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|July 4, 1998||
CIA plans ways to avoid being caught off-guard again
The Central Intelligence Agency proposes to beef up its warning systems to avert the type of intelligence failure it witnessed in case of India's nuclear tests in May.
Interagency National Intelligence Council Chairman Johan Gannon is planning to expand the use of panels of outside experts, known inside the CIA as 'red teams', to challenge the assumptions of the CIA's analysts, says the New York Times.
In a classified report on how to prevent future intelligence miscalculations, the daily points out, the CIA has zeroed in on early-warning systems, starting with an obscure post in charge of contrarian thinking.
In February, it recalls, the national intelligence officer for warning Robert Vickers found himself at the centre of the debate over whether India would test a nuclear weapons. His job was to argue against conventional wisdom. But after supervising a debate among experts from the CIA and other agencies, Vickers accepted their consensus that India's new government, led by a ''Hindu nationalist'' party, would not conduct nuclear tests.
His decision not to challenge the experts is now seen in the intelligence world as a key incident in a long chain of wrong steps by officials throughout the US government that contributed to one of the worst intelligence failures in recent years.
Gannon is planning new measures in response to the report by retired admiral David Jeremiah, a former vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who inquired into the failure of the intelligence services.
The daily quotes senior US officials saying they will be careful not to allow the new teams to be tinged by partisanship and that they will only be used on a selected basis.
According to the Times, all of the analysts Vickers polled in February discounted the public statements of leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who had vowed during their election campaign to turn India into a nuclear power.
US officials say the consensus among experts was that the party would be forced to moderate its nuclear stand as soon as it was in power, to hold its governing coalition together.
Without any secret intelligence to contradict them, Vickers accepted the experts' views. He published their analysis in a classified newsletter produced by his office and distributed it throughout the intelligence agencies in February.
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