Free Markets, Free People
On October 1st of last year, the company I’d worked with for 24 years was sold to a competitor and I, along with most of the work force, were laid off. Such is life. It was the impetus for me to suggest to two others you know well that perhaps it was high time we tried to do something we all love. Thus was born 3Media Partners LLC. The "we" is myself, Dale Franks and Michael Wade.
3Media Partners is an internet marketing and consulting firm. Here’s the short description from the 3Media website:
We provide marketing services that focus on branding, brand management, advocacy, messaging, information and intelligence research for political and corporate clients using the social media as well as other online means. 3Media also partners with corporate and political communications departments and other media companies to help run online grassroots and grasstop outreach, pushback, advocacy and messaging campaigns.
So, the short and sweet is, we’re here and we’re in business. While readers here may not be in the market for our services, perhaps you know of someone looking for them. A referral would be appreciated. Contact information is available on the 3Media site.
If you believe that what was wrong with our intel community prior to 9/11 was fixed by Congress afterward, you’re dwelling in a false sense of security.
The Obama administration tried to sell the public that the Christmas day bomber’s attempt was nothing like 9/11 because it was a failure “to understand intelligence” not a failure to “collect and understand it”.
Wrongo, says the Senate Intelligence committee. The National Counterterrorism Center, which was created by Congress and tasked with being the primary agency for the analysis of terrorism intelligence failed to do that job:
“NCTC personnel had the responsibility and the capability to connect the key reporting with the other relevant reporting,” the congressional summary said. “The NCTC was not adequately organized and did not have resources appropriately allocated to fulfill its missions.”
The NCTC is the government’s clearinghouse for terrorism information and is the only government agency that can access all intelligence and law enforcement information.
Lawmakers found that the NCTC was not organized to be the sole agency in charge or piecing together terrorism threats.
“Some of the systemic errors this review identified also were cited as failures prior to 9/11,” Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Saxby Chambliss wrote in an addendum to the report.
What do you do with a government that doesn’t follow its own recommendations for 8 years? Where was the oversight? Where was the leadership? And this isn’t just the Obama administration’s failure either.
One thing you have to keep in mind when thinking about the Christmas day bomber and the Times Square bomber.
Neither plot was “foiled” by good intelligence work.
Both, instead, FAILED.
In recent testimony before Congress, Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, explained the unit’s “reasonable suspicion” standard in answer to a question from a member of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee:
“Reasonable suspicion requires ‘articulable’ facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate ‘hunches’ are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion.”
Uh, ok … in that swarm of legalese, I see “engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities…”. Got it.
So you’d need come “articulable facts” which could “reasonably warrant a determination” that the guy may be a terrorist based on his behavior. And one assumes his behavior would have to catch the attention of the authorities, correct?.
Well let’s see.
- His dad, a former minister in Nigeria, informed the US embassy there that his son had been radicalized (the dad obviously had a reason for concern).
- US intelligence had been following him for a while, dubbing him “the Nigerian” (one assumes there was a reason).
- He was on a watch list (one assumes there was a reason).
- He had been banned from Britain (yup, one assumes there was a reason).
- The British intelligence service had identified him to our intelligence agencies in 2008 as a potential threat (sigh, uh, yeah, reason).
- He’d just visited Yemen, an al Qaeda hotbed (given the first 5, one can reasonably guess at the reason).
- He bought a one-way ticket to the United States in Africa through Europe (red flag 1).
- He paid cash (red flag 2).
- He checked no luggage (red flag 3).
- Just wow.
OK, forget 10, but are those or are those not “articulable facts” which should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy fit the profile of someone who is usually up too no good? No?
Well, let’s review – Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, bought a one-way ticket to the US, using cash and checked no luggage. 8 years ago. So, as Jon Stewart ask recently on the Daily Report, what other than the location of the explosives changed in those 8 years?
Nada. Our lack of security sure hasn’t changed, has it, when the same MO used 8 years before succeeds again. All that changed after Reid was we had to take our shoes off for screening. Is our underwear next?
Not one, but two systems broke down in this little debacle. The intelligence system which apparently still keeps its dots separate from each other (or simply doesn’t find them compelling enough to check out) and makes watch lists it doesn’t watch (it’s called complacency and incompetence, folks). It certainly was all there wasn’t it? Or at least a bunch of “articulable facts” that should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy might be a bad guy worth tracking, no?
And the second system which failed was the airline security system which should have picked up on the fact that they had a guy traveling out of Nigeria on a one-way ticket paid for in cash and with no checked luggage. This is an automated system which shares info, no?
I mean how hard is it to design software to constantly peruse passenger info and when it gets a 3 category hit like that, alert someone? Sound a siren. Pop out in little red flags. Something. But apparently must be very hard to do, because the same problem exists now as when Richard Reid tried it lo those many years ago. This most recent bomber should never have made it out of Amsterdam. No, he should never have been allowed on the plane in Nigeria, given those three indicators alone, without a full body search.
