Monday, April 22, 2013

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA)

I get the need for comfort, to relieve terror and return to normalcy and heal.  How a community so traumatized as Boston now seeks normalcy.  The swiftest relief is found by immediate myth making and covering over  your failures and seeing your  weakness and shame as attributes, as  a sign of strength and courage - "Boston Strong".   To not do so is almost unbearable.

That is understandable, but the  Boston community relief celebration and posturing  cannot conflate to policy review or corrupt the vital honest debriefing of the event, of all the players,  both terrorists and public authorities alike.  For to conflate or corrupt  policy formulation and response by basing it on myth  and fear is, of course, the basic goal of terrorism in the first place.

We must get Boston "right".

Right now Boston, at least  the surface of the  post-event consideration  in the public eye, is making this terrible error, replacing reality and building myth, infusing fantasy when the most vital clear and real understanding of the event is required.  This makes the Tsarnaevs' victory even more profound, more destructive.

NYC  9/11 could not go through this process of fantasy making and myth building  as the  sheer scope and terror  of the event could  only result in reality.  It is impossible to see the heroic in no other light for what it was, heroic - or the futile and abject terror for what exactly what  it was.  The policy failure was undeniable.  Therefore the NYC  response then had the ability to build immediately on a sheet of paper cleansed by harsh reality, basically unburdened by terrible cathartic results of past error.  Giuliani, backed by a man of steel Commissioner Kerik (who's actions during 9/11 made his later fraud inexplicable), responded with near text book perfection immediately, and then built and repaired the NYC weakness that perhaps contributed to the attack.  The CIA was calling on NYPD looking for intelligence and translations and cultural briefings on the enemy - and NYC counter terrorism techniques became the example for the nation.  But always it was the incredible sheer size of the event and the obviousness of the problem that allowed this completely new beginning.  It seems to be working.

But Boston is not the same story.  Boston clearly learned little or nothing from NYC in terms of counterterrorism for crowd events prior to the event, and seems to be learning nothing from the event itself. 
When one approaches a parade in NYC now,  tables are set up blocks away at most access points to check back packs and bulk items.  Non-participants are kept away from key areas of start or finish lines unless their presence is explained. The office of OEM is in daily contact with the CIA and FBI - and the dialogue is a valuable two way traffic in policing.  Arial surveillance, random impact patrols and all environment sporadic checks are always in force. Manuals are written and policy closely coordinated between state, transit, and NYPD.  State police seem to have fully trained counterterrorism force that works easily with NYPD, MTA, and PA. NYPD does not wait on the FBI to tell them who the potential bad guys are but conducts their own intelligence operations.  NYPD is accountable and to date, successful.

As the Boston event  unfolded,  none of the NYC  lessons learned seemed to be in place.   Instead of the constant and sole presence of the Mayor and Kerik during 9/11, 101 political actors took the stage in Boston,  and then it was pretty clear that political calculus was often  involved.  Policy was haphazard and created on the spot.  What does one do when terrorist are cornered in a residential area?   Why encounter them with force and empty all your clips!  Two hundred rounds or more. Clearly there was no plan, no central authority, no previously trained routine to implement.

Then an entire city was shut down, and Boston become an armed camp.  Even an idiot could see, watching cops standing shoulder to shoulder for entire blocks or hundreds of cars of every branch,  that this was gross overkill, that basically a police mob was forming.  No wonder the police tried to ban scanners as they depicted confusion and inter-turf disputes and fear.  [Compare the Boston area scanner traffic to the recordings of NYFD on 9/11. ]  This may seem unfair or shallow to note all of this, but this is all crucial to consider.  A clear review of all Boston police is required.

The objective of terrorist attack is to gain maximum leverage of the force available to the terrorist - which is always pressure cookers or small explosives and IED (9/11 was diabolical and stunning genius - the exception) - and terrify the populace so infrastructure resources are denied and that the state authorized force degenerates into a vengeful rabble. The terrorist main objective is to spark "overkill" from the state.  That state imposes ex tempo  force that is disorganized arbitrary and causes more disruption to the people than the terrorists themselves.  If the community attack allows all of that to develop, then the terrorist  achieve great victory.

By anyway you look at it,  Boston was a great victory for Tsarnaevs and for the obvious ideology they were infused with,  which is radical Salifi Islamism. 

It is a massive error to see these two as simply psychotics and one has to recognize they would do this for only the most, from their perspective, pure and correct reasons.  They are not monsters but radical ideologues.  There is no pride to be found in Boston's response and the end of hysterical fear should not be confused with achievement. Nor should  anger and disgust  in granting the Tsarnaevs'  subjectively - to them -  correct motives achieve anything - in fact it is by only recognizing the rationality of their actions can a defense then  be established.  This was a grievous blow delivered  with great success by a dedicated enemy to the USA.

The debate of whether or not Tsarnaev's were formally attached to al Qaeda is not material.  "Loners" or they are attached - and they show the brilliance and success of the online propaganda and suasion of the enemy,  how effective the enemy education and outreach programs are in realizing a terrorist event.  Only the Maoist or radical Marxist achieved such similar success, it is almost unprecedented in histotry.  And it is likely impossible that al Qaeda did not carefully consider Tsarnaev and "case" him when he was in Dagestan.   So, for  purposes of designing effective public policy and to table correct forensics of the event, Tsarnaevs should be considered mainstream members of al Qaeda - they likely are anyway.  They are now, in any case, members in absente,  with their al Qaeda  membership granted given their extreme utility to al Qaeda.  

