Small Wars Journal

Two Attacks Highlight Bureaucratic Bog

Two Attacks Highlight Counterterrorism's Bureaucratic Bog - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

The Central Intelligence Agency should be asking some painful questions this week about its performance: How could a suicide bomber have flown to Detroit despite a strong warning to a CIA station that he might be a terrorist? How could a Jordanian double agent have penetrated a CIA base in Afghanistan and killed seven agency employees? Talking to veteran counterterrorism officers, I hear a common theme that unites these two disastrous lapses: The CIA has adopted bureaucratic procedures that, while intended to avoid mistakes, may actually heighten the risks. In the words of one CIA veteran, "You have a system that is overwhelmed."

The two cases are very different. Yet they both illustrate what can happen when intelligence managers are eager for results but worried about risks. The consequence is a breakdown in tradecraft that can have fatal consequences. Meanwhile, an intelligence reorganization that was supposed to improve efficiency has made the bureaucracy problem worse...

More at The Washington Post.


Anonymous (not verified)

Wed, 01/06/2010 - 12:49pm

I've a tidbit of information that suggests cirumstances warranted a face-to-face visit with the Jordanian double agent al-Balawi, and though allowed to bypass outer security into the compound, he was being approached by a secondary security detail to be checked when he detonated his bomb outside.

Let's not be too harsh on the Agency, and also consider that al-Balwai's handler, Jordanian Capt. Ali bin Zayd, who was also killed, was present, and may have been a contributing factor in allowing this arrangement.