The recent resignations of two top homeland security officials raise troubling questions about the nation’s preparedness to combat domestic terrorism. Both had long and distinguished careers inside the government’s intelligence bureaucracy and both had reputations for candidly “speaking truth to power.”
In late March, Rand Beers, the administration’s senior director for combating terrorism, abruptly resigned his position. His job had been to coordinate the government’s counter-terrorism activities. Beers initially refused comment on his sudden resignation, other than to cite “personal reasons.” But in mid-June he gave a long interview to the Washington Post and made an appearance on ABC’s Nightline.
Beers said that his departure was due partly to “burn out,” but more to his frustration over the Bush administration’s handling of the war on terrorism. Beers alleged that “The administration wasn’t matching its deeds to its words” and is “making us less secure, not more secure.” The proximate cause for leaving, he now admits, was the focus on Iraq, although he says that he didn’t oppose the war. But he thinks Iraq “robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower, and money.” He worries that we haven’t yet finished the job in Afghanistan, where he thinks we simply scattered al Qaeda terrorists. He also thinks we haven’t pushed the Saudis hard enough on dealing with their own terrorism problem.
He was particularly critical of the administration’s management of homeland security. “Nothing gets done,” he told the Post, echoing the concerns of many in Washington about the slow pace of establishing the new Department of Homeland Security. He thinks the Department is underfunded and has yet to follow through on cyber-security, port security, infrastructure protection, and immigration management. Beers’ subsequent affiliation with Senator John Kerry, a Democratic Presidential hopeful, has permitted many to attribute his sudden departure and subsequent criticism to partisan politics.
But the more recent departure of another long-time intelligence official from the Department of Homeland Security seems to underscore Beers’ critique. The Department recently announced the resignation for “health reasons” of Paul Redmond, the Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis. Redmond had come out of retirement after a long career at CIA as one of the nation’s top spy catchers. His job was to establish the department’s capability to perform intelligence analysis that “will improve the government’s ability to disrupt and prevent terrorist acts.” Redmond’s office was supposed to be the cure for the nation’s intelligence failures before nine-eleven.
But at a congressional hearing in early June, Redmond blurted out that he didn’t have enough analysts to do the job. Worse yet, he said that his office still lacked the secure communications capability to receive classified reports from the intelligence community. That kind of candor was not appreciated by his bosses and, consequently, he had to go.