Mosaic theory of intelligence gathering
The mosaic theory of intelligence gathering involves gathering many small and seemingly separate pieces of intelligence in order to construct a unified "picture" of intelligence. The theory takes its name from mosaic tile art, because while an entire picture can be seen from a mosaic's tiles at a distance, no clear picture emerges from viewing a single tile in isolation. The theory has detractors, who say that when governments argue any seemingly innocuous scrap of information is part of a larger intelligence mosaic, governments effectively get free rein to argue just about anything is part of intelligence and must be kept secret. Some legal scholars, for example, argue mosaic theory can undermine transparency and civil rights. The method is used by American intelligence analysts.
As practiced in the CIA's black sites and the US military's interrogation centers at Guantanamo, Bagram Theater Internment Facility, and Kandahar detention facility, captives who were not themselves suspected of an involvement with terrorism were nevertheless held, and interrogated, because someone they had an innocent association with was suspected of an involvement with terrorism. Interrogation of these individuals, in great detail, en masse, was believed to allow analysts to fill in the mosaic and the milieu of actual terrorists.
- Michael P. Goodwin (Winter 2010). "A National Security Puzzle: Mosaic Theory and the First Amendment Right of Access in the Federal Courts". Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
The tension between public information and secrecy is even more pronounced when the government justifies secrecy based on "mosaic theory" - the idea that even a pparently innocuous information could be harmful if pieced together by a knowledgeable observer. n6 Mosaic theory has had a profound impact on Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") litigation. As terrorism-related cases play out in federal civil and criminal litigation, mosaic theory has the potential to affect First Amendment access jurisprudence as well.
- "Guantánamo: An Oral History". Vanity Fair magazine. 2012-01. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
They had this “mosaic theory” of intelligence. In order to fill in the grid and get a better idea of who the enemy really was and how they were operating, they needed to conduct wholesale arrests and then find a place where they could interrogate these people. Guantánamo was never meant to be a prison. It was an interrogation facility. What they wanted to do is bring in people whom they could interrogate endlessly. And even if these individuals didn’t know they possessed legitimate information, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the D.O.D. would be able to take information and fill in the mosaic.Check date values in:
- Andy Worthington (2009-03-14). "Judge Gladys Kessler Releases Yemeni Detainee, Slams "Mosaic" Of Guantanamo Intelligence And Unreliable Witnesses". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
Reiterating her profound doubts about the witnesses, she stated that the government's allegation was "not the material of which a reliable hearsay identification is made. Once those pieces of the mosaic have been removed because of their unreliability, the government is left with what is essentially a charge of guilt by association."
- Tom Lasseter, Carol Rosenberg (2011-04-25). "Guantanamo prisoner threat assessments shaped by a few, often-questionable informants: Analysis". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
Kessler also wrote of the U.S. government’s case against Ahmed and other Guantanamo detainees that “the mosaic theory is only as persuasive as the tiles which compose it ... if the individual pieces of a mosaic are inherently flawed or do not fit together, then the mosaic will split apart.”
- Benjamin Wittes (2011-05). "The Emerging Law of Detention 2.0: The Guantánamo Habeas Cases as Lawmaking -- Chapter 8 – Mosaic Theory, Conditional Probability, and the Totality of the Evidence". Brookings Institution. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
Disparate items of information, though individually of limited or no utility to their possessor, can take on added significance when combined with other items of information. Combining the items illuminates their interrelationships and breeds analytic synergies, so that the resulting mosaic of information is worth more than the sum of its parts.Check date values in:
- David E. Pozen (2005-10-19). "The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act". Yale Law Journal. pp. 630–678. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-04-07.