Internal Memo: Intelligence Community Frets About Washington Post Series

Below, a memorandum sent two weeks ago by Art House, director of communications for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to public affairs officers in the intelligence community about the Washington Post's upcoming series on contractors. In the memo, House discloses that the series has been in the works for two years, includes an online database of contractors and their projects, and a television partnership with PBS's Frontline. House outlines what he thinks the story will conclude, and provides a guide of sorts for the intelligence community to prepare its response.

It might be helpful as you prepare for publication to draw up a list of accomplishments and examples of success to offer in response to inquiries to balance the coverage and add points that deserve to be mentioned.  In media discussions, we will seek to garner support for the Intelligence Community and its members by offering examples of agile, integrated activity that has enhanced performance.  We will want to minimize damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified information.  



Here's the full memo:

I briefed the IC Deputies Committee this afternoon regarding the forthcoming Dana Priest articles in the Washington Post covering the growth of the Defense Department and Intelligence Community infrastructure since 2001.  I was asked to share the briefing with the IC PAOs as part of our preparation for publication.

I reported to you last January on this planned series, culminating two years of work.  Ms Priest advises that the most likely publication target is mid-July.

Themes

While we can't predict specific content, we anticipate the following themes:

·         The intelligence enterprise has undergone exponential growth and has become unmanageable with overlapping authorities and a heavily outsourced contractor workforce.

·         The IC and the DoD have wasted significant time and resources, especially in the areas of counterterrorism and counterintelligence.

·         The intelligence enterprise has taken its eyes off its post-9/11 mission and is spending its energy on competitive and redundant programs.

Format

The Washington Post may run a series of three articles, the first being an overview, the second focused on the large number of contractors supporting the intelligence enterprise, and the third looking at a specific community (the Fort Meade/BWI Airport area) that has expanded in part due to  Intelligence Community growth. 

The Washington Post is expected to work with Public Broadcasting Service's Frontline program to add a television component to this work, and will also present an interactive web site demonstrating growth of the intelligence enterprise and inviting comment and dialogue.  The Post advises that "links" between individual contractors and specific agencies have been deleted, although the Post will still cite contractors and their locations.

Management of Responses

We do not know which agencies will receive attention, and each agency will need to manage its own responses.  Many or all of you have participated in conference calls that have discussed this series, and ODNI PAO Director Wendy Morigi will continue to serve as point of contact for sharing information and discussion of questions received from employees and the media.  The ODNI will send a message to its employees and will share that with you in case it's of use in crafting your own messages.  She will also keep the NSC communicators apprised of the state of play as the series unfolds.

Office of Legislative Affairs Director Kathleen Turner will manage ODNI's response to inquiries from the Hill regarding the series.

It might be helpful as you prepare for publication to draw up a list of accomplishments and examples of success to offer in response to inquiries to balance the coverage and add points that deserve to be mentioned.  In media discussions, we will seek to garner support for the Intelligence Community and its members by offering examples of agile, integrated activity that has enhanced performance.  We will want to minimize damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified information.  

Next week we will convene a meeting or conference call to review procedural action before, during and after publication, and to compare substantive points that might be offered in rebuttal to the article. 


Conclusion

This series has been a long time in preparation and looks designed to cast the IC and the DoD in an unfavorable light.  We need to anticipate and prepare so that the good work of our respective organizations is effectively reflected in communications with employees, secondary coverage in the media and in response to questions.

 

If I or anyone at ODNI can be of assistance, we are here to help.

 

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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