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Despite billions spent on intelligence, we know very little

Written By | Sep 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, September 1, 2014 – The U.S. spends billions on intelligence, yet we always seem to be surprised by events in the world. George W. Bush told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and CIA Director George Tenet backed up this assessment. In fact, Iraq had no such weapons.

We invaded that country on the basis of false information.

More recently, the CIA and the NSA have been in the news, mostly for spying on Americans, even on our elected representatives in the Congress. When it came to Russia’s takeover of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, our intelligence community seemed surprised. They didn’t see it coming. And the rise of ISIS, or ISIL, or the Islamic State seems to have surprised everyone in Washington. No one seemed to know anything about it.

READ ALSO: Policy, not intelligence, failure in Irq

Indeed, the FBI’s most recent national threat assessment for domestic terrorism makes no reference to any Islamist terror threats , despite last year’s Boston Marathon bombing and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Instead, The Washington Times reports that the internal FBI intelligence report concluded in its 2013 assessment published in August that the threat to U.S. internal security from extremists is limited to attacks and activities by eight types of domestic extremist movements, none motivated by radical Islam.

While other intelligence agencies have now identified nearly a dozen Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group which the Obama administration now says poses the greatest threat to the U.S. since Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the FBI focuses on anti-government militia groups, black separatists and animal rights groups.

Patrick Poole, a domestic terrorism expert, blames “politically correct” policies at the FBI for the omission of the Islamic groups.  He said:

“At the same time we have senior members of the Obama administration openly saying that it’s not a question of if but when we have a terror attack targeting the U.S. by ISIL, we have the FBI putting on blinders  to make sure they don’t see that threat.

These politically correct policies have already allowed Americans to be killed at Fort Hood and in Boston.”

The administration in 2009 adopted a new policy that substituted the vague term “violent extremism” as a replacement for terrorism. Incredibly, the latest FBI report showed that domestic terrorists killed 43 people from 2000 to 2013 and left out all references to the April 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, which killed 3 people and injured some 264 others.

Two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who appear to have been motivated by extreme Islamist beliefs, carried out the bombing. They learned the techniques for the homemade pressure cooker bombs from an al Qaeda linked magazine.

The FBI had been warned in advance of the attack by Russian security services, who said that the brothers may have had links to Chechen terrorists. The FBI, however, failed to act.  The FBI report also made no direct reference to the 2009 Fort Hood shooting by radicalized Army Major Nidal Hassan.

The mass shooting left 13 dead and more than 30 injured. It was not categorized as terrorism but as “workplace violence.”

Former FBI agent John Guandolo says that, “The FBI, no matter how diligent its agents are in their pursuit of ‘terrorists,’ will never defeat this threat, because its leaders refuse to address or even identify it. This level of negligence on the part of the FBI leaders, and their failure to understand the jihadi threat 13 years after 9/11, is appalling.”

Patrick Poole notes that,

“In the case of Fort Hood, the FBI was monitoring Maj. Hassan’s email communication with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, but the FBI headquarters dismissed it because they were talking about ‘religious’ subjects. In the Boston bombing case, the FBI cleared Tamerlan Tsarnaev with nothing more than a house visit after receiving a tip from Russian intelligence, and never making the connection that he was attending a mosque founded by an imprisoned al Qaeda financier and previously attended by two convicted terrorists.”

Next Page: The Rapid Growth of the Islamic State

Allan C. Brownfeld

Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.