation. Prosecutors used Ms. Rice’s testimony to bolster their case that the leak to Mr. Risen had harmed national security.
“This was very closely held,” Ms. Rice said. “It was one of the most closely held programs in my tenure as national security adviser.”
Ms. Rice’s account also threw a light on how the government pressures journalists to avoid publishing details about United States security affairs. It is a common practice that is seldom discussed.
Under President George W. Bush, the White House urged reporters to withhold accounts about many of the most contentious aspects in the war on terrorism: the existence of a secret prison in Thailand, the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation and detention program, warrantless wiretapping and government monitoring of financial transactions.
The Obama administration has persuaded reporters to delay publishing the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia, the name of a country in which a drone strike against an American citizen was being considered, the fact that a diplomat arrested in Pakistan was a C.I.A. officer and that an American businessman was working for the agency when he disappeared in Iran.
Mr. Sterling is charged with revealing classified information to Mr. Risen. Phone records and emails show that the two men were in contact, and the Justice Department argues that Mr. Sterling was a disgruntled employee who leaked the information to hurt the agency. His lawyers say the government did not investigate anyone else over the leak or review the phone records and emails of Mr. Sterling’s colleagues before focusing on him.
William Harlow, a former C.I.A. spokesman, testified Thursday that he was surprised when Mr. Risen first raised the subject of the Iranian operation in April 2003. Mr. Harlow testified that he did not know at the time that such an operation existed, and told Mr. Risen that only “a publication that didn’t have our best interests” would run such an article.
“I wanted to get his attention,” Mr. Harlow said.
Mr. Harlow summarized multiple phone conversations with Mr. Risen in memos that would form the foundation of the leak investigation.
The Iranian operation involved a former Russian nuclear scientist who, while working for the C.I.A., provided Tehran with schematics that were intentionally flawed. Mr. Risen’s book suggests that the program was mismanaged, that the Iranians quickly discovered the flaws and that they could have easily worked around them. The government disputes that conclusion.
According to notes of the White House meeting, George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director at the time, told Mr. Risen and his editor, Jill Abramson, that the program was not mismanaged and that Iran had not discovered the design flaw. The C.I.A. prepared talking points for Ms. Rice that said that revealing the program would not only jeopardize the former Russian scientist — who had become an American citizen — but “conceivably contribute to the deaths of millions of innocent victims” in the event of an Iranian nuclear attack. Ms. Rice said she urged The Times to destroy any documents or notes about the program.
The Times ultimately did not run the article. Ms. Abramson, who was the Washington bureau chief at the time, said recently that she regretted not pushing to publish it. Told about Ms. Rice’s testimony, Ms. Abramson said in an email on Thursday that the trial “seems anticlimactic and pointless.”
Mr. Risen declined to comment. The Justice Department decided against putting him on the witness stand at trial, leaving prosecutors with a largely circumstantial case. But prosecutors have said that Mr. Sterling is the only one who could have leaked the information.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #407 on:
February 01, 2015, 07:33:32 PM »
Ever wonder about the timing of these reports let alone their veracity?
WSJ: The Lie that "Bush Lied"
Reply #408 on:
February 09, 2015, 02:08:47 PM »
The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’
Some journalists still peddle this canard as if it were fact. This is defamatory and could end up hurting the country.
By Laurence H. Silberman
Feb. 8, 2015 6:25 p.m. ET
In recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq.”
I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.
The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.
Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Saddam had manifested sharp hostility toward America, including firing at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone set up by the armistice agreement ending the first Iraq war. Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush —a car-bombing plot was foiled—during Mr. Bush’s visit to Kuwait in 1993. But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD. Accordingly, when Secretary of State Colin Powell formally presented the U.S. case to the United Nations, Mr. Powell relied entirely on that aspect of the threat from Iraq.
Our WMD commission ultimately determined that the intelligence community was “dead wrong” about Saddam’s weapons. But as I recall, no one in Washington political circles offered significant disagreement with the intelligence community before the invasion. The National Intelligence Estimate was persuasive—to the president, to Congress and to the media.
