Charles R. Twardy

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State Department & Intelligence

CNN writes:

Only one intelligence agency appears to have accurately predicted that the Ukrainian resistance would be far more effective than most believed, … the State Department’s intelligence arm…. The department’s intelligence directorate was also the lead dissenting voice in 2002, when the majority of US intelligence agencies assessed wrongly that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction … the Bureau of Intelligence and Research often bats above its weight in interagency discussions, current and former officials say.

And yet there is this perception that the State Department doesn’t have a real intelligence agency. In response to the 2007 Iran NIE, Bolton’s fifth criticism was a pure ad hominem attack. [1] The [relevant Bolton text]:

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence.

One “refugee” was the DNI’s Thomas Fingar, who had been at the State Departments Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1986–2005. (By his own count he had been in the “Intelligence Community” for 37 years - apparently counting work he did while at Stanford.) [2]

The CNN article notes that State also overestimated Russian capabilities – or at least expected them to follow their own military doctrine rather than march in an unprotected column assuming they’d be hailed as liberators. And it reminds us that the U.S. intelligence community as a whole was spot on regarding “Russian planning leading up to the invasion”.

  1. The third and fourth critique were relevant: “risks of disinformation by Iran”, and “overvaluation of the most recent piece of data”. I make no claim about the substantive debate.

  2. Thomas Fingar, Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis and National Security, p. 123, Chapter 7, “A Tale of Two Estimates”. Worth a read for discussion of how and why that estimate came about.