I stand by my last post

I am sticking with my compliments to the FBI, despite what a number of idiots on Capitol Hill have to say about the organization’s performance in Boston. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) recently commented that 12 years after 9/11, we are still unable to connect the dots and that the system “is still not working.”

He is right that it is not working, but not because no one can connect the dots. It’s because Congress has overburdened both the FBI and CIA with so much unnecessary process that it is impossible to keep up with the volume of boxes that need to be checked and at the same time to find anything meaningful in the information. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was included in three different databases, all of which were created in the flurry of post-9/11 intelligence reforms: a Guardian file, maintained by the FBI; the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), maintained by the Department of Homeland Security; and the Terrorist Identities Datamart Enviroment system, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center. 

Each database contained a different spelling of Tsarnaev’s name. And they each contain way too many names to make any of them meaningful.

These databases are only one example of the redundancies that have been put in place since 9/11. 

The FBI and CIA officers involved in this case didn’t drop the ball. They knew who Tsarnaev was. My guess is that officers from both organizations feel angry that they couldn’t do more because they were so busy filling out required forms in triplicate and reporting through various different channels exactly what they were up to and waiting for permission to proceed from a 30-person operational committee (some of whose members were on flex-time, thus precluding the quorum necessary to take a final vote). They were probably also told by management that chasing a radical Chechen wouldn’t get anyone promoted.

Some redundancy is good. But when FBI and CIA officers become so entrenched responding to Congressional mandates (usually written, by the way, in a manner that demonstrates how little members understand about the collection of intelligence), such redundancy becomes not just bad, but a liability. 

I hope Congress does not overreact and add ever more regulations after the Boston experience. We can and should always look for ways to improve, but additional bureaucracy is not the answer.

What do you think?? Send me a comment!

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One thought on “I stand by my last post

  1. That the FBI didn’t know Boston bomber traveled to volatile Dagestan region in Russia in 2012 because ‘his name was misspelled on travel documents’ is rather suprising. The US agencies have a long standing experience dating back from the Cold War, of dealing with Russian onomastics and misspelled names:
    http://namesorts.com/2012/12/21/name-is-the-game-still/

    Of course no such system is 100% reliable – and it’s true no effort seems spared in the US to keep on top of the latest technologies.

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