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Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles 370

Early last week several questions were submitted to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the sad state of counter-terrorism in the United States, and he has answered frankly and in-depth. In addition, McGovern solicited former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley to review his answers and provide her own comments. Ray's biggest tip to the intelligence community was to "HOLD ACCOUNTABLE THOSE RESPONSIBLE. More 'reform' is the last thing we need. Sorry, but we DO have to look back. The most effective step would be to release the CIA Inspector General report on intelligence community performance prior to 9/11. That investigation was run by, and its report was prepared by an honest man, it turns out. It was immediately suppressed by then-Acting DCI John McLaughlin — another Tenet clone — and McLaughin's successors as director, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and now Leon Panetta."
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Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles

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  • by antirelic ( 1030688 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:21PM (#30786096) Journal

    There were many aspects of the 9/11 Commission that were implemented. DHS and DNI were both implemented, and both disasters. Two entities created with bureaucracy as their focal point leads to nothing but disaster. DHS cannot properly allocate resources, cannot hold onto talent, promotes the most incomptent boobs into positions of power, and is lead by a moron, Janet Napolitano who makes former FEMA chief Mike Brown look like Rudy Giuliani. The DNI is a complete wreck, which was suppose to "coordinate" intelligence sharing between all the agencies, but has instead keeps trying to usurp the functions of the CIA.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:28PM (#30786138) Journal

    It was since 9/11 that it struck me: the US secret services, intelligence and security communities are... well, a bit dumb. The measures taken on planes after 9/11 should have been there before. Plain-clothes officers on planes were introduced only AFTER the fact. In Israel that has been common practice since the 70's. I don't even need to mention security theater at the airports in the US. And then the more recent Jordanian double-agent that kills 7 CIA officers in Afghanistan. Then there's the ridiculous list of no-fly passengers that is checked against a name!? Really? Now that's really hard to defeat. And it aggravates everybody who happens to have the same name. These just from the top off my head, but there are much more such stupendously silly things.

    Beyond drastic, strategic changes in philosophy, the intelligence community in the US should be more imaginative, more broad-minded, more alert. Basically, more intelligent.

  • by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:50PM (#30786310) Homepage Journal

    There is a long history here that needs to be taken into consideration... We are seeing a paradigm shift in our government that is long overdue. It used to be that the government had to protect paper documents, "eyes only", and the biggest threat were photocopiers and miniature cameras... not any more.

    I wrote about this transformation many years ago. Is it any wonder why the NSA is being brought up and groomed to help protect the critical information assets that the United States has?

    From my post:

    Human Intelligence, CIA
    Signal Intelligence, NSA

    The English have been masters at the spy trade for centuries. In WWII, the United States felt that it should get into the act and turned to the English for guidance.

    With their tutelage, the CIA became a formidable tool against the Soviet threat throughout the cold war. We had clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders. Gathering intelligence became a methodical science... then, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the clearly defined enemies with clearly defined borders went with it.

    The growth of the internet created an atmosphere wherein information and 'intelligence' became a commodity. Then the emergence of an enemy that is not only difficult, if not impossible, to clearly define but who also operates entirely without borders. The polar opposite from what the CIA were trained to do.

    Not only has this rule-set reset turned the CIA upside-down, it has rendered it all but useless. The UK isn't doing much better either. The problem is that western society itself is at odds with the rules required to make an effective spy agency. Our open government(s), free access to information, laws against spying on citizens and so forth are what both protect our civil liberties as well as create the environment in which our enemies can plot against us.

    The CIA knew about al Qaeda operators operating in the USA prior to 9/11, yet did nothing to notify the FBI. This is because of the opposing nature of each agency. The CIA finds a criminal and wants to string them along to see what intelligence they can uncover by monitoring them. When the FBI finds a criminal, they want to string them up. From the CIA perspective, the FBI sure knows how to screw up an investigation and destroy your intelligence network.

    The CIA is now dysfunctional to the point of uselessness. In fact, there isn't a single effective spy agency in the western world. The current battle we're fighting and the enemy we face is one that cannot be defeated by military might, it is a war that MUST be fought using intelligence.

    So, the administration turned to the only other agency with experience in gathering and monitoring enemies. It also happens that this agency is experts at SigInt, as opposed to the HumInt. The problem is that the NSA is forbidden by law from spying on American Citizens, UNLESS they are monitoring overseas communications. This exception has always been allowed, no warrant necessary. There is no law that states that I have the constitutional right to conspire with enemies overseas.

    No other nation even comes close to the SigInt capabilities of the NSA...

    It is imperative that the NSA get on top of this nations information security. A staggering number of government agencies are still not even behind firewalls! There is so much bureaucratic stagnation that nothing meaningful has been done to secure this nations governmental infrastructure.

