Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alleged Intelligence Breakdown In Boston Bombing

Senator Saxby Chambliss and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are holding closed-door hearings concerning alleged intelligence failings concerning early detection of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

The hearings and briefings center around the efforts of FBI counter-terror and counter-espionage teams and their intelligence efforts.

After every attack from some threat force, be it foreign or domestic, some people scream and point their fingers of blame at the intelligence community. Usually, those doing so have never worked in the field. It's easy to blame something you don't understand.

Most people don't understand how the intelligence community really works. First of all, the only non-military (non-Department of Defense) intelligence agency is the CIA.

Intelligence agencies are not allowed to collect on US Citizens without a warrant.

The National Security Agency is part of the DoD. Many of the analysts and collectors are uniformed military members.

The same goes for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The Defense Intelligence Agency, US INSCOM, and all the others are military as well.

Only the CIA is not.

The FBI does investigations and law enforcement. If a non-military US citizen is alleged to be involved with espionage, terrorism, or other acts that threaten the security of our nation, the FBI is involved in the investigation.

In investigating the Boston Marathon Bombings, the FBI and local law enforcement did an outstanding job catching the two operatives before they could escape or conduct other attacks. Nobody can begrudge their efforts and swift results.

Inter-agency cooperation with the FBI, DEA, ATF, DHS, etc. requires a certain amount of red tape. There is a bureaucracy in place for an important reason. It is there to protect the citizens of our country against tyranny. The "Patriot Act" streamlined some of those bureaucratic hoops in some circumstances. However the privacy protection and 4th Amendment safety nets are still there.

The US Army's AR380-10 details who and what US Army personnel and intelligence assets are allowed to collect on. It also dictates the channels to follow should some collection indicate a possibility a US Citizen is involved.

The other service branches have similar regulations (laws). They are all governed by Department of Defense Directive 5240.1 and DoD Instruction 5240.4. These were derived from public laws including the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Patriot Act, the 3rd and 4th Amendments, and executive orders that dictate the policies provided by them. These executive orders include EO 12333 and EO 13388

If, as a lay person, this is overwhelming and confusing, don't worry. Members of the intelligence community receive regular training (several times a year) on these regulations, laws, and policies to include supplemental training when any of them change, usually due to legislation.

We know at least one of the Tsarnaev brothers was a US Citizen. That put any investigation under the auspices of the US Attorney General. (Currently that is Eric Holder, the "godfather of Operation Fast and Furious"). Any investigations go through his office to the agency responsible for investigating. In addition, any investigation needs to include any necessary warrants before involving any of the military intelligence agencies, assets, or activities.Those requests must originate with the FBI or other Department of Justice agency.

The FBI is careful in doing much of that "intelligence collection". They were a little overzealous when investigating domestic terrorists that were part of the "Weather Underground". Because of their overstepping the laws, one terrorist, at least, could not be brought to justice. His name is William Ayers and he is a close associate of Barack Obama.

Have there been intelligence failures in the past?

Yes.

Pearl Harbor was an intelligence failure. Collectors and analysts detected, assessed, and analyzed predicatively an imminent attack on Pearl Harbor. Leaders, however, pooh-poohed the assessments. So, our forces in Hawaii were caught unaware. It was a failure to push the issue. It was a failing of candor. It is still considered the greatest failure of the intelligence community.

The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001 were a similar failure. There were some indicators. However, due to bureaucracy meant to protect US Citizens, intelligence agencies didn't adequately share their data. Because of that, the picture wasn't pieced together. The bureaucratic red tape and inter-agency rivalries got in the way. Even in the aftermath, we cannot be sure that the intelligence community would have had enough data to have predicted or prevented the attack. (Anthony Shaffer, author of Operation Dark Heart, will elude to important information that was ignored by leaders, as well).

In reality, unless we are all given some magic insight into sensitive, confidential, or classified warrants, memorandums, requests, and communications, we cannot know if there was a breakdown. Hindsight is 20/20. Evidence, data, and information mined and compiled now may not have been detected before the event. Unless you were an intelligence professional working in one of the related missions prior to the attack, there is no way you can know what was there to be detected at that time.

In the grand view of the big picture, blaming the FBI for not having the intelligence and acting on it may be perceived as advocating the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendments be repealed.

Some risks are still worth taking. Pattern analysis, risk management, and well-known statistics tell us that we risk our lives every time we ride (or drive) in a car and each time we take a shower. We still take those risks almost every day. The vast majority of people emerge unscathed.

The risks of falling victim to a terrorist attack are still much, much lower. Is your freedom worth taking the risk of not impinging?

Mine is. I spent 24 years risking my life to protect your freedom and liberty, sacrificing some of my own to do so. I would gladly do so again. There are many others still in service doing that every day. So if I feel your liberty and freedom are worth it, shouldn't you as well?