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Your Government Needs
to Get Its Act Together

Dick Clarke on … military planning:

The Army leadership’s arrogance was to believe that because they did not wish to fight an insurgency ever again after Vietnam, that the nation would never need them to do so, or the nation’s leaders would never order them into such a war. Not wanting to do it, they did not prepare for it …

It is one thing not to prepare for counterinsurgency in the hope that America will never have to fight one. It is quite another thing not to tell the President that you have little or no counterinsurgency capability when he directs you to conduct a war where an insurgency is likely. The point of not having a counterinsurgency capability was, presumably, so we would never have to fight one again. However, the strategy works only if you tell the Secretary of Defense or the President or the Congress the dirty little secret that you are not prepared for such a war. Then, if you are lucky, they will decide not to run the risk of going into a war that could result in a counterinsurgency. That strategy does not work if you remain silent.

… outsourcing intelligence:

A drive around northern Virginia reveals the many newly constructed high-rises in which private companies employ intelligence analysts to do the work that was formerly done only by government employees. Inside the buildings, in highly secured suites, analysts with top secret clearances write intelligence analyses for the CIA, DIA, and other agencies. Often the analyses are only slightly edited by government employees before being sent off to policy makers … When an analysis is done by a contractor, the corporate logo is usually replaced by CIA letterhead and the policy maker is often unaware that the CIA did not really produce the analysis; a for-profit corporation did … Between 50 and 60 percent of the workforce of the CIA’s most important directorate, the National Clandestine Service (NCS), responsible for the gathering of human intelligence, is composed of employees of for-profit corporations …

The hefty bonuses given senior officials in the contractor firms, along with the publicly reported profitability, are costs that would not have been accrued had the jobs been done in-house, in the government agencies. Cost, however, is not the determining factor in the outsourcing boom. Ease of execution is probably the driving consideration. After 9/11, when money flowed quickly and in large sums to intelligence agencies, it was the path of least resistance to simply sign contracts rather than to rebuild the intelligence community in a thoughtful way with a long-term strategic plan.

… ordinary and extraordinary rendition:

The word rendition has become associated with kidnapping people and throwing them into some third-country jail cell, torturing them, and never giving them a trial or due process. Yet before 9/11, I orchestrated renditions (overseas arrests and subsequent movement out of the country) and extraordinary renditions (those where we acted without the knowledge of the country in which the suspect was captured) without throwing out the U.S. legal system. Terrorist subjects who were subject to these renditions were almost all returned to the United States, read their rights, given defense counsel, prosecuted in criminal courts, and convicted. The United States could have handled cases of rendition after 9/11 as we had done earlier. It would have been burdensome, cumbersome, slow. It would have required an infusion of new resources into the justice system. But it would have been consistent with our principles and laws. We would have been acting in the way Americans used to act, morally, leading the world by example, in a way that differentiates us.

… cyber-terrorism:

We have to plan for the possibility that a concerted attack on the internet by a nation-state or a sophisticated nonstate actor could cause significant outages, with the result that power grids, financial networks, energy systems, transportation, and government and national security systems would be severely degraded. The government needs to develop a plan and a system in conjunction with the private sector to respond to that new kind of disaster, rapidly restoring order to cyberspace, prioritizing service restoration, and fighting off sustained attacks, including on privately owned and operated networks.

Finally, we need to think about what all of this means for our national defense. Ten years ago the U.S.S. Yorktown, a Navy cruiser, had to be towed back to port by a tug because the ship’s main computer, controlling all of its vital systems, crashed while using a version of a widely adopted computer operating system … We are building a 21st-century military that is completely dependent upon that net. Take it away, and most units will be about as useful as the French at Agincourt, as vulnerable as Achilles’ heel.

All excerpts from Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters, by Richard A. Clarke. Reprinted by arrangement with Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2008 by Richard A. Clarke.


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  ©2008 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 11/04/08