Homeland Defence the First Time

The Kaiser Sows Destruction by Michael Warner : In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, American intelligence agencies are sure to respond in ways that are likely to be profound. Though it is impossible to predict the long-term impact of the 9/11 attacks on intelligence agencies, history suggests that we are following in the steps of our predecessors.

On a summer night in New York City in 1916, a pier laden with a thousand tons of munitions destined for Britain, France, and Russia in their war against Imperial Germany suddenly caught fire and exploded with a force that scarred the Statue of Liberty with shrapnel, shattered windows in Times Square, rocked the Brooklyn Bridge, and woke sleepers as far away as Maryland. Within days, local authorities had concluded that the blasts at “Black Tom” pier were the work of German saboteurs seeking to destroy supplies headed from neutral America to Germany’s enemies.

Black Tom was but one of many incidents in the two-year German sabotage campaign in America before and during WWI, but it made a deep impression, and the parallels between the American response then and now are striking. The effects of the German sabotage campaign on American intelligence took at least three decades to work themselves out, and it is likely that the 9/11 attacks will also exert significant pressures for change in the American intelligence community for a long time to come.

Which is why the appointment of Henry Kissinger to head an official inquiry into national security problems, and his subsequent stepping down, to are ultimately pointless. As Fritz Schranck notes:

“…the creation and appointment of �official commissions� is a time-honored way to create a record on which political campaigns can be run. More often than not, these commissions exist to create the illusion of substantive action, while focused on the reality of political chit-building. Reviewing the facts and current laws and devising a non-partisan set of recommendations on the commission�s subject matter is a distant second in priority. (By the way, the official commission technique is used at all levels of government.)”

Official commissions run by politicians have their uses, but the real progress will be made by the agencies themselves, whose leaders must also play the political game to get the necessary resources to institute the necessary reforms. As history showed us during the German sabotage campaign and our response, this can be an incredibly slow process, taking decades to iron out the details. The intelligence community has a thankless job. The war they fight is only visable when they fail and their best hope is to fight to a stalemate.