“Actionable” Unintelligence: They’ll Have To Pry Our Ignorance From Our Cold Dumb Credos

In the recent writings and discussions I’ve perused regarding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, I’ve heard a lot of talk about “actionable” intelligence. Did the Obama administration have “actionable” intelligence regarding Abdulmutallab? Did the CIA, FBI or Homeland Security have “actionable” intelligence and, if they did, why didn’t they connect the dots and take action? These are legitimate questions, but not ones that we as a people or culture like to answer.

The Fox News loop was quick to blame our young president for almost not keeping us safe. Some members of the G.O.P. intelligentsia even went as far as saying that nothing like this ever happened under the Bush Administration because Bush kept us safe.

“Kept us safe” is a popular Neocon talking point but, of course, it’s a bald-face lie. 9/11 occurred on President Bush’s watch and it’s an established fact that his administration had “actionable” intelligence pointing to a possible 9/11-type strike but didn’t act. Especially in any way that might have averted the attack.

It’s also fairly established that we didn’t have serious, “actionable” intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq. But, in that case, we did act.

I’m not writing here to rub anybody’s face in it. I just think the American people deserve a little honesty. They also deserve some blame.

We are surrounded by “actionable” intelligence everyday. We just don’t do anything about it. It’s too complicated or inconvenient. It might require us to think for ourselves. It’s easier to just parrot the pundits that reinforce views we’re already comfortable with.

For example, it’s abundantly clear that our healthcare system is on pace to bankrupt us. But one political party and the powers behind it are bent on blocking reform and fomenting doubt about the problem. It’s easier to tune in to Rush Limbaugh and hear the “actionable” intelligence undermined than have to act on it.

For another example, it’s abundantly clear that human beings are having a detrimental effect on the planet and their own ecosystem. But one political party and the powers behind it are bent on blocking environmental legislation and—you guessed it—fomenting doubts about the problem. It’s easier to turn the channel to Fox News and, again, watch the “actionable” intelligence be undermined than have to act on it.

There is clearly an abundance of good, “actionable” intelligence out there, but acting on it is simply not our strong suit. We see it or hear it and simply ignore it. It interferes with our plans. It complicates our goals and values. It makes going along to get along wrong and immoral–but going along to get along is how we get by in this world. It’s how we pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads. It’s tried and true, and besides, the path of least resistance is paved with glory and gold.

Where would the world be if the Bush Administration had acted on “actionable” intelligence and foiled 9/11? Without a fierce new fire and brimstone adversary to replace the Soviet Union, the American military-industrial complex would probably be in its final death throes. America would still have been a dwindling superpower, but at least with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan we could remain the most dangerous country on the planet. And with our domestic industries being shipped overseas and the middle class dead or dying, at least we still have war to make. And sell.

Blackwater (now called Xe) now retains the world’s largest stable of mercenary killers and they’ll deliver or dispose of the goods above or beyond the law. Halliburton (aka Warmart) is now the planet’s most profitable big box carnage shop and, if you’ve got a populace to pacify or foes to eliminate, they’ll provide the infrastructure and guns… and for a limited time only they’ll throw the body bags in for FREE!

The world isn’t any safer, but the danger gives us an excuse for keeping our war machine revved up and stoking our brawn and bluster.

Without the War on Terror we surely would have faced a great depression. Or an identity crisis. Maybe even a psychotic break.

All we have to do now is find a way to keep the War on Terror going… at least until we can come up with another enemy. And then we don’t have to change anything.

The Stars and Stripes brand may lose its market value and eventually wind up in the dustbin of empires, but at least we’ll fade with our boots on and our depravity intact.

E.R. Bills is a writer from Aledo, Texas and the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (History Press, 2013). He can be reached at: erbillsthinks@gmail.com. Read other articles by E.R..

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 13th, 2010 at 10:49am #

    Feudal societies don’t run on honesty, facts, enlightenment, fairness but on greed-avarice, lies, misteachings, abuse, exploytation, etc.
    I do not see much difference btwn dishonesty-greed of the modern lords in US and the same lords [same in thinking] of sumer, egypt, assyria, persia, tsarist russia, UK, france, germany, et al.

    Go, argue, plead, cry, write, talk, suggest in a society like US all u want. To what effect? Ok, not quite zero! Just one mm higher!
    A fairer, more peaceful, less lustful society can be only wrought by political power. The vast minority always understood this. That’s why it has only one agent to represent them on judiciary; in congres/cia/army.

    And this very unified power appears awesome! Sorrry, folks, i wish i had better news!

  2. Don Hawkins said on January 13th, 2010 at 11:11am #

    E Bills good point’s and yet I think times are a changin so far in a way you better believe in it. Not so much about us we the people but a game being played with the few. They appear the few to be stark raving mad nut’s I tell you loony tunes. Being in control of an out of control system twenty first century style can do that to you. Of course they could try the truth ,knowledge, reason then of course illusion goes bye bye and we can’t have that.

  3. johnbyrnes said on January 14th, 2010 at 10:55am #

    We don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber!

    Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

    The Problem
    Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

    The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

    All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

    1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

    2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

    3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

    The Solution
    Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

    The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

    As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

    Visit our blog at http://blog.AggressionManagement.com where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

  4. bozh said on January 14th, 2010 at 12:26pm #

    I haven’t seen an al-qaida man yet. Until we see one, i think al-qaida is just an invention.
    May be that even cia is an invent. Invented just to scare people like me. And, i am afraid. Not of dying but of being abducted.

    So that my youngold wife wld not be afraid i keep my activities secret from her.tnx