The FBI provides a strong reasoning for the counterterrorism analysis. The purpose of this analysis is defined as, “Our approach to CT is to be intelligence driven. We need to both react to what we know and understand what we don’t know, but must know to prevent a terrorist attack”. The purpose of counterterrorism lends itself to the intelligence gathering and interpretation process. The FBI refers to this process as “connecting the dots” which refers to a multi-strategic approach to acquiring intelligence comprised of different disciplines including: HUMINT, COMINT, OSINT, etc.
By using different disciplines, the FBI can obtain large pools of data and use it to determine possible terrorist actions and strategies to thwart these actions.
Our dedicated strategic analysis unit is devoted to “connecting the dots.” These analysts, rather than aggregating what has already been reported, posit hypotheses regarding CT threats, and then compile evidence to prove or disprove these hypotheses. This is a nascent capability at the FBI and is an attempt to move analysts from current reporting into strategic analysis. Our aim is to make our analysts actively inquire of data rather than have them be passive recipients of data which must both be reported and analyzed (Baginski, 2004).
Through a variety of data collection methods the FBI, can predict and uncover terrorist activities and implement strategies to stop them.
Maureen A. Baginski (2004) Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence, Federal Bureau of Investigation Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Washington DC Retrieved from https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/fbi-counterterrorism-analysis-and-collection
One of the more interesting issues I came across in my research is concerned with the ongoing issue of risk in the intelligence communities. The culture in many intelligence agencies became extremely negative in the sense that they were no longer adaptable due to risk aversion. Many factors such as cost were a serious limitation to these agencies being willing to take risk. This is a complex problem coupled with the issue of intolerance to failure. According to Fitzgerald, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is an extreme example of this problem as it became less capable of carrying out its mission because failure inspired budget reductions which in turn reduced the risk tolerance of the NRO for fear of failure and further reductions in budget. This is explained as:
…the NRO never built systems to requirements, rather it built systems to the limits of what the technology would allow. This reputation and track record was, in no small part, because of the streamlined financial and oversight environment that existed. Key elements of that environment were adequate funding, the willingness to accept failure as a learning experience and a consequence of taking risks, and of pushing the limits of technology (Fitzgerald, 2003).
The increased demand for positive outcomes and lack of failure reduced the overall capability of the organization. Fitzgerald defines this problem perfectly stating:
This increased risk to long-term operations and development was evident by behaviors that resulted in the acquisition of fewer spares, the reduction of testing and evaluation procedures, the shortening of systems integration times, and the lac~ of developing parallel high-risk projects. To complicate. This situation, when the NRO was assuming greater risk, the national oversight authorities were reducing their tolerance for failure (Fitzgerald, 2003).
Ultimately, the NRO became more conservative due to fears of failure. This is not the ideal culture for an intelligence agency since risk is an inherent issue when dealing with these systems and with cutting edge technologies. So as much as technology has assisted with intelligence gathering it has also raised the bar for failure and this is a negative outcome because there is going to be risk in any intelligence gathering and analysis.
Fitzgerald, D. D. (2003). Risk Management and National Reconnaissance From the Cold War Up to the Global War on Terrorism. CSNR. National Reconnaissance-Journal of the Discipline and Practice.