Third Party & Independents Archives

Yes, 9/11 Could Have Been Prevented

Had any number of actions taken place during Bush senior’s administration, the Clinton administration, or Bush Jr.’s administration, 9/11 could have been prevented. Had the heads of the FBI and the CIA been less obsessed with beauracracy and more focused on threat intelligence personally and organizationally, 9/11 could have been prevented. Afterall, the right word, by the right person, in the right place, at the right time could have prevented 9/11 from occurring.

But the fact that it did occur, does not necessarily mean their is a single person to blame for it occurring beside Osama bin Laden. As the 9/11 Commission has learned recently, Clinton took a very tough stance on OBL and did far more than adversaries gave him credit for in pursuing OBL and his terrorist organization. The Bush Sr. administration could have taken Hussein out in the first Gulf War, and had he, we would have on the ground intel agents in the Middle East when 2001 rolled in and very possibly had intel to warn us more specifically. The Bush Junior administration could have focused more on terrorist threats than on tax cuts for the wealthy or how to take out the man who ordered a hit on Junior's Dad many years before.

This is all water under the bridge. There were many possible scenarios that could have resulted in 9/11 being prevented and none of those scenarios became reality. Is this or any previous President responsible? The 9/11 Commission will never be able to determine that. The only people who know whether 9/11 could have been prevented are the Presidents, their cabinet members, and heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA. My bet is they all wish they had done something different, or better and avoided the tragedy of 9/11. But to date, I have seen nothing come out of the Commission to indicate dereliction of duty by any of the persons mentioned above.

At best, I can only conclude that our government was a mess regarding national security. And like any large beauracracy that changes leaders every 4 to 8 years, our government's ability to plan long term, implement and fulfill long term projects, and remain consistently focused on priorities such that national security remains always the highest priority, is simply not built into our democratic system as it exists today. Partisan politics, money interests, high priced entrance fees for lobbyists influencing policy, and polls and media spin have all taken their toll on our government's ability to do its first and most important task, national security, with any degree of competence.

To say 9/11 could have been prevented is like saying the South could have won the Civil War. Yes, it is possible had certain things happened. But they didn't happen, and the North won. Not very consoling is it? I need someone to blame; that will make me feel better. And I have finally found a group of Americans I can blame with confidence that they failed to prevent 9/11 from happening. That group is the American voters of which I am one.

We live in times that are complex and taxing upon us all in terms of how we spend our time and resources. In these times, it is not sufficient to vote and walk away and say now it is the officials job to make it alright and I can ignore what they are doing until the next election. In these times, far more is required of American citizens than just to vote. In these times, it is incumbent upon American citizens to follow up on the job performance of those they elected. It is incumbent upon Americans to learn the issues, ask the questions, demand the answers that will keep our government on task, and focused on job #1.

In these times, it is an absolute necessity that the public dog elected officials for information and accountability as the women who have lost loved ones in 9/11 have done. If it were not for this small group of women, there would be no 9/11 Commission, no accountability, no demand for answers. There would be no priority to reorganize our intel community so they can properly focus on, and effectively deal with, job #1. It is too easy to put the blame on OBL and let it go at that. There was a failure to prevent 9/11, and the people, systems, laws and beauracracy that failed will continue to fail if our officials feet are not held to the fire.

Elections, let's face it, are the number one priority of politicians except in the last term with term limits. It should not be so. Less important than who is elected, is the absolute necessity that whomever is elected will be scrutinized, evaluated, and held responsible for what happens on their tour of duty as our representatives. If officials go into office KNOWING they will NOT be able to hide incompetence, lack of proper priorities, lack of continuity on promises made to the public, the American people will get government with far less disinformation, spin, dodging of responsibility, the blame game and all manner of other defenses for why what should have happened for the public, didn't. In short, if the public holds officials accountable, we will get far better government.

9/11 was Osama bin Laden's fault. But, it was also the fault of each and every American citizen who was not up on current affairs, not up on bills going through Congress, not up for sorting fact from spin, truth from political party rhetoric, not up for writing their Representative when they are irked, not up for picking up the phone and demanding responsibility and action in proper measure for the core functions of our government.

It is our fault as much as it is Clinton's, Bush's, Tenet's or any other number of elected officials. Will we take responsibility for our actions as citizens of a democracy to provide our government informed consent, legitimate rebuke, and a heavy dose of ear bending as to what our demands and expectations are from our government?

Posted by David R. Remer at April 15, 2004 06:47 PM
Comment #12286

Now first of all far be it from me to espouse notions similar to that of the right, but I have to see this from a similar bent.

Now it is a certain probability that 9-11 could have been prevented and there were several opportunities to get the jump on the gun, yes. Antiquated networks and guidelines that caused failures in intelligence. But what I am hearing from the far left is bordering conspiracy theory and I apologise for the use of the word but there does seem to be this angle. What is the far left hoping to attain a smoking gun or bloody glove that shows the mismanagement of the oval office? There is certainly the undeniable potentiality they could have known and I am no gatekeeper trying to block the lefts assertions but this isn’t going to show much more than there was a glimmer of a chance (and perhaps a weak one at that).

