On Air: Who’s more intelligent, the intelligence services or the terrorists?

In yesterday’s programme many listeners commented that profiling at airports would not work because the people who resort to terror would simply change their profile and stay one step ahead.

The calls for these extra security measures at airports came after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate a bomb on a plane bound for the US.  The American intelligence and the British intelligence services are blaming each other for the blunder.

Bernard Harcourt on our show yesterday had the following to say about terrorist organisations: These are organised groups, these are forward-thinking, extremely rational in terms of activity planning strategy and figuring out where the weaknesses are.

Bernadette Atuahene says, I have been scratching my head trying to figure out how in the world Umar Abdulmutallab, a 23 year old Nigerian student, outsmarted homeland security and its Transportation Security Administration… he was just some punk kid who was brainwashed in Yemen and sent to do a job. This terrorist should have been no match for us!

This blogger, has questioned the CIA tactics after it emerged that the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian military officer last week in Afghanistan was a Jordanian double-agent, recruited by the U.S. intelligence. He asks wheather the CIA was caught in an al-Qaeda trap?

There is general feeling of a loss of faith in the intellegence services this blogger says, In the last decade, the ability of US intelligence services to distinguish between good intelligence and bad intelligence, to actually know when a threat was coming and counter it, have not been very good.

And Ralph Peters writes, Our terrorist enemies are out-thinking us. It’s not only embarrassing, but deadly.

Are terrorists one step ahead of the security services? Do you feel protected by the intelligence services?

133 Responses to “On Air: Who’s more intelligent, the intelligence services or the terrorists?”

  1. 1 Nigel
    January 5, 2010 at 11:57

    It isn’t a case of intelligent or smart. The Intelligence services are mired down in rules regulations and red tape, their own sense of importance, not to talk about having to keep the politicians looking good. All the terrorist have to do is focus on the job.

    • 2 pongoh
      January 5, 2010 at 20:02

      I don’t think we will get a consensus answer, because there isn’t one. My concern is that the CIA sidestepped procedures and did not search the person who they ‘invited’. They cannot afford to get their guard down at any time, because if they understand the psyche of double agents they should always be cautious. Terrorists are always ahead of the game because their targets are defined, but the intelligence community is often working with incomplete information that they often cannot verify.So, it is not because they are not intelligent, they just have to be persistent. They are not allowed to talk about their successes and lay their lives on the line for the rest of us. In hindsight everything seems clear . We should give them credit for what they do, but we hope that they learn from their mistakes.

  2. 3 piscator
    January 5, 2010 at 12:41

    I don’t know how intelligent the ‘intelligence services’ are, because they don’t tell us, but i hope they are very good. The only thing that concerns me about them is that because they are paid to catch terrorists they over hype the problem, and upset a lot of innocent people by trying to demonstrate how on the ball they are. They also need to invent a new language that sounds more truthful – i mean, can AlQuida be known to have caused every terrorist incident and plot within seconds of it being uncovered? The impact fails with mindless repetition of the phrase ‘bears all the hallmarks of Alquida’. It affects their public image.

    It’s whoever gives politicians mindless advice that worries me – the latest one is switching off the in-flight map – what are they going to do after that, remove our watches, and have ‘no terrorists in window seats’ signs. Same with making you stay in your seat for the last hour of the flight – mindless rubbish. I hope it is not the ‘intelligence service’ that comes up with this stuff.

    They could, of course, be intelligent enough to stop people wanting to bomb aeroplanes – now that would be clever.

    • 4 shree
      January 5, 2010 at 19:28

      Well, I would love to say Intelligent Service are more intelligent, but seeing 9-11, attack at Taj and many more, let them be their own judge.
      I could only hope to wake up one morning and see that no peoples are dead because of gun or bombs. Really hope Intelligent Service have that kind of intelligence to do so.

  3. 5 tope
    January 5, 2010 at 12:44

    i think the media like cnn, bbc have contributed to the state in which the western intelligence community is in today. thia is due to the fact that you more than necessary talk about their weaknesses such that the enemy use these to undermine them. i wonder if the bbc and the like will have the freedom they enjoy today if the extremists find a way of winning this war; which the media have made themselves weapons (albeit) unknowingly for the extremists.
    from nigeria.

  4. 6 Mohammed Ali
    January 5, 2010 at 13:00

    The thing is that the US and her allies are not fighting terrorism with sincerety. They list people because of their names and origins. Those kinds of situations recruit even those who are not sympathetic to the terrorist. I was denied a money sent to me by a colleague from Canada simply because my name is MOHAMMED ALI. That’s not the way to fight this nightmare called terrorism

  5. January 5, 2010 at 13:39

    Intelligent services follow strict rules and share information with other agencies. Their methods are clearly mapped out. Terrorists are so unpredictable and as many of them are non-state actors, it is difficult to pin them down. Their methods vary and many of them are prepared to give their lives for their nefarious activities. Suicide bombers often try to target crowded spots to create the maximum mayhem and carnage. Intelligent agencies on the other hand try to minimise deaths.

  6. 8 abiy
    January 5, 2010 at 13:44

    i think the so called “terrorists” are not intelligent but i think the intelligent services are even less intelligent. i just think the so called “terrorist” epitomize the sayin “wear there is a will there is a way”. the reason that such acts still go on is because the western approach is clearly ineffective. bombing innocent communities in Yemen and Afganistan will not stop this but only add more fuel to the fire. personaly i think the US should be held accountable for all the atrocities it has commited in the name of..”spreading democracy and freedom”….but dont like blowing up innocent people (including women and children),
    the west should actually adress why people are willing to blow themselves, why do they think its okay?then formulate a plan to adress this. the west might posses the strongest military power yet they are shaken to the core by determined yet misguided individuals with bombs in their underwear…………..thats food for thought.

  7. 9 patti in cape coral
    January 5, 2010 at 13:54

    It seems to me that a big part of the problem is communication between different intelligence facilities within the US and internationally. They seem to jealously hoard information for some reason and not share with each other. I don’t think the terrorists are necessarily more intelligent, but because they don’t have the same kind of rules to follow, they are more adaptable and flexible to changes in the game plan. It is also hard to win against people who are so willing to die, and they are able to replace these people with more who are willing to die.

    • January 5, 2010 at 14:27

      Exactly right! I have family members who have worked in US Intelligence for decades and the problems they face get worse with each administration and the creation of new organizations. Americans know about the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc., but those are the “feel good” agencies as my uncle puts it. The “real” work is done by shadow organizations with no connection to the bureaucracy that bogs down the “alphabet soup” agencies. Every new agency wants the glory and all one has to do is look at jurisdiction disputes between local police and feds for domestic, non terrorist related things to see that jealousies and red tape stop us from being as effective as possible. al Quieda, however, is run like a corporation with extremely tight controls and clear pyramid of command. While the people who commit the actual act of terrorism are not the “smart” ones in control, to dismiss their leaders as unintelligent is to doom yourself to a fate that you will later say you couldn’t have seen coming. Drop the red tape, consolidate all of the agencies into one, with one clear leader and go from there.

