What the intelligence community can learn from Wild Bill

Media Thumbnail
  • 0.5
  • 1
  • 1.25
  • 1.5
  • 1.75
  • 2
This is a podcast episode titled, What the intelligence community can learn from Wild Bill. The summary for this episode is: <p>In the latest episode of the Janes podcast we speak to Ellen E. McCarthy, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, about the story of William Joseph “Wild Bill” Donovan and how the original vision from "Wild Bill" can inspire the intelligence community.</p>
"Wild Bill" Donovan
03:01 MIN
Benefits of smaller intelligence organisations
01:55 MIN
How OSINT is changing the intelligence community
01:48 MIN

Speaker 1: Jane Capella interconnects millions of assured data points across Janes foundational intelligence, with the ability to integrate and contextualize multiple sources, delivering the single source of truth. Janes Capella increases certainty and accelerates decision- making for everyone in your organization. Find out more at Janes.com/Capella.

Speaker 2: Welcome to The World of Intelligence. A podcast for you to discover the latest analysis of global military and security trends within the open- source defense intelligence community. Now onto the episode with your host, Terry Pattar.

Terry Pattar: Hello and welcome to this episode of the Janes Podcast. I'm Terry Pattar. I lead the Janes Intelligence Unit, and I'm joined on this episode by Ellen E. McCarthy, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Ellen is someone who has over 25 years of experience in the US intelligence community, including several roles, but particularly serving as the COO of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, as well as various... bits of time spent working in the private sector, I understand Ellen. And thanks for joining me on this episode. It'd be great to talk to you about some of your experience, and in particular, about some of the things you've been writing about and talking about recently in terms of where the future of intelligence will lie.

Ellen E. McCarthy: Terry, thank you so much for this opportunity.

Terry Pattar: Hey, no problem. No, it's our pleasure to have you on the podcast. I mentioned that in terms of something you'd written recently, which was what really sparked the idea for this conversation, and that was an article you wrote for the Cipher Brief that was titled, The US intelligence community needs a Wild Bill moment. And I thought maybe we could just dive straight into talking about that article, and maybe you can unpack that a little bit and explain for our audience who aren't familiar, perhaps with Wild Bill and who he was, and where you're trying to take that conversation in terms of how you see intelligence developing now and in the future wild

Ellen E. McCarthy: Wild Bill Donovan. For your listeners who may not be familiar who he is. He really is the founder of the United States intelligence community and the way we know it. I was actually serving as Assistant Secretary of State at INR. And I was actually reading a book on Wild Bill Donovan, and I actually participate in a society, the OSS Society, that actually supports Wild Bill Donovan, those who were part of his team during World War II and tries to celebrate the history that Wild Bill Donovan actually was the father of. And so, as I was doing some research, I learned that the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at state department actually was the only operational component left from the OSS. So Wild Bill Donovan met with President Sherman back early during World War II, and President Truman invested in this small capability that was separate from the rest of government, that was supposed to be engaged in special operations and intelligence. And Wild Bill, just like his name, built that capability. And for many of us, we believe that that was what turned the tide of World War II. It was a combination of great research and great operations, but at the end of World War II, not surprisingly, the bureaucracy that existed wasn't a big fan of Wild Bill. So Herbert Hoover at the FBI and the State Department, they were not fans of the OSS. And unfortunately President Roosevelt passed away. President Truman became the president. The OSS was disestablished and there was one group that remained, and that was the Bureau of Research and Analysis from the OSS, which moved to State. And so I learned then that it was actually my very own bureau, INR, which actually was the first analytic unit in the intelligence community. And that's not how I understood history. I always believed it was CIA. Not the case. It started at INR. And so I'm very much, I believe that if you want new ideas, you've got to read an old book. And so I believe history is an incredible platform for how you should look into the future. And so getting back to this article, as I was sitting here relaying to my coauthor, Matt, about the lessons I learned at INR and how INR was very much steeped in the culture and the history of the OSS, even to this day, I said," We need another Wild Bill Donovan moment." I mean, our community was developed to work a different threat, to work with different data, to work with different tools. It's become this huge bureaucracy that is not as innovative as it could be. And we try so many different ways to introduce new technologies and new capabilities, but I really think we need President Roosevelt, or in this case, President Biden to consider establishing a new OSS- like capability that is parallel but separate, to bring in new capabilities, new ways of doing things, a new culture.

