A Modest Proposal for Improving U.S. Intelligence Operations
See Something, Say Something and Law enforcement Will Do Nothing
A number of years ago, a friend and I were discussing how to improve our intelligence operations which to outsiders seem clumsy, not up to the task and subject to numerous damaging leaks. It occurred to us then that the best thing was to leave Langley alone and just buy a newspaper. First Amendment considerations mean that no one could force them to testify before Congress as to their operations, they’d be free of any Freedom of Information Act or records keeping requirements, they could fire incompetents easily, and under cover of a newsgathering operation they could interview people at will. This week as the U.S. newspapers rolled out their bilge about Orlando and the failures of our intelligence agencies became too obvious to ignore, I compared it with the more developed, factual accounts in Britain’s Daily Mail, and I think the idea continues to have great merit.
While the distressing failures of the FBI and local law enforcement to follow through on evidence that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was a dangerous radicalized person, no apparent effort was made to suspend his security guard license or keep watch on his firearm and ammunition purchases. Internal operating instructions of the FBI limited the amount of time they could keep watch on him and both the local and federal authorities were paralyzed by fear of being dubbed Islamophobic. So chilling accounts by his fellow workers were discounted as the result of prejudice, and a report by a local gun shop that he’d tried without success to purchase “body armor and bulk ammunition from the store” was ignored.
Although the FBI interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014 following reports by his fellow workers nothing was done -- not even to suspend his security licenses or keep tabs on his firearm and ammunition purchases.
Authorities say they are continuing to explore whether other people may be connected to the case. The investigation into Mateen has expanded to look at other people and stretches from Florida to Kabul. Mateen’s family is originally from Afghanistan.
Comey said Mateen, who worked as a contract security guard at a local courthouse, claimed in 2013 to coworkers that he had family connections to al-Qaeda and was a member of Hizb’alah, two opposing terrorist groups that have clashed repeatedly in Syria.
The FBI director called the comments “inflammatory and contradictory.”
Comey said Mateen also told colleagues that he had mutual acquaintances with the Tsarnaev brothers, who were responsible for the Boston bombing. He spoke of a martyr’s death. Co-workers brought his claims to the attention of the local sheriff’s department, which passed them along to the FBI.
The FBI opened what is known as a preliminary investigation -- one of hundreds that the bureau handles at any one time and that typically last six months. Comey said the investigation was extended once with the approval of an FBI supervisor at the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Miami.
Although Disney warned authorities that Mateen had been quite obviously casing their venues, nothing was done. It reminded us of the bobbled work on the Tsarnaev bothers where local cops missed obvious clues in an earlier murder of three men by the brothers and ignored Russian warnings about them.
David Gomez, a former senior FBI counterterrorism official in Seattle, wrote in an online posting titled “How Did The FBI Miss Omar Mateen?” that “perhaps it is time to revisit” the basic legal standard that the FBI requires probable cause of a likely crime to open full-scale investigations.
And James McJunkin, who once headed the FBI’s counterterrorism division, said that if agents didn’t dig deep enough in Orlando, it was probably because they were hampered by FBI guidelines. He said in preliminary investigations, for instance, there is a cap on the number of hours agents can conduct surveillance.
“Those are rules or guidelines that were written by lawyers who don’t have the responsibility or accountability for doing thorough investigations,’’ McJunkin said. The agents probing Mateen, he added, “ran out of leads based upon the tools that they applied. But if they had more tools, would they have found more leads?’’
Experts who study terrorism said that the bureau might require more agents and analysts to fight a metastasizing terror threat in which potential recruits are flooded with information online. FBI officials have said they have nearly 1,000 open investigations involving the Islamic State in all 50 states.
If that’s the problem, it will only get worse. Obama is on track to
How closely is the agency following up on Mateen’s connections? Your guess is as good as mine, but from published reports it’s not clear that they are.
Witnesses say his wife drove him to the Pulse nightclub -- scene of the carnage. He transferred his life insurance and gave her access to bank accounts to her shortly before the shootings and texted her as he was murdering and injuring almost 100 people. There have been reports that the authorities are planning to arrest her, but where is she?
His wife’s whereabouts are unknown. She was the subject of a crazy story in Huffington Post which indicated she was questioned and given an electronic bracelet to wear, a report later corrected:
Correction: This article originally stated “Noor Zahi Salman is apparently ‘free’, but with an electronic bracelet.” That sentence has now been removed. In fact, my source now tells me that she doesn’t have a electronic bracelet on her, she has rather been told by the FBI to keep a phone they gave her. My source states: “The FBI was waiting for a search warrant and that apparently didn’t come as fast as they wanted so they asked if they could search the apartment. She said she had nothing to hide and signed something allowing them to take her phone, ipad, and a camera. Again, she said she had nothing to hide and they could have them. The FBI gave her a cell phone to carry with her in the mean time (and possibly in place of a bracelet as a tracking device). After she gave the authorization to take the items is when they said she was free to go.” [Correction added June 16 at approx 11:05 ET a.m.] To clarify: I believe that the misunderstanding over the electronic bracelet occurred because Noor Zahi Salman and/or a friend or relative offered for the FBI to put a electronic bracelet on her as a condition of release, but the FBI was willing to let her go if she checked in with a phone. This would seem to speak to the level of her cooperation. [June 16 at approx 3:15 ET p.m.]
