To learn all about the intelligence failures that led to the September
11th terrorist attacks, you can download the Congressional report
entitled "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before
and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001." It's nearly
900 pages long and it was released last month.
But I have a better suggestion: go buy a copy of Breakdown, a book
published in 2002 which is only a little over 200 pages long and pulls
no punches, while arriving at some of the same conclusions that
Congress's staff of thousands spent millions of taxpayer dollars
trying to surgarcoat and conceal!
The Congressional report should be better known for what it doesn't
say than for what it says.
It falls in with the intelligence bureaucracy's party line that no
specific evidence was released that could have possibly prevented
9-11. As Bill Gertz says in Breakdown, the intelligence agencies may
not be right, but they're never wrong.
The Congressional report makes no mention of the long-term damage done
to U.S. intelligence by people like Otis Pike, Frank Church, Jimmy
Carter, Stansfield Turner, John Deutch, Louis Freeh and George Tenent.
Make no mistake: the failures of 9-11 were many and they can be traced
back to the 1970s. The Congressional report won't tell you a thing
about that. Bill Gertz's Breakdown will.
The Congressional report seems to go to great pains to avoid blaming
anyone for the failure to head off 9-11. Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush escape blame. And, predictably, so does Congress, which is a
shame because many of the problems associated with our intelligence
failures can be traced directly back to that institution in one way or
another, from funding cuts and misguided policies and laws to the
appointment as CIA director a man whose only apparent qualification is
that he was a staffer for a Congressional intelligence committee for a
The Congressional report also fails to properly lay blame on Bill
Clinton for drastic cuts to the most successful of the US intelligence
agencies: the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance
Office. While threats to our security were multiplying, these highly
successful agencies were struggling to make ends meet and keep up with
the pace of technology. Frankly, we're nothing but lucky that these
misguided policies didn't result in multiple 9-11s or worse. Bill
Gertz provides all these details in his book.
The Congressional report does not point out that Republican Senator
Orin Hatch spilled the beans on how we were tracking Osama Bin Laden
and compromised an important technical intelligence asset forever. You
can read all about it in Breakdown.
The Congressional report leaves out the fact that the cops and robbers
"bring 'em to justice" approach adopted after the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing resulted in an intelligence fiasco that made it
virtually a foregone conclusion that the bombing would not be tied to
any particular terrorist group or any foreign government or
intelligence agency. Bill Gertz explains the flaws in that approach.
This is war, not a crime caper.
The Congressional report does not take anyone to task for a CIA
director who was so clueless about security that he would e-mail top
secret files to himself from his CIA office to his AOL account and
then leave them unsecured on his Mac in his home office! This might
just be the biggest moron ever to head an intelligence agency since
Inspector Clouseau. You can read all about it in Breakdown.
The Congressional report does not criticize a former FBI director who
had such a phobia of technology that he ordered the computer removed
from his office the day he moved in and never bothered to break the
"secret code" on how to send and receive e-mail messages! Too often it
has been amateur hour at the top of our intelligence community.
The Congressional report says nothing about the inadequacies of our
current FBI director in dealing with our national security leadership
even after 9-11. Gertz tells it all.
Most significantly, whereas the portion of the Congressional report
that links Saudi Arabia and other nations to al Qaeda was suppressed
by the administration, Gertz reveals anecdotal evidence of terrorist
links to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Qatar. Perhaps more ominously, Gertz
quotes a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who uncovered
evidence of strong links between al Qaeda and Iran.
Finally, beyond recommending that a new Director of National
Intelligence (an intelligence czar if you will) be established, the
Congressional report makes vague recommendations on improving our
intelligence institutions that don't go much beyond saying, "We need
to get better." It seems that the Republican Congress has once again
decided that the best way to battle terrorists is with bureaucrats.
There are no recommendations for fundamental changes in our
intelligence community. This is not a surprise since the authors of
the report spent an awful lot of time and devoted a great deal of
space to spreading the blame around so much so as to make sure nobody
was to blame—and then even foreign conspirators were protected through
suppression. This is a shame.
In Breakdown, Bill Gertz pulls no punches and makes educated
recommendations for fundamental changes to our intelligence
institutions—changes that are needed because of the decay in that
community that has eaten away at it for nearly 30 years. There can be
no band aid approaches here. The patient is critical and needs
reconstructive surgery, which is exactly what Mr. Gertz recommends.
If you have nothing better to do with your life, go ahead and read the
900 page Congressional report on 9-11. But if you want the truth, read
Breakdown by Bill Gertz. I for one sure wish some folks in Congress
Christopher Holton is the Publisher of www.WorldTechTribune.com and serves on the World Tribune Board of Advisers.
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