Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Foreign Espionage and U.S. Counter-Intelligence Strategy

I've recently been tasked by the Hudson Institute to research US counterintelligence strategy, and I was pretty amazed by how much foreign espionage actually goes on in the US. By order of rank, Chinese intelligence operations are the biggest with Russia coming in second and Cuba, Israel, France coming in behind. The Chinese threat is particularly serious, focusing primarily on technology, science and economics. In a rather comical statement, Joel Brenner, the National Counterintelligence Executive, said Chinese espionage operations are "eating our lunch." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but its got to be bad.

Take formal state espionage threats and combine them with non-state threats from terrorist organizations and you get the 2005 National Counterintelligence Strategy and its recent modification last March. Both documents are designed to complement the 2002 National Security Strategy; identifying a full range of potential enemies, the intelligence operations they may be conducting, how they might be conducted, and how counter-intelligence operations would proceed in disrupting their efforts.

Both documents echo earlier concepts from the National Security Strategy, asserting that traditional methods of hostile ops have changed with the emergence of international terrorism. Thus, the focus of U.S. counterintelligence has changed from targeting formal spies to the “larger population of foreign visitors,” as well as anyone else who may be involved in intelligence collection activities.

The new strategy also notes that the targets of foreign agents have expanded, including “private businesses, scientists, foreign students and trade shows,” which extend beyond the normal range of clandestine missions. As such, the new strategy calls for incorporation into the routine of everyday life. Thus, the strategy includes an economic dimension to counter-intelligence, which“represents a philosophic approach that can bring coherence to many areas of national policy.” However, “to be effective the national counter intelligence strategy requires that essential processes and features be inculcated into government structures and business models.” It assigns particular relevance to protecting social structures "whose importance may be unknown even to those who control them." That odd statement becomes a bit insidious when you find out it refers to academics.

The Washington Times reported in late February that "The FBI and other U.S. counterintelligence agencies are stepping up efforts, including outreach to academics, to counter Chinese intelligence efforts after a string of damaging spy cases over the past five years." Robert Sutter, a former CIA officer and current professor at Georgetown University, refused to cooperate in counterintelligence operations and advised other academics to do the same. A former FBI counter-intelligence analyst noted that academics aren't cooperating as they have in the past, because "Smart people then wonder if they talk to these [FBI] guys they might slice and dice what is said and send it over to the Justice Department for an espionage prosecution... When you're dealing with counterespionage, it will suck you in."

So don't get sucked in ya'll.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Edward Said's Attack on Samuel Huntington and Arguements Against Theory

An article by Edward Said, written as a refutation of Samuel Huntington’s thesis, was recently sent to me by my fellow blogger at Foreign Policy Watch. I read it and found a response to a comment quickly turning into an entirely new post. I found the article quite disappointing. This is why.

The first 3rd of Said’s article amounts to a trash heap of fallacies in reasoning. Said dismisses the notion of civilization identity out of hand as “belligerent thinking,” while depicting the attempt to classify civilization as an impossible task, which Said argues amounts to a cartoon caricature. Next he assumes that it is illegitimate for the West to seek power, while attempting to assassinate Huntington’s character by essentially calling him a high tower “ideologist” with “hidden loyalties.” After that he goes on to call him a “clumsy writer and an inelegant thinker.” Then he mounts an attack on Huntington by pointing to the irrelevant fact that “international luminaries from former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have pontificated about Islam's troubles, and in the latter's case have used Huntington's ideas to rant on about the West's superiority.”

We all know that Hitler was an avid fan of “The Prince,” but it doesn’t keep university political science departments from pointing out the value of Machiavelli’s ideas and his place in the field. Nor will the fact that other idiots use Huntington’s theses to advance their agenda’s change my mind about the arguments he makes.

Said continues his morally indignant diatribe by again attacking Huntington ad hominen. He asserts that Huntigton’s work is “plainly designed not to edify but to inflame the reader's indignant passion as a member of the "West," and what we need to do.” This is an attempt to impugn Huntington’s motives. And I shouldn’t have to point this out, but it doesn’t qualify as a real argument against his thesis.

These unsubstantiated and irrelevant attacks should be easily recognizable as Bullshit to any one who has attempted to familiarize himself with a basic logic textbook (I recommend With Good Reason by Morris Engel.) I did however continue reading the article and found one basic legitimate argument. It essentially is an argument against theory in general.

Theorists attempt to isolate key elements within a necessarily restrictive mental construct in order to establish the study of a particular subject in its own right. Theories are necessarily restrictive, and unfortunately the only way we can make sense of the world. Said points to the limitations of theory to undermine Huntington’s thesis. It’s all very postmodern. He supports his critique by asserting that the interdependence between civilizations within their historicity demonstrates they can’t be isolated.

"The West drew on the humanism, science, philosophy, sociology and historiography of Islam, which had already interposed itself between Charlemagne's world and classical antiquity. Islam is inside from the start, as even Dante, great enemy of Mohammed, had to concede when he placed the Prophet at the very heart of his Inferno.”

This may be true, however it does not demonstrate the falsity of Huntington’s theses, nor does it warrant all the attacks that Said erected his critique upon. It simply points to the limitation of theory in general. Theories are measured by their usefulness in explaining the world. If a theory can’t explain a particular aspect of the world then the theory is not falsified it simply reached a limitation.

He concludes his article by pointing out the “bewildering interdependence of our time.” And in deed it will be quite bewildering, especially for those who reject the means by which we ascertain abstract truths about the external world. But as with postmodernism, it largely rejects the concept of truth and sometimes even the existence of an external world.