Jed Babbin does some good analysis. This ain’t it.
In his piece, Babbin gives us the usual statist response to people expecting the government not just follow constitutional strictures, but to act like decent human beings. The mass surveillance of Americans (and pretty much everyone else) by the National Security Agency (and a host of other law enforcement and intelligence agencies that were using the data…) was pretty blatantly unconstitutional (hence illegal) and generally awful. His asides to insult Rand Paul on the situation place him firmly in the circle of the self-anointed political class, who expect us to conform and obey, rather than serving their charges ethically.
But we have to keep Americans safe! Babbin would respond. And Congress can’t do it, so we need the president to do it. Well, Jed…you’re doing it wrong. Yes, having a benevolent dictator dispatching policy without interference is very efficient. Stalin was very efficient. He was also evil. So i think we can ignore Babbin’s policy suggestions as wholly un-American.
Rand Paul (let’s really piss Babbin off — and Edward Snowden, and the three other whistleblowers that were ignored before he cock punched the intelligence community) was absolutely correct about the evils of mass surveillance, but worse — it makes for bad intelligence collection. And yes, Jed, I worked in that field, so I have some idea what the hell I’m talking about.
Here’s the problem. With mass collection, even with the best data mining software that targets select phrases and even dumps the crap when it (rarely) understands the context is unthreatening, you get a six-foot high pile of intercepts to go through every damned day. No one gets through all that. You just get more. It’s the simple, age-old problem that too much data leads to less intelligence than too little data; you simply can’t sift through it fast enough, and we still require a human to add context to the intercepts we have.
He cited two issues, a lack of HUMINT, HUman INTelligence or “spies”, and bureaucratic issues — the same damned thing, really, that made 9/11 possible, as points of failure in gathering actionable intelligence, and he’s right.
In the wake of 9/11, Congress reorganized the intelligence and law enforcement communities to get them to talk to each other more effectively. They created another layer of bureaucracy and tossed a bunch of redundant law enforcement groups under it, and now are shocked…shocked…that it didn’t work. He is the issue of top-down, statist thinking. Exactly the kind that Babbin brings to the table. Bottom-up reviews, restructuring — we’ve seen this before from Ivy League politicians and their sycophants. All that would happen is the creation of more positions for their classmates to fill at far-too-high pay scales.
Here’s why this won’t work: 1) FBI doesn’t share, and worse, they want your budget. Want to have your organization put under the microscope? Let the FEEB work an op with you and plan it. Now it will fail, your organization will look awful, and the FEEB will ask for more of your authority and budget be transferred to them. 2) More layers of bureaucracy mean more layers of bullshit to cut through before the policy makers see your stuff. 3) Most of that bureaucracy will be Harvard and Yale lawyer types from select families that wouldn’t know how to plug in a computer, much less make informed decisions on world policy. 4) The knucledraggers that know what they are doing will never get into positions where they can streamline the analysis and reporting process…they’re knuckledraggers, after all. Ask Gust Avrakotos.
Want to address this? Get rid of DHS, get rid of the half-assed separation between the operations and intelligence sides of the house (NCS and CIA, respectively), tightly task the dozens of law enforcement agencies so there’s less overlap — Customs does smuggling, Border Patrol handles border control, Secret Service does financial crimes, FEEB does interstate coordination of law enforcement, etc. etc… Get them out of intelligence as a mission. Cut the divisions that overlap to save funds.
Intelligence should be targeted and centralized…you know, what the Central Intelligence Agency was supposed to be. CIA should be where the analysis and reporting happens. NSA and NRO do SIGINT and ELINT very well. Let them collect and do initial analysis, but organizationally they should be under CIA. Operations — the military does a lot of this, but we need spies — National Clandestine Service sits in a weird organizational limbo, pull them back under the CIA’s umbrella. Keep them out of operations — they suck at this, as Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba and Cambodia showed. They’re the eyes and ears; we need to recruit in the populations we need to, and we need open source intelligence…read the opposition’s fucking newspapers. Most of the time, they’re not really hiding what they’re up to. More importantly, target the right guys — the “bad guys” are usually pretty obvious. Target the demographic that is the problem. Profile. Concentrate your efforts. It works.
Promote from the ranks to the leadership. The old school ties, the cake eaters, the ones that care if your report is in proper CIA format (like APA or MLA for you college kids, but for CIA…) and don’t like that provocative word choice…they keep things from getting where they need to.
When you need to act abroad, the special forces boys — they’re the hands; when you need operations, go to them. They do it well. At home, that’s law enforcement, but they are hampered by things like “rights” and “the law”…and should be. This job is hard, and should be; otherwise, what’s the damned point? (See two paragraphs down for more…)
Unfortunately, this is all for nought when the mission is not to protect Americans in general, but is operating to protect the political class. The issues with intelligence and law enforcement stem from an unspoken mission shift from protecting “the people”, to protecting the “right people”, the decision-makers, from enemies foreign and domestic. When that’s the mission, you’re going to miss real threats to the general population.
More spies, less bureaucracy and what you have should be from the doers, not the politicians.