Friday, September 12, 2008

FBI vs. CIA

Book cover of Book cover via Amazon Yesterday in class, a student asked why more wasn't done to stop the plot of 9/11. When I responded that the plot might not have been executed had the CIA shared information with the FBI, Mr. Bolos said he'd "quibble" with that idea and said there was a long history of rivalry between the departments.

While it is true that there has been a long-standing mistrust between these government agencies, relations became outright hostile in the years leading up to the World Trade Center attacks.

According to Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, "the CIA eagerly institutionalized the barrier that separated it from the Bureau" (343). The CIA "blocked the Bureau's investigation into the USS Cole attack [which] allowed the attack to proceed" (342). Further, Wright argues that John O'Neill, the FBI's point man on al-Qaeda could have "taken the morsels of evidence that the CIA was withholdingand marshaled a nationwide dragnet that would have stopped 9/11" (350).

The bi-partisan 9/11 Commission supports Wright's contentions by concluding that the CIA "didn't alert the State Department's 'TIPOFF' list"...nor did the CIA share this explosive informaiton with the FBI, which had primary domestic responsibility for protecting the United States from terrorism, and a team of agents specifically devoted to going after Al Qaeda" (Jane Mayer, The Dark Side, 15).

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5 comments:

sed said...

The problem with this scenario is that it assumes that the CIA was competent enough to:
a) understand the plot in all of its complexity
and
b) willfully and purposely avoid sharing this information out of rivalry with the FBI.

I, for one, don't believe either is possible. The CIA was (and likely is) far too incompetent and bureaucratic to understand complex plots against the US. In addition, it seems to me that if a number of CIA employees did in fact know of and understand the plot, at least one of them would have put country above bureaucratic infighting.

Doc OC said...

Clearly "a" is not possible --even with hindsight the plot is murky in places.

There is a great deal of evidence to support "b," however. The two books I cite in the initial post offer a great deal of evidence in support of this horrific scenario.

I don't think rivalry alone motivated them. Let's not forget the selfish motives of saving one's career.

Jackie said...

I think another thing is whether or not the CIA would ever take the threat seriously. The CIA probably gets hundreds of threats a day, almost none of which ever happen, and they really have to decide what to follow up on. The 9/11 attacks, I think we can all agree we thought that nothing like that would or ever could happen. So I think it is kind of unrealistic that the CIA would have even taken is really seriously in the first place. Even though we would all love to believe that the CIA looks as seriously as they should into everything.

Matt L. said...

The problem I have with Jackie's comment is that the reason why most of these attacks do not happen is because of the CIA and FBI working together, and foiling the plot. We do not hear about all the plots that they have stopped. Also, I think that if the intelligence was shared, and President Bush and his advisers paid more attention to the 9/11 plot, none of this would have happened.

Matt H said...

I just don't get it. These people are here to defend our country from attacks, internally and externally, and they can't get over their own egos and jealousy to protect us. If I were the president at the time of 9/11, I would have had the head of both branches, and their top employees fired for not doing their jobs. They failed the only part in their job description:
PROTECT AMERICA AT ALL COSTS!!!!!!