O's 'fixes' will fail
Feeding more fat to obese US intelligence
New York Post
January 9, 2010
On Christmas day, a terrorist known to our intelligence system tried to blow up 300 innocents on a US-bound flight. Our government's response is to take porno pictures of your wife and daughter. A radical-Islamist US Army major, known to our intelligence system, massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. Our government's response was to offer counseling sessions. A triple agent, known to our intelligence system, detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA outpost, killing seven Americans and a cousin of Jordan's king. Our government's response is to shift intelligence assets away from targeting terrorists to support development efforts.
Our president assures us that no individual is to blame. No one will be fired. It was only "the system," that elusive beast, that failed.
Well, our intelligence system is made up of people. People failed. Starting at the top. The dazzlingly incompetent Janet Napolitano, a "man-caused disaster" if ever there was one, needs to be removed from her job heading Homeland Security. White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan should be placed on double-secret probation and warned to pull up his grades. As for the National Counterterrorism Center chief who abandoned his post to go on a ski vacation the day after Christmas, I leave his fate to you, gentle reader.
None of these people, including our president, took what almost happened on Christmas seriously -- until the public outcry spooked them. To energize the bureaucratic proles, you have to chop off aristocratic heads. But President Obama won't use the guillotine. He's protecting incompetents. At our nation's expense.
The corrective measures announced Thursday boil down to two things: Buy more stuff (additional computer systems, full-body scanners, etc.), and re-arrange the deck chairs.
That won't do it. These measures don't address the two enduring handicaps our intelligence community (and our government) suffers in our duel with Islamist terrorists.
First, you can't win by playing defense. Our unseemly protective measures relinquish the initiative to our enemies. Punishing law-abiding US citizens at airports is a disgrace, not a virtue. The only effective way to reduce the terrorist threat is to kill terrorists. Nothing else -- not even the humiliation of innocent air travelers -- will work.
Yet the politically correct group-think mentality in Washington is so pervasive and pernicious that even Robert Gates, who's been a great secretary of defense in so many ways, parrots the cliché that "we can't kill our way out of this."
Oh, really? Suppose we had killed young Umar Abdulmutallab on the ground with al Qaeda in Yemen? Might that not have protected Americans more effectively than making them miss their holiday flight connections? Any program that takes intelligence assets away from finding and killing terrorists is a mistake. Improving crop yields in southern Afghanistan won't keep Americans safe from Islamist fanatics. What about this is hard to understand?
Problem No. 2 is the nature of our intelligence system itself: It's morbidly obese. The well-intentioned creation of new bureaucracies after 9/11 only worsened the problem, creating more layers of fat. I prescribe a rigorous diet and exercise -- not force-feeding the system more funding calories.
Our intel system is vast, redundant, intractable, self-satisfied, cautious and slower than crosstown traffic during a presidential motorcade. Our Islamist enemies are lean, really mean, agile, ruthless and, above all, imaginative. Ragtag fanatics are out-thinking us. Why? Because bureaucracy, although it has its place, hates fresh ideas. The terrorists grab a good concept and run with it. We staff it to death, then decide it's far too risky.
Before launching an attack on a confirmed terrorist target in Afghanistan, our combat units need up to a dozen different permission slips. Think al Qaeda or the Taliban work that way?
We're not being defeated. We're defeating ourselves.
As a former Military Intelligence officer, I know the answer isn't more inexperienced hires or throwing more money at well-connected defense contractors. The answer is to emphasize quality, and for our leaders to foster a culture of risk in the field and personal responsibility in the Cabinet. We need to be creative and willing to commit sins of commission, rather than waiting for terrorists to expose our sins of omission.
Instead, we'll continue to penalize honest citizens (handing al Qaeda a massive, continuing win). Those full-body scanners? If you don't think porn shots of innocent women will end up on the Internet, you probably believe that trying terrorist butchers in civilian courts will make al Qaeda respect us.
We need to check under the burqas, not the halter tops.