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FBI as a contender for 11 September culpability

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As the FBI attempts to transforms "into an agency that can prevent terrorist acts, rather than react to them as criminal acts, " a reader must be diligent in seeking a thoughtful, apolitical analysis of the issues and options for the bureau, DoJ, and Congress.

I do not pretend to understand the GAO but I am told by some I trust that it can play a bit of politics in what it chooses to investigate and can certainly be fed information backchannel upon which it can launch an investigation. The CRS, or Congressional Research Service, is a research arm of Congress that, to my notice, not been accused of same.

Although CRS reports are not readily available to the public, they can be harvested as a source of thoughtful and balanced information that has the ability to draw upon resources through the government. Heretofore they come down as PDFs but, perhaps because of its recent release (6 April), RL32336, "FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress" by Alfred Cumming and Todd Masse has has been found as an HTML page.

As you might imagine while bureau supporters and detractors alike agree that the bureau's reforms to gather intel by penetrating terrorist cells is a worthy goal, its supporters opine that the "FBI has a long and successful history of such penetrations when it comes to organized crime groups, and suggest that it is capable of replicating its success against terrorist cells" whereas its detractors "say recruiting organized crime penetrations differs dramatically from terrorist recruiting [and that strategic intelligence collection is a qualitatively different function than gathering information on criminal activity]."

I am not alone in the opinion that the bureau 'too often responds to a crime scene' instead of assuming a leading interagency posture needed to gather proactive intel. It is also no secret that I feel that we need an MI-5 equivalent. Yes, I know that is expensive and time consuming but I am price elastic in its achievement as the last figure that I saw for the cost of 11 September was 95 billion in 2001 dollars. I have had the opportunity to read transcripts from some of the cell calls from the towers. Not I, thank you very much.

I am aware of some difficulties within DHS, that resolution will exceed the near-term, and that they are not in a position to provide such an interagency-intersource analysis capacity. I also am of the opinion that there is not enough genuine asymmetrical threat analysis in all the agencies, FBI included. An example is the standard FBI security audit which is a qualitative analysis without a specific counterthreat analysis as opposed to a qualitative approach that moves forward into the shooters mission to identify them in their surveillance period.

While new bureau recruits are said to be steeped in national security and counterterrorism, foreign and domestic, it is very difficult to shift a reactive law enforcement mentality into a proactive intelligence approach to terrorism. The FBI will have to demonstrate that it can quickly gain the capacity to "collect, analyze and disseminate domestic intelligence so that it can help federal, state and local officials stop terrorists before they strike."

The CRS report goes so far as to criticize FBI leadership for their lack of experience in intelligence, thus calling into question the ability of current reforms to achieve the needed transformation. Whether by design or by serendipity, this debate regarding the future of the FBI and policy choices available to legislators, crosses the 9/11 Commission's work in attempting to determine who knew what when.

As I read items such as Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics I wonder if the FBI will be set up as the group to take the fall -- or at least the lions share of culpability. I had thought that it might be Rice but given the gentle nudges in the Times and Post, the FBI grows in contention.

Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics
White House Says Declassification of Pre-9/11 Document Will Be Delayed
By Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 10, 2004; Page A05

RL32336 -- FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress
April 6, 2004
Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Todd Masse, Specialist in Domestic Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Domestic Social Policy Division

Gordon Housworth



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Applied competitive behavior: "The Battle of Algiers"

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Certain films and books so capture a feeling or describe an event that they transcend what textbooks have to say about the subject. If you want to understand the eviscerating, incapacitating terror that a guerilla group can instill in a local population, you only have to read Jim Corbett's slim work, "The Man eating Leopard of Rudraprayag." Killing over 120 people in eight years, a single leopard paralyzed a region, forcing the British to offer massive rewards, send in a Gurkha army, and employ all manner of hunters, traps and poisons - all to no avail - until Corbett bagged it in 1926. Every special ops guy to whom I recommended the Leopard has treasured it.

If you want to understand the ruthless, no quarter growth and suppression of an insurrection and guerilla war, you have only to watch Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers." While I admit to a love of the films of Pontecorvo and Constantin Costa-Gavras as few other have so well painted political oppression and fascist states, I first saw Algiers after returning from Asia. While everyone else in the audience seemed to be a war protester that had 'yet to go,' I had come back having already made my uneasy peace with tactical necessity. The film was like an exquisite text and resonates with me still today.