Terry Pattar: It would be great to get an understanding from you of, I guess, in terms of your experience, what is it in particular you think that, that kind of small unit, if it was created, would be focused on, and what is it that they would need to do?

Ellen E. McCarthy: So at INR the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of State, it is the smallest of the 18 intelligence elements, which I find very fascinating. Back in 1945, there was something like 1600 researchers that came to State Department. But when I left INR, there was about 300, roughly 200 analysts. And you wonder, how did that trajectory work? How did we go from 1600 researchers to roughly under 300? But I actually think small is good in this case. And so having this small unit that was embedded with its user, that was co- located with the policy maker, our analysts and Intel officers at INR tend to stay. And the reason they tend to stay is because they are co- located with their user. So it's very exciting to be sitting there with somebody engaging in dialogue about what you're seeing from the intelligence perspective and how that gets transformed into a policy, or to have that discussion, to be able to share with the policymaker, whether or not their policy is actually having the impact that you thought it was having. And so I spent over 25 years in the IC, I had no idea that this is how INR operated, and this is what they did. They're very much a producer within the intelligence community. There are two other all source intelligence elements of the 18 I mentioned. That's the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency and INR. And I really walked away saying, I think INR is one of the best. And it's because of this co- location, it's because their analysts stay on average 17 years in their portfolio. And they're prolific writers and researchers. One of my favorite statistics are the president's daily brief, which is the community's vehicle for delivering intelligence to cabinet level officers. INR produces more articles that go into the PDB per capita than the other two agencies. Which again, I thought being small is good, incredibly prolific, very good, co- located with their user. Another thing about INR, which sets them apart is because they were researchers. They were librarians and architects and historians and linguists. They're very comfortable with open- source information. They start their day at the open- source level. The state department architecture is open- source. You can talk about the security of that architecture at another time. But the reality is, is that you have analysts and operators who are very comfortable working in the open- source world. Cables are produced via open- source information and methods. And so I really saw that INR was in this very unique place relative to the other agencies I've worked at, where you tend to sit apart from your consumer. You tend to focus on one end, the case in the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. So, very stove- piped. INR is small. They have to leverage those other ends. They have to work with those other ends, and they actually have this relationship with the person that uses their intelligence.

Terry Pattar: That's incredible. And I think that's quite unique, among intelligence agents. At Janes we work with a range of governments and a different agencies and organizations around the world, primarily within the Five Eyes community and NATO, et cetera. But, I don't think in many places, analysts and intelligence analysts would sit co- located with the customers that they're serving. Does that create a much faster feedback loop? Are they actually getting feedback from the user community who are reading their outputs to enable them to then iterate?

Ellen E. McCarthy: Yes, they get both positive feedback and negative feedback. Interestingly enough, going back to Wild Bill Donovan and the OSS, when Wild Bill was able to convince Truman to save the research and analysis branch, everything else was being taken apart. He actually said that the war was won based on good old intellectual sweat. And so he was able to convince Truman that it was very worthy to keep these people and move them to state. State Department didn't want them. Because they were a group of people who said things that the State Department personnel didn't want to hear. And so that very much exists today, certainly during my time in. But I'll tell you, I love a good challenge. And I think when you deliver intelligence and it's not being used or incorporated into the decision- making, that that's your opportunity to try and do it differently, to deliver it differently, to research harder. Not to change the intelligence, but to think about other modes to get it to the person who needs it.

Terry Pattar: What are the challenges there though, in terms of, if you know, you've got these, it sounds like subject matter experts, who are really deeply imbued in the subjects they're covering, and they're giving those contrarian views based on what they're seeing. How do they go about communicating that in a constructive way so that it doesn't just become a case of people ignoring them because it's just another INR report, they're always telling us we're wrong? And it can become easy to ignore. Because, we see that a lot when we use things like, we see organizations using processes like devil's advocacy, et cetera, where they don't change around the role enough. And you know, it does become easy to ignore people, but how did they deal with that challenge?