I do however think that the 9-11 proceedings were needed for our country and the families who lost loved ones. We needed an examination of this administration and their intelligence networks and possibly gathering. This was a much needed thing dispite how the right-wing whined about it.

But it does in some ultra liberal circles border conspiracy theory in how some want it to mean more than it was. >>If you assert they could have stopped it, you assert they are smart enough to foresee what many in the intelligence community could not, I just don’t have that much faith in the right wing. It’s an assertion that cold war dinosaurs and corporate kiss-ups were up to the task(at that time) of deflecting terror. I don’t think they were, I think minds were concentrated elsewhere.

But Bush was to be “a wartime president”, that is what the admin. has said, maybe an irresponsible thing to say or maybe there was something more to it and in the works but 9-11 was ‘most probably’ nowhere on the menu of war options. Atleast I don’t think so. Not that you are asserting to prove intentionality, just negligence as far as what I am getting from your article.

Posted by: skunkbud at April 15, 2004 09:39 PM
Comment #12288

Very well articulate argument; I agree, to certain extent we, as American citizens, stockholder if you will of the U.S. Government, are all responsible. We as a society and as a people are complacent, lazy, and content to be—by-and-large—spoon fed by our government, and those organizations we think hold our best interests at heart. We are not, as a whole, a nation of critical thinkers; we have lost our vision of what we (America) are supposed to stand for.

As for the intelligence community of which I used to be a part; the CIA, & NSA are far less culpable then the FBI, for by law they are not allowed to collect intelligence within the boarders of the United States, or gather intelligence on American citizens. Within U.S. boarders that task one would think would naturally fall to the FBI, but as structured in 2001, the agency was really ill-equipped to handle it. The one agency tasked with following the movements of foreign nationals within our borders, the Immigration & Naturalization Service was at the times of the attacks in no shape to fulfill that mission.

While I agree with the 9/11 Commission that a professional domestic intelligence gathering concern needs to be established I disagree that it should be a separate entity. It should be formed inside the FBI, it members trained by the CIA in spy-craft, and its linguists trained by the military, whose expertise in this area remains unsung. The new counter-intelligence arm of the FBI would report any actionable intelligence jointly to the Director of the FBI and to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), who happens to head the CIA (any criminal activity would of course fall to the regular law enforcement arm of the FBI, or Dept of Homeland Security to follow up on). This information could then be fused with any information the CIA has gather overseas and the appropriate action taken by the FBI in its capacity as the nation’s national law enforcement arm, and by other agencies as warranted.

Make sense?

Posted by: V. Edward Martin at April 15, 2004 10:02 PM
Comment #12291

Skunkbud, there is enough blame to go around but from what I am hearing from the testimony before the Commission, there is no hard evidence that President Bush received what would have prompted any reasonable person in his job to take drastic actions to thwart an immenent known attack from occuring. In fact, I believe the President was comforted by the information that 70 FBI field investigations were underway (despite the fact that that information was not correct in its implication). That was nonetheless the information the President received.

I pondered and accepted the possibility of a conspiracy by the Bush administration when 9/11 unfolded the way it did. However, in light of the public testimony so far, I see nothing to evidence conspiracy on the part of the President.

There is however ample testimony evidencing the common knowledge that our intel. community was nowhere near as functional or organized as a reasonable person would expect during a time when terrorist threats were the focus of commonplace discussions among government officials and intel. personnel. It may be true that the task of fixing the situation was going to require so much planning, legislation, and funding that inertia prevented it from being started until 9/11 occured. For that there appears to be plenty of blame to go around from the President, through Congress and down to management of our Intel. agencies.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 15, 2004 10:29 PM
Comment #12292

As I’m typing this I’m watching the documentary “The Man Who Knew” about John O’Neil. It features some interviews with (former NSC Counterintelligence Chief) Richard Clarke and (former FBI Deputy Director) “Bear” Bryant. It’s extremely enlightening. If you can get a hold of a transcript or videotape, I highly recommend it.

Often intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies don’t butt up against road blocks from outside the agencies, but simply implode on roadblocks setup by conflicting personal agendas, rival careers on a collision course. This documentary is unfolding like a soap opera.

I think if the names Tom Pickard and Barbara Bodine don’t get studied closely by the 9/11 Commission, then they’re not doing any semblance of their job. And yes, when the representatives we elect don’t do their jobs, and they get reelected, that means we the voters weren’t doing OUR jobs. We have met the ones to blame, and they are us.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 15, 2004 10:41 PM
Comment #12293

Typo correction. That’s John O’Neill in case anyone wants to google him.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 15, 2004 10:48 PM
Comment #12294

Mr. Martin, I agree in general with your comments. I do ascribe more blame though than you to the heads of the agencies responsible for national security. They, even more than the President, are charged with the responsibility for insuring that they have what they need for the COMMON goal of national security.

