A couple of weeks ago my friend (and co author) Stu Wexler and I spend two hours with Chuck Ochelli discussing the Martin Luther King assassination – our most recent research and study of that murder is in our book Killing King. Its most definitely a different view of that tragedy than you find in most books on the subject, if you are interested you can find the exchange online at:
However Killing King was actually our second book on the MLK assassination, our first work was The Awful Grace of God, a much broader look at the context and multi-year backstory of the activities which ultimately led to Dr. King’s death.
During the conversation with Chuck, we did touch on the point that much of that story involved a deep dive into both the racial and religious terrorism of the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Telling the full story of the King murder had taken us into the networks, alliances, political covers and extremely sophisticated practices of several groups – some ostensibly religious, others political, but in both instances with what could only be called a terrorist (and hidden) core.
Going beyond the background in The Awful Grace of God, Stu had researched and authored a much broader look at the interconnections of religious and racial terrorism in his book America’s Secret Jihad.
The outcome of our two hour conversation was an invitation for us both to come back on the air this week, and divide a two hour segment to specifically address our work on domestic terrorism and its relevance to contemporary events. I’ll lead off with context and Stu will follow on to extend to story into today’s headlines.
If that sounds interesting, join us on the Ochelli effect this Thursday evening, April 15. I virtually certain it will be a lively session.
Postscript: After some interesting discussions on this post and some re-education, I think its important to distinguish what Stu and I talk about in these books as something we see as distinct from violent protests, demonstrations, activities which are basically anarchistic, or even violent reactions to specific events.
What we explore is what I might call strategic terrorism, the use of “propaganda of the deed” (an old, old tool of anarchism resurrected by al Qaeda). It involves extreme violence on a national scale, violence intended to paralyze a government, to provoke overreaction, and ultimately to bring about regime change in accordance with the perpetrators own world views.
Anyone who has The Awful Grace of God can find dialog pertaining to this subject in Chapters 4 and 5. In rereading our work from a few years ago I find it eerily descriptive in regard to what we recently saw and our now learning about the insurrection at the U.S. Capital.
Certainly there are other aspects and forms of political violence and terrorism (past and present), with different types of targets. I don’t want to diminish that, just to make clear what we explore in our books and what we will be talking with Chuck about on Thursday night.
Tipping Point is now available for order in the print version on Amazon.
The print versions contains additional commentary and elaboration based on feedback on the serialized version as well as new information, including discussion of one new and possibly significant CIA officer who has never really been on the radar before this (thanks to the ongoing work of David Boylan). It also contains an index which should prove very useful to serious readers – the indexing does include a number of crypts as well).
Rex is working on getting the Kindle version up on Amazon as well and hopefully it will be available soon. He will also be adding an overview of the book and some early comments by some familiar names in the JFK community.
The Amazon link does allow some preview of both the book and the index.
As always, good reviews from readers are always most welcome.
All proceeds from the sales will go to the doument colletion work of the Mary Ferrell Foundation and there are some exciting things in progress in that work.
Contrary to popular opinion, in the years following WWII UFO’s were taken quite seriously and were the subject of ongoing intelligence investigations by both the American military services. Despite dismissive public statements, a wave of UFO incidents in Scandinavia was publicly investigated by regional nations and covertly studied by both American and British intelligence. Official reports from those inquiries as well as from the early years of American UFO incidents concluded that something very real was going on, that the Soviet Union was most likely behind it and that it did indeed pose a threat – very possibly involving reconnaissance for strikes on America’s most strategic facilities.
I cover those years and what the intelligence community was actually doing – as compared to stating publicly in press releases – in my book Unidentified.
Yet despite UFO’s being taken quite seriously in those years, no military action occurred and no actual proof of threatening behavior or damage was found. From a national security perspective, without the existence of a proven threat, UFO reports became to be seen as a diversion of resources and serious investigation faded away. Investigative groups were disbanded or in some instances converted into public relations vehicles, devoted to simple explanations and public reassurance.
