Or, how Obama learned to stop worrying and love Eric Holder.
Winston Churchill once said that you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, but only after they’ve tried everything else. In the matter of repairing what prevented our intelligence agencies from interdicting the 9-11 attacks, we’re still in the “everything else” stage.
In an April 30 op-ed in the Washington Post, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Thomas Fingar celebrated the DNI’s fifth anniversary. He (and co-author Mary Margaret Graham — another former Deputy DNI) wrote that the American intelligence community was an Eden-esque garden of intelligence gathering and analysis, sharing among agencies and new technology.
But some of us remember Fingar was the principal author of the risible 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which said the intelligence community had “high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. That memory resulted, among those of us who study the intelligence community’s workings closely, in more than a little skepticism at the broad claims made in the Washington Post.
Just a few weeks later that skepticism was depressingly justified by the May 18 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. That report is a devastating indictment of the intelligence community’s failures leading up to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s Christmas Day attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 with a bomb sewn into his underwear.
The SSCI report focuses specifically on the Abdulmutallab incident, but the conclusions it draws are applicable broadly to the deep-seated problems in our intelligence community. It says that the National Counter Terrorism Center — created by Congress to be a central clearinghouse of terrorism-related intelligence — had both the capability and responsibility to connect the dots but “[t]he NCTC was not adequately organized and did not have the resources appropriately allocated to fulfill its missions.”
The SSCI report also says that the FBI’s computers were inadequately programmed to search the necessary databases, and that the National Security Agency is backlogged with reports that may result in people being put on the terrorist watch list too late to prevent an attack.
Even the tough language in the SSCI report was too mild for committee members Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Richard Burr (R-NC). They said that Blair’s recent testimony to the SSCI on the Abdulmutallab incident — which said that the problems were not the same as those that blinded the intelligence community before 9-11 — was plainly wrong.
Chambliss and Burr condemned the NCTC for not doing what the legislation creating it said, to take overall responsibility for tracking terrorist threats. They wrote, “NCTC’s failure to understand its fundamental and primary missions is a significant failure and remains so today.” They said — just as the 9-11 Commission found — that intelligence analysts were suffering from competing priorities imposed by higher-ups. And, they said, the FBI still relies on “outdated and insufficient technical systems.”
Lots of dots to connect, no one taking responsibility for doing so. Inadequate attention being paid and not enough technology applied to the job. It is all horribly familiar.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair was fired last week. Likely to follow Blair out the door soon is Michael Leitner, the director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, whose agency is the subject of the SSCI’s most severe criticism.
But the problems that the SSCI found — to whatever extent Blair and Leitner were responsible for them — cannot be solved by firing either or both of them. The problem is that the two post 9-11 overhauls of our intelligence community — both direct recommendations of the 9-11 Commission — have failed.
In the first round, the Department of Homeland Security was created and given a portion of the responsibility for gathering and analyzing counter-terrorism intelligence. But injecting yet another line of command into an already too-crowded chain, hurt more than helped.
In the second round, the Director of National Intelligence — also a direct recommendation of the 9-11 Commission — and the NCTC were created to solve all the problems of the dysfunctional intelligence community. They, too, failed — as the SSCI report proves redundantly — because, like Homeland Security, the DNI is just another layer of bureaucracy.
What was needed then — and remains the only likely path to success as I warned as early as February 2004 — is to reorganize the intelligence community based on the model that worked to reorganize the armed services in the late 1980s, the Goldwater-Nichols Act.
In 1983, when American medical students were being held hostage in Grenada, President Reagan ordered a military rescue. What resulted would have been a disaster if our forces had faced a well-trained and equipped opponent because the Army, Navy and Air Force conducted what was, in practice, three separate invasions.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online