One of the greatest terror attack to have every being carried out on the U.S soil was 9/11 attack. It left many people dead and injured. The occurrence of the attack is largely blamed on weakness in the U.S intelligence processes, particularly in the area of data analysis. According to Cooper “a wide range of problems has contributed to the unease currently pervading the Intelligence Community; a significant number of the most serious result from shortcomings in intelligence analysis rather than from defects in collection, organization, or management (Cooper, 2005).” From the observation made by cooper it is evident that 9/11 attack occurred due to intelligence community failure to provide accurate and actionable intelligence to the law enforcement agencies that would have helped in preventing the attack. The outcome of failures in the intelligence process resulted in many lives being lost, injuries to the victims both emotional and physical following the attack. For purposes of understanding how the intelligence failure contributed to the 9/11 attack, it is important to look at the various pathologies associated with the U.S intelligence process and determine how they contributed to the attack. Therefore, the main objective of this paper is to analyze pathologies associated with normal intelligence process, the focus being analytical pathologies to determine how they contributed to intelligence failure through polluting it, resulting to the most devastating attack on the U.S soil.
Pathologies and their Outcomes
There are various pathologies associated with normal intelligence process that polluted accurate collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence that would have helped in preventing the 9/11 attack. Inefficiency in the intelligence community account structure contributed to the occurrence of the 9/11 attack as it polluted the intelligence process in areas of data collection, production and analysis. According to Cooper (2005) the intelligence community account system, naturally creates individual and institutional ownership of critical intelligence domains. The account system provides benefit of ensuring that there is accountability within the intelligence community in the U.S. However, individual ownership of certain intelligence processes makes it difficult for sharing, collaboration and cooperation among different security agencies. Therefore, before the 9/11 attack, the American intelligence community did not have strong accountability structure in place, whereby, responsibility for sharing, producing and collecting intelligence could be placed on a certain individual agency. As a result, the Central Intelligence Association and FBI did not have clear responsibilities and accountabilities to make concerning how intelligence is collected and shared with the right authorizes for purposes of preventing any form of terror attack.
In addition, the accountability weakness did arise mainly due to failure of the intelligence community to have a central institution that would manage the intelligence process among all security agencies in the U.S. This created a loophole that made it difficult to produce timely and accurate data that would be shared with the right authorities on time with an objective of preventing any form of attack (Cooper, 2005). The weakness contributed to failures in intelligence sharing, cooperation and collaboration among the various security agencies and this resulted in the 9/11 attack. The attack could have been prevented, if, there U.S intelligence community had a strong account system. This would have ensured that there were individual agencies that would be held responsible for issues to do with data collection, information sharing and timely action on the provided intelligence of impending attack.
According to Stanier (2013), when there are poor accountability structures within the intelligence system of a nation, it becomes difficult for individual agencies to undertake their specific roles effectively. Thus, lack of strong account structure resulted in limitations within the intelligence process, particular in the area of data analysis and sharing prior to the 9/11 attack. The intelligence community had information that there was impending attack, but failed to share with other security agencies accurate and actionable intelligence of the target areas of the attack. This situation made it difficult for the law enforcement within U.S, especially in the city of New York to prevent the terror attack as they had no specific information where the attack was going to happen. This clearly shows that weaknesses within the intelligence community account structures creates loopholes in the intelligence process that make it hard to prevent various form of terror attacks as it was the case with 9/11 attack in the U.S soil.
The second pathology is related to the intelligence community reliance on evidence based scientism as basis of analysis data collected from the field concerning security issues and threats (Cooper, 2005). There U.S intelligence community has a cultural orientation that requires data analysts to base their decisions and judgment on scientifically proven methods (Pythian, 2013). This means that the intelligence analysts cannot make any recommendations about any possible data received from the field without having to prove it scientifically.
For that reason, it becomes difficult for the analysts to make anticipatory recommendations based on certain intelligence that cannot be at first be proven scientifically. The issue of evidence based scientism, in a big way resulted in the 9/11 attack, as it made it difficult for the intelligence community to recommend for security actions on an impending attack without any scientific evidence to support their claims. For example, the intelligence community had rumors of an impending terror attack, but due to cultural orientation requiring evidence to be provided before coming into a conclusion of sharing the information with appropriate agencies, the information was just treated as a rumor.
Therefore, it was difficult for the intelligence analysts to make use of the rumors as basis of providing anticipatory intelligence of impending attack as it was difficult for their recommendations to be taken seriously by the senior people within security agencies without proper evidence of when and where the attack would take place. Pythian (2013) indicates that intelligence process that allow for anticipation to be made by analysts of possible attack using minor data, does not any supporting evidence can be instrumental in preventing key attacks in the modern era of terrorism.
Hence, the U.S intelligence process failed during the 9/11 attack due to overreliance on evidence based science as basis of making appropriate recommendation to security agencies for appropriate actions to be taken in preventing a particular threat, resulting in many lives and properties being lost in the process (Cooper, 2005). The cultural orientation within the U.S intelligence community of relying always on scientific evidence as basis of allowing analysts to make judgments and decisions regarding certain data from a source contributed to the unintended 9/11 attack. The attack could have been prevented as there were unscientific intelligence of an impending attack, and this would have been used by analyst in making recommendations that would have helped in putting in place measures aimed at ending preventing the 9/11 bombings.
