While most people think of spooks and gun-toting agents when they think of the CIA and FBI, desk-bound analysts play a critical role in helping to shape the investigations these agencies perform.
These brainy professionals are not getting the respect they deserve, and they are an essential force in analyzing potential threats to the US. Linguists in particular are in short supply outside of the Beltway and are key members of many investigations that involve foreign nationals.
The work of analysts is becoming increasingly critical as cybersecurity threats rapidly grow in intensity. Terrorists are becoming more tech savvy, and our enemies are working with global cyber syndicates. They have the potential to cripple the country’s infrastructure, and electrical systems throughout the US suffer a physical or cyber attack every four days now.
Also, the amount of data has skyrocketed, but the intelligence agencies still must effectively analyze this data. According to John E. McLaughlin, a former CIA acting director, intelligence lapses are usually caused because critical information gets lost in an “avalanche of data.”
A new report from the FBI 9/11 Review Commission argues that the agency needs to elevate the stature of its analysts to counter the increasingly sophisticated threats to this country.
The CIA viewed analysts as essential personnel since its founding, but they largely worked apart from operatives in the field. CIA director John Brennan just announced that the agency will follow the model of its Counterterrorism Center and combine analysts and operators in new mission centers, so they will work more closely together.
The FBI and the CIA do not want to end up like East Germany’s Stasi intelligence agency. It was incredibly effective at collecting immense amounts of data on East German citizens, but then was overwhelmed by the information and never analyzed much of it.