Over the past few weeks there has been a bit of a dust-up regarding the reliability of analysis and information originating from our nation's intelligence community. Much of this, in my opinion, is due to attempts to politicize the results of good analysis and judgements on the part of seasoned, career intelligence professionals. I am not here to regurgitate political arguments nor to questions the analysis of those closer to the information than I am; that said, I do believe it worthwhile to frame the mission and obstacles of the intelligence community in a manner which might be easier to digest.
This is not the first time I've attempted explain the objectives of good intelligence personnel; as a former military intelligence officer I was once asked by my now-grown son to explain my job to him. After several moments of thought, I took out a jigsaw puzzle and spread it out on the dining room table with all of the pieces face down. I told my son that he could pick up one piece of the puzzle every minute and attempt to guess what picture the puzzle would make when it was completed. After 30 minutes (and a few pieces which made the answer obvious), my son succeeded. I explained to him that my job was similar to what he had just done; my job was to determine what the real picture was as quickly as possible, with as few pieces as possible. The only difference, though, was that every time I guessed incorrectly something bad could happen to my neighbors, my friends, my fellow soldiers, my nation.
Every intelligence professional -- whether on the front lines or buried in windowless offices -- works tirelessly every single day to sort through petabytes of information in order to prevent bad things from happening to our nation. The intelligence community is by no means perfect; after all, this community is made up of human beings. Still, our nation's intelligence agencies are comprised of some of the best and most dedicated professionals in the world...and they have only gotten better under General Clapper's guidance and direction. Let us avoid denigration of the messenger even as we continue to protest the politicization of the message.
My two cents...