Reprising a private note of Sept 2003, "I think it inspired that someone in the Pentagon recently had Algiers screened for a group of serving officers as we slip into such an insurgency in Iraq. The open, easy US soldier attitude of the first few weeks has vanished thanks to the attacks, succeeding in the first goal of isolating "us" from "them" so that corrosion commences on both sides. Demonization is soon to follow. We only have to watch for the equivalent of zips, slops, slants, and gooks and we are there."

Mercifully I do not hear those words, but the conflict has become increasingly grisly. The French plan succeeded tactically but ultimately lost the war. DeGaul ended it by withdrawing the French forces but was nearly assassinated for his trouble and French society, politics, and the military were riven for years. I can attest to the allure of tactical means in dealing with clandestine terrorists and what I used to call "the art of interviewing those who desperately don't want to be interviewed."

"During the last four decades the events re-enacted in the film and the wider war in Algeria have been cited as an effective use of the tactics of a "people's war," where fighters emerge from seemingly ordinary lives to mount attacks and then retreat to the cover of their everyday identities. The question of how conventional armies can contend with such tactics and subdue their enemies seems as pressing today in Iraq as it did in Algiers in 1957. In both instances the need for on-the-ground intelligence is required to learn of impending attacks. Even in a world of electronic devices, human infiltration and interrogations remain indispensable, but how far should modern states go in the pursuit of such information?"

If it at all possible for you to see Algiers, I recommend that you should. This is a "low-intensity war" or "asymmetrical warfare" in the flesh with both sides at once human and monster. You can gain an understanding of how a guerilla operates, what a patient al Qaeda operative looks and waits for, and how a conventional force attempts to counter and subdue it when the high tech tools of the day do not yield an easy fix. Unless we can engineer a better solution -- and I am not advocating withdrawal -- folks will indeed start to say 'I have men down, worse, in pieces, no one will know, and this guy can tell us what we need to know.'

Note that while Kaufman's original article has scrolled off to archives, the text is mirrored in many locations such as here and a useful Battle of Algiers study guide here.

What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'?
By MICHAEL T. KAUFMAN
September 7, 2003
New York Times

Gordon Housworth



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Declassifying the 6 August PDB

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Declassifying a PDB is not, and should not be, a trivial event as it is the net summary, what I call a still frame from a motion picture, containing both the donut and the hole (what we are looking at and what we aren't), of the priorities of the day based upon accumulated prior tasking. There is drag-along in these docs above the specifics on content.

Complicate that with political survival and the matter becomes increasingly sticky. As one colleague mentioned offline, the White House "was simply thinking run and they got pass." In the case of this PDB, some of whose particulars were mentioned in newspaper articles in May 2002, a House-Senate inquiry into intelligence failures in July 2003, and has been summarized, still in classified form, for some of the 9/11 commissioners, it may contain both predictive as well as historical (called 'analytic' in this context) information.

As Von Drehle noted in "Zeroing In on One Classified Document" (W Post), "When the Washington investigative machinery gets rolling, it takes a major event to stop it. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice's defense of the Bush anti-terrorism effort at yesterday's hearing before the 9/11 commission was not enough." Von Drehle commented that it was insufficient as it did not quell the second of Clarke's two claims:

(1) Administration ignored of Clarke's plans for disrupting al Qaeda in early 2001
(2) "[Top] officials, including Bush and Rice, were listless in the face of the summertime "threat spike.""

I submit that Rice's testimony, beyond not countering the second claim, raised the bar for an administration that will lose more political capital, as it did in delaying Rice's sworn public testimony, until this PDB is released in full - at least those portions having to do with al Qaeda. Yes, the administration will have the task of managing hindsight analysis in a political year, but only when it is released will we be able to see what material was reasonably predictive and what was analytic -- and from that draw an opinion as to the level of effort being done to obtain predictive information.

I have the rising fear that on this issue, the White House 'might have been thinking time out and they got pass.' I want to see that PDB and I want to hear good intel folks comment on it to put it in the context of the day. I submit that further delay, national security matters aside, is a self-inflicted wound.

Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics
White House Says Declassification of Pre-9/11 Document Will Be Delayed
By Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 10, 2004; Page A05

Gordon Housworth



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The administration would gain much by listening to James Heskett

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Who is James Heskett, you ask, as you rifle through your list of authorities on defense and strategy?

