Anthropology in US Intelligence Activity
REPORT OF THE INSTITUTIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
Written By Robert Albro, American University
Kerry Fosher, Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
The CIA is one of sixteen US intelligence organizations, which work both separately and cooperatively, and which together compose the US Intelligence Community. The CIA engages in research, development, and deployment of high-leverage technology for intelligence purposes. The main coordinating agency of US government intelligence, the CIA is an independent agency comparable to the Congressional Research Service that works outside of the departments of the executive branch. The CIA is composed of a total of nine directorates and/or autonomous offices within the organizational structure of the agency, and also houses a variety of topical and multidisciplinary research centers. Most generally, the CIA coordinates the intelligence activities of government departments and agencies; collects, correlates, and evaluates intelligence information relating to national security; and makes recommendations to the National Security Council within the Office of the President and to the Department of Defense. This usually includes information and analysis of foreign governments, corporations and persons, all in the interest of national security. As a secondary priority this can also include specific propaganda and public relations functions focused abroad. The CIA is a sizable federal bureaucracy with all the associated “iron cage” problems. To join the crowd or not to join the crowd…
Bias and Priorities: The CIA uses both overt and covert methods of data collection (or espionage), at the discretion of the president and with congressional oversight. Distinct from normal diplomatic work, this work is focused on special activities with regard to nonproliferation, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, international organized crime and narcotics trafficking, environment, arms control intelligence, hostile foreign states or groups, or in support of friendly foreign states or groups, but also in support of national foreign policy interests. These data include social, economic, and cultural information about a country or threat scenario. One trend within the agency has been a move toward the use of “open-source” information, as reflected in the creation in 2005 of a new Open Source Center to collect information available from “the Internet, databases, press, radio, television, video, geospatial data, photos and commercial imagery.” The typical activities of a CIA employee credentialed at the M.A. or Ph.D. level are best summarized under the rubric of “analyst.” While there are a great many kinds of analysts at the agency (e. g. the “leadership analyst,” the “profiler,” and many others), in general analysts are tasked with the synthesis of variegated sources of intelligence data on countries, people, or scenarios of interest, and specialize in the production of written reports and assessments. This task is often carried out with input from other experts in the field, who are often not agency employees. Outreach to academic, non-profit and corporate communities of expertise is also an agency priority.
As many critics of the agency have pointed out, analysts are subject to a wide variety of pressures to conform to the existing organizational culture of the CIA, which can have an influence on their work. Institutional pressures known to influence the conclusions and recommendations of CIA analysts include: group think (often embodied in the entrenched four- phase “intelligence process” or “intelligence cycle”), finding data to support already established policy priorities, risk-aversion in analysis, and an unwillingness to share data and results as part of the process of institutional advancement. Research conforms to the well-established institutionalized activities based on the work of “analysis” (see below), briefly, “an action that incorporates a variety of tools to solve a problem.” This would include the agency’s increased concern with explicitly cultural knowledge, the relevance of which is significantly recognized when couched in established institutional terms and priorities. Any research of anthropologists within the agency, for example, is subject to the institutional frames and requirements of being an “analyst.” These concerns, it should be point out, are similar to pressures and attitudes commonly found in the corporate world as well.
In its original 1948 operating instructions, the CIA’s covert activities included: activities related to: “propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” These activities have changed in relation to the perceived changes of external threats (e. g. the end of the Cold War, the War on Terror, etc). The CIA can also use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures, and is exempted from most of the standard limitations on the use of Federal funds. The CIA is exempted from having to disclose its “organization, functions, officials, titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed.” Most notoriously, during the Watergate era, covert activities that included assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, illegal domestic spying on US citizens, were brought to light. During the Iraq War, it has been widely reported that the CIA operates secret detention and interrogation facilities. Much covert and classified data collection has the explicit goal of revealing “the plans, intentions and capabilities of our adversaries” and providing “the basis for decision and action.” Unlike a college campus, the headquarters of the CIA is a secure facility. Phone and email data are not made available for employees. Access is restricted to scheduled “appointments” for all not-employees, who must wear badges identifying them as such and cannot move through the facility unaccompanied by a handler. Many critics – internal and external – have pointed to the “pathology of secrecy” at the CIA as something that increasingly hinders organizational effectiveness in all areas.
