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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Welcome Back to the Bronze Age of Intelligence

Late last year, on Christmas day and the day before New Year's Eve, jihadists from both the Taliban and, allegedly, al Qaeda, embarrassed the United States. On Christmas a Nigerian citizen was allowed to get on a plane in Amsterdam with an incendiary device sewn into his underwear despite having been put on a terror watch list. Last Wednesday, a Taliban militant, a physician named Humam Khalil Mohammed, blew up himself and eight others at a CIA base in southeastern Afghanistan.

What makes these attacks and the successful infiltration of agents from two terrorist networks especially embarrassing is that a little bit of additional vetting would've turned up their true intentions. Farouk Abdulmutallab's own father had warned the US embassy in Nigeria that his son had been radicalized and Dr. Mohammed's dedication to jihad was well-documented in al Qaeda's online magazine (Yes, they have an online magazine just like Salon.com and Wired). The only thing that shielded Mohammed's identity was an online pseudonym. A nom de plume apparently is good enough to foil the most heavily-funded and technologically sophisticated intelligence-gathering network on earth.

Compare this to the recently publicized apprehension of a drug dealer when a small town Indiana deputy tracked him down in Canada through his activities on the online RPG game World of Warcraft (although it can be assumed Blizzard Entertainment's level of cooperation was higher than that which would've been offered by al Qaeda to CIA investigators).

There are several parallels and lessons we can take away from this, such as this being the second time in as many months that a trusted doctor had taken American lives. And, in spite of documented evidence proving their real loyalties, lax Homeland Security and TSA guidelines that govern all airports for flights inbound to the United States put Farouk Abdulmutallab on a plane to Detroit.

Five days later, the trusted Jordanian GID (General Intelligence Directorate) implanted on a secret CIA base in Afghanistan a double agent whose purported purpose was to root out al Qaeda terrorists. Not only did it expose our vulnerability it also embarrassed the Jordanian government that understandably didn't want it to be known they were working in such collusion with US intelligence. It also made a mockery of them criticizing the CIA for relying too much on technology and not enough on humint (human intelligence) such as when we got our cues for invading Iraq from an alcoholic named "Curveball", Jordanian-convicted criminal Ahmad Chalabi and a taxi driver.

In other words, we were punked by two Muslim Trojan horses within a week in spite of a $50 billion annual budget financing 16 intelligence agencies. Welcome back to the Bronze Age of intelligence gathering.

The sad thing in all this is that, unlike the Trojans, we didn't have a Laocoön to warn us of Greeks (or Jordanians) bearing gifts.

Laocoön was the priest who'd warned the Trojans that the Greeks' Trojan horse shouldn't be trusted. The anti-Trojan, pro-Greek Poseidon sent two serpents to strangle Laocoön before he could be believed in much the same manner that the anti-Iraqi, pro-American Bush administration killed off in a manner of speaking our next-to-last Laocoön. His name was Richard Clarke. The last was Joseph Wilson.

The problem is, we have too many Poseidons and not enough Trojan soldiers. Throughout the entire Bush administration, whistleblowers had suffered persecution (and, in the case of Susan Lindauer, prosecution as well) for simply doing their jobs and their patriotic duty. Joseph Wilson's wife was outed as a covert agent after he'd blown to smithereens the Bush administration's rationale for going to war with Iraq. FBI translator Sibel Edmonds had been slapped with a gag order. Clarke was ignored and became the male Cassandra, an irrelevant relic of the Clinton years. Bunny Greenhouse was fired for turning up inconvenient truths regarding defense contracts and Lindauer was tried, ironically, as a double agent for Iraqi intelligence.

And the US spy network is apparently so interested in proprietary intelligence that affects the security of the entire nation that they'd willingly keep rival agencies in the dark, making it all but impossible for analysts and case agents to connect the dots.

Blogger Alicia Morgan recently told me in a conversation that her son had been put on a terrorist watch list since he was eight years old. Why are we putting children, respected authors and even revered United States Senators on terrorist watch lists while gullibly rolling people like Dr. Nidal Hasan, Farouk Abdulmutallab and Dr. Humam Khalil Mohammed in our midst when they were certainly not shy about their true intentions?

Perhaps we should be looking more gift horses in the mouth.
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Anonymous Charlie O said...
Well, the obvious solution is to start having more pat down searches at US airports of granny.

Blogger jurassicpork said...
Who's the GOP going to get to pat down the kids? Mark Foley?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Airport security is a game the airlines and TSA play. I'm an IT contractor. Was doing work for one of the airlines back in 2002 and 2003 when this whole thing started. Airline had me flying all over [on their internally written tickets!] as part of the contract. Sometime 3 or 4 trips a day. Often home for supper!

I was publicly patted down EVERY FLIGHT. 100% f**cking percent of the time. Every boarding pass had the 'sss' special security mark on it. And every checkpoint diligently provided the special security screen.

Later when I was chatting with one of the airline folks at headquarters they made the following point:: I was simply an actor in their drama. They were required to give special attention to x% [they told me but I won't put it here -- and the number might have changed anyway] of the passengers. Since I was an airline "employee" but traveling in regular clothes the other passengers would assume I was "real". Being searched was just my part in their little drama. My role was to make the other passengers feel that something was being done. Although why they thought I looked like a threat -- at over 6', 230 lbs, graying hair and a beard [I guess it was that beard!]... I couldn't/wouldn't complain, get beligerent, or otherwise cause trouble. They knew I was clean. And once I understood my part, I was cool with it. And they were paying for my travel time..

I suspect they are still at it and what we're seeing with little old ladies and their strip search machines is nothing more than the same play, different act!

Blogger Jill said...
Aside from my reticence to even go to a gym because I am overweight, I'm not thrilled with the idea of some underpaid flack getting to see my saggy old boobs. But I wonder what happens the first time, say, Heidi Klum goes through one of these scanners...and how long it'll take for the scan to show up on YouTube.

Blogger Interrobang said...
It doesn't even have to be Heidi Klum. I reliably get yanked out of line and patted down when travelling in or through the US, I figure mostly because I've got a DD chest. I never noticed any cryptic markings on my boarding passes, either, and I know a few things about boarding passes, because my father is a retired commercial pilot. At least in Philadelphia, where I had the worst problems (and encountered the most transparently incompetent staff), I figure it was the security goon with the permasmirk just deciding he was going to get paid to feel up the busty chick.

Blogger max said...
Welcome back to the Bronze Age of intelligence gathering.

'Intelligence reports are only useful to the intelligent.'

['Same as it always was.']