Highlighting disagreements among U.S. intelligence analysts, and giving those analysts more complete information about the sources of information, are among the first changes being emphasized by Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, officials associated with his National Intelligence Council said yesterday.
The comment came yesterday in a briefing for reporters that covered the activities of two of Negroponte's senior officials: Thomas Fingar, the new deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and David Gordon, the NIC vice chairman.
"When people don't agree, we hope they raise yellow flags," said one of two officials at the briefing. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, in part to avoid upstaging Negroponte's deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who is scheduled to testify before Congress next week. The official added that people from different agencies -- such as the State and Defense departments -- look at the same information through different lenses and often do not judge it the same way. Policymakers should know and understand those differences, he said.
In the past, he said, the emphasis was on coming up with a consensus in the intelligence community, which helped lead to the overestimates of Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
"Group think" was how the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence described the phenomenon in its report last year. When one agency disagreed with others, as the State Department did with judgments on Iraq's alleged reconstitution of its nuclear program, it was left to do so in a "footnote" to the National Intelligence Estimate, which gave little room to argue the case.
"We are trying to move away from obscuring differences," the senior official said. Saying most differences are "more apparent than real," he noted a case in which they were not. On North Korea, some analysts thought Pyongyang could be dealt with through diplomacy, while others disagreed and supported confrontation.
The senior officials said a new emphasis is being put on letting analysts know more about the sources of intelligence, a step that was considered "revolutionary" when slowly initiated at the CIA three years ago by George J. Tenet, the director at the time. It is now being vigorously pushed as necessary after the discovery that a man code-named "Curveball," the only source for allegations that Iraq had mobile biological agent factories, was not even a U.S.-run source.
As an example, the senior official said that it will no longer be enough to use photographs of buildings and the trucks that visit them to draw conclusions about what is going on in those buildings, as was the case with judgments on some of Iraq's chemical facilities.
Both newly emphasized approaches had been recommended by the president's commission on intelligence and by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and they are aimed to remedy flaws that were found in the intelligence before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in the overstating of Hussein's arsenal.