The below discussion focuses on the question is America any safer since 9/11 and has the intelligence community been politicized. Before writing this post, I viewed Frontline’s video report “Top Secret America – 9/11 to the Boston Bombings” at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365004424/. As a side note, this post was originally authored in the beginning of April 2016.
September 11, 2001: Policy Implications
The United States’ reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was unprecedented. The President and the Congress were willing to take whatever measures were necessary to bring the terrorists to justice. This included, first, the relaxing of the “normal” rules America has played by in the past, and second, a massive amount of spending. Central to the policy shift was the broad Authorization of Use of Military Force (S.J. Res. 23), which was granted to the President by Congress and the executive interpretation of the boundaries (Yoo, 2007).
In an interview with Frontline, former CIA attorney John Rizzo, was asked about the one billion dollars President Bush gave the CIA to respond to the attacks. Rizzo stated that before the money could be addressed, they needed a presidential authorization or finding. In reference to the finding that was drafted, Rizzo stated, “I have never in my experience been part of or ever seen a presidential authorization as far-reaching and as aggressive in scope. It was extraordinary” (Moughty, 2011, para. 18).
The phrase Rizzo recalled was from Cofer Black, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. He approached this very aggressively and referred to it as “take(ing) the gloves off” (Moughty, 2011). His meaning was described as the President wanting options and operations to find those responsible for the attacks and prevent them from happening again (Moughty, 2011, para. 24).
CIA’s response to 9/11
Cofer Black and the CIA had options ready for the president—everything from enhanced interrogation to renditions to later building their own jails in foreign countries. These actives were guided by the broad legal interpretations of executive authority (Yoo, 2007). The CIA was also the first to have “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan as part of Operation Greystone. President Bush wanted the CIA in there first to wage a covert war. They did this by keeping the number of CIA personnel low and working with locals. It showed that the CIA was capable of fighting—and winning—battles (Frontline, 2013). Michael Morell, former Deputy Director of the CIA, noted, “This was the CIA’s finest hour . . . A handful of CIA officers working closely with a small number of military Special Forces operators moved mountains . . . Twenty-first century military tactics merged flawlessly with methods from the seventeenth century” (Morell, 2015, p. 70). Morell gives credit for the CIA’s success to building a relationship with Afghan tribal leaders. Money probably didn’t hurt either: “One of my friends once delivered a briefcase holding a million dollars to one of the key Northern Alliance leaders” (Morell, 2015, p.70). Continue reading