learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...


learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

of a raid suggests something that may be a nuisance, but that’s it. I think it was that failure

of imagination.” 567

A failure of imagination ... Sixty-three years later, this past summer, the 9/11 Commissioners

would write in their Report: “We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four

kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” In a section of

the Report titled Institutionalizing Imagination: The Case of Aircraft as Weapons, the

Commissioners wrote: “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies

... It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise

of imagination.” 568

If we need to exercise imagination, to pursue the impossible, against an incredibly

complex array of challenges, we need to do so at a time of dramatic change in our people.

There is a new generation of men and women coming into the intelligence service. As we

move on from the baby boomers, we have opened the doors to the cyber sonics.

There is nothing particularly awesome to the cyber sonics about the capabilities of a

Predator being flown over Afghanistan from a command center in Nevada. This is the

generation of instant, ever-accessible communications, a generation of geospatial videoand

computer-game dexterity, a generation pressing for each new information-technology

linkage and computer software advance.

This is a generation that thrives on multi-tasking, on accomplishment and recognition,

on job change. Life is the expanding cyber universe with its opportunities and its

unknowns. Each individual is the key board and the mouse.

What was speed in the intelligence work force just a few years ago is slow to the cyber

sonics. What was taken as gospel is open to doubt. A speed reading instructor told a group

of Master’s candidates at my College: “I’m going to teach you how to read each page in

four seconds,” and one student said to another “Why not three?” These young men and

women understand the importance of career development and growth through expanding

opportunities and experience, and do not understand why the departments, agencies, and

organizations in the intelligence community make career shifts within the community and

sabbaticals in the private sector so monumentally difficult.

This is a generation that is ready to exercise imagination in pursuing the impossible,

and it is the responsibility of those leading the implementation of intelligence reform to

clear the path. If you think about this community today, if you think about our collective

lack of imagination, a lot of clearing lies ahead. You do not have to look far. How about

the mind-numbing acronyms we use to label to the major fields of our profession -OSINT,

MASINT, IMINT, HUMINT? You would think they had been fed to us by our adversaries

to keep us in a perpetual fog.

567 Gerald Astor, Wings of Gold Ballantine Books, New York, 2004, p. 19.

568 The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the

United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), 339 and 344.


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