The tenth anniversary of 9/11 featured many expressions of grief - some genuine, others seemingly for public consumption alone. To those I have little to add.
I would like to inject a wonkish note. It’s worth re-reading Judge Richard A. Posner’s seminal critique of the 9/11 Commission’s report and recommendations. Written in August 2004, when the Commission high-profile proposals debuted to near-unanimous praise, Posner’s review — entitled, The 9/11 Report: A Dissent - warned that the Commission’s policy recommendations were untethered from its own conclusions about the causes of the intelligence failures leading to the 9/11 attacks.
Posner was prescient. Among other things, he lamented the Commission’s signature recommendation — the creation of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI):
Efforts to centralize the intelligence function are likely to lengthen the time it takes for intelligence analyses to reach the president, reduce diversity and competition in the gathering and analysis of intelligence data, limit the number of threats given serious consideration and deprive the president of a range of alternative interpretations of ambiguous and incomplete data — and intelligence data will usually be ambiguous and incomplete.
Today, the DNI is widely considered to be an uncommonly hapless figure in American intelligence. Indeed, President Obama struggled mightily to fill the position after he sacked his original DNI, Dennis Blair; the DNI’s ”job description was too vague to attract qualified candidates.” Everyone seemed to turn down the job — including then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, who presumably realized that he was far more powerful than his nominal boss.
The Commission’s response to 9/11, then, highlights another important lesson: don’t rearrange deck chairs on a whim.