Skip to comments.9/11-A Failure of Intelligence
Posted on 05/19/2002 3:51:22 PM PDT by TaRaRaBoomDeAyGoreLostToday!
Bureaucratic agencies and ineffectual lawmakers must shoulder a good portion of the blame
By Kenneth Allard
WASHINGTON, May 17 Congressional leaders are calling for tough inquiries following revelations that President Bush was told last August by his intelligence advisors that the Osama bin Laden network might be trying to hijack American airplanes fully one month before the tragic events of Sept. 11. But as the tough questions are asked over the next few weeks, expect some uncomfortable truths to emerge about dysfunctional intelligence agencies, and ineffectual, if not oblivious lawmakers.
THE STORY HAD barely broken before the harrumphs began on Capitol Hill. Was there a failure of intelligence? demanded House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. Did the right officials not act on the intelligence in the proper way? The right answers, esteemed members of Congress, are YES and NO. But before charging off in high dudgeon, just remember one thing: the failure of intelligence is something for which you in Congress on both sides of the aisle must shoulder a good share of the blame.
For their part, all the presidents men and women have been falling all over themselves to point out that the warnings were vague. That they represented a range of possibilities, of which hijacking was only one. That these warnings had been heard many times before. That routine alerts (whatever that means) were quietly issued. And that hindsight is always 20/20. Senior officials unnamed, of course were even quoted in quasi-Nixonian phrases as saying that it would be wrong to conclude that the Sept. 11 hijackings had been predicted. And on and on.
There is an understandable tendency on the part of both Congress and possibly the American public to pose a similarly Nixonian question: what did the president know and when did he know it? This is tempting, but wrong. The only question which really matters is: Given the information in their possession, should the intelligence agencies of the United States have been able to predict the events of September 11th? From what we now know, that answer is necessarily incomplete. But there is no doubt whatever what the interim response should be: NO-especially not in the way they are organized on Sept. 10. Or, for that matter, the way they are organized today. Throughout our intelligence agencies, the Pearl Harbor syndrome is alive and well.
HIERARCHIES AND NETWORKS
The fact is that those agencies are hierarchies, meaning that they are bureaucracies that protect turf and regard information-sharing as an unnatural act. Hierarchies do three things to information: they control it, they add their own spin and they take time doing it. These tendencies are thrown into sharp relief when hierarchies take on networks, like those of Osama, the Cali drug cartel or even news networks like MSNBC. Networks are highly fluid structures that specialize in the rapid exchange of information and they are notoriously disrespectful of bureaucratic boundaries.
But bureaucratic boundaries are characteristic facets of the American intelligence establishment. Their natural fault lines have been a constant obstacle, recalling one of the classic laws of defense guru Norman Augustine: that when sufficient bureaucratic layers have been superimposed upon one another, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance.
ROUTINE INTELLIGENCE DISASTERS
Those disasters have occurred with shocking regularity, especially when the fault lines involve the FBI and the CIA. In a bureaucratic division of labor dating back to the dawn of the Cold War, the FBI is charged with domestic counterintelligence and federal law enforcement, while the CIA handles all foreign intelligence. Basically, that breaks down into cops and robbers, each with its own supporting organizational culture. However reasonable on paper, such distinctions quickly break down when it comes to fighting networks, which is exactly what happens in the tricky business of detecting and catching spies. In the notable but hardly unique case of Aldrich Ames, an American traitor compromised the most sensitive US espionage operations against the Soviet menace, resulting in the deaths of a number of US agents.
The lack of effective FBI and CIA cooperation unquestionably prolonged his ruinous run.
The fact is that tightly integrated intelligence and counterintelligence is what it takes to uncover and stop Soviet moles or of course Arab terrorists. That may be what rankles most about the FBI agent reports from at least two different American cities concerning Middle Eastern students enrolled in flight training who were notably uninterested in learning how to land their planes.
Intelligence agencies are hierarchies, meaning that they are bureaucracies that protect turf and regard information sharing as an unnatural act.
Why wasnt that information integrated with the reports that the CIA was apparently getting from its own agents abroad concerning Osamas intentions to hijack American aircraft? Why didnt the American intelligence system redirect that information into a full-court-press investigation that certainly would have generated more leads and possibly even some arrests?
Eerily similar questions were once asked in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor when a far more limited American intelligence establishment was also unable to make timely use of the information already within its grasp. In his 1962 foreword to the classic study of Pearl Harbor, Harvards Thomas Schelling wrote: Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that action gets lost. It includes gaps in intelligence, but also intelligence that, like a string of beads too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it.
Exactly. And something very much like that is surely the case here, probably with information overload substituting for the glaring intelligence gaps of earlier times. But the most depressing aspect of the current revelations is how much they suggest that the Pearl Harbor syndrome is still operative, despite the billions we now spend on intelligence every year. Following the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, for example, the same sorts of deficiencies in our intelligence warning systems were being decried by Congress in almost exactly the same language used on the Hill today.
So if for no other reasons than force of habit, the usual suspects in Congress will certainly raise their customarily inane questions. But it is worth remembering that George Bush had been president for just under eight months when he received those warnings: Congress has been in charge of the intelligence agencies for a lot longer than that. Through authorizations, appropriations and direct oversight, Congress has benignly presided over the very same organizational problems and pathologies they now so self-righteously criticize. In the aftermath of 9/11, they show no sign of actually addressing those problems. With admirable consistency, Congress has also deftly avoided certain other responsibilities: They have yet to issue a declaration of war; and they have brought precious little leadership to the important task of realigning our domestic security defenses.