Over the next several decades UFO reports became a subject for collection and investigation by private groups, as well as an ongoing topic for the entertainment industry. While a few scientists made serious efforts to investigate them, it became clear that there were very real career risks for professionals choosing to engage with a subject which had migrated largely into the movies and on to grocery store tabloid covers.
As it turns out scientific interest in the subject, while fading, did not entirely die. And with a handful of high profile contemporary incidents, it has returned – in the form of a new organization and a series of new scientific studies. The organization is the Scientific Coalition for UAP (unidentified aerospace phenomena) Studies – you can read about it here (and yes I’m involved with SCU):
The group is devoted not simply to collecting reports, as has been common, but to in depth scientific studies of incidents which involve quantifiable data for physical or statistical analysis. You can get a feel for those studies by taking a look at the following link, which evaluates the unconventional flight and maneuvering characteristics of a relative recent incident involving U.S. Navy ships and aircraft:
SCU has a number of ongoing studies in progress, addressing the flight and maneuvering characteristics found in some of the best close up observations which appear in official Air Force and law enforcement reports. For myself I’m involved with a team doing statistical analysis of incidents involving the American atomic warfare complex over several decades. It’s a fascinating task, but to do it scientifically involves a great deal of data collection, number crunching and graphical/statistical analysis.
If the subject is of interest to you I would recommend exploring the SCU web site, its activities and the upcoming conference.
It will be a virtual event this year, relatively inexpensive, and a good way to update yourself on what is in progress in terms of scientific study of a what has always been a fascinating (if controversial) subject for many of us.
One of the more common, and ongoing, questions related to the JFK Assassination concerns the records that have remained classified for decades, and to the legislation passed back in the 1990’s which directed the release of still classified documents.
I’ve commented on that in this blog and in my books, especially on the possibility that major revelations exist to be revealed in restricted documents – “nope”. That possibility would assume that there had been a secret, in depth investigation of potential conspiracy (something open ended beyond Lee Oswald) and targeted with early leads well developed and with serious intent.
Decades of research – and actual document releases – has shown that not to have happened. In fact we now know that the FBI was ordered to wrap up its investigation and begin writing the report demonstrating Lee Oswald as the sole individual involved some 48 hours after the murder of President Kennedy. Released documents clearly show that in a number of instances, orders were given not to pursue leads which were not directly related to Lee Oswald, and to “repudiate” any witnesses that might offer contradictory information.
But enough of that, I’ve said all that before and demonstrate it with numerous examples of the obfuscation which did occur (something that actually did not escape the Warren Commission and which was one of the first things commented on when the follow on HSCA inquiry began).
Regardless of all that, legislation is in place demanding release of all assassination documents, deadlines have passed and a new deadline is coming up in 2021. So what is the state of the releases? Thanks to the obsessively detailed research of my friends Rex Bradford and Jeff Morley, you can find the answer to that question in a brand new study posted at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.
It’s absolutely true that most of my research and writing has focused either on either political assassinations or issues of national security, including how the two can become intertwined in terms of crisis response – a subject examined in my book Surprise Attack.
So where do UFOs come into either topic area, and why did I do a book on them (admittedly they have been a long term personal interest of mine). The reason is simple – in terms of both Cold War history and national security, they illustrate some of the most fundamental practices, and pitfalls, of what is known as strategic intelligence (sometimes referred to as “threat and warnings”) intelligence.
A study of UFOs, beginning during World War II and continuing to the present, provides a perfect platform for exploring how various elements of the intelligence community work in terms of collections, analysis, and assessment – as well as how they interact with the bureaucracy that drives decision making on any issue of national security. That’s really quite important because generally speaking the system is far more complex and does not work at all like most of the public thinks it does.
That lack of understanding intelligence community operations creates many problems with all sorts’ subjects, including a tendency to drift into “conspiracy” when in many instances the real issues have to do with systems, career/departmental positioning, and even office/agency politics.
