Thursday, July 22, 2004

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Open 9-11 Commission thread

Feel free to discuss the 9-11 Commission's final report here (here's a link to the executive summary, but be warned that the Commission's website seems overwhelmed at the moment. Kudos to the paper of record for having a copy on their own website). Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer have a good advance summary in today's Washington Post. CNN has some initial reactions here -- and refreshingly, they're pretty much free of partisan sniping despite interviews with the House minority leader and House majority whip -- but that could be because Congress as an institution takes it on the chin in the report, according to the NYT.

UPDATE: From the Times report linked above, some details about the proposed intelligence reform:

Officials had previously disclosed the central recommendation, the creation of a post of so-called national intelligence director to coordinate the intelligence community, with budget authority over the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. But they offered new details about the proposal on Wednesday, saying the report called for the intelligence director to operate in the executive office of the president and to have cabinet-level authority, but not to be in the cabinet itself.

This sounds like creating a position akin to the NSC or NEC advisor, while essentially stripping the CIA director of the Director of Central Intelligence title, in which s/he is ostensibly in charge of overall coordination of the disparate intelligence agencies.

At first glance, this makes a great deal of sense to me -- having intelligence coordination run by an honest broker with a small secretariat through the White House would give the new coordinator the clout that the CIA directors have tended to lack in their DCI role. But I reserve the right to change my mind after consulting with those better informed than I. [UPDATE: Hmmm... both The New Republic and The National Review agree with my first glance. James Joyner has some links to people who don't agree.]

Of course, this also explains why the acting CIA head is fighting the proposal tooth and nail.

posted by Dan on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM


I thought the same thing about the CNN story, that it was nice to see no sniping. it would be nice if we could all keep our eyes on the ball, focusing on the "how can we do better" aspect which is the only thing that really matters at this point.

But I'm skeptical that this viewpoint will be sustained once partisans have the chance to parse the report for witch hunt ammo.

posted by: bk on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

It's an election year. The whole purpose of delaying the final report was to avoid this kind of sniping. Unfortunately now it is going to be worse.

Kerry's people will say Bush today is the same Bush as Summer 2001.

Bush's people will say Kerry is Clinton 1999 and point to Kerry's advisers.

It's going to get really ugly and I'm glad. The two parties need to bean eachother's batters, charge the mound, duke it out and then take a deep breath and recognize that both parties want to avoid another Roosevelt Legacy of political dominance.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

I haven't read the report. But I'm persuaded that coverage of it in the old media will put a stop to their so-far anemic coverage of the Berger incident -- a result, no doubt, that the Democrats will encourage.

And here's a test for bloggers. The scope of and reasons for Berger's behavior -- and what it may say, at the very least, about the incompetence and dissembling of the Clinton years, the self-serving instincts of the Democrats' foreign policy establishment, possible efforts by the Clintons to sabotage Kerry, and unanswered questions about the abilities of the Democrats to carry on an aggressive, forthright, and unified campaign against Islamist terrorism -- will become clear only if bloggers keep the heat on and continue to scrutinize the matter.

Don't let New York Times and the Democratic Convention fake you out. If Kerry's foreign policy is going to be run by the likes of the sloppy and disingeuous Berger or the Clintonites -- who continue to think that FBI investigations are a lark and the disappearance of top secret documents a joke -- we need to know before November.

posted by: Larry on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Larry: The Clinton's do have an interest in seeing Kerry lose. But they also have an interest in keeping Kerry in a race. If he falls so far behind then the likelyhood of the voters staying home, particularly Democratic voters, then that hurts Hillary's chance in '08.

The White House is in high demand, but control of the Congress is as well. A trailing Kerry, a falling Kerry or a declining Kerry is bad for Democratic Party Business.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

'But I'm persuaded that coverage of it in the old media will put a stop to their so-far anemic coverage of the Berger incident '

Lets see: CNN and MSBNC had it as one of their top stories for 2 days, and most of their talk shows covered it as their prime topic

The Washington Post has a detailed article on it today, includng some of the differing claims.

Clearly, you have a different definition of anaemic coverage than most of us do.

Of course, the Berger story will fade to the backburner unless there's new info, all news stories die unless there is new constantly available information.

posted by: erg on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

I suppose folks should post here who have read the report and can comment it on specifically. So I'll only say this to Brennan: You may be right about the Clintons. I'd therefore like to find out how and why they knew about the secreting away and destruction of top secret national security documents, and whether they sat on this knowledge in order to aid or hinder Kerry's campaign -- or even leaked it now to help advance their Hillary in '08 scheme.

