By: Gwendolyn Breitstein, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Intern
Devon Allaby, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Intern

On Monday July 26 2010, the Advanced Technical Intelligence Association, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance hosted an open forum to discuss the present state of intelligence oversight. The guest speaker at the event, “Intelligence Management and Oversight: How Are We Doing?” was Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan.  Panelists were former congressman and ATIA Executive Director Jim Longley and Senior Fellow Al Munson of the Potomac Institute. Potomac Institute CEO Mike Swetnam offered opening remarks.

The discussion was timely, as breaking news in recent weeks has put the intelligence community in the spotlight and under scrutiny. The highly critical Washington Post series “Top-Secret America,” General Clapper’s  nomination for the DNI position and subsequent hearings, and the WikiLeaks release of 91,000 military intelligence documents have all raised questions about management and oversight of vital national intelligence functions.

Rep. Mike Rogers

In his remarks, Rep. Rogers pinpointed three main issues that he felt were the most troubling. These issues involve the growing cyber security threat, the evolution of the DNI office,  and the problems of living in what he described as “a culture of  disclosure.”

The congressman found one of the most troubling issues in intelligence oversight to be the evolution of the DNI office in the  aftermath of 9-11. Though the congressman sees value in the organizational and coordination duties given to

the DNI office at the time of its creation,he is critical of the major expansion in its authority and its adoption of operational duties.  Rep. Rogers says that as originally conceived, the DNI position should be one of “the most boring” intelligence jobs in Washington, but that the authority, operational  capacity and size of the DNI keep growing every year.  He argues that when flaws in the bureaucracy of the intelligence community were exposed with the 9-11 attacks, we should have removed bureaucratic obstacles, but with the creation of the DNI another layer of bureaucracy was added instead.

His arguments follow a Washington Post article published last week that  suggested  there are many areas in intelligence that have grown unmanageably large since 9-11. According to the report, the sheer size of the extensive bureaucracy of the intelligence community has created redundancies and deficiencies. As the congressman pointed out, the DNI office alone employs more people than the total combined number of American spies and agents working abroad. The question that Rep. Rogers asks is, “How do we get a handle on the bureaucracy that we have created in the intelligence business?"

The congressman also spoke extensively on the subject of cyber security, an area in which he believes “we are not prepared” both culturally and in our government organization. The congressman spoke in detail about cyber espionage and the vulnerability that has been created by the internet, especially with regard to social networking sites.

To illustrate his point, Rep. Rogers referred back to a previous era, when intelligence personnel implanted abroad would slowly immerse themselves in a foreign culture, gain the trust of officials and extract pieces of information for their home country.  This model for clandestine operations was incredibly costly, an equation that favored the United States. . Now, in the era of cyber espionage, countries that previously could not afford to invest in extensive intelligence operations are able to employ people who can work from their own living rooms, using cheap and easy tools that are proving to be very effective. Rep. Rogers pointed to revealing studies conducted by Canada’s Information Warfare Monitor group, whose recent projects including “GhostNet” and others indicate that international cyber espionage has become a widespread problem.

In the question-and-answer period, the congressman spoke about the WikiLeaks incident that occurred the day before, and referred to intelligence disclosure concerns in general. He said that while criminal charges could be difficult to bring in this case, it is emblematic of a larger “culture of disclosure” that presents an ongoing threat to intelligence operations. This refers back to his earlier comment about free-flowing information on social networks, which poses problems even at the top levels of government.

Rep. Mike Rogers currently serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis and Counterintelligence. He also serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Prior to his election to Congress, he served as a special agent in the FBI

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