Ellen E. McCarthy: Well, it's interesting. I mentioned that how it was 1300 people in 1945, 1600, roughly 200 to 300 today. What I learned when I started at INR was everybody was very happy across the community, across the state with INR and its products. Which were very much produced in the way that I produced intelligence when I started at the office of Naval Intelligence back in the 1980s. You wrote a product up and it was delivered in a briefing book, hard copy that was then passed to your user, or it would get sent out on a highly classified system for which most of your users or customers didn't have access. So you didn't even know if your product was being used. It was actually one very brave senior foreign service officer who said," Ellen, you know what? INR doesn't feel like is it integrated as it was in the past? And so actually, as I did a little research, I realized we very much are doing... We're delivering our content the way that we've always delivered it, dating back to the Cold War. Which meant that it wasn't always incorporated into the policy making the way it should be. So some of our analysts were credibly adept at identifying ways to get their content to the person who needed it, to the foreign service officer. Actually, most of our analysts were. But because we were so small and because we were doing things the way we were doing, we were not as integrated. You know, I would argue the world is a little more complex now than it was in 1945. The State Department is different than it was in 1945. The whole national security structure is different. And so we really hadn't updated our methods or looked at ways to deliver content differently. Looking at potentially new methods to actually push your data out. And we hadn't done that. And that was a weakness that I saw at INR. And certainly it was a weakness I saw I've lived through working in this community. You know, Terry I've had this crazy career. I had worked all sorts analysis. I've worked collections, I've worked people acquisition budget, the management side of intelligence. And I'll tell you, it really was my two years at INR where it all sort of came together. And that the challenges that this community has right now is not just a technology problem. It's the combination of all sorts of things to include congressional oversight, how budgets are aligned, how data is shared. It's a big problem. And this is where I think this Wild Bill moment just really comes in. I would love to see this administration or another administration actually create this parallel capability, much like president Roosevelt did, that runs parallel to the IC, but potentially looks at data differently and looks at acquisition differently. And it looks at people differently, and builds this parallel path.

Terry Pattar: That's really interesting. And I think, especially in relation to one of the things you mentioned earlier, which is that from what you saw at INR, there was a huge reliance and regular use of open- source information. And that was really the bulk of what they were doing. And I wanted to touch on that, because that's one of the issues that you and Matt raised in the article, which was one of those kinds of existential threats. I mean, you mentioned three existential threats in the article. And one of those was around, I guess, in the round, all three really were around not using open- source information effectively. So how would you see this? If there was kind of parallel organization was created, which would be, I guess, more agile in the way it would deal with information. But would it really have that focus on open- source exclusively or would you see it doing other things?

Ellen E. McCarthy: I can answer this question and your last question, perhaps a little better. Because I'll tell you, what I saw was because our content was not being as integrated with policy, as I think it could be, that was a delivery problem. And also could be a people problem. It's hard to go to somebody and tell them what they don't want to hear. I'll tell you, at IRN our analysts are particularly good at that because we have a long tradition of being the naysayers, of being the folks who come in and potentially take a different view on things. And again, I think it's because we're small and we stay very focused in our area. But the other big issue I noticed from my time at INR was because there is these open- source data sources and information sources, Bellingcat, for example. If the policy maker is not getting the intelligence information that is providing them the foundation for whatever policy they're going to, they're going to go someplace else, or they may just not like what it is the intelligence community has to provide and go someplace where they do like what they're seeing. That may be based on bad data and bad Tradecraft standards, but actually provides them the information they need or want, that fills the narrative that they're trying to communicate and implement. And so in some ways we have this competitive capability within the IC. Certainly I saw it at INR. So if we are developing this perspective on a problem, and there are 5 million other sources that the policy maker can leverage, now how do you fix that? Now we're just one of many sources, and 30 years in the intelligence community, I know that many, many times my bosses have not used the information that I had provided, and my consumer hasn't. But now it's just so much more pervasive than it was back in the 1980s. There's just so much more out there. And unless the IC can get its arms around that, and really incorporate it into its workflow, I think we're going to be constantly running behind the eight ball.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, that's really interesting. And I think that's something that everyone has seen, I guess, in terms of the impact of some of those other organizations. And we're seeing it across lots of different spheres now. It's not just specific organizations that are doing more investigative open- source research, but also where we're seeing others doing more innovative things, even with things like satellite imagery. Now, obviously commercial satellite imagery, you would have known from your time at NGIA, that it's improved hugely over the last 20 years. And, that's become a massive area of open- source information that people are using commercial imagery to do things. We saw just recently Buzzfeed won the Pulitzer prize where their article on looking at the internment camps in China, where they keeping the week is. And highlighting a massive issue that needs to be raised on a foreign policy, foreign relations level and doing all of that with open- source information. And I think you're right, that if decision makers are reading this kind of stuff in the news, or they're seeing it on websites or online, and it's freely available, it's going to grab their attention. So is it a competition for attention? I mean, because I guess the danger is there, like you alluded to the policymakers, decision- makers could just look for the things that line up with what they want to achieve or the agenda they want to push through. So is there a danger also that in that kind of competitive environment, there's going to be more politicized intelligence being produced.

