I haven’t really looked over the 9/11 report yet, but one thing that has been on my mind for some time is the state of our intelligence operations.
It seems clear that we were let down by the “intelligence community” both before 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq. Now, I don’t suggest that 9/11 should have been prevented, because it seems to me that it would have taken an awful lot of luck and a mind-set that just didn’t really exist before that fateful day. But it could have been prevented, and we must learn from our past mistakes and implement corrections.
I think it was either the afternoon of 9/11 or the next day that I said during a discussion with some co-workers that “if we survive the near future, this will be the end of the CIA as we know it.” I’ve been disappointed so far by the lack of drastic change, though I admit we wouldn’t see most of it even if it were happening.
(I also don’t mean to suggest that the invasion of Iraq wouldn’t have occurred if intel had not called finding Iraqi WMDs a “slam dunk”, though I would be more than willing to discuss the timing. First of all, I don’t FOR ONE SECOND believe that WMDs were the overriding reason to overthrow Saddam’s rule; I don’t even think they were a primary reason. Second of all, it has yet to be proven that Iraq didn’t represent a WMD threat, though I grant that it certainly doesn’t appear to be the case right now. If we reach election day and we still haven’t been shown proof of major Iraqi WMD activities, I’ll let this one go.)
One major issue brought up by the 9/11 panel is the possibility of an “Intelligence Czar” position that reports to the president and an intelligence clearing house focused on counter-terrorism.
I personally dismiss out of hand any statements by the CIA that they don’t need a Secretary of Intelligence. I mean, you don’t ask students if they need a hall monitor, do you? The behavior of the students determines the need. One of the arguments by the CIA is that the Director of the CIA currently does most of what an Intel Czar would do, to which I say “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” It has been established that the current system isn’t sufficient. I agree that the current arrangement could use some improvement, but I think more drastic steps are called for.
As the MSNBC article I linked to at the top notes,
The House and Senate armed services committees would stand to lose the most in a reorganization, given that about 70 percent of the overall $40 billion intelligence budget funds Defense Department programs and technology, mainly satellites and other overhead imagery, communications or intercept capabilities.
At least six other committees oversee counterterrorism operations by intelligence or law enforcement agencies, including the committees on homeland security, judiciary, foreign affairs, appropriations and intelligence.
The proposal, in fact, calls for a reorganization of congressional oversight.
That will make a difficult thing nearly impossible, since no one currently in power will be especially willing to hand over some of that power and the ability to control legislation and funding that come with it.
While not willing to lay the blame for 9/11 at the doorstep of Langley, I also don’t think we should let the same folks who failed so miserably to declare themselves fit for service. Something major needs to be done, and aligning the work of the various intelligence agencies would be a big step in the right direction. An intelligence super-center would facilitate that.