An essay entitled “Consequences of Permissive Neglect” is up regarding the problems facing intelligence organizations today. It’s fascinating reading, and I feel that, as much as could be expected for a person outside the intelligence community, I understand his points. But here’s the thing: this is exactly the same sort of FUD that has been coming out of the current Administration as well as Intelligence Bureaucracy for years, and it’s still not a clear assessment.Yes, leaks can and do hurt. I feel certain that the US relies quite heavily on similar tools to those of Al Qaeda (the mentioned example) as well as other countries and entities to gather information. That we suffer from the same problem as the rest of the world – namely, not everyone sees intelligence in the same way – is no surprise. What surprises me is the blind pursuit and claim of these agencies to be the only guardian of our lives and liberties. I’m not of saying leaks are good, nor am I saying that they are acceptable – but they are a very large red herring, it would appear, concealing greater flaws in the process by which we (Americans) pursue our goals and protect our interests. The author even goes so far as to indicate that the leaks preceding 9/11 may have led to our lack of awareness of the coming attack. This is an irresponsible and head-in-the-sand attitude, in my (admittedly unprofessional) opinion. What pittance of thorough research has occured into the intelligence lapses that led to our failure that day indicate just that – a massive failure of our intelligence agencies to account for and protect us from the attack. Saying it was leaky behavior by this or that person/organization is absurd. Contributing factor? Sure. Cause? Of course not. And to name such leaks a trend capable of causing this much trouble not only deflects attention from real problems, it throws limited resources at a problem that is not likely to go away. Short of the establishment of a police state not unlike the one we’ve recently deposed, no one will stop the type of information sharing the author of the essay describes. It will continue and it will get even worse as the means by which information can be shared anonymously become ubiquitous.What’s needed is an examination of the structure and mission of these agencies in light of advancing technology and global reorganization to better prepare for the real foes. The author consistently provides examples of leaks by the media which prevent this or that, but the this or that is vague and presumptuous. If Osama Bin Laden did in fact discover that the NSA was monitoring his cell phone via national papers, what does that mean? To the author, it was a ‘those damn kids’ moment – had we just been able to keep that bit a secret, we’d have foiled the bad guy. Hmm.What I see here is an essay that provides only fuel to the advocates of free speech and FofIA etc: it lays out a case that is clearly not the whole picture, using examples that are self-serving and prove little. They prove little because there is no way to know what might have happened, and they’re self-serving because they leave out all of the other intelligence that, let’s face it, you know we have, but was still not enough to get the job done. Saying ‘had we only had this’ or ‘had we only been able to do that’ sounds awfully whiny.I know that eventually the lessons will be learned, and that bullying, secretive and backbiting behavior will finally take a backseat to organized, methodical and efficient use of resources. I just hope it comes sooner rather than later.The author uses his examples as a platform for stating a need for new legistation. This smacks of anti-whistleblower legistlation on the face of it. ‘We can’t handle the problem without new laws’ is the implication. A point is made that arguments against such an idea are self-serving. I would ask how the argument for more restriction of speech is not self-serving. Clearly, the author has an interest here, and based on his examples I would say that a scapegoat is being proferred. Why then, do we seek to offer more power to those who seem to abuse that which they have? The solution to these crises, again, is not to make the most powerful force for intelligence gathering and control in the world more powerful – it’s to find ways of reform and better use of that power.I wouldn’t for a second say that the goals of the NSA, the CIA, DOD and on and on are not worthwhile goals – we need them. But we don’t need them to be all powerful, and we don’t need them to be gifted with legislation that allows prosecution of types of speech they deem harmful to a mission the can’t tell us about. If they can’t offer up a balanced case in asking for such power, how can they be trusted with greater leeway to smack down those who might question?On another note, I have to say that all of this falls under a strange cloud in a way. The reality is, there are just as many leaks – if not more – that are for the purposes of shaping intelligence consumption and public opinion, as there are harmful ones. I doubt such measures will get to the floor of congress in a form that serves the people by truly helping intellingence gatherers. Rather, they’ll become law in a form that allows only certain parties to leak, and do so with impunity. All others would be subject to the weight of John Ashcroft or the like on them – and nobody would want that.