Why does the CIA fail so consistently to anticipate "terror"?
How can the most sophisticated, pervasive, technologically advanced, and expensive intelligence organisation the world has ever known fail so consistently to anticipate "terror" operations in the homeland?
There are 6 billion people in this world. How can any organization possibly monitor every single bad person who may or may not do something evil?
Bad people do bad things. They have since the beginning of time, and always will. Nothing will ever stop it. That is life.
I think it's like they say, we have to be right 100% of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once.
We will never know how many attacks the CIA, FBI et. al. have foiled but I will bet it is a number that would scare you.
Always room to make it better though, but I think they do a pretty good job overall.
Partly because it's very difficult. Partly because the CIA has often busy doing things other than gathering intelligence. These days, it spends a lot of time on targeted assasinations via drone aircraft. During the Cold War, it spent a lot of time on attempts at government overthrows.
As a spy service, it has never been particularly good. Forget about missing terrorist attacks. What about the North Korean invasion of South Korea, the storming of the Iranian embassy, the fall of the Soviet Union, or numerous other intelligence mishaps? Much of the CIA's reputation is based more on mystique than on its record.
They can't read people's minds or be everywhere at once. Do we really want the CIA or FBI down our throats everytime we buy fertilizer or some other substance that MAY make a bomb? It is just an overwhelming task and when something like the horrible Boston Bombing happens we seem to feel the need to place blame. The blame rests squarely on the shoulder of the young men who placed the bombs.
I think over all our country (USA) has done a good job of protecting its people. They have foiled quite a few attempts.
There are several reasons. The most fundamental is the nature of security. Imagine you want to keep intruders out of a building: You must protect every door and window. But an intruder only needs to break into one. Attack is always easier than defense. Second, as others mentioned, there are thousands of potential attackers for every CIA agent.
Third, and this is a good thing, the CIA can't operate in US territory. Only the FBI, under much tighter legal restrictions, can. And although they are communicating better than before 9/11, inter-agency communication is always a challenge.
Fourth, you don't know how often the CIA and FBI succeed. It is likely that they have stopped hundreds or thousands of attacks per year. It's not fair to measure only by the ones that get through, and, for security reasons, we can't get all the data.
Lastly, and most importantly, we choose to live in a free country. Tamerlan, the older brother in the Boston Marathom bombings was a suspect, but was still allowed to visit his homeland in Russia and Chechnya. Would you want the government to say, "We think you might be a terrorist, so you can't go home and visit family?" I write more about terrorism as the cost of freedom in my hub: Boston Marathon Bombings: The Cost of Living in a Free Society.
How can you say consistently? Who knows how many terrorist attacks have been thwarted because of their excellent, diligent work.
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