The Missing Piece: Why Intelligence Reform Failed After 9/11
On September 11, 2001, the U.S. government failed to prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S. homeland. The lack of a coordinated, strategic warning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks exposed serious systemic problems within the U.S. national security system. This event resulted in a rush to reform the U.S. intelligence community. In an effort to determine the causes of the failure a number of official investigations were conducted. While these investigations were successful in providing a wealth of extensive information that would have otherwise not been available to the public, the investigations' conclusions and recommendations failed to fix the underlying problems that caused the intelligence failures. In fact, in some ways, their recommendations may have made the situation worse.One major reason that the 9/11 investigations failed is because they neglected to consider critical social science theories that are relevant to questions of government reform. For example, none of the investigations considered the insights from theories such as new institutionalism, normal accident theory or organizational culture theory. In failing to seriously explain the theoretical insights from social science theory, these investigations neglected critical information that would have improved the reform efforts and made the U.S. safer.This study applies theoretical insights from social science theory to critique the reforms and to propose a new reform agenda for the intelligence community. Importantly, this study focuses on three common criticisms of the intelligence community made by the investigations: (1) the lack of imagination on behalf of the U.S. government and, in particular, the CIA to anticipate the threat; (2) the lack of accountability within the intelligence community to hold individuals responsible for failures like 9/11; and (3) the lack of an effective intelligence collection capability within the United States. In examining these criticisms, this study applies the lessons from constructivism, new institutionalism and organizational theory and demonstrates how the 9/11 investigations failed to applied theoretical insights to properly diagnose the flaws within the intelligence community.
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