CTX Journal Vol. 4, No. 1 - February 2014
From the Editor
Welcome to this special issue of CTX, "Intelligence and Terrorism." The articles and roundtable discussions gathered in this issue came out of a workshop that took place at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, in August 2013. We wish to thank the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) for sponsoring the workshop and for its continuing support for CTX.
No matter which strategy we choose to deal with terrorism, the more we know about the terrorists, the more likely we are to achieve our objectives. While intelligence presumably is important in all of our strategic endeavors, experience has found it to be particularly important in the case of terrorism. Terrorists hide, and if we are to deal effectively with them, they must be found. Broadly understood, intelligence is what does the finding. As both an activity—the collection and analysis of information—and a product—the final intelligence report—the purpose of intelligence is to inform the decisions of policymakers and operational leaders. As the current information technology revolution has rolled on, it has affected both the gathering and uses of intelligence and the terrorists themselves, who are now among the principal targets of intelligence work. For that reason, it is worthwhile to consider the current relationship between intelligence and terrorism.
The August meeting gathered together a small group of military, police, and civilian officers with experience in intelligence and in combating terrorism. This group included senior officers with decades of experience as well as some students currently enrolled in the CTFP curriculum. Participants came from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South and East Asia. Over the course of a day and a half, they discussed the ways in which terrorism has changed, current intelligence requirements, roles and missions among intelligence agencies, and intelligence sharing. Reflecting the diversity of their backgrounds and operational experience, the participants offered a variety of views about all of these topics. For example, some declared that terrorism has changed in fundamental ways over the past two decades, while others, despite acknowledging some differences, argued that the fundamentals of terrorism have remained the same. There was broad agreement on the issue of requirements, but less on roles and missions because the division of labor depends so heavily on the circumstances within each country. Several senior officers offered some hard-earned wisdom on how to establish effective intelligence sharing. The three-part conversation presented in this issue raises a number of important questions about intelligence and terrorism and suggests a variety of ways to answer them.
In addition to this meeting, CTX commissioned four articles on the role of information technology at the nexus of intelligence and terrorism. Dorothy large-scale searches for objects and individuals. John Mitra, a CTFP alumnus, discusses the uses and limitations of modern technology in India's campaign against Maoist insurgents, who are a decidedly low-tech opponent. James Walsh then considers how access to "big data" through new technological data-mining techniques may affect intelligence sharing among governments.
The final article, by Erik Dahl, is not about information technology. It is a case study of a foiled terrorist plot. In recounting this case, Dahl touches on themes raised in the workshop's conversations, in particular the difficulties posed by intelligence work that may end up in court. The case also displays the confluence of luck and skill that is good intelligence work and offers an illuminating portrait of what it is like to work with a confidential source. Dahl's article provides a fitting conclusion to this special issue.
For those of you who are interested in delving further into the ideas presented in this issue, we have included an annotated bibliography, which provides some suggestions for further reading and offers a variety of views pertaining to intelligence and terrorism.
The Combating Terrorism Archive Project (CTAP) interview also is a special one this time, comprising two complementary pieces. In early December, director Peter Berg came to Monterey for a special screening of his new film Lone Survivor for students, faculty, and staff of NPS's Defense Analysis department. The film is based on the book of the same title by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. A brief interview with Mr. Berg, which followed the screening, is presented first, followed by a subsequent roundtable discussion of the film with three Special Forces officers who attended the screening.
The U.S. television series The Wire is the topic of this issue's Moving Image column. MAJ Matthew Upperman describes the ways in which this often bleak depiction of inner-city Baltimore can offer lessons to the Special Forces and intelligence communities. For The Written Word, MAJ Anthony Keller reviews the book The Way of the Knife, a nonfiction account of the working relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Joint Special Operations Command both before and after 9/11. Finally, be sure to look at the latest offerings from the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) in the Publications Announcements.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.
Henry V (3.1.1), by William Shakespeare
Department of Defense Analysis
U.S. Naval Postgraduate School