Executive Summary The function of intelligence has existed since ancient and biblical times for the purpose of informing decision makers and leaders. Until quite recent times one of the unique capabilities of intelligence professionals was access to scarce information. However there has been a transformation in information domain over the last twenty years. Information is no longer a scarce commodity and access to many forms of information is relatively easy.
This report will explore and discuss the dominant issues that exist, and demonstrate that technology itself is the root cause of many of these issues – such as the abundance of information, information management, bureaucratic and organisational siloing, technology substituting humans, the generation gap, virtual battles and enemies, and the increasing threats to our critical infrastructure – and that there is no simple or straightforward solution to a complex set of intertwined problems.
Introduction The intention of this paper is to discuss how the intelligence landscape and profession is adapting to the changing information and technology landscape. This will be achieved by defining what intelligence is in relation to the modern information environment and how the intelligence cycle has changed and developed over time, followed by an analysis of the modern day issues faced by the intelligence community.
Doing so will provide a basis upon which comparisons between the old and the new can be drawn can be drawn and identify more precisely the issues that currently exist within the modern intelligence community and how these issues should and/or can be addressed. There will be a particular focus upon the past 20 years during which time the intelligence landscape has transformed considerably due to the introduction and development of advanced information-gathering techniques and related technologies.
While the introduction of new technologies have resulted in easier access to many forms of information, it has also introduced issues, with specific regard to the large volumes of information that need to be managed, processed stored and analysed. This paper will aim to demonstrate that the major problems faced today by the intelligence community can all be traced back to a single root cause, simply being the abundance of information and communications technology that is publicly available in the world today, and that the perception that ICT can address this issue is somewhat ironic. Intelligence – an Overview
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Criminal Intelligence Training Manual for Analysts, intelligence is formed when information – or raw data – is evaluated or worked upon in order to enhance its value and significance. More simply put “Information + Evaluation = Intelligence” (Page 1, UNODC). This definition of intelligence is inline with many other organisations that operate within the intelligence community for both government and commercial organisations. The longstanding concept that knowledge equals power has been well understood by many leaders and strategists dating back to biblical times.
Despite the advances in technology and the different political and economic state that currently exists within the world, the basic principles of intelligence are the same today as they were thousands of years ago. People or organisations – be they policy makers, government ministers, CEOs or generals – all require information, or more specifically intelligence, in order to make better-informed decisions or execute different actions so as to dominate an adversary at a strategic and/or operational level in economic, political and/or commercial arenas.
While the concepts of and the necessity for intelligence have remained constant over time there have been changes in the methodologies used to manage the intelligence cycle that have come as a result of the transformation of the information environment. Historically, the amount of information sources available to information gatherers was significantly less than it is today, and due to technological limitations with information and communications technology (ICT), it was usually necessary for the information gatherers to rely upon having a physical presence at the source in order to access the required information.
The amount of information was also significantly less, once again attributed to the absence of ICT, which made the analysis and reporting process arguably easier due to the comparatively less amount of information or data available. While the gatherers role was comparatively easier from an information management perspective, it came at a cost being a reduction in the quality of the coverage and accuracy of the information being presented to the client/consumer.
The Basic Intelligence Cycle Over time, different intelligence methodologies have been developed and adapted to suit the level of maturity of the technical environment in order to try and meet the increasing demand for intelligence. For the purposes of this paper, the following basic intelligence collection methodology or cycle will be used in order to provide a consistent terminology and understanding upon which further discussion and comparisons can be made.
The following basic intelligence cycle is a 4 phase repetitive or cyclical process, which would have been applied in pre-ICT times, and is intentionally simplistic, to demonstrate how times and approaches have changed. Basic Intelligence Cycle PhaseDescription/Activity 1. DirectionThe client/consumer identifies a need for intelligence and directs the gathers accordingly. 2. CollectionThe information gatherers collect and collate raw information. 3. AnalysisThe information gatherers convert the raw into intelligence. . DisseminationThe provision or delivery of an intelligence product to the client/consumer. This step feeds back to the first to complete the cycle, from where it begins again as needed. (“UNODC Criminal Intelligence Training Manual”, n. d. , p. 3) The Modern Day Intelligence Cycle The following diagrams serve to provide a basic demonstration of how intelligence collection methodologies have changed over time. While the basic cycle remains, an additional role has been introduced, being that of an analyst.
The addition of this role is relatively recent and has come about as a result of the massive amounts of information that is collected from a variety of sources which can be grouped into the following 4 categories “Human Resources (HUMINT), Signals (SIGINT), Imagery (IMINT) and, Measurement and Signatures (MASINT)” (JMIC Intelligence Essentials, p. 10) and Open Source (OSINT) many of which are created, transported, accessed and stored using various ICT systems and applications.
