Third, intelligence is not a single report, a single analysis, or single risk assessment. It is an enterprise, a complex system of systems designed to enable decision and operational advantage over adversaries or obstacles, whether they be foreign aircraft in our sovereign airspace, illegal vessels in our territorial waters, potential terrorists, or a pandemic spreading toward our shores. Intelligence is more than simple information about what is happening. True intelligence goes beyond the present to predict what will probably happen. It is this element of reasoned foresight that gives intelligence its mojo. It allows leaders to pre-emptively adapt or act with advantage.
Fourth, intelligence is an executive responsibility. Intelligence agencies do not work in a vacuum. Executive authorities are responsible for setting policy, defining the mission, identifying priorities and telling intelligence agencies what leaders need to know to meet policy or operational goals, to prevail over adversaries, whether human or viral. Executive authorities are responsible for the effective functioning of intelligence enterprises. Intelligence works for leaders.
The health minister, the chief medical officer, and the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada apparently did not know any of that. Consequently, they, not the GPHIN, failed to provide early warning of COVID-19. More problematically, public health leaders seemed uninterested in the lack of intelligence, probably because they, like many senior bureaucrats, are uneducated in intelligence matters, and likely because they were not looking for, or anticipating, a worst-case scenario. False hope or blind ignorance has been the undoing of many leaders throughout history.
Despite its name, the GPHIN is not a real intelligence activity. It collects and disseminates information. Despite claims, no real analysis is done, and no actionable assessments delivered to senior management for consideration and action.
Brig.-Gen. Dr. James Cox (retired) teaches intelligence and analytics in Public Safety for Wilfrid Laurier University.
This content was originally published here.