OSINT (Social Media) #Twitter
Sources of Data and Research Subjects: As with most intelligence agencies, civilian and military, the CIA takes an all-source approach. This includes overt and covert, public and classified information. This can include the use of technology, such as surveillance aircraft and satellites, or signal interception technologies. It also includes heavy reliance upon internal analysts, as well as analysts at the State Dept and DOE. And it also includes diplomats abroad, close cooperation with foreign and allied intelligence services, private enterprises, academic experts and academic trade journals, as well as Google. Finally, it can include other “human sources,” such as paramilitary, manned spying operations, the use of key informants (often also members of the international intelligence community) and interrogation techniques. The majority of the information used by the CIA to develop its analyses is open source intelligence (OSINT), including information from the media (such as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and the internet), other public data (such as government reports, public surveys, official data, legislative debates, press conferences, etc), observation and reporting (e. g. satellite observers, airplane spotters, Google Earth), professional and academic (e. g. conferences, peer-reviewed journals), public geospatial information (the use of Geographic Information System), among other sources, tailored to support specific policy goals, and all integrated in the work of the typical analyst. The collecting and analysis of OSINT is comparable to the everyday work of traditional investigative journalism, in its use of searches, databases, primary interviews, sources, and leaks. The CIA also compiles a wide range of country data and indicators of political and other trends, much of which is public domain and available in the form of country profiles through the CIA’s World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html).
TYPES OF WORK
Most relevant for our purposes is the Directorate of Intelligence, which is the analytical branch of the CIA, responsible for the production and dissemination of all-source intelligence analysis on key issues of foreign policy. Of potential relevance is the National Clandestine Service (NCS), which is a semi-independent service responsible for the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence and covert action. The latter includes human intelligence (HUMISNT) services, which are often coordinated with other agencies (including the military). Most of the ethical concerns about CIA activities have focused on the work of the NCS. Much agency work (that is, the work of particular analysts) is focused on provisioning specific, tailored, information to policy, military and intelligence decision-makers, as a product of a process of data collection and analysis known as the “process of intelligence” or the “intelligence cycle.”
The process of intelligence is traditionally broken down into four phases, which include: collection, analysis, processing and dissemination (also called packaging). Collection can involve a wide range of information sources, from photo interpretation, intercepted cell phone or radar emissions, to diplomatic attachés. The work of analysts, too, is subject to a particular analytic process that is organizationally and bureaucratically reinforced. This process expects results in the form of mapping exercises, risk assessments, personality profiles, and the like. Continuously updated, these might be strategic intelligence about scientific, tactical, technical or diplomatic matters. They tend to be analytically limited to conclusions about the capabilities, vulnerabilities, intentions, threats, and opportunities for intervention, with regard to subjects of intelligence (people and countries). Finally, these are packaged in ways available for indexing, that are easily accessible to advisors, and that foreground lists of critical threats and opportunities. The intelligence cycle is a way of integrating the multiple sources of data into actionable intelligence available to decision-makers, and tends to privilege part-whole relations in problem-solving, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (also called a “systems approach”). That is, rather than the specter of “spy,” the more accurate representation of work typical for a CIA employee is “analyst.” Even so, the everyday work of analysts at the CIA is heavily shaped – in terms of method and outcome – by institutional conventions and priorities of the agency and not by independent research agendas. This includes an instrumentalism, for example, in the analysis of threat scenarios: Rather than “understanding” the problem the goal is more directly “solving” the problem and “deliverables” (one justification, for example, for the use of modeling). Though, there is less predictive work at the agency and much more descriptive or explanatory work. It is also important to note that analysts typically have no contact with “collectors” of information.
An agency development of relevance to anthropology has been the CIA’s increased study of itself through the Center for the Study of Intelligence and elsewhere. Currently employing at least one anthropologist, CSI is at once a “reference and resource center for scholars and others studying the history and practice of intelligence disciplines.” It can be thought of as one part the agency’s internal “think tank,” one part “lessons learned” shop and one part forum for the reassessment and advancement and emergent needs of more integrated approaches to the analysis of intelligence. This involves more attention to the CIA’s own “organizational culture,” and to improving “organizational effectiveness,” but includes, for example, new intelligence strategies directed toward public diplomacy. The majority of this work is classified. A significant proportion of such research is published by CSI via an in-house journal called Studies in Intelligence, addressing historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of the intelligence profession. It also creates classified and unclassified monographs.
Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
Type of organization: military intelligence (MI)
MCIA perceives its mission as providing intelligence and intelligence-related services to support Marine Corps operations. They employ approximately 30-40 intelligence analysts who work closely with Marine Corps personnel such as FAOs (military officers who specialize in area studies and foreign cultures). Their activities also feed into other processes like policy development, training or education. MCIA has the DOD lead for developing something called “cultural intelligence,” which is an all-source approach to intelligence that emphasizes the impact of culture on issues traditionally of interest to intelligence agencies. This involves special training for analysts and some open field research, such as focus groups in other countries (note that this is distinguished from “collections,” which would be what most of us would think of – covert data collection), and the production of reports and other materials that highlight cultural information. The staffing is mixed between civilian and military personnel.
Bias and Priorities: As above and potential framing biases related to USMC missions and areas (littoral etc) may make certain types of products and results more or less palatable to senior leadership. Framing biases are also expressed in terms of the precedent of established Marine Corps (and military) doctrine, which provides a lexicon for how to frame emergent problems and concerns (e. g. “cultural knowledge” can quickly become a concern for the “cultural terrain” or “behavior” can serve as the institutional default for “culture” in ways very different from currents in anthropology). The current operational tempo of USMC may lead to a bias away from complex solutions and explanations and toward problems/solutions with immediate operational relevance as opposed to longer-term concerns about the impact of US actions, etc. It is also possible that MCIA’s status as a member of the intelligence community could lead to biases in favor of work that it perceives needs to be classified, believing that open source work could be done by unspecified others. We also have to be aware of the differences among culture shops in the Marine Corps (comparing MCIA to the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning and its “culture training” responsibilities).
Secrecy: Although some employees are located in separately for technical reasons, most activities take place in a “secure facility” on the Quantico military reservation. No cell phones are allowed inside (even for high level employees), escorts are required for most non-employees, and, when an “uncleared” person is on a floor a red light on the ceiling flashes to alert all personnel. Nevertheless, while may (though not all) of its data sources and products are classified, MCIA emphasizes transparency in how it carries out its work. All presentations and publications that are related to specific missions or areas of analysis must be cleared by command staff and public affairs. As a rule, this would prohibit or at least severely hamper the sharing of information and theory through the normal academic channels. Research related to the organization itself or to outside interests is not controlled by the organization. Some data used by analysts is collected covertly. The uses to which some of the analysis is put are kept from the public and, sometimes, from the analysts themselves.
Sources of Data and Research Subjects: MCIA is an “all source” agency meaning it uses publicly available information, conducts open library and field research of its own, and uses information collected through covert means. Traditionally, the subjects of MCIA social scientists (as with all intelligence agencies) are people and organizations believed to have some potential impact on US policy, as adversaries, allies, or by-standers. However, as with many US military and intelligence organizations, MCIA also is starting to want to use social scientists to understand itself and USMC more broadly to learn how internal frames and predispositions affect its products and the interactions of Marines abroad.
Types of Work: Social scientists may be employed as analysts, in research positions, or in other administrative, technical, or command positions unrelated to their academic backgrounds. These are employed in the production of a tiered line of MCIA “products” of varying degrees of depth, from cultural “smart cards,” through field guides or country handbooks, to more in depth studies. MCIA engages in outreach with academic experts, who are used for a variety of one-time tasks, such as review of product information (see “Emerging Arrangements” below). Recently, MCIA created two positions specifically designed for anthropologists. These are “command billets” created to ensure greater rigor in the organization’s use of social science, to further develop MCIA’s cultural analyst capacity, to monitor ethics with regard to social science, and to assist with outreach to academic institutions.
3. Air University
Type of organization: professional military education (PME)
Air University is the institution that houses the majority of professional military education for the US Air Force. In contrast to the Navy and the Army, which have spread their schools and colleges out, the Air Force has them located “around the circle” on Maxwell/Gunter Air Force base. The “around the circle” metaphor comes from the location of the main officer’s schools around one circular loop on the main base. This loop does not include enlisted education (housed largely at Gunter, a few miles away), AFOATS (a school that supports ROTC programs and the education of those who come in outside normal channels, such as medical personnel), or the community college, leading to interesting politics of space. AU includes Squadron Officers College (2 lieutenants and captains), Air Command and Staff College (majors), Air War College (colonels), AFOATS (see above), the College for Enlisted Professional Military Development, Community College of the Air Force (enlisted), several other smaller schools and institutes, as well as a wide range of centers devoted to research, teaching, doctrine development, and special topics. One of these is the new Air University Culture and Language Center that resulted from a directive coming from the Air Force Chief of Staff who directed that Air University do a better job of providing education related to language and culture.
