Biden’s National Intelligence Strategy: Using Power to Shape Truth
Last week the Biden Administration unveiled its new “National Intelligence Strategy.” These have been done periodically since the first one, in 2005. The NIS is meant to complement what’s in the “National Security Strategy” and “National Defense Strategy.” As such, it’s an important window into the intelligence priorities of whomever is occupying the White House. And of course it sets the guidelines for the 18 American intelligence agencies. Last fall I compared and contrasted the Biden and Trump NSSs. Now I will do a similar analysis of this latest NIS.
The First NIS: A Response to 9/11
Let’s look at the original NIS, which came out in the wake of 9/11. It is, in effect, the baseline for such documents. It was 20 pages in length, with 15 objectives. The five strategic ones? Defeat terrorists. Prevent the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Support the spread of democracy. Figure out new ways to “penetrate and analyze difficult targets” (like al-Qaeda). And “anticipate developments of strategic concern.” Don’t get caught with our pants down, as happened on 9/11, in other words.
The “Enterprise Objectives” are mostly process ones. But it is enlightening — and depressing — to look at the major failure that the very first of those turned into. “Build an integrated intelligence capability to address threats to the homeland, consistent with US laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties” (emphasis added). The Patriot Act was a mistake, as both the Right and (some on the) Left now agree.
Does the IC Really Speak Truth to Power?
But at least the first NIS had concrete, understandable goals. Unlike Biden’s. His NIS, unsurprisingly, showcases the triumph of process over substance. As well as the enshrinement of Leftist dogma into the Intelligence Community. For example, the second principle of professional ethics listed insists the IC will, in one of the Left’s favorite phrases, “speak truth to power.” But will that really happen? Especially now that the central IC figure, the CIA director, is in the Cabinet? That makes the DCI part of the power structure. Agencies already get pressure to tailor their studies to fit the leanings of the current administration. Democrat or Republican. I saw this firsthand working at US Special Operations Command under Obama. Analysis that pointed out the ancient, Islamic roots of jihadist ideology was frowned upon. (And in other related venues, it led to dismissal from lecturing positions.) It’s more likely that “power knows the truth already, and is busy concealing it.”
The Usual Leftist Set of Priorities
Several times this rather short document calls for the Leftist holy trinity of “diversity, equity, inclusion.” It also mentions “climate change/security” first in every list of “global challenges.” Three times, in total. We also are treated to this administration’s newest phrase, “irregular migration.” They first trotted this out in last year’s NSS. The Biden administration borrowed it from the Europeans. Why? It’s an attempt to make mass, cross-border migration acceptable. Basically, to white-wash the more accurate term, “illegal migration.”
COVID-phobia Rules in the IC
Then there’s this. “In a world still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic” we must accept that “risk assumed by one is effectively assumed by all.” No. It’s simply not true. This is not just misinformation. (Wrong info with no intent to mislead.) It’s downright disinformation. (Spewing deliberate falsehoods.) The NIS might as well tell us to put our masks back on. And the Biden IC probably will, sooner rather than later. Also, why no mention of the fact that COVID-19 came from China, our primary strategic competitor?
But Pay No Attention to the Terrorism Behind the Veil
Nearly 7000 people were killed by terrorists in 2022. But Biden’s NIS mentions “terrorist organizations” a grand total of…once. And the vast majority of those groups? No, not MAGA. Muslim. Which is never mentioned. So while the document calls for more “language” and “cultural expertise,” that won’t matter if analysts and leadership can’t see what’s right in front of them. It doesn’t take a degree in Arabic to figure that out. Although that wouldn’t hurt.
Non-State Actors of the Leftist Kind
Here is the most curious, and potentially alarming, aspect of this NIS. “The IC must build new and restructure existing collaborative mechanisms with non-state actors and find ways to enhance the flow of information to and from these actors….” But these “non-state actors” are never specified. I asked several former government officials who these might be. Best guess is so-called “disinformation” tracking groups. Especially the kind that label anything conservative (and Christian) as such.
But there could be other candidates. BLM. Various gun-control groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center which paints just about any organization to the right of Bernie Sanders as a “hate” one. Despite (of maybe because of) which the Democrats still used the SPLC to track “Trump’s ties to extremism.” Then there’s CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which portrays “Islamophobia” as even more rampant than the SPLC depicts “hate.” With non-state friends like these, the IC will find enemies everywhere in this land. And especially the kinds it’s been instructed to spy out, and upon. White folks who voted for the Bad Orange Man.
An Inane Document is Right Twice a Day
There are some good points in this NIS. It does point out that “the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is the only U.S. competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and…the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.” Not Russia. (Although the fact that Russia has more nukes than the US and PRC combined might have been worth noting.) And the government is finally admitting that threats to our supply chains are problematic. But these nuggets of truth get lost amidst the inane babble of jargon. Just try to make sense of p. 9, on how to “Deliver Interoperable and Innovative Solution at Scale.” Good luck.
Sacred Is As Sacred Does
The final line of Biden’s NIS is about “upholding our sacred obligation to protect and care for officers and their families in harm’s way.” That’s welcome news, considering how many have met their demise since he was elected. I just wish the IC would hold just as sacred ending its meddling in domestic American politics and elections. But there’s no mention of that anywhere in this document. Rather than “speaking truth to power,” this NIS makes it more likely that power will be used to shape truth.
Timothy Furnish holds a Ph.D. in Islamic, World and African history from Ohio State University and a M.A. in Theology from Concordia Seminary. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS). He currently writes for and consults The Stream on International Security matters.