Granted, there were those who disagreed with waging war against Saddam even if he did possess WMD. Some in Congress joined Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and former national security adviser, in publicly doubting the wisdom of invading Iraq. It is worth noting, however, that when Saddam was captured and interrogated, he told his interrogators that he had intended to seek revenge on Kuwait for its cooperation with the U.S. by invading again at a propitious time. This leads me to speculate that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003 and Saddam had remained in power, the U.S. might have felt compelled to do so once Iraq again invaded Kuwait.
In any event, it is one thing to assert, then or now, that the Iraq war was ill-advised. It is quite another to make the horrendous charge that President Bush lied to or deceived the American people about the threat from Saddam.
I recently wrote to Ron Fournier protesting his accusation. His response, in an email, was to reiterate that “an objective reading of the events leads to only one conclusion: the administration . . . misinterpreted, distorted and in some cases lied about intelligence.” Although Mr. Fournier referred to “evidence” supporting his view, he did not cite any—and I do not believe there is any.
He did say correctly that “intelligence is never dispositive; it requires analysis and judgment, with the final call and responsibility resting with the president.” It is thus certainly possible to criticize President Bush for having believed what the CIA told him, although it seems to me that any president would have credited such confident assertions by the intelligence community. But to accuse the president of lying us into war must be seen as not only false, but as dangerously defamatory.
The charge is dangerous because it can take on the air of historical fact—with potentially dire consequences. I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians.
Sometime in the future, perhaps long after most of us are gone, an American president may need to rely publicly on intelligence reports to support military action. It would be tragic if, at such a critical moment, the president’s credibility were undermined by memories of a false charge peddled by the likes of Ron Fournier.
Mr. Silberman, a senior federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
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How America was misled on AQ's demise
Reply #409 on:
March 06, 2015, 08:05:32 AM »
How America Was Misled on al Qaeda’s Demise
The White House portrait of a crumbling terror group is contradicted by documents seized in the bin Laden raid.
Stephen F. Hayes And
March 5, 2015 7:13 p.m. ET
In the early-morning hours of May 2, 2011, a small team of American military and intelligence professionals landed inside the high white walls of a mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The team’s mission, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, had two primary objectives: capture or kill Osama bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about the al Qaeda leader and his network. A bullet to bin Laden’s head accomplished the first; the quick work of the Sensitive Site Exploitation team accomplished the second.
It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”
The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.
But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.
In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”
The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.
It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion.
“The leadership down at Central Command wanted to know what were we learning from these documents,” says Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to the transcript of an interview with Fox News anchor Bret Baier for a coming Fox News Reporting special. “We were still facing a growing al Qaeda threat. And it was not just Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq. But we saw it growing in Yemen. We clearly saw it growing still in East Africa.” The threat “wasn’t going away,” he adds, “and we wanted to know: What can we learn from these documents?”
After a pitched bureaucratic battle, a small team of analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Centcom was given time-limited, read-only access to the documents. The DIA team began producing analyses reflecting what they were seeing in the documents.
At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: “By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.”
This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.
Even this limited glimpse into the broader set of documents revealed the problems with the administration’s claims about al Qaeda. Bin Laden had clear control of al Qaeda and was intimately involved in day-to-day management. More important, given the dramatic growth of the terror threat in the years since, the documents showed that bin Laden had expansion plans. Lt. Gen. Flynn says bin Laden was giving direction to “members of the wider al Qaeda leadership team, if you will, that went all the way to places like West Africa where we see a problem today with Boko Haram and [al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], all the way back into the things that were going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Bin Laden advised them on everything from specific operations in Europe to the types of crops his minions should plant in East Africa.
To date, the public has seen only two dozen of the 1.5 million documents captured in Abbottabad. “It’s a thimble-full,” says Derek Harvey, a senior intelligence official who helped lead the DIA analysis of the bin Laden collection.
And while it is impossible to paint a complete picture of al Qaeda based on the small set of documents available to the public, documents we are able to read, including those released last week in a Brooklyn terror trial, reveal stunning new details.