Additionally, the tyrant associated with current intelligence also contributed to the intelligence process failure to anticipate accurately a possible terror attack on the U.S soil (Cooper, 2005). The intelligence community following the collapse of the cold war has ignored the need of having long-term oriented intelligence, but only focuses on collection of immediate and actionable intelligence by seniors within national security agencies and institutions. This weakness was evident in the way intelligence community was collecting intelligence before the 9/11 attack. The intelligence agencies did not have any future oriented information that anticipated of a possible terror attack in the U.S soil.
As a result, the intelligence community was caught off-guard during the 9/11 attack. Betts (2009) indicates that failure of the intelligence agencies to be future as well as current oriented during intelligence collection is a major loophole when trying to prevent threats to national security. Thus, there was intelligence gap as far as possible future national threat was concerned and this result in the unintended 9/11 bombings within the city of New York, which caught the intelligence community off-guard.
However, if future oriented approach was in place in intelligence collection, production and analysis; the U.S intelligence system would have helped in capturing some data concerning Al-Qaida as a major future security threat and anticipate a possible attack sponsored by the group, therefore, making recommendations of security boost in all entry points in the U.S before the attack took place.
Furthermore, the overemphasis of the intelligence production in a great way contributed to 9/11 attack. Cooper notes that “the entire intelligence system is dominated by the demands of processing huge amounts of information gathered by collection systems whose architecture was largely designed during the Cold War to address a very different problem. This huge inflow created a production-oriented model and an “efficiency paradigm” better suited to the “Industrial Age” than to the Information Age of the Twenty-first century. The volume of collected intelligence is so vast that, even with automated assistance, human analysts can effectively review and evaluate only a small part of the flow (Cooper, 2005).” This quote from Cooper’s work shows that the U.S intelligence system has focused mainly on production of intelligence leading to huge inflow of data that are difficult to accurately and timely analyze using the existing systems.
Peppler (2008) argues that the quality of data produced is essential in helping to prevent terror attacks, rather than quantity. Accordingly, the major weakness of the U.S intelligence process that made the 9/11 bombings to occur was overlying on production of intelligence. Consequently, the intelligence community had a lot of data to analyze from the field, making it difficult to accurately come up with actionable intelligence that would have aided in prevention of the 9/11 bombings.
Accordingly, the overemphasis on intelligence production resulted into poor quality intelligence being produced by the CIA and other agencies that did not specify the period of the attack, region to be attacked, making it difficult for security agencies to act on shared intelligence. This indicates that quality should be the most critical component of intelligence production, but not quantity, if the intelligence system in the U.S will manage to prevent unintended terror outcomes as it was the case with 9/11 attacks.
Also, the over-reliance on past judgments within the intelligence process polluted the capability of the U.S intelligence community of collecting accurate data that would have helped in preventing the 9/11 attack. According to Cooper (2005) past judgments are used as basis of ensuring there is consistency in the way decisions and judgments are made by the intelligence community when dealing with intelligence acquired from different sources. However, the biggest weakness of this approach in intelligence analysis is that it limits the analysts capabilities of thinking beyond previous judgments based on existence of new information.
Thus, lack of flexibility in judgment and decision making processes impaired the capability of the intelligence analysts before the 9/11 attack to make accurate judgments based on prevailing intelligence that would have helped in prevention of the attack from occurring. In the modern age, where security threats keeps on changing, there is need for the intelligence community to allow for flexibility in judgment making, especially on the part of the intelligence analysts (Betts, 2009).
Relying on the same methods of making judgment when faced with new security and peace threats can be counterproductive in efforts of preventing attacks on the U.S citizens. The intelligence community ignored this fact prior to the 9/11 attack and used the same judgment methods, ignoring emergency of new threats that required alternative judgments for them to be effectively dealt with, particularly on analysis steps of the intelligence process. The result of this pathology was generation of ineffective intelligence that could not help detect and prevent the 9/11 bombings on time.
On the other hand, the pathology of failing to conduct adequate research contributed to the 9/11 attack, as it polluted the intelligence process ability to produce credible, reliable and accurate intelligence. Cooper notes that “this emphasis on current intelligence, with its consequent time pressures and the methods needed to meet production demands, has produced a range of distorting effects that are not fully recognized (Cooper, 2005).” Therefore, the need for current intelligence has created some systematic problems resulting to neglect of adequate research as basis of informing the intelligence community data analysis approaches and judgment techniques. Hence, the intelligence processes in the U.S continue relying in outdated methods in area of judgment and data analysis ignoring emerging issues resulting in inaccurate and unreliable intelligence being produced. One of the disadvantages of emphasis on current intelligence is that it usually undermines the capacity of analysts to carry out in-depth studies by making sure, the majority of the efforts are directed towards completion of short-term tasks.
Second, the high demand for current intelligence has denied analysts an opportunity of working under the mentorship of senior individuals within the intelligence community, as part of training as well as professional growth; thereby lacking an opportunity of enhancing their skills to conduct in-depth research as basis of producing intelligence reports (Phythian, 2013).
