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Assess Homeland Security; U.S. intelligence agencies must coordinate their work

Seventy years ago, on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese struck in a surprise attack that killed nearly 2,500 people at Pearl Harbor.

Sixty years later, nearly 3,000 were killed when the twin towers and Pentagon were struck by Muslim extremists.

There's a connection between the two attacks, and a serious one. The toll exacted in each case could have been sharply mitigated by proper intelligence work. It isn't that the intelligence gathering failed and there was no advance warning. What failed was poor communications within our security apparatus, and higher-ups whose judgment amounted to malfeasance in their jobs.

In the case of Pearl Harbor, an outlying Army radar observer reported the approaching planes to his superior at Pearl Harbor. He did nothing. Had personnel been alerted, the death count would have been far different.

In the case of the twin towers, an FBI agent in Minneapolis reported to his superior that a Muslim man had been taking lessons on how to pilot large commercial airliners, and paid the flight school $8,000 in cash. The agent's supervisor in Washington did nothing to investigate the report or pass it on to the right people.

The United States has many agencies gathering and interpreting intelligence, the most prominent being the FBI and the CIA. These agencies frequently act like college football teams in competition with each other, and don't always share information that could help their counterpart.

In typical U.S. fashion, a new agency was formed -- the Department of Homeland Security -- to act as an umbrella and ensure good coordination. The question that needs answering is whether Homeland Security is functioning as planned, or is just another agency full of people pushing paper around.

With such a multitude of agencies and people involved, there needs to be a watchdog to make sure the process doesn't become partisan, The people of the United States will benefit from everyone up and down the line doing his job.

The executive branch and Congress have people and committees to do just that. We can only hope they fulfill their role.

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