The House Foreign Affairs Committee claims responsibility for broad national security matters. It took its time Wednesday to investigate the events surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi. The sole expert witness was the Department of State’s Secretary, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The sixteen other members of the intelligence community were apparently not invited to participate.
Every cryptologist knows, from day one of training, the story of Pearl Harbor. We are told the story because it matters. It was the great battle that gave birth to the possibilities of intel. And as a cryptologist, many times our job is to speak the truth to power. The story hinges on one thing; intel is everywhere and anyone can happen upon it.
Seaman Z was a naval reservist stationed in San Francisco. This means, he was the juniorist of junior enlisted and he was only part time at that. So when Seaman Z reported, sometime in November of 1941, that he was picking up odd Japanese activities (or "fixes," as cryptologists call them); he was doubted. He had assumed that his findings had made their way up the chain of command. They had not and Pearl Harbor was attacked. Decades later, he came forward and still was not believed. However, Seaman Z maintained until his death that his information could have saved untold lives.
It has been the goal of all intel communities since that point in time to appropriately collect, analyze, and disseminate all intel without regard to his source of origin. Today, there are approximately 850,000 Americans working in the intelligence community across the seventeen agencies. There is no formula to decipher how many attacks they have foiled, but you can be sure that the good guys win infinitely more than the bad guys.
Around one-third of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee are freshman. Like Seaman Z, newness doesn’t necessary equate to ineptness. However, for a nation at war with a terrorist around the world, the Foreign Affairs Committee should not be a training ground. It is a place for serious people who understand the complexity of intel, the changing nature of the enemy and – certainly – for people who have the highest regard for the people who spend their days trying to piece together what is the next level of inhumanity.
Since the dawn of time, every age has had a great battle. In every one of those great battles, the opposite sides have tried to confuse each other. Great battles are designed to be chaotic, confusing, and indecipherable. Terrorism is our great battle. Our victory depends on a thoughtful Congress that is willing to ride side by side with their fellow countrymen without regard to political ideology.
The members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the greatest legislative body the world has ever known showed today that it is simply not prepared to ride into battle on our behalf with even the juniorist of the junior cryptologist.