Night Watch

Indonesia: For the record. Security officials warned of possible terrorist attacks on or around the 10th anniversary of the 12 October 2002, Bali bombings that killed 202 people. The nation's security alert has been raised to its highest level. Though officials would not reveal specifics, they said prominent visitors to Bali for memorial events, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, could be targets.

Comment: Indonesian authorities have reported no specific threats, but have done more to raise vigilance on the anniversary of the Bali bombings than US authorities did on the anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings. The Indonesian authorities understand Islamic extremists, who have much in common with the Indonesian communists (PKI),  a half century ago.

Pakistan: After weeks of wrangling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a third draft of an official government letter that will ask Swiss authorities to revive corruption investigations against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, but with the proviso that any proceedings in Switzerland would be conditioned by the immunity available to the President under the Pakistan constitution.

Law Minister Farooq Naek submitted the draft letter to a five-judge bench which approved the draft.

The draft letter -- the third presented by the government to the court which objected to the contents of the previous two -- made it clear that any proceedings in Switzerland would be conditional to the immunity provided to the President by the Constitution and Pakistani and international laws.

In response to a Court request as to how long it would take the government to send the letter to Switzerland, Law Minister Naek said the draft would have to be translated into French and then sent through the Foreign Ministry. He sought four weeks to complete the process and the court accepted his request.

The court subsequently adjourned the case until mid-November.

Comment: Pakistani Prime Minister Ashraf remains accused of contempt of the Supreme Court for slow rolling this issue, but has not been convicted, as was his predecessor, Gilani. The compromise strengthens respect for the Court while providing the Ashraf government a way out of the confrontation between the judicial and executive branches of government.

Prudently, the key players have avoided a constitutional crisis for now.

Egypt: President Mursi attempted today to remove the Egyptian Prosecutor General over his failure to win a conviction against supporters of the Mubarak regime in an action during the uprising in Cairo. The Prosecutor General defied the President and accused him of usurping his constitutional authority.

Comment: The significance is that this is another indicator that no fundamental regime change has yet occurred in Egypt. Mubarak followers are everywhere, including in the Mursi government. Mursi almost reflexively applies the authoritarian powers that Mubarak used to keep Egypt under control.

Special Comment: A Brief History of Indicators Analysis

Compilation, examination and analysis of indicators of a nation's war preparations, collectively, are the oldest structured analytical discipline in continuous use by elements of the intelligence agencies since 1947. The discipline began in World War II and British defense intelligence maintained it ever since.

After World War II

In the US, the files of the National Warning Staff contained a thin folder that contained a letter from 1949 from British intelligence to the new CIA, asking for a review of an attached "checklist" of the actions the Soviets would take to prepare to invade West Berlin. The file did not contain the US response, but it was sent to J.J. Hitchcock, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Warning Committee in 1949 and later the first Director of the National Indications Center.

This exchange was the precursor to NATO's Soviet/Warsaw Pact Indicators List, and a few others it spawned. The US had no comparable list but had engaged in an intelligence exchange on warning of war indicators with the British before it had an organized federation of intelligence agencies. Crises came that quick after World War II.

The next benchmark for indicators in the files of the Warning Staff was a purple ink mimeograph copy of the Far East Army G2 indicator list for a Chinese invasion of Korea. It was published in the summer  of 1950 and included such prescient indicators as an order from the authorities in Beijing that all contract shipments through Hong Kong must be completed before the end of September 1950, prior to the date of the first Chinese offensive on 5 October.

General MacArthur, of course, notoriously ignored his intelligence staff, according to Manchester's biography, The American Caesar. And so US forces were caught by surprise when the Chinese armies crossed the Yalu.

Cold War Years

As the Korean War entered stalemate in 1950, Director of Central Intelligence General Walter Bedell Smith conveyed that he was tired of being surprised by the bad guys, in a memo that had been in the files of the National Warning Staff. He ordered the creation of the interagency, National Indications Center, which was located in the Pentagon for more than 20 years just off the entrance from North Parking on the first floor.

The National Indicators Center (NIC) was the first 24-hour watch center  in post-War Washington. It was modeled on the USAF watch at the Strategic Air Command. The Air Force provided most of the manning and all the communications and was the leading agency in strategic warning innovation and technique for two decades.

State never provided the analysts it promised. DIA did not exist. CIA was vestigial but still claimed the right of leadership, while providing little support. Two analysts helping the NIC were C. Grabo from Army intelligence and Tom Beldan from the Navy.

The NIC produced a daily watch officers' notes  publication; monitored Soviet/Warsaw Pact warning of war indicators every day;  wrote special articles and directly supported the Watch Committee of the United States Intelligence Board (USIB). The NIC prepared the discussion papers and agenda for the weekly Watch Committee meetings, whose reports went to the DCI and sometimes to the President. Warning Staff files contained papers indicating President Eisenhower had received these reports.

(Note: When CIA moved the Warning Staff from the Pentagon to CIA Headquarters in the 1990's, all of the early papers were lost. Boxes of files and documents that had been archived with CIA also could be found.)

Between 1950 and 1973, when the Yom Kippur War occurred, more than 2,000 weekly meetings of the Watch Committee of the USIB occurred. Never in that two decade period did the Watch Committee issue a single warning memo to the US President.

The NIC analysts wrote many accurate warnings, using indicators lists. They were both derided and ignored by the mainstream analysts, whose predictions were wrong about every serious threat to the US, beginning with the Berlin crisis of 1949.

For all of the most dangerous crises of the Cold War era, the US intelligence community failed to predict or warn. Analysts who used a quantitative approach to indicators were not persuasive, failed to compete with conventional analysts and regularly griped that no one listened to their warning.

Warning judgments that relied on the opinions of the Watch Committee members and panels of experts examining indicator lists failed to protect the US.

In more than 2,000 weekly meetings between 1950 and 1973, the Watch Committee of the USIB issued no warnings about anything. As to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Committee members were unsure whether they even had any responsibility to warn because the issues did not involve the Soviet Union, as they understood them. So the members agreed to wait and see what happened. They received intelligence that Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal as they were adjourning.

The NIC warning analysts, relying on indicators drawn from past examples of Arab war preparations, had warned that a major war was imminent in the Middle East.  The Watch Committee, panels of Middle East experts and the editor of the morning CIA intelligence product - who would become a future National Intelligence Officer for Warning -- on his own authority excised the warning of war statement,  according to his own words. The Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian attack against Israel had already begun by the time the daily CIA publication was distributed to the White House.

Analysis based on indicator lists was prescient, but ignored. The experts and the management failed.  After the multiple and multi-layered intelligence failures associated with the Yom Kippur War, things slowly began to change.

Next: What we learned about indicators

End of NightWatch for 11 October.

NightWatch is brought to you by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.

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Night Watch

NightWatch is an internationally acclaimed nightly newsletter that tracks and assesses threats to US national security. It has an edgy, executive style unlike any other summary of its kind.
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