Schindler made a list!
No, not THAT one, not Oskar.
John R. Schindler
The Twenty One Rules And More
John R. Schindler was a professor of strategy at the Naval War College and a former NSA intelligence analyst and counterintelligence officer. A polyglot, he has written widely on issues of espionage, terrorism, and military history. He wrote three books and a lot of articles in many periodicals.
He wrote a Twitter list of twenty one things to keep in mind when you're working in intel. Those very succinct Twitter tips were collected in an article by Business Insider (references at bottom of this article). We honestly believe that his ten years as an intelligence analyst at the NSA, if nothing else, give him ample creds to tweet about the subject.
But now that he's out of the day-to-day game of espionage, he also can get a bit more candid about his favorite subjects, as you'll see more clearly from his tweets in part two of this article.
As a trained historian, I usually write about historical figures who were in the intel business, from the Romans to, say, Aldrich Ames. However, recent events have compelled me to take a closer look at more contemporaneous intel shenanigans. For example, Soviet dezinformatsia used to refer to old school stuff belonging to Stalin and the Cambridge Five's era, cold war stuff at best. But Vladimir Putin's own alleged dezinformatsia endeavors, himself an old school ex-KGB apparatchik, recently brought it back to the forefront of the intel world's zeitgeist with a vengeance. I'm presently working on an article on that subject with an eye on item twenty-one of this list.
So here's the list.
We especially like the one about common sense at number eight:
Intelligence analysts without deep knowledge of the target (language, culture, history) are usually worse than useless.
If you don't understand collection, you don't understand intelligence. Period. No exceptions.
If you don't understand the other side's collection, and what he's doing to mess up your collection, you're clueless too.
You can never have “too many” dots (preferably multi-INT). But make sure they're real dots, not dots the other side wants you to see.
If you don't own the street, the other side will. And soon they will steal your lunch money.
The best way to protect your secrets is to steal the other side's.
The bigger the bureaucracy, the less effective your intelligence system is. No exception.
You can learn tradecraft. You can't learn common sense. Nor can you get “up to speed” on a problem in a couple weeks.
SIGINT is the golden source but if the enemy doesn't understand his own system, neither will you.
There are no “new” intel ideas. The Russians (or Brits or French or Israelis) have done it already. But you can make ideas better.
If you don't understand the other side”s collection, and what he's doing to mess up your collection, you're clueless too.
It's not what you know. It's not who you know. It's what you know about who you know.
Generals like pictures. They will go with IMINT over any other INT even when it's clearly BS to the trained eye.
Intelligence services are accurate reflections of their societies, It's not always a pretty picture.
US intelligence is the world's BIGGDAWG, esp in SIGINT & IMINT, but the bureaucracy is so vast as to undercut too much of that.
There are two kinds of intel services: Those with global look/reach and those without. Very few in group 1. Huge difference.
Good analysts are golden, but there are few of them. And, like academics, they are tough to manage and entitled in outlook.
1 analyst who really knows target in & out is worth his/her weight in gold. But they're very rare, and their co-workers hate them.
If you're not at least somewhat competent in counterintelligence, why bother having intel services at all? You're giving it away.
If you think counterintelligence is fundamentally about catching traitors/moles, you really don't understand CI.
All important intelligence methods have already been perfected by the Russians. We need to figure out how to do them nicely.
Each point is really worth rereading and reflecting upon if one aspires to begin to understand the nature of intelligence work. Point 3 seems so important that it figures twice in the list.
But wait. There's more! He's now out of the game.
As could be expected, our erstwhile spy now feels free to express his especially strong, mostly acerbic views concerning the direction the American ship is taking, and he doesn't seem to hesitate to express them, sometimes hilariously. It looks like Trump's not the only one who can tweet.
About Trump :
If Trump's secret mission were to trash America's global alliances & kill off US hegemony, what would he do differently? Asking 4 a friend.— John Schindler (@20committee) January 2, 2018
About ISIS :
ISI is so craftily unpleasant the Taliban call them "the Black Snake." THE TALIBAN think they're untrustworthy assholes. Trump's got this.— John Schindler (@20committee) 2 janvier 2018
John Schindler even retweets like a boss :
....impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non- existent “sources,” and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done! GL”
(Schindler) Per @GrayConnolly -- “if Don from Queens were a regular caller, any radio station in America would have banned him for obvious lunacy already.”
- The Week : “Bannon reportedly likens Trump to 'an 11-year-old child'”
(Schindler) "Dumb and crazy 11 year-old"?
- @AP BREAKING: “Ambassador Nikki Haley says U.S. calling for U.N. Security Council and Human Rights Council emergency sessions on Iran.”
(Schindler) Yeah, Russia & PRC gonna get RIGHT on that.
(Schindler) Also, maybe just telling whole UNGA to go f*ck itself wasn't so smart.
He also has this to say about Edward Snowden:
“Sorry, I know my whistleblowers, and Ed’s no whistleblower.” and “As a whistleblower, Ed Snowden is simply a fraud.” In his article, he goes on to explain a bit of his family history, and it's really fascinating. (As usual, references are below).
Clearly, as a an ex-spook and dude who's constantly up on the news, the man knows what he's talking about. But if he really could talk openly about his most recent work at the NSA, I suppose a lot of the cases he's been involved in would be totally jaw-dropping.
Case in point in real life : remember the scene where Ian Fleming's (another spy, by the way) James Bond clambers out of the water in a diving suit, takes it off, and reveals he's wearing a nice, DRY smoking suit underneath? That really happened! During WWII, a British spy did exactly what Bond did in the movie to infiltrate an enemy “soirée”, except that Bond's diving suit in the movie didn't exactly look like a Sladen suit, which the original spy probably wore.
If this subject interests you, you could read his books and articles. John Schindler now has three books out :
Also, he has written many articles that can be found on The XX Committee's website.
He has reportedly been involved in some dark accusations that we cannot either confirm or disprove here, that apparently led to his resignation from the War College, but which bring to mind a spy business saying that could also be applied to politics or, heck, even married life : “So welcome to the ride … enjoy. Per the old counterspy’s mantra: Admit nothing; deny everything; make counter-accusations.”