My UFO book (Unidentified / The National Intelligence Problem of UFO’s) deals with the historical involvement of the military services, intelligence agencies and the FBI with UFO reports – primarily from military and law enforcement personnel. That involvement is actually very well documented and provides a totally different view of internal communications and a very serious response, in direct contrast to public statements on UFOs. Beyond that I go into an extended illustration of how a practice called Indications Analysis can be used to evaluate long term patterns of UFO activity – focusing on the U.S. Atomic Warfare Complex.
If you are interested in the subject, you might want to take in a recent interview that I did with Chuck Ocelli on the book – it’s part of his ongoing series on my research:
Next Thursday he and I will be doing another session on national security, focusing on Creating Chaos, my book on political and hybrid warfare. We will be talking about the evolution of political and cyber warfare in the 21st Century, the total dysfunction of the current American War Powers Act and the failure of the American Congress to address legislation dealing with political warfare, cyberwarfare and increasingly deniable hybrid warfare.
In that regard I just can’t get my mind around the fact that we have, year by year since 2014, moved further into a new era of cold warfare and remain effectively in denial about it (certainly in terms of Congressional action) for the practical purposes of funding, and more importantly legal authorizations for defensive actions.
One of my major goals in my 2020 book In Denial was to illustrate the difference between how deniable military actions were conducted during the Cold War and how they are being carried out in a new century.
To do that I explored both the decision making process and the practices used by the United States – the major player in covert military action in pursuit of regime change during the Cold War. That exploration led me to wrestle with the fact that while those actions – ranging from the disaster at the Bay of Pigs to the Contra fiasco and worse, the emergence of death squads across Latin American and South America (including the in the Condor nations) – were almost entirely unsuccessful (and consistently disastrous in their consequences), they were never abandoned for any length of time.
Hopefully the book casts some light on how such operations were actually reviewed and officially deconstructed. In each instance (most publicly following both the Cuba Project and the Iran-Contra scandal) commitments were made never to make such mistakes again . Presidents, agencies, military services, and Congress all periodically signed up not to repeat the mistakes, yet in reality could never step away from the temptation. It appears to be the same overwhelming temptation which in the 21st Century once again moved the United States into covert actions in both Syria and Libya.
Yet other geopolitical players in the new century have chosen a different route, openly pursuing assertions to their own particular “spheres of influence”. Those players, the Russian Federation (under Putin), China and Iran have all moved to new forms of military action, and new practices and mechanisms of “denial”. Practices which so far have proved far more effective (and less expensive) than those of the United States carried out during the Cold War. Time will tell if those practices will prove more effective, or the consequences less damaging.
In his ongoing series of conversations on my National Security and Political Assassination series of books, Chuck Ochelli hosted a conversation on this subject a couple of weeks ago, if you are interested you can listen in at the following link (this week the next session in the series will give listeners a serious change of topic – while remaining in the national security space):
In my newest work, Tipping Point, I spend a good bit of time digging into Jack Ruby’s background and examining his most likely role(s) in the Dallas conspiracy. The plural form of “roles” is intentional given that his involvement changed dramatically during the afternoon of the assassination.
The good news is that we now know far more about his associations, connections, involvement in Cuban affairs and the manner in which he would have been brought into the conspiracy than the Warren Commission, or the House Select Committee on Assassinations ever exposed. The bad news is that Ruby was one of the most significant leads immediately available to investigation and the primary subject of the Warren Commissions only two field investigators. A recent exchange with fellow researcher Paul Bleau has prompted me to revisit investigators Griffin and Hubert and review what was and was not done in regard to investigating Jack Ruby in early 1964.
We do know that primary members of the Warren Commission were themselves concerned by the fact that their work almost entirely rested on the activities of the FBI, and that they were skeptical that Hoover would fully share information with them. Their skepticism was justified, we can now document that the FBI itself destroyed evidence related to Lee Oswald, and in more than one case (as with the investigation of Sylvia Odio) Hoover’s responses to the Commission were totally at odds with the FBI’s own internal investigative reports.