Ellen E. McCarthy: I heard so often about the politicization of intelligence, and I certainly did not see it in the community. I've spent most of my career and at least in the places that I worked and the people I have worked with, but I'm not surprised to see that there's this politicization of intelligence because of this environment that you described right now. Where you can pick the things that actually support the position that you would like to take. And, so I think that's what is meant by the politicization of intelligence. And so going back to my INR experience, even in the way that we deliver our content, it was very much hard copy briefing book, delivered to whoever's reading it. You know, they can pull a page or they can pull a paragraph and they can go with that. And you may be missing the rest of the context when you just take pieces of that. So, when you're looking at digital platforms or when you look at other ways to deliver intelligence, we then understand how our information is being used. That's actually one way that you can de- politicize intelligence, if you actually have an understanding as to how it is being used and for what purpose. We really don't have that right now. So digital platforms that are embedded with basic business analytic capabilities, where you can actually see pieces and parts being used and pulled and touched, and you can match them up with the narrative that is being delivered, that doesn't exist right now.

Terry Pattar: Interesting.

Ellen E. McCarthy: It's very much a competitive environment. My concern is, and this gets back to the business model of the intelligence community, that the things the community needs to do to become more competitive with the private sector are just astronomically difficult. It gets back to how our budget is developed, how we bring in new capabilities, how we share data across the government. I mean, they're not very sexy problems, but you know, you'll hear all the time. I'm sure you've had analysts that I would love to work with this, but I can't get it or I can't buy it, or I'm not allowed to look at it. And so the things that you need to do to fix those problems, it's not just a legislative change proposal here, or we're going to develop this pilot there. It's big. And again, that's why I think we need a Wild Bill moment.

Terry Pattar: It's so interesting that sort of dilemma you described, but I've definitely seen that both in my experience previously, but also working with some of the clients we work with now at Janes. And you know, one of the roles that my team at the intelligence unit has is going into organizations and helping them develop their open- source intelligence capabilities. And quite often we'll be brought in on the basis that, well they want to improve how they do open- source intelligence and it's approached as a kind of skills problem, and improving the skills of the analyst will solve the problem. But then once you actually get in, you realize okay, yeah, they were skills may need a little improvement, but actually they're not that bad. They're pretty good already as analysts, et cetera. What's actually more of an issue is the organizational structure. And a lot of those things that you just mentioned.

Ellen E. McCarthy: It's always the organizational structure, and the culture. I think I mentioned in our article, Matt and I, that INR, what made it unique was its co- location with its client. I prefer you to user. So it's co- located with the user. And I think that's where it all begins. So many other agencies, most other agencies, that's not how they work. Their analyst are not co- located with their user. In fact, the organization discourages them from being co- located with its user for a whole host of reasons. You know, another man that I think was brilliant for his time was Sherman Kent. Sherman Kent was again, the father of intelligence analysis, and his teachings are still very much fundamental to how we train and develop and run our analytic cadre. I think his days are over. I really believe that where it begins, as you're going into these organizations, is about your analyst or your Intel officer. Being able to sit down with a person who's developing the policy or making the decision, and being a part of that. Being a part of that group. And I know there's real concern about politicizing intelligence, but I will tell you, I look at my analysts at INR, that was not a problem for them. They very much were experts at their trade. And if they had someone coming to them saying, I want you to change the intelligence to support this policy. They were very good at saying no. Because they knew they had a leadership cadre that would always have their back.