Bias and Priorities: As above and toward topics that meet curricular needs and away from those a social scientist might think enlisted personnel and officers need to learn. There appears to be at least a slight bias away from concepts and theories and towards data and analysis based on experience. Because of the service, there is a bias toward technological problems and solutions and sometimes active resistance to problems that do not lend themselves to engineering-type solutions. There also is resistance from some faculty and students to anything that does not support the mission of “putting the bomb on the target,” which, of course, removes consideration of most of the problems the US military is currently encountering. Again, because of the service, there is less emphasis on tackling “boots on the ground” problems with social science. Social science is generally associated with negotiation, interaction with foreign military counterparts, interacting with foreign diplomats, and, to a lesser degree, interaction with NGOs, other government agencies, and other military services.
Secrecy: Although some of what is developed in the Centers and institutes is classified or “for official use only,” most of the research conducted at Air University is open. A notable exception to this is the war gaming facility, which is restricted and contains classified materials. AU has several locations where storage of classified materials and secure communications can take place. These generally support the needs of people who need to work on things related to ongoing operations rather than the needs of people doing research. Faculty are expected to undertake research and publication agendas in their own fields. They may need to request permission to take time and funds to attend a conference, but are not required to get presentations and publications reviewed prior to release. Students are encouraged to produce papers that can be distributed or published. Most secrecy-related activities relate to force protection and involve things such as how gate lanes are configured, certain aspects of scheduling for important visitors, what aspects of IDs are checked and using which types of equipment, etc.
Sources of Data and Research Subjects: Because this is an educational institution, the range of possible research is very broad. AU schools often have encouraged faculty and students to study USAF or the US military in general, but these studies are often pragmatic rather than critical. USAF has been somewhat more hesitant that the other services in starting to use its social scientists to understand itself. There is some movement toward encouraging research that will help USAF understand people and organizations believed to have some potential impact on US policy, as adversaries, allies, or by-standers rather than simply nation states.
Types of Work: Social scientists may be employed as faculty, in research positions, or in other administrative, technical, or command positions unrelated to their academic backgrounds. Some students have undergraduate or masters degrees in social science. See also “Emerging Arrangements” below: For the last year, AU has be working to wrestle several positions away from the schools so that there can be full-time social scientists who are not beholden to the curriculum or interests of any particular school, but rather engage in research and curriculum development across the schools. In particular, they want to these social scientists to focus on the identification of militarily relevant cross-cultural competencies.
4. Emerging Arrangements
Perhaps the most interesting institutional context in which anthropologists engage with military and intelligence organizations include what we refer to as emerging arrangements. The military and the intelligence community are very large bureaucracies, slow to move when they need to incorporate new types of work or expertise. Over the last several years, and in response to “culture” having become a “new DOD buzzword,” there has been a disorganized scramble to “get more culture.” This has resulted in attempts to get anthropologists involved in a variety of ways. Some of these include:
- IPA positions (inter-service personnel act) – essentially allows an organization to “borrow” an anthropologist from a university or other organization
- Contracting – probably the largest means of incorporating anthropologists, this includes private consulting by individuals in full and part time or occasional capacities, anthropologists who work for large consulting firms and are hired out to organizations, or situations where a consulting firm runs a program or center for a military organization and hires anthropologists.
- Consulting – often done with little or no payment or honoraria, this involves an anthropologist with some other source of employment working with a military, intelligence, or other national security organization on a limited basis, perhaps reviewing materials, speaking, or just serving as a sounding board.
- Creation of new Centers and positions – recently, military and organizations have started to display a strong interest in hiring anthropologists and getting access to anthropological knowledge. Often in consultation with anthropologists, they create new positions and sometimes new offices, departments, or centers to engage in social science research.
- MITRE/RAND – both of these organizations are non-profit entities that exist primarily to do research for the government. Both have billed themselves as repositories of social science knowledge, but RAND in particular employs no anthropologists in this topic that I am aware of. MITRE has at least one, an AAA member.
Intelligence and Cultural Anthropology; Source http://www.aaanet.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT_Appendix.pdf)
(RAND conducted a session on the ethics of social science research on terrorism in January of 07. The workshop included only one anthropologist who does not seem to have been aware of this Commission. SEE LINK: http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR490-3/)