Part One: Perspective for Analysts

Intelligence today isn’t about secrets; it’s about the acquisition of knowledge.  This knowledge is of the past, about the present and predictive of the future.   In the race to anticipate future threats and eliminate them before they occur, let’s not lose sight of where we’ve been and why.  As author Paul Mudd recently told an audience at the Brookings Institution, historical perspectives that are short are dangerous

Consider the following cases:

  • Porous borders and smuggling.  Some try and argue this is a new and perplexing crime problem, whereas Peter Andreas writes this has been a facet of the Mexico-U.S. border for centuries.   This is a classic case of rebranding something old as something new.
  • Open source intelligence.  “New” data aggregators tout access to hundreds of public records; whilst the same issues with original record quality and accuracy remain.  Simple rebrands/ work around for an old technique or service (i.e. viewing an original public record at a state agency versus a version in a database).
  • Data collection.  Search engines promise to deliver the contents of the web to our doorsteps, only to limit our results based on past queries and click history.  A “new” technique presents an old problem; no information sharing across stove pipes.
  • Hawalas/informal value transfer/parallel remittance systems.  The process of transferring currency or value based on trust dates back to the 8th century.  The long standing technique predates both traditional “western” style banking and the first ever National Money Laundering Strategy published in 1999 that named it as a “new” threat that must be regulated.  Using modern tactics to regulate a very old established system of trust was short sighted and has proven unsuccessful.

Part two will focus on how to avoid the perception trap

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