A few thoughts on the current bout of ISISmania and the systemic problems it exposes:
1) ISISmania has created a financial/legal incentive for sources (most of them “shady” to begin with) used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to manufacture info whole-cloth.
This is nothing new. Think “prison snitches.” Various foreign actors are passing along disinformation to us as well, so mountains of BS are being fed into the system from the get-go.
Imagine, for a purely hypothetical example, a member of Congress getting an authentic report from a senior agency official, but the report is later found to have originated with a non-credible source. So the member of Congress who repeated the report was actually correct that the intel had been shared with them — but the information itself wasn’t reliable.
It never should have been shared in the first place, but it’s the member of Congress who ends up with egg on their face when the agency issues its denial. No one, whether politicians or agency officials, wants to later admit they were duped, so erroneous info never gets corrected.
2) There are considerable problems on the collection and analysis sides of intel in both the intelligence community and law enforcement. In fact, very few know how to do collection — and good analysis is basically prohibited these days.
So the BS and disinfo never gets sifted out. It then gets passed on to elected officials, which is some of what we’re seeing. Then you have agencies and the administration selectively manipulating and leaking according to their own respective agendas. This is how the sausage is being made in DC these days.
3) There is only so much media space, and politicians compete with each other for that space.
So they need to come up with more outlandish claims to get a bigger share of that media space. That creates a disincentive to vet the info they get and publicly talk about. No one gets on Greta by saying: “We need to keep a cool head about this stuff.”
4) Because of that, the game of “I got a secret” is more prevalent than ever before.
Those secrets might be complete equine feces, but the desire to be “in the know,” whether they actually are or not, and the temptation to show that you’re “in the know” are strong.
5) Congress has no mechanism to vet what the agencies and administration tells them.
Back in the 1990s there wase a House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare that gave Congress direct access to the intelligence and SPECOPS worlds to be able to know if what the admin at the time — regardless of party — was saying was true or not.
That’s gone. Congress itself has no internal vetting system to speak of. They are at the mercy of the executive branch.
6) The threats are escalating so rapidly, no one in D.C. wants to be holding the bag when something actually happens.
They’ve learned from 9/11 that they don’t want to be the one saying: “Yeah, I knew about it but never said anything publicly.” Everyone wants a chair when the music stops, so they are all trying to lay down their markers now to show they were trying to do something about it beforehand — whether they actually were or not.
Understand, much of this has nothing to do with actually preventing terrorism, but with political posturing.
7) Don’t even get me going about people in the D.C. media/foreign policy establishment — e.g., the think tanks.
There are some solid policy analysts out there doing very good work, but much of it goes unrecognized or never gets considered. That said, the vast majority of these analysts won’t do anything that gets them disinvited to a D.C. cocktail party or criticized by the cool kids on Twitter.
An M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins/Georgetown/Harvard doesn’t mean that you have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about. Analysis takes years of study and practice — but try telling that to your average 25-year-old policy wonk. And yet these are the characters that drive much of the narrative, increasingly so as social media favored by the younger crowd drives much of the news cycle these days.
8) Because so much BS is being slung about, it is actually crowding out good intel.
There are actual border threats from various terrorist groups and actors currently being investigated. But none of that info will ever see the light of day because people inside the system know it will get lumped in with all the disinformation grabbing the headlines right now.
9) Because this administration seeks to maintain an iron grip over the flow of information, virtually any leak is subject to some variety of mole hunt.
It may not lead to official discipline, but perhaps to the imposition of other unofficial forms of discipline, like getting cut out of the loop, which is the kiss of death. That said, I personally know of whistleblowers getting hammered right now by their agencies for calling attention to these kinds of threats, or for trying to get information to Congress.
And Congress has still not created substantive legal protections for whistleblowers, so that creates a severe disincentive for accurate info making its way out.
(Note that the Democrats control the gavel in the Senate, and the impotent and incompetent GOP leadership that governs the House consistently refuses to exercise their oversight powers [particularly committee chairmen]. That’s why it is taking YEARS for info related to the litany of Obama administration scandals from coming to light. And when the info becomes public, it is frequently due to groups outside the political establishment. Judicial Watch has done the yeoman’s work in this regard — not Congress — on the IRS, Fast and Furious, et al.)
10) Elections in four weeks increase all of these by an order of magnitude. So I’m not sure we’ve reached peak ISISmania yet.
There are actual threats to the homeland out there, including ISIS, but virtually all that we’re seeing in the media at the moment is political theater and the accumulation of serious systemic problems within the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
And much of this nonsense is going to get more Americans killed.