Unintended Consequences And Systemic Failure

Glenn Greenwald:

As President Obama said yesterday, the Government -- just as was true for 9/11 -- had gathered more than enough information to have detected this plot, or at least to have kept Abdulmutallab off airplanes and out of the country. Yet our intelligence agencies -- just as was true for 9/11 -- failed to understand what they had in their possession. Why is that? Because they had too much to process, including too much data wholly unrelated to Terrorism. In other words, our panic-driven need to vest the Government with more and more surveillance power every time we get scared again by Terrorists -- in the name of keeping us safe -- has exactly the opposite effect. Numerous pieces of evidence prove that.

(Emphasis supplied.) Instead of wasting time with silly defenses of intelligence agency bureaucrats (see Ackerman, Spencer), centrist Obama bloggers should heed the President's words and understand the system and the people in the system failed. Just as with torture, which does not work, we have created a system less likely to make us safer, not more. This is systemic failure as well as human failure.

Speaking for me only

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    You're dead on when you say it is (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 08:44:41 AM EST
    a human failure.  The problem is that this system is currently set up to rely more heavily on computer algorhytms than on basic face-to-face human contact.  The system absolves people from their personal responsibility.  When an infant's name happens to match a name on a terrorist watch list, the infant is "a terrorist" to the person who is in charge of dealing with the list - doesn't matter that they can see clearly that this infant poses zero threat to anyone.  This is the kind of inanity that we are dealing with with this system.

    One could argue... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 09:49:51 AM EST
    similar inanity exists in many, if not all, of our beuracratic systems...defense/security systems, criminal justice systems, health care systems, you name it.

    It is the fundamental flaw of bueracracy...rules and regs trumping individual human judgement.  Of course human judgement is hit or miss too...but at least someone can be held accountable, at least a heart and a soul and a consciencve are involved...our systems are seemingly never held accountable, our systems have no heart no soul no conscience.


    You left out public schools... (none / 0) (#11)
    by oldpro on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 02:17:45 PM EST
    and BTW, rules and regs are made by individuals in the bureaucracy.  It is rare that anyone is held accountable for bad judgment.  Occasionally the voters get that chance and occasionally they bungle it too.

    Heart?  Soul?  Conscience?  Nah.  Those who do have such monitors on behavior quit in protest or become whistleblowers.  They are rare, for a job is a job...and in this economy, that trumps everything else.


    Forgot the Post Office too... (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by kdog on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 03:00:32 PM EST
    My brother the letter carrier says he keeps the people on his route happy, with their mail in hand before noon, by ignoring half the stupid rules and regs set by people who have never racked mail or carried a mailbag.

    And its not limited to the public sector by any means, massive corporate bueracracies are just as bad.  And the bigger they are the worse the inanity gets.


    Or Joan Rivers, apparently (none / 0) (#7)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 11:38:49 AM EST
    Not the U.S. government's fault, but she has a fairly harrowing story about a mistake with her name being made on her airplane ticket in I think Costa Rica, which combined with her passport, which says Joan Rosenberg (her married name) AKA Joan Rivers, caused her to be kept off her plane and interrogated, and then essentially stranded.

    Perhaps AQ is capable of recruiting elderly many-times-face-lifted Jewish comediennes to be suicide bombers for Allah, but shouldn't we all really be cutting down on the noise in the system from at least the unlikeliest of terrorist suspects?


    Her situation was interesting. (none / 0) (#8)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 12:18:58 PM EST
    A country like Costa Rica that relies fairly heavily on American tourism is more likely to be reactionary when they encounter a convention that they are unfamiliar with - one like the whole AKA thing.  Especially after they've witnessed the consequences of failure in countries as sophisticated and advanced as The Netherlands.

    Oh no (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by lilburro on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 08:57:48 AM EST
    the reason that this happened is that the CIA's morale was low due to not being able to use torture.  And because John Brennan did not get the job.

    And all the other BS reasons we heard in the past, sadly from liberals, or centrists as you call them here.

    This is Brennan and Rahm (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by scribe on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 10:02:06 AM EST
    setting up Panetta for a fall, and BRennan for a new job at CIA.

