The prompt: ” . . . what $52 billion in “intelligence” does not buy: the ability to deny men such as the Tsarnaev brothers their platform for an attack.”
I’m starting to think these attacks are wanted to provide the engineering mindset with an end-point to process-based analysis. To analyze a path toward a crime, one might want to have the crime at hand for reverse engineering. Some things we catch up with, so one may not be able to shop up and store, say, 500 pounds of fertilizer without a clear and verifiable purpose associated with it, and other things, especially having to do with the life of the mind, afford deeper complexity (requiring large outlays for computer-based data capture and linguistic and pattern analysis).
Another facet: our military repeatedly purchases the last war.
If the last war was WWII, we want greater and more ships, aircraft, tanks, and conventional weapons defense and delivery systems: we’re buying for the same war, only larger.
In the post-Vietnam era, so one may imagine, investment in LIC, intelligence, public information channels, comes more to the forefront of concern — and we reduce the quantity of ships in the Navy while maintaining, somewhat, preparedness for a scenario still akin to conventional global war.
It’s not one or the other, of course, but a broad war fighting spectrum that nonetheless responds to the latest insult or exigency.
As you have noted, the posture remains reactive, “following the snake”.
Our intelligence industry may operate similarly as a bureaucracy posed against similar enemy state-based bureaucracies: it’s better prepared for analyzing the Khamenei regime’s plans and possibly tracking into Hezbollah global than it is with dealing with nutty non-state actors who build bombs on their kitchen tables without taking direct orders from on high.
In the past, when the fighting has either involved or wound down to anarchists and bandits, it’s very small and the casualties turn up limited and small too. However, armies of one or two armed with advanced small arms and improvised devices have a level of potency far in excess of what they would have in earlier days. Moreover, the economic, political, and social value of the victims of their evil has risen similarly: the low-educated, low-wage worker with or without family has been matched or overshadowed in incidence by highly-educated and skilled multitasking and wealth producing men and women with complex integration with family and society. Consider the value (cultural, economic, social) of the Tsarnaev brothers, college students with a malicious bent, in light of those they killed or maimed. One may NOW (instead of yesterday) expect our intelligence industry to tackle the problem of who may be building a bomb in the kitchen.
In that Bledsoe, Hassan, and the Tsarnaevs sent up caution flags bright enough for warning and watching and then got through suggests some pattern of watch-and-wait (until somebody dies at their hands).
As noted years ago, this brings up the subject of whether Americans should have to contend with detentions without charge.
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Goading a greater power into overreaction seems a well-enough established ploy in politics and war. It’s played against Israel every day with rocket launches from Gaza and attempts to perpetrate a terrorist acts from the west bank. It could play here as well with increased tempo in lone-gunman attacks. While we may wait for that stimulus to appear, one may only suppose our $52 billion annual spy budget pays some attention to the intellectual path taken by Muslim garage punks toward their appearance as marathon bombers.
When should the Feds have intervened and on what basis or evidence?
I wonder if deteriorating relations with Russia played into the Boston Marathon bombing. Putin and the new oligarchs have been handed a gift with global Islamic terrorism because they can do their thing in the background while promoting and cooperating within the anti-Jihad framework.
And while making it look like the United States is the party falling down.
The topic would not be in correspondence if Carl Bledsoe, Nidal Malik Hasan, and the Tsarnaev brothers hadn’t been somewhere on the domestic and international security radars prior to committing their crimes. Each was a suspected quantity or an officially tracked one known to one intelligence organization or another or to military personnel. Failure to signal or act — silence and watching — enabled them.
Obama said that “the pressure we put on al Qaeda and other networks that are well financed and more sophisticated” has pushed potential terrorists to the margins, where they are forced to plot smaller-level attacks that are tougher to track.
Obama warns of challenge in tracking lone wolf terrorists | TheHill – 4/30/2013.
Have things changed?
How would we know?
In defense of multiple Administrations in Washington, D.C., one might suggest that empirical approaches to any emergent threat scenario wants for a multidimensional approach — examination of the political, psychological, linguistic, social, and behavioral predicates.
It may not be too much to look into patterns in consumer purchases (potential procurement receipts) in the search for predictive data.
However, as suggested by the shared correspondence, the discovery of such a relationship may correspond only to the last thing that happened, not the next thing that’s Out There.
Also, this theme may get into more than the latent fears the American rugged individualist has toward the Federal “Big Brother” — I was surprised — only momentarily 🙂 — to receive on the look-up of “terrorism law fertilizer” (close enough) this link: West Fertilizer Violated Federal Anti-Terror Regulations – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money – 4/21/2013.
I generally maintain that rough observable behavior — like the purchase of a large quantity of fertilizer by other than a trusted farmer — is far easier to track than individual thought and, when shared, cabal and conspiracy, which best armor is always privacy guarded by silence.
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