  8. 11 scmehta
    January 5, 2010 at 14:04

    Well yes, good and efficient intelligence, collected & collated through reliable sources, should mostly help us to stay a step ahead of the enemy. But, in face of the terrorists, who, with deadly weapons in their cursed hands, actually and particularly don’t know who their enemy is, and strike at their bloody will, mostly under the Dictat of their evil-masters, our civilized ways of collecting intelligence sometimes fall short of or are late in reaching the required spot/destination. Therefore, in order to outwit this motivated,cunning and ruthless enemy, we need to devise some unconventional and speedy means of getting the desired information; in such cases, we don’t have to be civil in our approaches to counter the enemy, who already has the advantage of first-strike; this enemy is a killer, who knows when and where to strike the unsuspecting people, and who kills indiscriminately,without any reasons/plans or scruples/ethics. After gaining the first information, we need to work upon it like crafty workers or artists, somewhat on the lines of the legendary Sherlock Holmes; it’s said seriously, not jokingly. The ever-so-present attitude of complacency or disregard, towards the in-coming pieces of information, has to stop; such precious information, gathered by so much of effort and risk, must always be taken seriously and should immediately be worked upon.

  9. 12 sascha
    January 5, 2010 at 14:11

    Who is more “intelligent”?!?!
    Shouldn’t we call things by their names….
    On the one hand we have espionage… on the other, stupidity!
    Martin Luther King said it well…
    Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

  10. 13 Frank in the USA
    January 5, 2010 at 14:22

    Intelligence agencies have their hands tied by politicians. How’s this for hypocrisy–the same people whining about the inadequacy of intelligence agencies are largely the same ones wailing about the inhumanity of taunting a terrorist, flushing a Koran down the toilet, or running water up a captive’s nose. How are we supposed compete with people who don’t hesitate to dismember you, put a bullet in your brain, or sever your head?

    Sure we can play “fair,” but then don’t complain when a jet airliner explodes at 35,000 feet sending hundreds of passengers out into an open-air, two-minute free-fall to a horrifying death. That’s simply the price we have to pay to be the “good guys.” But it’s worth it, right?

  11. 14 @guykaks
    January 5, 2010 at 14:40

    I feel the intelligence services look more intelligent.They are smart and able to detect any malpractise and even the henoius acts of terrorist.we thank technology for being there to support this worthy cause.on the other hand,terrorist are very apt,composed and know when to strike.we should not under estimate the terrorist.There intelligence services are every where in the world and well webbed.My point is this,we should not compare two fighting giants/enemies till one of the fall down!

  12. 15 steve
    January 5, 2010 at 14:42

    Intelligence officials have to follow rules, and are always on the defensive. It’s a bit difficult to predict new methods of murdering innocent civilians when you have one hand tied behind your back, and even if they weren’t so restricted, theyw ould still be on the defensive. Question, why not expect civilized behavior from islamist militants and other terrorists? Is it time to ask is trying to stop terrorism worse than blowing up a plane of civilians?

  13. 16 Nelson Isibor
    January 5, 2010 at 14:52

    When the terrorists succeed in pulling off an attack, they could be more intelligent because they outsmarted intelligence agencies who were supposed to stop them.

    When the Intelligence agencies foil a terrorist attack, they have the upper hand because they were ahead in the game.

    As we all know, this is case of a swinging pendulum which can go either way at any time. It’s not really about who’s smarter, it’s about who figures out what the other is upto first.

    • 17 Rob C
      January 5, 2010 at 16:17

      Putting together the pieces that spell out disaster should be left to those with the skills; maybe the mavens over at Google can help?

  14. 18 Josiah Soap
    January 5, 2010 at 14:54

    The terrorists could be complete imbeciles and the intelligence service genuises. The problem is the terrorists do not have a myriad of stupid rules to follow like the intelligence service does. Western service agencies are bogged down by a set of rules to avoid offending anyone, just look at the sham with the Fort Hood killer. This makes it easy for the terrorists to plan attacks. They must be laughing their heads off at us.

  15. 19 Jonathan (sunny San Francisco)
    January 5, 2010 at 15:09

    Ten years ago, an FBI agent reported students in a flight school, learning to fly jumbo jets but oddly uninterested in taking off or landing. FBI headquarters ignored the reports from its own field office. We now know those were terrorists in training for the 9/11 attack.

    Any small, dedicated, flexible group has inherent advantages over a huge political bureaucracy. The CIA is still crippled from eight years of abuse by the Bush administration, principally Dick Cheney, which drove off the most senior and competent people.

    The wonder now is that after years of cynical manipulation and wanton destruction, the intelligence agencies are capable of anything at all.

    Oh–the media don’t tell terrorists anything they don’t already know. That’s just propaganda by those who don’t want the population to know what’s going on.

  16. 20 Roy, Washington DC
    January 5, 2010 at 15:19

    Neither is more “intelligent” than the other. It’s a cat and mouse game. Terrorists don’t have all the rules and bureaucracy to deal with, true, but intelligence officials have vastly more in the way of resources.

  17. 21 Roberto
    January 5, 2010 at 15:20

    RE “” blaming each other for the blunder. “”

    ————– At least when the Three Stooges were slapping each other silly, it was slapstick comedy and gave us some classic film footage.

    These terrorists and intelligence agencies are dumbing down the world’s IQ in a race to the bottom of the barrel, plain and simple. Oh, how the Stooges could go to town with all the material provided in this era.

    Lessee, CIA recruits the stooges to infiltrate terrorist camps. Curly forgets who he’s really working with and becomes the star terrorist recruit piloting the lead plane as Moe and Larry get stuck in the cargo area next to a pair of gorillas being transported to a DC zoo.

    Meanwhile, the CIA gets wind of the impending attack, and calls Shemp out of retirement to help them, but he can’t pass through the xray screen because he’s swallowed too many knives and forks until a bevy of starlets start overheating the machines and the screeners causing the circuits to blow.

    If people would just stop being maimed and dying, maybe would could laugh at this nonsense………alas, these evil operators may have good timing, but no sense of humour at all………none….

  18. 22 Jonathan (sunny San Francisco)
    January 5, 2010 at 15:21


    The problem in your eloquent defense of brutality is that it doesn’t work to defend against terrorists. Professional interrogators don’t use torture because it’s not effective. Your dichotomy between being safe and being a “good guy” is a red herring.

  19. 23 gary
    January 5, 2010 at 15:25

    It’s a question of operational terrain rather than comparative intelligence. A small terror cell has the freedom to select its theater of action, while the intelligence communities must be vigilant everywhere. Minimal human resources can thus effectively match much larger and more expensive defenses. It’s just hide and seek on a larger and more lethal scale. Also of course, a really clever terrorist is aided by the fact that efforts sum; but intellects do not (i.e. fifty ordinary smart folks don’t add up to be a Newton or an Einstein).

  20. 24 piscator
    January 5, 2010 at 15:27

    Most of the terrorists we have seen since 9/11 have not been very intelligent. We have the recent case of a guy with a non-exploding bomb, similarly two doctors in the UK with absolutely no idea about chemistry(they should have stayed under cover, they probably would have killed more people in hospitals due to their incompetence). We had bombs on the Tube that failed to detonate.