The way I see it, they lost sight of their primary mission, national security, by focusing too intently upon their beauracratically and even legally defined areas of jurisdiction. If the beauracracy and laws were preventing them from accomplishing their mission of defending our nation from attack from within and without, they had an obligation to stand up and demand relentlessly for the tools and authorities needed to fulfill their national security mission.

This should have been loudly shouted at each year’s budget sessions for Intel agencies. They should have been dogging Congress and the President with the potential threats posed by their lack of interagency communication, lack of shared databases, and lack of unified reports to the President comprising Intel from all the agencies compiled into a big picture. They should have been demanding that the people know how vulnerable we are.

Afterall, the people pay their salaries and their first obligation is to the people, not a politician. Here is where I lay the most blame toward the heads of the Intel and enforcement agencies responsible for national security.

Reasonable people as you and I will certainly disagree on degree and in some cases direction of blame, as our experience and knowledge of such agencies are different. But from the testimony provided, as I see it, the Intel. heads are responsible for failing their mission, to secure our nation against attack.

When the acting head of the FBI is not even in the loop regarding security briefings and germaine intel coming up through his own organization, when the CIA has information from FBI agents and doesn’t share that information with the head of the FBI, I hold them responsible. That is political game playing at the public’s expense.

Any manager worth his salt, knows that communication both up and down his organization and even across competitors in the same marketplace is essential to good management. Regretfully, the Peter Principle was in full play when it came to our Intel agency leadership in my opinion. And I believe President Bush should be holding them responsible as well. But apparently that ain’t gonna happen.

Smacks of thick as thieves loyalty to me, and as a taxpayer, it pisses me off those billions upon billions of tax dollars to the Intel community were wasted when the potential threat was greatest.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 15, 2004 10:50 PM
Comment #12301

interesting topic and argument. Personally, I guess the one thing or person I would blame more than any other for allowing 9/11 to happen is the bloated bureaucracy which is our government. Almost all federal computer systems are woefully, woefully out of date. This means information exchange moves at a horribly slow rate. And if it’s not on a tortoise slow computer system, it’s buried or lost under mounds of paper work. I remember hearing the IRS takes up to 6 weeks to retrieve a file, when a decently run computer system should be able to do it in minutes at most. Anyone who has had to deal with the INS, as I have, will understand what I mean when I say I was not the LEAST bit surprised they approved a visa for Mohammed Atta 6 months AFTER 9/11. The terrorists know this and can run circles around our fed govt. Luckily the one govt force that they can’t fool is also our deadliest.

I agree that we are as much to blame as any one leader. We’ve come to accept the idea of a bloated, inefficient, nonresponsive and nonmotivated federal government. We have to demand more before things will improve.

Finding a scapegoat on either side of the aisle will only give the masses false comfort and prevent us from fixing the real problem.

Posted by: Rob at April 16, 2004 12:33 AM
Comment #12303

Unfortunately, I guess, even if all government officials are doing their jobs with the utmost skill, a couple of dozen people (like the 9-11 hijackers and their backers) who are intent on secrecy and determined will be able to thwart all our vigiliance and good intentions. That 9-11 happened isn’t as surprising to me as the fact that it hadn’t happened before and hasn’t happened since.

Posted by: Martin at April 16, 2004 12:52 AM
Comment #12304


That last paragraph, conjecture? experienced analysis? It sounds plausible given that my knowledge of such things are about three unfinished Tom Clancy novels.

I agree about FBI as the loose cog.

Now the thing (and this is miles off the topic)I find strange in your comments is that the NSA can’t collect intelligence within our borders. It may be by law but the technology is being employed by the Information Awareness and Homeland Sec.? correct? Not the same thing? Not having to share the same budget under homeland sec. as of recent?
Secondly (again ten miles off topic)I was always under the impression the NSA engaged in phonetaps here. I do remember a ‘60 minutes’ some years back that showed that they were in fact employing it within our borders(perhaps illegally as the story was back in the 80’s or early 90’s). Any idea on the actual jurisdiction of these buggers namely the Information awareness Office which I am assuming is part of the new Homeland Security, if you have any info. Answer if you want to as it is miles off the topic that David so eloquently presented.

Posted by: skunkbud at April 16, 2004 01:12 AM
Comment #12308
9/11 was Osama bin Laden’s fault. But, it was also the fault of each and every American citizen who was not up on current affairs, not up on bills going through Congress, not up for sorting fact from spin, truth from political party rhetoric, not up for writing their Representative when they are irked, not up for picking up the phone and demanding responsibility and action in proper measure for the core functions of our government.

Too true, David. Less than half the eligible voters in this country actually vote. Most of the rest are as you describe.

Maybe there was a reason our founding fathers didn’t institute universal suffrage. :)

Posted by: Lee at April 16, 2004 02:24 AM
Comment #12316

Overall, David, I am with you on this one, very cogent and reasonable. I would have to agree 95% of what you said.

…our government’s ability to plan long term, implement and fulfill long term projects, and remain consistently focused on priorities such that national security remains always the highest priority, is simply not built into our democratic system as it exists today. Partisan politics, money interests, high priced entrance fees for lobbyists influencing policy, and polls and media spin have all taken their toll on our government’s ability to do its first and most important task, national security, with any degree of competence.