According to one letter, dated July 2010, the brother of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s current prime minister, sought to strike a peace deal with the jihadists. Bin Laden was informed that Shahbaz Sharif, who was then the chief minister of Punjab, wanted to cut a deal with the Pakistani Taliban, whose leadership was close to bin Laden. The government “was ready to reestablish normal relations as long as [the Pakistani Taliban] do not conduct operations in Punjab,” according to the letter from Atiyah Abd al Rahman, one of bin Laden’s top deputies. Attacks elsewhere in Pakistan were apparently acceptable under the terms of the alleged proposal. Al Qaeda intended to guide the Pakistani Taliban throughout the negotiations. The same letter reveals how al Qaeda and its allies used the threat of terrorist attacks as a negotiating tactic in its talks with the Pakistani military.
The letter also shows that Pakistani intelligence was willing to negotiate with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda “leaked” word to the press that “big, earth shaking operations” were planned in Pakistan, the letter says, but bin Laden’s men and their allies would back off if the Pakistani army eased up on its offensive against the jihadists in the north: “In the aftermath” of the al Qaeda leak, “the intelligence people . . . started reaching out to us through some of the Pakistani ‘jihadist’ groups, the ones they approve of.” One of the Pakistani intelligence service’s emissaries was Fazl-ur-Rahman Khalil, a longtime bin Laden ally who leads the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen. Khalil was an early booster of bin Laden’s war against the West, having signed the al Qaeda master’s infamous 1998 fatwa declaring jihad “against the Jews and the Crusaders.” Another government intermediary was Hamid Gul, the one-time head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Al Qaeda’s network in Iran is also described in bin Laden’s letters. The Iranian regime held some senior al Qaeda leaders, eventually releasing them. This led to disagreements between the two sides. But the mullahs have also allowed al Qaeda to use Iranian soil as a key transit hub, shuttling fighters and cash to and from South Asia. One letter recounts a plan, devised by Yunis al Mauritani, one of bin Laden’s senior lieutenants, to relocate to Iran. Once there, Mauritani would dispatch terrorists to take part in operations around the world.
Mauritani was tasked by bin Laden with planning Mumbai-style shootings in Europe in 2010. The plot was fortunately thwarted. But all of the terrorists selected to take part transited Iran, according to court proceedings in Germany, taking advantage of the Iranian regime’s agreement with al Qaeda.
During the Arab uprisings in 2011, Obama administration officials argued that al Qaeda had been “sidelined” by the peaceful protests. Just weeks before he was killed, however, bin Laden’s men dispatched operatives to Libya and elsewhere to take advantage of the upheaval. “There has been an active Jihadist Islamic renaissance under way in Eastern Libya (Benghazi, Derna, Bayda and that area) for some time, just waiting for this kind of opportunity,” Atiyah Abd al Rahman wrote in early April 2011. Rahman thought there was much “good” in the so-called Arab Spring. And bin Laden believed that the upheaval presented al Qaeda with “unprecedented opportunities” to spread its radical ideology.
The fight over the bin Laden documents continues. Mr. Harvey, the senior DIA official, believes that the documents should be declassified and released to the public as soon as possible, after taking precautions to avoid compromising sources or methods. Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, inserted language in the 2014 intelligence authorization bill requiring just that.
Making the documents public is long overdue. The information in them is directly relevant to many of the challenges we face today—from a nuclear deal with an Iranian regime that supports al Qaeda to the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; from confidence-building measures meant to please the Afghan Taliban to the trustworthiness of senior Pakistani officials.
Choosing ignorance shouldn’t be an option.
Mr. Hayes is a senior writer for the Weekly Standard. Mr. Joscelyn is senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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Reply #410 on:
March 06, 2015, 08:37:52 PM »
LANGLEY, Va. — John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency, a move he said would make it more successful against modern threats and crises.
Drawing from disparate sources — from the Pentagon to corporate America — Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.
During a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan gave few specifics about how a new structure would make the C.I.A. better at spying in an era of continued terrorism, cyberspying and tumult across the Middle East. But he said the current structure of having undercover spies and analysts cloistered separately — with little interaction and answering to different bosses — was anachronistic given the myriad global issues the agency faces.