The role of intelligence analyst has been introduced in an attempt to address what is considered to be the predominant issue faced by the modern day intelligence communication – simply being the sheer amount of data that exists. The following table describes the basic modern day intelligence collection cycle, which includes an additional phase titled All Source Analysis & Production. Modern Intelligence Cycle Intelligence Cycle PhaseDescription/Activity 1. Planning and DirectionThe client/consumer identifies a need for intelligence and directs the gathers accordingly. . CollectionThe information gatherers collect and collate raw information. 3. ProcessingConverting the vast amounts of information collected to a form usable by analysts through decryption, language translations, and data reduction. 4. All Source Analysis & ProductionThe conversion of basic information into finished intelligence 5. DisseminationThe provision or delivery of an intelligence product to the client/consumer. This step feeds back to the first to complete the cycle, from where it begins again as needed. (“The Intelligence Cycle”, n. d. )
This issue – being abundance of information and associated technologies available today – has been acknowledged by many academics and intelligence professionals and will be discussed further in the following sections of this report. Technology = The Problem and the Cure The following section of this report will focus upon what can be described as the high-level problems that currently exist with the use of technology within the Intelligence Community, noting that these problems are not only confined to the Intelligence Community, but to any organisation that uses Information Technology in even the most minimal way.
The following topics will be covered in more detail and will aim to demonstrate that technology is the underlying and interwoven cause of many of the issues that exist today: 1. Information Abundance 2. Information Management Issues 3. Bureaucratic and Organisational Issues 4. Humans versus Technology 5. Generational Issues in a Technologically Abundant Environment 6. The Modern Battleground 7. Abundant Technology = Abundant Targets Information Abundance
In addition to some of the more traditional issues and challenges faced by the modern day intelligence community such as “how to foretell what is going to happen” and “how to get statesmen and generals to accept information that they do not like” (Kahn, 2005, p. 87-88), there exists a comparatively new problem being the presence of electronically available information. Today, the amount of data and information that is available in real time to information and intelligence collection organisations around the world – both commercial and government – is astounding when compared to only 10 years ago.
In a somewhat ironic manner however, the technology that can be used to assist in the management of information is also resulting in an overwhelming amount of it. As stated by Lefebvre: “The amount of data stored electronically follows Moore’s Law and, like CPU power, doubles every eighteen months. At a military tactical level, intelligence analysts may receive over 17,000 reports per hour from sensors alone. So much data is useless, however, unless what is valuable can be identified and retrieved” (Lefebvre, 2005, p. 249). Information Management Issues
This sheer volume of information now available means that information now has to be sorted selected and managed to a large extent electronically, which leads to the topic of Information Management (IM), being “the acquisition, recording, organizing, storage, dissemination, and retrieval of information”(“The Computer Language Company Inc. ”, n. d). If not managed correctly, poor or unplanned information management processes can result in crucial information being overlooked or not be made available to the people or agencies that need it in order to make important decisions that may result in the prevention of an attack of some description.
Such an issue was one of many raised as part of an enquiry in to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centres in 2001 that suggests that poor information management between government departments was one of the contributing factors as to why the attacks were not prevented. The following excerpt is taken form the 9/11 Commission Report on the terrorist attacks upon the USA: “We learned of fault lines within our government—between foreign and domestic intelligence, and between and within agencies.
We learned of the pervasive problems of managing and sharing information across a large and unwieldy government that had been built in a different era to confront different dangers” (“9/11 Commission Report”, n. d. , p. 13). The above quote suggests that a possible cause for the breakdown or lack of communication between government agencies is due to the fact that information silos exist and that the organisational and operational management styles used in agencies are outdated, which would have an adverse affect upon information management systems, processes and practices.
Bureaucratic and Organisational Issues Further fuelling this problem is the abundance and availability of technology, for example Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) applications and rapid development environments are readily available, cloud computing services and people with what are now deemed basic IT skills may – once again ironically – lead to the creation of information silos at all levels across the intelligence community.
Generally, people can easily access and apply an IT application – not an IT solution – to solve a small, short term problem, and this is often done with little regard to the larger, or enterprise level, strategic objectives This problem can exist on a global scale where international governments may not be able to successfully integrate their ICT system with each other to battle international crime or terrorism, right down to a local level where a different section or division within a government department may develop their own applications to meet their own requirements in isolation of other teams.
