[FoRK] Why We Are Losing The War on Terrorism

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Tue May 4 09:46:42 PDT 2004

On May 4, 2004, at 11:16 AM, Paul Sholtz wrote:

> The problem w/ the "intelligence agency" angle is that we don't really 
> have any genuine intelligence agencies in the U.S... at least, none 
> that are loyal to the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which 
> it was founded. A 1996 Congressional inquiry found that the CIA 
> commits over 100,000 crimes annually just in the U.S. alone - all the 
> more mind boggling when you consider that they don't even have 
> jurisdiction to be operating in the U.S. in the first place (they're 
> only supposed to spy on foreign countries, not on Americans).

Paul, that's just too easy and one-sided.  The CIA's been everybody's 
favorite whipping boy since Vietnam.  The reality is a lot more mundane 
and a lot less black-and-white than that;  by and large the CIA and 
various other agencies are just big bureaucracies, largely filled with 
well-educated but rather ordinary government paper-pushers.  By and 
large it's less interesting --- and less nefarious --- than your 
average multinational corporation.  It resembles a giant market 
analysis firm or news network more than anything else, and its typical 
employee is a lot more like your typical Gartner analyst (or, in the 
field, CNN reporter) than he is like some James Bond clone or 

I've never worked for the CIA, but it's been my privilege to have been 
relatively close to various folks in the intelligence community.  In 
general, I've found them to be honorable people of intelligence and 
conscience and high integrity.  (In fact, my own personal benchmark for 
honor and integrity is a former investor and mentor who happened to 
have once held top-bill (#1 and #2) slots at the NSA and CIA 
respectively.)  Ralph McGehee's experience should be regarded as the 
extreme exception, not the rule.

Yeah, the CIA's done some very questionable things throughout its 
history.  But the bottom line is this:  we do indeed need the services 
they provide, and it isn't all synthesized and orchestrated and 
executed in order to support the foreign policy objectives and actions 
of a particular administration.  (To see that very clearly, look at all 
the turmoil and the disconnect between the Iraq intelligence provided 
by the lower echelons of the intelligence community and the "filter" 
imposed by the upper echelons and those in the more 
politically-sensitive positions.  If there's an Achilles Heel in all of 
this, it's in the political appointees coupled with the fact that the 
decision-makers don't have more direct access to primary intelligence 
and analysis.  The NIE, for example, is a joke --- and widely regarded 
as one by everyone outside the NSC's little zone of unreality.)

Regardless, and to the earlier point:  "it is what it is."  Dick, 
Wolfie, and friends notwithstanding:  we aren't going to win a "war on 
terror" in the long haul (i.e., we aren't going to reduce the incidence 
of terrorist strikes against US targets) by invading and occupying 
foreign countries.  If we're going to achieve the objective, the army 
that's going to do it for us is mostly an army of clerks and analysts 
and secretaries and linguists and newshounds and system administrators 
and paper pushers sitting in cube farms in Maryland, Virginia, etc.  
The war of the future is smart war, net war (meaning social networks 
primarily, computer networks only secondarily) --- and it's fought in 
sneakers with feet up on the desk.

As for the operational capacities of the intel branches, the ugly truth 
is this:  in the world we live in, even a principled Republic such as 
our own needs the ability to play outside the rules when necessary.  We 
may be disgusted and offended by the actions the CIA has taken from 
time to time, but without the CIA and friends playing in the muck our 
circumstance would be such that we wouldn't have the opportunity to be 
disgusted and offended.


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