Comment: This is pathetic. No one now serving in the White House is capable of telling the President the truth–that our $75 billion a year is wasted, that the agencies are suffering from 1950’s mindsets with 1970’s technology and security and legal blinders that are the operational equivalent of castration. Until the President, General Jones, and Admiral Blair are willing to recognize reality, this will continue to be a national disgrace. Condi Rice has a chance to fix all this (IC Memo, DHS Memo), as did Admiral McConnell (One Pager), the pathos is that until the President is willing to break some china and cut some budget whiile launching a multinational multifunctional information-sharing and sense-making network that defaults to NOT SECRET, the USA will continue to be Stupid Nation as opposed to a Smart Nation as we proposed in 1995. Within DoD, they keep doing the wrong thing righter instead of the right thing faster, better, cheaper. This is a tragedy of historic proportions.
Thomas Lipscomb is a fellow of the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future (USC). as published in Huffington Post.
It isn’t the terrorists who have created the morass of asinine travel restrictions. They are thoughtlessly piled on by CYA-schooled public servants willing to do anything but really seriously think about what they are doing.
Incompetent State Department consular officials and poor enforcement of visa procedures that have been in place long before the personal computer, the Xerox machine or even the jet airliner are the problem here. And we aren’t hearing a word about it.
Better the American public should be forced to endure another blizzard of press releases announcing another round of ridiculous indignities by dazzling Rube Goldberg technology rather than have our press and our government demand an accounting from the employees at a government bureaucracy who can’t even comply with their own time-tested procedures.
1. No existing search procedures will find virtual diapers full of explosives.
2. US blew it–they approved the individual by name in advance of take-off from The Netherlands. Had the US had its act together, it had enough information to warrant a full body search “with significance” as the Spanish like to say.
Spy Agencies Failed to Collate Clues on Terror
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC LIPTON December 31, 2009
The National Security Agency intercepted discussions of a plot by leaders of Al Qaeda in Yemen, but spy agencies did not combine the intercepts with other information.
. . . . . . .
In some ways, the portrait bears a striking resemblance to the failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, despite the billions of dollars spent over the last eight years to improve the intelligence flow and secret communications across the United States’ national security apparatus.
And also from the NYT:
WASHINGTON — The finger-pointing began in earnest on Wednesday over who in the alphabet soup of American security agencies knew what and when about the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an airliner.
. . . . . . .
Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint Congressional inquiry into Sept. 11, called the emerging story “eerily similar to the disconnects and missteps we investigated.”
“There seems to have been the same failure to put the pieces of the puzzle together and get them to the right people in time,” Ms. Hill said.
Richard Wright adds:
In the wake of the latest terrorist incident (the ‘underpants bomber’) President Obama has identified the U.S. National Security Establishment as flawed and singled out the U.S. Intelligence System for failing to “connect the dots” in spite of having significant information about the alleged terrorist before he tried to execute his plan. Of course the talking head counter-terrorism “experts” have also taken up the hue and cry that the U.S. is in mortal danger because of what President Obama called “systemic failures” within the National Security Establishment. This is rather troubling since much the same litany was heard after the East African embassy bombings in 1998, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and of course the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Indeed the publicly available facts suggest that yet again the U.S. Intelligence System failed to analyze the available information, identify a clear threat and to produce an assessment of this threat.
In this case it was publicly reported that NSA intercepted a fragmentary telephone conversation that revealed a Nigerian national was undergoing terrorist training in Yemen, presumably under al Qaeda sponsorship. This was followed by the occurrence of a prominent Nigerian banker visiting the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria to warn that his son had become radicalized and was in Yemen training to be a terrorist. He was passed of to a CIA officer who recorded his son name, but failed to ask if the banker knew how to get in touch with him (such as a phone number) or if any of his son’s friends had decided to join him. The CIA officer duly passed on the son’s name and the fact he was in Yemen to the National Terrorism Center (NTC). The NTC apparently duly placed the name in their reportedly 500,000 plus name data base with out bothering to determine if any other reports were available on Nigerians training in Yemen to be terrorists or if there were any other references to this particular individual for example on any of the al Qaeda websites or web sites of al Qaeda fellow travelers. Prior to all this, a Somali national was arrested in Mogadishu Airport attempting to board an airliner with a bomb in his underwear. CIA apparently was aware of this incident, but didn’t feel it was worth reporting to the TSA or Homeland Security until after the Detroit incident.
That incident leaves a host of questions concerning what is sometimes called tradecraft. For example did any NSA analyst make any effort to search for any similar or possible related information on Nigerians training in Yemen? Was the CIA station chief in Sana tasked to determine if any other Nigerians were in country under suspicious circumstances? How much effort was made at the NTC to determine if the individual whose name was put on what must be a nearly useless list might constitute a threat to U.S. interests? In fact, there appears to be a regrettable lack analytic skill and initiative at NTC exasperated by an almost complete lack of technical leadership or managerial competence. It admittedly is hard to keep constantly on top of an amorphous target like al Qaeda so as to be alert for anomalies, weaknesses and indicators, but that is precisely what the staff at NTC are paid to do.
Indeed there appears to have been and continues to be a complete lack of interest in the executive branch no matter who is president to actually design an effective counter-terrorist strategy or build an effective intelligence system on which it would depend.
Phi Beta Iota: Neither the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) nor the U.S. Intelligence Community at large (not even the largely witless Central Intelligence Agency or the outrageously inept National Security Agency whose motto is “processing? we don’t need no stinking processing!”) can be blamed for the underpants bomber shining a bright light on the incompetence, incoherence, insouciance, and inherent idiocy (I5) of the US Government as a whole. Successive Administrations and Congresses have repeatedly failed to address the sucking chest wounds in how the government as a whole handles information and creates (mostly does NOT create) intelligence or decision support. Going back to being Flawed by Design, then hijacked by the Military Industrial Intelligence Congressional (MIIC) Complex, then run amok by order of successive White Houses, the U.S. Intelligence Community is what it is–and the Department of Homeland Security is not what it is not–because the White House as presently designed is INCOMPETENT regardless of who occupies the various offices. The White House is THEATER, nothing more (Buckminster Fuller said this first). the two “main” parties are Running on Empty as a tool of special interest tyranny; and Congress has lost its INTEGRITY in the larger sense of the word–not just its honor in being cravenly corrupt, as with Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) who joined with Senator Phi Gramm (R-TX) now departed to enable the Wall Street meltdown at tax-paper expense while protecting the multi-million dollar bonuses for the Goldman Sachs and Associates cabal that imploded the economy–but in the sense of being incompetent, incoherent, insouciant, and inherent idiotic (I5). All of the checks and balances in America have failed, what we have called the Paradigms of Failure.
This entire web site is both an indictment of the US political form of government and the bureaucracy it has incapacitated, and a solution. We knew what was needed in 1988, 1992, 1995 (Aspin-Brown), 1998 (Army Strategy Conference), and every year since then. The American people are evidently not feeling enough pain, for only a totasl strark realization that the government is Nakedly Stupid might inspire the kind of populist outrage that is required. As long as Congress and the White House continue to enjoy their perks and no demands for accountability in detail, it is what is and it will not change.
Below is a depiction of the four reforms that we have been calling for since the 1990’s–the plain fact is that the US Government is not going to get healthy until intelligence can speak truth to power and get a grip on reality, and that is not going to be allowed to happen unless we have a massive populist uprising that demands electoral reform. Absent these reforms, the USA is locked in place going into the future.