Eric Fottorino, nouveau directeur du journal “Le Monde”

June 30, 2007


Le directeur de la rédaction du quotidien Le Monde, Eric Fottorino, a été élu, le 26 juin 2007, avec plus de 60 % des voix directeur du journal, lors d’une assemblée générale des journalistes, a indiqué Jean-Michel Dumay, président de la Société des Rédacteurs du Monde (SRM).

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Voir également les suites judiciaires de la polémique occasionnée par la publication du livre de Pierre Péan et Philippe Cohen, La face cachée du Monde: cliquer ici.

Streit um Evolution und Schöpfungslehre

June 30, 2007

Im Feuilleton der  Süddeutschen Zeitung berichtet Alex Rühle von einer ziemlich bersorgniserregenden Tendenz: Der Kreationismus, d.h. die Ablehnung der Evolutionstheorie aus religiösen Gründen, ist nicht nur ein amerikanisches Problem:

“Hierzulande geht man von 1,3 Millionen Evangelikalen aus, die die Bibel wortwörtlich auslegen und folglich auch die wissenschaftliche Evolutionslehre ablehnen. Die Zahl der Schulverweigerer aus fundamentalistischen Gründen wächst. Neben der Sexualkunde und dem gemischt-geschlechtlichen Sportunterricht ist die Evolutionstheorie eines der Hauptargumente der Eltern, wenn sie ihre Kinder vom Unterricht abmelden. Bernhard Wolf, der Sektenbeauftragte der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Bayern, klagt darüber, dass sich allerorten kleine Zentren ‘fundamentalistischer Extremisten‘ immer besser miteinander vernetzten, um eigene Schulen gründen zu können.”

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Im Sog des medialen Populismus

June 30, 2007

In der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung berichtet der Medienwissenschaftler Professor Stephan Russ-Mohl über die negative Entwicklung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Fernsehsender in Europa:

“Blickt man indes auf die Nachbarländer, so werden große Anstalten wie die ARD, die BBC und die italienische RAI jedoch immer mehr zum Opfer einer Dynamik, welche Ökonomen als ‘Tyrannei der kleinen Entscheidungen’ bezeichnen: Millionen Zuschauer zwingen bei der täglichen ‘Abstimmung’ mit der Fernbedienung ein Programm herbei, das immer mehr sein öffentlichrechtliches Profil verliert. Es könnte genauso gut, aber zu einem Bruchteil der Kosten, von privaten Anbietern ausgestrahlt werden. Die Minderheiten, die Anspruchsvolles für ihre Gebührengelder erwarten, gehen leer aus – zumindest zu den Hauptsendezeiten bei den grossen Anbietern.”

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The capital interview: McConnell cites ‘overwhelming evidence’ of Iran’s support for Iraqi insurgents

June 28, 2007


New York, June 28, 2007

Interviewee: John Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence

Interviewer: Eben Kaplan

Admiral Michael McConnell, the U.S. director of national intelligence, says there is “overwhelming evidence” that Tehran is supporting insurgents in Iraq and “compelling” evidence that the same is happening in Afghanistan. McConnell cites insurgents’ increasing use of effective roadside bombs known as Explosively Formed Projectiles that are clearly traceable to Iran.

Speaking about challenges faced at home, McConnell says the intelligence community is “still learning” how to collect domestic intelligence in a way that provides security without infringing on Americans’ rights.

Admiral, just yesterday the Senate subpoenaed the White House for documents relating to domestic surveillance—underscoring the point that this is still a sensitive issue for the American public. I’m wondering how you reconcile the very real need for effective, efficient security with the nation’s desire to preserve civil liberties.

