Monday, August 29, 2011

How 9-11 Could Have Been Caught

Over at Vanity Fair, which has published some excellent articles on 9-11 over the last few years. This one is about how inter-agency squabbling prevented the US from getting the chance to tap every call made from
Electronic eavesdropping clearly had potential in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. But in the years before 9/11, when bin Laden’s terror plot was first being discussed, that potential remained limited. The reason was simple: Afghanistan had no cell phones, no Internet, and only a rudimentary landline network, which did not work at all outside the country’s largest cities. This could be remedied, however. Indeed, by the end of 1999, the Taliban government had embraced a full-fledged American scheme to install a modern cell-phone-and-Internet system in Afghanistan. It could have been up and running within months. The Taliban had already granted an exclusive license to a U.S.-owned firm, the Afghan Wireless Communications Company.

More to the point, electronic modifications concealed within the circuitry would have allowed every call and every e-mail emanating from Afghanistan to be relayed without interference to N.S.A. headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. “This project was a dream,” says one former senior F.B.I. counterterrorism specialist who knew about the scheme at the time. “To be able to wire up a country from ground level up—you don’t get too many opportunities like that.” No, you don’t. But at the critical moment, the Clinton administration put the project on hold, while rival U.S. agencies—the F.B.I., the N.S.A., and the C.I.A.—bickered over who should control it.

This highlights one of the central flaws in the Troofer view of the world. To them, the government is some kind of monolithic entity, while in reality it is dozens and dozens of mini-fiefdoms, each with its own chieftain. Indeed, even the individual entities have internal turf-battles:
Thus, while the C.I.A. was seeking overall control of the operation, there was also an inside fight over which of its sections—the Near East Division or the Counterterrorism Center—should take it over.

Kudos to commenter Paul W for pointing this one out.

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