And yes, despite the success it had in tracking down Osama bin Laden, the CIA can still use some fixing. Paul Miller has put together a to-do list for David Petraeus. The following stands out as a particularly important task on the list:
Get the analysts out of the shadows.
The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) has the capability of being a leading foreign affairs think tank in the world. Instead, it has largely limited itself to being a massive, overpriced, secretive magazine staff for a readership of one, pouring most of its resources in to the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). Analysts live under a maze of restrictions that bar them from public activities, ostensibly to protect their objectivity and credibility. The restrictions are silly. Instead of enhancing their credibility, the restrictions just isolate them and make contact with other experts in their field difficult, awkward, and sporadic.
Analysts can and should be open and regular participants in the world of academia, think tanks, and conferences, encouraged to publish and speak on their areas of expertise. Their writing may actually have a larger impact if they focus less on the PDB and more on the broader foreign policy establishment, which is where policy is shaped in broad outline before it makes it to the President. Petraeus might even experiment with having the DI publish a regular, unclassified product. It’s not like we keep our classified documents secret anyway.
It is astonishing that analysts are not allowed to interact with other people, people from whom those analysts can learn a great deal–thus improving the product the CIA puts out for intelligence consumers.