The State Department and the CIA are now finding that their 2003 Patterns of Global Terrorism report was completely inaccurate and dramatically underestimated the number of terrorist attacks.
Now intelligence is an inexact science, and it’s understandable that mistakes will be made when analysts attempt to peer through the fog of war. However, when one’s dealing with something that anyone with a Lexis-Nexis account can fact-check, it is an entirely different manner. This kind of screwup is inexcusable, especially with dealing with such a critical document. Why in the world someone didn’t go over those numbers with a fine-tooth comb and discover such a set of apparently glaring errors is entirely beyond me. However, it speaks to a system that is in dire need of reform.
The bureaucracies of the State Dept. and the CIA need dramatic reforms. Our intelligence systems have been allowed to degrade through actions like the Church Commission (which gutted our human intelligence systems) and a reliance on high-tech electronic measures which are no substitute for on-the-ground analysis. We need more analysts and fewer bureaucrats.
Of course partisans will seize on this as another Bush Administration “lie” despite the fact that it appears to be ignorance rather than malice behind this mistake. In any event, as Senator Kerry was part and parcel of this process of weakening our national intelligence systems, he makes an implausible champion for the cause of reform. Instead, President Bush needs to get a handle on this situation by appointing a CIA director who will clean house at Langley as well as pushing for a changeover at the State Department. In a time of war, the last thing we need is to have an intelligence system that can’t get its facts straight.