This is one of many reasons why the bloggers need to stay on it.

Enough politics. Now let's talk about the report itself.

posted by: Larry on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

'I'd therefore like to find out how and why they knew about the secreting away and destruction of top secret national security documents, and whether they sat on this knowledge in order to aid or hinder Kerry's campaign -- or even leaked it now to help advance their Hillary in '08 scheme.

This is one of many reasons why the bloggers need to stay on it.'

Absolutely. If nothing else, it keeps theese conspiracy wackos off the streets, while they dream up scenarios of Hillary for '08.

Glanced through the report -- the Pakistan section is fascinating and pretty frank. The Pakistani Government is going to hate it .

posted by: Fisk on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Oh, is BIG MEDIA going to cover the report? Observe as I link to this CNN article and this NYT article and this Washington Post article to make my case.

Fear my blogger's tenacity!!!

posted by: praktike on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

But I reserve the right to change my mind after consulting with those better informed than I.

I went to look for "those better informed than I", and this is what I found:

404 Error.
The webpage cannot be found.

Are you trying to suggest something, Dan? :)

posted by: Bob McGrew on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Bob: Whoops -- fixed now.

posted by: Dan Drezner on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Larry: If "secreting away and destruction of top secret national security documents" is about Berger's "inadvertant" mishap then the Clintons - President Clinton Only(doubt it though) - should have been made aware of the National Archives incident because Berger was there on orders from President Clinton. Bruce Lindsey was notified about the NS employee concerns and the subsequent FBI investigation. Lindsey should have notified President Clinton.

Over at Belgravia Dispatch there is a post from "The Kid" that covers the legality of this matter and why President Clinton and President Bush should have been informed of the mishap immediately.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Yahoo also has the report for those having trouble downloading it from the commission's website.

posted by: Sullivan on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Intelligence needs the same overhaul as the rest of society. It needs to be open-sourced, transparentized (not sure if that's a word but I like it), decentralized, distributed & self-organized. Anything less than that is a half measure & a wasted effort. Unfortunately it won't happen on its own, we'll have to take responsibility & be the ones to make it happen.

Self-organization will be the dominant social, economic & political paradigm of the 21st Century. The only questions are, how long will it take & how hard will they fight us?

The Self Organization Project
"we've got math on our side"

posted by: Tim Keller on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Don't have to read it, don't care what it says, it is all Clinton's fault.

See how easy that was?

posted by: j swift on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Re anemic reporting on this issue: Just for fun, I checked these sites:

Which of these considers Sandy Berger's felonious theft of codeword secret documents to be important enough for the front page:

I call that anemic.

And then there's the issue of how the story has been spun, where it has been reported, that is. The NY Times did everything in its power to downplay the seriousness of this and raise questions that this is "more partisan sniping" or something.

Don't how TV has covered it, though.

posted by: Bostonian on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

"I'd therefore like to find out how and why they knew about the secreting away and destruction of top secret national security documents,"

Oh, for heaven's sake, everything he had was COPIES. This was stated by the 9/11 commission and the archives. How you can possibly link this to the Clinton's is really amusing if it wasn't so pathetic. I'm sure you must be very disturbed at the way Bush's military records were 'secreted away and destroyed.' And you must have been horrified to learn that a CIA operative who had been working on weapons of mass destruction was outed for political purposes.

posted by: r.t. on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

"felonious theft of codeword secret documents"

Wtf????????????????????? We are a country in serious friggin trouble if someone now believes Sandy Berger is stealing codewords. Do people actually think codewords (whatever that is suppose to mean) are kept in the same little file as draft copies of memos Richard Clark was asked to write by Sandy Berger? That codewords are in the presidential archives? That the archivists would give codewords to Berger (which wouldn't be kept there in any case)?

Sorry to waste space on this but these charges have such an insane tinge to them it really makes me fear for our country's future. I mean where's the outrage regarding Chalabi if your so worried about state secrets given to the enemy?

posted by: r.t. on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

'Re anemic reporting on this issue: Just for fun, I checked these sites:'

Its been 2 days since the story broke. With a major piece of news, the 9/11 commission report (certainly far more important to the country).Without much new information, stories don't last on the top. MSNC and CNN were covering it as their top story 2 days back all day, and all their talk shows had this as the main item for 2 days. Even the Washington Post and the NYTimes had it on the front of their sites day before yesterday. The Washington Post has actually had a fairly detailed articles on it.

