Thursday, March 25, 2004
I expect the unprecedented and the extraordinary, when it comes to participation in determining what went wrong for 9/11, from you and your staff, including Mrs. Rice.
The spectacular failure happened on your watch.
You better bust your a@# and show us what you're doing about it, and how that compares to what you did before, or you're fired!
Don't patronize us Mr. Bush. We are the American people, and you serve at our discretion (i.e. you work for us). It's your butt on the line, because you're the one supposed to be keeping our butts from becoming victims of our enemies.
So, here is what you should do. Testify before Congress and explain how you did everything possible to keep us secure and safe from our enemies, or, where you failed, explain who's been held accountable and what's changed.
So far, Bush has lamely tried to spin his participation in Congressional investigations of 9/11 as "unprecedented", in the sense of sharing information between branches.
To that, I would only ask, "Mr. Bush, hasn't the world changed since 9/11?"
What is more unprecedented, Congress investigating failures of the executive branch, and demanding full access to information, or several hijacked planes crashing into buildings and killing several thousand Americans?
These times are unprecedented, and, if we the people have our way, they are going to become even more so, at least in terms of transparency and accountability.
Because, no matter the adjective Bush comes up with - unprecedented, extraordinary, etc. - it will pale in comparison to the shock and events of 9/11.
No matter how you view it, on President Bush's watch, 9/11 occurred.
This is a spectacular failure.
In any failure, especially one as grave and disastrous as this one, responsibility must be determined, and the vulnerability exposed and taken advantage of at least explained.
This can only be done by knowing the state of what was known (the information), and what was being done about it (the operations), following from the information, including strategy development and further risk analysis to expand on "the known".
What we do know, and have begun to learn more about, is that this attack was not as novel or unanticipated as was thought or asserted (by Rice), and the more this is the case, the less it is an excuse of any kind.
That leaves us with the information that was known, in terms of the strategy being built upon its foundation, the risk management that was going on, cost/benefit analyses, in order to determine how such a shocking attack could have occurred under the current administration's watch.
If Bush wants the conspiracies to end, and the fingers to stop pointing, and he and all of us should, he needs to share all he knows, as does Rice, so that we all can move forward past 9/11 and why we were unable to prevent it, in order to focus on today, and tomorrow, and preventing further 9/11's, not to mention better managing our information, risk portfolios, resources, and image/brand.
The Bush Administration can't be excused for ignorance of the threat, or of its novel nature.
Or can they?
This is the job of Congress. To find out. What did they know, and, going forward from that analysis, how did operations fail in regards to what indeed "was known"?
It's becoming increasingly troublesome to conclude that the Administration knew nothing of suicidal airliner attacks. Too many warnings were coming through from various intelligence agencies worldwide, and the potential for such an attack had to at least have been known. If not, this should merit its own investigation.
And, since the failure was so spectacular, it's hard to argue that it should be left "in house" as an executive managerial matter. Clearly, part of the problem could be ideological blinders or prejudice that hinders a proper risk analysis and strategy implementation.
So the need for an outside party. The Congress.
Bush should testify for as long as it takes in order to assure that we can fully appraise our state of vulnerability pre-9/11, in terms of information and operations, and going forward beyond 9/11.
Anything less threatens the existence and well-being of Americans against terrorism.
Lost in all of the debate is the very sensitive matter of whether something could have been done prior to 9/11.
If not, why or what will have changed so that something could be done today (hopefully, is being done)?
From this frame, we notice that common sense tells us that things could have been done prior to 9/11, but weren't.
For the most part, almost everyone has forgiven or explained away this lack of preventive action by agreeing that the risk involved and the act itself were so novel and surprising.
For the man and woman on the street, this is true. But for those with access to warnings of terrorist intentions to hijack airliners and use them as missiles (they sure look like big missiles), this excuse is not as plain as to "the street". Indeed, perception on "the street" is irrelevant, because we don't have access to the same information as our intelligence and security professionals. It's not our job, it's theirs. For them to appeal to our sensibility and perception of the threat is absurd.
Richard Clarke goes part of the way in explaining how 9/11 could have been prevented by contrasting the efforts by Sandy Berger to coordinate agencies and information in the face of domestic terrorist threats during the Clinton Administration with the efforts by Condoleeza Rice during her tenure prior to 9/11.