Yet despite the commissioners own concerns, the Commission’s own investigators, Burt Griffin and Leo Hubert, were put into the field for only a limited time and separated from the inquiry well before their work was complete. They were tasked specifically with an inquiry into Jack Ruby and years later an HSCA interview with Griffin provided exceptional detail on how they were brought in, their tasking and generally the conditions under which they operated:
(Specific citations to the document are noted in page numbers in the following)
Griffin’s testimony makes it clear that after a couple of months work neither he nor Griffin felt that the Commission considered Ruby of anything other than peripheral interest and that their investigation was not proceeding as they would like to have conducted it. Specifically Griffin noted that several of the inquiries they recommended were not conducted, a series of requests were turned down – and that they were specifically advised that they much act “responsibly” or they could “trigger a thermonuclear war” (page 288 of the document linked above).
Interestingly that was not interpreted as a directive to conceal any information which might suggest foreign influence in a conspiracy, but rather in respect to the extreme consequences that anything of that nature had to be handled “very carefully” within the Commission itself. (page 310)
A memorandum generated by them on May 14, 1964 (page 289) – and addressed to J. Lee Rankin – gives us a clear view of the investigation as Griffin and Hubert wanted to pursue it. Among their top priorities (Summary of Evidence Suggesting Further Investigation) were Ruby’s business activities beyond his Night Clubs (which they felt had not been sufficiently detailed), the possibility that some of his more obvious activities seemed to consume much time to little profit and might have actually served as covers for making money though illegal means, and finally that his ongoing interest and connections to Cuba demanded inquiry and clarification. They also felt that while a variety of evidence showing Ruby’s interest in or connections to the John Birch Society had been treated as circumstantial, it had not been satisfactorily explained.
The Griffin/Hubert investigative memo is extremely detailed and specific, pointing out a host of “loose ends” which needed to be addressed in what was known and had been stated about Jack Ruby. It deserves to be read in detail by anyone with an interest in the Kennedy assassination.
In his HSCA interview Griffin related that by May, 1964 there was considerable time pressure to wrap up their work on Ruby and that one intent of the memorandum was to relate how much work needed to be done which had not been up to that point in time. (page 205) Griffin also noted that while the FBI had delved into Ruby’s Night Clubs, it had not pursued the other aspects outlined in their memorandum. Griffin had no recollection that the FBI ever did expand their work on Ruby nor that the two were allowed to complete the bulk of the investigative work they felt still remained to be pursued.
Griffin confirmed that they felt that Ruby’s Cuban connections and Oswald’s “Cuban interests in Dallas” had not been adequately explored – nor had the FBI been given much of a request to explore such connections and it was an area that was never “explored satisfactorily”. (page 205). Even more specifically they believed, based on then available evidence, that Ruby was involved in illegal dealings with the Cuban elements who might have been in contact with Oswald. The existence of those dealings was a matter of “surmise” but the investigation had not focused on that area.
After the review of a number of other areas, most related to Ruby’s gambling and crime contacts, a fascinating exchange occurred in which Griffin was asked whether or not the memorandum might have “scared” some people and responded that it likely did so – and that had not been written for “flimsy reasons” and was intended to get attention. Griffin appears to think that it did get that attention because at that point nothing changed in terms of advancing the investigation of Ruby, rather “the rug was pulled out from under it”. (page 302)
During the interview Griffin, then a Judge, attempted to be very precise in his wording, and relatively restrained. He did however affirm that he himself had not been satisfied with “the adequacy of the investigation of conspiracy”.
Researchers have long discussed other aspects of the two Ruby investigators, including the details of their separation and the fact that they were not brought back for the actual Commission interview and polygraph of Jack Ruby. Yet Griffin’s actual, extended testimony to the HSCA is much less frequently referenced.
If anything that testimony, and their internal WC memorandum, make it quite clear that even in the earliest months after the assassination they were looking in exactly the right places, and were keenly aware of where the inquiry should have gone – the fact that it did was not their fault. We certainly can’t pull together everything they might have learned at that point in time, but I suspect they would be quite interested in what we have learned in regard to their suspicions. And I’m sure they would not be surprised to find Jack Ruby appearing as a significant figure in an actual conspiracy scenario.