The bill that we have on the Hill at the moment to modernize FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is looking forward and is a request to get us in the position we need to be in to do two things: protect the nation from threats that we know—they’re planning mass casualties in the United States. We know that, we have clear information, clear indications, publicly stated, and we have good intelligence. And the second part is to protect American citizens from any kind of intrusive intelligence that would invade their privacy. The way to do that is very simple. The law needs to be updated so that we can target foreigners, regardless of where [communications are] intercepted in the world, and at the same time, if a U.S. person is ever a subject of surveillance for any reason, it would require a warrant.

There’s actually a third piece of the legislation, which we have to get corrected, and that is to cause the carriers or providers—those who provide telephone service, Internet service and so on—to collaborate and cooperate with the United States. They have to be protected [so that] if they provide that cooperation they’re not subject to suits.

The threat has increased, the intent is stated, and the way the wording in the current law is captured inhibits or prevents us from being successful. We have to do two things: capture the communication of foreign targets without warrants because they’re threats to the United States; and if it involves a U.S. person, a warrant should be required.

One of the more specific threats that we’ve seen, especially this summer, is the threat of homegrown terrorism. This is a relatively new problem for people in your industry to tackle, and so I’m wondering how you’re moving to overcome some of these new challenges. How do you incorporate state and local law enforcement agencies in attempting to deal with the homegrown threat?

This is a particularly challenging problem for us because our communities have always been involved in foreign intelligence, targeting things overseas. Because we had great oceans and certain insularity from the rest of the world, it would be difficult for someone to invade us. So for the most part, we didn’t pay much attention from an intelligence perspective to what was inside the United States. What we were not prepared for was when terrorists left a foreign location and came inside the United States. My personal view is that was why they were successful at 9/11, because they were virtually invisible to foreign intelligence, [and] they hadn’t broken a law so they could do what they needed to do to plan.

This is exactly the challenge for us today. Probably the nation that has the best experience with dealing with this is the United Kingdom in the context of the Irish Republican Army. They had to do domestic surveillance to contend with that problem. We’re still learning how to do that. Now, if someone in the United States is a terrorist, and has a connection with a terrorist located in a foreign country, the intelligence community should be able to target something going on in a foreign country that might involve someone in this country. Once it involves somebody in the United States, that should be a warranted situation, we should conduct appropriate surveillance.

It’s not widely known, many of the details are classified, but there have been any number of events that involved a domestic terrorist—homegrown—who was attracted to and coordinated and connected though some foreign nexus. We gained the insight on the foreign side, and then we made it a criminal situation for observation and bringing it to closure. A number of Americans are alive today because we were successful in making that connection. Now, what happens when a domestic terrorist has no foreign connection? And probably the most famous case is Timothy McVeigh [Oklahoma City bomber]. The way the system works, the way it’s designed by Congress and approved by the executive branch, is that’s a criminal situation.

In recent months U.S. officials have claimed to have evidence that Iran is providing support to insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and there’s been a lot of hawkish rhetoric thrown around Washington toward Tehran. In light of the prewar intelligence failures in Iraq, how much stock you put in these reports?

Interesting choice of words, the way you framed it—you said “claims,” as if it’s alleged, and not true, and you said “hawkish,” as if somebody has a political agenda. I have no political agenda. My mission is to speak truth to power. My mission is to be apolitical and to examine the data and provide a report.

There’s very clear evidence—overwhelming evidence—that Iranians are providing support and munitions and capability—the most heinous of those are referred to as EFPs, that’s shorthand for Explosively Formed Projectile.

What does that mean? If your method of attack that is most effective turns out to be a roadside bomb, and the response on the part of the forces that are being attacked is to build it heavier—more armor—then what you need to be effective is some way to penetrate armor or to push through. There’s a technique in the munitions business: If you can explosively form the projectile it can penetrate many, many inches of armor.

So when the Iraqi insurgents were proving to be less successful, what the Iranians provided were these specially designed machines. The Iranians today, we have clear evidence, are providing the very weapons that are causing U.S. servicemen and women to die. That’s clear, that’s not refuted, that’s not hawkish, that’s not shaded. That is the fact.

