Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 11, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
August 11, 2004

Frankly Speaking

We do not need more bureaucracy
We do not need more bureaucracy! Yet that is exactly what the 9/11 commission is recommending. They are urging that the President and Congress establish an intelligence guru; one single authority to oversee the 15, that’s right, 15 federal intelligence agencies. This suggestion is 180 degrees wrong. We need less bureaucracy, not more.
The problem with our federal government today is the size of its bureaucracy. When congress votes to finance a program, 75 percent or more of the money goes to finance the bureaucracy. Twenty-five percent or less goes to the agents in the field who do the actual work. It is likely that our 15 intelligence agencies have the same problem.
I suspect that the problem with assembling and reporting intelligence is in the bureaucracies, not the field agents. By the time an agent discovers a problem, and his or her report works its way through the various levels of bureaucrats, it is likely to be lost, ignored or modified so that if it ever reaches the president’s office it has lost its timeliness, its urgency and even its accuracy. Adding another layer of bureaucracy will only make the problem worse.
We already have an office for the purpose of assembling analyzing and reporting intelligence; the Director of Central Intelligence. That office is currently open. The president ought to act quickly to find the best person available to fill that office, and then Congress should consolidate all intelligence activity into the CIA so that he or she will have the power needed to do the job.
Now, about those 15 intelligence agencies: Each has its own bureaucracy. Each develops its own sources, sends agents out to investigate areas of interest, compiles and reports its findings all without any idea what the other fourteen are doing.
Not only does this create massively overlapping supervision and control, it likely causes us to loose valuable data. Just imagine agents from five or six intelligence agencies are investigating the same bad guy. None of them know what the others are doing. While they are stumbling over each other’s feet, the target quickly realizes that they are looking at him, and proceeds to hide whatever he was doing.
One of the major complaints from our intelligence agencies is that they have too few agents on the ground. That may or may not be so. But with 15 overlapping agencies creating duplication in the field, those we do have are not being used in the most efficient manner. With 15 overlapping bureaucracies wasting money, the agents in the field are not being provided with the manpower, equipment and funds they need.
If congress will consolidate the intelligence agencies, reduce dramatically the bureaucratic structure, assign them all to the CIA for coordination and control and put the cost savings into the field, we can have a vastly improved intelligence program at a savings to the taxpayers.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
August 11, 2004

In the Mean Time

A look at al Qaeda’s computers
Imagine that a computer was discovered in Iraq with emails from Saddam Hussein outlining a terror campaign against the U.S. — this would surely be big news.
We would have confirmation that the terror threat from Iraq was real. Even with no weapons of mass destruction, we’d have a clear indication of a murderous motive from Hussein.
Of course, no such computer has been discovered — at least not in Iraq and not from Saddam.
But there are two such computers from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden — the group that has already made its goal of attacking America painfully clear.
The cover story of the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard drive” offers a look at communications in the terrorist network both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The bizarre tale comes from Alan Cullison, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who was in a wreck while traveling in a truck in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. Cullison wasn’t injured, but his computer was smashed. Soon after the accident, the Taliban was forced from power, and Cullison “joined a handful of malnourished correspondents who rushed into Kabul and filed stories about the city’s liberation.”
“But unlike most correspondents, I needed to spend some time getting to know Kabul’s computer dealers, because I wanted to replace my laptop,” wrote Cullison. “It took about an hour to shake hands with all of them.”
One dealer told Cullison that he had serviced computers belonging to the Taliban and to Arabs in al Qaeda.
“I forgot about my own computer problems and hired him to search for these computers,” wrote Cullison, who said the dealer led him to a jewelry salesman who would take $1,100 “in exchange for two of al Qaeda’s most valuable computers — a 40-gigabyte IBM desktop and a Compaq laptop.”
“He had stolen them from al Qaeda’s central office in Kabul on Nov. 12, the night before the city fell to the Northern Alliance,” wrote Cullison, adding that the looter had taken one of the computers from a second floor room in an al Qaeda house in Kabul. Posted on the door to that room was the name Muhammed Atef — an al Qaeda military commander and a key planner of 9/11. One stolen computer had been used mostly by Ayman al-Zawahiri — bin Laden’s top deputy.
Ironically, the looter stole the computers not to learn al Qaeda secrets on attacking the U.S., but to get money to travel to America to have some fun.
“He (the thief) wanted the money, he said, so that he could travel to the United States and meet some American girls,” wrote Cullison.
Cullison copied the desktop contents of one computer for his own reporting. But after hearing of Cullison’s discovery, Wall Street Journal editors realized that the government should be notified about the reporter’s discovery. So they contacted the U.S. Central Command and three CIA agents went to the reporter’s room in Kabul to take the computers to determine if there was any information about potential attacks on America.
In fact, there was such information, including “the first leads about the shoe bomber Richard Reid, who had yet to attempt his attack.”
The computers also provided insight into the daily workings of al Qaeda. There are “budgets, training manuals for recruits, scouting reports for international attacks.” Notably, the computers also include baby pictures, poems and emails detailing personnel squabbles.
For instance, there is sniping about money. One email reads: “Why did you buy a new fax for $470? Where are the two old faxes? Did you get permission before buying a new fax under such circumstances?”
One al Qaeda email writer complains that bin Laden is a publicity hound: “I think our brother (bin Laden) has caught the disease of screens, flashes, fans, and applause...”
The Atlantic Monthly piece concludes with a chilling email from bin Laden to Taliban leader Mullah Omar written less than a month after Sept. 11, which offers an outline for terror. It reads like a low-key professor issuing a class syllabus — except this class is for advanced mayhem, with bin Laden’s 1. 2. 3./ a.b.c. outline detailing how al Qaeda’s terror campaign will divide America.
This unique look into a terror organization is fascinating, horrifying, important...and, so far, ignored by our mass media. Think about it, a reporter stumbles upon computers owned by the 9/11 masterminds. Now, we get a look at the motives of a mass murderer, bin Laden, and a stolen glimpse at how he’s trying to trick us into mistakes through his campaign of terror.
It’s strange that the story of al Qaeda’s computers discovered in Afghanistan has been largely overlooked, with details relegated to the pages of a monthly news magazine. (Cullison’s story is not to be confused with the computers discovered in Pakistan that led to the latest terror threat.) This lack of attention is symptomatic of a troubling fact: that al Qaeda has seemingly become a secondary focus in our “war on terror.”
But I’ll admit, too, that al Qaeda has faded in and out of my mind for some time now. At times, I choose to look, to read, to pursue truth about the organization I believe poses the most grave terror threat to us. Then, bothered, I don’t. Because I don’t want to. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to feel powerless. And it hurts to think of such bad intent constantly aimed our way.
I think many in our society deal with the same seesaw between logical and emotional weights that comes with troubling times.
But amid all of the struggles with ugly news, it seems important to keep some perspective on the overarching problem of our age. While we call it a “war on terror,” it seems more accurately defined as a “war on radical Islam.” And al Qaeda is a tumor in that cancerous limb of an established world religion.
In radical Islam, we confront a desperate, suicidal, death-loving force. I believe we must do everything in our power to combat it with all that is opposite, with all the greater aspects of humanity.
Goodness knows that’s a difficult proposition, when hate has so many trappings both near and far. We can see the evidence constantly. And we can easily feel defeated by it.
Or, is it pure foolishness to say that a true triumph over evil comes with love that works its way outward, from small to large, from the individual to the collective, and in that order?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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