Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Makes Me Wish I Could Just Turn Around...

so that I could use my hindsight to see what's coming. A panel is investigating the intelligence acitivities of the US with respect to Al Qaeda throughout the nineties and up to September 11, 2001. The implications made in that inquiry are that the US was too cautious in its reading of the intelligence.

Not two weeks earlier, however, we have another panel grilling George Tenet, Director of the CIA, over whether the intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD stockpiles and programs were spun to sell the war to the public. Personally, every time I hear the voice of Ted Kennedy (D-Mas), I have the urge to ask people to call me by my real given name for the rest of the day.

The Game is Intelligence. The object, figure out what the other guy is hiding while preventing anyone else from discovering what you are hiding. The second part is far easier than the first. In the second part, you look at all of the evidence your activities leave behind and ask yourself, "If Sherlock Holmes had this evidence, could he figure out what I'm up to?" If yes, get rid of the evidence. If no, get rid of it anyway, because you can't be sure if the other guy isn't better than Sherlock Holmes.

The discovering side of intelligence is the hard part, because, face it, you never have Sherlock Holmes on your side. All that you have are a bunch of people, buried under a pile of information in which useful clues look no different than random noise on first, second, or third look. It would be like looking for a needle in all the hay in Kansas.

Remember, these are people who, while patriotic, are doing a job to put food on the table. They face the constant dilemna of Get it Done versus Don't Screw UP. Before 9/11, the juiciest stories were when the US would go in only to find that they had the wrong target. "Heads Must Roll!" would be the cry from the Congressional Oversight Commitees. So someone's head would roll, and all the rest would keep their personal favorite heads down. To do nothing would usually be the safest course of action unless the rare golden perfection of "knowing" was reached. Since that almost never happens, nothing is what was usually done.

And Nothing was done, until 9/11 showed that the safety of doing nothing was far from perfect.

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