Terry Pattar: I think ultimately becomes a self- defeating problem, right? I mean, if they're producing politicized intelligence, it's ultimately going to be rejected by somebody. Somebody's going to look at it and say, Hey, this isn't very good. And then the demand lessons, whereas it sounds like what you're describing as the INR actually has built up a culture over many decades of performing really well and delivering really good product. And that creates its own demand.

Ellen E. McCarthy: Yes, absolutely.

Terry Pattar: So, which avoids the politicization, right?

Ellen E. McCarthy: It really does. And again, that's where I would say that small is good, because we're much more agile. We're able to meet the needs of the secretary and his senior leadership team much more easily. We have this larger intelligence community that we can leverage to get the Intel that we don't have. But I think on some level, this large intelligence, bureaucracy is actually getting in the way. Large bureaucracies get very good at making donuts. That's how it is structured, to make donuts. We take on the Soviet Union or we take on terrorism, but the world is so much more complex now, and it's not surprising, this ginormous bureaucracy is having a hard time getting its arms around threats that are not traditional. And by the way, threats that are better served by open- source data. Climate change, the issues with health and viruses and sanctions, how we support sanctions. So much of the data that we need to do this work is available in the open- source sector. And yet we can't get access to all of it for a host of other reasons that we can talk about another time. crosstalk.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, no, I appreciate it.

Ellen E. McCarthy: But, that's what I'm telling you. We have so much data but we're not even getting all the data we need.

Terry Pattar: And I think sometimes it's viewed almost as a problem of quantity, in terms of getting all of the data. When actually the problem is how do you empower the analysts that you've got, who have the expertise to know where to look for information? You mentioned that a lot of the analysts at INR are people who are information specialists and they know what they're looking for. How do you empower them to just go out and get what they need? So just focus in on the most relevant sources and not have to wade through everything, which I guess is one of those advantages of a small organization that they ought to have.

Ellen E. McCarthy: Right. So, that's exactly it. And I've heard listening to some of your other podcasts, the challenges of dealing with new analysts. So, at INR, we have analysts who come in and they stay for most of their career. Again, for them self- actualization are those relationships, and how good they get. Because so much of analysis is also based on instinct, and it's based on understanding your target area or your target subject. And so that's something else that's unique, I think, at INR.

Terry Pattar: Yeah. And I think as well, you mentioned the mix of different skills and backgrounds and different types of people in one small organization. Maybe you can just comment on that a little bit more. How important is that really, in terms of being able to produce those more rounded assessments, which as we are now living in this more complex world, and there's so many different challenges and you need those, perhaps those different perspectives, how important does that become?

Ellen E. McCarthy: Well, again, they are a reflection of the research and analysis branch from 1945. It's a mixture of people with different backgrounds, different skill sets in a way that I know exists at the other agencies, but because we're smaller, it just seem so much more obvious. 20% of the workforce is foreign service, which means you have foreign service officers who are rotating in and out of INR over the course of their career. So they bring those diplomatic skills. We have political scientists, we have people who reflect the bureaus upon which they support. And the Diplomatic Corp is a very diverse corp in terms of sort of the areas that they focus on. And it's getting even more diverse in this administration in terms of the challenges that the Diplomats face. So INR is very much a reflection on that. Whether we're talking about emerging technologies or cyber and counter- intelligence threats from Russia. So INR is the small microcosm of experts who reflect the user at State Department. And because they're small, there's no need to create mission centers, because they're so small they have to work together. And so as they're facing big issues like global power competition or misinformation out of Russia, they tend to work together. They tend to work across offices and they bring in all those unique views, which is why I think INR products are different, and the way we present those products are different because we tend to tell a story. So our consumer is the diplomat. Diplomats love to read. They love stories. They like the written word. And that's where again, INR is encouraged to write products the way diplomats want to read them.

Terry Pattar: That's really interesting. You mentioned as well the shaping and framing of the output as a story, and a kind of narrative. I guess it really does help, I think, get the information across to users. And I think it's something that's underrated as a scale. And as something that organizations working with that type of user actually focus on. Too often it is about the collection. And it isn't really enough. There isn't really... Well, again, I'm showing my own biases here, but there's not enough focus on the analysis and actually the output. But you can describe this type of agency that could be created. And within that Wild Bill moment, this new organization, if you were able to structure it and set it up in any way you could. I mean, how would you go about doing that?