    Finally, they are putting an agency in charge that actually *knows* something about security. I applaud this effort wholeheartedly.


    Joel Helgeson

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:03PM (#30786436) Homepage

    I'm basically on board with McGovern, but some of the particulars stuck out to me as half-baked: "Add Washington's propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas -- widely (and accurately) seen as one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan." I think it's true that the US props up dictatorial, repressive regimes in the Middle East and southern Asia (Kuwait, Pahlavi's Iran, ...). I think it's true that we would never have gone to war in Kuwait/Iraq in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, or Iraq in 2003, if this hadn't been an oil-producing region. This is clearest in the case of Kuwait, and also reasonably clear in the 2003 Iraq invasion, since the WMD pretext was obviously bogus. The least clear one is Afghanistan, which really did have at least some reasonable justification in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks -- although if the region had never had oil, it would have made more sense to invade Saudi Arabia, from which 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists originated.

    But how can McGovern say that "one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan" was "to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas?" This doesn't make any sense. Saddam Hussein was exporting oil before we invaded in 2003. The invasion devastated oil production. And Afghanistan has never been a big oil producer.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that we went to war in Kuwait in 1991 in order to stabilize the Middle East oil producing region, and we went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 as knee-jerk reactions to the 9/11 attacks (which is pretty pathetic, because the whole purpose of terrorism is basically to cause a knee-jerk reaction).

    He makes a big deal out of how nobody admits that one of the main motivations for terrorist attacks on the US is anger about Israel. This is undeniably true. The problem is, what the heck can we do about it now? We tried to hand democracy and territory to the Palestinians on a silver platter, and they messed up. Is there some obvious solution to the Israel problem that I'm missing?

  • Re:So essentially... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Torodung ( 31985 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:33PM (#30786692) Journal

    Hmm. Seems to me that some mods are modding "disagree." I don't see how this is a "troll" at all.

    That said, shortly after Obama was inaugurated, Interpol listed 81 international terrorists [interpol.int] with intent to attack Saudi Arabia. Seems like the greatest reason we were being attacked may be because the Bush family was friends with the Saudi royal family, and we were very, very loyal about protecting them, even to the threat of our homeland.

    It also tells me that we make an easier, more productive target than the House of Ibn Saud [wikipedia.org]. The best answer to the question of why we get targeted is the simple one. We're more convenient, and we don't live in a fortress. That and the President of the United States actually cares and looks bad when his people suffer, a curse the King of Saudi Arabia doesn't seem to have to live with.

    So I would be very careful about making assumptions about who claims to be our friend and the invitations they send us. We're being used. This is exactly the kind of personal, family legacy war Kings would get into before we abolished them here in the U.S. because we were sick of all the stupid pointless warring.

    All that needs to be done is to point the bastards at their proper target, and let the chickens come to roost at the House of Ibn Saud, so we don't have to tend his bitter flock. After we get ourselves off oil dependency first, of course.

    I don't think left and right matter here. I think we just need to find a way forward that doesn't necessitate we become an authoritarian police state fighting an endless war like Oceania in 1984.


  • Re:So essentially... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:58PM (#30786906) Journal

    Why Counter-Terrorism Is In Shambles

    There are quite a few big assumptions in that phrase.

    First, is that "terrorism" is a serious threat to the population. The numbers of people who have been killed by terrorists do not bear this out. I live in one of the biggest cities in the US, blocks away from the tallest building in the country, and I'm more likely to die from choking on a cheesey poof than from "terrorism". The real issue then is the disruption to society caused by these acts of violence.

    Maybe a "counter-fear" program is what we need instead.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @10:14PM (#30787010) Journal

    In World War two it was discovered that the best way for the allies to get intel from their prisoners on what the Germans were up to was a steak dinner.

    I heard it a different way from a family member who was actually there and served in his division's intelligence unit. He said that the most effective way to get information out of high ranking POWs was to inform them that we'd turn them over to the Soviets if they failed to cooperate with us.

  • Re:So essentially... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @10:28PM (#30787086)

    Except that the type of waterboarding supposedly authorized by the DoJ was not the type actually used at gitmo.
    So, regardless of all other arguments, the one that claims legal cover due to legal memorandum from the DoJ doesn't fly.