“I’ve never seen a time when we have been confronted with such an array of very challenging, complex and serious threats to our national security, and issues that we have to grapple with,” he said.
One model for the new divisions is the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, an amalgam of undercover spies and analysts charged with hunting, and often killing, militant suspects across the globe. Once a small, occasionally neglected office in the C.I.A., the Counterterrorism Center has grown into a behemoth with thousands of officers since the Sept. 11 attacks as the C.I.A. has taken charge of a number of secret wars overseas.
But Mr. Brennan also cited another model for his new plan: the American military. He said that the Defense Department’s structure of having a single military commander in charge of all operations in a particular region — the way a four-star commander runs United States Central Command — was an efficient structure that led to better accountability.
Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior C.I.A. analyst, said that the reorganization “is not going to go down smoothly” at the agency, especially among clandestine spies who have long been able to withhold information from analysts, such as the identity of their foreign agents. “The clandestine service is very, very guarded about giving too much information about sources to the analysts,” he said.
But Mr. Lowenthal, who said he had not been briefed about the reorganization and was basing his understanding of Mr. Brennan’s plan on news accounts, said that the new mission centers could help avoid a debacle like the intelligence assessments before the Iraq war, when analysts trusted information from sources they knew little about, and who were later discredited.
During his two years as C.I.A. director, Mr. Brennan has become known for working long days but also for being loath to delegate decisions to lower levels of C.I.A. bureaucracy. During the briefing on Wednesday, he showed flashes of frustration that, under the C.I.A.’s current structure, there is not one single person in charge of — and to hold accountable for — a number of pressing issues.
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
He avoided citing any specific examples of how the C.I.A.’s current structure was hampering operations, and often used management jargon while describing his vision for the agency.
He spoke of wanting to “wring efficiencies” out of the system and trying to identify “seams” in the agency’s current structure that hinder the C.I.A. from adequately addressing complex problems. The C.I.A. needed to modernize even if the current system was not “broken,” he said, citing how Kodak failed to anticipate the advent of digital cameras.
Mr. Brennan said he was also adding a new directorate at the agency responsible for all of the C.I.A.’s digital operations — from cyberespionage to data warehousing and analysis.
Mr. Brennan discussed his plans with reporters on the condition that nothing be made public until he met with C.I.A. employees to discuss the new structure. That meeting was Friday.
While adding the new digital directorate, Mr. Brennan chose not to scuttle the C.I.A.’s four traditional directorates sitting at the top of the bureaucracy — those in charge of clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, science and technology research, and personnel support.
The C.I.A.’s clandestine service, the cadre of undercover spies known for decades as the Directorate of Operations and in recent years renamed the National Clandestine Service, will get its original name back under Mr. Brennan’s plan.
Amy Zegart, an intelligence expert at Stanford, said that the C.I.A. risked being drawn further into the daily churn of events rather than focusing on “over-the-horizon threats” at a time when the C.I.A. has already come under criticism for paying little attention to long-term trends.
For his part, Mr. Brennan said this was the very thing he was trying to avoid — reacting to the world’s crises and not giving policy makers sufficient warning before they happened.
“I don’t want to just be part of an agency that reports on the world’s fires, and the collapse of various countries and systems,” he said.
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #411 on:
March 11, 2015, 10:42:12 AM »
Leak Investigation Could Reveal U.S.-Israeli Covert Operation
A leak investigation targeting retired Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright has stalled due to fears that a prosecution could reveal classified information about joint U.S.-Israeli efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Investigators suspect that Cartwright leaked details of the operation, which used the computer worm Stuxnet to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, to New York Times reporter David Sanger. However, prosecution could force the government to confirm details of the operation in open court, potentially putting it at odds with the Israeli government, if Israeli officials were opposed to having their role revealed. U.S. officials also fear that it could undermine negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program at a sensitive time.
ISIS Releases Video Promising Another 9-11...
Reply #412 on:
April 11, 2015, 10:33:03 PM »
And the U.S. Government Pretends Not to Notice. It's "just a small bunch of extremists," after all.