    I think it may help to get away from the idea that these people are somehow controlled by what MikeHoward claims is a super efficient, tightly run central terror executive(AlQaida). I think the danger comes from deranged people acting on their own, who cannot be traced by their Emails to binladen.com, or photographing the House of Commons. Many of the bombers so far do not show any signs of being organised, just being fanatical. Plus, many are in fact home grown, not products of Afghan madrases.

    IMO There is a danger of the ‘intelligence’ people getting too technical and too clever to defeat the back room bomber who is working either on their own, or in a very small group with no external connections. They are better detected by people who come into contact with them daily, before they ever get near an airport.

    • 25 Rob C
      January 5, 2010 at 16:32

      The title ‘al-Qaeda’ has been blown out of proportion (by whom – politicans, media?) and taken on a synonomous meaning equilvalant to ‘CIA’, ‘KGB’, ‘Nazi’, to serve what purpose?

  21. January 5, 2010 at 15:30

    Terrorists are evil manipulators who have no scruples at all and are cold-blooded murderers. People working for intelligence agencies, on the other hand, are working diligently to prevent acts of terrorism. Their whole mindset is different. It is virtually impossible to say who is more intelligent but terrorists are crafty, mean, sordid and do not have an iota of respect for rules or for the sanctity of life.

  22. 27 Tholumusa Favoured Mlalazi (Zimbabwe)
    January 5, 2010 at 15:40

    “Terrorists are organised groups, these are forward-thinking, extremely rational in terms of activity planning strategy and figuring out where the weaknesses are…”

    On the other hand Intelligence Services are are organised groups, that are meant to be forward-thinking, extremely rational in terms of activity planning strategy and figuring out where the terroist’s strongholds are.
    Too bad out-wright simplicity always beats black suits.

  23. January 5, 2010 at 15:45

    Salaam guys,
    Well, unfortunately in my Iraq the terrorists are much more intelligent than the intelligence services… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  24. 29 Roo
    January 5, 2010 at 15:52

    Many respondents suggest ‘rules’ are the reason for problems in intelligence gathering and reaction to threats. I believe otherwise.

    Simply stated, a small generally anonymous group is terribly hard to track, whereas a monolithic agency like the FSB (KGB) is easier to wrap one’s brains around.

    Drug addled and brainwashed suicide bombers are driven out of tiny, often independently run cells of terrorist activity. Regardless of the technology, or the brain power used, they will be difficult to stop.

    Kind regards,

  25. 30 Roy, Washington DC
    January 5, 2010 at 16:04

    Checking WHYS’s Facebook feed, there’s a story where someone describes the TSA as mostly reactionary. I fully agree with this, and would add that the TSA most certainly does not make me feel any safer. Kneejerk reactions like the liquid ban don’t improve safety. The TSA and CIA are two different things, of course, but the TSA reflects poorly on the rest of the government.

  26. 31 Guido, Vienna
    January 5, 2010 at 16:05

    The terrorists are always in the advantage. I am sure, I could make an attack that would cause panic all by myself. With some chemical knowledge bombs can be made of unsuspicious substances.

  27. 32 chinaski in LA
    January 5, 2010 at 16:05

    Maybe WHYS should be asking ‘who has the upper hand in the terrorist game’ rather than ‘whos more intelligent’. Can I get a job?

    • 33 Tholumusa Favoured Mlalazi (Zimbabwe)
      January 5, 2010 at 18:27

      Semantics chinaski don’t you think?
      The one who has an upper hand obviously uotsmarts the one who operates within certan rules and restrictions.

      • 34 chinaski in LA
        January 5, 2010 at 19:09

        Intelligence doesn’t always beget strategy. Sometimes experience and context influence strategy more than intelligence.

  28. 35 farah
    January 5, 2010 at 16:07

    We are ready to believe any cock and bull story that the media potrays. I hope sanity prevails and people use the mind ,start questioning and reasoning.

  29. January 5, 2010 at 16:14

    No group is more intelligent than the next group.Sly,crafty and more devious yes,but not more intelligent.The intelligence services have done quite well,(the UK liquid would be bombers).Terrorists only need one muggins,if that fails,they look for another muggins.But then the terrorists never know when they are being eaves dropped.The problem,I think,is shared intelligence,which is not always the case with agencies.The Christmas would be bomber was on a list,yet he was still given a visa,oops!

  30. 37 Kate M.
    January 5, 2010 at 16:23

    I would have to say the terrorist are more intelligent. Intelligence agencies are reactionary and the terrorist aren’t. There are also a lot more terrorist than agency employees. Threats are coming from everywhere.

  31. 38 Bert
    January 5, 2010 at 17:11

    The terrorists have the easier job. They can pick and choose where they strike. The intelligence community has to be vigilant everywhere at the same time. Big difference in scale.

    In addition, the failure to identify the Nigerian 23 year old as a potential threat, not to mention all the hand-wringing and wailing we have been witnessing about “profiling,” points to the added obstacle of political correctness that afflicts governments. Terrorists don’t have to worry about political correctness either.

  32. 39 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 5, 2010 at 17:13

    Islamic fundamentalist nihilism couldn’t create airplanes and skyscrapers, but it was able to destroy them.

    Let us not forget that it is much easier to destroy than to create and build, and let us not mistake cunning, violent plots for intelligence.

  33. 40 t
    January 5, 2010 at 17:15

    In every govt. agency, you’ll always have those “career people” who only care about doing their 20 years and then getting their pension.

    What’s even more disturbing is hearing some of them essentially say that the public are like sheep. Just keep exploiting their fears (terrorism, racial profiling, and more). And they’ll give you anything you want (billions of dollars, permission to torture, etc.).

    There’s the “official line” (we don’t torture). And then there’s reality.

  34. January 5, 2010 at 17:17

    If you’re asking when there are hundreds of thousands of flights everyday, did they expect the BBC to focus on the one that got away, then yes. Try burying that info, a watched pot never boils.

    The Oracle

  35. 42 t
    January 5, 2010 at 17:19

    Another aspect of this? The CIA (and maybe other agencis worldwide) are outsourcing much of their work.

    Which means that “intelligence” work is a very lucrative business. For tthe private firms that do rendition flights. For those that run black prisons and interrogations.

    Will this change in the near future? I don’t see it happening.

    • 43 Bert
      January 5, 2010 at 17:57

      Whether “intelligence” is outsourced and lucrative has nothing to do with the question of whether it’s effective. Just because people can make money at doing something does not automatically make that wrong.

      On the contrary, it is most often easy to demonstrate that it is incompetent people who cannot be self-sustaining at what they do.

  36. 44 Anthony
    January 5, 2010 at 17:22

    Not in the U.S. I haven’t seen any attacks in the U.S. lately.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  37. January 5, 2010 at 17:22

    Both are human and prone to make big and small mistakes all the time. Too much information is also a huge problem.

    troop….Oregon coast

  38. 46 t
    January 5, 2010 at 17:29

    imagine if Obama, Brown, Sarkozy and all the other major world leaders said this.

    From now on, we’re going to track down and kill all terrorists. And, everyone who supports them in ANY way.