So good job FBI – you’ve got your legalese down pat but couldn’t catch a crotch bomber if he wore a sign. And good work CIA and National Terrorism Center for connecting the dots and passing the info along. And good job airline security – nary a clue the guy was a possible threat even though information should have been available that would have draped him in red flags. Heck, the ticket agent should have picked up on this.
If you’re wondering, then, why people are angry about this, it’s because after all the money and all the assurances that security was better than before, we have “Richard Reid Jr.” using precisely the same MO used 8 years before and almost pulling it off again. You might be able to shrug this off as luck and happenstance if this guy had some entirely new way of getting on the plane (credit card, round trip ticket, checked bag – I mean how hard is it, really?), but he didn’t. That’s the problem. And that’s also why people are angry!
Meanwhile, the comedy we call “security” continues.
One of the jobs of intelligence services is to “connect the dots” and paint a picture with them of looming threats.
Does anyone remember what one of the supposed lessons of 9/11 was? That intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the services all need to talk and share what they know. It was the compartmentalization of intelligence which some blame the tragedy of 9/11 on. The dots were there, but each agency and service was holding them close to their chest and not sharing. As it turned out, what each had wasn’t enough for that agency or service to positively identify the threat, but when put together, after the fact, painted a pretty clear picture that they should have seen.
Almost 9 years later, if what we’re hearing about Ft. Hood is true, the same problem, at least to some degree, still exists:
Pentagon officials said Tuesday that no one in the U.S. intelligence or law-enforcement community, despite all the new ways information is shared, warned them that accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic cleric living in Yemen who had known three of the 9/11 hijackers. The officials said that information was provided to them only after Thursday’s shooting spree.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was tipped about Maj. Hasan based on his communications with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was probably in the best position to flag officials at the Army or the Pentagon. But the FBI says communications between the men were innocuous and didn’t warrant more than the basic assessment it performed. Without directly pointing any fingers, the bureau also says members of the military served on two separate FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that reviewed the contacts between Mr. Awlaki and Maj. Hasan.
The content of the pair’s communications didn’t raise red flags because terrorism task-force members checked with the military and found that Maj. Hasan was an Army psychiatrist who conducted research and was working on a master’s degree, FBI officials said.
So assumptions were made by the FBI that apparently made them decide this wasn’t information which needed to be shared with the organization with whom Hasan worked. However, had that information been added to the already growing information the Army was acquiring about Hasan internally, would it have made a difference?
I, nor anyone else, can answer that question. However, the fact remains, given the existence of this information, that the Army’s information about Hasan was incomplete. And, it can be suggested, had it been provided, the Army may have taken a much more critical look at Hasan than it apparently did.
That’s not to say Hasan would have been removed, forced out of the Army or anything else by the disclosure of this information. He may have been. But it does give you an idea of what an intelligence failure – in this case the failure to share information that we now know may have connected the dots the Army already had, or prompted them into a more thorough investigation – can cost lives.
There are many, many more things to discuss about this massacre, but that’s one that shouldn’t be among them. This was supposedly solved by all those commissions and a intelligence czar and regulations and laws which required everyone share intel. Now we have a prima facia case where we find out that isn’t the case. And the results were deadly.
This also points to what may be a wider problem and one that could be – again – just as deadly, if not more so, in the future. This needs to be fixed once and for all, and if heads need to figuratively roll to reinforce the point and make it happen, then get to choppin’.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano reacts to the uproar over the, and I use the phrase very loosely when referring to it, “analysis and intelligence” report released by her department on “rightwing extremists”:
The primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States. I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution.
Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.
We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.
I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel. I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the Deputy Secretary.
As the department responsible for protecting the homeland, DHS will continue to work with its state and local partners to prevent and protect against the potential threat to the United States associated with any rise in violent extremist activity.
A couple of points – if what we saw is the level of intelligence the department is gathering and is indicative of the sophistication of the analysis it sees fit to publish, we are all in very deep trouble. That is one of the worst products I’ve ever seen produced by an agency anywhere, and I’ve read hundreds of intelligence analysis in my time. No specifics, vague and over-generalized threats, and nonsensical reasoning were its hallmark. That was my primary problem with it. As I pointed out, half of America, to include the news media, falls under their “rightwing extremist” umbrella.
Secondly, as the commander of the American Legion so aptly put it, the report resorted to a “casual defamation” of all soldiers with its claim that they were likely to be recruited by right wing hate groups. So yeah, she needs to meet with him and she needs to apologize for that ‘casual defamation’ and also admit that the product that was sent out was, to be kind, a piece of crap.