What We Learned from the Report of the 911 Commission XXIX.

The tricky issue of Personality and Culture.

The foreign intelligence community did a pretty good job of centralizing information and analysis on threats to American interests abroad and of coordinating a response. However, there was no centralization of information and analysis on domestic threats, no co-ordination of response, and no adequate communication between foreign and domestic intelligence. No one seems to have realized that the domestic agencies had no formal plans or procedures for how to respond to terrorism; no one told the agencies to develop such plans and procedures. (pp. 378-379.) There was no central co-ordination of intelligence analysis or threat assessment. “The mosaic of threat intelligence came from the [CIA’s] Counterterrorist Center, which collected only abroad. Its reports were not supplemented by reports from the FBI.” (p. 294.)

“Beneath the acknowledgement that Bin Laden and al Qaeda presented serious dangers, there was uncertainty among senior officials about whether this was just a new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat America had lived with for decades, or was radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced.” (p. 491.) Richard Clarke failed in repeated efforts to get the Clinton administration to recognize al Qaeda as a first order threat, and he was still trying to get a decision on this from the new Bush administration in early September 2001. However, no one—even Richard Clarke—ever forced an open debate on the issue. (p. 491.)

NB: A point worth considering. The above analyses fairly frequently point out the deficiencies of the FBI, the CIA, and the State Department because all three of them privilege the local commanders (so to speak) over central authority. Local offices tend to have autonomy about what they do and how they do it within the broad outlines of general policy defined from the center. However, at the start of Chapter Five, “Al Qaeda Aims at the American Homeland,” there appears the following remark. “Bin Laden and his chief of operations,…, occupied undisputed leadership positions atop al Qaeda’s organizational structure. Within this structure, al Qaeda’s worldwide terrorist operations relied heavily upon the ideas and work of enterprising and strong-willed field commanders who enjoyed considerable autonomy.” (p. 210.) How could the same system work FOR al Qaeda and AGAINST the United States?

President Clinton apparently grew impatient with the inability of the United States government to make Bin Laden just go away. President Clinton once remarked to JCS Chairman (and Green Beret and former commander of all Special Forces) Hugh Shelton that “You know, it would scare the shit out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.” Shelton subsequently declared that he didn’t remember Clinton making the statement and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that he thought the President might have been making a hypothetical statement, however Clinton has repeatedly stated that he said this. (p. 272.) NB: It’s like listening to my 13 year-old—when he was younger.

“According to Clarke, [National Security Adviser Sandy] Berger upbraided DCI [George] Tenet so sharply after the Cole attack—repeatedly demanding to know why the United States had to put up with such attacks—that Tenet walked out of a meeting of the principals.” (p. 278.) In Summer 2001 Tenet engaged in a lot of hand wringing about ordering a lethal attack on Bin Laden. “Are America’s leaders comfortable with the CIA doing this, going outside of normal military command and control? Charlie Allen told us that when these questions were discussed at the CIA, he and the Agency’s executive director, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, had said that either one of them would be happy to pull the trigger, but Tenet was appalled, telling them that they had no authority to do it, nor did he.” (reported, p. 305.) NB: What would Dulles, or Helms, or Colby have said?

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