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The Gap Between the Collection Capabilities of the Intelligence Community and the Analysis Capabilities

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The intelligence community comprises the many agencies and organizations responsible for intelligence gathering, analysis, and other activities that affect foreign policy and national security. RAND conducts research, develops tools, and provides recommendations to U.S. and allied decisionmakers to support their efforts at gathering and interpreting high-quality information.

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On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over. While the intelligence services of many other nations also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in the end it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public--and most damaging--intelligence failures in recent American history. This failure was in large part the result of analytical shortcomings; intelligence analysts were too wedded to their assumptions about Saddam's intentions. But it was also a failure on the part of those who collect intelligence--CIA's and the Defense Intelligence Agency 's (DIA) spies, the National Security Agency 's (NSA) eavesdroppers, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency 's (NGA) imagery experts.1 In the end, those agencies collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading

Finally, it was a failure to communicate effectively with policymakers; the Intelligence Community didn't adequately explain just how little good intelligence it had--or how much its assessments were driven by assumptions and inferences rather than concrete evidence.

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On December 17, 2004, then President Bush signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, 2004 which he called, the most dramatic reform of our nation’s intelligence capabilities since President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act changed many things within the IC first and foremost it created the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The law prohibits the Director from being located within the Executive Office of the President or simultaneously serving as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other intelligence community (IC) element (Prados, John, 2006). It also gives the Director primary responsibility for: serving as head of the IC; acting as principal adviser for intelligence matters related to national security; and managing, overseeing, and directing the execution of the National Intelligence Program

(The Library of Congress 2004) The Act also established an Office of the Director of National Intelligence to work for the DNI. Another major part of the Act was the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCC) to: analyze and integrate all U.S. intelligence pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism; conduct strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities; ensure that intelligence agencies have access to, and receive, all intelligence needed to accomplish their missions; and serve as the central and shared knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups. (The Library of Congress 2004) The DNI and the office of personnel who support the DNI have been able to break down many of the walls that existed between the 16 different Intelligence agencies in the US when it came to sharing information (Newman, Richard J., 1998). This has eased not only the intelligence efforts in the US two ongoing wars in the Middle East but also with threats to National Security here at home.

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Ordinarily, unlike the other INTs, open-source intelligence is not the responsibility of any one agency, but instead is collected by the entire U.S. Intelligence Community. One advantage of OSINT is its accessibility, although the sheer amount of available information can make it difficult to know what is of value. Determining the data’s source and its reliability can also be complicated

OSINT data therefore still requires review and analysis to be of use to policymakers.

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Ferris, John. Coming in from the Cold War: The histiography of American Intelligence, 1945-1990. Diplomatic History, March 2, 1995: 87.

Newman, Richard J. Tales From the Sea Floor. U.S. News World Report, November 23, 1998: 44.

Prados, John. Safe For Democracy: The Secret Wars of The CIA. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2006.

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