Anniversaries are a distinctly human phenomenon, an intersection of our ability to mark precisely the passage of time and the need to orient our place in the past, present, and future. For many intelligence professionals, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, will evoke memories of loss, courage, disbelief, anger, and kindness that have scarcely faded with time. New Yorker writer David Remnick recalled on 9/11’s 10th anniversary, “We could hardly erase the vision of the wreckage of the two towers, the twisted steel and sheets of glass, the images of men and women leaping from ninety-odd stories up.”
The rawness of that day, and its immediate disorienting aftermath, will not be soothed by the images of chaos, sacrifice, and salvation at Kabul airport last month as the US ended its military presence in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. It was a coda that was at once unimaginable and all too familiar. Afghanistan seems likely to become its own kind of marker of time, joining post-World War II, post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, post-Cold War, and post-9/11 as shorthand for the transition from one era to another.
Yet for many readers of Studies, inside and outside the Intelligence Community, 9/11 is an event to be learned, not remembered. As Stanford University professor and intelligence expert Dr. Amy Zegart recently observed:
- At first, I struggled to find ways to take the emotion out of my teaching—to bring logical reasoning, historical perspective, and careful analysis to a moment that seemed to defy all of those things. Now I struggle to put the emotion back in, helping students who weren’t yet born when al-Qa‘ida terrorists attacked our nation understand the visceral context and swirling uncertainties that intelligence officials and policymakers faced.
When the Studies editorial board began to plan this edition, we too grappled with how to address the anniversary of an event that is both lived experience and learned history. We also considered that 9/11 has been covered extensively in these pages, in other intelligence-focused publications, and in popular media. Moreover, the anniversary will be commemorated in countless private and public moments. Ultimately, our debate was animated by the question that many consumers of intelligence eventually ask: What are you going to do about this?
For the US Intelligence Community, in the immediate aftermath, doing something about 9/11 would take multiple forms: taking stock, to understand what had
happened; striking back, to rob al-Qa‘ida of its safehaven in Afghanistan; and detecting, deterring, and disrupting, to bolster our defenses against additional spectacular plots. As decisive and swift as these reactions would be, a fuller accounting of the intelligence, law enforcement, and policy failings that led up to 9/11 would come three years later in the 9/11 Commission report, amplified by the concurrent examination of the IC’s poor performance collecting on and assessing Iraq’s WMD programs. The result was passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in late 2004.
Like 9/11, IRTPA would become its own kind of before and after for the IC and the customers it serves. IRTPA was surely the most sweeping reform since the modern IC was created by the National Security Act of 1947. For the first time, a director of national intelligence would have responsibility for integrating intelligence across the national security enterprise. For the first time, a DNI would work with the agencies to establish collection priorities, set common standards for intelligence analysis, build systems to share and coordinate intelligence, and make decisions about investments in people and technology. For the first time, a DNI would deliver intelligence to the president and represent the IC to Congress and the public.
In this edition, we explore how intelligence integration, driven by the events of 9/11, moved from concept to reality through the perspectives of participants like former DNI James Clapper. We reprise a highly influential 2010 Studies article by Robert Cardillo on the need for a new approach to IC integration. Then director of analysis at DIA, Cardillo would serve as DNI Clapper’s first deputy director of national intelligence for intelligence integration. Peter Clement looks at how intelligence integration changed the landscape for CIA’s analytic directorate, challenging some cherished notions about CIA’s role in the IC. Barry Zulauf takes up the topic of politicization to reflect on his role as the DNI’s ombudsperson for analytic objectivity, highlighting how common tradecraft standards adopted since IRTPA can help safeguard against real or perceived politicization of analysis.
Former senior NSC and CIA official Steve Slick takes stock of how integration looked from his perspectives in Washington and in the field, and he notes there is more work to be done. Jon Rosenwasser, staff member on the SSCI, provides insights from Capitol Hill’s vantage, and he too observes that further adaptation will be necessary as the IC faces evolving threats.
One thing is also certain: there will be plenty of observers offering opinions on what the IC should do, as CIA historian Gary Keeley documents in his survey of the voluminous literature on the IC since 9/11. Keeley’s article also makes it clear that intelligence integration is a process, not an end state. This will not be the last time we visit the topic in Studies, and we invite you to take up where this edition leaves off.
—Joseph W. Gartin