I would put the blame on mission creep as well. The primary job of our federal government should be national security after all.

…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…

This is probably where you and I will disagree but I think Federal power should be limited to truly national issues, primarily national defense. Federal control over local issues coupled with the the fact that once it became policy to hand out pork we opened a Pandora’s box of never ending campaign finance reforms and restrictions on who can do what when with whom.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. -Alexander Tytler

Most every government agency I have ever seen is run like there is no tomorrow, even local agencies. A janitor supervisor I was talking to the other day told me that a local governmental agency actually had to use up their budget funds so that they could ask for a budget increase, so they took all of the furniture and computers from their offices, put them in storage, then bought all new furniture and hardware. That stuff will most likely rot in storage for years at taxpayer expense.

They have no incentive to save, no incentive to be lean. As a business I always have to be looking at what everything costs. They even move slowly.

It is our fault as much as it is Clinton’s, Bush’s, Tenet’s or any other number of elected officials. Will we take responsibility for our actions as citizens of a democracy to provide our government informed consent, legitimate rebuke, and a heavy dose of ear bending as to what our demands and expectations are from our government?

There will always be a certain percentage of people who have no interest in politics unless something affects them directly. I don’t view this as completely bad. The fact that they aren’t informed or aren’t interested usually means that the government is doing a decent job of staying out of their way for the most part. ‘Out of sight out of mind.’

But I think that Bush has done what needs to be done so far as homeland security is concerned. Headed on the right track as it were. But by no means would I say that everything that should be done has been done. As far as I am concerned the entire government apparatus should somehow be required to be restructured and overhauled completely at some arbitrary interval.

Because it doesn’t matter who’s in office to some extent the civil service doesn’t change. The millions of pages of tax code need to be stored somewhere, the texts copied and collated, the minutia studied, and the budget spent.

Posted by: Eric Simonson at April 16, 2004 04:15 AM
Comment #12321

Eric, it was a pleasure to find common ground between us. Whether intended or not, you seem to make a decent Libertarian argument for streamlining and making more efficient our governmental organization. I have never aligned myself with Libertarian philosophy but, your arguments about governmental inefficiencies make some measure of the Libertarian view make sense.

I agree with you that given Bush is a lay person, not from law enforcement or the intelligence community, he has responded in the right direction with consolidation of intel agencies under the umbrella of homeland security. It was a most appropriate move.

He may be a bit too lay person in his leniency with agency heads for my comfort level, but I am not privy to what his options are in that regard and therefore withhold judgement until the 9/11 Commission report is completed.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 16, 2004 08:29 AM
Comment #12323

Ciggy, thank you for the reference to O’Neil, I will look into that.

Rob, I would be hard pressed to find disagreement with your comments. We have got to stop accepting governmental inefficiency as a given.

Lee, interesting comment about our founding fathers and universal suffrage. An excellent starting point for another article.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 16, 2004 08:37 AM
Comment #12332

If any of you are looking for the documentary online, here it is.

It’s how I first saw it.

I think this is the documentary that disproves the notion that we couldn’t have prevented 9/11. If John O’Neill had gotten within one person of the hijackers, what could others in the FBI and CIA have done?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 16, 2004 09:46 AM
Comment #12335

I suppose with the liberal use of hindsight, virtually anything bad could have been prevented. Had I followed stock market cues that were there to be seen, I could have avoided losing money during the tech bubble burst.

Enron investors and employees could have prevented losing their shirts by simply being more in tune with what was truly going on inside that company, and while some of it was hidden from view, enough was in the public domain to have made this preventable as well.

Pick a disaster or any negative happening, and it could have been avoided had people on the FRONT END been able to piece the clues together before it happened.

Two things: First, lets not forget that typically we only hear about intelligence failures, since successes result in nothing happening. So our viewpoint is skewed.

Secondly, lets not forget that no one was able to stop the first WTC bombing, which resulted in a number of deaths. That the bomb did not topple the Towers does not mean that we prevented this act of terror to any greater degree than 9-11. The plot in both cases succeeded.

Now, I dont hear anyone asking why we were unable to prevent the first attack, and I dont really hear anyone, nor did I at the time (back in 93) blaming Clinton or his administration. Instead, the blame went where it belonged—-to the perpetrators, who were caught and imprisoned. It appears that we may not have gotten the masterminds behind the attack, and this may in part have been a cause of the second attack.