On the Afghanistan side, it’s a little less clear. Clearly, we have found munitions that, based on the stenciling, the labeling, are manufactured in Iran; they came from Iran, and they’ve been captured in the recent timeframe. Now, the Iranian government, [which is] Shia, and the old Taliban, [which is] Sunni, were not friends. In fact, they’re enemies. So why would the Shia regime of Iran be supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan?

The only conclusion I can draw is what they’re attempting to do is raise the price for the United States and NATO for our presence in Afghanistan; to inflict casualties on Americans and Germans and Dutch and French and British and New Zealand and other players that are there; to cause reaction in the home countries from which those forces came. The evidence is overwhelming in the Iraq situation, and it’s very plain and, to me, compelling in Afghanistan.

In your Foreign Affairs article, you mentioned the intelligence community is harnessing new Internet technology such as blogs and wikis. I’m wondering what sort of incentives you’re creating to get intelligence professionals to buy into these new technologies, and how much faith you have that they will make a difference in the work that you do.

In my business I was required to do it, to understand it, and it was a matter of survival. So I became an early addict and an early convert.

More than half of the national intelligence community today came in since 2001, so this is not something we’re doing because we’re forcing people. They’re making [it] a condition of continued employment with the United States government, they demand these things. So it’s not hard to do. You just provide the right tools.

In some cases, we’ve had the resources to invent some of the technologies, so some of the capability we have is even more advanced. This is a very definite march. It’s not a trend, it’s not something that’s being forced. We have to go there.

And when we go there, we’re incredibly more effective. Because a machine can do things in milliseconds that a human being could never do. And so if you have the machine do what it does best, what it does is enable the human being. Think of it this way. I used to work with analysts who had a mechanical process to get the information displayed. They spent 80 to 90 percent of their time preparing the information, and 10 percent analyzing—and now that’s upside down.

The machinery can prepare the information in 10 percent of the time; they can spend 90 percent of their time thinking and understanding and developing nuance and insight. So we’re going there. We have to do this to survive—and to do our job effectively, we have to do it in essentially the way U.S. industry is doing it.

Reprinted with kindly permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

US-EU airline deal

June 28, 2007

Deutsche Welle reports that U.S. and European Union officials struck a deal to share passenger information relating to transatlantic flights for security purposes. Officials negotiating the deal had long differed on how to balance security with passenger privacy.

Read full story.

Brown’s British government

June 28, 2007

Britain’s new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has replaced six influential ministers from Tony Blair’s cabinet including Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett. Gordon Brown tapped Blair insider David Miliband to replace Beckett and picked the longtime party insider Alistair Darling to replace himself as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Economist estimates Gordon Brown will seek to retain strong ties with the United States and to continue Blair’s policy of troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The Daily Telegraph has a special dossier about Gordon Brown.

Read full story.

Overhauling Intelligence

June 27, 2007


by Vice Admiral John Michael McConnell

Director of National Intelligence of the United States

Summary: Sixty years ago, the National Security Act created a U.S. intelligence infrastructure that would help win the Cold War. But on 9/11, the need to reform that system became painfully clear. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is now spearheading efforts to enable the intelligence community to better shield the United States from the new threats it faces.


Before World War II, the United States’ defense, intelligence, and foreign policy apparatus were fragmented, as befitted a country with a limited role on the world stage. With U.S. entry into the war, interagency collaboration developed out of crisis-driven necessity. Wartime arrangements, although successful, were ad hoc. And after the war, President Harry Truman and Congress realized that the United States could not meet its new responsibilities without a national security structure that rationalized decision-making and integrated the intelligence and military establishments.

It was against this background that on July 26, 1947 — 60 years ago this summer — Truman signed the National Security Act, a seminal piece of legislation for the U.S. intelligence community that laid the foundation for a robust peacetime intelligence infrastructure.

