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Counterterrorism In Shambles; Why?

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By Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley

Yesterday, a blogger with the PBS' NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general (http://tinyurl.com/yg8jz4o ).

Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones. So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.

After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end. The Q & A is below:

Question #1 What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible? Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?

The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that "certain plots will succeed." A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, "why they hate us."

If we don't go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any "counter terrorism apparatus" is doomed to failure. Honest appraisals can tread on delicate territory, but any intelligence agency worth its salt must be willing/able to address it.

Delicate? Take, for example, what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the "mastermind" of 9/11, said was his main motive. Here's what the 9/11 Commission Report wrote on page 147. You will not find it reported in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM):

"By his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed"from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel."

This is not the entire picture, of course. Other key factors include the post-Gulf War stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, widely seen as defiling the holy sites of Islam. Add Washington's propping up of dictatorial, repressive regimes in order to secure continuing access to oil and natural gas--widely (and accurately) seen as one of the main reasons for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention the Pentagon's insatiable thirst for additional permanent (sorry, the Pentagon-preferred term is now "enduring") military bases in that part of the world.

The writers of the 9/11 Commission Report made a stab at puncturing the myth about "why they hate us" (and actually succeeded in giving the lie to familiar bromides like "they" hate us for our democracy, our freedoms, our way of life, and so forth). See, for example, pp 374-376 of the Commission Report.

But, you may object, I am not answering the first question posed above; I am, rather, fighting the problem.

Not true. I am trying to address the right question"trying to deal with causes, not just symptoms and consequences. The first question, as posed, deals in a familiar way with symptoms of the core problem but not the core itself, and thus tends to obscure the essence of "why they hate us."

There are over 1.2 BILLION Muslims in the world, many of whom watch nightly TV coverage of the violence resulting from U.S. military and political support for Israel (including, for example, Washington's acquiescence in the brutal Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza one year ago) and from U.S. actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

And what is the puerile approach taken by not only the politicians but also by the clueless amateurs who now lead the intelligence community: No problem, they say. Technology permits us to build a database of one billion names".easy!

Right. And how to find needles in that haystack. Easy? A database of "only" 550,000 names did not prevent the Abdulmutallab caper, did it?

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 
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There is only one way that the ordinary people can... by gravity32 on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:30:08 AM
...based on the facts as conventionally perceived.... by Josh Mitteldorf on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 10:21:18 AM
A possibility you seem to discount--inexplicibly i... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 10:38:35 AM
but I will try a comparison. Economic meltdown was... by Margaret Bassett on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 11:39:12 AM
Excuse me, but I cannot contain mydisgust every ti... by Michael David Morrissey on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 12:41:38 PM
funny you should mention them together. ihappened ... by Cheryl Biren on Thursday, Jan 7, 2010 at 6:09:55 AM
Mr Craig types one concise page, reminding US the ... by hommedespoir on Thursday, Jan 7, 2010 at 3:51:43 PM
against terrorism' ... But what if the whole point... by mhenriday on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 4:39:07 PM
The "Government is too Big" people -- the Bush/Che... by Dennis Kaiser on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 5:38:37 PM
The common lapse in all Muslim terrorist attacks o... by TL Winslow on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:17:11 PM
Before 9/11 the world was in reasonable peace, wit... by gravity32 on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 at 10:59:37 PM