Condoleezza Rice was unblushing as she justified her dismissive treatment of the critical mass of intelligence pertaining to impending terrorist attacks. Her distinction between analytical reports and specific intelligence information was especially specious.
It’s essential that she and President Bush not be allowed to fob their responsibilities onto their underlings.
According to Rice’s official bafflegab, a 1999 report by the Library of Congress stating that suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaida could crash an aircraft into U.S. targets belongs to the realm of analysis. It wasn’t “actionable intelligence.”
It’s essential to question her very framing of the information as such, as much as her remorseless flippancy.
Is Rice claiming that the mental capacity for deduction is not part of her job description? (President Bush might get away with that.) Can’t Americans expect the thousands of agents they employ to possess the rudimental capability for drawing inferences from data and moving to verify or refute information? Can Rice not be expected to execute a simple algorithm, like instruct her subordinates to screen and canvass certain targeted suspects?
Incredible doesn’t quite describe what Condoleezza calls intelligence “specifics.” The National Security Adviser will move to act if she gets word of time, place and method of attack. What next? A gilded, personalized invitation to attend the crime scene?
Yet more official white noise designed to downplay government culpability is the delegitimizing of blame and finger pointing. No surprise here. The premise of blame is responsibility. I can blame you only if you are entrusted with a responsibility to do – or refrain from doing – something. One only has to hint at presidential culpability, and Bush swings into “Chance Gardener” mode: The noble simpleton whose moral clarity is his stock-in-trade. The fact that he intended no harm and would revive the dead if he could, really only means that we can allow some extenuation in passing judgment on him. The president said so himself. His most important job “is to protect our homeland.” His responsibility for the task is not cancelled by an, “I didn’t know.”
Talk about a reformation of Washington’s atrophied alphabet soup of intelligence agencies is yet another decoy. An overarching agency exists. What, pray tell me, is the National Security Council headed by Condoleezza Rice? It’s an office created by the National Security Act of 1947 to advise the president on “integration of domestic, foreign and military policies relating to national security and to facilitate interagency cooperation.” If suspicion existed – analytic, synthetic, prosaic or poetic – Rice should have put the squeeze on the system she oversees.
In the past year, we’ve seen how financial fiascos in the private sector resulted in bankruptcy, indictments and a loss of reputation. However, when it comes to malfeasance in government, neither the laws of man nor the laws of nature apply.
Wrongdoing and incompetence in government are not punished, but are rewarded with budgetary increases. “We in the civil service don’t have profits and losses,” explained Sir Humphrey, top bureaucrat in the brilliant “Yes, Prime Minister” series. “Success in the civil service is measured by the size of our staff and budget. A big department is more successful than a small one.” And a government department accretes through inefficiency. Such perverse incentives explain why the wicked INS is also one of the fastest-growing departments – now recruiting. Failure translates into ever-growing budgets and powers.
It gets worse.
By now everyone knows of the Phoenix FBI agent who, in July, wrote a memorandum about the bin Ladenites who were training in U.S. flight schools. Agent Ken Williams’ report was very specific. Over and above the standard sloth the memo met in the Washington headquarters, it transpired that the FBI was also concerned about “racial profiling.”
The pending, bipartisan “End Racial Profiling Act of 2001” is the standard victim’s legislation. It’ll allow the U.S. government or the investigated racial or ethnic minority member to sue the taxpayer if there is a remote sense that law enforcement has engaged in an investigation that has “a disparate impact” on a minority’s eternally, and conveniently suppurating emotional wounds.
The ability to construct mental categories of danger and use them as a predictive – and protective – measure allowed our prehistoric ancestor Homo erectus to stick around long enough to turn into Homo sapiens. But, hey, why would legislators have any qualms about further emasculating law enforcement charged with the common man’s safety? Their own taxpayer-funded security details, after all, are not limited to frisking old ladies. And in the event that the unthinkable occurs, it won’t be the politician who will be left holding a Tazer gun.
The People will.
©By ILANA MERCER
May 29, 2002