I haven’t been posting recently, tied up with some additions, clarifications and other work needed to get Tipping Point actually published in print and EBook form.
What I’ve also done is some ten hours of interviews since the first the year, starting a new series on both my national security and political assassination books with Chuck Ochelli, plus some additional interviews on the MLK books which Stu Wexler and I co-authored. Most recently I did a two hour interview on Unidentified and will blog on that when I have time.
The Ochelli shows have been two hours in length and the discussion tends to cover a very broad spectrum of subjects. In discussing Surprise Attack we explored the long standing rumors that certain attacks were known yet allowed to happen – that talk ranged from Pearl Harbor to 9/11. The dialog on Pearl Harbor led us into the attack on the Philippines, which hardly ever gets discussed, but was far more egregious in terms of neglected warnings than was Pearl Harbor. Few people know that McArthur actually chose not to communicate with Washington or the War Department for hours after being given the initial warnings that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and ordered to immediately implement his war plan.
I went into detail about the advance war alert which had been issued for Pearl Harbor and the specific defensive plans that should have interdicted the Japanese carrier strikes – had not the B- 17 aircraft which were supposed to be conducting off shore reconnaissance flights searching for the anticipated Japanese fleet northwest of the islands been rerouted to the Philippines for interdiction bombing strikes during the anticipated Japanese attack. Strikes which General McArthur failed to authorize even when his air commander begged for him simply to follow the standing war plans. That failure of command led to the destruction of the American strategic bombing plan for the Pacific – and air strikes which would have caught the Japanese aircraft which devastated the Philippines on the ground prior to taking to the air.
We concluded with a discussion of Benghazi and the highly secret CIA efforts then underway in Libya and Syria. Covert actions which received little attention (not surfacing at all in the follow on Congressional inquiries), but which were the real reason for the attack which targeted the American Ambassador to Libya (who was organizing weapons shipments to Syria) – and explain why the CIA security contractors were not stationed at the embassy, but rather at the much larger and highly secure CIA station some distance away. You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:
In our two hours on Shadow Warfare, Chuck and I explored the early post World War II origins of American covert warfare and regime change – beginning with the effort to stage major military incursions into southern China from Burma and divert the Chinese Army during the Korean War, and then expanding the American activities to regime change in Iran. The Iranian experience proved to be the success (short term as it was) which gave the CIA a largely undeserved reputation for effectiveness – but one in which the regime change was more a matter of luck than the actual CIA plan, which had initially failed. One of the points of the discussion was that the Iranian experience illustrates the opportunity that the U.S. had to actually support the global anti-Colonial movements, but passed on in order to support the British position on dominating oil production in the Gulf States. A decision similar to that which led to supporting the French colonial position in SE Asia and the fragmentation of Vietnam.
The talk ranged on from the earliest years of shadow warfare to discussion of how covert operations frequently become entangled with drug smuggling – largely because the logistics needed for deniable warfare create the commercial covers that can be easily hijacked and often rely on connections to smugglers who are already engaged in illegal activity.
Beyond that the “surrogates” involved in such actions – whether they be the Burmese hill tribes circa 1950, the Hmong in Laos during the 1960’s, the Nicaraguan Contras or the anti-Soviet (and later anti-government) Afghan forces – always seem to involve at least some leaders who finance themselves with and base their power structures around drug sales. Working with them inherently contains the poison pill of drug smuggling. As I note in the Shadow Warfare, if you send in weapons to your surrogates by donkey, drugs come back, if you use helicopters drugs come back and if you ship Toyotas to Afghanistan, well you get the point. You can listen to part or all of that conversation here:
Next up on the Ochelli interviews, on February the 18th, will be a discussion of my newest book on national security history and practices – “In Denial”
For some years – actually decades – there have been online discussions of what was described as an effort by Ruth Hyde Paine to contact the Navy about Lee Oswald prior to his travel to Russia. That has been part of the overall discussion of the Paine’s being intelligence connected and having had some long term role in either monitoring or manipulating Lee Oswald. The problem with the early contact story was that while documents were referred to in regard to that story, none of the dialogs provided any detail, nor were the documents themselves available.
