Remembering 9/11: Our Unaccountable Bureaucracies

 

Fourteen years ago today, 19 Egyptians and Saudis on expired student visas hijacked airplanes and turned them into weapons. Our government’s response has been to ensure that planes are never again turned into weapons. So we shuffle through long security lines, remove our belts and shoes and hats and coats, and then choose between being photographed nude or getting felt up by government bureaucrats. We can’t bring a bottle of water or shampoo or a pocketknife with us. Our luggage is never truly locked, and government bureaucrats routinely steal from it.

Meanwhile, 14 years later, we still have no idea how many Egyptians and Saudis might be here on expired student visas.

One might argue that in the past 14 years, we have not fallen prey to another mass attack by foreign Muslim terrorists. But that would be incorrect. The Tsarnaev family, for example, managed to wreak carnage. Note that they were granted asylum here, but were soon thereafter routinely returning to a country they claimed was unsafe for them.

As with the security shuffle at the airport, intrusive measures are applied to us all: The government monitors who we call and when, monitors the contents of our electronic communications, and monitors our financial transactions. All this intrusion is nominally to help the bureaucracies keep us safe.

But when it really mattered — when foreigners with ill intent came to our shores — those bureaucracies again dropped the ball. 

As Michael Isikoff, the national investigative correspondent of NBC News, notes, “In the fall of 2011, a key Boston police counterterror intelligence unit — funded with millions of dollars in U.S. homeland security grants — was closely monitoring anti-Wall Street demonstrations, including tracking the Facebook pages and websites of the protesters and writing reports on the potential impact on ‘commercial and financial sector assets” in downtown areas, according to internal police documents.’ Yet on May 9, 2013, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis declared before a House committee that this department “was never provided any of the intelligence from the FBI and CIA that Tsarnaev, a resident of Cambridge, had been twice flagged by the Russians as an Islamic radical with ties to ‘underground’ groups in that country.'”

Likewise, The Boston Globe reported:

The House Committee on Homeland Security report identifies a lack of coordination between agencies and multiple failures to identify warning signs about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Some examples:

Early 2011 FBI receives letter from Russian intelligence officials expressing concern that Tsarnaev had become radicalized.

Early 2011 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston initiates assessment of Tsarnaev.

March 22, 2011 FBI case agent enters Tsarnaev on a government TECS database to alert officials to scrutinize any international travel.

June 24, 2011 FBI closes assessment case on Tsarnaev, finding no links to terrorism.

Our government has not proved completely unwilling to scrutinize travelers, mind you. Investigative filmmaker James O’Keefe, dressed as Osama bin Laden, repeatedly exposed the vulnerability of our southern border to terrorist infiltration. In response, our government determined that James O’Keefe needed to be stopped:

But bureaucratic self-preservation is not the worst we face. For the past seven years, our government’s response to terrorist threats and border security has been characterized by a complete lack of accountability on the one hand and baldfaced lying to the American public on the other.

Exhibit A is the other September 11 attack: 9/11/2012, in Benghazi, Libya. There were massive government failures beforehand (ignored security warnings); there were massive government failures during the attack (where were POTUS and the Secretary of State?); and there was orchestrated government deception afterward. No one has been held to account.

An investigation into this second 9/11 attack revealed that the Secretary of State had been compromising national security for years by communicating through insecure channels. Those channels were set up in a deliberate effort to evade accountability. Government officials in high places clearly knew about the potential breach and said nothing. The unaccountable bureaucracy has closed ranks behind her and slow-walked the investigation. The investigation has been slowed too by lies, lies, and more lies.

One would expect to find her languishing under house arrest and sporting an ankle bracelet. But astonishingly, that former Secretary of State is the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer for the next presidential election.

This lack of accountability will have consequences. Someday, our country and at least one of its two political parties will get serious about immigration and border security. Let us pray that it happens before the next massive failure, not after.

There are 20 comments.

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  1. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Would you please post this on Ricochet’s or my Facebook page? It needs to be shared.

    • #1
  2. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    SoS, I would love to contribute to a great ranging discussion on this thread, but I have nothing to add.  It’s all been said before, and you have quite rightly said it here today.

    You’re right.  You’re just right.

