James Forsyth

A help or a hindrance?

A help or a hindrance?
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The Washington Post today publishes the first part of its series on the intelligence bureaucracy that has grown up in the United States since 9/11. The Post has been working on this report for two years and what it reveals is not pretty. There are more than 1,200 government organisations working in this area and, predictably, they don’t talk to each other. There are 51 federal organisations and military commands studying terrorist financing alone, with all the predictable problems of overlap.   

Retired Army Lt Gen John R. Vines who conducted an assessment of the Pentagon’s most sensitive programme sums up the problem neatly:

"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities," he said in an interview. "The complexity of this system defies description."

For anyone interested in why bureaucracies fail, the Post’s investigation is essential reading.