To look at 911 in such a way as to blame our current government is simply wrong, without looking at why we dont want to blame the previous administration. And many are willing to parcel out a little blame to Clinton, because it no longer really matters—it cant prevent a Clinton presidency, and it doesnt affect Kerry much at all. So its all a bit cynical to me.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at April 16, 2004 11:05 AM
Comment #12338

As someone who actually works in the federal bureaucracy (in an area unrelated to intelligence gathering and law enforcement) I am not at all surprised to see the failures of the FBI and CIA. I see this kind of behavior all the time. The front line professionals and support staff are decent people just trying to be true civil servants. The managers are a completely different animal. Being a manager and being promoted means loyalty to your career and the bureaucracy, not to the American people. Unlike private industry were failure to show a profit means you’re fired, a bureaucrat only has to not break any regulations. Their concern is about protecting their butts not the American people. Once a bureaucracy goes bad (as it has in the FBI and CIA) it can’t be fixed. On the other hand you can’t fire every supervisor in the FBI and CIA. The country would be defenseless. The 9/11 commission is showing the rest of the country what we federal employees have known all along. That the apple may look pretty on the outside but the core is rotting. Decision are not made on evidence they are made on political correctness and political expediency.

You can’t (as a federal employee) go up to a political appointee or politician and contradict their ideology obsession. You can’t go up and say to Clinton, “Damn your legacy and timid ways we have a problem with these terrorists”. You would be fired on the spot. You can’t go up to Bush and say “Screw Iraq. We have a problem with these terrorist”. You would be reassigned to a weather station in the Mohave Desert.

Posted by: Bob J Young at April 16, 2004 11:34 AM
Comment #12339

Bob, I appreciate your comments, but I think if a transition were mapped out a little more clearly and succinctly for reorganizing intelligence and defense agencies, we would have had a grand opportunity to retool everything the right way.

A very big problem is the overlap of responsibility, which amounts to conflict regarding “who’s in charge?” John O’Neill’s issue is a microcosm of a larger one: FBI Counter-terrorism was being stepped on by FBI’s own Criminal Division. Now, someone like a Louis Freeh can’t point any fingers outside of his own office for not setting clear distinctions of who does what at his Bureau.

Reorganization should have distinction of mission and distinction of responsibility, and distinction of authority, paramount, front, and center. One way it could work is this:

CIA would be the databank of EVERY scrap of information from federal agencies. If any agency holds anything back from it, their Director or Secretary or whatever leader, is fired. Plain and simple. Agencies would feed into it, and retrieve from it, real-time, with advanced and secure computer technology. When it comes to field offices and field agents and active intelligence GATHERING, or interdiction-type operations, they’re fired. Those functions go to State for simple information-gathering on foreign countries, and to Homeland Security for spying on terrorists, etc.

Homeland Security would be the anti-terrorist gurus, the be-all, end-all agency to fight terrorism either at home or abroad. Their information goes into and comes from CIA, but when it comes to ACTING on the info, or GATHERING the info, they do it. They’re in charge. And if things go wrong, they stand tall before the finger-pointing committees. ANY OTHER agency that thinks they have an “anti-terrorist” function, like FBI, CIA, or DIA, anyone else, they’re wrong, and they’re fired. Failure to refer cases to homeland security should get agency heads fired. Simple as that.

FBI would retain traditional G-man crime fighting on the domestic front. If they get tips or leads regarding terrorism, that information gets fed into CIA, which in turn is drawn out by Homeland Security.

The Department of Defense would be called upon from time to time to assist Homeland Security with firepower and assault teams. But in any project or activity or mission regarding terrorism, they report to homeland security as their leadership.

NSA resources would be broken out among other agencies, most going to homeland security, some going to DoD, and a few going to domestic law enforcement.

State department: if some careering wonk like Ms. Bodine gets in the way of homeland security, the ordinary resolution of conflicts like what FBI had in Yemen with the ambassador, should be elevated to the POTUS to resolve policy and procedure between the two groups’ recommendations. And if the POTUS picks the wrong winner of the argument, it’s on the POTUS’ head come election time.

This isn’t a magic wand to fix everything, but it’s a start.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 16, 2004 12:13 PM
Comment #12342

Not a bad plan. I am very concerned about the time between the announcement of the new setup and the transition it self. Morale would plummet and new threats would fall through the cracks. The whole homeland security thing almost caused an employee revolt.

Then there is the new Homeland security personnel system. It will actually promote cronyism. They took a bad federal personnel system and have actually managed to make it worse.

Not to mention the “Hover” problem. We don’t want to domestic agency that ends up black mailing elected officials. Nor do we want and agency that starts making people with “fringe” beliefs disappear in the middle of the night.

P.S: As much as the FBI and CIA are broken I am getting the distinct impression they are going to be force to fall on their sword, so that the president can win re-election.

Posted by: Bob J Young at April 16, 2004 01:10 PM
Comment #12343


After I wrote my response to your post, I too watched the Frontline story called “The Man who Knew” from PBS, available for viewing at I highly encourage anyone with a broadband connection to view the piece; it is very enlightening, and very damning of the FBI.

Watching the story several things clicked into place. After watching this and doing more research on the web, I have come to the conclusion that the FBI failed America in a very large way; 9/11 could have, should have been prevented. Yes there were intelligence failures, in collection and in the sharing of information from the CIA & FBI, but almost all of the pieces of the puzzle were there to assemble a picture of what Osama had planned.

