Dear Mr. Rumsfeld, you can’t un-know what we know you know

Updated

With Andrea Mitchell, February 22, 2011:

MITCHELL: According to subsequent reports, Inspector General’s reports, that intelligence unit, that analysis unit in the Pentagon was stove piping information – intelligence information.

RUMSFELD: What does that mean? Stove piping?

MITCHELL: Mr. Secretary, you know what stove piping means. It was keeping intelligence information away from other units. Not permitting people in the CIA -

RUMSFELD: Oh, not at all.

Quoted in the 9/11 Commission Report, page 403 (pdf):

Recalling the Goldwater-Nichols legislation of 1986, Secretary Rumsfeld reminded us that to achieve better joint capability, each of the armed services had to “give up some of their turf and authorities and prerogatives.” Today, he said, the executive branch is “stove-piped much like the four services were nearly 20 years ago.”

With Jim Leherer, August 17, 2004

DONALD RUMSFELD: Therefore, you have to have this coordinated, cooperative arrangement where you break out these stovepipes that categorize everything and then no one can look in those categories, unless they’re cleared for that. You’ve got to…

JIM LEHRER: One stovepipe doesn’t know what the other stovepipe knows, et cetera, et cetera.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Yeah, yeah.

Dude, we have teh google now.

ADDING:

Calton in the comments doesn’t agree that Rumsfeld’s history of using “stove pipe” is proof that he knows what Andrea is talking about.

Calton makes a good point and does a consice job differentiating between stove pipe as a synonym for silo and “stovepiping” as a practice within the intelligence community of bypassing appropriate review processes and elevating information straight to the top. The reason I think the above quotes are damning is that, particularly in the case of his confeversation with Jim Lehrer, he is plainly aware of exclusivity as inherent in the meaning of stove pipes and it’s the abuse of that exclusivity that is inherent in the more specific meaning of “stovepiping.” I don’t see how someone could understand the meaning of stove pipes as Rumsfeld demonstrates in the first two quotes and not understand what Andrea is asking.

The context of the first two quotes is very different, I’ll certainly grant that. In the Lehrer quote he’s still talking about Iraq intelligence, but he’s describing a system of processing intelligence more efficiently and securely, and that part of their conversation is about whether centralizing intelligence would be better for drawing more accurate conclusions. But again, he clearly understands that stove pipes exclude outside agencies from seeing the material being worked on so at the very least he must understand the term as Andrea’s using it (to exclude the CIA) and it’s impossible to imagine he wouldn’t also understand that excluding others also means removing the influence of their analysis.

By the way, for a much less concise discussion of stovepiping, see Seymour Hersh’s “The Stovepipe” in the New Yorker:

Part of the answer lies in decisions made early in the Bush Administration, before the events of September 11, 2001. In interviews with present and former intelligence officials, I was told that some senior Administration people, soon after coming to power, had bypassed the government’s customary procedures for vetting intelligence.

A retired C.I.A. officer described for me some of the questions that would normally arise in vetting: “Does dramatic information turned up by an overseas spy square with his access, or does it exceed his plausible reach? How does the agent behave? Is he on time for meetings?” The vetting process is especially important when one is dealing with foreign-agent reports—sensitive intelligence that can trigger profound policy decisions. In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities—a process known as “stovepiping”—without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

 At the risk of inviting a battles of semantics, I welcome further input on whether the quotes above mean what I think they mean.

(Also, I fixed the space and typo in the 9/11 report copy/paste, but I’m standing by “teh google.”)

Donald Rumsfeld

Dear Mr. Rumsfeld, you can't un-know what we know you know

Updated