America's Intelligence Breakdown
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. October 29, 2002
Bill Gertz has written a new book with the title "Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11." A few highlights from the book will serve to illustrate the sorry condition of America's security services.
The FBI leadership (not the agents in the field) failed to see a red flag in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, a foreign national engaged in flight training at the Pan Am Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota. Moussaoui showed "an unusual interest" when an instructor said "airplane cabin doors could not be opened during flight." At the same time, he showed little interest in knowing how to land or take off (though he was keen on knowing how to fly a commercial jet). When the FBI was told by French intelligence that Moussaoui was connected to Islamic terrorists in Russia, FBI headquarters did not connect any of the dots. (Even the obvious ones.) Requests to search Moussaoui's computer, shortly before Sept. 11, were turned down.
In May 2000 an analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Kei Fallis, warned of impending terrorist attacks. He said the attacks would involve al Qaeda operatives who were linked to the government of Iran. The DIA did not take Fallis seriously. When Osama bin Laden issued a video tape in September 2000, Fallis knew that something was about to happen. He believed that an attack was imminent against U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf or Turkey. He went to his supervisor and asked that a warning be issued. But his supervisor would not issue a warning. The DIA leadership thought Fallis was being spiteful to a fellow analyst who had produced a report arguing that small boat attacks on U.S. warships were impractical. On Oct. 12, 2000, a small boat packed with C-4 explosives struck the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer. The blast tore a forty-foot hole in the side of the ship, nearly sinking it. Seventeen American sailors were killed. Fallis resigned in protest, but the DIA was not contrite. The agency downplayed Fallis" resignation and, according to Gertz, tried to discredit the analyst. "Fallis's story is one of many that demonstrate the problems within the Defense Intelligence Agency," writes Gertz. "It is a problem of poor leadership, mismanagement, and incredibly bad judgment."
So much for the FBI and DIA. What about the CIA?
Gertz describes the CIA as the "Politically Correct Intelligence Agency." He recounts the story of a leading CIA Middle East expert, Robert Baer, who was wrongfully accused by the Clinton administration of plotting to assassinate Saddam Hussein. After leaving the agency Baer discovered through an old contact that the Gulf state of Qatar was secretly helping al Qaeda terrorists. He thought this information would be useful so he passed it along to his former employer. The agency did not get back to him or follow up. Instead, the source for Baer's intelligence turned up missing. "The man disappeared and was presumed kidnapped by the Qataris," wrote Gertz, who thinks the CIA probably turned on Baer's source in order to "protect its relationship with the Qatari government."
A couple of months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, Baer discovered that Yemen was covering up evidence related to the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. He also learned that al Qaeda was planning a "spectacular operation." Baer faxed this information to the CIA. But nothing was done. Gertz tells us why: "As late as three months before [the Sept. 11 attacks], the CIA believed it was winning the war against bin Laden."
If Gertz is right, the CIA is not a reliable intelligence service. Consider its recent history. The CIA failed to detect in advance the Khobar Towers bomb plot; it failed to anticipate the Indian nuclear test in 1998; it failed to anticipate the bombing of our East African embassies, the attack on the USS Cole and the first attack on the World Trade Center. The CIA continues to downplay the extent of Russia's ABM potential, the significance of Russian-Chinese military cooperation and the disaster that is developing to the south, in Latin America. According to statements made in retirement by master spies like Peter Wright (MI5) and James Angleton (CIA), Western intelligence failed miserably against Soviet Russia's KGB and GRU during the Cold War.
Should it come as a surprise that the failures continue?
In the book "The Venona Secrets" Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel revealed that Franklin Roosevelt's closest personal advisor, Harry Hopkins, was working for Soviet intelligence. We find that atomic bomb scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer was a "conscious collaborater with the Soviet secret police." We could not keep our atomic secrets in 1945 and we cannot keep them today.
Those who know the history of American intelligence, who suspect that past "triumphs" have been fish bait, will not be surprised to read what Robert Baer has to say about the CIA disliking specialists or Arab-speaking officers like himself. In order to preserve the illusions of the day, in order to keep the gravy train running, it would hardly be convenient if a CIA officer recruited a spy who contradicted the agency's pet assumptions. "The analysts have succeeded in dominating the institutional culture within the intelligence community," explained Gertz. "It is a culture that is dismissive of threats and arrogant over its own alleged intellectual prowess."
One must remember that intelligence analysts are intellectuals. They are produced at our universities, like so many sausages, by a system of higher learning that leans heavily to the left. To make matters worse, higher education often diverts the student towards narrow specialization when the basics have not been mastered. Strategy requires that we comprehend general objects by placing them in the proper context. A microscopist with a poor general education cannot do this, and will produce inferior results if tasked to analyze strategic objects. An intelligence analyst should know who the enemy is, how the enemy operates and which parties might be collaborating with that enemy. But as Gertz's book shows, American intelligence has been politicized by the dictates of political correctness.
In order to give free play to what is missing at CIA, I should like to quote from a politically incorrect book that American intelligence analysts aren't likely to read. It is especially valuable in the wake of last week's hostage crisis in Moscow. In 1987 a GRU defector writing under the pen name Viktor Suvorov, in a book titled "Spetsnaz: The Inside Story of Soviet Special Forces," explained how Russia's special forces made regular use of foreign terrorists without the terrorists even realizing it.
According to Suvorov, anyone willing to commit violent acts is "an exceptionally interesting person" to the Russian General Staff. Discontent can be built upon and used for political or strategic ends. It can be fed and nurtured, even against oneself if you wish to play a double game. Suvorov explained that Russia has long supported "extremist groups operating within nationalist movements." The Third Directorate of the GRU "studies terrorist organizations and ways of penetrating them." Now here's the part that ought to stop us short in Suvorov's description. It may be the key to what happened in Moscow only a few days ago: "The GRU's tactics toward terrorists are simple: never give them any orders, never tell them what to do."
Moscow doesn't want to encumber terrorists with "petty supervision." Let the terrorists die for their own ideas. "The most important thing," wrote Suvorov, "is to preserve their illusion that they are completely free and independent." In reality they are manipulated and made useful. Suvorov later remarked that, "the GRU takes extraordinary steps to ensure that not only all outsiders but even the terrorist leader himself should not realize the extent of his subordination to spetsnaz and consequently to the GRU."
These words, written by a former Russian intelligence officer, are suggestive. They are suggestive in the case of al Qaeda, and they are especially suggestive with regard to the Chechen War and the machinery of provocation that is now so easily liquidated. Here is an angle that ought to be examined by the CIA and the DIA. But you can bet it never will be. American intelligence analysts aren't going to be pondering the words of Viktor Suvorov any time soon. It wouldn't be good for their careers. "Currently, the Central Intelligence Agency, like the Pentagon, is a statist, welfare bureaucracy where rules are more important than getting the job done," wrote Gertz in his book. The entire nature of the institution must be altered before it will be capable of winning the war against international terrorism."
Less than two weeks ago the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, argued that American society itself would have to be reorganized in order to enable the intelligence services to work effectively. It is not merely the CIA that refuses to take the situation in hand. The entire country is caught in a web of self-deceit. The Breakdown that Gertz writes about has taken place inside the intelligence community; but the culture itself is also implicated.
© 2002 J. R. Nyquist