    Early news reports today had the CIA having opened a dossier on this guy, then not having shared it with the rest of the intel community, particularly the part about this guy's dad going to the CIA and telling the CIA he was worried about his son's radicalization.

    All a part of purging the anti-torture people from this administration, too.

    How can anyone NOT recognize this was (none / 0) (#5)
    by Yes2Truth on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 10:41:23 AM EST
    a covert U.S. intelligence operation?  An INside
    job, folks.  Damn, don't be so naive.  THINK.

    A novel theory. (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 10:44:33 AM EST
    Will you be writing the novel? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oldpro on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 02:09:38 PM EST
    Think I'll wait for the movie!

    CIA, ya think? Bungled just like (none / 0) (#10)
    by oldpro on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 02:11:49 PM EST
    inviting a known terrorist into the compound to kill 7 agents?

    Hard to explain that stupidity...


    That's a venal, vicious attack (none / 0) (#13)
    by kidneystones on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 06:00:32 PM EST
    on the memory of the victims who died trying to build trust so we can more accurately attack those trying to kill us.

    I expect everyone in that compound understood the risks. They took them in an effort to keep Afghans and other safe and paid the price.

    Really, really offensive.


    The CIA has always (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 06:07:14 PM EST
    been about building trust, first and foremost.

    They're like the good hands people.


    So...can (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by kidneystones on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 06:40:09 PM EST
    them all? Stop sending CIA officers into Central Asia and elsewhere around the globe? You think the CIA is all rogue? And that the assassinations and other black ops stuff they do isn't reviewed and ok'd by elected representatives?

    I'm arguing that the individuals killed took risks they understood at least as well as anyone here and did so to keep us and others safe.

    Mocking the dead strikes me as seriously wrong.

    But, that's just me.


    Of course (5.00 / 0) (#16)
    by jondee on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 07:24:52 PM EST
    it's seriously wrong.

    It's an open question how much the black ops, assassinations, electoral tampering, lethal interrogations, money laundering, exploitation and protection of criminal elements etc is reviewed. The historical record seems to indicate that it hasnt been scrutinized all that closely by anything like a bi-partisan selection of elected officials in the past. When even the details of their budget cant be a matter of public record, the stink just gets worse. And unfortunately, at this point, to make matters worse, the CIAs well-documented track record proceeds it to the point at which trust building is an uphill battle of Everest-scaling proportions.

    I dont pretend to know what the solution is, but a move toward becoming to be a community GENUINELY dedicated to "keeping us safe" -- which is the uphill battle of all uphill battles as long as we continue to maintain those 700 bases around the world -- rather than one that, in the past, seemed to be more dedicated to maintaining "investor friendly climates" in certain countries in which we have "interests", would be a step in the right direction.

    But that probably wont begin to change until     our representatives begin to elected by Main St and not K Street and Wall Street.


    Venal? You're accusing me of (none / 0) (#18)
    by oldpro on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 10:39:34 PM EST
    what exactly?  Or is this simply projection from the defenders of Bush I/Cheney/Rumsfeld in the mid 70s?

    Even the Rockefeller Commission, Rudman etc. didn't go that far in rationalizing/explaining away behavior that the Pike and Church Committees exposed.

    I only mentioned stupidity in my personal criticism.  You think that's going too far?  If so, please explain to me whom in government we are allowed to criticize and hold accountable and whom not?

    My totally uninformed guess is that had all 7 CIA officers been given a vote as to whether or not to risk letting the terrorist into the base, the yes vote would not have been unanimous.  Had you been there, I take it, you'd have voted yes.  So, yeah...I call that stupid...then and now.

    I hope you pass those stones one of these days...


    What an absolutely (none / 0) (#17)
    by JamesTX on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 09:37:10 PM EST
    brilliant perspective! The press and the nuts start going for our underwear when the problem wasn't in our underwear. The problem wasn't even that they couldn't see our underwear. It was that they ignored what they could see. To ask to see more, while ignoring what they already have, is ludicrous.