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Reply #413 on:
April 15, 2015, 08:07:50 PM »
Why We Can’t Just Read English Newspapers to Understand Terrorism
And how Big Data can help.
By Kalev Leetaru
April 15, 2015
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Why We Can’t Just Read English Newspapers to Understand Terrorism
A few weeks ago, the White House convened the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), a three-day event intended to “discuss concrete steps” that the United States and its allies can take to mitigate violent extremism around the globe. Yet, the sobering reality is that despite 75 years of monitoring the world’s media and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on global monitoring over just the last few years, much of the U.S. government’s understanding of patterns of violent extremism comes from reading Western English-language newspapers. Meanwhile, its intelligence agencies hoover up extremist communications, but find their archives of little use: it’s hard not to shake one’s head upon reading that analysts assigned to the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba complained that “most of [the intercepted communications] is in Arabic or Farsi, so I can’t make much of it.”
How can Washington hope to counter violent extremism when the analysts assigned to monitor extremist communications can’t even understand a word of what they are reading?
Helping to kick off the CVE summit was a presentation by William Braniff offering an overview of global terrorism trends from a dataset known as the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). The GTD dataset, created by the University of Maryland, is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense and is widely cited in government reports and the news media, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to CNN. Yet, while GTD is heavily utilized as a definitive source of information on global terrorism, it is actually based nearly exclusively on English-language news sources.
When the Los Angeles Times is cited among the primary source material on an Islamic State kidnapping in al-Bab, Syria, and the Chicago Tribune is listed as a primary source for a grenade attack on a market in Rajuri, India, one must question the comprehensiveness of GTD’s data. In fact, according to GTD, of the top 10 countries with the most terrorist attacks in 2013 (their most recent reporting year), just one features English as its primary language (Nigeria) and just two more (India and the Philippines) feature English among their official languages. Collectively, these three English-speaking countries comprise just 17 percent of attacks and 16 percent of fatalities due to terrorism in 2013 in the top 10 countries. It’s difficult to understand GTD’s emphasis on English-language Western outlets in the place of native language local media outlets in the countries where 83 percent of terrorist attacks allegedly take place.
Yet, GTD is far from alone: this focus on Western English-language sources pervades Washington’s efforts to monitor and understand the world. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity-funded HealthMap project missed the earliest warnings of the Ebola outbreak because the original warnings were in a French television broadcast, rather than English-language Western social media feeds. DARPA’s flagship $125 million Worldwide Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (W-ICEWS) program is based almost exclusively on English news outlets with a small amount of human translated material, and has achieved an accuracy level of less than 25 percent. The small amount of translated material that W-ICEWS does incorporate is drawn primarily from the U.S. Open Source Center, which is responsible for monitoring and translating global news and social media.
Yet, even as CIA Director John Brennan announces his intentions to expand the agency, the Open Source Center still draws nearly half its material from English-language outlets, relies primarily on European news agencies for coverage of Africa, and has little coverage of Latin America. In fact, it monitors considerably more news from Russia than from the entire continent of Latin America and the countries of Spain and Portugal combined. Its coverage of languages from regions at elevated risks of terrorism is particularly poor: The Open Source Center’s total monitoring volume of Bengali (the official language of Bangladesh, which the 2014 Global Terrorism Index places at high risk of terrorism) averaged just a single translated article per week for over 20 years.
There will never be sufficient human translators to monitor the combined output of all the world’s media in all the world’s languages each day.
There will never be sufficient human translators to monitor the combined output of all the world’s media in all the world’s languages each day. This is where machine translation, as imperfect as it may be, offers tremendous opportunity. While machine translation is still highly error-prone, it is capable of infinite scaling, processing the entirety of all global accessible media in real time. Indeed, the same week as the president’s CVE summit, the GDELT Project announced one of the world’s largest deployments of streaming machine translation, translating into English the entirety of global news that it monitors in 65 languages, representing 98.4 percent of its daily non-English monitoring volume. Within 15 minutes of monitoring a breaking news report anywhere in the world, GDELT has translated it and processed it to identify events, counts, quotes, people, organizations, locations, themes, emotions, relevant imagery, video, and embedded social media posts. Leveraging the effectively unlimited capacity of Google Cloud, I built the entire system in under two and a half months as a “nights and weekends” project.
