/* */

10 August 2008

Taking stock of the blogged literature of intelligence

Since starting this little project in January 2006, we have seen a frankly explosive growth in the blogged literature of intelligence – that is, the online discussion of the profession, its theory and its practice through texts circulated using lightweight publishing tools.

It has been a tumultuous time within the intelligence community itself, and also within the wider profession outside the boundaries of the traditional wheel of the sixteen primary agencies. This has very much been reflected in the literature that has emerged during this time period.

We are most heartened by the continued emergence of the practitioners – both retired and those currently serving – that reflect upon their lived experiences through this new and most accessible medium (recognizing, of course, the inevitable limitations of discretion required in such an open forum).

In particular, we are fascinated by the rapid development in 2008 of a large number of increasingly active bloggers addressing the private aspects of competitive intelligence and business intelligence. This community has never suffered from the same restrictions placed upon those in the service of the national interest, and had the means and history of rapidly adopting technologies to new ends. Yet these practitioners remained for the most part strangely silent until this year. Much credit for surfacing this growing community’s online writings should be given to the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), who now makes the highlights of this literature a centerpiece of the organization’s own online presence. And while the theory of these aspects of the profession has a long way to go before it can equal the more robust corpus of other elements of the field, both in national intelligence and homeland security / law enforcement intelligence, we are pleased to see great strides being made. We have also found that the experiential epiphanies reported by these individuals as they struggle with problems common to the practice of the art and science have great value as accessible (and unclassified) examples when teaching any new practitioners.

We have also remained cautiously optimistic regarding the emergence of the classified blogsphere, written within the restricted realms of other networks. For those practitioners who cannot discuss the subjects of their passions in open literature, it is essential – and is the only way many have to capture insights into theory and application that might otherwise be lost. And while one might view this material as useless to the academics and those private sector professionals outside of the classified realm, one must remember that much of the foundation of our current day literature is built upon those materials which were properly declassified in the fullness of time. So too will this material one day surface through the normal mechanisms of release and review – providing a rich trove for future historians and educators.

As much as we are pleased to see the development of a robust community of interest within the intelligence blogsphere, we would also wish for a greater level of original research to appear in this medium. Unfortunately, the incentive structure does not appear to be present for many academics, and there are far too many other pursuits conferring greater legitimacy to practitioners that serve to divert energies elsewhere. This must change, both for the sake of the blogsphere but also we believe for the sake of the profession itself. We are the first to recognize that blogging is not a public utility – it is the outgrowth of a personal passion; and it frequently must give way to other operational demands when it is solely a labour of love. This is perhaps the intelligence profession’s version of the eternal debate within the media blogsphere over primary news reporting versus punditry. However, we hold out hope – particularly example set by original research among the legal bloggers, who tend also to publish in more traditional channels, thus also proving the symbiotic relationship of these activities. Good blogging encourages good literature.

We also realize that starting – and maintaining – a good blog requires a tremendous commitment of time and energies, despite the many barriers which the lightweight publishing technology itself has already overcome. It is for this reason we re-iterate our offer to circulate the thoughts of those professionals – both those in practice or in the academy - who would wish to occasionally offer items of interest to the wider audience (respecting, of course, the requirements of non-disclosure agreements and the other sacred oaths sworn by those who still serve. In this, we follow the well considered lead of the Association for Intelligence Officers, reminding any contributors that “authors are responsible for compliance with restrictions and regulations regarding the publication and clearance of materials dealing with present or past employment”.)

Labels: , , ,