Hidden threats: reframing the debate on domestic intelligence in an age of counterterrorism
Wright, Christopher E.
Rasmussen, Maria J.
Burkett, Randy P.
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The attacks of September 11, 2001, revealed a weakness in America’s defense—it lacked sufficient predictive domestic intelligence to prevent terrorism. More than a decade later, the American policy community continues to debate the need for an independent domestic intelligence service focused on counterterrorism. Debate often centers on whether or not the United States should create an intelligence service independent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has given less attention to what characteristics are expected in a service if one were created. The questions of should and what are naturally intertwined. The former, however, often focuses on system-based factors exogenous to the service: administrative structures, oversight mechanisms, information-sharing bodies, and national legal frameworks. Generally absent from this debate is an isolated, systematic, evaluation of ideal characteristics endogenous to a domestic intelligence service. With a decade of reflection behind us, reframing the debate may help inform discussion on counterterrorism intelligence in America—so we may understand not only what we lack, but also what we should seek. Through an evaluation of literature on intelligence in democratic nations, and application of this evaluation to the post-9/11 discourse, this thesis identifies and analyzes characteristics deemed “ideal” in a service. It then tests these ideals in foreign security services often touted as models for America, in order to determine in what manner these characteristics exist, if at all. The study concludes by exploring lessons from this analysis to further inform debate, suggesting that the ideal characteristics expected in a domestic intelligence service are not only difficult to achieve in the modern counterterrorism environment, a strict pursuit of them may produce counterproductive results.
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