The ability to reach across 65 languages, coupled with a high-resolution local media inventory of the world, means that — unlike the Pentagon’s efforts — GDELT is able to operate across the world’s languages in real time, rather than being limited to a small cadre of Western English-language outlets to understand unfolding events in a remote corner of the world. For some languages like Russian and Estonian, GDELT uses translation models contributed by some of the leaders in the field and achieves accuracy on par or surpassing that of Google Translate on the material it monitors. For other languages, especially those with few available computerized linguistic resources like Swahili, it is still able to robustly recognize locations, major person and organization names, themes, and key event types, but is often less able to discern slight nuance and sarcasm, though its dictionaries are designed to grow daily as it learns from open datasets like Wikipedia’s multilingual information. Machine translation cannot yet compete with the accuracy of expert human translation, but even at its worse, GDELT can flag an article as discussing a large violent protest in a specific city, along with the major ethnic, religious, social, and political groups and leaders mentioned, allowing it to be forwarded to a human analyst for further review. After all, the error of machine translation can be fixed in post-processing, but it isn’t possible to fix or filter what hasn’t been monitored and flagged in the first place.
Moreover, as the accuracy of machine translation continues to rapidly improve, and tools and training datasets become available for an ever-increasing number of languages, GDELT’s algorithms will regularly upgraded. The goal of GDELT’s mass translation initiative is to demonstrate the feasibility of mass translation of global information in real time and to offer a living test-bed that can leverage new technologies and approaches for mass translation.
The map below illustrates why it is so critical to look across languages. All global news coverage monitored by GDELT from Feb. 19 through March 1 was scanned for mentions of geographic locations in Yemen. Locations mentioned in English-language news coverage are colored in blue, while locations mentioned in the 65 other languages recognized by GDELT are colored in red. Larger dots indicate greater volume of coverage mentioning that location. English coverage of Yemen largely focuses on several small clusters of locations around major cities, which is a common artifact of English coverage of the non-Western world, while the media of other languages (especially Arabic) discuss a much broader range of locations across the country. Understanding the current situation in Yemen beyond events in Sanaa or Aden clearly requires turning to local press.
Figure 1 - Locations mentioned in global news coverage of Yemen 2/19/2015 – 3/1/2015 (Blue = English news media, Red = Non-English news media)
Figure 1 – Locations mentioned in global news coverage of Yemen 2/19/2015 – 3/1/2015. (Blue = English news media, Red = Non-English news media.)
Moreover, the emotional and thematic contextualization of ongoing events in the local press can yield critical insights: in the case of Russia, while Western governments paint Moscow as the aggressor in Ukraine, a recent poll suggests 81 percent of the population have a negative view of the United States, the highest of the post-Soviet era, while Vladimir Putin’s approval rating sits at 86 percent. Much of this support is due to careful stage managing of the domestic media environment, requiring an understanding of the Russian psyche to fully understand the root underpinnings of Putin’s increasing popularity — even as sanctions devastate his country’s economy.
Similarly, much of the recent conversation on countering extremism has focused on the “root causes” of how individuals become radicalized or join extremist groups. In a much-maligned February interview with MSNBC (which led to the #JobsForISIS hashtag on Twitter), the State Department’s Marie Harf cited “a lack of opportunity for jobs” as the key root cause for radicalization, a position which the president himself expounded upon at length in his own speech later that week. As Foreign Policy’s South Asia Channel editor and CNN commentator Peter Bergen has noted, however, many of the extremists gracing international front pages, from Osama bin Laden to Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, Mohamed Atta to “Jihadi John,” have come from relatively wealthy and privileged backgrounds, not abject poverty. Yet even Bergen acknowledges that the foot soldiers of the Islamic State often come from far more modest backgrounds, and as the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor writes, even a middle class upbringing does not always equate to perceptions of infinite opportunity.