    How would the public react to that? How would the “terrorists” react? Is that really going to solve anything? No it isn’t.

    • 47 Tholumusa Favoured Mlalazi (Zimbabwe)
      January 5, 2010 at 18:45

      t –
      Do terrorists have bug Sign on their forehead written T E R R O R I S T ?
      Do they wear a T- Shirt with the inscription, catch me if you can??
      Do they even have a special terrosist’s tracking beacon?
      Where would the 3 wise-man Obama, Brown and Sarkozy start the search?
      It’s just not easy.
      People do not just wake up, walk the extreme road via a terrorist cell. Something must have happened before then. finding the common denominator with all these coutries could be a starting point to avoiding long term future terrorist attacks.

      Those guys are saying something.. and actions are their means.

      Lets’ support the intelligence services as they try to become more intelligent.

  39. 48 Grace Mbonyiwe Phiri
    January 5, 2010 at 17:40

    Yes the terrorists are more intelligent that the world renowned intelligence services. They target the young, the vulnerable – who are easy to brainwash. It is all about mind control with them really. And hey the terrorists are beating their masters who trained them except they are doing it in a rather crude way. Who on earth trained Osama Bin Laden – and yet they have failed to capture the man.
    We are at the mercy of the intelligent and the unintelligent!

  40. 49 margaret
    January 5, 2010 at 17:42

    I agree with everyone who has commented that “intelligence services”, particularly in the USA, are hampered by laws, regulations, politics, and bureaucracy to start with–then we get into things like not having translators, not understanding cultures, etc etc. Certainly the terrorist organizations are not hampered by such things. I agree with everyone who has stated that the “root causes” of terrorism need to be dealt with. I think intelligence agencies are more successful in other countries, particularly if they can employ methods that most Americans would find objectionable to intolerable. Also the US never seems to take the long view and be proactive–we constantly seem to be reacting and the terrorists are a step ahead. RE: the underwear bomber–we got lucky.

    Margaret Tacoma, WA

  41. January 5, 2010 at 17:48

    Sifting information and being vigilant are the jobs of intelligence officers, separating the grain from the chaff, while blurring the truth and spreading hate, creating uncertainty are the tasks of hateful terrorists! Terrorists have wicked agendas: they use religion as a garb for their unholy crimes.

  42. 51 Jason O in Pittsburgh
    January 5, 2010 at 17:49

    These body scanners have been sitting in warehouses just waiting for someone like the Detroit bomber to show up to justify and expedite their deployment. This means that we have anticipated such events but our civil liberty organizations and governments would not allow us to put forth the necessary steps to prevent individuals from stuffing their underpants with explosives. The fact is that our security experts are smarter than the terrorists but our societies inhibit the type of preventative action that is necessary to stay ahead.

  43. January 5, 2010 at 17:59

    I would say that terrorists are more lucky than intelligence services-definitely not more intelligent.
    Consider the facts.Agencies do not know the terrorists, but they do know about the agencies,in fact their day to day operations thanks to media.
    Terrorists are mingled with the law abiding citizens; you just can’t go and arrest somebody till a terrorist act is committed or you prove the intentions.
    Even if arrested terrorists do have Rights!
    Fact is Agencies have to be lucky at all times while terrorists need to be lucky only once.

  44. 53 Gary Paudler
    January 5, 2010 at 18:04

    It is all theater intended to elicit a response from the viewing public. The terrorists want the audience to feel “Ooh, I’m scared” and the anti-terrorists want the audience to feel that they are being protected, neither requires much in the way of effective action. The audience, out of mortal fear for their lives, will continue to drive drunk, eat pathogens in their processed food, breathe polluted air and drink poisonous water and accept that fellow humans live in abject poverty and with no personal security whatsoever as long as someone with a suit and a haircut tells them in earnest tones that their safety is absolutely, positively the very most important thing in the universe (really and truly) when, in fact, politicians accept that people will die and what really matters is being re-elected by the people who haven’t died and convincing those people to continue to give their money to airlines. Do I sound cynical? Somebody tell me how many civilians have died due to terrorist attacks since September 10th, 2001 and how many civilians have died due to missiles fired by drone aircraft. Who really suffers from insecurity? Every day, 5000 people die because they don’t have access to safe drinking water. What is the real threat?

  45. 54 Andrew in Australia
    January 5, 2010 at 18:07

    The problem with intellignece agencies can be summed up in one word – “management”.

    Terrorists operate freely and independently for the most part. Agencies might have a brilliant operative or analyst in their midst, but they have to report to their superiors and so on up the chain to their superiors etc.

    If you have intense office politics, or a personal problem with your supervisor then your work will be ignored, put aside and forgotten. Agencies also have to answer to politicians and ultimately they only operate on superficial levels. But mostly if your supervisor resents you or feels threatened by you (we all know that feeling) he will supress your ability and your findings to everyone’s detriment. In such stakes this means people will die and terrorists know this and take advantage of this.

  46. 55 Tracy in Portland,OR
    January 5, 2010 at 18:12

    Imagine the flood of information they need to vet through. I would guess some is good and useful. Some good but useless. And much is just trash. If some ends up as something that should have been acted on in retrospect everyone wants to know why something wasn’t done. I just wonder how many estranged family members, ex-spouses, and others with their own agendas keep the intelligence agencies busy fingering people as a potential terrorist. Can we afford not to listen? Of course not. Can we check out every single tip? Get real.

    Stop thinking the good guys with the guns can protect you. Or a scanner will see all the dangers. Life is full of risk. Pay attention to your surroundings. Act if necessary. Stop asking why they can’t protect you.

  47. January 5, 2010 at 18:12

    The most difficult thing to decipher and predict is the human mind. All intelligence community can do is guess work. Trying to hack into the behaviour of extremists and terrorists is near impossible and down to a matter of luck! Good luck!

  48. 57 piscator
    January 5, 2010 at 18:16

    If you want a little test of how out of date and out of touch US thinking is:- was anyone else surprised that the first country on the new list of ‘special measures’ for passengers was CUBA.???

    What they done to the US? Upset them 50 years ago. Really relevant. I think the idea is that vindictivness comes before intelligence, in any of it’s meanings.

    Whoever is keeping the skys safe for my holidays really ought to be a bit more clear thinking.

    January 5, 2010 at 18:25

    Both intelligence community and terrorists are smart. The difference arises because one is motivated by upward mobility in rank and perks whereas the other (the terrorist) is a volunteer freed from such worries. Most Intelligence people or their sponsors want to score personal or political goal hence ego trip which may lead to misinformation/suspicion within the ranks. In their haste to be achievers they end up creating the very terrorists to counter other terrorism. This is okay but there is something else to consider. Intelligence people do not care about someone outside their clubs and resort to use and damp tactic thereby creating future enemies.
    These people are unfriendly/ungrateful because their work is not to use intelligence but rather to outsmart to achieve sometimes a raw goal. They go to any lengths to use all means at their disposal even to torture and when anything goes haywire they are not accountable. When have they ever said sorry to anyone even when they have been caught red handed? As if that is not enough, sometimes some of them are the very sponsors of crime and coverup/mistrust. Many citizens may report a crime only to find out that the information is leaked to the concerned and you end up being liquidated.