Perhaps from the information on the table the FBI could not have nailed the time and place of the attacks down, but they could have removed two or more of the players, perhaps disrupting the plan. Their blunder and that of the State Department handling the Cole investigation allowed 9/11 to happen, that and the almost mind-boggling lack of leadership from the top down.

Skunkbud—As for the CIA, yes they are prevented by law from gathering intelligence within the U.S. or gathering intelligence on U.S. citizens. And the NSA is prevented by law from the same. The NSA for instance is not even allowed to monitor U.S. communication overseas without special dispensation. How this will all shake out after the 9/11 Commission issues its findings I do not know. But I am of the belief that perhaps the government should have waited to form the Dept of Homeland Security.

I am coming to the realization that The Wall Ashcroft spoke of is just smoke screen to hide the blunders he and the FBI made in the months leading up to 9/11. I do not trust him.

Ciggy—I like some what you have written; e.g. I believe the Dept of Homeland Security should have primary responsibility for counter-terrorism, but that means yet another police force in a sea of uniforms. The Director of the CIA is already charged with centralizing all U.S. intelligence, but his oversight of the other agencies has always been lax; it should be strengthened. And the NSA should be left alone; there is no way other agencies could do what it does with the exception of the three service intelligence arms which in large part already work for NSA. Few outside of the intelligence community understand what the NSA/CSS (Official Name) does and how it does it. Breaking up the agency would be a huge blow to overall national security formula.

Posted by: V Edward Martin at April 16, 2004 01:20 PM
Comment #12344


What concerns do you have with Barbara Bodine? I haven’t heard anything about her in regards to all this, but I saw her speak and got to meet her at my Alma Mater last year (her uncle is a big donor).

I don’t know her enough to defend her, but I was surprised to see her name on Watchlog.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 16, 2004 01:46 PM
Comment #12345

V and David, I don’t want to get verbose on this, and many good things have already been said. My salient points would have to boil down to this:

1) Segregation of missions by type and not by whether it’s inside or outside of the U.S., will lead to efficiencies and greater capability to track down and take terrorists into custody.

2) The concern for civil liberties domestically is valid, but I think safeguards can still be kept in place such that domestic intelligence gathering by DHS will succeed without any law enforcement-related material being used against citizens in violation of their rights in the legal system. A very important safeguard to keep in place is to prohibit DHS activities from forwarding information, referrals, or evidence regarding non-terrorist-related crimes to civilian law enforcement. There should also be regular Congressional reviews to ensure that DHS activities aren’t focusing on non-terrorist political opponents simply for voicing opposition to existing leaders. OUTSIDE of those safeguards, I am not willing to sacrifice American lives for a long list of further protections, personally.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 16, 2004 01:54 PM
Comment #12346

ALmost everyone responding here have had excellent and constructive information, ideas, and thoughts to bring to the table.

1) Why are the professionals not able to do the same?

2) What about oversight? Should not the Congress’s Intelligence Committee also have access to the CIA’s central database clearinghouse with staff redundantly looking for patterns as well as abuses of power by the enforcement agencies under the direction of the Executive Branch?

3) One of the downsides to a highly efficient and well managed intel. community is an even greater risk to the American People of abuse of that power for political or monetary gain. What safeguards should be added to protect citizen rights guaranteed under the Constitution?

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 16, 2004 01:57 PM
Comment #12347

Lawnboy, Barbara Bodine was U.S. Ambassador to Yemen at the time a group of FBI agents were there to investigate the attack on the USS Cole. Ms. Bodine felt that the way FBI agents were carrying themselves was damaging U.S./Yemeni relations and demanded that certain agents—including John O’Neill—be returned to the U.S.

It is speculated that the FBI would have been much more successful in tracking down Al Qaeda if they hadn’t been micromanaged by narrowly-scoped diplomacy in that way. Richard Clarke had much more clever words about it, and for that reason I highly recommend watching the documentary “The Man Who Knew” on PBS.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 16, 2004 01:58 PM
Comment #12349

David, often the professionals that are still in the business (and some of us doing the kibbitzing here are formerly in the business), ARE able to formulate good plans and ideas. What stands in the way is an entrenched interlocking network of political interests where individual careers take precedence over such trivial things as American lives. Sometimes even the political network is able to pull off successes, in spite of itself—and that is even more tragic than the failures of the political network, because if it were all failure and no success, the American people would more easily see the need for more dramatic change, and would pressure the offices of the POTUS, the House, and the Senate, to enact those changes by hook or by crook.

To say 9/11 was a wake-up call is not only trite, but it’s inaccurate. The American people’s attitude about intelligence-gathering organizations continues to place trust in circles that don’t deserve it, and mistrust in circles that DO deserve trust.

One thing that angers me about President Bush is that he has a view of all of this from the top, and is more empowered than anyone else to enact changes to the systems and subsystems that are often either gathering dust where they shouldn’t, or spinning out of control where they’re not being watched as closely as they should. If he had spent even so much as 10% of the time and energy he spent on Iraq, toward the needed changes to the intelligence industry, we would already see improvements in the way of cheaper operations, better diplomacy in Europe (because that too requires good intelligence!!!), and it’s quite possible we’d have already captured Bin Laden by now instead of having to be treated to his preening, taunting voice on tape every few months or so.

