1. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 threw a glaring spotlight on the deficiencies of the United States intelligence apparatus of the time. No unified and coordinated intelligence mechanism existed to properly handle what intelligence we were privy to, and information collection was grossly mismanaged. Since there was also no coordination between the Army and the Navy, crucial information had not been disseminated to decisionmakers in time, including Japanese capabilities and objectives. These shortcomings resulted in the formation of a centralized intelligence structure, with the National Security Council as the coordinating authority reporting to the President, and the Central Intelligence Agency as the entity responsible for national security intelligence. Both the NSC and CIA existed in parallel to military intelligence units.
The Gulf War (1991) brought intelligence services under scrutiny again. So much information was available in real time that U.S. forces were able to fight opposing forces with precision to devastating effect. The importance of interagency collaboration to support an increasingly remote theatre of operation became evident. However, adequate training for military personnel to use intelligence systems could be improved; and an intelligence presence in the region could be more robust. To remedy this, a Joint Intelligence Center was created first at the Pentagon and later at unified commands. (FAS, 1996)
The Espionage Act of 1917 detailed the conditions under which sharing of unauthorized information critical to the safety of the nation construed espionage and/or sedition. The Act also defined whistleblower provisions, which we have seen invoked within the last ten years. Edward Snowden, defense contractor who leaked confidential NSA information under the whistleblower protections, has been charged with espionage. (Satter, 2020) More recently, the whistleblower who filed a complaint over the Trump-Zelensky phone call that led to the 2020 impeachment of President Trump was protected by both the Espionage Act and the Privacy Act of 1974; the whistleblower has not been publicly charged with sedition. (Kohn, 2019, par. 4)
2. One historical event that had a significant impact on American intelligence activities was the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941. This attack revealed a gaping hole and a severe oversight in intelligence capabilities at the time (“The Evolution”, 1996). This event signified a significant push towards strengthening America’s intelligence capabilities, as can be seen in the numerous intelligence organizations and groups that formed throughout the course of World War II (WWII) and shortly thereafter (“The Evolution”, 1996). Intelligence policymakers wanted to strengthen intelligence capabilities in order to ensure another attack like Pearl Harbor would never happen again (“The Evolution”, 1996). Another historical event that had a significant impact on intelligence activities happened in 1947, six years after the Pearl Harbor attack. The National Security Act of 1947 was signed, laying out framework for the intelligence community (IC) that we can still recognize today (“The Evolution”, 1996). Essentially, this act sought to define respective “lanes” for IC members to stay in when conducting intelligence operations. Military intelligence capabilities retained their own collection and analysis functions, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was given dominance on domestic threats and affairs (“The Evolution”, 1996). This act also solidified the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a legitimate civilian intelligence apparatus that reports directly to the President (“The Evolution”, 1996).
One thing that still affects us to this day is the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. Similar to Pearl Harbor, these attacks revealed weaknesses inside the IC. Why couldn’t the IC have seen this coming? If they did see it coming, why couldn’t they prevent it? Among the numerous changes to the IC made after 9/11, one particular role stands out. A Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was established after 9/11 (“The 9/11 Commission Report”, nd.). The DNI that we recognize today was established with two main roles: overseeing national intelligence centers that synchronize from all collection disciplines and overseeing the agencies that contribute to the national intelligence program (“The 9/11 Commission Report”, nd.).