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9/11 Didn't Change Much About Intelligence-Gathering, Prof. Amy Zegart

9/11 Didn't Change Much About Intelligence-Gathering, Prof. Amy Zegart

UCLA News, September 6, 2007

If ever we would expect to find a catalyst to transform the U.S. Intelligence Community, the worst terrorist attacks should be it.

In her newly published book, "Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9-11" (Princeton University Press), Amy Zegart argues that deeply rooted organizational problems, not individuals, led inevitably to Sept. 11 and that the worst deficiencies still remain.

The U.S. intelligence community's failure to adapt from a decades-old Cold War organizational system to face new post–Cold War threats left the country vulnerable to large-scale terrorist operations such as the Sept.11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, according to author Amy Zegart, a professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. Six years later, she says, not much has changed.

In her newly published book, "Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9-11" (Princeton University Press), Zegart argues that deeply rooted organizational problems, not individuals, led inevitably to Sept. 11 and that the worst deficiencies still remain.

"If ever we would expect to find a catalyst to transform the U.S. Intelligence Community, the worst terrorist attacks should be it," Zegart writes in her book, the product of personal interviews with more than 60 current and former government officials and close analysis of numerous unclassified documents and more than 300 intelligence reform recommendations.

"There is no longer any doubt of the failure of our intelligence agencies in the years following the Cold War," said Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission. "Amy Zegart has examined the reasons for this failure, in addition to the well-meaning but mistaken attempts to address the problem."

Zegart says that U.S. agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, were nowhere near their best before Sept. 11. While the 9/11 commission and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees' Joint Inquiry provide a good picture of what went wrong before Sept. 11, Zegart takes on the challenge of explaining why, writing that the answer lies in "deeply rooted organizational weaknesses that have afflicted our intelligence agencies for decades and in the enduring impediments to fixing them."

According to Zegart, the problems had less to do with isolated mistakes or poor decisions by individuals than with symptoms of three organizational deficiencies: (1) cultural policies that led intelligence agencies to resist new technologies, ideas and tasks; (2) promotional incentives that rewarded intelligence officials for all the wrong reasons; and (3) structural weaknesses dating back decades that hindered the operation of the CIA and FBI and prevented the U.S. intelligence community from working as a coherent whole.

In tracing the history of CIA and FBI counterterrorism efforts from 1991 to 2001, Zegart asserts that "with a 40-year-old intelligence structure that gave no person the power to match resources against priorities and knock bureaucratic heads together, the U.S. Intelligence Community did not have a fighting chance against al Qaeda."

Amy Zegart is an associate professor at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, where she teaches courses on U.S. foreign policy and public management. In 2003, she was awarded the school's Public Policy Professor of the Year award for excellence in teaching. Her research focuses on the design problems of U.S. national security agencies. Zegart was named by The National Journal as one of the 10 most influential experts on intelligence reform. She worked on the Clinton administration's National Security Council staff in 1993, served as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign and has testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The UCLA School of Public Affairs was founded in 1994 and includes the departments of public policy, social welfare and urban planning. The school offers graduate degrees in all three departments, as well as doctoral degrees in social welfare and urban planning and joint degrees with other UCLA professional schools and graduate departments. The school's three departments and several research centers make it one of the largest of its kind in the United States.

-UCLA-

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