Forget defense and think services and service delivery. Heskett, in concert with Sasser and Schlesinger, are acknowledged masters in the field of services. And what is government if not a services providers to its customers aka citizens who must periodically renew their subscription service, i.e. vote.

Where do I want to start? Customer recovery. Clients want flawless service but they are generally realists and understand that things break periodically. What is essential in retention is how the seller recovers -- how well and how fast. Heskett has said, "Customer retention results from customer satisfaction, which is determined largely by the value the customer perceives."

I maintain that people only buy, and keep buying, for two reasons; to make themselves happy, or to remove themselves from fear or want. If I don’t do either in sufficient numbers, why would anyone "buy" from me? In a 1997 article, I wrote that, "Customer dissatisfaction measures can be more revealing than satisfaction measures. Customer retention rates, repurchase rates, and defection rates are critical as leading indicators of future customer behavior."

Whether you agree or disagree with the current administration, I will 'lead the witness' by suggesting there is a sufficient amount of dissatisfaction that could result in a change of service provider. Heskett often remarks that poor service is by design, that "[most] service failures are not failures… They have been designed into the system by choices senior management have made [creating] a self-reinforcing system that establishes a cycle of failure. The current administration inherited much from it predecessors and can but with difficulty make sweeping changes. The best that it can hope for is a laser-like attention to items that reflect the needs of the time.

This is where I submit that the president needs Heskett more than he needs Rove. If you read Tom Friedman, you know where I am going: Apologize, say what you have learned, what you will do differently, i.e., recover, and move on. Americans are a reasonably forgiving lot.

Where is an apology needed? If you read either Jeffrey Record or Dick Clarke, it is that al Qaeda was not a top concern for the White House. (I listened sympathetically to Condoleezza Rice's testimony and heard nothing new in this respect.) Second, some of the president's direct reports guessed wrong as to what was the correct priority order for administration attention. Terrorism as we now know it was not in the five top issues of the administration.

For me, the central theme of Rice's testimony was what I would call an "infrastructure defense," that it was the infrastructure that failed a sitting president. Were I a Democratic advisor I would be overjoyed at the prospect of using this to beat the administration. How? Simply because in any failed or uncommunicative infrastructure, corporate or government, it is precisely the ability to "shake the trees" over a critical issue that knocks enough heads together to allow actionable information to flow. But if you did not choose the right reason for tree shaking, or did not shake at all, then that could be construed as a fundamental lapse in vision or leadership.

I wish this were not an election year as I fear that a knee-jerk attack or defense of the sitting president will muffle or distort recommendations that must, must, change the way that our internal (FBI et al) and external (CIA et al) intel assets function.

If any of you have read the Western human target manifesto that has risen on al Qaeda sites, you might surmise that, here and abroad, you and I need all the help we can get.

Gordon Housworth



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Defining an acceptable level of personal information capture

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Too much information, too little trust has value in defining a 'glide slope" of increasingly rich information about us regardless of our wishes. It definitely has value to us as we are engaged in some data mining activities for commercial and federal clients. If we exceed society's acceptable 'rate of descent' on the glide slope, our clients can find themselves in a JetBlue, NW Airlines, or DARPA pickle barrel. If we stay on the glide slope then our client is OK. It is useful for us to know what the slope is and advise accordingly. If the client then wishes to push the stick over, the crash is on their hook.

"Everything will be recorded by 2009. It's been estimated that within three years the density of cell phones with cameras will be about 400 per metro city block. Your life will be held in bits stored somewhere, and the only meaningful restriction on how that data will be combined and used will be regulation," Hunter said.

In addition, over the next decade billions of smart sensors embedded in buildings, clothing, everyday objects and almost anything with which you interact will be passing information that can be connected and combined in logs documenting your personal data trail.

Clearly it will become increasingly difficult to prevent data fusion from painting an increasingly personal portrait of each of us.

"Most companies are too aggressive in gathering information about customers. An estimated 70 percent of users abandon a site when they are asked for personal information as a condition of using a site, Hunter said. More than 10 percent provide false data."

That's me. And when I don't abandon, I have a host of aliases, a group of personas such as a juvenile female from Minnesota, use obscure zip codes from rural areas of the US for address validation, and enter email addresses that will validate but are not mine.

