Knowledge versus Faith

Article published on June 15, 2002
community published
Article published on June 15, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The tragic attacks on the World Trade Center exposed the failings of the world of military intelligence. The methods, financing and even the very raison dêtre of secret intelligence services have since come under severe scrutiny.

America at War. As much in the consciousness of the people as in the papers, September 11th 2001 will forever stick in our minds as an example of human cruelty and infamy. There are many who think that the terrifying acts could have been prevented. How did it happen? What did the CIAs intelligence services do? Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered, just like in 1961, when the poor exiled Cubans paid with their lives for the errors of the agency in Cochinos Bay. The same happened in the case of Kennedy in 1963, of Allende in 1973, Operation Condor in Latin America and September 11th 2001. This time appears to have been the last straw. What is more, the assassination of René Schneider, the Chilean general who refused to endorse a coup detat against Allende, has become a source of discussion. In any case, the secret services have a place in history, they have survived. In the past, the actions of men in that field were favoured, the surface of the globe was divided up into squares, every American embassy housed an official contact. Later secret surveillance appeared, and has proliferated and diversified to the point of obsession. Today George Orwells prophecy is more valid than it has ever been. The age of smile, youre on camera has become institutionalised. The United Kingdom watches its citizens from every angle and in every public place, even in the streets. The concept of the public eye has not evaded the United States either. For this reason, it is difficult to believe that the preparations for the September 11th attacks could have been carried off so inconspicuously. Two days afterwards satellite photos of the Pentagon were published on the pages of security organisations. The network system based on the interpretation of sound signals sigint (Signal Intelligency) and communications comint (Communications Intelligency) also failed to work. But the transcriptions of Bin Ladens conversations are available on the web. If there is a lesson to be learnt from this massacre it is that technological means are not enough in themselves despite the thousands of employees working for the National Security Agency (NSA). In this field, the responses are as rapid as the new initiatives. Human will surpasses mere scientific progress. Whatever the reasons for their acts, the terrorists proceeded with serious organisation and a period of preparation estimated at between 2 and 5 years, but most importantly they were armed with a frightful determination and unshakeable faith. In the twenty-first century things are as frightening for mankind as they were in the time of Plato, and perhaps even more so (every man is a wolf to every other man). Enormous sums have been injected into secret surveillance projects; nevertheless the efficacy of the secret services depends on infiltration and the presence of agents in the territory in question. And the CIA does not have staff prepared for such an approach. Their first man of contact was unmasked in the Middle East. The United States has always preferred to train native inhabitants of those countries for itself in order to ensure reliable coverage of the region. But today these men have embraced the fundamentalists and have turned against America. They have created their own tentacular network, their resources are colossal both from a logistical point of view and in terms of their financial means. So the time has come to decide the future of the secret services. The European community relies on the harmonisation of surveillance systems, a complex problem that threatens to undermine the sovereignty of the member states. One thing is for certain: the security of a state cannot be managed by way of bureaucratic systems where it takes an age for decisions to be arrived at. As for the rest, the process raises certain practical problems such as the possibility of obtaining reports in every language of the Union. The CIA too is taking a risk by constantly wanting to improve upon the technology it uses. The problem is simple: as in the world of information technology, every discovery has its antidote and everything must be renewed at a rapid rate. A simple example: there are already numerous versions of Echelon, and so it is very difficult to base an intelligence policy solely on such unstable technology. We would have to revert to the more direct method of the deployment of agents. The equation has now become more complicated: how do you integrate efficient men into the very fabric of a population without laying them open to treachery or neutralisation? Until now the United States has lent its support to guerrillas in order to overthrow regimes and restore its strategic interests. From now on their territory runs the risk of being invaded, and we could see more importance being placed on internal security, which implies a greater FBI presence. In the CIA the department of special operations will be done away with in the face of these changes, in interior operations and logistics. This recasting will prove adequate. America must be able to count on more forces than just the marines. Special agents armed with faith and the pride of serving a town or nation. Otherwise, they will not be able to rival those individuals prepared to sacrifice their lives. Mere knowledge is powerless against faith. During the cold war human wisdom avoided nuclear catastrophe. Today the situation calls for more than just wisdom. Today as much as in Roman times homo homini lupus est [man is a wolf to man].