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Kennedy: 'More access than ever' to Iraq intelligence

Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy
Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy

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(CNN) -- With coalition forces trying to consolidate their control in Iraq, the U.S. intelligence community has begun increasing its efforts in the nation as well.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, a CNN military analyst, on Wednesday discussed the new intelligence possibilities in Iraq.

KENNEDY: The intelligence mission now is to restore order, to find weapons of mass destruction and to find people who need to be prosecuted for war crimes or who have information that can help the United States.

The arrest of Abu Abbas could possibly help. [Abbas is the mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.] People who are still working on this problem tell me Abu Abbas has been in Iraq for two years. He is a fugitive, on the run, so it is unlikely any of his information will be current, at least in the last couple of years.

I would want to ask him, "Who has been giving you money that allowed you to live this life? Which organizations have been taking care of you? Who else is in the same position you are in? Who is also getting this kind of help?"

What are the countries that have been stamping his passport as he has moved around? Or has he done his work in some covert way? I think this capture sends a clear message that, if you can get him 18 years after the fact, everyone in between is vulnerable.

The kind of work the intelligence community does now is pretty much the same as it has done before. The community uses the same tactics and techniques to gather information from all of its sources.

Now that the regime has fallen, there are more people willing to talk. The community has more access than ever. They are able to verify the human intelligence we gather by technical means.

There will be a continued period of uncertainty for them until they see the next regime. There are a lot of different internal groups within Iraq who want power. Any given person might want to be sure that they are careful about whom they align themselves with during this period of uncertainty and transition.

Intelligence analysts keep track of who has been a good source in the past. They know who is credible and who is not over time. They also not only follow the track record of a given person who is a source, but they also take a look at the information offered by other, more technical means to see if it has been verified.

Information technology is at our disposal in a way it never was 10 years ago. We can now do data mining. We use commercial off-the-shelf applications in intelligence work to sort out all of these many different, fragmentary reports.

If you have a lot of information gathered in one place and it is from a lot of different places, it may be hard for one human being to keep track of it all. If you have the information in a database and you are able to prompt the database to collect all information in a given topic, the information becomes manageable.

Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, former U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, is the first and only woman to have received this flag rank in the U.S. Army. She is one of CNN's military analysts.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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