    ""[T]he waterboard technique ... was different from the technique described in the DoJ opinion and used in the SERE training."
    Footnote, page 41, declassified DoJ memo [luxmedia501.com]

  • Re:So essentially... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @10:29PM (#30787098)

    People were willing to tolerate the US in saudi when the threat from iraq was immediate. People, on the whole, aren't stupid enough to miss the big picture here. The problem is 3, 4, 5 years later why is the wealthiest muslim country reliant on a foreign power to protect itself? (Given that they can buy US weapons) The *continued* presence of the US there shamed every saudi who believed their country should be able to defend itself from a poorer, weaker (and slightly smaller populationwise) potential adversary. If we all woke up tomorrow and realized mexico had an army of 10 million with a huge inventory of tanks aircraft etc, and was sufficiently well armed NATO rushed into help guard the US border that's one thing. But 5 years later if the potential adversary, with less money, technology, trade, access and overall weaker it's a problem. The *continued* US presence, and no fly zones over the oppressed, gassed people of Iraq was a shame on the honour of the people of Saudi, the protectors of the muslim holy places, that they are relying on a bunch of Christians from across the ocean to guard them from another muslim state. Either they lack legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the muslim world, at which point we should wonder why we're supporting them, or they figure we're dumb enough to run in and help them for free, why should they bother, and we should wonder why we're the only ones who think this needs to be done 'our' way.

    The US troops in Saudi pushed bin laden over the edge, but he wasn't exactly pro US or Saudi Royal family before that. The house of Saud for all practical purposes may as well all carry US or EU passports, as they syphon off all the money they can, and then store in the US and EU. As a western country that's basically what we want them to do, if they took that money and reinvested in their economy or that of their neighbours we wouldn't have it back (think trade deficits) As it is economically Saudi arabia may as well be part of the US. But long prior to the invasion of Kuwait and the US moving into Saudi he was against what the US puppet in Israel was doing to the Palestinians, the wealth disparity in Saudi between the princes and everyone else, US involvement in southeast asia, Russian control over chechnya, the perceived relations between egypt and the US (hence he was able to merge AQ with the Egyptian IJ)

    This is something the lunatic left understands perfectly. The House of Saud are the protrusion of Western imperialism into Saudi, created by Britain (like several middle eastern states) and propped up by their successors in the US. That's the problem. They aren't a government of the people, for the people or anything else, nor, in the best of both worlds old school british system are the people represented. You cannot beat someone into submission, at least not states. Every single rebellion in history has played this out. Either you give them a fair shake or eventually they will come back for it, and the house of Saud is definitely not fair to the people of Saudi arabia or their supposed brothers in the rest of the muslim world who they leave in poverty. France and Germany were at each others throats over the overlapping populations along the rhine, the solution, was first move all of the germans out (since we won WW2), and then push them towards being a single state rendering the issue moot. Indians fought, and lost, a rebellion in 1857, it took them 90 years, but eventually they got independence.

    There were lots of mistakes that led to Al qaeda hating the US as much as it does. Some of that was simply not inviting them to be part of the coalition to liberate kuwait, a mistake no one even conceived that we could have been making. Al qaeda offered to do it all, we not only turned them down but insulted them by suggesting they couldn't even participate - something 20 years in hindsight we can see, by definitely had no idea of at the time. Some of it is fundamental and deeply ideological. There are still KKK members in the US, there are still people

  • Here's the problem: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @11:12PM (#30787318) Homepage Journal
    • A bunch of muslimist arabs (19 of 'em) attacked us.
    • People were terrified.
    • Our government launched a war on the liberty of our people. Travel, speech, privacy... all hit hard. Billions spent.
    • Our government attacked.... Iraq, which had nothing to do with the the attack on us. Billions spent.
    • Our government attacked.... Afghanistan, which had nothing to do with the attack on us. Billions spent.
    • Saudi Arabia, which both funded and raised the attackers, is left unmolested because of oil interests.
    • We're still 100% at risk from Muslimist arabs, though they're probably laughing so hard they won't bother.
    • Our liberties are in tatters.
    • Guess who's winning? Someone actually is, you know. Who?
    • Our government won, because they now have much more power than they used to, and can give more of our money to the military industrial complex.
  • by DeadCatX2 ( 950953 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @11:48PM (#30787508) Journal

    You're on the right track. Torture backfires in a variety of ways on a regular basis. When it comes to effective interrogation, I always like to cite the FBI agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/24/60minutes/main3749494.shtml [cbsnews.com]

  • Waste of money! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fluffykitty1234 ( 1005053 ) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @12:12AM (#30787612)

    If someone proposed that we spend a trillion dollars on building lightning rods around the country to save people from possibly being struck by lighting, you'd probably say, wow that's an incredibly dumb idea. But yet, the reality is, this incredibly dumb idea would likely end up saving more lives than what we've spent on the "war on terror".

    Americans need to get a grip, we don't need the paternalistic government to protect us, after all on the last two airplane bombing attempts, it was the passengers that jumped the would be bombers. Let's all just relax a little, ask the politicians to stop spending money hand over fist in the name of safety, and let us live our lives.

    If terrorism ever becomes a real problem, we can revisit this...

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain