Smart Ideas: What Intelligence Agents Will Be Doing in 20 Years

Plus: The postal service's threat to rural America.

A Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" aircraft on display in the parking lot at CIA Headquarters in McLean, Va., in 2014
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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Dec. 6, 2018, 8 p.m.

Why intelligence analysts should become storytellers

Zachery Tyson Brown, writing for War on the Rocks

“In the slower-paced world of the 20th century,” many people “could not access information unless they went through an intermediary,” like a stockbroker or a librarian. In the intelligence community, that led to the creation of a system where thousands of analysts worked “diligently every day to refine and repackage volumes of ‘raw’ intelligence into a digestible, ‘finished’ form for American policymakers and military commanders.” Today, machine learning and artificial intelligence will upend that system—but only partly. Analysts who perform “time-intensive and error-prone” data-sifting projects will likely be replaced. But at the top of the “knowledge hierarchy,” we’ll still need to make sense of all that data. In that new system, the intelligence analyst must provide “context, background, or understanding” for the filtered data. In essence, the analyst must “tell the story of reality in a coherent manner that decision-makers understand and internalize. … To stay relevant in the information age, the intelligence community should abandon the product-delivery metaphors of the past and make intelligence a sense-making experience, not a thing that can be packaged and delivered.”

Spain rocking the boat on Gibraltar

Tom Rogan, writing for the Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must air out his concerns with Spanish ambassador Santiago Cabanas Ansorena after “a Spanish warship, Infanta Elena, sailed through Gibraltar waters playing the Spanish national anthem over loudspeakers.” Given that Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom, “the incident is an outrageous affront to America's closest ally,” which gained Gibraltar from Spain in the 18th century. “Ultimately, Spain must be educated to the error of its arrogance here. For one, were the Royal Navy not rightly bound to the cause of peace and effective civilian diplomacy, Spain could have quickly found the Infanta Elena decorating the bottom of the strait of Gibraltar, courtesy of a Spearfish heavy torpedo. Regardless, Spain must start respecting British sovereignty and spending more on defense. If not, the U.S. should prepare to relocate its military base at Rota to a different NATO location in the Mediterranean. If that fails to alter Spanish behavior, the U.S. can sanction Madrid. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.”

Rural areas first to receive USPS cuts

David Dayen, writing for The New Republic

The U.S. Postal Service task-force report on the agency’s future spells bad news for rural customers. Changes to the universal-service obligation that mandates six-day-a-week delivery without discrimination between parcels would harm those customers ordering what USPS could deem “inessential” services. "Essential" services, such as “personal correspondence, financial transactions like bill-paying, government mail, and transport of pharmaceuticals,” would not be affected, but increased fees or slower service for other parcels would unfairly hit rural areas. “We have the experience of FedEx, which adds a 'Delivery Area Surcharge' to harder-to-reach zip codes. The task force report represents a gateway for USPS to do the same thing. To discriminate based on geographic location would grossly undermine the USPS mission to connect all Americans.”


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