The Iraq miscalculation was seductive, because I myself had visions of liberating an oppressed people, and didn’t care about WMDs. It never occurred to me that the Iraqi people quite simply didn’t DESERVE liberation. But that’s a whole other rant, LOL.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 16, 2004 02:13 PM
Comment #12352

In many ways the problems we are seeing in the FBI/CIA/State Department are not dissimilar from the Enron type corporate scandals. Reorganization is a good start but how do you get a bureaucrat to put the country before his or her own career. I am leaning toward some kind of system where management can receive a vote of no confidence from the employees or some kind of customer satisfaction survey. If you don’t create and incentive for management to stay on target they will start worrying more about their career and less about the mission.

Posted by: Bob J Young at April 16, 2004 02:20 PM
Comment #12355

Bob, I think if there were an employee vote of no confidence at the time John O’Neill was being railroaded out of the FBI, that tragedy would have still happened. The management elements giving him troubles were not giving troubles to a majority of the other agents.

I don’t mean to be picking 100% on the FBI either. Let’s find another example in another agency: Former USN SEAL Commander Richard Marcinko was sort of like a military John O’Neill in a way: in the 1980s he conducted a series of antiterrorist training activities at naval bases operating under the code name “Red Cell”, and to Marcinko the goal was getting the training done at all costs, and who cares what it might do to embarrass certain Admirals or base commanders. He was a “sharp elbows” kind of guy, and made a lot of enemies similar to the way O’Neill did. Many of his ideas were vindicated, though, when the Khobar Towers barracks got hit in Saudi Arabia, and the way the Cole was a sitting duck, that too probably could have been prevented had Red Cell not been duct-taped to the tree, as it were.

The big difficulty of trying to make a system put country before career is that it’s easy to disguise career manoeuvers as good for the country. O’Neill got accused of various security breaches, and obviously at face value that would be bad for the country, so the career-protection activities SEEMED like country-protection at the time. I’m not even 100% certain a Congressional appeal panel of such affairs would be the silver bullet to the problem.

Open-door policies on the part of agency leadership are SUPPOSED to be able to sort out career conflicts and determine who is really trying to save lives by their actions, and who is really just back-stabbing someone to get a promotion. That there is a leadership problem, and leadership problems float all the way up to the chain of command—which in America has the VOTERS at the top. And the problem at that level does indeed seem to be directly tied to a two-party, winner-take-all system which does little better to fully represent the will of the people than a ONE party system.

I’ve ranted and ranted and should probably stop myself, but it’s hard not to spout off when I think I know a few things, LOL.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 16, 2004 02:42 PM
Comment #12356

Yea! There are all sorts of problems with a “vote” system. Like management giving out bonuses the day after a “yes” vote. I just can’t think of anything better. Its like trying to decide what kind of government is best to rule a country. Democracy is the best thing we have come up with regardless of all its flaws. I am just trying to find a way to adapt it to the current mess.

Posted by: Bob J Young at April 16, 2004 02:51 PM
Comment #12357

Ciggy, thanks for your reply - it appears you have hit upon the core issue of what is wrong and what is needed to make it a whole lot better. Many thanks.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 16, 2004 02:52 PM
Comment #12386
One thing that angers me about President Bush is that he has a view of all of this from the top, and is more empowered than anyone else to enact changes to the systems and subsystems that are often either gathering dust where they shouldn’t, or spinning out of control where they’re not being watched as closely as they should.

ie- He’s not much of a leader. Thanks Ciggy.

As news comes out every other week about new intelligence offices being formed, underfunding of existing agencies (the DHS), and all the backstabbing, jockying for position, and turf wars between the Pentagon, CIA, DHS, FBI, etc., it’s clear that no one is in charge.

And the last thing we need is one more spy agency. Fix the FBI (start by replacing Freeh) and let them get on with the job. They were the guys that tracked all the Soviet spies in the US. Now they should be tracking terrorists. Why create a new department?

Posted by: Lee at April 17, 2004 01:29 AM
Comment #12405

V.Ed, Dave, Lee, Cig, whoever else;
The problem that I see is that the new agencies under the heading of homeland security, is that they all left vying for the same budget.

The name Homeland security is a cover-all for multiple agencies as you know, but they all are splitting up the same budget. That can’t be helpful to the what they are trying to achieve or set in place.

Does this not create more unconstructive infighting? If the intel network miscommunication and bureaucracy (laws and policies) were the innitial setting for the problems connected to 9-11, then this ‘might’ be setting for the second line of problems in another similar strike on our soil. The preverbial “we didn’t have the budgets to act effectively.”

I’m still looking into the budgetting mire but this is what it appears to be from the outset. It does appear that is is on a prioritive level but there are actionable things many of these bureaus can put in place to detur and protect citizens from terror attacks but this system of prioritization vs. budget split-up might be an ‘excuse machine’, if you get what I’m saying.

