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July 08, 2003

The Case for Open Source Intelligence

If you are a congressman on some special committee, chances are there are few things more annoying than a leak of a critical memo to the press. If you are a staffer who sees that something is going terribly wrong on a committee, chances are you have no more powerful weapon than to leak a critical memo.

I gather that this kind of cloak & dagger intelligence game is played all the time inside the Beltway. As much as it is insider pool, it is a part of the power struggle. When the public knows, it makes a big difference. In fact, some of this pool is played with the public, and when the press insiders know the effects they develop a great expertise. It doesn't seem beyond belief that Washington bureau chiefs know a real memo from a fake one and understand exactly what the presence or absence of a good leak means.

Today we hear that GWBush is recanting an inflammatory statement including the words Iraq, Uranium and Africa in no less than his State of the Union Address. Apparently, a lot of people knew better, but not us in the American public. Of course it is incumbent upon us to find out, to trust but verify, but what are the chances that we will get our hands on the kind of intelligence necessary to debunk such a claim? Slim, I think. What's worse is that the intelligence services themselves cannot seem to get their best thinking past the ideological blinders of this President. This has happened before.. How many DCIs have we been through in the past dozen years? Webster, Gates, Woolsey, Deutch.

My radical position here is that if there is not going to be military or economic pressure directly brought to bear on a 'rogue state' then it does the United States very little benefit to keep most secrets secret. If the Administration policy is to remain disengaged from say, Chile, why not declassify whatever dirt we have on Chile?

It seems to me that the first invitation into any coalition of the willing involves sharing intelligence with the new ally. The most important ally of American policy is the American public, so share already.

Posted by mbowen at July 8, 2003 09:06 PM

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