Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lt. Gen. Flynn Nominated for Director of DIA

The DoD announced yesterday (thanks Danger Room) that the President has nominated Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to be the new Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  This is of potential interest both generally because of the central role of the DIA in document exploitation and captured document issues, but also because of Flynn's background.

Spencer Ackerman's piece on Danger Room on the nomination is entitled "Military Intelligence Gadfly Will Lead All Military Intelligence," which states that the "first time most people outside the shadows heard of Flynn, he was loudly complaining that military intelligence in Afghanistan sucked." He also states that Flynn
helped transform the culture of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), getting its elite commandos to believe that collecting crucial clues from raids on terrorists was central to their missions. Although Flynn and his patron, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, left JSOC years before the attack on Osama bin Laden, the fact that the Navy SEALs left bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound with hundreds of thumb drives, cellphones and hard drives is part of their legacy.
It might be a bit of an overstatement to attribute the use of the traditional tactic of seizing documents and media to any recent "legacy," but, as fleshed out in more nuance in an earlier interview by Ackerman of Marc Ambinder, Flynn had pushed the importance of using such tactics within JSOC as well as improving their efficacy with a focus both on speed and preserving context.  As Ambinder (author, along with D.B. Grady, of "The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army") stated regarding Flynn,
he would observe your average JSOC operation and you would see insurgents, or whomever, rounded up, put in the same room, with all the stuff they had in their hands, all the pocket litter, would be separated and just kept in a trash bag. And it was brought back to one of the other bases for processing. That was way too inefficient and way too slow for the operational tempo of the insurgents. In his mind, Flynn envisioned the insurgency to be this ever-expanding spider’s web, and the U.S. military would be like this tiny mouse, clawing at one end of it. And you needed to speed up.
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Some of the tactics were as simple as equipping your tier-one operators — i.e., a Delta Force shooter or a SEAL Team Six demolition expert, the elite of the elite — with a camera. Instead of rounding up insurgents, bringing them to one area of a house, they’d have pictures of them exactly where they are, and take pictures what they have on them exactly. They’d keep them with their pocket litter until they were processed. And they’d send pictures back in real time to an intelligence fusion center. 
Regarding the nomination, Ackerman quotes the great Steven Aftergood at the Federal of American Scientists speculating that the "appointment may signal a revival of DIA, or at least some upheaval." Ackerman ends by noting that Flynn is "probably not done breaking the spy community's furniture."