Challenges for intelligence communities in a post-truth world

19 June 2017

Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the volume and quality of data in today's post-truth world poses serious challenges for the intelligence communities in Australia and the United States.

Mr Clapper a Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Professor at the ANU National Security College, discussed the challenges and the future of the Australia-US alliance at the ANU 2017 Crawford Australian Leadership Forum with Professor Rory Medcalf, Head of the National Security College at ANU.

"A challenge we have in the US is coping with the volume and picking out the gems that we need," Mr Clapper said.

"When I began in intelligence over 50 years ago, there was a dearth of data from which you could pick and choose to analyse. And now it's the opposite condition.

"Then, of course, there is a proliferation of open source - some of which is valid, some of which isn't."

Mr Clapper the intelligence communities in Australia and the US were helping to discern whether information was valid or not in an era of fake news and social media trolls.

"One of the main objectives of issuing an unclassified version of a highly classified report was to try to educate the public, to enlighten the public as to the practices of an adversary bent on undermining the very foundations of our political system," he said.

Mr Clapper reiterated that the bilateral alliance between Australia and the United States was vital and would remain strong during Donald Trump's Presidency.

"It's my belief that the bilateral alliance between Australia and the United States rests on several very deep seated pillars," he said.

"Those pillars of the alliance, I believe, are permanent and should not be affected too much by who is sitting in the White House. I think it's a very strong alliance. I look forward to it flourishing in the future."

Mr Clapper said one of his reasons for visiting Australia was to assure people about the importance and strength of the Australia-US alliance.

"I hope people don't dwell on much of the rhetoric that you hear," he said.

"I can understand why there's discomfort about it, but again I believe the strength of the alliance is more than what a particular President may or may not say about it."

Mr Clapper said he was pleased to see President Trump affirm the importance of the alliance between Australia and the US at the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea in New York in May this year.

Watch Professor Rory Medcalf in discussion with Mr Clapper: 




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