This argument is supported by Lefebvre who quotes Bruce Berkowitz who states that ‘‘organizational rigidity, poor planning, insufficient use of outside sources, and isolation of intelligence providers and consumers’’ and “because of impediments such as overly stringent security regulations, bureaucratic jealousies, power struggles, compartmentalization of analysis” (Lefebvre, 2005, p. 233) are contributing factors to intelligence failure, these factors are then exacerbated in a poorly managed, information abundant and technologically advanced environment. Humans versus Technology
Compounding the issue of poor information management and organisational silos is the concept that technology is also often seen as a replacement for humans. It is true that technology can obviously increase the speed and accuracy of certain activities and processes, yet it will never be a replacement for a human’s ability to think and apply logic, reason and intuition to a problem. While there are many circumstances in which electronic processing of data may remove some element of human error, it also removes a leap of intuitive analysis that only human beings are capable of.
Such human intuition can be technically difficult, if not impossible, to develop automated or system rules for that will allow for natural variances and patterns that only a human analyst may detect. This human based intuition – or more specifically reasoning – is referred to by Krizan in a 1999 Joint Military Occasional Paper titled ‘Intelligence Essentials for Everyone’, as being Abductive Reasoning (Krizan, 1999, p. 32) and cannot be replicated by a machine. “Abductive reasoning may also be called intuition, inspiration, or the “Ah-ha! ” experience.
It characterizes the analyst’s occasional ability to come to a conclusion spontaneously, often without a sense of having consciously taken definable steps to get there” (Krizan, 1999, p. 32). In light of this argument, it is widely suggested that technology should be seen as a compliment to, not as a replacement, for human thought and analysis and while technology can certainly assist the analysts role and “can save the analysts an incredible amount of search time, and organize a wide range of data for them, they are not a substitute for human intelligence.
As Braiman explains: Smart algorithms are a tool for human intelligence — not a replacement. Their function is to reduce the human burden of extracting information from large databases. Humans are the best class recognizers in existence. Their ability seems built into the brain. It’s usually difficult to construct an algorithm that will do nearly as well”(Lefebvre, 2005, p. 249). Technology therefore must be seen as an ‘enabler’ – not as a replacement for humans – that compliments the activities of intelligence analysts.
As stated by Lefebvre – “Technologies act as enablers, and should be embraced by analysts when they simplify their life and allow them to retrieve and manipulate information in a timely, effortless manner” (Lefebvre, 2005, p. 251). However, while true this statement is generally correct, the use and application of technology also brings with it some challenges with regards to how well it is understood and embraced in a workforce whose age and experience with IT spans across different social generations.
For technology to be of utility to an organisation, employees “must be technologically proficient and able to muster the resources offered by databases and data management software” (Lefebvre, 2005, p. 248). Generational Issues in an Information Abundant Environment The following table provides an overview of the range and sociological generations that exist in the modern workforce: Social GenerationBirth YearsCurrent Age Boomers1946-195464 – 56 Tweeners1955 – 196355 – 47 Generation X1964 – 197846 – 32
Generation Y1979 – 199931 – 11 Generally speaking, with the advent of the Internet, Generation-X individuals possess a better understanding and application of IT and technology then their Tweener and Boomer predecessors. People of the Generation-Y era however have more or less been born into a electronically connected world and take things such as wireless broadband and mobile internet connectivity as a given which in turn provides equips them with a more technologically ready or prepared mindset.
While there are benefits associated with this, there are also some negative aspects in that people who have been raised in an environment that is information rich generally have much higher expectations as to how quickly information can be accessed, and are perhaps not as willing to challenge or seek alternate, more traditional approaches to challenge or verify the validity of information they may obtain.
As stated by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) in a 2005 white paper “critical thinking, logical decomposition and basic writing skills appear to receive less emphasis than in previous years. In contrast, Internet, multitasking and teamwork skills are often impressive. Nonetheless, analysts need more time in their daily schedules for extended studies and specific training to develop the necessary critical skills to perform classic, thorough research and analysis” (AFCEA, n. d. , p. ). It can be argued however that the political, economic and global environment faced by the current generation of intelligence analysts is significantly different to what their predecessors faced as little as 10 – 20 years ago, and the new breed of Gen-X and Gen-Y people are arguably better equipped to deal with it given their exposure to technology as they have grown up. For example, as described in the AFCEA white paper: “Today’s analyst faces an entirely different world: • Threats are more ubiquitous and diverse. The collection input has exploded in volume, variety and velocity. • Timelines are reduced, with non-symmetrical enemies able to launch offensives with little lead-time. • Target boundaries blur as targets consort across functional areas” (AFCEA, n. d. , p. 7). The Modern Battleground The abundance, prevalence and distributed nature of modern technologies has resulted in a complete paradigm shift away from what were the traditional concepts of warfare, or as described above, an entirely different world.