With the proper tools and public support and the help of allies, the United States built the world’s premier intelligence establishment. It put spy planes in the sky, satellites into space, and listening posts in strategic locations around the world. It also invested in its people, developing a professional cadre of analysts, case officers, linguists, technicians, and program managers and trained them in foreign languages, the sciences, and area studies.

But by the time the Cold War ended, the intelligence establishment that had served Washington so well in the second half of the twentieth century was sorely in need of change. The post-Cold War “peace dividend” led to a reduction of intelligence staffing by 22 percent between fiscal years 1989 and 2001.

Only now is staffing getting back to pre-Cold War levels. The National Security Act mandated that information be shared up the chain of command but not horizontally with other agencies. At the time of the act’s passing, little thought was given to the need for a national-level intelligence apparatus in Washington that could synthesize information from across the government to inform policymakers and help support real-time tactical decisions. That reality, coupled with practices that led to a “stovepiping” of intelligence, arrested the growth of information sharing, collaboration, and integration — patterns that still linger.

All these shortcomings have made the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) and the creation of the post of director of national intelligence (DNI) timely and appropriate but, by themselves, insufficient. Indeed, these measures must be only the beginning of a larger reform. The state-sponsored terrorist groups that threaten the United States are accompanied by an ever larger number of nonstate actors moving at increasing speeds across geographic and organizational boundaries. These new actors blur the traditional distinctions between foreign and domestic, intelligence-related and operational, strategic and tactical. To respond, Washington must forge a collaborative approach to intelligence that increases the agility of individual agencies and facilitates the effective coordination and integration of their work.


The post of DNI was created in 2005 to transform and modernize intelligence institutions, rules, and relationships to meet today’s intelligence needs. Since 1947, new threats to U.S. national security have appeared, new missions have been developed, and new intelligence agencies have come into existence. A national intelligence authority was needed to focus, guide, and coordinate all the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies to better provide timely, tailored intelligence support to a wide range of users with different, and often competing, requirements. The National Security Act sought to unify U.S. military and foreign intelligence efforts, but it did not envision or provide for today’s requirement to integrate intelligence and law enforcement. Our main challenge in doing this is to strike the right balance between centralized direction and decentralized execution so that the Office of the DNI does not just end up being another layer of bureaucracy on top of the existing structures.

Ensuring the integration of foreign and domestic intelligence collection and analysis, as the 9/11 Commission recommended, is one of the most important responsibilities given to the Office of the DNI — and a vital component of striking that balance. How to do this while respecting and protecting the rights Americans hold dear has been among the most difficult challenges facing the intelligence community.

The difficulties have been compounded by the need to operate under the rigid barriers put in place by the National Security Act. Under the act, U.S. intelligence capabilities involve four distinct areas of responsibility: supporting the president, engaging in clandestine activities abroad in support of national policy goals, protecting the United States against Soviet penetration, and supporting strategic military operations. The director of central intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are given responsibility over the first two, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over the third, and military intelligence units over the fourth.

Today, sticking rigidly to these historical distinctions would be a serious impediment to protecting U.S. national security. The United States has enemies who seek to acquire and detonate weapons of mass destruction on U.S. soil. This is a constant and significant threat, and the intelligence community’s work to thwart it must not be constrained by policies of the past. U.S. intelligence agencies started to integrate domestic and foreign intelligence operations after the first World Trade Center terrorist attack in 1993 and the follow-on attacks on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.

The work took on even greater urgency after the tragedy of 9/11. As a result, Americans today benefit from the combined intelligence work of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI’s National Security Branch — an office that brings together the bureau’s counterintelligence, counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and intelligence components. The DHS and the FBI are providing a more integrated approach to intelligence in order to protect the United States from foreign and homegrown terrorists.