In all honesty, it's this very coordination that might have got the head of the FBI to somehow notice that special agents in two different locations and offices had reported suspicions concerning flight schools. It also may have ramped up efforts to locate known terrorists, and to upgrade security on that tip at airports.
All speculation, but certainly plausible in view of the facts.
And, though the risk analysis and cost/benefit calculations may still have justified (by current standards before 9/11) the Bush Administration approach, in how they and Rice handled threat assessment, response, and counter-strategy, this ought to be proven as such, and no leeway ought to be given to them for not being aware of novel attack strategies, because these suicidal airline strategies were known to intelligence and security professionals.
That's why finding out how much they knew before 9/11 is so important.
The fact they are so remiss to share what they know hints at the answer.
Though, I should add, Donald Rumsfeld is correct to assert that we more than likely couldn't have prevented 9/11 by military means. Bin Laden did not commit this act. The failure and responsibility rests exclusively on the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Advisor, the President, and any other agencies coordinating counterterrorist information involving the homeland.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Alasdair Roberts from foi.net brings readers up to date on the struggle between populists and realists in regards to the freedom of information, transparency, and accountability.
Undoubtedly, the Bush administration has introduced unduly broad restrictions on openness since 9/11. But we shouldn't think that the fight over openness is simply driven by security fears. There's a deeper conflict, in Washington and abroad, about the way government works. It's a battle between two camps: populists and realists.
Populists ruled the 1990s. Their power is rooted in the long-term decline in trust in government and other institutions. Populists assume that elites will exploit secrecy to shortchange the American public. They're optimistic about the public's capacity to use information intelligently. And they want to exploit the internet's ability to distribute information quickly.
Realists watch these trends and cringe. Thirty years ago, the Trilateral Commission produced a famous report that said western democracies faced a ''crisis of governability'' caused by an adversary culture and the "debility of elected leaders.''
For realists, these problems have intensified. Interest groups seem more powerful, causing a gridlock that Jonathan Rauch calls ''hyperpluralism.'' The media environment is crowded with more outlets competing in a 24-hour news cycle.
Which side is right? For now, the populists. There's plenty of evidence that secrecy can cloak abuses of power. The realists' complaints about governability are often just an attempt to preserve the power of a narrow elite. And it's too early to tell how far the populists' push for radical transparency can go, or assess the implications of this trend.
Eventually, however, openness advocates will have to deal with realists' concern about the decline of governability. The issue will persist long after today's debate over secrecy and 9/11 has faded into history.
As I will articulate in the weeks ahead, there is no true conflict here with transparency and governability. Deliberative democracy and the freedom of information can go hand-in-hand - it's just going to take a new breed of politicians with the right mix of bargaining and strategic skills to make it work, not to mention a more engaged citizenry willing to uphold grassroots accountability.
Stirling Newberry has all the details over at the Blogging of the President.
Also, Nyco, over at Daily Kos, reminds us that President Roh, currently under impeachment proceedings, was greatly aided in the last elections by bloggers.
Is something ominous going on over in South Korea?
Monday, March 15, 2004
this originally posted yesterday as a comment over at Daily Kos
The real intrigue involving the terrorist attacks is why Spain would be targeted because of Iraq, and by Al Qaeda.
Since there is no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, perhaps the intended response is to take advantage of the weakness that Spain and the US showed by insisting on their participation when only 10% of the people were in favor.
First, this makes arguments about defending democracy seem more hollow.
Second, it blurs the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a way that, at least in this case, causes great psychological dissonance.
For, what we really have is one war in Afghanistan, and another in Iraq, but the two are inextricably intermingled.
So, support for the war in Afghanistan, which was generally accepted by free peoples worldwide, gets blurred because we forced another war in Iraq that almost noone was in favor of.
And it's the war in Afghanistan, much more than Iraq, that Al Qaeda and Islamicist terrorists would be truly motivated by.
In the end, we have psychologically left great weaknesses in the hearts and minds of people in our fight against terrorism by going to war with Iraq.
From clarity, we've created a blur.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Yesterday, I was imagining myself in the place of an American who lost a family member in the latest war with Iraq. Knowing as I do the various shenanigans in how we justified that war, and even how we've cavalierly conducted it in many ways, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of rage dashed with sorrow.
