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03 November 2001

A Terrorism "B-Team" Experiment?

On the issue of terrorism, one idea that Peter Beinart does not mention in his most recent column (on improving the CIA) is the possibility of another "Team B" exercise in competitive intelligence, in which highly knowledgeable outsiders are given access to intelligence and asked to prepare a critique of CIA assessments.

The first such effort took place in the 70s, back when the CIA was grossly underestimating Soviet Cold War capabilities and intentions (former DIA analyst Bill Lee is a fine contemporary source on this topic; see this and this for starters). Richard Pipes chaired the select group, which included one of my mentors, Bill Van Cleave. I've not found the declassified report they produced on the web anywhere (though somewhere I have a paper copy), and the few accounts on the web are not very good (i.e. the biased account of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists) because they pooh-pooh the impact of the group, which ultimately did force the CIA to bring its assessment of the Soviet Union somewhat more in line with reality.

Bill Gertz describes the two subsequent "Team B" efforts (on Missile Defense, and on the China Threat -- which, interestingly enough, involved J.D. Crouch, another mentor of mine, and Steve Cambone, a really sharp Claremonster. Small world) in this article.

Of course, the argument against a Team-B competitive intelligence exercise on terrorism is that many of the people who would be natural candidates for such a committee (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cambone, Crouch) are now in the Department of Defense, where the critique might take place internally. But it's still an idea worth considering as we ponder how to reform our intelligence capabilities in order to meet the threat of terrorism.

[Posted @ 09:43 AM CST]

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