"Intelligence just sucks."

Megan McArdle has posted the most even-handed and sensible thing I’ve read to date on the September 11 Commission. A highlight:

[W]e are all seeking some reassurance that we can somehow prevent all this stuff in the future. Everyone is very earnestly asking “What changes do we need to make so that our intelligence doesn’t (for example) tell us Iraq has WMD, or not tell us that Al-Qaeda’s about to attack us?” Almost no one seems prepared to accept the possibility that the answer is “None. Intelligence just sucks.” The energy expended trying to blame this failure on someone–George Tenet, Louis Freeh, Condoleezza Rice, or whoever–goes beyond mere regular partisan bashing. It seems to me to express an underlying conviction that of course someone could have stopped this–it’s only a question of who. For the commission, especially, it’s an unacceptable answer; they simply cannot turn to a frightened American public and tell them that it’s really too bad, but we live in a scary world.

There’s plenty more, and you should read the whole thing, but as Megan notes, the fundamental problem with any commission like this is…

…that they find what they are tasked to look for. If you appoint a government commission on fairy rings, they’ll do their damndest to dig one up, because after all, fairy rings are the reason we’re all assembled in this big, important looking room with the columns and the picture of George Washington.

Unfortunate, but all too true. As Leonard H. McCoy once noted, “The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe.”