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Redefining Alert: How a Tragic Oversight Can Transform Global Intelligence Warnings

Warning! Warnings must be clear!

In the shadow of recent tragic events in Moscow, it becomes imperative to reflect on the responsibilities of intelligence agencies under the "Duty to Warn" mandate and to propose a new template for future warnings. This blog post aims to address the shortcomings in the communication and execution of such warnings by U.S. intelligence agencies and to offer a refined approach that better aligns with both the letter and spirit of their duties.

Acknowledging the Shortcoming

The U.S. intelligence community, bound by the National Security Act of 1947, Executive Order 12333, and other legal frameworks, holds a critical duty to warn of threats that could result in intentional killing, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping. This duty transcends borders, extending to U.S. and non-U.S. persons alike. The tragic events in Moscow, following a U.S.-issued warning, highlight a stark failure: a warning that, while issued, did not effectively reach or was not sufficiently heeded by all who could have been endangered. This shortfall demands introspection and change.

The Need for a New Template

The essence of the Duty to Warn is not just to notify but to effectively communicate the gravity and specificity of threats to ensure proactive measures can be taken by those at risk. The recent events underscore the necessity for a template that is not only actionable and comprehensive but also universally accessible and understandable. Such a template would consider cultural sensitivities, geopolitical nuances, and the challenges inherent in international communications.


Proposed Template for Future Warnings

Security Alert: Imminent Threat Advisory

Location: [Specific Location, e.g., Moscow, Russia]

Date/Time: [Date and Time of Issuance]

The [Name of Issuing Agency, e.g., U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) or specific entity within] is issuing this enhanced vigilance advisory in light of credible intelligence regarding potential threats that could affect both U.S. and non-U.S. persons. This advisory follows the principles outlined in the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and Executive Order (EO) 12333, as amended, ensuring our commitment to the Duty to Warn all potential intended victims of threats to their safety.

Urgency Level: [High/Medium/Low]

Threat Description: Detailed description of the threat, including nature (e.g., intended for public gatherings, infrastructure), method (e.g., physical, cyber), and any specific targets (e.g., concerts, public events) without compromising intelligence sources or methods.

Advised Actions:

  • Avoid identified locations or event types.

  • Remain vigilant and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

  • Follow local news and stay informed of updates.

  • Contact [Embassy/Consulate Information] for assistance or to report concerns.


  • [Embassy/Consulate Contact Information]

  • Emergency Numbers: [Local and International Emergency Contact Numbers]

  • [Link to Embassy/Consulate Website]

Follow-Up: Instructions on how to stay updated (e.g., enrollment in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), social media channels, or other alerting).

(Dissemination: Ensuring the warning reaches the widest possible audience through multiple channels, including direct communication to citizens (where feasible), social media, local partnerships with NGOs and community organizations, and coordination with international bodies.)


Moving Forward

This template serves as a starting point for a more effective approach to issuing warnings. Its goal is to enhance clarity, specificity, and reach, ensuring that those who might be in harm's way have the information they need to protect themselves and their communities.

Call to Action

We call upon U.S. intelligence agencies to adopt this refined approach, ensuring future warnings are both heard and heeded. It is not enough to fulfill the letter of the Duty to Warn; we must also fulfill its spirit. By doing so, we can build a framework of trust and safety that transcends borders, ensuring a more secure world for all.

The events in Moscow should serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring a more humane, effective, and cooperative global intelligence effort. Let this be a moment where we learn, adapt, and commit to doing better, for the sake of all humanity. Let us at least learn and grow if others refuse to.


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