Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spying Blind

I was catching up on some DVR recordings today and just finished watching Amy Zegart, an associate professor of public policy at UCLA, talk about her new book "Spying Blind".

First let me say for a policy wonk Zegart is kind of cute, so that gives her added credibility in my book. Unfortunately she dropped a hint that she is married. Oh well back to the book.

Zegart's basic argument is that the failure to prevent 9/11 wasn't a case of individual failures at the CIA and the FBI, but was really a result of the two agencies failure to adapt to a post cold-war world. This despite the fact that the individuals within the agencies, some of the leadership of the agencies and numerous commissions and study groups had long identified the need.

It is her contention that the bureaucratic inertia was just too strong to be overcome, and in her talk she gave a number of examples. The funniest one was the "Green Badge" .

Apparently at one point George Tenet attempted to institute a system in which agents with Blue Badges would be allowed access to the spaces and computers of the other agencies. One of those chosen cut his badge up and laminated his old ID back together because he worked for the NSA by God and he didn't want anyone thinking otherwise.

It's that type of thinking which according to Zegart continually undermines efforts at reform and makes our intelligence agencies less useful that they should be.

After watching her talk I definitely think I will be ordering her book.

More from Prof. Zegart herself at the Volokh Conspiracy

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