It brings to mind nothing so much as a jibe that former Navy secretary John Lehman used to toss back at his Congressional tormentors: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But absolute power without responsibility ... well now thats really neat.
Kenneth Allard is a former Army colonel and an MSNBC military analyst
It looks like the negative press is working on the sheeple. Why am I not surprised??
They are still here, everywhere in our country.We are at war-IS RIGHT, like never before, as they have us surrounded.Our faulty intelligence and slap happy free trade globalization OPEN to the world got us-surrounded.
I feel that nothing has happened as yet as they needed time to re-group and plan. All awhile thay are still on our soil surrounding all of us. So,part of what you say may be true DETTERENCE. But bad intel and our very own corrupt federal agencies that have not been purged and cleaned up started this mess.
While all this ridiculous, partisan B.S. goes on at Capitol Hill, we'll be atttacked again. What a statement that will make to the rest of the world!
Jiang Zhemin will fall off his chair in uncontrollable laughter, thinking " THESE are the guys that will try to stop us from taking Taiwan? HA!"
If Bush can't handle the media slander and stand up to the EVIL anti-American democratic threat, the ramifications go beyond politics. We will lose the country.
Perhaps we'll be lucky. They'll hit the Capitol building with all our Congresspeople in it. Al-Qaeda will think they acheived a "Great Victory", but it will be "WE", the American people, who come out on top.
Col. North brought up Osama Bin Laden's name while he was being questioned about the 60K security system which he had installed in his home. Col North also, at the same hearing, espoused the belief that the man should be eliminated at the first opportunity. The following is basically verbatim testimony, which I recieved from a friend (name withheld due to the fact I did not ask for permission to use his name ;-)
It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they played an old news video of Lt. Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration.
There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning! He was being drilled by some senator:
"Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?"
Ollie replied, "Yes, I did , Sir."
The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience, "Isn't that just a little excessive?"
"No, sir," continued Ollie. "No? And why not?" the senator asked.
"Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir"
Threatened? By whom?" the senator questioned.=20
"By a terrorist, sir" Ollie answered.=20
"Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?"
"His name is Osama bin Laden, sir" Ollie replied.
At this point the senator tried to repeat the name,butcouldn't pronounce it,which most people back then probably couldn't.
A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued, "Why are you so afraid of this man?" the senator asked.
"Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that know of", Ollie answered.
And what do you recommend we do about him?" asked the senator.
"Well, sir,if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth."
The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip.
If anyone is interested, the senator turned out to be none other than Al Gore.
Ok, here we see the sowing of the seeds which directly led to the tragedy of 9/11. Lest anyone forget, President Bush had been in office less than a year, was trying to unscramble the debacle which the government had been allowed to become under the Xlintoons, and, I am sure, was aware of exactly who attacked the USS Cole.
The problem here is, that regardless of what was known, and by whom, the liberal agitprop spewers are going to do their level best to destroy this administration by pressuring the leaders of the House and Senate to demand hearings, which will rapidly degenerate into political pontificating sessions (Remember the Ashcroft confirmation hearing, well, this will be about 100 times more vehement, and the rent-a-shouters will be out in force).
Even if we had iron clad intel about OBL, Al-Queida, and terrorist activity, there are many reasons why the information would not be disseminated. Two that come immediately to mind are (1.) leaking of the information would compromise an important HUMINT source, and (2.) While the general idea of an "attack" was known, the actual method of attack was not.
We have seen in the months following 9/11, so much disinformation and cries of "wolf" that one takes all info with a grain of salt. IMHO, I have absolutely no doubt that another attack, equal to or surpassing 9/11 will take place. We have just not done enough to remove the perps from this country under the name of "Political Correctness".
There is only one real cure for this, and that is to cut the head off the chicken, by whatever means it takes. I suggest that 2 cities in the Middle East be reduced to green glass, that the sword of enhanced radiation weapons be used to insure the enemy is gone, while the oil infrastructure remains intact, and the takeover of said infrastructure by loyal Americans and American Corporations.
Yes, this can spread, as there are multiple chickens to be beheaded in this war against terror. OBL has become a figurehead and his death must be openly televised to all who would follow his teachings. If we have to reduce the capital cities of countries who support and harbor terrorists to glass ponds, so be it.
Mr President, OPEN THE FOOTBALL!!! LET'S ROLL!!
Keep the Faith for Freedom
MAY GOD BLESS AND PROTECT THIS HONORABLE REPUBLIC FROM THE CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGERS NOW FACING HER FROM BOTH WITHIN AND OUTSIDE HER BORDERS, INCLUDING FROM THOSE WHOSE POLITICAL AFFILIATION INCLUDES THE (D) AND TO INCLUDE THOSE WHO SHOULD, LIKE TRAITOR MCCAIN. THIS, MOST CERTAINLY INCLUDES THE INCUMBENTS OF THE SENATE (DASCHLE,FEINSTEIN, BOXER & SHUMER (AMONG OTHERS), AND THOSE IN THE HOUSE, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE SOCIALIST AND PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS (COMMUNISTS UNDER A NEW NAME). DAMN THE CFR BILL, I WILL SPEAK MY MIND FREELY, AS GUARANTEED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT!!!. YOU MAY TAKE THE 60 DAYS AND SHOVE THEM!!!!
JOE MCCARTHY, WHERE ARE YOU NOW WHEN WE NEED YOU?
The failure of intelligence starts with the American people for electing idiots, criminals, and corporate candidates.
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