But even as the wall between domestic and foreign intelligence collection was coming down, a wall between foreign intelligence and law enforcement remained standing. In 1981, for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration was taken out of the intelligence community because of concerns that it would improperly mix intelligence and law enforcement. But that commingling was absolutely necessary: with its large law enforcement presence abroad, the DEA is able to contribute unique narcotics information and overseas experience. Hence, last year, the DNI helped the DEA establish its Office of National Security Intelligence. This newest member of the U.S. intelligence community brings access, insights, and experience in foreign and domestic narcoterrorism.

Coordinating domestic and foreign intelligence continues to be a challenge. The intelligence community has an obligation to better identify and counter threats to Americans while still safeguarding their privacy. But the task is inherently a difficult one. New technology being developed by the Office of the DNI’s chief information officer and chief technology officer to access and process vast amounts of digital data to find terrorist-related information is being overseen by the DNI’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Office.

Another challenge is determining how and when it is appropriate to conduct surveillance of a group of Americans who are, say, influenced by al Qaeda’s jihadist philosophy. On one level, they are U.S. citizens engaging in free speech and associating freely with one another. On another, they could be plotting terrorist attacks that could kill hundreds of people.


The DNI also needs to transform the culture of the intelligence community, which is presently characterized by a professional but narrow focus on individual agency missions. Each of the 16 organizations within the intelligence community has unique mandates and competencies. They also have their own cultures and mythologies, but no one agency can be effective on its own. To capture the benefits of collaboration, a new culture must be created for the entire intelligence community without destroying unique perspectives and capabilities.

The way to do so would be to follow the model provided by the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the military in the late 1980s. The Goldwater-Nichols Act created a unified military establishment and, among other things, laid the foundations for a “joint” military. It created incentives for interservice collaboration (such as requiring joint service to achieve flag rank) and promoted joint training and development. What Goldwater-Nichols did for the military, IRTPA should provide the means to do for the U.S. intelligence community.

Greater collaboration is vital because no single agency has the capacity to survey all the available information. The U.S. intelligence community collects more than one billion pieces of information every day. Intelligence can only help inform and shape decisions if it is processed through the mind of an analyst who resolves any conflicts and ambiguities. For example, a piece of paper with a list found on a suspected terrorist — known in the field as “pocket litter” — could turn out to be a grocery list or a coded roster of associates. It takes an analyst trained in what to look for to tell the difference. U.S. intelligence agencies will never have enough analysts to fully examine all the data they collect, but the ones they do have can do their job better by developing new ways of thinking about analysis and information distribution in a more integrated community.

As the intelligence community grew during the Cold War, it sometimes acted like anything but a collaborative community. Analysts often did not know their counterparts at other agencies unless they reached out to them on their own. There were few processes in place to collaborate, share lessons learned and best practices, and exchange viewpoints. This approach may have worked during the Cold War, when strategic threats evolved slowly and various streams of analysis could proceed independently before being combined, but it cannot succeed today, when events evolve quickly and require rapid action.

Consider a recent example. In the spring of 2005, the CIA and the military’s Northern Command received information about two passengers aboard a plane flying from the Middle East to Mexico that would shortly cross U.S. airspace.

Because the flight was not operated by a U.S. carrier and was not scheduled to land in the United States, there was no requirement for the passenger list to be reviewed prior to takeoff. Although the airline’s ticket agent thought the two passengers appeared suspicious, the flight departed before their names could be checked. The airline passed on the names and the flight information to U.S. authorities, however, and this information was funneled to the National Counterterrorism Center, the U.S. government’s hub for all counterterrorism intelligence, where analysts can access more than 30 separate government computer networks carrying more than 80 unique data sources.

Within hours, the NCTC found information indicating that the two passengers had been placed on a “no-fly list” immediately after 9/11 because they had lived in the United States in the 1990s, had connections to two of the 9/11 hijackers, and possessed pilot’s licenses. Based on this information, the plane was denied entry into U.S. airspace, and the pilot decided to return to Europe. The intelligence community’s real-time coordination and rapid-response capabilities were essential.

