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Black Arts, by Thomas Powers
by noteworthy at 9:04 am EDT, May 5, 2005

About the failure everyone now agrees. But what was the problem? And what should be done to make us safe?

It wasn't respect for the Constitution that kept the NSA from reading the "Tomorrow is zero hour" message until the day after the disaster. It was lack of translators. To meet that kind of problem, the Comint professionals have a default solution: more. Not just more Arab linguists but more of everything -- more analysts, more polygraph examiners and security guards, more freedom to listen in on more people, more listening posts, more coverage, more secrecy.

Is more what we really need?

In my opinion not.

But running spies is not the NSA's job. Listening is, and more listening is what the NSA knows how to organize, more is what Congress is ready to support and fund, more is what the President wants, and more is what we are going to get.

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