Recently that rumor and discussion resurfaced and fortunately a couple of my research community friends were able to provide links to documents that were declassified in 1992 and released in 1994. The documents make it clear while the Navy/ONI had held at least one memorandum on the purported contact, that document was simply a copy of information from an FBI inquiry. The FBI had made that inquiry based on unsolicited information from an FBI source.
The original FBI informant (Edward Cronk) appears to have advised the FBI that Ruth Hyde Paine actually became a pen pal of Lee Oswald as early as 1957, acting as a member of the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia. That would have been at a point where the she was attending summer sessions at the University of Pennsylvania and studying Russian. Edward Cronk was listed as serving as the Executive Secretary for the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia.
Cronk put the pen pal contact in the context of the Young Friends group’s interest in relaxing East-West tensions. As background, Cronk stated that he had first met Ruth Hyde Paine in Indiana, in 1955, with both of them being members of the Young Friends Movement at the time. The FBI confirmed that Ruth Paine did take a six hour summer course in Elementary Russian at that time. Of course both 1955 and 1957 were well before Lee Oswald went to Russia, and before even his Marine buddies in Japan became aware of his Russia and Russian language interests.
Cronk stated that he was aware that Ruth Hyde had become married and that she had moved to a residence in Dallas. However he stated he had no knowledge about her other than that nor anything about the association of Lee Oswald with the Paine’s in Dallas. Most confusingly Cronk stated that it was Lee Oswald and his wife who got in touch with the Ruth Paine and her husband though the pen pal program of the Young Friends movement.
Nothing in the initial FBI summary document on Cronk’s information resolves the issue of what year a contact would have been made between Oswald and Ruth Hyde Paine, who initiated it or whether it was via letter before or when Oswald was in Russia. As a follow up in its inquiry into the Paine’s and Oswald’s, FBI interviews in Dallas produced no evidence to confirm that there had been a pen pal connection between Ruth Hyde Paine and Lee and Marina Oswald prior to their personal introduction to the couple at a party in Dallas in spring, 1963.
Based on those findings, Cronk was re-interviewed by the FBI and at that time stated that he had no evidence that Ruth Hyde Paine had corresponded with Lee Oswald while he was in Russia. Cronk did add the detail that he himself had been a pen pal of Ruth Paine prior to her marriage but had not corresponded with her since 1957, nor was he involved in the Young Friends program after that year – he had simply heard she had taken a Russian language course in Philadelphia. Cronk does not appear to have been challenged as to why he made his original report to the FBI or why he stated such correspondence between Oswald and Ruth Paine had occurred as he described in that report.
In the end it’s hard not to view Cronk as having made a highly speculative report to the FBI (and interesting to wonder why they had considered him an informant), triggering an inquiry that went nowhere, but which did somehow generate the rumor of a very early contact between Ruth Hyde Paine and Lee Oswald, prior to his trip to Russia – in spite of Cronk’s remark that the correspondence he described was between Oswald and Ruth Hyde Paine while he was in Russia.
Not the sort of accuracy and reliability the FBI would expect in a confidential informant….but seemingly enough to generate years of discourse and speculation within JFK research.
First off, let’s be clear, the recent invasion and vandalizing of the United States Capital needs to be recognized for what it became – a violent attack intended to terrorize the U.S. Congress, and subvert the American system of government. If hostages had been taken and public executions performed, as was being called for some of those inciting the attack, it would have had an impact similar to the attacks of 9/11. Those calls to violence were posted (and archived) as well as taped in real time during the demonstrations in Washington. If you doubt either of those statements, simply read the following links:
This threat of this domestic terrorism was known within the intelligence and law enforcement community, just as were the foreign threat of 2000 (the Millennium attacks which were countered and aborted) and the attack of 2001 (which were not). I discuss and analyze those earlier attack in my book Surprise Attack – including an assessment of why the first was successfully interdicted and the second was not. Unfortunately, the failure to block the attack on the Capital and Congress in 2021 appears to be due to the same fundamental causes as the failure of 2001.