Of course, some of the news sites probably think the 9/11 report is rather more important than repeating this same story every day with no new developments to report and recyling conspiracy theories.

posted by: fisk on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

How is the 9/11 Commission report nonpartisan? It offers a broad critique of a central tenet of the Bush administration's foreign policy - that the attacks have required a "War on Terrorism." The report argues that the notion of fighting an enemy called 'terrorism' is too diffuse and vague to be effective. Strikingly, the report also makes no reference to the invasion of Iraq as being part of The War on Terrorism, a frequent assertion of President Bush and his top aides. What rubbish. Berger and his buddies will be proud tonight, I can assure you. Again the media pulls the wool over our great nation's eyes. When will true patriots stand tall?

posted by: Glory on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Glory, you do realize that half the comission is republican right? The chair is a republican.

posted by: Jor on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

I keep thinking to myself that the commission was necessary, but I don't know how much useful has or will come out of its findings.

The families of the 9/11 victims pushed for the commission, which is admirable. If you listen to interviews with these folks, like the one on NPR this morning, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they were looking for The Names of Those Who Failed. I haven't experienced anything like what these families have gone through, but I understand that it must be a difficult thing to live through and to move beyond.

Everyone keeps asking why the government didn't know that planes would be hijacked and flown into buildings, which strikes me as a highly naive view of what governments can do. We hear that we were supposed to know that Islamic terrorists wanted to inflict casualties on Americans. How far back in history do we have to go when that wasn't the case? Do we really want to apply the Tom Clancy test to tax dollars? If a speculative fiction writer comes up with a scenario, we should spare no expense to make sure that scenario is impossible?

It is easily forgotten that politicians reflect the will of the voters to a great extent. Imagine trying to implement current airport security measures on the country pre 9/11. The risk/reward calculation would have been 180 degrees off of the way we see it now, because there had NEVER been an attack of that magnitude against us on our own soil.

Similarly, I think there seems to be a highly unrealistic understanding of what intelligence is capable of doing. If we are limited because we lack the ability to collect data, that is a valuable lesson. By all means, let's get more Farsi speaking human assets in the right locations. What we experienced here was noise. We collected the data suggesting that some groups wanted to attack us, but we had no way of knowing if this was any more real than the 100,000 other threats we receive daily.

I suggest that the appointment of a head of intelligence is mostly designed to provide a single scape goat when the imperfections in any intelligence apparatus inevitably lead to loss of American life. It is not something that will help coordinate information, because the reality is this:

Each source can report every single thing he/it sees to an analyst, who can then attempt to make a story out of it. In doing so, the analyst will choose which information not to pass on. Note here that it is not wise to hire paranoid analysts so that you don't 'miss something', else the bureau directors wind up with so much information on their desks, they can't read everything anyway. You are only ever able to play probabilities.

Hind sight allows a commission to argue that thus and so should have been obvious, when it really only is because they have a context that allows them to see everything as one story.

I'm not saying that the report is worthless, but the actually useful pieces of information are likely very technical and unromantic, and we always have to remember that responding with 100% dedication to every possible threat is not in the realms of the realistic.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

Thanks for your comprehensive links concerning the 9/11 report. The executive summary is underwhelming. Face it kids, the US is, or should be, a democracy. It is difficult to get a democracy to focus on one problem to the exclusion of all others. This problem is magnified in bureaucracies created to serve democracies. Our governments serve 'the public' in an abstract sense, but on a day to day basis they serve elected officials who are accountable to the media and the constituencies that they depend on for political success. I'm going to be interested in looking at the detailed discussion of foreign policy because that is the area where we have the best opportunity to reduce the chance of future 9/11s. Say what you will about Reagan and Clinton, those two seemed to be on the right track in that area by constantly promoting economic and political liberty abroad. No region lacks such liberty more than the Arab world. Bringing the blessings of liberty to that region will do far more to reduce Islamist terrorism than adding yet another "intelligence" bureaucracy. Bush used to talk about spreading economic and political liberty, but his actions belie his words. Kerry does not talk about it at all.

posted by: Jim Linnane on 07.22.04 at 11:44 AM [permalink]

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