    • #2
  3. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    I never worry about action, but only inaction.
    -Winston Churchill

    • #3
  4. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    I completed a Master’s program that largely focused on post 9/11 government efforts to improve domestic security. A number of our adjuncts were the bureaucrats who tried to establish the security programs specific to their area of responsibility within government. To generalize, most of them would wholly agree with much of this post, but would take some exceptions to its implications as to intentions.

    Coming out of government myself (military), I observed the trade-offs between security and liberty, privacy and intelligence. Compliance and adherence to law and policy permeates most of the bureau level culture, both as an ethos and as career self-preservation. Law and policy are imperfect and too often clumsy tools. There will be consequences, and then adjustments and refinements, followed by more consequences, etc.

    I think it unlikely that either party will effect quick action on the borders, but your comments on “Exhibit A” are highly compelling.

    • #4
  5. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    “Never forget” is all we get. Like an anniversary dinner of a failing marriage, every year we go through the motions.

    Yeah, it was bad. Worse is the reaction of our government as eloquently stated in the post pertaining to our freedom(s). The non-action on the immigration is scandalous.
    I’ll not forget how America was pre 9/11 and what our government took from me and all of us.

    • #5
  6. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    You’re right.

    Makes me want to suck-start my Mossberg.

    • #6
  7. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Brian Wyneken: To generalize, most of them would wholly agree with much of this post, but would take some exceptions to its implications as to intentions.

    I hope I didn’t give the wrong impression regarding intentions. My view is that bureaucracies have a self-reinforcing logic to them. They associate themselves with solving the problem, so that anyone who questions their approach or effectiveness is quickly labeled as part of the problem. I suspect many good people in our government have been silenced, or driven out, by this dynamic, while political players reap rewards for their loyalty. LOVEINT thrives, because who wants to rock the boat? Bureaucracies create their own incentive system.

    Brian Wyneken: Law and policy are imperfect and too often clumsy tools. There will be consequences, and then adjustments and refinements, followed by more consequences, etc.

    My larger point is that after 9/11 even those with the best intentions got the big focus wrong, and as a consequence the important adjustments haven’t happened. It’s common to note that US airport security tries to find weapons, whereas Israeli airport security tries to identify terrorists. Whether or not you think it’s possible to apply the Israeli model in the US, it appears to me that at a macro level too the US also is focusing on the “weapons” (i.e. the planes) rather than the people who would commit harm. For example, a government that took national security seriously would not be inviting in 10,000 Syrian migrants. The GOP too, for all its hawkishness, does not link immigration and national security as it should.

    I’m not sure what the answer is — and I’m certainly no expert in these matters. My gut tells me that a better answer involves devolving more autonomy to Americans in domestic security, thus freeing up our government to focus their attention on preventing foreign threats from reaching us.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Son of Spengler: Meanwhile, fourteen years later, we still have no idea how many Egyptians and Saudis might be here on expired student visas.

    Amen.

    • #8
  9. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Kay of MT:Would you please post this on Ricochet’s or my Facebook page? It needs to be shared.

    Thanks, that’s very nice. But I’m not on FB, so it will be up to the editors to promote the post.

    • #9
  10. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Cross post:http://ricochet.com/911-and-cowardice-or-wisdom/comment-page-1/#comment-2992965

    • #10
  11. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Son of Spengler:

    Brian Wyneken: To generalize, most of them would wholly agree with much of this post, but would take some exceptions to its implications as to intentions.

    I hope I didn’t give the wrong impression regarding intentions. My view is that bureaucracies have a self-reinforcing logic to them. They associate themselves with solving the problem, so that anyone who questions their approach or effectiveness is quickly labeled as part of the problem. I suspect many good people in our government have been silenced, or driven out, by this dynamic, while political players reap rewards for their loyalty. LOVEINT thrives, because who wants to rock the boat? Bureaucracies create their own incentive system.

    You did not give a wrong impression – you stated your thoughts very well. I was just commenting on the frustration I saw in some of these agency leaders who (too often) struggle with the demands for results and the institutional (and political) constraints on action.

    • #11
  12. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Son of Spengler:

    My larger point is that after 9/11 even those with the best intentions got the big focus wrong, and as a consequence the important adjustments haven’t happened. It’s common to note that US airport security tries to find weapons, whereas Israeli airport security tries to identify terrorists. Whether or not you think it’s possible to apply the Israeli model in the US, it appears to me that at a macro level too the US also is focusing on the “weapons” (i.e. the planes) rather than the people who would commit harm.