Mateen transferred title to his home to his sister at about the same time, and his brother in law refused to tell a reporter whether he had advance knowledge of the mayhem by his brother-in-law.
The Fog of Fake Narratives Descends on Us
The director of the CIA warns that ISIS is not “contained and we can expect more attacks in the West.
We know from this incident, the Boston Bombing, and the San Bernardino shootings that the government is unable to offer us any significant protection no matter how many clues they are given. So what’s the answer? Disarm us, scream the nincompoops in the press.
Instead of probing more deeply whether or not the attorney general, CIA director Brennan, the FBI, local law enforcement contributed through negligence and wrongheaded policies to this disaster, the media has been given to repeating false accounts that the responsibility lies with lax gun laws, that the gunman used an “assault rifle” that the slaughter was occasioned by Christian homophobia -- ridiculous explanations falling on the receptive ears of too many:
As are the charges that Trump is anti Moslem and homophobic -- odd charges against someone who 16 years ago challenged the Clintons on their homophobia.
In the same manner, they are promoting stories that Trump is falling far behind Clinton in the polls and cannot hope to catch up, that people oppose his get tough on terrorism and close the borders themes, and that there’s a plot afoot to steal the nomination from him.
A little historic research might indicate that polls in early summer are not exactly bellwethers for general elections held in November.
In June of '48 Dewey had an 11-point lead over Truman. You may dismiss this as a result of early polling flaws, but the failed reading of the entrails was also true in the summers of 1988 and 1992.
In May of 1988 E.J. Dionne,Jr. wrote:
Michael S. Dukakis is capitalizing on deep public doubts about Vice President Bush and the Reagan Administration's handling of key issues and has emerged as the early favorite for the Presidential election in November, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Mr. Dukakis, the probable Democratic nominee, ran ahead of Mr. Bush, the almost certain Republican candidate, by 49 percent to 39 percent among 1,056 registered voters.
The survey, conducted May 9-12, represented a significant advance for Mr. Dukakis since a Times/CBS News Poll in March when Mr. Bush had 46 percent and Mr. Dukakis had 45 percent.
In the latest poll, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts led in all regions, but he ran especially well in the Northeast and Middle West. The poll found Mr. Dukakis with very substantial advantages over Mr. Bush among women, union members, Roman Catholics and blacks. Shift Since 1984 Election
Strikingly, 28 percent of those who said they voted for President Reagan in 1984 said they preferred Mr. Dukakis over Mr. Bush this time; only 9 percent of those who said they backed Walter F. Mondale in 1984 switched to Mr. Bush. Mr. Dukakis was also far ahead among those who said they did not vote in 1984, and he scored well even in groups where President Reagan continues to be popular - notably among voters under 30 years old.
By July Dukakis’ lead had widened:
Fifty-five percent of the 948 registered voters interviewed in the poll said they preferred to see Mr. Dukakis win the 1988 Presidential election, while 38 percent said they preferred to see Mr. Bush win. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
This represented a shift in Mr. Dukakis's lead from the 47 percent to 41 percent advantage he held in the last pre-convention Gallup Poll, taken by telephone July 8-10. In that poll, 1,001 registered voters were interviewed.
The same pattern was true in 1992.
In June of 1992 polls showed Clinton was 6 points behind HW Bush and Perot led them both:
Clinton 25% HW Bush31% (Perot) 39%
Clinton 24% HW Bush 32% (Perot) 34%
Clinton 27% HW Bush 33%
Given the unprecedented nature of this election, polls in June seem to me to be particularly unreliable this summer. Remember the poll analysis site Fivethirtyeight dismissed out of hand that Trump would win the Republican primary this year.
So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era.4 And second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity. For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case; it’s still too soon for that.
But the polls are being used to drum up both despair and paranoia among Republican voters, suggesting there’s a plan to deprive Trump of the nomination at the convention. True, there are a handful of out of work consultants and lost-their audience pundits calling for it, but no such plan is underfoot or likely to occur.
Sean M. Spicer, the chief strategist and communications director of the GOP, has said so:
Donald Trump bested 16 highly qualified candidates and received more primary votes than any candidate in Republican Party history. All of the discussion about the RNC Rules Committee acting to undermine the presumptive nominee is silly. There is no organized effort, strategy or leader of this so-called movement, It is nothing more than a media creation and a series of tweets.
California in June is often covered in fog and overcast skies -- known as “June gloom”. Don’t’ let that settle over you. Stay alert -- lots of phony baloney narratives are descending on us.