  50. 59 Will, British Columbia
    January 5, 2010 at 18:26

    All these enhanced ‘security’ measure likely do make it more difficult for terrorist groups to plan new attacks, unfortunately for us they make our llives a lot more inconvienent and expensive. Security services and terrorists are both suseptable to human error, although that being said, we aren’t faced with a constant barrage of terrorist attacks in the west. Possibly because of Intellegence, possibly because there aren’t that many dedicated terrorists but both sides again aren’t going to start talking about their tactics openly.

  51. 60 Elias
    January 5, 2010 at 18:31

    Muslims are spread all over the world, they communicate through the internet, cell phones and the like, are preached to by religious muslim priests who live in safe countries like England, and some of them encourage terrorism. The extremists amongst them are always looking at ways so that they can successfully commit terrorist acts which they communicate and discuss with their comrades.
    The intellegence services can only hope to gather information by using technology and for people to come forward to inform them of susspicious planning of possible terrorist acts. Recently a trusted informer walked straight into the presence of CIA personel and detonated a bomb killing eight CIA agents and himself.
    It is easier to circumvent a terrorist act than for the intellegence organisation to stop it in time, however there has been some success in stopping it. It is a nasty and deplorable fact that some people are brainwashed to the extent they dont mind blowing themselves up and killing innocent people in the process.

  52. 61 Tom K in Mpls
    January 5, 2010 at 18:37

    A few facts about human nature. We all want perfection. We all want everything now. We all remember and want to hear bad news. We are all imperfect. Everything we do is flawed.

    Keep all this in mind when you consider this or any other issue. Look at the record. Overall I find it remarkably good. Other safety issues are far more significant than terrorism. Why don’t we address the issue of mechanics, pilot training or traffic controllers instead?

  53. 62 John in Salem
    January 5, 2010 at 19:00

    I have trouble with using the term “intelligent” to describe people who want to kill you into believing what they do.
    Their advantage is their insanity, not their intelligence.

  54. 63 Venkat, Winston-Salem
    January 5, 2010 at 19:03

    The terrorists have the prerogative. An Intelligence Service can monitor the activities of a group or groups, but if a person is an ordinary citizen one day turned a suicide bomber the next and if he or she is acting alone, there is not much one can do.

  55. 64 Rob in Vancouver
    January 5, 2010 at 19:06

    It’s becoming increasingly obvious to anyone looking at the situation, that managing a threat to one’s country by invading Iraq or Afghanistan doesn’t work. It fails to address the issues, is expensive and pretty clearly doesn’t stop the threat to airline travel or terrorism.

    The intelligence agencies are going to struggle to admoit this, as it appears a failure. The truth is, this is not a ‘Cold War’ scenario. They may as well stop fighting it like one.

  56. 65 Mike in Seattle
    January 5, 2010 at 19:06

    It swings back and forth, but I’ll say the terrorists have the upper hand.

    The dumb thing that’s going on here is that the intelligence services aren’t being cleaned out, and that we’re still ensuring our safety through overpriced gadgets rather than good intelligence gathering. In addition to that everyone gets worked up and becomes incredibly irrational. This isn’t the way to deal with issues of national security.

    Let’s stop wasting all of this time and money making sure that a one in ten million event doesn’t happen, and spend it elsewhere. Guess what folks, body scanners won’t find anything hidden inside of a body cavity. How many drug smugglers do this every day?

    If we want our intelligence agencies to regain the upper hand, we need to stop demanding invasive security theater and start expecting concrete, practical solutions. Expensive toys do not fit the bill.

    January 5, 2010 at 19:09

    What is at stake with intelligence community is lack of trust or rather overconfidence. Sometimes one is not sure what their target, is whether it is to end a problem or it is simply client/entreprenure game. Look at the issue of drugs, illeagal arms, assasinations, terror.
    There is nothing like terror for the sake of terror or limited ownership of intelligence for a certain club. Terror acts are still going on while this people are busy profiling the wrong people to get an easy target. It is not true that past intelligent people were able to succeed so much. For them there was a profession and a higher goal or calling and they were able to see beyond the immediate act. I do not know how many people believe that the movie 007 was a spy. Its a joke but somehow this model still dominate the world of intelligence; celebrity created by Holywood. We need a more pragmatic approach and not delude ourselves as to why there is no Schwarzenegar to take on the whole of Bagdad with a single gun. Lastly terrorists do not repeat the last style and they will be busy planning something new while we tire ourselves with repeated scenarios. If intelligence people will succeed in future, they have to think long tarm rather than the current method of rushing with scaners. They have to create friendly sorces of data which they do not compromise.

  58. 67 jens
    January 5, 2010 at 19:11

    there are two things to consider here. ONE is the question what is more difficult; to plan an attack in a hideen location as a small group of individuals, OR to discover the planed attack and foil it. TWO, which side has the higher risk of failing. The terrorist master planner can afford to fail, since it is only a small disposable group (heck these guys are suicid attackers), whearas the security agencies have virtually no room to fail, since the consequences are horrific.

    so maybe the question posted is not a very intelligent on……

  59. 68 Tamatoa, Zurich
    January 5, 2010 at 19:14

    According to the high competition for the jobs, the better schools and more resources the Intel-agencies should win. But only if their training is correct. As time goes on circumstances change. And every change is an opportunity for the terrorist because neither party has had proper training on that subject. So they playing fields are equal and eventually the terrorist will find a solution that the intels haven’t thought of yet. And sometimes the intel may be great but the implementation is just very poor.

    But what is most important is to understand that the both parties intel vs. terror-organisations will not back down because they both fight over life and death. They cannot stop unless both are satisfied. And since it’s a matter of life and death they won’t.
    There are two ways to end this conflict: elimination of one party or mutual tolerance. But as long as they don’t look for ways to live in peace they just have to search eachother’s weaknesses.

  60. 69 Tara Tate
    January 5, 2010 at 19:15

    For those who decry the fact that western intelligence services are mired in rules, i say, if you do not have a moral standpoint, then what are you protecting other than financial interests.
    I actually think that it doesnt take a smart person to get through security precautions, but a lucky one as was the case in this matter and with Richard Reid.

  61. 70 evets
    January 5, 2010 at 19:16

    Your guest asked what happens if terrorists start blowing up grocery stores, etc. Well, look at Israel. You get searched before even going into a grocery store or a restaurant. Just about every business there has security that you have to go past before entry, even grocery stores. McDonalds has security agents and metal detectors.

  62. 71 Tom in the U.S.A.
    January 5, 2010 at 19:20

    The better question to ask is: who’s winning? At the moment, we are winning. Osama bin laden and his ilk are living in holes and caves. Meanwhile, we have our freedom. The day we lose is when we lose our freedom.

    • 72 Tracy in Portland,OR
      January 5, 2010 at 19:38

      Thank you Tom, another voice of reason in the flood of panic..

    • 73 Rob in Vancouver
      January 5, 2010 at 19:38

      In reply to Tom in USA… You’re winning? Yet, your freedom has been severely curtailed, you are loosing a fortune in running the operation and you appear not to have removed the threat. That’s a strange definition of winning.

