Friday, January 8, 2010

Years of spotty data-sharing on suspects

The graphic illustrates several matters; the sub-heading of the story is illustrative, and scandalous: Insufficient Funding, Old Technologies and Bureaucratic Turnover Hindered Efforts to Link Spy Agencies.

Say, what?

I almost hate to say this, but today's Journal editorial on this matter makes perfect sense, and I agree with it.

Mr. Obama blamed no one in particular for the failure, not even George W. Bush. In one sense this is refreshing. The President said the buck stops with him, not his underlings, and he ordered the usual agencies to review their usual procedures and institute changes to make sure information is shared more quickly and analyzed more comprehensively. This all seems worthwhile as far as it goes, and it may well do some good by shaking up settled behavior patterns, at least for a while.

On the other hand, it's impossible to read even the six-page unclassified summary of the White House review without a rising sense of frustration, even anger. This was above all a failure of bureaucracy.

How did this happen?

If Mr. Obama isn't angry, he should be, because Americans were told by our leaders that the "intelligence reform" of the last decade would fix this. A smaller Counterterrorism Center had existed for years inside the CIA, but the Bush Administration yanked it out to assert more control. This later became the NCTC when the 2004 intelligence reform created the Director of National Intelligence, which was supposed to prevent these kind of screw-ups by sharing information and "connecting the dots."

I sure wish he would show some anger, and fire someone. One person must be made an example of, showing that the President is leading the nation and the government. Right now, and for the last couple of weeks, the nation is adrift, and has a President who is also adrift. I have lost confidence in him.

However, the DNI has since become its own vast bureaucracy with thousands of employees, whose main job seems to be micromanaging or duplicating the CIA. We—and many others—opposed the 2004 reform on grounds that it would create precisely this redundant layer of intelligence bureaucracy, and so it has. This is one mess that Mr. Obama really can blame on Mr. Bush and especially the 9/11 Commission that came up with the idea and lobbied furiously for it.

Members of the Commission seem to have believed that the way to fix the problems that allowed 9/11 to happen was to create more government. That has been proven wrong. The solution lies in changing government, and that must include streamlining it.

A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority. Perhaps now Mr. Obama will, and yesterday he finally said after a year in office that "We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda." But in fighting that war, he'd be better off shrinking the DNI to 20 or 30 people—and the CIA by half—and starting over.



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