Yes you are correct NSA/CIA, but the ‘Information Awareness Office’ is most definitely an extention of the NSA set in place by John Poindexter who was sentenced to five years for his involvement in the Iran Contra scandal. He was recently removed for dubious reasons as of last year, but it employs many of the same espionage technologies that the NSA utilizes overseas.

Have you ever read over the Sunset Provisions on the Patriot Act, I enjoy your writings and your take on these stipulations would prove interesting. I’m not sure whether it has been written about in detail as to what it entails technically, but it would be an interesting conversation. The biggest problem (I see) is that once it hits the review after 5years congress can’t research cases in which these laws were used. Though not a current topic, certainly relevent to all of these questions. Just an idea.

Posted by: skunkbud at April 17, 2004 11:44 AM
Comment #12413

Skunkbud, the main gist of what I’m trying to say, particulars about budget and existing agencies notwithstanding, is that there should be one and ONLY one agency with any given distinctive mission. Fighting terrorism belongs in one agency, and no agency other than THAT agency (which you could call Banana for all I care) should be engaged in it unless called upon to support that agency, and led by that agency. I think it would also help tremendously if the agency fighting terrorism is not given any other tasks. For that reason, in my mind FBI is not the right fit for the job, as an agency, although certain current and former agents would obviously be a welcome addition.

I think an excellent place to start looking for budgetary wiggle room is that “highly necessary” escapade of looking at rocks on Mars. I think an intimate knowledge of every rock in the solar system is not going to help us if we are DEAD.

Defense-related contracts need closer scrutiny too. There should be more open bidding and competition in that arena.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 17, 2004 04:52 PM
Comment #12416

Very interesting commentary. I do blame someone for 9/11 and that someone is George W. Bush. I blame him for two simple reasons. The first is that it occurred on his watch and the second is that should the plot have been foiled he would have been the first to step up to the plate and take credit for preventing the attack. Accountability is the key concept here and all I have been hearing are excuses as to why no President should be held entirely accountable for failures in the government. Maybe if our political leaders knew that, right or wrong, they will be held accountable for the things that go wrong on their watch if for no other reason than it was their watch we would see more responsible leadership from the White House and Capitol Hill.

I am always amazed at how Americans hold coaches of professional sports teams more accountable than the President of the United States. When a new coach takes over a team that coach initially inherits the team of his predecessor and will enjoy a very short grace period to get that team back on track. If the new coach can’t produce better numbers the fans and ownership will turn on him (or her) with a vengeance that is both swift and punishing. When I am at my local watering hole and my buddies are lamenting the lack of a passing game exhibited by the Miami Dolphins this past season I would get stares of disbelief if I said something like, “Why are you getting on the coach’s case? I don’t think I could do a better job.” These however are the kinds of responses I get should I criticize Bush’s handling of Iraq or any other national issue. I just wish we were as informed and critical of the President as we tend to be when it comes to our local sports teams. Fans know that accountability is the only way to get to the Super Bowl. Americans should know it is the only way to get good government.

Posted by: William Flynn at April 17, 2004 05:58 PM
Comment #12445
I just wish we were as informed and critical of the President as we tend to be when it comes to our local sports teams. Fans know that accountability is the only way to get to the Super Bowl. Americans should know it is the only way to get good government.

Excellent analogy William! Clinton took responsibility for the first WTC attack which took place only 30 days after he took office. I think 8-9 months is more than enough of a grace period. Especially for someone who flew around the country campaigning on an Enron jet named Responsibility 1.

Posted by: Lee at April 18, 2004 09:23 AM
Comment #12456

Yes, good analogy, William. There are significant parallels between sports and politics, but the consequences are vastly more important than who wins the Super Bowl, and understanding politics is vastly more complex and demanding upon the public than following a favored home team or even all teams of the NFL or whatever.

That should mean the American public spend a great deal more time understanding and participating in politics, but, horribly for democracy, far too many millions of people follow sports in lieu of politics.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 18, 2004 12:40 PM
Comment #12490

William, Lee, David, in the analogy of sports to politics, the Coach in question isn’t the President. It’s the voters.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 18, 2004 11:31 PM
Comment #12507

Is the coach the people or the President. You could view it both ways, but, I see the people as the fans who pay the money, “called the gate” which is used to pay the coach and the players. Seems more fully analogous to me.

It is amazing how many fans show up even for a losing team.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 19, 2004 08:08 AM
Comment #12570

David, there is numerical merit in your analogy of the voters as the fans, but presidents act more like the first-round draft picks signed by the coaches who seem like they’re going to take you to the playoffs but end up choking at every opportunity and costing your team countless games. I think the spirit of the analogy puts the president more at that star player level, and the voters more like the coach.

Posted by: Ciggy at April 19, 2004 11:44 PM
Comment #12913

Ciggy, you are probably right. Except for gymnastics, I don’t follow sports and know little of specifics of such spectator sports. My ignorance of sports was apparently showing a bit. Thanks.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 23, 2004 11:49 AM