Monday, June 20, 2005

No Expertise = Bad Intelligence

Since 9/11, Americans have been reassured that though a terrorist attack could occur at any given moment, the government was undergoing sweeping acts of reform and consolidation to better protect the homeland. As Bush stated in his October radio address in 2004:
To protect America, our country needs the best possible intelligence. We are expanding and strengthening the capabilities of the CIA. We are transforming the FBI into an agency whose primary focus is stopping terrorism. We have established the Terrorist Threat Integration Center so we can bring together all the available intelligence on terrorist threats in one place.
So how close to reality is this statement? How is the intelligence community making Americans safer? After 9/11 failures and recent Iraqi WMD mistakes, how is our intelligence going from "bad" to "better"?

We know that the infamous USA Patriot Act and 9/11 Committee Reforms have done little to "bring together all the available intelligence" (previous post) . Even though the CIA knows exactly where Osama Bin Laden is, their "expanding capabilities" do not allow them to extract him, according to CIA Director Porter Goss:
In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links and I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr bin Laden to justice.

We are making very good progress on it.

[In] dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.
As one might expect after 9/11, Gross' cryptic words sound more like business boardroom acrobatics than the detailed intelligence analysis of a CIA Director. Though a security issue might exist in exposing Laden's exact location, these words to an overly panicked US population are hardly reassuring. Not to be outdone, the FBI had its own dirty laundry to air today:
"A bombing case is a bombing case," said Dale Watson, the FBI's terrorism chief in the critical two years after Sept. 11, 2001. "A crime scene in a bank robbery case is the same as a crime scene, you know, across the board."

Executive Assistant Director Gary Bald agreed. "You need leadership. You don't need subject matter expertise," Bald testified in an ongoing FBI employment case. "It is certainly not what I look for in selecting an official for a position in a counterterrorism position."
So, after all of the supposed "reforms" in the US Intelligence community, the FBI is thinking the exact same way it thought before 9/11? They don't know about the details but they understand the "big picture"? Gary Bald radically suggests that "leadership" trumps "expertise", as if leadership exists in some kind of vacuum outside of the current terrorist environment.

"Leadership" that leads America where? Without subject matter expertise, the destination is certainly in question. If there's no one worried about the details, how can a "big picture" even exist? The FBI should change their department name from "counterterrorism" to "counteranything" with this kind of incompetence at the helm. If there was ever a good example of that "blind leading blind" analogy, this would undoubtly be it.

As the FBI and others have been so forthcoming about their intelligence gathering techniques, let me state my own modest formula:
No Expertise = Bad Intelligence
Email your senators and let them know that Americans want the best possible intelligence, not spin.


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