Vol. 45, No. 3

In this Edition

September 11, 2001 was a day without adjective. Even a decade later, it is hard to properly describe the grief, anger, horror and pain we all felt watching the attacks unfold. 

Intell’s Top Cop – Q&A with Mike Rogers

With the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks upon us, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee discusses the effort he is leading to keep America secure.

Preventing a Cyber 9/11

The Maine Senator and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Susan Collins, discusses her plan to protect America’s cyber networks from attack.

Intelligence Comeback: Fact or Fiction?

The former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, looks at the improvements that have been made in the intelligence community over the past decade.

Is it Time to Consider a New Approach to Airline Security?

Are Americans getting their money’s worth on airline security? This aviation security expert says they are, but that it’s also time to move beyond pat downs and body scans.

Leaving Afghanistan

As the U.S. enters the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan, the Tennessee Congressman John Duncan writes it’s not just time to end the conflict, but it’s something Eisenhower would do.

Expeditionary Economics and Countering Violent Extremism

Foreign assistance will not defeat terrorists. But it would be a terrible mistake to discount the vital role that economic growth must play in fostering global stability.

How 9/11 Shaped the Millennial Generation …and the Lessons for Republicans Today

The author and Fox News commentator discusses 9/11’s impact on young Americans and how it has shaped not only their lives, but their view of American politics today.

Amid the Battle Over Spending, The Fight Over Health Care Continues

“At a time when businesses large and small are struggling to survive in a weakened economy, this added burden is completely misguided and unacceptable.”

In the Wake of Fukushima

“In the wake of the nuclear incident at Fukushima, Japan, the world held its breath wondering if the facilities would be capable of recovering from one of the most significant natural disasters in recorded history,”

Minority Rules: A snapshot on redistricting heading into next year

“For decades past, targeted and passionate activity at all levels has improved the political empowerment of the African-American community. The 2010 census indicates that similar activities may now be needed for other emerging minority communities.”

Ripon Profile of Nan Hayworth

Up close and personal with NY Rep. Nan Hayworth in our latest Ripon Profile.

Intelligence Comeback: Fact or Fiction?


To many observers, the successful May raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden marked a comeback for the United States Intelligence Community. Special Forces under the control of the CIA gave America the final say in a chapter that began when Al Qaeda attacked the homeland on 9/11. A beleaguered intelligence community that once was not equipped to detect the extent of the threat posed by al-Qaeda had worked seamlessly to execute one of the most daring and successful raids in modern times.

We have come a long way from the dispirited, stove-piped intelligence community we had in September 2001. The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War were a bleak period for the community, when budgets were slashed, the mission was poorly defined and human intelligence became virtually nonexistent. It was in this gap, created by shortsighted planning and budget decisions by Washington policymakers, that Al Qaeda found the space it needed to grow. There is no question that 9/11 was an intelligence failure. However, the failure was not on the part of the men and women of the community. It was on the part of the political leadership in the nineties.

There is no question that 9/11 was an intelligence failure. However, the failure was not on the part of the men and women of the community. It was on the part of the political leadership in the nineties.

Why, it is right to wonder, would politicians not ensure that America maintained a robust intelligence capability? The first reason is a challenge that our government is facing at this very moment — they saw it as simply a budget issue. The fact of the matter is intelligence is expensive. Human assets — the core resource of the CIA — cost money. Technology, whether it is NSA supercomputers or spy satellites flown by the National Reconnaissance Office, costs a lot of money. In the face of tight budgets, government shutdowns and the mistaken belief that we could reap the so-called peace dividend in the mid-nineties, bad decisions were made to cut investments in intelligence capabilities. And the results were clear.

America’s aging constellation of spy satellites would be pushed beyond their design life with no long-term or comprehensive plan for replacement. We curtailed human intelligence collection, leaving large regions of the world with few if any assets in place, and we reduced the hiring and training of the case officers we count on to recruit spies. The bottom line is we were penny-wise and pound-foolish, and in the process, we sacrificed America’s first line of defense on the altar of budget expediency.

The other major reason that intelligence faltered in the nineties is that some politicians saw it as a “dirty job.” It is not a secret that there is nothing nice about trying to steal someone else’s secrets. The reality is, however, if we are going to disrupt hostile plots against the homeland, then we need to be able to operate in the dark and gritty streets of faraway places. Best plans and intentions can fail, and sometimes spies get caught, all of which can be difficult. But it was a mistake in the nineties for America to stop doing the hard things just because they were hard and politicians were unwilling to take the risks that good intelligence requires.

The 9/11 attacks provided a jolt to the way we perceive threats to our national security. America has reinvested in a robust intelligence capability. Scores of new recruits have beefed up our human collection and our technology has been updated. This has enabled the United States to not only effectively wage a war against Islamic extremists, but to extend our ability to cover threats from foreign adversaries around the world.

Simultaneously, American leadership on both sides of the aisle has broadly embraced the necessary work of intelligence. President Barack Obama — perhaps the harshest critic of the Bush Administration’s national security policies — has embraced and in some cases increased their use, by admission of his own officials. Guantanamo Bay remains open, the Obama Administration has said it will hold detainees indefinitely, and they have brought back Military commissions. Indeed, with the exception of insisting on interrogating enemy combatants using the publicly available Army Field Manual, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two administrations’ policies.

President Barack Obama — perhaps the harshest critic of the Bush Administration’s national security policies — has embraced and in some cases increased their use, by admission of his own officials.

Beyond a doubt, I believe America’s intelligence community is back with renewed and strengthened capabilities that help keep America safe. But there continue to be issues. We must improve the quality of intelligence analysis, which continues to downplay the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and failed to predict the “Arab Spring.” We must also guard against the push by some to slash intelligence budgets, capabilities and authorities in the current Beltway budget mess.

If we learned anything from the 9/11 attacks, it is that we cannot afford to let history repeat itself. It is far more expensive to rebuild our intelligence capability after an attack than to maintain it to help prevent the next one. Over the past decade, we have seen what an effective intelligence community looks like.

It is learning and adaptive, it takes risks, makes apolitical judgments and is accountable to the President and Congress, with their support and the resources to get the job done.  

Pete Hoekstra, a former Michigan congressman, served as chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is now president of Hoekstra Global Strategies.