Ellen E. McCarthy: I mentioned in the article that Matt and I wrote, we discussed the state department as being sort of a model for how this might work. It's very interesting that we wrote this article before we even saw glimpses of what the new national security strategy, which the current administration... They put out a preview of it, but we haven't seen the strategy yet. But it talks about diplomacy as being the main lever for national security. It talks about this need to invest more in diplomacy. And that we've looked for so many years at the department of defense and defense operations as being sort of that primary lever. But that this administration, and I happen to agree with them, really should look at diplomacy as being the primary lever. That's where all should begin. If you think about it. I mean, we fought a lot of wars over the last 75 years, but the world we're facing today is not one that can be dealt with by traditional battles, traditional military operations. The need for diplomacy is just far greater than it ever has before. So I believe that this new organization should model some of the way the State Department operates. I'm not suggesting that the State Department is perfect by any means. But it really should emulate so many of the things that INR operates in right now. The reason that INR, I don't think is better known, is because some of the challenges it faces are the things I've discussed just very briefly. It's the budget, it's the acquisition, it's how it's overseen. INR is the only Intel element that is overseen by two Senate committees, both the foreign relations committee and the Senate Intel committee, bizarre for a group of 300 people. Oversight can be good, but too much oversight is not always that good. And so what INR struggles with is they have this incredible content, but they don't have the resources to work on the delivery, and that was my focus while I was there. So I would model all the good things about INR, but I would not model the bureaucracies that exist, not only with INR, but across of the rest of the IC. This has to be a group that embraces open- source. It has to be a group that isn't struggling with some of the business issues that the others have in terms of how it gets resourced, and how it can bring in new technologies. So, the acquisition model should be a little different for this group. How they access data should be different. The whole, how they collect process exploit and disseminate intelligence should be different than it is right now. Again, I think it gets to being co- located with your user, being in the room as policies are being developed.

Terry Pattar: That's so interesting. And it's a compelling vision, I think, for any kind of intelligence organization operating in the world that we're in now. Especially when as has been laid out, you mentioned the national security strategy, and I know we've only seen the interim one so far this year. But as they've laid out in there in terms of talking about the complexity of challenges we're now dealing with and threats that are out there, you need to have that kind of organization, which is built around, speeding up, I guess, the response times and the feedback loop. And perhaps isn't built on a kind of traditional intelligence model. Is done slightly differently.

Ellen E. McCarthy: The platform tends to get in the way for us within the IC. So again, you look at... You're from Janes, so only in the United States... Actually only in the world's intelligence community, would you operate on a platform upon which most of your users don't have access. And then I think this, again gets back to... In the days of Wild Bill Donovan, our goal was to get data was to, was to get secrets, was to operate behind this, this steel door. But I think the model has to change. Now it's about developing insights in the data. Our main mission should be developing insights. I certainly do not want to devalue the role of classified information, but the way it works right now is, is that open- source is looked at as being additive to classified information. Whereas I think classified information should be additive to the open- source. And so again, we let the platform get in the way, we're an analyst for writing something. We write it at the top secret level, even though our user is operating on the ground, we've been talking about this for 40 years. The platform can't get in the way. We have to be co- located with our user. We have to be in the room when they're trying to figure out what to solve. We have to give our analysts the opportunity to become truly experts at what they do and enable them to develop those relationships. And so when I was at INR, we actually developed a new content management system, which we called tempo, with its focus being at the unclassified and the secret level, so that we could actually start pushing our data out. And it was embedded with some basic business analytics. So we had a sense of who was using it. And the focus really was providing information out to the embassies, and the mission. And that's where I think we should start. That's what this new group should do.

Terry Pattar: It's music to my ears, obviously coming from an organization like Janes, because that's what we do. But yeah, it's so interesting to hear from your perspective as well about those kinds of frustrations you're dealing with and how those need to be solved, always promising to be sold in a different way, and the vision you would have for that. And I think that a lot of that is presumably now something that a lot more people are starting to come around to your idea. I mean, this is hopefully something that you're not just kind of putting that idea out there and getting ignored. I hope you're getting some traction.