"…but companies need to make clear why the information is being collected and how it will be used. Hunter recommends gathering only as much information as is needed to work with a customer within an established relationship. As the relationship expands and a notion of trust evolves, more data can be harvested."

People surrender much greater information in the name of convenience, utility and perceived value. Witness the new service from EarthCam online-camera network that allows people to broadcast live video for others to view on Web-enabled cell phones. The concept is to allow folks to view imagery from home security cams, nanny-cams and other webcams without taking along a laptop. It may later harvested to undesirable ends, but perceived value and sustained trust will start and keep it flowing.

Readers will no doubt find many other levels of applicability for which they will surrender personal information.

Too much information, too little trust
By Dan Farber,
Tech Update
April 5, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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Worldwide maritime interception, search, and destroy

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The recent classified order on maritime interceptions that permits US naval forces to globally board and, if necessary, sink ships suspected of harboring terrorists or WMD is a quantum, but not unexpected, extension of the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative that allows the US and mostly NATO allies to search suspicious vessels and aircraft and seize illegal weapons or missile technologies.

This extension of the right of self-defense to the high seas has legal authority under Article 51 of the UN Charter that recognizes the "inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member." Means are also being taken to both permit Coast Guard assets to quickly support Naval forces in our territorial waters and allow US naval assets to support global Coast Guard assets that already have the authority to board suspicious ships worldwide.

We’re on the verge of an overdue maritime NORAD under Northern Command (NORTHCOM) that tracks all vessels that enter US and Canadian territorial waters. While the US can already board a ship in US territorial waters or one flagged by a state that has a bilateral boarding agreement with the US, we do not track everything that enters our "seaspace."

While it is feasible to have each vessel entering a maritime NORAD to transpond their position, crew and cargo identification, corporate details and recent port calls, we will still have no cooperation from illegitimate vessels (criminal or terrorist) nor do we have a handle on the global audit trail from port of embarkation through stops en route, cargo loaded and put ashore at each port of call, etc.

Global maritime security is complicated in that too much of the world’s bottoms are effectively untracked in any continuous, effective manner. Even though US intel agencies have set up databases to track ships, cargo, and crew in an attempt to spot anomalies that might point to a dangerous vessel, crew, stowaways, or cargo, vast holes remain among a fleet of 120,000 merchant vessels not counting smaller vessels.

Passing in and out of those holes is an al Qaeda ‘ghost fleet’ that has varied between 12 and 50 "ships of concern" carrying conventional commodity cargo, operatives, and explosives. Gaps in surveillance coupled with new names, registries, hull numbers, and paint allow these vessels to periodically slip away.

The International Ship And Port Facility Code (ISPS) and SOLAS additions are still a work in progress. Add to that the as yet unresolved semi-criminalized registration process of "flag of convenience" nations, some of which ask for virtually no data from shipping firms and even permit email registration, and no wonder that the task is Augean in its proportion and that nautical attacks have risen worldwide as allies have hardened their airports and critical infrastructure.

It is this enormous nautical threat both in coastal and international waters that has been taken so seriously in some parts of government, yet leaves me wondering why in other parts, notably the major TopOff 2 terrorist attack exercise, the littoral threat component in simulated attacks in Seattle and Chicago was ignored.

Gordon Housworth



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Crushing those who sacrifice to defend us

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Low pay squeezes FBI agents and perhaps U.S. security resonates with us as we are close to a young man, married, with a young child, with superb credentials that has recently started as an analyst for the federal government and is in a similar predicament in one of the high cost of living areas. I still find it horrifying that we can treat our finest, most earnest and committed young men in this fashion. I was in disbelief when I first heard of the annual figure, but it is accurate.

I am as grumpy over the bureau's pay structure as I am the proposed "resolution," i.e., send new agents to remote postings where it is cheap.  Better that they be posted, properly compensated, to 'hive centers' such as NYC, so that they can work with their elders, absorbing and passing along hard learned lessons that will protect them as well as us.

I wonder how long these young families can withstand the stress.  I can hope that plentiful, loud, and immediate exposure can help resolve this shameful bureaucratic muddle.

