Speculation is rife in the press that President Trump is about to fire the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats and replace him with “arch Muslim-hater,” Fred Fleitz, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst. Rumors abound as well that it will be Fleitz’s job to preside over the demise of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and phase it out of existence.
God, let’s hope that for once the press corps has it right.
Who Is Fred Fleitz?
First, Fred Fleitz is by no means an enemy of Islam or a radical of any stripe. He is a sober, well respected analyst with a wealth of experience and the backbone to match. If he is derided by much of the media and establishment Washington it is because he has had the audacity to speak the truth and to point out the danger in which we and the civilized world find ourselves. Having already served on the National Security Council in this Administration, if he has the stomach to continue the fight for change in Washington and to subject himself to the attacks that will be launched against him, we should count ourselves lucky.
ODNI – A Bloated Bureaucracy
Second, the ODNI has done nothing to enhance American national security. It is a gargantuan, bureaucratic structure layered on top of an existing, already bloated bureaucratic structure post 9/11 based on the premise, apparently, that the best way to recruit sources inside terrorist organizations and prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be by filling office buildings all over Northern Virginia with flat screen television monitors, meeting rooms, computers and people filling out forms.
One wonders what the world would look like today if in 1941, instead of reacting to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by building tanks, aircraft carriers and battleships, we had created a “Director of Secure Naval Anchorages” and hired legions of people to push paper around on desks in Washington, DC. I suspect we would all be speaking Japanese right now and celebrating the Emperor’s birthday once a year.
9/11 Intel Failure
The truth is that 9/11 was, first and foremost, not a failure to process intelligence or “connect the dots,” but a failure to collect enough dots in the first place. We did not have, and frankly probably still do not have, the necessary sources inside Al Qaida to provide warning of the impending attack. This failure was the product of an unwillingness to run the kind of operations and take the kinds of risks necessary to penetrate a highly compartmented, obsessively secretive and ultra-violent organization.
Our human intelligence apparatus failed. Designed for the “gentleman’s game” of classic espionage, it was not up to the challenge of crawling into the belly of the beast, putting spies next to Bin Laden and giving us the intelligence, we needed. When that failure became manifest on the morning of September 11, 2001, we should have faced that fact head on, changed our tactics, changed leadership as necessary and put our emphasis on the only thing that really matters in intelligence, collecting better information.
Instead, we poured massive resources, as Washington is want to do, into creating, funding and staffing new bureaucracies and complicating yet further the already Byzantine nature of Washington officialdom. ODNI office now employs something close to 2000 people. That does not include contractors, the number of whom appears to be effectively impossible to calculate using unclassified sources.
Not a single one of these individuals recruits sources. Not a single one runs operations. Not a single one produces any finished intelligence that could not be produced just as effectively by the legions of analysts sitting in the offices of America’s other intelligence agencies all over the capital.
This entire, massive structure is dead weight.
Post 9/11, Congress and the White House made a mistake. We do not have to live with it forever. Abolish the ODNI if at all possible and restore the head of CIA to his or her role as head of the Intelligence Community. Provide a small, less then 100-person, staff to handle community responsibilities and oversight. Get back to focusing on what matters, collecting intelligence.
If that proves politically impossible at the current moment, then starve the beast. Shave its budget. Cut its staff. If we cannot kill it outright we can at least prevent the masses of bureaucrats therein from continuing to do what they do now – generate process and waste money. The office is already irrelevant. Treat it that way.
Recruit The Right People
In the 1920’s when the entire Chicago police force could not manage to stop Al Capone from building a criminal empire in that city, a young man named Elliot Ness got the job of tearing down this underworld kingpin. He didn’t build an agency. He didn’t ask for a new office building. He recruited a handful of the right people, no more than eleven at any one time were on the squad, and went to work. The result is history.
Let’s absorb the lesson. Let’s get back to work. Or, as Ness would have said, “Let do some good.”