  63. January 5, 2010 at 19:20

    It isn’t an intelligence failure. It is a political failure whereby information isn’t passed on.
    Intelligence services don’t act like their hands are tied, except when they want to plead to be able to commit more atrocities than they already do themselves.
    Terrorists aren’t really overwhelmingly Islamic, and to profile them as such is racist and simple-minded.
    If we don’t wake up to the terroristic effects of western foreign policy (by and large), with our unmanned aerial vehicles and laser guided missiles that kill many, many civilians, no amount of secret police will ensure security, though they will curtail our freedoms all the more.

  64. 75 Rob in Vancouver
    January 5, 2010 at 19:22

    You American guest suggests that the agent is is ‘a sophisticated bomber’ with a mature organisation. Come on! Even a fifth grader knows that if you want to get in with a new crowd, you throw them a bone. If this is considered ‘sophisticated thinking’ I think the terrorists don’t have a lot to worry about!

  65. 76 Gp
    January 5, 2010 at 19:22

    Bernadet makes a great point… What if the Nigerian had chosen to travel to America without a bomb and insted armed himself with locally available explosives here in Detroit? He could have targeted crowded public places with little deterant.

  66. January 5, 2010 at 19:22

    Of course terrorists aren’t one step ahead of us. They should be, because we are soft on terrorism, but they are not.

    The pants bomber really was pants. He couldn’t even do what he had flown to the US to do. He failed.

    Terrorists have only managed three major attacks in Western countries this century. 9/11, 7/7 and the Madrid bombings. In Iraq they’ve achieved nothing in the six years that they’ve murdered civilians in their thousands. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are a long way from power.

    Terrorists are faililing. Our intelligence services have prevented several terrorist attacks, and they will prevent more. We are winning, even though a lot of people in Western countries want us to lose.

  67. 78 Joseph Byrne Tossou
    January 5, 2010 at 19:23

    I think these terrorists are using these human right stuff to get away with what they are doing. They don’t think of human right when they do what the do. And regarding the would be bomber, he was probably an easy target because his parents are rich and he could easily get the visa.

  68. January 5, 2010 at 19:28

    what happened to the good old days of meeting informants in deserted highways n empty warehouses or in parks n dark corners? Were these Agents and his handlers so lazy or complacent that they got their man to come right into their camp and while they’re in the gym instead of going to the field to meet him? Some of the stuff from the cold war days about handling n meeting stuff….CIA men, just go read a good old spy novel

  69. 80 rob z.
    January 5, 2010 at 19:32

    Durring the Cold War ,terrorism was(controled)-more or less by the West and the Communist.
    So at thet time we were training the bad guys to cause problems for our opposition.
    Now it’s a problem,we didn”t clean our mess up and put the monsters we trained under control or exterminate them.
    So right now terrorists have the upper hand;when your enemy has you in a state of fear,you are loosing the fight.
    Rob in Florida.

  70. 81 Robert Macala
    January 5, 2010 at 19:32

    Again the topic misses the main point…We are talking about effects….Buit what are
    the causes of terrorism….Our American Armed Forces are not “wiinning the hearts and
    minds” of the masses in the middle East…We are creating new terrorists everyday
    and we will be continuing this misdirected and sad conversation in decades to come….

  71. January 5, 2010 at 19:32

    Who’s more intelligent the intelligence agencies or the terrorists?
    Probably about the same.

    The intelligence agencies are average or slightly above average guys just trying to do their job there ability is more to do with their training than cultural background.
    Do really intelligent people join the civil service or public sector enterprises/corporations in developed western civilised countries?No.
    The terrorists are trying achieve a specific goal and have to find ingenious ways to accomplish their task,the don’t have to come up with their own methods they can be like a lot of “students” and plagiarise off the internet.

  72. January 5, 2010 at 19:32

    Has anyone thought how devastating it would be if the next suicide bomb went off while he/she was being searched and scanned at an airport? There would be hundreds in line and thousands in the airport itself…this could be even more damaging than ones that go off on a plane

  73. 84 Dorian
    January 5, 2010 at 19:32

    Interesting program. My comments though….. In as much as Terrorists know what they are going to do, and Security/Intelligence services have to a) find out about it, and b) stop it…… Terrorists will ALWAYS have the initiative.

    The best we can do is TRY to keep up with them. In the meantime we have to live our lives as well as we can, and resist the pressure to become terrorized. Inducing terror is exactly what our enemies want!

    Intellectualizing is all well and good, but we are not dealing with intelligent or reasonable people. Arguably, If they were reasonable and intelligent, they would not be terrorists! Having said that, Terrorist leaders as very intelligent, highly motivated, well funded and ruthless. They are more expert at finding our weaknesses, than we are at finding theirs!

    The two most recent incidents illustrate how large inflexible bureaucratic organizations, (the CIA and the US Government), can easily be penetrated and manipulated, by relatively unsophisticated but flexible individuals.

  74. 85 Hussain Mohammad
    January 5, 2010 at 19:33

    I am glad that the topic is up and live on WHYS. I am not understanding one thing since day one, if the intelligence services knew that this guy was on a no fly list or a person of interest to certain entities, how on earth this guy obtained a US visa in the first place? and why after knowing through his parents that he can be a potential threat to peaceful world, no one canceled his US visa in the system?
    Major communication gap has surfaced after this incident. In this case it seems terrorists are more advance in thinking when it comes to systematic world. Its about time we need to put this to an end and more need to be done from our security agencies.

  75. 86 Tom K in Mpls
    January 5, 2010 at 19:35

    The Nigerian bomber was a lucky and incompetent individual. This is the best the terrorists could come up with. With the CIA, they got sloppy and allowed too many agents in one spot. Minor events that are being over emphasized.

  76. 87 t
    January 5, 2010 at 19:41

    Obama continues to follow the “win the hearts and minds” approach in the War on Terrorism. What does that mean exactly?:

    More roads and new schools.
    Give every local person a job that pays a decent wage (by their standards).
    Give them better health care to cut down on infant mortality and other problems.

    Why is that billions are spent on this overseas? Yet back in the States the politicians enjoy the best health care money can buy. As for the rest of us? Pull yourself up by your (fill in the blank) and get on with it.

  77. 88 evets
    January 5, 2010 at 19:42

    If it’ such a tiny minority that’s the problem, why are there daily suicide bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? About 100 people were blown up at a Volleyball match in pakistan a couple of days ago… I think a lot of people are in denial of how serious th eproblem of terrorism actually is.

  78. 89 Alan in Arizona
    January 5, 2010 at 19:43

    Intelligence in War! There is no such thing!

    As for the current conflicts. The terrorists have the upper hand. They have no value for their own lives or any others. They have no rules.

    The “Good Guys” have rules, regulations, morals, beliefs and values that limit their abilities. They value life on both sides.

    You must fight a war like your enemies or you will lose. Just look at the French and the USA in Vietnam.

