Intelligence and Stupidity

Posted Jul 26, 2016 at 11:11. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

International intelligence gathering and spying are pretty boring activities most of the time. They are boring because most intelligence gathering consists of desk work and analyzing readily available information. Just because certain information is readily available does not mean that it can be ignored when seeking top-secret information about what another government is doing or plans to do.

The recent massive leak of sensitive information in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compromised tens of thousands of potentially sensitive documents by handling them extremely carelessly is a case in point. An uninformed observer might dismiss her carelessness because most of the mishandled information appears to be unimportant.

An intelligence analyst knows that the bulk of the information collected is of little or no apparent value. It is only after assembling the many pieces into a picture of what is going on do some of the insignificant items become important. J.D. Nobody is appalled that so many people dismiss this process as being of little consequence, thereby showing an appalling ignorance of the importance of trivia to intelligence gathering. In more than a few cases this ignorance rises to the level of just plain stupidity if the ignorant person keeps refusing to accept the seriousness of the situation once the process is explained to him/her. Let’s now walk through an example of how inconsequential intelligence is processed and might hold the clue to obtaining much more important information.

The Secretary of State sends an email to her daughter via insecure channels saying that they will get together for breakfast the following day. Getting together for breakfast is hardly a world-changing event. The following morning the Secretary sends her daughter an email saying that she must make an emergency trip to London and cancels the breakfast appointment.

A foreign intelligence agency intercepts these two emails and discerns that this emergency trip is almost certainly due to a developing monetary crisis in England. This breakfast cancellation reinforces information from other sources that a monetary crisis may be about to happen. This new information makes it clear that the foreign power can safely take market positions that will generate billions in profit at the cost of everyone else once the crisis blows out into the open. The breakfast cancellation has provided the key to turning the suspect crisis information into actionable information. Every piece of trivium potentially has important intelligence. Trivia can also be critically important to generating disinformation to trick an opponent.

There have been two recent instances in the U.S. where the failure to secure email communications adequately has made much valuable information readily available to hostile foreign powers. The first instance is the private email server used by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. The second instance is the failure of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to secure its embarrassing email communications adequately. Hackers broke into much DNC email correspondence and posted it on the Internet, with the clear intent of disrupting the American political process.

This disruption has succeeded quite well, for it predictably has generated much furious discussion over who stole the information, what the motives were, and how to react to the manipulations and betrayals revealed in the emails. Unfortunately, the reaction to this has been a trial lawyer like reaction that argues endlessly over who is innocent or guilty.

Assigning blame has become a perfect storm in this situation because many persons have handled the embarrassing emails. The players in the game have thereby dispersed the culpability among many persons, allowing everyone to point a finger at someone else. Assigning blame is central in a court of law but has little relevance to dealing effectively with the dirty tricks of the espionage and disinformation worlds.

Worse yet is the time-proven principle of not informing the top-level affected person of the mess and dirty tricks that are underfoot. Intentionally not knowing what is going on lets the boss claim complete ignorance of the dirt should it be exposed later. Until then the boss can publicly bask in premeditated ignorance of what is happening. Should the subordinates’ treachery be exposed the reaction by the boss will be one of well-scripted horror, and a few subordinates will be scapegoated for their “rogue” behavior. The operatives playing the dirty tricks are hired into their jobs because they clearly understand that playing dirty tricks is part of their job description, even when they are given explicit orders to the contrary.

Subordinates understand that they must take the blame should their shenanigans turn sour. They act expecting that any needed legal and financial help will clandestinely come out of the woodwork to mitigate complications resulting from following their phantom marching orders.

In the Complexity Trap world of intelligence and espionage, the trial lawyer’s escape via the route of premeditated ignorance does not work. Premeditated ignorance becomes stupidity once people perceive the top dog as stupid and incompetent because the proper questions were not asked. Trial lawyers are glib problem obfuscators, not the analytical problem solvers required for information analysis.

Turning intelligence and information processing into an exercise in trial lawyering is an exercise in stupidity because results matter far more than does the blame for compromising information. Understanding this difference is critical to winning the currently underway Third World War. The Third World War is a war of cyber intelligence and psychological terror. Trial lawyers are ill-equipped to lead in this war because losing a court decision is not remotely as serious as losing a cyber guerrilla war based on terrorism.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Jul 26, 2016 at 11:11. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Dec 14, 2019 at 17:09.
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