    There are moves, in place, within the government, towards behavior detection as a principal layer of security. And (don’t laugh) one of the most effective models for this in the U.S. is (some) shopping mall security approaches. I’m not talking about the loss prevention focus, more on the anti-terrorism level.

    Incremental improvements, but still a long way from meaningfully securing the borders.

    • #12
  13. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Son of Spengler:

    Kay of MT:Would you please post this on Ricochet’s or my Facebook page? It needs to be shared.

    Thanks, that’s very nice. But I’m not on FB, so it will be up to the editors to promote the post.

    Do I have your permission to copy and paste?

    • #13
  14. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Kay of MT:

    Son of Spengler:

    Kay of MT:Would you please post this on Ricochet’s or my Facebook page? It needs to be shared.

    Thanks, that’s very nice. But I’m not on FB, so it will be up to the editors to promote the post.

    Do I have your permission to copy and paste?

    It’s been promoted now….

    • #14
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I am convinced that the energy fueling Trump mania arises from the inconsistencies you have so well described.

    I can’t figure out if the politicians and government are out of touch with us little people, think we are stupid, or are themselves wholly dysfunctional intellectually and emotionally.

    There is no universe in which it makes sense for the government to expect us to pay for and obey their draconian security measures while they routinely act as if those measures are unimportant.

    This is the inconsistency that is making people angry.

    In the “we haven’t learned anything” column, I came across this story in the Boston area that is truly mind-blowing in every way: “UMass Amherst Reverses Policy Banning Iranian Students from Nuclear Science Programs.

    UMass is a state school and so it is government. Rather than making an effort to explain why the ban was instituted in the first place and why it should remain–which would require a small fraction of the time it takes to frame a cogent argument pro or con something on Ricochet–it reversed the ban.

    We have truly entered the theater of the absurd here.

    This is what government looks like to the American people right now. Inconsistent, illogical, tyrannical, inept, lazy, expensive–in short, third world.

    • #15
  16. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Bluntly, we are losing the war on terror.

    One tiny example- years ago the TV show South Park casually used Mohamed as a character in one of their episodes. A few seasons later, the network forbid them from doing, fearing attacks by you-know.

    This is what defeat looks like, folks. We have expended trillions of dollars and thousands of lives supposedly fighting the war on terror, yet we are no safer and have much less freedom than we did before the attack. Muslims considering terrorism have been sent no signal that that terrorism will not succeed, nor do they risk having their families killed or their nations destroyed as a consequence.

    We are not so lucky. Every American- from unborn babies to elderly pensioners- is at risk of death by terrorism, either from home-grown members of the religion of peace(tm), members who walk across the open border, or simply by attack from Muslim nations.

    When those attacks occur, which they often do, the reaction from the ruling class of essentially every Western nation is to fervently condemn those who notice the connection between the religion and the terrorism. Not only that, the people of the West are being forced, thanks to the welfare state, to support the Muslims who are bit by bit ethnically cleansing them out of their own countries.

    This isn’t go to end well, as the saying goes, but it will end, one way or another.

    • #16
  17. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    The answer to so many of these plaints is simple. Our government does not want to win this war. Certainly not under this administration.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Having seen the weakness of character that GWB demonstrated during his presidential campaign, I was not surprised that instead of firing a few of the top bureaucrats who had the bad luck to be in charge in the days leading up to 9/11, he decided to punish the entire American population instead. Holding bureaucrats responsible would have taken a bit of backbone.  It was much easier to take it out on the American people, because there are a lot of elites, both left and right, who want the government to keep the unwashed masses under tight control.

    • #18
  19. American Abroad Thatcher
    American Abroad
    @AmericanAbroad

    Thanks, SoS , for giving voice to the frustration and deep sadness that so many of us feel about what has become of our federal government.

    • #19
  20. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    American Abroad:Thanks, SoS , for giving voice to the frustration and deep sadness that so many of us feel about what has become of our federal government.

    Thanks for the kind words. I originally set out to write something about our second 9/11 — thinking it should not go unmentioned — and then one idea led to another.

    • #20

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