2-10-2012By Crimes Against Humanity Program
Human Rights First
Last week, a little-noticed passage on mass atrocities made its way into the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) annual testimony to Congress. The passage reaffirmed the President’s proclamation that the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide is a core U.S. national security interest and moral responsibility, and committed the U.S. intelligence community (IC) to play a significant role in the forthcoming Atrocities Prevention Board. It tasked the IC with greater intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing efforts to forestall atrocities.
The inclusion of mass atrocities in the DNI’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” is welcome news, particularly at a time when traditional diplomatic efforts to end widespread violence against civilians in Syria, Sudan, and Congo appear to have failed. Though not unprecedented—the threat of mass atrocities has been included in the DNI’s testimony intermittently since 2009—this year’s language suggests it will become a regular feature and, more important, a systematic focus of IC work.
Actionable intelligence on both potential and ongoing atrocities is critical. Revealing the dynamics at play as crises unfold, strong intelligence helps policy makers understand the roles of both the perpetrators and their third-party enablers, identify the actors and supply chains that may be susceptible to pressure, and formulate policy responses.
The government alone can accomplish this work; no non-governmental entity, whether in journalism, research, or advocacy, has sufficient money, people, or networks to draw a complete picture. This is why the IC’s re-dedication to atrocities prevention is so meaningful, and we commend the Office of the Director or National Intelligence for including this important issue in its testimony.