Ellen E. McCarthy: I'm not alone in this vision at all. I'm merely sharing with you and you're listening to what my experience was at INR for two years, again, small Intel element, but for those who work within the community, they understand what INR does. And I'll tell you, there is a lot of us who are saying this right now. And so I do believe that we're going to start seeing.. I mean, I'm an optimist. I think we're going to start seeing the things that need to done. I think what my concern is that this is not small iterative change. I really do believe that we need to develop almost this parallel path. And so it's not about stopping what we're doing right now, but it's maybe looking at an INR or creating this other element. And it's developing capabilities that then can be moved from the traditional sort of Intel processes to the new things. So that over time, that parallel path converges, and this is how we operate.

Terry Pattar: Is there any areas that you think right now that national security policy makers maybe don't have their eyes on in terms of... Or not focus on? Because as we said, the world is complex. There's a lot of change going on. It's hard enough to keep up with what's going on day to day, but to what extent would such an agency, if it was created, help with the more estimative assessments and the forward looking and type of intelligence?

Ellen E. McCarthy: Terry, thank you for going there, because that's exactly... Again, I say let's model INR, because my INR is not about the current intelligence. It's not even about the long- term strategic view. It really is sort of that middle space. We're looking at months to a couple of years. And I think that's where that investment should start. Although I'm also a true believer in the need to also invest in our strategic capabilities where we do take a much longer term look, and it's not just about presenting what could happen in 20 years, but being estimated in terms of what's coming to happen first in the next 20 years. But for this new organization, it's not necessarily current. It really is that months to the next year or two, what are our policy makers or what are our users going to be facing? What do they need to deal with to do what they need to do today?

Terry Pattar: That's really interesting, especially when you mentioned that kind of interim period. Because I think there is obviously a lot of information available to people, if they want to try and understand what's going on day to day. In fact, probably too much. And the overwhelm is one of the challenges you mentioned in your article with Matt, and the longer term strategic picture is, I think, neatly approached through some of the reports that come out. Like the Global Trends Report early this year, which comes out every four years, and is really interesting, I think, in the way that it constructs scenarios that we could see emerging in that sort of more distant future. But you're right. In terms of that middle period, that's, I guess, where, especially for the users you talked about, when they're policy makers, that's really the period that they can affect.

Ellen E. McCarthy: Right? And so again, it gets to the challenge we have right now. T here's so much data, there is so much bad data. There are so many bad insights coming. Who do we trust anymore? I mean, we really didn't talk about trust, but trust is something that is also that I think you're going to enhance when you actually, co- locate your Intel expert with the person who has to develop the policy or make the decision and build that trust. And that's, again, it's been very challenging over the last few years, because there is the concern of the politicization or there is... You do have those analysts they're saying things that our user just doesn't want to hear. And so the user will just go someplace else. We really do need to focus on how can we rebuild that trust. And that means by providing information that is highly valued, highly leveraged, and asked for over and over again. It's not just answering a key intelligence question. It's answering that consumer's key intelligence question.

Terry Pattar: That's a great way, I think, to finish on as a point to really round out everything that you just talked about, Ellen, because I think that's a great way of describing what intelligence should be about. Yeah, this has been a really fascinating discussion. I've really enjoyed it. And your vision of an intelligence agency that is agile, small, and can really respond to users questions and interests in a way that utilizes all of the open- source information that's out there effectively. I mean, I'm fully on board. I think a lot of people listening probably would be as well. And I think inevitably this is probably where we'll end up going within intelligence communities around the world. So thanks so much for sharing your insights and your ideas, and to see some of these things being incorporated and built.

Ellen E. McCarthy: I hope so. I actually believe so, Terry, and again, thank you so much for this opportunity. This was fun.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, this was great. Thank you, Ellen. Hopefully we'll speak again soon.

Ellen E. McCarthy: Absolutely.

Speaker 2: Thanks for joining us this week on The World of Intelligence. Make sure to visit our website, janes. com/ podcast, where you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode.


In the latest episode of the Janes podcast we speak to Ellen E. McCarthy, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, about the story of William Joseph “Wild Bill” Donovan and how the original vision from "Wild Bill" can inspire the intelligence community.

Today's Host

Guest Thumbnail

Harry Kemsley

|President of Government & National Security, Janes

Today's Guests

Guest Thumbnail

Ellen E. McCarthy

|Former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research