  79. January 5, 2010 at 19:44

    Yeah! for the man pointing out that nonviolence has actually been very much more successful in the last 50 years than has violence to bring about positive social change. Recent studies confirm this by looking at the historical record.

    • January 5, 2010 at 20:13

      Yes Jim, you are right it is enough looking at the historical record to see the superiority of nonviolent methods to solve plitical problems (Danemark disobedience to Hitler, India independence, democracy in Spain, The Philippines, and Poland, fall of the Soviet system, unification of Germany, etc.), while wars in Korea, in Vietnam (twice), in Afganistan (twice), Iraq, UN interventions in many trouble sites, Kashmir, Darfur, ecc. have all failed.
      Our friend Federico was suggesting correctly to use both (together) intelligence defence strategies (short term) and prevention of terrorism (long term) by understanding what troubles young terrorists. And yes, one would probably find that they are mostly worried about neo-colonial interference with their culture. Remember Iran at the time of the Shah …

  80. 92 Eric Burt
    January 5, 2010 at 19:52

    I would say that the “Intelligent” services are smarter – they are better at getting their agendas approved by the American people through the use of these “incidents’.

    The “War on Terror” has been largely manufactured by agents within the British, Israel and US Intelligence communities.

    The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was built ,carried out and detonated by a US government paid informant – this is a known fact – people need to research the information behind the major media headlinesof these “terrorist events” – we are being manipulated by our governments.

  81. January 5, 2010 at 19:56

    Terrorist have all the money needed to carry out their activites. They have all the time to do it also.
    The only way to prevent them is by conducting a heavy searching on passengers. The targetting nations should remember that, they have domestic terrorist too. Do not be harsh on innocents people.

  82. January 5, 2010 at 20:09

    Anyone can be intelligent. Organization is irrelevant.
    Again what this question is showing is overconfidence. There have been many attacks around the world but when some CIA agents are killed the doubt is raised that who is intelligent, seems that questioner thinks now this time intelligent failure has occurred, what he thinks only CIA is intelligent and others are fools !!

  83. 95 James from Pasadena
    January 5, 2010 at 20:13

    I should apologise for my ignorant compatriot who called from Beverly Hills. When an American uses the Vietnam War to justify his argument, he has already lost.
    Equally to misrepresent the conflict in Ireland and imply that at any point Britain took the gloves off is an appalling falsehood. Britain NEVER took the gloves off and had it done so it would have invaded the Eire and parts of Ulster would have resembled Kabul. In actual fact the British Government came to the negotiating table only after the Brighton bombing came close killing Thatcher.

    It should also be remembered that Israelis are proud of the acts of terrorism they perpetrated in order to establish their state. Were they more intelligent? No, but they were unencumbered by notions of morality just as they are today.

  84. 96 Tom in the U.S.A.
    January 5, 2010 at 20:29

    @ Rob in Vancouver.

    The threat of terrorism will always exist in free societies. That’s a price of freedom. The goal is to try to crush the threat as much as possible while still keeping our freedoms (and our values). I disagreed with many of the tactics of the Bush administration, including warrantless wiretaps, so I am with you to a certain degree. Every so often we need to prod our leaders back to our values, and I think Obama has done some of that already.

  85. January 5, 2010 at 21:04

    my people always say that the person targeting another person is always one step ahead in his plot. In this scenario, who ever is at the offensive side will always be a step ahead.

  86. 98 Akobi Godwin(Nigeria)
    January 5, 2010 at 21:12

    It is said that since a bird has learnt to fly without perching the hunter too will learn to shoot without missimg. With this the intelligent service should prove their intelligence by their work new strategies should be employed to control the activities of terrorist cause the are not asleep.

  87. 99 t
    January 5, 2010 at 23:09

    In 2004, the CIA and Blackwater “allegedly” went to Germany to assassinate a German financier. Cheney ran a secret hit squad to went to several countries. Has Obama shut it down?

    The point is that the States, the U.K. and other Western countries have a double standard re: assassination. “Officially” they honor intl. agreements banning this. Yet, in reality laws mean nothing. Why?

    Because much of the public say they want terrorists killed. But they want it to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind. They refuse to deal with the consequences of this, torture and other practices that intelligence agencies apparently use every day.

  88. 100 Touqeer Chishty (Pakistan)
    January 6, 2010 at 04:55

    well as far as pakistani intelligence is concerned, they are poor, they have every information regarding terrorist yet they are unable to catch them.Before any blast at any part of this country, intelligence do have the information but i don’t know y they always unable to catch them, it shows the terroists are more intelligence n powerful then our poor agencies. Terroists have more technology then our agencices and when ever n where ever they want to spread terror they succeed. And when ever there is a blast in pakistan our intellegence agencies and specally our beloved interior minister says alwasy defend thier laps of security

  89. January 6, 2010 at 06:55

    Hi Nuala,

    Professor Bernard Harcourt is right in his statement. But so is the statement that there is a lot of red tape-ism going on.

    Who put the red tape into intelligence, if not the people who are running the Intelligence agencies.

    The Terrorist adapt very easily as they are able to see the ground reality and so change with out having to consult ANY one and so are very flexable in their methods and products.

    I say that this red tape business has to stop and there has to be less interference with the agencies that are gathering information and allow them to act in a manner that has the least interference or no interference.

    Only when we are ready to be able to allow these agencies to function with out any OUT side interference will ther be results.

    Interference has not to be from any similar agencies within the net work but the WORD has to be cooperation as the basic and most important tool.



  90. 102 Joseph A. Migliore
    January 6, 2010 at 07:56

    The intelligence agency really dropped the ball on this one. Let me see if I’ve got this one correctly; they’ve reverted to recruiting from within the ranks of Al Qaeda or militant fundamentalist groups, to assist with the targeting of other militant fundamentalists, for the drone air strikes in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, in which collateral damage and continuous civilian casualties remain prevalent?
    The intelligence agency is a arrogant and ignorant group, who fail to acknowledge the cultural intricacies and fail to grasp the internal dynamics of these tribal societies in the region. Moreover, they overly rely on technology and are experiencing major shortcomings with have the capability to integrate human intelligence.

  91. 103 Joseph A. Migliore
    January 6, 2010 at 08:01

    The intelligence agency really dropped the ball on this one. Let me see if I’ve got this one correctly; they’ve reverted to recruiting from within the ranks of Al Qaeda or militant fundamentalist groups, to assist with the targeting of other militant fundamentalists, for the drone air strikes in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, in which collateral damage and continuous civilian casualties remain prevalent?
    The intelligence agency is a arrogant and ignorant group, who fail to acknowledge the cultural intricacies and fail to grasp the internal dynamics of these tribal societies in the region. Moreover, they overly rely on technology and are experiencing major shortcomings with having the capability to integrate human intelligence.
    The recent incident where they relied on a former Al Qaeda, Jihadist sympathizer, from the same town of Al Qaeda’s Al-Zwahari, proved to be a colossal error in judgement.

  92. 104 Des Currie
    January 6, 2010 at 08:23

    A ‘war against terror’, as coined by the schmucks Bush and Blair, is not a war, it is an ill conceived plan to fight terrorism with a war. Like attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, making the peoples of countries your enemies, and not targeting the
    the real issue. If Harcourt has just figured that out, and he is a proffesor, I shed tears for the West.

