Roger L. Simon

"Past performance is no guarantee of future results"

We all know that one well from financial disclaimers and we also know how it applies to nearly everything else in life. Captain V. – the new and fascinating blogger who is a former intelligence insider – uses it as a catch phrase to remind us that terrorists aren’t so dumb as always to attack the same way. Therefore, techniques such as shutting off cellphones in parts of New York because Islamists just used those devices in London for their dirty work may not be the most effective method.

Well, okay… although I’m not sure how I would have responded in that instance. But the Captain is after bigger game in his post, shifting the blame for intelligence failure from the intelligence agencies themselves to those who employ them – government policymakers.

I won’t point a finger at any single administration or any particular agency head. The problems that plague our national security apparatus are systemic. There is no shortage of suggestions on how to fix the problems (search for “Odom”, “Berkowitz”, “Steele” or “Treverton” on Amazon for the highlights), though an in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this particular commentary.

If we are to avoid the next failure that involves intelligence, it is essential that we recognize that intelligence – and all the tools available to our national leadership – works best when it is used properly and with skill.

One need look no further than Sandy Berger’s pants to see the truth in that. Yet it seems to me only part of the story – and Captain V. acknowledges this to some extent. Our intelligence agencies have evolved, like almost all bureaucracies, into giant organisms bent on their own self-presrvation above all. It’s almost biological and it’s very difficult to dismantle. (ht: Charles Martin)

UPDATE: Captain V.’s post, not surprisingly, refers to Able Danger, the revelation that Mohammed Atta & Co. had been noticed considerably before 9/11, but those doing the noticing couldn’t get the attention of the proper authorities. Some flay the FBI and/or the Clinton or Bush administrations over this. I don’t. Human nature being what it is, it usually takes something hugely dramatic to get people’s attention. The US didn’t get into World War II until after Pearl Harbor, although there had been plenty of demonstrations of Nazi evil before then. I do, however, condemn those who do not take this with utmost seriousness after 9/11. The 9/11 Commission deserves to be investigated themselves… and thoroughly… about the curious omission of Able Danger from its report. It would seem to have been the most important revelation in the entire process and yet it went missing. Why?

OOPS: The fault here may not be with the commission. If I have falsely accused them I apologize. Perhaps, however, making a false accusation was easy, considering the whole enterprise (the comission hearings) felt so partisan to begin with.