Setting the context for government behavior:
· A culture of self-interest money and personal advancement are the goals driving personal behavior
· Abject disregard for policy, sound methods, and discipline - hubris and disregard for quality of process pervade organizations responsible for the security of the American people
· The military-industrial-intelligence-congressional complex undermines the mission to protect the United States see first bullet above
THE FIRST TRAGEDY THE AVOIDABLE LOSS OF SOME 3,000 AMERICANS
9-11 wasn't so much an Al Qaeda success as it was a tragic and avoidable failure of U.S. security. In fact, the activities leading up to and including the attacks on 9-11 were at best amateurish. The only way they could have succeeded is for U.S. security to be in a significantly weakened state. And it was.
It was often said that the reason large intelligence agencies like the NSA struggled so much, was that they began to look like the antiquated, slow-moving "target" they were supposed to monitor the Soviet Union. The truth is, agencies lost their ability to know where they were on the technology curve, one that had out-paced NSA's ability to "keep up" by a significant margin. Alas, government bureaucracy was no match for the onset of the Information Age and the rapid growth in networking technologies it engendered. The Intelligence Community's own "truth-sensing" mechanisms had been tossed aside as time-wasting and unnecessary, and its growing allegiances to private industry tended to usurp a sense of reality, the ability to know how to proceed order to maintain or accrue technological advantage, a position of technological superiority over threats and information about them.
Why such "allegiances" with industry? The ever-present and growing phenomenon of the money-and-influence triangle formed by senior intelligence officials in the Executive Branch, appropriators in the Legislative Branch, and those in industry who would sell products to the government, often at exorbitant profits with little to show for the money spent. This unhealthy set of alliances served to undermine the effective delivery of intelligence production capabilities that were needed to stay abreast of changing global threats, as business tended to sell the government what it already had on the shelf - vice what was actually needed - in order to make bottom-lines more attractive to stock holders.
While Al Qaeda was organizing, the U.S. intelligence community became a ward of the military industrial congressional complex, a morphing of Eisenhower's infamous military industrial complex of which he warned in his departure speech in 1961. 50 years later its hold on the U.S. security apparatus is so pervasive that it thwarts as much as it helps secure the nation. What had been a U.S. system of checks and balances and a systems acquisition process governed by law and best practices eroded to a money-seeking, power-grabbing abuse of public funds and public trust. No, not every intelligence program failed, just the most important to NSA's future and the security of the United States - NSA's TRAILBLAZER program. The damage due to this immense failure would be felt for years to come, as it is only rarely possible to recover lost intelligence when sensors are not available to capture it.
Thirty years ago, members of the Intelligence Community believed the mission the security of the American People - to be of primary importance, followed by loyalty to one's organization, with self-interest coming in a distant third. By the late 1990's, self became paramount: awards, money, time-off, and the need to feel accepted even at the cost of principle became the new rubric.
Respect for policy and time-tested processes designed to support the effective acquisition of needed capabilities were tossed out the window in favor of quicker ways to decide how to spend money. Group-based perception (focus groups) ruled the day. If stake-holders believed something was "good", it became the "way ahead". In other words, systems were purchased based on whom certain individuals knew, to whom they held personal allegiances, and what they stood to gain, not based on performance criteria, modeling, or other time-tested engineering methods for acquiring complex, large-scale information systems.