Clapper’s gag order could hurt intelligence analysts more
The recent directive from Director of National Intelligence James R.
Clapper Jr. essentially banning contacts between members of the intelligence
community and the media has been criticized for undermining the public
access to that community’s thinking and its role in society. However, it has
another, and perhaps far more dangerous consequence: its negative impact on
intelligence gathering and analysis.
The Clapper directive ignores what we have learned from
recent experiences. The first of these were the misleading reports on Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction. The most generous reading of the commission report investigating these
shortcomings would be that the intelligence community was afflicted by a
general lack of imagination. Second is the Arab Spring. A Stimson Center report demonstrated that
among all the observers – government officials, intelligence officers,
academics, think tank and NGO members, journalists – it was the journalists who
came closest to accurately predicting the momentous events that upended so many
regimes in the Middle East. One can also add predictions on the endurance of
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. When many governments, including the Obama
administration, were hinting that Assad had six months at most, some lonely
voices in academia knew Syria well enough to see that this would not be the
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