Interagency collaboration needs to be established at two levels: intelligence collection and intelligence analysis. To this end, the Office of the DNI is in the process of developing virtual communities of analysts who can securely exchange ideas and expertise across organizational boundaries and harness cutting-edge technology to find, access, and share information and analytic judgments. Analysts are increasingly using interactive online journals, such as classified blogs and wikis, to this end. Such tools enable experts adept at different disciplines to pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and quickly make complete intelligence assessments.

Interagency joint-duty programs are also being implemented so that personnel from any agency can benefit from the knowledge of the entire intelligence community. An example of progress thus far is the newly created Rapid Analytic Support and Expeditionary Response, or RASER, team, a group of relatively new analysts drawn from all the intelligence agencies who undertake special training so that they can react rapidly to crises, drive intelligence-collection efforts, and work as catalysts for increased integration. Starting this summer, this elite “special forces” analytic team will be ready to be deployed against some of the United States’ hardest intelligence targets.

The U.S. intelligence community also needs to know where collection gaps exist, where it needs greater specific intelligence, and on what areas it is overly focused. Some gains have been made with the creation of mission managers — a recommendation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission — who oversee and manage high-interest topics, such as North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela, and counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and counterintelligence, for appropriate collection and analysis.

The intelligence community is also investing in more in-depth and long-range analysis so that analysts can dig deeper into issues of concern for the future, such as the changing character of warfare and energy security, unencumbered by the demands of producing current intelligence. Furthermore, addressing a critical need emphasized by the 9/11 Commission and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, the intelligence community has formed “devil’s advocate” and alternative analyses, examining, for example, whether avian influenza can be weaponized and how webcams could aid in terrorist planning. Beyond these efforts, the intelligence community can still learn a lot from commercial best practices and best-in-class analytic technologies to help its analysts sift through data and more rapidly identify key insights.


Old cultures and practices need to be changed so that today’s intelligence community can rapidly exchange information between officers on the ground — both at home and abroad — and decision-makers in Washington.

Most important, the long-standing policy of only allowing officials access to intelligence on a “need to know” basis should be abandoned. The U.S. intelligence community needs to adopt a mindset guided by a “responsibility to provide” intelligence to policymakers, war fighters, and analysts while still reasonably protecting sources and methods. Significant progress has been made since 9/11, but policy and cultural impediments remain. The challenge now is to convince collectors that they are not data owners so much as data providers.

The way to do so would be to share threat information with state and local officials as well as members of the private sector. The unique contribution made by men and women on the ground is vital to U.S. national security.

In 2000, for example, a county sheriff’s investigation into a local cigarette smuggling case in Charlotte, North Carolina, uncovered a multistate terrorist cell supporting Hezbollah. In 2005, a local police detective investigating a gas station robbery in Torrance, California, uncovered a homegrown jihadist cell planning a series of attacks in Illinois. State and local partners should no longer be treated as only first responders; they are also the first lines of prevention. Changing mentalities in this way is the responsibility of the program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, which was created by the IRTPA and exists to foster a partnership between all levels of government and both the private sector and foreign partners in order to share terrorist threat information.

Another important area in which mindsets need to change is in hiring practices. Policy barriers have stood in the way of attracting intelligence professionals with the right skills and backgrounds. The responsibility to protect sources and intelligence-collection methods from unauthorized disclosure has heightened some organizations’ risk aversion. As a result, intelligence agencies have faced significant obstacles in hiring some of the people they need most: first- and second-generation Americans with fluency in languages ranging from Albanian to Urdu and with unique political, technical, or scientific skills. These men and women possess cultural insights and skills that no amount of teaching can impart. If the intelligence community is going to reach out to native speakers, it must change its recruitment practices, which currently make it difficult to hire such candidates.


Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. intelligence community was at the forefront of technological innovation, be it for weapons systems, computers, or satellite technology. In the last 20 years, its lead has dwindled as innovation has moved from the public to the private sector and technological know-how has spread across the world. Worse still for the United States, its adversaries have been quick to adapt to technological improvements.

