(The truth of the matter is this: Firstly, ex-CIA people get paid big bucks to be analysts for the Newspapers and Radio-Television Broadcast stations, so this would hut their pocketbooks. Secondly, why does the US military, supposedly the best in the world, and our intelligence agencies, again supposedly the best on earth, put people on the ground there to get intelligence, instead of relying on journalists? Thirdly, are our journalists also then spies? Fourthly, since the modern journalists are nothing more than partisan pundits, carrying the party lines, reporting only what someone in some office somewhere tells them to write, then the whole truth is this: they do not want you to know the truth, and so if you are getting the truth from someone, and people realize they are being lied to, then these poor old party loyalists are out of a job. I say put them all out of work, and let the truth be told! SDL)
The long, slow decline of the newspaper business isn’t just hurting reporters and people who like to have something to read on the subway: It’s a potential threat to our national security.
That, at least, is the verdict delivered by Daniel Butler, an official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Kevin O’Connell, a former intelligence analyst for the State and Defense Departments. At a National Press Club panel devoted to open source intelligence-i.e., intelligence gathered from news reports and other unclassified outlets– both men said the dramatic cutbacks in expensive foreign reporting by U.S. newspapers have made it harder for intelligence analysts to understand global trends. Michael Kraft wrote up an account of the panel for the Counterterrorism Blog:
In response to a question, Butler said that the open source program had been impacted negatively by the reduction in the number of foreign correspondents. He said the quantity, breadth and quality of overseas reporting has declined because of the decisions by many news organizations to cut back the number of their correspondents overseas. During the past several years several major newspapers and television networks have eliminated or minimized their foreign correspondents posts, mainly for financial reasons. Butler quipped that one only has to pick up the Washington Post every morning to see how much lighter it is.
Kevin O’Connell, who has served in the CIA, and in Defense Department and State Department analyst positions, said that reporting from foreign correspondents often provides a context and depth of understanding a country that is not always available to analysts who have not been there.
It seems, in other words, that even as reporters are desperate to find out secrets from spooks, the spooks have been reading the reporters’ stories all along to find out what’s going on in the world. And now that newspapers can’t foot the bill for foreign bureaus anymore, the spooks are on their own.
“We’ve certainly seen the impact of bureaus closing,” O’Connell told Yahoo! News. “Open source intelligence is about the fabric and rich context around which events need to be understood. When foreign correspondents write about an issue, they typically include that context, because their audience doesn’t know the details of, say, Pakistani politics. When a Pakistani writer writes about something, they rarely include that nuance.”
That means, O’Connell added, that U.S. intelligence analysts aren’t getting the whole picture when they review news reports and send the data up the intelligence stream. “We have a young analytic cadre that hasn’t had a lot of overseas travel,” O’Connell said. “They need context.”
There would seem to be an elegant solution to this problem, if only the CIA, Defense Department, and other government agencies in need of context for their foreign intelligence analysis could simply hire all those laid-off foreign correspondents.
Oh, wait—that’s already happened. The Defense Department recently gave former CNN executive Eason Jordan and reporter Robert Young Pelton a contract to build a journalistic web site reporting on Afghanistan and Pakistan to help the military understand what’s happening on the ground. However, money for the program ended up being diverted to an off-the-books, and potentially illegal, spying operation that’s currently the subject of multiple federal investigations. Maybe Plan B would involve the State Department launching a newspaper or something.
—John Cook is a senior national reporter/blogger for Yahoo! News