Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 /4 Tamuz 5762

Clarence Page

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Consumer Reports

Bush's security plan leaves large gaps | Feel safer yet? A Gallup poll taken shortly after President Bush's televised announcement of plans for a new Cabinet-level homeland security department shows an impressive 72 percent approval rating for the plan, according to CNN. But a closer examination of this plan reveals some holes big enough to drive a truck bomb through.

Politically, Bush's address also had the desired effect of diverting attention from the riveting testimony of FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley on that very day in House-Senate intelligence hearings. She shook up Washington more than anyone else with her accounts of failures by FBI headquarters to "connect the dots" of critical information gathered before Sept. 11 by FBI field offices like the one in Minneapolis where she worked.

Bush's answer to this bureaucratic snarl is to layer on more bureaucracy. His new department will bring 46 agencies as varied as the Coast Guard and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center under a new Cabinet secretary.

But his plan offers nothing to reduce the inbred resistance of the FBI, CIA or supersecret National Security Agency to share any more information than they share now. Information sharing is how agencies gather the dots that analysts are supposed to connect. But Bush's plan leaves the CIA and FBI autonomous and largely untouched, along with their troublesome internal cultures that prevent them from talking to one another.

"This new department will review intelligence and law enforcement information from all agencies of government and produce a single daily picture of threats against our homeland," Bush said. "Analysts will be responsible for imagining the worst and planning to counter it. The reason to create this department is not to create the size of government, but to increase its focus and effectiveness."

Well, good luck with that, Mr. President.

Dedicated as our counterintelligence agents and analysts may be, they also are proud of what they do. In their cultures, where information is jealously gathered and guarded and sometimes bartered like currency, Bush's happy vision of agents sharing key information has its incentives backward, sort of like bureaucratic socialism - from each agent according to his or her ability to the new cabinet secretary according to his or her needs. Karl Marx would be delighted.

A retired FBI agent once explained interagency rivalry to me like this:

"Say you've been working on a big investigative story. You've just about got it nailed when your editor steps in and says you have to share your most important information with the competing newspaper across the street. How enthusiastic would you feel?"

It is instructive to remember how President Harry Truman hoped reorganizing the military services into the new Department of Defense after World War II would end their rivalries. Quite the opposite, we still see instances like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent dispute over a new mobile cannon that the Army wants but his office does not. It is fortunate that our service branches are able to get together at least long enough to fight a war, now and then.

Bush considered bringing the FBI and CIA under the new department, which would have been a truly dramatic move, but decided to leave them where they are. Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card says Bush decided that move would have concentrated too much power in one agency, like the ministries of the interior around the world that allow totalitarian regimes to spy on their own citizens.

Instead, Bush has rearranged existing agencies into a cumbersome arrangement that Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., initially likened to "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Again, do you feel safer yet? Despite the president's dauntingly high approval ratings, Congress needs to examine Bush's plan critically in order to resolve the gaping questions it leaves unanswered.

A pretty good plan, hatched in the heat of spin control, isn't good enough. Government's big disadvantage in fighting terrorism, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once observed, is that it must be "perfect" while the terrorists only have to be "lucky." Nobody's perfect, but, as the intended targets of terrorists, we Americans need to come as close as we can. We can't get by on luck.

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05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
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04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

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