Low pay squeezes FBI agents and perhaps U.S. security
By Kevin Johnson and Toni Locy, USA TODAY

Gordon Housworth



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Staged Air Force DC flyover: triumph of PR over safety

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The four passes over the capitol mall that included a pair of F-16s noted in Staged Air Force Flyover Stirs Curiosity would certainly have gotten my attention. With all manner of tourists out viewing the cherry blossoms and no public coordination, one is moved to ask, What were they thinking?

It seemed that the Air Force checked with everyone but the citizenry of DC. I can see some diligent folks going down a security checklist that just didn't have 'news media' or the PIO (public information officer) on it.

The resulting video clip may ultimately play well nationally but I think that it will be remembered a bit differently by DC residents.

Staged Air Force Flyover Stirs Curiosity
F-16 Fighters Part of Promotional Photo Shoot
By Liz Seymour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 6, 2004; 3:18 PM

Gordon Housworth



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Timely revisiting of Jeffrey Record's Bounding the Global War on Terrorism

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On the eve of Condi Rice's sworn testimony before the 9/11 Commission and in the aftermath of the Falluja mosque strike, it is valuable to look again at Jeffrey Record's essay "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism" published in the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) in December 2003. While the article carries the standard disclaimer as to "the views expressed" the SSI director recommended it and the commandant of the Army War College approved it.

Record examined three features of the current war on terrorism:

  • Administration’s postulation of the terrorist threat
  • Scope and feasibility of U.S. war aims
  • War’s political, fiscal, and military sustainability

Record's central criticism is that the administration has overreached itself and has not kept its "enemies to a manageable number." Lest anyone dismiss Record as they have Clarke, Record's writings were quite critical of the Clinton administration while he was on staff at the Air War College.

I submit that it is worthwhile reading, done far away from a media spotlight, and could help us select the best path out of our current condition on the ground.

Summarizing his conclusions (Note that 'GWOT' stands for the Global War on Terrorism):

  • Deconflate the threat. (Treat rogue states separately from terrorist organizations, and separate terrorist organizations at war with the US from those that aren't.)
  • Substitute credible deterrence for preventive war as the primary policy for dealing with rogue states seeking to acquire WMD. (Shift US focus from rogue state WMD acquisition to rogue state use of WMD.)
  • Refocus the GWOT first and foremost on al-Qaeda, its allies, and homeland security.
  • Seek rogue-state regime change via measures short of war.
  • Be prepared to settle for stability rather than democracy in Iraq, and international rather than U.S. responsibility for Iraq.
  • Reassess U.S. force levels, especially ground force levels.

Record closes with Frederick Kagan's argument that the reason why

"the United States [has] been so successful in recent wars [but] encountered so much difficulty in securing its political aims after the shooting stopped" lies partly in "a vision of war" that "see[s] the enemy as a target set and believe[s] that when all or most of the targets have been hit, he will inevitably surrender and American goals will be achieved."

"If the most difficult task facing a state that desires to change the regime in another state is securing the support of the defeated populace for the new government, then the armed forces of that state must do more than break things and kill people. They must secure critical population centers and state infrastructure. They have to maintain order and prevent the development of humanitarian catastrophes likely to undermine American efforts to establish a stable new regime."

Gordon Housworth



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Lesson learned from Pentagon's accidental posting of budget numbers

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The inadvertent posting of Pentagon budget numbers is yet another good example of the value of keeping key websites under continuous surveillance, i.e., tracking to flag any changes. DoD sites are notorious for unintentionally popping things on and then scrambling to get them off. (DARPA's aborted futures market, Policy Analysis Market (PAM) was launched and pulled in the same day -- all gone by early afternoon.)

"The Pentagon accidentally posted hundreds of pages worth of details from its forthcoming 2005 budget on its web site. The Defense Department had previously said that Bush would request $401.7 billion, 7 percent over this year. Among the proposals it revealed -- and quickly removed from its site -- was data on weapons procurement, research and development, military construction, and operations and maintenance."

Were I a foreign power, I would have servers dedicated to catching and flagging such additions and removals.

Were I a commercial firm, I would so surveil my competitors' sites (to include scanning them for materials not yet linked -- new product releases or news releases often get put on the site but are not linked until a specific time in the future):

Full text of the original AP message is contained in:

Soaring Bush Budget Angers GOP
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2004

Original:

Pentagon Budget Numbers Posted by Mistake
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 30, 2004
Filed at 3:21 p.m. ET

Gordon Housworth



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