The truth is that there is no single “root cause” of extremism. Much as there is no single view on gun control or abortion in the United States, we must accept a far more fragmented and nuanced understanding of world views. Some may indeed join the Islamic State due to a perceived lack of opportunity, while others may join out of religious beliefs. Acknowledging that there is a continuum of rationales allows for the development of multiple tailored responses that transcend the over-simplicity of political soundbites and more precisely target cultural-specific narratives.
Given the enormous complexity of the world’s cultures, how can the U.S. government even begin to interact with the views and beliefs associated with elevated levels or risk of extremism?
Given the enormous complexity of the world’s cultures, how can the U.S. government even begin to interact with the views and beliefs associated with elevated levels or risk of extremism? In our chapter of a report on megacities published last spring and prefaced by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Charles Ehlschlaeger and I noted that linguistic and cultural barriers form the primary obstacles towards understanding the developing world that is “often characterized by complex tribal, ethnic, linguistic, religious, familial, and societal affiliations and interconnections” that are “foreign” to most Western analysts. In short, merely being able to read the language of an extremist group does not automatically provide the necessary insight to understand the underlying world views of that group.
Last fall, in collaboration with Timothy Perkins and Chris Rewerts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published in the journal D-Lib, we demonstrated that it was possible to use large-scale data mining to construct a socio-cultural index over a region of particular interest to CVE: Africa and the Middle East. More than 21 billion words of academic literature on Africa and the Middle East, the entirety of JSTOR, all unclassified/declassified reports from the U.S. Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), and the Internet Archive’s 1.6 billion archived PDFs were computer-processed to identify all mentions of social, religious, and ethnic groups; locations; major themes; and citations. The index can be used to map the geographic footprint of topics, list the thematic grievances most associated with conflict between ethnic groups in a particular area, and even as a “find an expert” system to identify the most frequently cited researchers specializing in particular issues. For example, mapping all locations associated with food or water security produces the map below, which in the prototype interface allows an analyst to zoom into an area of interest and instantly access the combined scholarly and governmental output regarding that area.
Figure 2 - Map of locations mentioned in academic and U.S. Government articles on food and water security 1950-2014.
Figure 2 – Map of locations mentioned in academic and U.S. Government articles on food and water security 1950-2014.
Similarly, more than 110,000 human rights reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, and related organizations were processed using the same system to generate a related index of the world’s human rights reports. Instead of keyword queries on the open web, this interface makes it possible to intelligently map relationships and patterns between specific groups, driving forces, human rights abuses, and geography. When combined with the academic literature index above, and the GDELT news index, it is possible to track in near real time the spread of extremism ideologies, beliefs, and actions, and the undercurrents that drive and support them.
Figure 3 – Map of locations mentioned in Amnesty International Reports, Press Materials, Urgent Actions, Event, and “Other” documents published 1960-2014.
Figure 3 – Map of locations mentioned in Amnesty International Reports, Press Materials, Urgent Actions, Event, and “Other” documents published 1960-2014.
The digital era has made us exceptionally good at collecting the world’s information, but in doing so, we’ve emphasized archiving over analysis. Sometimes we have to put down the computer to better see the world, but when it comes to countering global extremism, big data offers the tantalizing ability to augment our human focus on the English language with the ability to listen to the whole world at once, transcending language barriers and reaching deeply into the reactions and emotional resonance of global events to add context and understanding.
If I can build machine translation for 65 languages in just two and a half months — and build an index over half a century and tens of billions of words of cultural knowledge in just half a year — what could the U.S. government achieve if it spent $125 million on listening to the world, rather than reading American newspapers?
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Re: Intel Matters
Reply #414 on:
April 15, 2015, 09:52:34 PM »
A knowledgeable friend comments on this article:
Apart from arabic, they need to understand urdu and related languages. Much of the terrorism has a Pakistani angle.
Something else to note, when someone speaks in English it's for the western audience. They say reasonable things in English because most of the hardliners don't understand a word of it, while the west laps it up. Their real thoughts are in urdu. Even if someone understands urdu, unless they are native speakers and have lived there for a decade, a Rosetta stone major wouldn't have a clue. Cultural understanding and background is key, for that there are no books.
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