Monday, April 13, 2009

The Power Of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares is a three hour documentary by BBC producer Adam Curtis. The purpose of the film is to compare the evolution of the neo-conservatives and the Islamist movement that gave birth to Al-Qaeda. A small segment in the first hour gives a great example of how Red Team or Team B analysis can be misused.

About 25 minutes into the first hour the documentary talks about the Team B unit during the Ford Administration the Neo-cons allied themselves with Rumsfeld who was Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney who was Chief of Staff. At 26 minutes the film shows Rumsfeld making a speech about how the Soviets were expanding the volume and capabilities of their weapons systems. The narration then goes on to explain how at that time intelligence produced by the CIA was indicating the opposite of Rumsfeld’s assertions. Rumsfeld convinced President Ford to set-up an "independent inquiry" to look at the intelligence and prove that Soviet weapons and capabilities were expanding. The inquiry was a group of Neo-cons whose memebers included Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pipes. The Inquiry was called "Team B." Its function was to be a group of outside experts to look at all the information possessed by the CIA and see if the outside experts come to the same conclusions as CIA.

After not being able to find evidence of advanced Soviet weapons systems Team B concluded that the Soviets were hiding their new weapons systems. The film gives an example of how Team B could not find evidence that the Soviets had an acoustic defense system for their submarine forces. Team B interpreted this as meaning that the Soviets had a more advanced undectable non-acoustic system, and therefore would have a significant advantage in submarine warfare.

The CIA believed that Soviet Air Defense systems were not advancing. To prove the CIA wrong Team B relied on the Soviet Air Defense training manual that said Soviet Air Defenses were totally functional and advancing. Team B was also accused of looking at satelite imagery of Soviet radar and saying that those radars were really laser beam weapons system and mistranslating Russian documents to say "conquest" instead of "winning." According to an interview in the film with Dr. Anne Cahn who was with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1977-1980, all of Team B's estimates were proven to be false.

Author's Note: In the introduction to Power of Nightmares, the narrator makes the assertion that political leaders in recent history have shifted from trying to win the favor of the populations they govern, from giving them promises of a better life to scaring them into supporting the leaders who they believe will protect them. This is the danger of Red Team/Team B analysis. If intelligence professionals provide decision makers with analytical products that indicate a low level of threat, decision makers will political ambitions can assign a Red Team to create a "nightmare" to scare populations into supporting their policies.

1 comment:

  1. Eventually the Team B's assertions were proven false, yet isn't it the prerogative of a red team/ Team B to produce outside the box conclusions? Is this the inherent danger of using a red team?