Saturday, April 11, 2009

Homeland Security Employs Imagination

Washington Post, 18 June 2004

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a special program designed to think creatively as to how terrorists may attack the US. Known as the Analytic Red Cell office, DHS sought out various professionals to form a "Red Team" that would serve to "think outside the box" as to new ways we may be targeted by terrorists. Various team members were "futurists, philosophers, software programmers, a pop musician and a thriller writer"

According to the article, "Typically the Red Cell team assembles 20 or so participants for a day-long session at leased offices in the Washington area. Each session divides into smaller groups and takes up a different question, such as: If you were a terrorist, how would you target the G-8 economic summit, held last week in Georgia? Another recent topic was: Why haven't terrorists hit the United States since Sept. 11, 2001?" After the Red Cell comes to its conclusions, the final reports are forwarded to intelligence analysts throughout the Intelligence Community (IC), who vet the results and compare them to actual threats and information. "Most Red Cell reports note they are 'alternative assessments intended to provoke thought and stimulate discussion'."

This technique is not new to the IC; the CIA and Pentagon have used the method since the Cold War to expand their thinking on on how the Soviets and other foreign militaries may attack the US. The reasoning behind the method is to get non-intelligence professionals to tackle intelligence related issues. According to Brad Meltzer, a thriller writer, when he was appraoched, "They said, 'We want people who think differently from the ones we have on staff.' "


  1. In your estimation, does the lack of a subject matter expert diminish the findings of this red team?

  2. What military MOS's train the most with red cell or how can one gain a useful education for red cell work?

  3. Where can one find red cells besides CIA and DHS?

  4. Are there red cells in the civilian level?