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Review of 2001 Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 10:21 GMT
Intelligence rethink after 11 September
WTC
The attacks led to changes in intelligence work
By BBC's World Affairs correspondent Humphrey Hawksley

Sweeping changes are under way among American and global intelligence agencies following the failure to predict the 11 September al-Qaeda attack, together with a string of other world-changing events over the past 10 years.

Evidence is emerging of red tape, inflexible mindsets and inaccurate analysis, all of which must be radically overhauled if efforts to combat terrorist attacks are to be successful.

Among the other failures are:

  • The 1996 US refusal of an offer from the Sudan to hand over Osama Bin Laden and intelligence files on al-Qaeda.

  • The 1990 conclusion that Saddam Hussein would not invade Kuwait.

  • The 1998 belief that the new Indian Government - which had already announced its intentions - would not carry out a nuclear test.

In each of these cases, the intelligence information was plentiful. But the way it was treated, the rivalry between agencies and the political decisions made were disastrously flawed.

Saddam Hussein
An Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was not thought likely
"There's nothing like a failure to make people change their ways," said Clark Murdock, a Pentagon adviser and scholar at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies.

"If you look at the history of military reform is tends to be in the wake of failure."

New laws in the United States are designed to knock down legal barriers which stopped the FBI from working more closely with the CIA.

Extra funds

Similar moves are being made in other Western democracies where legislatures have been unhappy about agencies which spy on their own citizens.

A special emphasis is being put on recruiting staff who understand the mindsets of developing world countries such as India, Sudan and Afghanistan.

CIA logo
Intelligence agencies are being urged to work together
Knowing the intention of a government is half the battle in the intelligence world.

An extra $1bn is being given to the CIA with instructions that it must work much more closely with other agencies, particularly the Pentagon.

But even then, there are doubts about whether it will work.

Self-destructive

"Most of the secrecy inside the government is actually directed against other agencies, not against people on the outside," said Tom Blanton who runs the National Security Archive in Washington - an organisation which specialises in declassifying intelligence files under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The CIA keeps things secret that it doesn't want the State Department to know. The army stops information getting to the navy and so on.

"It's a weapon used to keep people out of your business and maintain autonomy for yourself."

But it has also proved to be a self-destructive weapon which has failed to predict major events in modern history.

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