I grew up watching and reading James Bond movies and novels. I remember watching shows like Secret Agent Man, The Man From Uncle and Get Smart. As I got older I read a lot more on how real “intelligence” work takes place. When I was in the army part of my job was protecting our secrets. Then a few years ago I discovered that all that James Bond bullshit was exactly that – bullshit.
If you don’t believe me, read the Church Committee Reports. All those spy games didn’t win the war in Vietnam. All the covert activities in Iran, Cuba, Guatemala and Chile ended up going astray. Our own intelligences services may well have been involved in the assassination of JFK. The CIA missed the fall of the Soviet Union because they grossly overestimated the threat that union represented.
In this context “intelligence” means “information”. That’s what spies have always done – get information. Most of it is really basic. How big is another nation? How big is their military? Where are their cities, roads, and other important strategic resources. These days that’s easy to gather. Uncovering their intentions and plans is more problematic.
We spy on other nations. Not just our enemies either, we spy on our friends too. And they spy on us. Just like picking your nose in the car it’s one of those things everybody does and nobody admits.
Of course the more adept you get at obtaining other countries’ information, the less confident you become at protecting your own. You know you’re being spied on so you intentionally put out “misinformation”.
Spies can never get enough information. So they gather all the information they can possibly get. But all that information has to be processed. Computers can help, but someone still has to condense it all down and present it to the decision maker(s). A computer can do statistical analysis, but it can’t decide whether to unleash the dogs of war.
So you need people to process and evaluate the information you gather. The more information you gather, the more people you need to evaluate it. You can record a million phone calls a day, but how many can you actually listen to? How do you sort the information from the misinformation?
This whole NSA “metadata” concept is based on the idea that you can gather a huge shitpile of information and then run it thru a powerful computer using some complicated algorithms and it will predict the future. But it didn’t predict the Tsarnaev brothers setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon.
Here’s the kicker: You go out and gather information from diverse sources. You process it, evaluate it, condense it and prioritize it. You determine that something bad is about to happen. You put your conclusions and recommendations in a report. Then you take it to the Decider and he ignores it because his political advisors want him to do something different.