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free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English
reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.
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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.
the COGENT PROVOCATEUR:
free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.
OTHER GOOD STUFF:
Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
--- What Did We Know, and What Difference Does It Make? ---In the days following 9/11, CP observed that dredging the intelligence backwaters would turn up any number of artifacts that we could read in retrospect to suggest "somebody knew -- or should have known" ... and that the same would be true of any number of catastrophes that didn't happen ... and that we shouldn't take too much of this too seriously. [UPDATE: Thanks to InstaPundit.com for digging out this 9/17 post to Slate Fray. I agree with Glenn, BTW, the excuse "we never thought of suicide hijackers using airplanes as bombs" is inexcusably lame. Mainstream press hasn't thrashed this one as much as it deserves, but they will ... so I won't. Could we have acted effectively on nonspecific information? We could have shifted the odds and/or lead the adversary to duck and reschedule. Does it matter now? Not all that much.]
There is no shortage of supportive conspiracy fodder, and no doubt GWB profited handsomely from the 9/11 "Trifecta", but Big Oil Theory and Wag the Dog Conspiracy muckrakers are raking over the wrong fields of muck.
Among questions that might more reasonably be asked ...
Why were committees of jurisdiction not informed earlier?
Intelligence and Judiciary Committees have been low key, patient and respectful ... but they can't very well ignore a vigilance failure of historic proportion ... and they certainly can't go along with Cheney's earlier intimation that probing too deeply would play into the hands of Evil Axers.
Knowing these connectible dots would surface eventually, why not throw 'em on the table before GWB's "rally 'round the flag" aura started to evaporate?
Did the Bush Administration brief congressional leaders differently, depending on party affiliation?
As with the executive continuity plans directly following 9/11, Republican and Democratic leaders give conflicting accounts of what they were given. Damning if true. A tad less damning if false.
Have GOP Congressional leaders misrepresented their states of knowledge? If so, why? Misguided attempts to provide cover for the White House? Why wouldn't the White House get out in front with clarifications?
On the third hand, differences could track back to simple misunderstandings, or misrecollections, or purposeful offorts to deny external foes a window into US security measures and state of knowledge.
Did institutional agendas keep CIA, FBI, NSC, etc., from connecting the available dots?
CP's spider-sense started tingling years ago, when the Clinton transition FileGate investigation revealed:
(1) Multiple agencies with topmost security missions (including FBI, Secret Service, and OPS) failed to connect the dots regarding each others' persons of interest.
(2) These same agencies failed to maintain the infrastructure (data definition, data exchange, database hygiene) necessary to connect such dots, assuming they wanted to.
(3) Agency brass were relatively less concerned about curing exploitable vulnerabilities, and relatively more concerned about deflecting public embarrassment.
(4) Agency brass, in sworn public congressional testimony, were very willing to misrepresent the diligence they had or had not exercised.
Did a decade of quixotic trophy-hunting divert precious national security bandwidth?
The FBI spent many times more agency resource trying to take down WJC (or lesser targets, such as Janet Reno) than they spent mousing out Osama bin Laden's local affiliates. Much of this was pursuant to court orders, congressional committees and special prosecutors. But some of it was pure uncontained native enthusiasm ... natural enmity for opposite-cultured public figures, the thrill of the hunt, apple-polishing for the Director, and/or the same twists of unappreciated genius that led Hanssen to take up the spy game.
You lay awake at night trying to think of unthinkables ... trying to connect the dots outside the box ... which trail of dots does your mind's eye reach for first? Mohammed's? Or McDougal's?
Did pipeline politics induce GWB to delay acting against al Qaeda?
The action package was on Bush's desk in late summer 2001 ... the same package he brushed up with bombastic rhetoric and green-lighted a few weeks later as the "War on Terrorism" ... an upgrade of a package left by the outgoing administration as a housewarming gift. There could have been any number of good reasons to keep it on ice, to take it under advisement, to send it back for revisions ... Powell's caution, the Iraq Hawks' strategic imperatives, cross-currents from Israel or India or Indonesia, even competing domestic agendas (again, the bandwidth problem). But there could also have been less savory reasons, or at least reasons that wouldn't harmonize with Ari's "that was then, this is now" all-purpose talking point. [UPDATE: NBC breaks the top secret National Security Decision Directive story ... not all that secret, though, was it?]
This may not be as exciting as the X Files version of 9/11 ... but it's a much more promising place to start digging.