Most of us know where we were on Sept. 11, 2011. I was sitting in an auto service waiting room, having my car tires replaced. It is likely not many people there knew why this disaster occurred or what could have caused it, but I felt that I understood why.
I hurried home and wrote a letter to the St. Petersburg Times that was published the next day, on Sept. 12, 2001.
During my career, I had worked frequently with and for the CIA and NSA, and I knew that our intelligence services had failed to do the very job they were supposed to do. I knew why, but I didn’t want to say so.
I had observed firsthand the infighting, the lack of focus, the unhealthy competition, and the outright neglect and lack of cooperation inside our major intelligence services and between them as well. I knew that the FBI also deserved its share of the blame. These organizations were not incompetent; but their unwieldy bureaucracy, combined with some poor management and professional jealousy, caused them to lose sight of their primary goals.
My opinions had been further influenced by my assignment in Iran more than 30 years ago, during the height of the revolution when the Shah was deposed and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to establish a radical theocracy. This was a time when no American could feel safe, and some were assassinated. On my frequent trips to Washington, D.C., the presence of Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis and others from the Middle East in the seat of our government became a common sight that always concerned me. Although most of them probably were patriotic, I wondered if some of them might not be totally dedicated to our country’s welfare. It was clear to me that the success of the 9/11 operation was the result of poor immigration control and poor intelligence by our government plus superb coordination and planning by the perpetrators, assisted by a robust network inside our country — unidentified people who are still here and could be planning their next attempt.
As a member of corporate management, I had the opportunity to see our intelligence agencies from the outside and the inside, and I know they still have problems. A recent TV program on “60 minutes” highlighted some of their shortcomings and their continuing reluctance to work closer together. None of them want to give up their share of the turf, yet our security depends on them and other such agencies. We are fortunate that no more terrorism has been consummated on our soil, but we should demand from our government that it provide better protection of our borders. The violent extremists are waiting for us to make a mistake.
retired engineering manager