Roberts and Moos: Right men, right place, right time

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and Kansas University professor Felix Moos have been working for months on a plan to train young men and women to be knowledgeable intelligence agents for the United States.

Several years ago, Moos, a native of Germany and a longtime member of the KU anthropology faculty, told friends about the need and his plan to develop more skilled and knowledgeable people for Uncle Sam’s intelligence-gathering network.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Moos became increasingly concerned about the need to improve U.S. intelligence-gathering so the United States would not be so dependent on information from aircraft and satellite surveillance. Pictures from the sky tell a limited story.

He talked about the need for on-the-ground, highly skilled and knowledgeable men and women who had an excellent grasp of foreign languages, strong knowledge of the history, religion and culture of many countries and could “connect the dots” of various factors affecting a region.

Moos told Sen. Roberts of his concern and how well-schooled individuals could be a far more effective method of collecting information and understanding the significance of a multitude of factors.

Roberts thought Moos’ ideas were good. He checked them out with various intelligence and military officials, and together they developed a plan to initiate a program tied to existing ROTC programs at many major colleges and universities.

These students would not be trained on how to fire a mortar, help guide a military naval vessel or fly an airplane. Rather, they would focus on foreign languages, history, religion, culture and other subjects that would help them understand the whys and wherefores of what is going on in various parts of the world.

Many university leaders do not like the idea of students on their campus being trained as spies, so the Roberts-Moos plan would have these students enter their training through the ROTC programs already operating on many campuses. It’s doubtful many college chancellors would openly oppose improving the nation’s intelligence-gathering ability.

The plan received unanimous approval from the U.S. House and Senate intelligence committees. It was approved by Congress and now is in operation. It may not be exactly as it initially was envisioned, but the CIA now is advertising the program and telling those who might be interested what skills are necessary, the goal of the plan and that students who are accepted would be required to serve a minimum of 18 months in the CIA after graduation.

Thursday afternoon, members of the 9-11 commission disclosed their findings after months of exhaustive investigation. They said, in a very nonpartisan manner, that the United States must revamp its intelligence community and how it gathers and interprets information. They said, time and again, there must be a rebuilding of this country’s human intelligence-gathering capabilities.

They said terrorism was the challenge of this generation. They said this country should expect further attacks, but that there was no excuse for the United States or its leaders not to take action as soon as possible to improve the nation’s ability to deal with and head off deadly attacks.

It is clear Moos has been on the right track for some time, and Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, realized the urgency of putting Moos’ plan into action.

KU and the country are fortunate to have Moos and his visionary thinking, and the nation is fortunate to have Roberts serving in the Senate and chairing the Intelligence Committee. Few senators are more respected than Roberts for his honesty, common sense, lack of ego and love of his country. He is, by the way, one of a dwindling number in Congress who have served in the U.S. military. Moos is extremely knowledgeable on the subjects of terrorism and intelligence.

It’s a winning combination. Thanks to the effort and foresight of these two men, a plan already is in place to follow up on the 9-11 commission’s urgent call to rebuild the nation’s human intelligence-gathering program. It cannot be delayed.