my career in the 1990’s had been dominated by America’s involvement with Iraq.
In August 1990, I’d co-written the warning cable that triggered the deployment of American forces to Saudi Arabia.
Analysts universally hated writing baselines: they were time-consuming and there was no real reward from management for doing them well. Nevertheless, they were perhaps the single most important products produced by NPIC analysts. Without current, accurate baselines on targets, it was difficult to determine if the activity you were observing was benign or threatening. Some managers placed incredible pressure on analysts to ensure a “zero due baseline” figure. In order to
keep their managers at bay, some analysts would simply “bring a baseline forward.” This involved changing the date of the baseline without verifying the accuracy of the report through careful examination of the previous year’s film, as NPIC regulations required. Not only was this practice professionally unethical, it gave NPIC’s customers the false impression that no changes had occurred at a given targeted facility. Since NPIC baselines were often used for arms control monitoring and military targeting purposes, outdated baseline reports could have a serious impact on U.S. foreign relations...