A reader has shared with us a copy of his letter to Rep. Pete Hoekstra. The reader writes from Baghdad:
The intelligence bill just passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote by the U.S. Congress sets exactly the right priorities needed to help strengthen our national intelligence capabilities against the threat of Islamic terror. Thank you for your leadership.
I offer these observations as a mid-career intelligence officer with experience in counter-terrorism operations and analysis who has served on the ground in Bosnia, Colombia and since 9/11 in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan. For the last six months I have been working throughout Iraq.
To combat Islamic terror, the US must be able to gain access to [the enyemy's] tight, closed networks for information about their operational plans. Doing so requires a robust human intelligence capability. The next step is to improve our ability to make sense of the information that is collected, which requires well-trained analysts and linguists. Fulfilling these two objectives requires more investment in people, and allows at least a modest trim in acquiring the fanciest satellites and most expensive collection aircraft.
The public may not fully appreciate the significance of putting human intelligence as a priority at the expense of some space and airborne programs, but those programs are measured in billions while the human intelligence programs are measured in millions. As a result, there is significant lobbying pressure on congress from the large defense contractors to continue and expand funding.
In contrast, spending on human intelligence and analysis invests money in the people who are being trained to do it, a process that lacks a natural constituency to lobby congress. Thus, congress must be commended for its resolve to do what is truly in the interest of national security despite the political pressure.
This has not always been the case. Those who wrote the anti-military, anti-CIA budgets of the 1990