The question to ask which answers all questions as to what were the Tsarnaev's motives and who were they working with or on behalf of is to ask, who benefits?

Therefore it  would be nonsensical to see the Tsarnaevs as anything but enemy combatants.

But it is crassly unfair and stupid to hold the usual Boston area cop accountable for this failure.  It is their leadership and structure that  is to blame.  Boston area cops showed incredible bravery and effort, especially after the MIT cop's assassination (likely the assassination was intended to generate a thoughtless police "riot" - that worked if so), and they showed total commitment. 

The entire Boston security apparatus and police obviously had little counter-terrorist capabilities or training, and the naive and panicked response gave certain victory to the Tsarnaevs.

Now, excuse the historical pun, "what is to be done"?

It is inexcusable that the demands placed upon BPD and MA State Police were  made in the first place.  It is inexcusable that the key decision made by the Governor to shut the city down  was allowed.   The starting point for the FBI self-audit is that Boston was a complete breakdown and failure with no possible explaining factors.  In short  it is vital the complete failure of the system both in prevention and response be recognized.  Intense review should be made, an audit, to identify who on the various forces  was leaking news on regular basis, correct and incorrect alike, and those identified arrested for a serious breach of national security.  They are criminals.  The legal authority and responsibility of all involved as is now must be identified and well defined - those acting without authority or incorrectly must be held to task and corrected in public forum.

A complete "redo" of how the nation addresses terrorism is required, as well as how it is prevented.

Using the in depth forensic of Boston as the start, structure and law and resources  have to be redirected, redefined or created, and reorganized on a national basis.  

The first step is to redefine posse commitatus , a set of laws birthed from Reconstruction over a 130 years ago and no longer applicable in the age of international terrorism, if an event involves terrorism (and natural catastrophe like Katrina, by the way).   Either the CIA or the FBI or a completely new authority must develop "state of the art" domestic paramilitary capabilities.  I would recommend it is a new authority housed in a permanent domestic joint operations structure, the domestic equivalent in every way to the Joint Special Operations Command shared between the CIA and the Department of Defense.  

Let us call it now the "National Counter Terrorism Authority", the NCTA.  Funding would be provided with new appropriations and current federal funding for local SWAT teams and with the FBI and ATF capabilities in this set eliminated.  Personnel can be transferred or retired rehired military personnel in the JSOC, or those in SWAT and other capabilities who can undergo and succeed in meeting the demands for the additional training required.

The NCTA would be insular and self sufficient - the entire capability able to meet two simultaneous major events in the country - and East Cost and a West Cost team, again much like the SEALS.  The entire force would be on the scene of an event within 12 hours, and the complete command and control capability on site in 3 hours.  I envision dedicated transportation and logistics of several , always on standby, C140 transports, helicopters, and semis.  Local transportation would roll out of the C140.   In 12 hours a complete and insulated mobile command and control plant would be assembled that was semi-mobile.  All communication would be encrypted and insulated.  Complete local authority would be deemed to the event commander.  Military code of justice would prevail for all results.  JAGS and judges attached are on call and authorized for all required warrants and summary judgments - the terrorists are immediately deemed enemy combatants and must appeal that status to revert to the civilian court system, but only after the event is resolved.
The NCTA would be under POTUS and receive a Congressional Charter.  A complete set of law would be written under Section 50 (the CIA section) of US Code outlining the temporary warrant of action granted to the NCTA and its supreme authority in all matters.  The NCTA would be under Congressional review in the standing committee for intelligence in both houses.

It defies reason that the structure that is thought to be required for foreign military is not duplicated as much as possible for domestic purposes.  Why the JSOC is not mirrored for domestic reasons defies reason.
The need for unique specialized skills is obvious, especially when considered in light of Boston.  Prevention must be coordinated from the national level and either replaces local forces if a local capability is not demonstrated, and certified, or coordinates with a permanent counter terrorism capability.  SWAT teams do not have the skills required.  Furthermore, it is crucial that terrorists be taken alive, even if the risk to citizens and the authorities is increased significantly.  The reasons for that are obvious as it is not the specific terrorist who has just carried out an act that is important, but the terrorists knowledge of the cell or conspiracy that may exist.  It is crucial to capture the terrorist alive to make certain there  is no conspiracy or cell.  The NCTA would understand this and have the equipment and training to lessen risk as much as possible in realizing the paramount goal of taking the terrorist alive.  It seems the Tsarnaev shoot outs with the police was the desired outcome, completing a martyrdom operation.

It is likely only NYPD may be equipped and trained to realize the above and even then it may be unjust to call on any local police authority to do all that is possible, even risking the officer's lives, to accomplish the above, especially live capture of the terrorist.  

The  obvious efforts and capability  NYPD applied or reached successfully since 9/11 has covered up a most serious flaw for the nation - that NYC may very well be the only city with a  police force with capability to handle terrorism.  The above has to be  established in one form or another shortly.  It has to be,  as the enemy took notice and it should be assumed and it should be assumed the enemy read of the Boston experience is not at all along the lines of "Boston Strong", but rather Boston was surprisingly weak, inept and vulnerable so maximum leverage of the terrorist act could be applied.

Therefore the notice provided to the enemy means a near immediate remedy must be applied to the failure that was Boston, or we should expect many such terrorists events.  The enemy's eyes have been opened, they have been educated.  We must immediately respond.