Jewish World Review July 27, 2004 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5764
9/11 Commission thinks cure for problem caused by too much
bureaucracy is to add another layer of bureaucracy
If you staggered into the emergency room of a hospital suffering from
appendicitis and a hangnail, would you want the doctors to treat the
hangnail first? And would you want the doctors to treat your hangnail by
amputating your thumb?
The 9/11 Commission thinks the cure for a problem caused by too much
bureaucracy is to add another layer of bureaucracy.
The Commission recommended that an intelligence "czar," a National
Intelligence Director, be appointed to oversee the 15 agencies in the
Intelligence Community (IC). The NID would have control over the budgets of
all intelligence agencies, and the power to fire the heads of subordinate
Reform of the structure of the Intelligence Community is long overdue. The
best case for it is made by retired Army LtGen. William Odom, a former head
of the National Security Agency, in his excellent little book: "Fixing
But it wasn't the structure of the Intelligence Community that led to the
intelligence failures on 9/11.
The 9/11 attacks were successful mostly because:
The CIA and the FBI had precious little information about al Qaeda and
The CIA and the FBI were unwilling to share what precious little
information they did have with each other, or with other intelligence and
law enforcement agencies.
Border and airport security was incredibly lax, thanks to a combination
of laziness, inadequate funding, and an excess of political correctness.
"The real problem is in collection and analysis, not coordination," said
James Lilley, a CIA officer for 27 years before becoming ambassador to South
Korea, and then to China. "We're falling down getting good information
because we don't have good case officers, and analysis is demonstrably
"The people who have the skill to do intelligence have been shoved aside and
bureaucrats have replaced them," said Herbert Meyer, who was a special
assistant to William Casey, Ronald Reagan's CIA chief. "Until you fix that,
nothing else will work."
An anecdote from Robert Baer's, memoir, "See No Evil," illustrates the
problem. When Baer was the CIA station chief in Tajikstan in 1994, he asked
CIA headquarters to send him officers who spoke Dari and Pashtun, the
principal languages of Afghanistan, so they could interview the thousands of
refugees pouring across the border.
Baer was told no Dari or Pashtun linguists were available, but Langley would
send out a four-person team to brief on the CIA's new policy on sexual
In his superb book, "1,000 Years for Revenge," journalist Peter Lance
describes how FBI brass rejected an informant who was trying to warn them of
the 1993 World Trade Center bomb plot, and ignored ample evidence of the
The FBI and the CIA badly need better people, and fewer layers of management
to interfere with them. Appointing an intelligence "czar" will not solve
these problems, and could screw up the other agencies in the Intelligence
Community, most of which are doing just fine.
Most Americans, and the 9/11 Commission, don't understand that the Central
Intelligence Agency isn't so central anymore. Most of our intelligence --
and our most reliable intelligence -- comes from the National Security
Agency, which intercepts radio, telephone and internet communications, and
the National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency, which does for imagery
intelligence what NSA does for signals intelligence.
NSA and NGA didn't exist when the CIA was created in 1947. Neither did five
other members of the Intelligence Community. In 1947, before all these other
agencies existed, it made sense to make the director the CIA also the
director of Central Intelligence, the nominal head of the entire
It's clear now the CIA director's two jobs should go to two people. But the
National Intelligence Director should be more of a primus inter pares (first
among equals) than a "czar," most intelligence experts think.
"I doubt that hundreds of years of stupidity and rigidity is a good model
for U.S. intelligence," said R. James Woolsey, President Clinton's first CIA
director, referring to the absolute Russian rulers.
Whatever you think of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, it is important
to remember they are prescriptions for curing the hangnail, not the
The 9/11 attacks succeeded in part because Americans have difficulty
distinguishing between what's important, and what isn't. The report of the
9/11 Commission indicates not much has changed.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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