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June 7, 2005
I Love Hate To Say I Told You So ...

Do you remember when the 9/11 Commission released its final report, which contained a narrative of the attacks, an analysis of how the various intelligence and defense systems failed us, and recommendations for improvement? My final analysis was that the overall report merited a C-; an A for the narrative, a low-end C for the analysis, and a solid F for the recommendations.

I warned that the solution that the Commission insisted on imposing amounted to nothing more than sticking two more levels of bureaucracy on top of all the existing alphabet soup of intelligence services, and that such an approach would do nothing towards solving the lack of communication between the agencies. In fact, I warned, it would make it worse.

It didn't take long for that analysis to be proven correct:

Overlapping responsibilities among U.S. intelligence agencies could lead to failures in assessing terrorism threats, experts said Monday in examining changes at the CIA and FBI since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Part of the problem stems from the continued lack of a reliable information-sharing system within the intelligence community, according to panelists led by a member of the 9/11 commission that investigated missteps leading to the attacks.

Theres a real vulnerability, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh said during the two-hour discussion the first of eight panels hosted this summer by the commission.

The collection of intelligence, and even its analysis, is not worth much if its not able to be translated into a realistic threat assessment that provide guidance for the application of resources designed to prevent terrorism, Thornburgh said.

Commission member Jamie S. Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general, said, We clearly need greater clarity as to who is doing what.

Recall that this report came out in the heat of a presidential campaign and was immediately taken up by Democrats as Wisdom Handed Down From On High. John Kerry and many others in his party insisted that the entire slate of recommendations be passed into law without debate or futher analysis, and that to even debate the commission's suggestions about reorganizing intelligence agencies under a larger bureaucratic umbrella amounted to Nero fiddling while Rome burned. (Well, at least certain recommendations. The one useful part of the report about securing the Southern border got conveniently forgotten by both parties.)

This is what we get from that haste. We've added two more layers to the bureaucracy between the intelligence gatherers and the President, the ultimate decision-maker, and we're supposed to be surprised that the different agencies still don't work well together in the field. The entire problem of resource and information sharing was the bureaucracy that exists because of the number of agencies doing essentially the same job. Adding more to that doesn't solve the problem, it makes it exponentially worse.

This reminds me of the proverb of the handyman who only owns a hammer. Pretty soon, every problem begins looking like a nail. That dynamic produced this result from the table of bureaucrats who came up with the 9/11 Commission report and its recommendations. We can thank the Democrats (and at least a few Republicans, like Senator McCain) for politicizing it to such a degree that it forced Congress and the President to accept the reorganization in toto.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 7, 2005 5:49 AM

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