Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

What has all our intelligence spending bought us?

Craig Napier//December 31, 2009//

What has all our intelligence spending bought us?

Craig Napier//December 31, 2009//

Listen to this article

The recent attempt to blow up another plane over American soil was a side note to Christmas for my day filled with toddler toys and making the Legos look like what’s on the outside of the box.

The snow in Kansas City was too deep for a mid-Midwesterner to deal with on any level of consciousness above daydreaming – though, as I was at the in-laws helping them prepare for a day of Christmas visitors, I got to daydream my way around their driveway with a shovel.

Now that is some reality. Five to 10 inches of snow fell across the K.C. metro area, and I got to shovel a driveway with about 6 to 8 inches. I wish I could have just watched, but I had to jump right in there and get after it.

This jumping right in there business brings me to what’s on my mind this week – the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253.

A passenger on the flight thwarted the Nigerian terrorist’s ham-fisted attempts to ignite a underwear bomb by jumping right in there – or on there, whichever the case may be – and stopping him.

I first saw the story ticking by at the bottom of a news channel as I surfed around for a short time all sweaty from shoveling, peeling layers of clothes off of myself as I drank water and panted as if I had no sweat glands.

They briefly mentioned everyone was fine and it appeared passengers thwarted the attempt. Amazing, I thought.

Then I immediately got the 18-month-old to say “amazing” for me, and I was off to shower and get on with my holiday festivities.

It was a few days later that I began reading the harrowing tale of pants on fire and a group attempt to put the fire out while a Dutch guy jumped on the 23-year-old African to hold him down until the flight was safely on the ground.

Talk about a failure. I mean we lawyers lose hearings or even trials at times, but how do you explain being a suicide bomber without a suicide or a bombing? It’s kind of like calling yourself a bus driver but walking down the road in sneakers.

He’ll find a new vocation, I’m sure. Maybe he’ll start a program to indoctrinate gang-bangers with radical Islamic ideology. I love that First Amendment. Is it first because it’s the most important or the hardest to live by?

I’m not sure of that one, but what I am sure about is that the Department of Homeland Security is a big festering boil on the backside of the democracy.

In the words of the colorful vernacular found in “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a delightful animated movie from Wes Anderson, it’s cussing cussed and I don’t want to cussing hear about it any cussing more.

Now that the expletives are off my chest, I have to cop to the fact that maybe it’s the whole military-security-intelligence complex that I have to be upset with. Did any of them read the 9/11 Commission Final Report?

Well, I didn’t read the whole thing, but I have read the table of contents, and there is a whole section 13, How To Do It? A Different Way of Organizing the Government.

The section begins: “As presently configured, the national security institutions of the U.S. government are still the institutions constructed to win the Cold War. The United States confronts a very different world today.”

And today, more than eight years after Sept. 11, 2001, the military-security-intelligence complex is again doing their best “Who’s on first?” routine.

I’m a little upset about the whole sordid affair.

Eight years ago, Congress rubber-stamped everything the Bush-Cheney administration wanted to do concerning fighting terrorism, and nothing has changed.

President Obama and his administration have had a year, and the same shenanigans are at play. The only difference is that the average plane passenger is a little paranoid and totally jaded enough to act first, assuming the guy on fire a few rows up is a terrorist and worry about the fallout later.

Here there wasn’t any fallout because the guy clearly was a terrorist.

A terrorist whose own father had reported to the State Department in Nigeria that his son was getting trained in Yemen to be a radical, yet the young man was still given a visa to enter this country. A terrorist whose plot was intercepted months ago by the National Security Agency when al-Qaida leaders discussed it on their cellphones but no one considered important enough to warn anyone about a heightened security risk.

We’ve spent billions of dollars over the last eight years trying to improve the intelligence flow and secret communications in our intelligence systems.

I am confident to start I could get a few hundred computers and a few hundred patriotic computer geeks and we could do a better job of flagging people who are training to be terrorists – at least when their parents report it to us for sure.

It’s the same thing over again.

And we have spent billions on a war in Iraq that makes us no safer from this stuff, and the last administration completely ignored the growing issues outside of their declared wars.

The current administration better take it to heart that the old Cold War reality is completely dead, that if you throw money at a problem it gets better, or it shrivels up and dies.

I hope this may give Congress the political will to do something about the cluster-cuss that doubles as intelligence in this country, and certainly once the president gets his health care bill he can get on with the task of dismantling the old profit-driven war machine and give us a leaner, meaner, high-tech, integrated intelligence and military apparatus to lead us into the 22nd century.

Or they can all just point to third base and hope the finger pointing satiates the air-traveling constituency and the potential victims of plane bombs all over the country.

“I don’t know? Third base!”

Craig Napier is an attorney in the Kirksville office of the Missouri State Public Defender System. He can be reached at [email protected].

Latest Opinion Digests

See all digests

Top stories

See more news