Such terror attacks are intended to be sensational, psychological impact beyond any physical casualties. Those of 2000 and 2001 were fueled by foreign agendas, enabled by the emerging potential of radical organization using the newly emerged global internet. In 2021, new social media platforms (with capabilities for sophisticated targeting of potential recruits which were first used during the election of 2016) became tools for inciting and organizing direct violent action against the American Congress.
Supporting that assessment is far beyond this topic or the space available here; I can only refer you to the work in my book Creating Chaos which examines the history of political warfare as well as the following links which discuss the history of internet “targeting”, its impact in the 2016 election involving entities such as Cambridge Analytica. and the emergence and evolution of the social media forum Parlour:
What I’m most concerned with here is the national security failure to deal with what was clearly visible as an imminent threat to Congress and the nation’s capital. While it is easy to point fingers at the law enforcement agencies, it has to be recognized that they are limited by their legal charters, which focus them on investigating and dealing with crime in progress or after they have been committed.
Preempting and interdicting national security threats such as those of 2000, 2001, and 2021 (which are a Federal issue) requires direction and intervention from the highest levels of government – the Commander in Chief, the National Security Advisor, the National Security Council and the heads of agencies such as the FBI, the Justice Department and Homeland Security. Without high level direction, indications of active threats literally go nowhere.
The failure to recognize or acknowledge that fact can be seen in the current dialog – and confusion – about the lack security for the Capital (or Congress).
“Federal and local law enforcement were openly talking about security concerns they harbored in the days leading up to Wednesday’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington. One federal official briefed on the situation told ABC News that concerns about violence were not a secret. The official said it’s not clear why more action was not taken with so much advance notice.”
Fundamentally the problem is that agencies such as the FBI investigate crimes that have been committed or respond to specific warnings reported to them and within their jurisdiction. Beyond that, they always operate with limited personnel and given the variety and number of contemporary threats they routinely prioritize their resources based on directions coming down to them from those at headquarters (the FBI Director or the leadership at Justice).
As I documented in Surprise Attack, each elected administration generates its own law enforcement and national security priorities, and those become the drivers for the federal agencies. Because of those changing priorities, a threat which is outside those priorities may be detected – but may not actually receive a significant response.
The threats of 2000, 2001 and 2021 were all discussed and even communicated at various levels within government agencies. In 2000 the terror threat was taken to the National Security Advisor who, with Presidential endorsement, worked with the FBI and other key players to conduct special investigations and apply special pressures – as a result planned attacks were interdicted or otherwise averted. In 2001 some of the same players, even at the FBI field office level, reported potential threats. Yet at that time the priorities of the President and National Security Advisor were elsewhere and the threats were not even circulated to key agencies such as the FAA.
In 2021, Presidential security and law enforcement priorities were again elsewhere, key federal agencies had been focused on totally different types of threats, several key players within the top leadership circles of key agencies were new in their jobs, there was no trusted national security advisor running point, and the National Security Council can only be said to have been dysfunctional.
A review of contemporary national security threats makes it obvious that the failure to deal with them comes not from the ability to identify them, but very real legal and systems problems involved in responding to them. The fact is that responding to any major national security threat requires actions above and beyond normal law enforcement activity (and legal limitations).
Unfortunately even acknowledging that fact can have political consequences. Perhaps that is why even the individuals leading federal agencies hesitate to highlight the basic issues or comment too openly on them. Such comments could easily have obvious ramifications for their own careers.
I’ve commented before that “institutional memory” is poor in Washington, but given these recurring national security failures – over such a relatively short time span – the question is whether we can ever overcome the level of denial which appears to have become embedded in our national security system. Denial which prevents the conversion of intelligence into action, before it becomes too late to deal with emerging threats.