Intelligence community getting ‘SHARP’


Robert Reich isn’t entirely sure what he said before, but he’s certain that a new trade pact is “NAFTA on steroids,” and therefore bad. (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

No more energy drinks. No more jitters. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s office — the ODNI — “has embarked on a multi-year research effort to develop and test methods to improve reasoning and problem-solving in healthy, high-performing adults.”

The Monday announcement says, “If successful, proven methods developed under the Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving (SHARP) program may enhance analysts’ capacity to reason through complex, ambiguous and often novel problems common to the Intelligence Community.”

Or maybe not. The ODNI’s “Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity” folks have already awarded research contracts — totaling $12 million in the first year and renewable based on performance — to Charles River Analytics, Honeywell and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to see whether it can be done.

Sounds good. Less guesswork and wishful thinking. No Vietnam, no Bay of Pigs, no bailing out British oil companies in Iran in ’53 and no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Of course, if you’re not “healthy” or “high-performance” already, you may be reduced to thinking up program acronyms.

A job, or an oxymoron?

The National Security Agency, which has come under a bit of criticism of late for violating the privacy rights of just about everyone on the planet, has named its first civil liberties and privacy officer.

“This new position is focused on the future,” the agency’s September job announcement said, and is “designed to directly enhance decision making and to ensure that [civil liberties and privacy] protections continue to be baked into NSA’s future operations, technologies, tradecraft, and policies.”

“Civil libertarians are skeptical,” former Department of Homeland Security official Paul Rosenzweig said Tuesday in reporting the appointment on his Lawfare blog, “and I think it is fair to say that the job will be quite a difficult one for the selectee — Rebecca “Becky” Richards who is leaving the DHS privacy office to start her new job at NSA next month.”

Can’t imagine why they are skeptical.

Ruckuses and regrets

Robert Reich, the Clinton administration labor secretary now teaching at UC-Berkeley, raised a ruckus Sunday on his Facebook page when he posted: “STOP THE TPP. Congress is poised to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (that is, move it through both houses without opportunity for amendment).”

Calling on people to “make a ruckus,” he pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying that “I still regret not doing more to strengthen” its “labor and environmental side-agreements” when he was working for President Bill Clinton. “The TPP is NAFTA on steroids.”

That strong stance drew hundreds of comments, many of them pointing out that Reich supported NAFTA back in Clinton days and also a “fast-track” process.

Asked about this, he e-mailed: “I pushed hard inside the Clinton administration for stronger labor and environmental side agreements to NAFTA. . . . Wish I had done more.” And “As to fast-tracking trade agreements, though, had no role.”

Ah, but some beg to differ, pointing out, among other things, a 2007 speech he gave when the Bush administration was pushing for fast-track authority, calling it “vitally important.” He said it was “the only reason that any other country would sign a trade treaty with the United States,” lest they sign on and Congress then changes it.

In response to that, he quipped in an e-mail: “Al, I don’t recall what I said in Tampa in 2007. I’m lucky if I remember what I said yesterday.”

The Kerry express

Some government jobs have really cool perks.

Secretary of State John Kerry, for example, has recently taken to having overseas flights make an extra stop to pick him up or drop him off. It was something Hillary Clinton also did as secretary of state.

As we noted in 2010: “Some government officials have home-to-office cars and drivers. Not many have home-to-office planes and pilots. This is at least the second time she’s been dropped off in New York City on a flight to Washington. Raised some eyebrows.”

The most famous air commuter, of course, was former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta, who flew home, sans press but with staff, from Washington to California on weekends.

Sometimes the detours by Kerry, who’s been known to take the shuttle as well, simply mean reporters and staff on the State Department plane are left waiting briefly. (Well, nobody was promised a nonstop.) Sometimes the delays are longer.

On Kerry’s return Saturday from Davos, Switzerland, the plane detoured to drop him off in Boston, we learned via Twitter. The plane refueled and took off to Washington after a ground delay of more than an hour. After another trip in late November, he was dropped off in New York. Again, the delay for those who stayed on board was relatively brief. Back on New Year’s Day, the plane picked him up in Boston to take off to the Middle East.

But there was a longer delay when he was dropped off in San Francisco on Dec. 18 — after a killer trip to the Middle East and Asia — so he could fly to his vacation house in Idaho (via a smaller government plane). It turned out staffers and reporters had to spend the night at an airport hotel — crew rest was required — and lost a day getting home, right before Christmas.

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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