We need to hold our leaders accountable. For freedom, for democracy, and for the lives of our family members. It's not just about ideals...it's personal.
To anyone who has lost a loved one in Iraq, I want to extend my deepest condolescences and an apology. Such a thing happening to someone in my family would be an irreplacable loss, and, though I can never truly do so, I will do my best to put myself in your shoes.
The latest developments in Madrid, in terms of the millions pouring onto the streets to show solidarity in grief and against terrorism, is compelling to view in the light of the demonstrations in Madrid, prior to the war in Iraq, involving millions of Spaniards opposing their government's decision to ally unilaterally with the Americans.
Beyond the fact that the Spanish government (at least nominally) dragged them into the war in Iraq when 90% of the Spanish people were opposed (obviously, this kind of war support will only be token, in the face of such resistance by the people, with an understanding that Spanish forces would not be making vital sacrifices), what strikes me is the millions pouring out together on the streets.
Terrorism, and cronyism, cannot defeat this show of solidarity. Of mutual aid and support. Rather than our elites making rhetorical claims that the terrorists are trying to destroy democracy, they ought to be beginning to realize that true democracy is in order. The hearts and minds of the Spanish people are out there in the streets, and they are not defeated.
In a democracy, if 90% of the people are opposed to spilling blood on a foreign land, especially one which does not directly threaten, than the government does not make a public show of support for that spilling of blood.
Likewise, now or later, absent a weapon of mass destruction, terrorism cannot defeat a people who will refuse to cower in fear, and will instead stand together and show that they are united.
Today, Spanish hearts and minds chose democracy, and held their leaders and representatives accountable for their actions taken on their behalf.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
I know I'm on hiatus, but there is an issue that begs attention, and is not being given it. Haiti. There is an unprecedented propaganda effort underway, with Carol Williams of the LA Times seemingly one of the players, to justify our removal of President Aristide, after the fact.
This is not a healthy sign of democracy, either for us or the Haitians. Every man and woman complicit in this operation should be held to account, and face the consequences. I read a whole article saying bad things about Aristide supporters sometime on Saturday only to learn that, when the still acting Prime Minister goes on state-run radio to declare that Aristide's government is still in charge, the rebels and students opposed to Aristide invade the broadcasting station and loot and destroy it.
That doesn't sound like freedom fighters. If you're in the right, why destroy the media? Where's our Marines? Aren't they defending key people and infrastructure? Don't we need the media to be operational in order to communicate to the people?
And now, today, I hear that pro-Aristide supporters fire on unarmed demonstrators who are championing a known war criminal and terrorist. It sounds unbelievable. These rebels are terrorists, and we are to believe they are the champions of the people? Of democracy? This won't go for American policy, and the fruits of that will bear out soon.
Haiti is just another indignity in a long line. It's time for to hold our president, vice president, and all their men and women, where appropriate, to account, and to insist they justify and explain their policy.
Where has President Bush been in regards to commenting on Haiti? Is he a real leader? Does he even know what's going on?
We could have prevented Aristide's ouster, and didn't, and this is no accident, but rather a policy. This ought to be acknowledged, and explained, and, since it hasn't, it's time to stand up and demand accountability from our leaders.
And, on that note, President Bush has been nowhere to be found, when he ought to be explaining to us why the removal of Aristide needed to occur, and how it fits into our overall strategy. Who's running the show? I want to know, and I'm not going to stand idle while our American values and reputation are trampled in the meantime.
Though, I should acknowledge, I am on hiatus.
I'm writing a book, not to mention finishing up a software rollout, so I will be scarce from the blogosphere for awhile.
As a warning to all bloggers and blog readers, beware of the echo chamber. Seek varying opinions, and make sure you expose yourself to information outside of your immediate circle.
Also, something I've learned is that personal communication can be invaluable, especially in regards to conflict resolution, as a tonic for online communication. To make a long story short, I took a particularly smug and arrogant tone to Brad DeLong's blog, he removed me, I reacted, we discussed it, and the matter is resolved. Lesson learned on my part, and vice-versa.
For the record, Brad DeLong is one of our finest bloggers, his economic analysis brings an invaluable perspective to the blogosphere, and I encourage everyone to visit him and his insights regularly. In the meantime, I need to find a niche of my own.