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CIA Analyst Details The Fundamental Paradox Of The 'War On Terror'

·Director, Editorial
secret service
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We've been reading University of Pennsylvania Sociologist Dr. Bridget Nolan's dissertation on information sharing within the post-9/11 intelligence community.

Nolan, a CIA Graduate Fellow in sociology, produced the ethnography by making observations and interviewing 20 analysts in NCTC’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI) while also working full time as a counterterrorism analyst at Nation Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) from January 2010 to January 2011.

She notes that many analysts feel overwhelmed because " they often were not really sure what their jobs were, and they felt that they had very little understanding of what other people in the organization do."

One interviewee, a relatively new CIA analyst named Anna, explained her confusion through the concept of the "War on Terror":

"We’re fighting the War on Terror. What does that actually mean? How do you specifically go about that day to day? Like, when we were fighting the Cold War, we were more sure then, I think. There was a country that we could point to and we knew we were fighting. Now it’s like, networks, there don’t seem to be countries anymore with this, and it’s really hard to know what winning this war would look like."

What Anna detailed is the paradox of the War on Terror: The U.S. is fighting, but there are no clear day-to-day objectives. There is an enemy, but it is more of a network than an entity. There is an objective, but there is no clear way to win.

Last year The Washington Post, in a report on the NTCT's disposition matrix, noted that Obama administration officials believe that U.S. global kill/capture operations " are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight."

A senior administration official then reiterated Anna's point:

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us," the official told the Post. "It's a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

So it seems that the confusion about how to end the global war on terror starts at the top and trickles down to individual intelligence analysts.

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