September 12, 2019
September 11th happened because the CIA was “too white,” according to the BBC.
When the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) failed to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks, many asked whether more could have been done. But the true reason why the agency was blind to the signs may be a diversity problem, writes Matthew Syed.
[…] A former operations officer said that the CIA had a “white-as-rice culture”.
In the months leading up to 9/11, the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence commented: “From its inception, the Intelligence Community [has been] staffed by the white male Protestant elite, not just because that was the class in power, but because that elite saw itself as the guarantor and protector of American values and ethics.”
[…] But an insider in the foremost US intelligence agency said the CIA “could not believe that this tall Saudi with a beard [Osama Bin Laden], squatting around a campfire, could be a threat to the United States of America”.
This single alleged “insider” went unnamed.
Analysts were also misled by the fact that Bin Laden often issued pronouncements in poetry. To white, middle class analysts, this seemed eccentric, reinforcing the idea of a “primitive mullah in a cave”. To Muslims, however, poetry has a different meaning. It is holy. The Taliban routinely express themselves in poetry.
The CIA were studying the pronouncements with a skewed frame of reference. As Jones and Silberzahn put it: “The poetry itself was not merely in the foreign language of Arabic; it derived from a conceptual universe light years from Langley”.
[…] Meanwhile, senior CIA official Paul Pillar (white, middle-aged, Ivy league), was discounting the very possibility of a major act of terrorism. […]
The CIA could have allocated more resources to al-Qaeda. They could have attempted infiltration. But they were incapable of grasping the urgency.
[…] The dearth of Muslims is merely one illustration of how homogeneity undermined the world’s foremost intelligence agency. It provides an insight into how a more diverse group would have created a richer understanding not just into the threat posed by al-Qaeda, but dangers throughout the world. […]
Matthew Syed is the author of Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
We’re reaching levels of retconning never before thought possible.
This article was posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 5:02 am