February 10, 2016–We have again marked the annual exercise–it’s not yet risen (or is that “descended”) to the level of a “tradition”–where the intelligence agency chiefs appear to present their assessments of the array of threats currently facing the nation. You can believe me that many zillions of hours of staff time go into figuring out what to say, how to say it, and making sure the heads of the different agencies present a unified picture.
Lead man is General James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), under the current scheme headman of the spy community, whom we’ve taken to calling “Fearful Leader” for his combination of inability to present a level-headed view, excessive deference to bureaucratic politics, and myopic dedication to secrecy, leading him to lie outright to his congressional overseers (and the American people).
At least this year Fearful Leader managed to avoid the trap of telling us the biggest threat to American security is our own spies (that is, whistleblowers). But Clapper’s whopper is nearly that myopic. Now the national security super threat is “home grown terrorists.” This gem of idiocy has gotten popular among the security services lately, and I’ve not got much time today, but I can’t let this pass again without saying something.
The “home grown terrorist” is the person, like the couple in San Bernardino, California; or the crew who perpetrated that tragedy in Paris. These people either long want to strike a blow for jihad, or they recruit themselves, reading and watching material that finally leads them to the same place. Every time there is one of these incidents it is distressing and horrible but that is not the same thing as a national security threat. These people strike in their immediate surroundings. The victims are friends, associates, casual passer-bys at stores, concerts, whatever. Random attacks are not a strategy unless the level of the attacks, the sheer volume of the attacks becomes so high it inhibits routine functions of society. We are many orders of magnitude away from the point that becomes a true national security threat. These random attacks are serendipitous, not aimed, do not strike critical targets, and are not directed–except in the sense that ISIS (or anyone else) bids recruits to go out and act like mosquitos.
To see a nuisance as the major national security threat facing the United States–and, for that matter, civilized society–is a measure of the lack of realism of our intelligence officials lined up behind Fearful Leader.
The sooner we wake up and learn to make this distinction the more quickly we can begin to rise out of the quicksand of hysteria into which Fearful Leader–and others–are trying to lead us.