Skip to comments.Bureaucratic Failure Heritage Org - How things went as wrong as they did (WTC 911 Osama bin Laden)
Posted on 09/25/2001 5:41:51 PM PDT by Fred
Guest Comment on NRO
By Ariel Cohen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
he New York and the Pentagon fiery crashes were the first strategic surprises of the new century. But they have famous predecessors: together with Pearl Harbor, the Maginot Line disaster that led to the fall of France in 1940, and Hitler's Plan Barbarossa that cost the U.S.S.R. millions of soldiers in 1941, they will be studied by future intelligence historians.
The bureaucrats did not see it coming. Forces of evil sure know how to surprise a democracy.
On September 11, the four concentric circles of American security failed: the Central Intelligence Agency's foreign intelligence together with the State Department visa screening; the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Naturalization Service's domestic security, and the Federal Aviation Administration's airport security.
The roots of this calamity lie in institutional sclerosis and bureaucratic impotence. And congressionally mandated blue-ribbon task forces failed to issue warnings.
A blue-ribbon panel, the National Commission on Terrorism, said last year that the FBI was doing a good job of disseminating information concerning immediate threats.
But what if FBI intelligence fails to collect, analyze, and share this information? This could happen, the commission found, because the 42-page guidelines under which FBI agents can open a terrorism investigation are badly written and confusing.
The commission recommended that then Attorney General Janet Reno and former FBI Director Louis Freeh rewrite the guidelines.
Moreover, the FBI had no procedure for disseminating useful information for analysis within the agency or sharing it with other government agencies. The Bureau treats or intelligence as "indictable evidence" for grand juries, and by law is not allowed to disseminate it to other government agencies. Information which was gleaned in Tulsa would often not leave the regional office, even though it might provide important clues for another investigation. Obviously, this must change immediately.
According to Judge Abraham Sofaer of the Hoover Institution, and formerly a State Department top lawyer, a case in point is the investigation of El Sayyid Nosair, arrested in 1990 for the murder of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York. The FBI failed to translate papers found in Nosair's home because its New York office had no Arabic translator available. Those papers could have warned the FBI about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Moreover, when the translation was so poorly done that the name of El Qaida was mangled and mistranslated.
Last year, the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities to Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by Gov. James Gilmore (R., Va.), in its Annual Report written by the RAND Corp., stated: "Based on classified briefings as well as 'open-source' information, it is clear that the U.S. Intelligence Community's foreign intelligence collections and analysis against terrorism has been excellent. There is, however, room for improvement."
Blunders in counterterrorism work have also been committed by other agencies. When the mastermind of the Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yusuf, entered the U.S. with a false passport, he was caught by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but released because the government lacked space in the local holding facility. Like hundreds of others, he disappeared and failed to appear for his hearing. It took an explosion which killed and wounded dozens, thousands of hours of chase, a manhunt spanning three continents, and millions of dollars in bounty to hunt him down in Pakistan.
According to congressional sources, senior INS top managers have failed to recognize the role that INS enforcement should be playing in the national-security area, claiming that it is FBI's problem.
As a result of such attitudes, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, head of the Egyptian Al Gamat Al Islamiya was allowed into the country and subsequently convicted of leading a plot to bomb U.S. landmarks and bridges in New York.
Musa Abu Marzook, one of Hamas's top three officials, was permitted to found and operate a think tank in Chicago and Virginia, and Ali Mohammed and Adih el Hage, a top Al Qaeda lieutenant and secretary to Bin Laden, were also allowed into the United States.
In addition, senior leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Jihad, Tunisian and Algerian radical Islamic organizations, and leaders and spokespersons for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which calls for attacks on American targets and for suicide bombings, as well as for Jihad against Christians and Jews and "other enemies of Islam" were allowed to receive green cards or U.S. citizenship, according to congressional testimony.
The Federal Aviation Administration failed to bring airport security up to speed by allowing its private contractors to hire semiliterate personnel for near-minimal wages. Succumbing to the ACLU pressure, the FAA waived criminal record checks of security personnel.
Every report on airport safety, every inspection which involved smuggling weapons into aircraft, indicated major security failures.
Pilots were allowed to keep doors into their cockpits open at all times. The doors could have been bulletproofed and locked, thus providing proper protection from hijacking. Nothing of the kind was in place. When it was proposed, the Airline Pilots Association lobbied against it, citing the danger of crew being trapped in the event of a crash. And the worst airports, including Logan, were known to FAA.
Finally, one of the largest failures in counterterrorism intelligence rests on the shoulders of the CIA. In 1995 the guidelines promulgated by then-Director of Central Intelligence John Deutsch, prohibited the engagement of foreign intelligence informants who may have previously been involved in human rights violations.
These broad guidelines prevent CIA cooperation with numerous intelligence officers around the world and inhibit the Agency's ability to recruit sources or informers from terrorist organizations.
The Gilmore Panel and the National Commission on Terrorism issued a call to rescind these guidelines. The weekend after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, that call was echoed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
The History Channel will one day air a new episode of History's Blunders,in which analysts will compare the unprecedented intelligence failure prior to the terror attacks against New York and Washington not only with Pearl Harbor, but also with Hitler's disastrous attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 that cost the Russians millions of casualties.
Turf battles, lack of cultural and linguistic skills, and "bureaucratic stupidity" all contributed to a historic failure of the U.S. security's three circles of defense. The price we paid was huge. Only an organizational renaissance, a true awakening, such as often occurs in major wars, may save America from further terrorist attacks.