Call me jaded, but the list of Mitt Romney’s intelligence advisers just seems, well, blah. Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary, and ex-CIA director Michael Hayden are the two men the Republican presidential hopeful has named as co-chairmen of his “counterterrorism and intelligence” brain trust. Each man brings a wealth of experience—and recent at that—but the picks are just so predictable. The other names of “special advisers” are all familiar too.
I realize the bench isn’t that deep when it comes to intel expertise, but I have to think an aspiring president could come up with a more imaginative panel.
So, in that spirit, here’s a bit of an unusual list of experts whom Romney—or any candidate, for that matter—might do well to consult. I offer no endorsements, and I’m quite certain many of the people I’m nominating would refuse an offer—and not just because some are Democrats. But these folks have particular, and in some cases unique, expertise that could benefit the candidate, and ultimately the intelligence community.
Charlie Allen, éminence grise. Hayden and Chertoff are already on the list, so why not Allen? He’s a principal at the Chertoff Group, and he has more years in service of the intelligence community than both of them put together. His last big job in government was running intelligence for the Homeland Security Department, which really wasn’t an important job until Allen showed up.
Ken Anderson, professor of law, American University Washington College of Law. He is consistently ahead of the curve when it comes to predicting the legal implications of national security operations. Anderson was among the first to foresee that drone strikes would become especially controversial and be branded by critics as extralegal executions.
Missy Cummings, director, MIT Humans and Automation Laboratory. A former Navy fighter pilot, Cummings is possibly the smartest person you will ever meet on the subject of drones and autonomous weapons systems.
D. Scott Davis, chairman and chief executive officer of UPS and Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp. These executives bring expertise on two fronts. First, understanding globalization. How many other companies do business in so many places on Earth? Second, supply chain logistics. The Pentagon and the intelligence community are paying closer attention to technology that’s assembled overseas and makes its way into U.S. weapon systems. UPS and FedEx practically invented secure supply chains.
Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy, Center for Democracy and Technology. The center has been a consistent voice of reason and compromise on some of the thorniest security debates, particularly around electronic surveillance and privacy.
Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of Defense for policy. She was once considered a candidate to succeed Robert Gates as Defense secretary. Praised for her intellect and collegiality, Flournoy stands a good shot at being nominated down the road.
Jonathan Nolan, screenwriter. A candidate needs someone with a big imagination who’s far removed from the echo chamber of Washington. Nolan’s 2008 movie The Dark Knight was the first great post-Sept. 11 film, a profound and sadly prescient story about terrorism and our response to it.
John Poindexter, former national security adviser. He has thought more deeply than most about the power of technology in analysis and the threat it poses to personal privacy.
James Surowiecki, author and columnist. His book, The Wisdom of Crowds, published in 2004, remains an indispensable primer on predictive analysis and the perils of groupthink.
Like I said, the nominees are un-expected and unlikely, but they are worth considering. Whomever Romney adds to his short list, these are the big issues that his advisers—and perhaps one day Romney himself—are going to face.
Shane Harris, a former staff writer at Government Executive, is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State.