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JCS Chairman: Intelligence 'Not a Perfect Art'

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2004 – Intelligence is not a perfect art or science, the nation's top military leader said here today. Still, he said, he remains confident that members of the intelligence community are "trying to do the best work they can for this country of ours."

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon briefing that the nation's policy makers learn a lot from both intelligence successes and failures.

"(Intelligence agencies) have had great success, and they have sometimes missed the mark; that's the nature of their business," Myers said. "You will never make the baseball all-star team in the intelligence business."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld agreed. He said he and Myers often feel they make decisions with imperfect intelligence information, but that it's their job to make decisions based on the best information available.

That's why organizations conduct lessons-learned reviews, Rumsfeld said. He cited the special commission President Bush formed Feb. 6 to look into intelligence failures and successes leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom as a good opportunity to glean lessons learned.

He said such commissions have the luxury of concentrating on a specific issue, and often come to conclusions policy makers and advisers couldn't see. Senior officials are "drinking out of a fire hose," Rumsfeld said, explaining they're often inundated with competing priorities.

Attackers don't need to be perfect, Rumsfeld said. They only need to be "effective or lucky once in a while, and they can make a dent."

For defenders it's another story. One slip can lead to tragedy. "It's impossible to defend in every location against every conceivable kind of attack at every time of the day or night. It is not possible," the secretary said. "Therefore, the only way it can be done is to go after the people who are doing it, and to find them and to capture or kill them," he added.

When asked if he'd view intelligence information more cautiously in the future, Rumsfeld explained he's cautious normally particularly when lives are at risk.

"You just don't do that lightly," he said. "I began in this job cautious; I remain cautious and careful about it."

However, he added, he's also realistic. Rumsfeld noted the intelligence leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom had been relatively consistent from several sources across many years.

"The task is, if you're going to be faced with imperfect knowledge, which you are, and you're faced with increasingly lethal threats, where is the threshold?" he asked. "How do you deal with that? And that's something that this country and other countries and societies are going to have to deal with."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gen. Richard B. Myers

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Joint Chiefs of Staff

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