Success: Mass Atrocities a Priority for the Intelligence Community
Every year, the Director for National Intelligence testifies before Congress and assesses worldwide threats to U.S. national security. Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, cyber security, and many “hotspots” around the world dominated most of this year’s testimony. However we were pleased that an entire section on mass atrocities was also included, indicating that the issue is a priority for the intelligence community. The testimony also highlights the Atrocities Prevention Board, describes when mass atrocities are likely occur, and mentioned several geographic areas of concern.
Why is this an important success? For the past few years, FCNL and other colleague organizations have lobbied for the inclusion of “mass atrocities” in this annual testimony as a way to incorporate early warning of potential escalating crises into routine intelligence testimony before Congress. The Genocide Prevention Task Force Report made specific recommendations for better incorporating mass atrocities in the intelligence community’s analysis and priorities. In 2010, the Director for National Intelligence included such a section, but it was omitted in the 2011 testimony. After consistent advocacy over the last year, it is encouraging that mass atrocities was once again included. Here is the excerpt:
"Presidential Study Directive-10, issued in August 2011, identifies the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide as a core national security interest and moral responsibility of the United States. Mass atrocities generally involve large-scale and deliberate attacks on civilians, and can include genocide. The Presidential Directive establishes an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board that will coordinate a US Government-wide effort to prevent or mitigate such violence. The Intelligence Community will play a significant role in this effort, and we have been asked to expand collection and analysis and to encourage partner governments to collect and share intelligence on this issue.
Unfortunately, mass atrocities have been a recurring feature of the global landscape. Since the turn of century, hundreds of thousands of civilians have lost their lives during conflicts in the Darfur region of Sudan and in the eastern Congo (Kinshasa). Recently, atrocities in Libya and Syria have occurred against the backdrop of major political upheavals. Mass atrocities usually occur in the context of other instability events and often result from calculated strategies by new or threatened ruling elites to assert or retain control, regardless of the cost. Violence against civilians also emerges in places where poorly institutionalized governments discriminate against minorities, socioeconomic conditions are poor, or local powerbrokers operate with impunity, as in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. In addition, terrorists and insurgents may exploit similar conditions to conduct attacks against civilians, as in Boko Haram’s recent attacks on churches in Nigeria."