Traditional warfare, as fought in WWI and WWII, and to a lesser degree Korea and Vietnam, has been replaced by Information or Cyber Warfare, where threats and enemies are now far more difficult to categorise, detect, attack/defend against. The following excerpt describes how the internet can serve as a platform upon which non-state, actors can align their personal beliefs with a larger organisation such as Al Qaeda, and connect in a virtual manner with other like minded individuals orchestrate an attack So, a self-organized group of friends, like the would-be Madrid bomber plotters, may read an Internet text, like “Iraqi Jihad” that suggests bombing Spanish trains to force that country’s withdrawal from the U. S. -led coalition in Iraq. Chatting with likeminded Jihadists on the web, the group of friends radicalizes into a Jihadist cell and—in just a few weeks—an “amateur” plot is hatched and devastatingly executed (unlike the 5 years or so it took Al Qaeda to plan and execute 9/11).
The fact that all of the plotters are caught or blow themselves up may have no effect on the ability of other groups to self-organize and be radicalized for attack. ” (Atran, 2006, p. 293). Abundant Technology = Abundant Targets Furthermore, as the abundance of technology increases, so do the amount of possible targets that can be attacked by organisations that are state based, criminal or even rogue hackers or script kiddies who execute attacks just for fun or recognition.
World governments have recognised that Information and Cyber Warfare pose a serious threat and in an attempt to address it Cyber Security Centres have been established all over the world – Australia, US, UK – all within the last 12 months. Another issue that is again directly linked to the abundance of technology is that as the spread of technology increase to satisfy a market demand for it, the amount of infrastructure required to support the demand must also increase, which in turn presents a much larger target to future attackers.
The following diagram demonstrates how the number of Information or Cyber Warfare targets has and will increase over time in line with the growing demand for technology: Growth of Vulnerabilities (“Cyber-Intelligence”, O’Brien, 2003) In January 2010, the Australian Minster for Defence was quoted as saying at an open day at the Defence Signals Directorates Cyber Security Operations Centre “Cybersecurity is one of the government’s top national security priorities.
Cyber intrusions on government, critical infrastructure and other information networks are a real threat to Australia’s national security and national interests” (Faulkner, 2010). In an effort to address this issue, the Australian government has launched CERT Australia, which is a designed “to ensure that all Australians and Australian businesses have access to information on how to better protect their information technology environment from cyber based threats and vulnerabilities” (CERT Australia, n. d. , 2010).
The Australian CERT is part of a wider network of global CERTs, numbering 47 at the time this report was written. Conclusion As demonstrated, in addition to what can be classed as the traditional or ongoing issues and challenges with the use of and application of technology, many other problems exist, problems that are complex in nature making them difficult to address. Compounding these issues is the fact that technology is arguably the root cause of them as all of the issues identified in this report are intertwined, exacerbated and connected to the use and misuse of technology.
Due to the complex nature of the issues raised in this report, there is simply no single or resolute answer or solution to address them either as a whole or individually. A holistic and strategic approach is required, with emphasis placed upon blending the old with the new. This approach is best captured with the following paragraph taken from the AFCEA white paper: “Clearly, better technology, improved process, revised tradecraft and streamlined organization represent only part of the solution for improving future analytic capabilities. In the end, analysis remains an art and relies on the intuitive ability of the human mind.
The analyst is the key part of the enterprise. Technology is a tool to help analysts think better. It is not a substitute for thinking. As such, tools and technology can never be a substitute for analysis, but they should assist analysts in digesting and assessing information. Systems engineers need to recognize analyst requirements as an equally important component of system design” (AFCEA, n. d. , p. 18). Reference List Atran, S. (2006). ‘A Failure of Imagination (Intelligence, WMDs, and “Virtual Jihad”)’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:3, 285 – 300.
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METRO_OFFCAMPUS/content/_1545822_1/intelligence%20analysis. pdf? bsession=120539352=session_id=120539352,user_id_pk1=139872,user_id_sos_id_pk2=1,one_time_token= O’Brien, Dr K. (2003). ‘Cyber-Intelligence: For Threat-Profiling of Sub-State Actors in the Information Age’. Retrieved August, 2010, From the International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts website. http://www. isodarco. it/courses/trento02/paper/trento02-brien_cyber. pdf The Computer Language Company Inc. [n. d]. Retrieved August, 2010, From the CBS Interactive Business Network website http://www. bnet. com/topics/Information+Management