Third, the current intelligence concept creates reward systems that make analysts biased toward conducting deeper analysis of available data, for purposes of carrying out short-term tasks as they are better rewarding. The situation of failing to conduct adequate research resulted into the intelligence community lacking information of the growth of a terror group that was increasingly becoming a threat to national security by planning to carry out one of the deadliest terror attack on the U.S soil (Cooper, 2005). If, intelligence processes within the U.S emphasized on the need of deeper research, it would have been possible to make accurate intelligence estimate of impending attack; thereby making appropriate efforts to prevent it.
However, the situation of demanding current intelligence, denied the analysts the opportunity of carrying out in-depth research to the available data concerning al-Qaida as the basis of determining its threat to U.S national security as well as stability. This contributed to a greater extent to the intelligence services agencies being caught off-guard by the 9/11 bombing. The deaths, injuries and losses of property experienced could have been prevented had the intelligence community put emphasis on research as basis of informing analyst decisions and judgments related to various intelligence data provided from the field (Betts, 2009).
Moreover, the neglect of the intelligence community in the area of anticipatory intelligence is a major pathology that contributed to the unintended occurrence of 9/11 bombings. Most of the intelligence communities make use of their resources of producing customer-relevant intelligence. Nonetheless, Cooper notes that “but the community must go beyond the current interest areas of its customers if it is to perform its primary national function of preventing surprise (Cooper, 2005).” This indicates that the intelligence community should diversify the use of resources by also focusing on future oriented intelligence. The future oriented intelligence help in gathering of data on possible future threats to national security and putting in place measures of ensuring the threat is adequately addressed before its occurs (Phythian, 2013).
The pathology of failing to pay attention to anticipatory intelligence prior to the 9/11 bombings was the major reason the intelligence process was polluted to an extent of failing to note of an impending attack and share the information on time with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The 9/11 attack could have been anticipated, if the intelligence processes in the U.S was focusing on future related intelligence rather that customer relevant information. It would have been possible to prevent the attacks on time, as future oriented data analysis would have helped in understanding that Al-Qaida was continually becoming a threat to national security; hence, ensuring the U.S government took the right measures to dismantle the organization before it carried a surprise attack, as it was the case with 9/112 attack on the U.S soil.
Finally, the failure of the intelligence community to invest in analytical tools for purposes of information validation contributed to the occurrence of 9/11 bombings. The intelligence community puts emphasis on secrecy ignoring the need of ensuring the collected data is something that can be validated for accuracy and reliability purposes before being put into use by the appropriate authorities. According to Cooper, “unfortunately, the more evidence and judgments are restricted in dissemination by compartmentation and distribution limitations, the more likely it is that questionable judgments will pass unchallenged (Cooper 2005).”
As a consequence, the intelligence community ends up producing information that has errors, and is difficult to determine its validation as there are not tools and systems in place to determine its validity. This scenario played during the 9/11 attack, whereby, the intelligence process, especially development of intelligence estimates inaccurately developed wrong information that was difficult to validate, leading to the attack on the U.S soil.
This analysis of the various pathologies within the intelligence process indicates that they contributed to unintended outcomes, such as 9/11 bombings by creating loopholes in intelligence production and analysis. Some of the major pathologies discussed in the research include over-reliance on intelligence production, lack of appropriate analytical tool for purposes of intelligence validation, ignoring research, use of previous judgments in all situations (Cooper, 2005). The pathologies creates a situation where the intelligence processes do not produce timely and accurate information that can be used in dealing with emerging terror threats. The pathologies for instance, made it difficult for the U.S intelligence community to gather data that would have helped in prevention of the 9/11 attack. The community was caught-off guard due to some of the weaknesses within intelligence collection, analysis and sharing.
The impact of the intelligence process pathologies and how they created the unintended outcomes of the 9/11 bombings should be major lessons on how future intelligence should be dealt with for purposes of enhancing its capability in preventing possible attacks on the U.S citizens in any part of the world. The emphasis of the intelligence community should be to address limitations on its current intelligence processes, such as production and analysis aspects with an objective of producing accurate and timely intelligence that can help deal with national security threats in the most effective manner (Peppler, 2008). This can only be attained by making huge changes within the intelligence processes employed by the U.S, for purposes of enhancing data analysis process, sharing, cooperation and collaboration among all security arms. In conclusion, the future of the U.S to prevent terror attacks is dependent on making appropriate improvements in some of the noted pathologies in its intelligence processes.
Betts, R. K. (2009). Enemies of intelligence: Knowledge and power in American national security. Columbia University Press.
Cooper, J. R. (2005). Curing analytic pathologies: Pathways to improved intelligence analysis. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR STUDY OF INTELLIGENCE.
Peppler, B. (2008). Intelligence pathologies in terrorism analysis. Journal of the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers, 16(3), 41.
Phythian, M. (2013). Understanding the intelligence cycle. Routledge.
Stanier, I. P. (2013). Contemporary organisational pathologies in police information sharing: new contributions to Sheptycki’s lexicon of intelligence in policing (Doctoral dissertation, London Metropolitan University).