The U.S. intelligence community needs to harness the promise of advances in fields such as the biosciences, nanotechnology, and information technology. The new Intelligence Advanced Research Program Agency seeks to do just that, much as a similar Department of Defense program is doing to drive leading-edge technologies to meet defense requirements.

One fruit of that effort was the development in 2004 of Argus — named for the giant from Greek mythology with one hundred eyes — which monitors foreign news media and other open sources for early indications of epidemics or other serious biological incidents, such as increased absenteeism, failures of health-care infrastructure, and other disruptions of normal life.

At the outset of the avian flu outbreak in November 2006, Argus became fully operational and provided rigorous, validated information on the disease. Today, it monitors more than one million reports a day from nearly 3,000 sources in 21 major languages in 195 countries. In the future, Argus may be able to use open-source reporting to more rapidly detect other causes of societal disruption — especially in closed societies — such as nuclear accidents and environmental disasters.

Beyond developing technologies, however, it is essential to make sure new tools get from the drawing board to the field. To that end, our Rapid Technology Transition Initiative focuses on invigorating research and development so that ideas can be translated into usable tools quickly and cost effectively. RTTI has already shown its value. Since its deployment late last year, the FBI’s Biometric Quick Capture Platform — a portable database funded through RTTI — has facilitated the biometric identification of suspects in custody overseas. It has helped users collect and store fingerprint data and perform real-time electronic searches of federal fingerprint databases. These queries can quickly establish links to a person’s previously used identities and past criminal or terrorist record. Just two months after the release of RTTI funds to the FBI, the bureau’s field personnel were using this tool to identify whether individuals in custody overseas had criminal records or were dangerous threats to U.S. forces.

But moving cutting-edge technologies into the hands of U.S. intelligence personnel means shortening timelines for developing these technologies. In this area, there is still much work to be done. The U.S. intelligence community’s European colleagues, for example, are able to build, launch, and operate a new satellite system in about five years and for less than a billion dollars.

By contrast, a U.S. spy satellite system, although admittedly more complex than a European equivalent, can take more than ten years and cost billions of dollars to develop. This is due, in part, to the larger number of requirements the United States tends to place on individual systems and its higher aversion to the risk of mission failure, both of which increase the systems’ complexity and the demands placed on the technology. If the U.S. intelligence community is to close this gap, it will need a more disciplined, agile acquisition policy. It was to this end that the DNI recently elevated the task of acquisitions to the level of a deputy director of national intelligence (there are four deputy directors).


Although the United States is improving the nuts and bolts of its intelligence system, it must not lose sight of the strategic conditions that will determine the ultimate success of those efforts. The United States must comprehend the profound threats of the times and position its institutions to meet those challenges. The intelligence community understands the threats posed by terrorists inside and outside the United States, nuclear proliferators, and rogue and failed states. Now, it must set its priorities to meet these threats.

If the efforts to improve the intelligence community are to endure, they will need sustained support from the executive branch, Congress, and the American people. It will take years to fully clarify and coordinate the DNI’s responsibilities and powers, transform the collection and analysis of intelligence, accelerate information sharing, change institutional cultures, build high-tech capabilities, and boost the acquisition of new technologies. And it will take the patience of the American people and their willingness to lend their talent and expertise to the intelligence community.

From Foreign Affairs,  July/August 2007.

Reprinted with kindly permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Photo description: Arlington, Va., The Pentagon (Dec. 9, 2002)

Former President George H.W. Bush (center), the 41st President of the United States examines a model of CVN 77, the U.S. Navy’s 10th Nimitz-class aircraft carrier officially named USS George H.W. Bush by The Honorable Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy, at a ceremony held in the Pentagon. Photographed from left to right are Adm. Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy, former President George H.W. Bush, Senator John Warner, R-Va., and General James L. Jones, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera.