Intelligence, NSA and Prevention of Terrorism

After 12 years post September 11, 2001, what have we learned?

The purpose of terrorism is to sow terror, to sow doubt, to undermine peoples’ faith in their governments. Why? To accomplish whatever long term goal the terrorist or group has in mind. It is a tool, not an end. It is a means to an end and it can be very effective. As any security person will tell you, “We have to be 100% effective, they only have to be effective once.”

Can we keep you 100% secure? No.

Read that again, please.

The reorganization after 9/11 was, for the most part, over-reaction. You may think I base that on how many times we have been hit since then. You would be wrong.

We have poured billions of dollars into securing our nation and any police officer, soldier, law enforcement personnel, emergency management person would look you dead in the eye and agree most of the added security is bullshit, feel good, look good bunk. We passed laws, we spent money, we bought equipment, we trained, we prepared after-action reports, we generated miles of papers analyzing this, that and the other. And, for what result? Do you feel safer? More important, are you safer?

No. You do not and you are not safer.

The more laws we pass, the more regulations that ensue, the less effective we become. As soon as one law or regulation goes into effect, somebody will protest and tie the issue up in the public forums or in courts. We’ve become so sensitized that our intelligence agencies are not allowed to use certain words that may offend somebody somewhere. We’ve become so sensitive that we might hurt someone’s feelings that their abilities do not matter, only their self-esteem matters.

I read something somewhere yesterday or maybe the day before that only in the United States can they pass a law forbidding common sense and then penalize the person who does not use it. We know for a fact that profiling works, yet we forbid it. We know both foreign and domestic threats exist, yet insist the deed be done before it be stopped. Well, we used to. If one person goes beserk, all of us must pay the price. If you do not recycle, you are a bad person. If you have an opinion that is not approved by every sensitive creature, you are not only a bad person, you will lose your job, your reputation, and maybe even your family and friends. That is a form of terror.

Information is only as good as its source. If you no longer believe in the source, the information is not valued.

I direct your attention to a post by Richard Fernandez, entitled “The Black Chamber.” A great takeaway is:

“His proposed addition of more layers of oversight evades the basic problem of why current oversight doesn’t work. It is not that supervisory bodies do not now exist, but they have been remiss and shirked their duties. The controversial NSA programs were all known to the classified overseers and were even visible to Snowden, who we are told had no special access, but that did not keep them from going forward. The question is why.

The failure of oversight lies rather in the bureaucratic incentives in Washington. In particular it may suffer from the ambiguous mission of the FBI, which is not only an a de facto domestic intelligence agency, it is also a law enforcement organization. Intelligence gathering is by nature concerned with what the Minority Report called “pre-crime”. By contrast, law enforcement is by American tradition a post-facto affair.”

The more liberty you have, the more responsibility you carry. If you want free speech, you accept others’ opinions that you hate. If killing someone is murder, does it matter if it happened in a 7-11 store or in a building in New York? Yes, it does. How many families received payments from the U.S. taxpayer in compensation for the loss of their loved one and his/her ability to provide income? If your wife, father, brother, sister was in a 7-11, sorry, pockets just aren’t big enough.

I am very tempted to say “Oh, never mind. I just came back to this after receiving a call that another dear friend has jaw cancer, Stage 4.” But, somebody has to say something.

17 thoughts on “Intelligence, NSA and Prevention of Terrorism

  1. For the record, that is me losing my temper. We won’t turn out to vote, we won’t do our duty as citizens and then cavil at politicians who are too lazy or corrupt to do their jobs. Argh!


    • It just infuriates me, MB. We have scandals and abuses galore and the big story of the day is some tweet… Argh!

      I hope I am coming across in a clear manner – I think profiling is common sense – what we do with it is where the debate begins.

      I am in favor of the NSA, but clearly the information collected has been abused and I am NOT in favor of that – rather, it scares the $hit out of me.

      The FBI’s mission is double-edged, conflicted and at odds.

      The Attorney General has abused his office to such a degree that I would not believe anything he says.


  2. In the final analysis, the idiocy of the masses is to blame.
    It has just occurred to me that the only perfect rule for humans would be by unemotional and rational supercomputer, unmotivated by greed or ambition and able to weigh the greatest good for the greatest number, and enforce reactions in conformity.. Humans themselves aren’t up to the job of electing the right people, and even the right people are too stupid half the time.


    • That’s a scary thought for me, Col, to turn my world over to some machine – many a movie about that very plot… One of my major complaints is that we used to be a country of laws. Now, exceptions are made every day for whatever interest group can yell the loudest. Not right.


        • There are days when I feel the same, Col. There was that small point you made about enforcement.

          I think back to why groups of people come together and agree on a set of rules to live well together.

          Maybe 25 years of being a legal assistant and watching the system change over from common sense to dollars and cents has left me aching for something better than divide and conquer.

          I’d be wondering who did the initial programming of the super computer and what it learns from each transgression … and reforms its judgment capabilities.


          • Do you know one of the worst things about humans? Their black-or-white-no-gray fixations. Take law. If it is the law, it must be stuck to come what may, because it is the law. However, when it is clear to any idiot that the law is an ass in a particular set of circumstances, it should be overruled.
            The computer would need to be constantly self-educating and utterly impersonal. Also, ruthless. If a minority group was endangering the majority one and they were not seen as educable, they should be eliminated. Simple.


            • Oh my, Col. (!) (to the last part!) The first part I agree with entirely. Wholeheartedly. The second… The majority are frequently wrong and the minority so frequently whiny…

              You have reminded me of an interview I read, maybe dating back to the late 90s. I think it was Clinton’s presidential advisor on science and technology – maybe not – but he had been following up on the artificial intelligence science and the memory I have was even back then he was scared witless by it. Combining that with nanobots – you might not have to wipe out the dangerous minority – instead the computer would flush their systems….agh. Creepy.


  3. Hunt,

    This is one that’s difficult for me to respond, I can’t take a different point. I think across the board you are spot on. I guess if I were to make a point at all, it would be about the compensation to the families of those killed in NYC and Washington DC on 9/11, for the very reason that no effort is made to compensate the family of an individual killed at a 7-11. Don’t get me wrong, 9/11 was and remains a terrible incident in US History and it is and should remain an open wound that we as Americans remember each day. I believe I used if it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then I’m pretty damn sure it’s a duck. Yes that could be said to be profiling, but in my silly mind profiling is nothing more that good police work. Yes some innocent folks get hassled, and that is truly a shame, but if thru profiling we are right 85 – 90 pct of the time, imagine all that are saved by that action. I do apologize my response has been all over the place. You touched on so many hot spots for me in this single post, I could have a great conversation about so many of them. And my response is a reflection of me reading wreiting and then jumping to another point in your post. Someday we will make head or tails or tales of this. Please take care, Bill


    • Bill, I had the luxury of writing this at my own pace – which, admittedly, was fast because it arouses such righteous anger in me. Years of studying terrorism and teaching emergency management did the rest.


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