Success in Iraq due to better info sharing, Tenet says

The CIA should mimic how intelligence agencies collaborate and how they collected the signals intelligence targeting data that helped the day-to-day business processes of U.S. forces in Iraq, the agency's director said last week.

'We must be even better'by channeling the same sense of urgency of community that we bring to Iraq or the war on terrorism to all our disciplines, each and every day,' George J. Tenet said at a Security Affairs Support Association (SASA) ceremony, where he was presented with the William Oliver Baker Award.

'Our job now as leaders is to take this transformation we have worked on and apply it'not just in crisis or war'but in all aspects of our everyday business, to synchronize our policies and provide the broadest possible access to our data,' he said. (Click to link to a text of the prepared remarks from CIA's web page)

Such a focus has been a staggering problem for the CIA. Lawmakers publicly blamed it and other intelligence agencies for the fact that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred in part because of agencies' failure to share information.

But one aspect of the problem with sharing data among the intelligence agencies is financial in nature, according to Bruce Berkowitz, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Berkowitz wrote a paper titled 'The DI and IT: Failing to Keep up with the Information Revolution,' which the CIA released earlier this month.

'The [directorate of intelligence] has planned for several years to deploy an IT architecture that would enable the directorate to communicate and exchange data more easily and allow analysts to move quickly from one data source to another,' Berkowitz wrote in his paper. 'But these plans have not been implemented because the money has not been available.'

Berkowitz said that 'despite what one sees on TV, there is not much 'gee whiz' software at the typical [intelligence] analyst's desk. A few analysts use some specialized tools for sorting and displaying data, and analysts who cover the more technical accounts use computerized models. But these are the exceptions.'

Berkowitz began his career as a CIA officer and has worked on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and as a consultant to intelligence agencies.

But judging by the intelligence successes during Operation Iraqi Freedom, agencies are improving their cooperation, Tenet said.

'If you look at the evolution of intelligence support to the warfighters from the first Gulf War'through the Balkans, Afghanistan and the most recent conflict in Iraq'it is hard not to be impressed by the seamlessness, fusion, speed and quality of what is being provided on the battlefield,' Tenet said.

'If you look just beneath these successes, you will find extensive collaboration across disciplines,' he added.

Tenet cited success stories in Iraq, such as an analyst providing targeting information based on a signals intelligence lead and another finding a missile launcher with imagery data.

SASA is a professional organization for industry and intelligence agencies. The agency bestows the William Oliver Baker award in honor of the former president and chairman of the board of Bell Laboratories.

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