    Des Currie

  93. 105 Ronald Almeida
    January 6, 2010 at 10:29

    The terrorists of course! Because they are in it for ideals and prepared to die for them.
    Find me one in the intelligence (?) services who are dumb enough to die for their job which they do only for money.

  94. 106 Albert Judah
    January 6, 2010 at 11:43

    Just out of curiousity, is there any statistics on how many foiled terrorists plots and terrorists being killed as compared to the number of successful terrorists attacks and ‘good guys’ getting killed? I think the old maxim, for every cockroach you see, there is probably 100 lurking about is not that far off the mark.
    Yes no doubt it has been a bad week for the intelligence community, and yes, this Islamic fascism is spreading like cancer and the patient is too weak to undergo more chemo; perhaps it’s time to go for the miracle clinical trial.
    BTW, say what you will about President Bush, at least Americans felt safer on his ‘watch’.

  95. 107 JanB
    January 6, 2010 at 12:06

    “I have been scratching my head trying to figure out how in the world Umar Abdulmutallab, a 23 year old Nigerian student, outsmarted homeland security and its Transportation Security Administration…”

    He didn’t, he never went through American customs, so we don’t know if he would have gotten through. The reason he even got on that plane is that he happened to be the son of a Nigerian minister, meaning he didn’t have to go through customs in Nigeria.

    The reason the Western intelligence services don’t catch everyone is because we have privacy laws and most people kinda like those laws.
    So yes, the services could catch more terrorists, if we were to give away our personal freedoms for it, and that’s not worth it to me.

  96. 108 JanB
    January 6, 2010 at 12:08

    As for the Jordanian. There’s no way he could’ve kept his cover up forever. It’s very well possible his cover was starting to fail already, hence the suicide.

  97. 109 k.Anaga
    January 6, 2010 at 12:48

    It is not question of who is great in their intelligence, but how the intelligence is used.
    Let the US Government use their intelligence to ascertain the reasons for this so called terrorist activities. Why is terrorism used against US and it allies? What is the cause of Muslim terrorism? It stems from the Palastenian problem. Successive US presidents promise to solve it when they come into power. But all the presidents have succumbed to pressure from Israel. There were great hopes on Obama, but he too have failed.
    Instead of sacrificing young lives why can’t the US put its foot down on Israel halt its aggression.
    Why chase behind the shadows when you can get hold of the real one?

  98. 110 Ibrahim in UK
    January 6, 2010 at 13:06

    Firstly, before you even ask the question, who’s definition of “terrorists” are you using? Does the BBC have a definition for the word terrorism or should we assume it is restricted to non-state and non-Western groups and individuals?

    Secondly, the law of averages means that terrorists will succeed on occasion. Even if the intelligence services are intelligent enough to catch 99% of the terrorists, the 1% will succeed and cause havoc, and will be perceived as a failure of the intelligence services.
    The solution being offered? Taking away more and more liberties to increase the chances of catching a terrorist to 99.2%. Is it worth it? Remember, terrorism still exists in police states.

    • January 6, 2010 at 18:00

      Thank you for asking your questions. Amazing how much terror “our” weapons and military operations can wreak on societies the world over, but “we” don’t think of the effects as terroristic. As though western military personnel and political leaders, and secret police don’t target civilians and undermine democratic governments

    • 112 Ronald Almeida
      January 7, 2010 at 15:22

      Who’s a terrorist? I bet you any day that both you and I are on that list. That’s how intelligent the intelligent services are.

  99. 113 Maxwell
    January 6, 2010 at 14:12

    Terrorists have conviction, agencies confounded consfusion. The former are focused, driven, they have nothing to lose; the latter are employees, work within democratic freedom and checks, are accountable and live in civilized societies.Gathering of information is useless if not acted upon in time; it is the application of intelligence. the execution, the swiftness, the element of surprise that matters.

    Are the media intelligent when they broadcast all classified information and shout from the rooftops every detail of the counter operation?

  100. 114 Tony from Singapura
    January 6, 2010 at 15:36

    Its a no Brainer – they are dumb.

    Remember when the shoe bomber got caught – only then did they start checking shoes in the X-Ray machines, only problem with that is that C4 wont show up on an X-ray anyway.

    So now we have moved up the torso to the underpants and we have the underpants bomber. So now we are looking for people with C4 in their undies.

    I doubt anybody will try that again. if I were the inteligence service. I would be profiling large breasted women -with C4 packed into the bra.

  101. 115 evets
    January 6, 2010 at 16:17

    If these lunatics are willing to kill themselves to kill others, they will surgically implant the bombs inside of their bodies.

  102. 116 Tony from Singapura
    January 6, 2010 at 16:57

    @ Evets

    Oh No dont say that – now they will start checking our cavities.

  103. 117 matina
    January 6, 2010 at 17:31

    It’s not about intelligence but about MOTIVATION!!!!! The CIA are employees paid performing a job for living. Maybe for some is also a passion like the passion for sports, arts, whatever… But the so called terrorists fight for something deeper inside of them. For them this fight is sort of survival. They defend their culture, their faith, their grounds in the world, their commuinites… Of course we wonder what sort of survival is implied in suicide. I’m not defending their points of view. Good or bad they are still stronger that the goals that we have. They defend their IDENTITY. This is very powerfull. They are sure than in the heaven or on earth one day they will be considered heros. They feel like heros. Without their beliefs they would feel like shit and they cannot stand that feeling… CIA may not care wether they feel like shit or not… They just perform… They don’t hate and they don’t love… Those guys, they hate and they love… This is where their strenght is comming from… Our brains are like computers. Intelligence is a tool. But achieving is possible only with the energy behind the tool, which comes from motivation and from love and from hate…

  104. 118 piscator
    January 6, 2010 at 17:38

    Ibrihim has a good point – a slogan in WW2 was ‘bombers will always get through’, and a percentage of them always will.
    Why don’t we stop glorifying them by over playing the effects of terrorism in the media and on web sites? If less aggressive forms of protest grabbed the attention of the media, these people might take that road instead.

  105. 119 Insan Mukmin
    January 7, 2010 at 00:49

    At this present day, the terrorists are attempting to smuggle explosives onto flights. It seems that terrorists have an obsession with hijacking and blowing up aeroplanes. Perhaps they feel that blowing up flights cause maximum damage. As airport security gets tighter, soon they will choose other targets. Perhaps a packed soccer match or baseball game. Maybe a rock concert. Buses, trains, trams, boats, or even ships. Maybe a packed beach or picnic location. Cinemas are a possibility. Theaters can sit over a thousand people. Schools, graduations, nurseries. The potential targets are endless. Parties, celebrations, weddings, bar-mitzhahs, church services, friday prayers at mosques, anniversary dinners, etc. All this expensive airport security – body scanners etc will simply become a waste of money as terrorists change targets. Al-Qaeda have left Afghanistan and have gone to Yemen. How do you fight terrorists that have no fixed permanent address and have endless targets to attack?

  106. January 7, 2010 at 02:59

    It is not about who is more intelligent. These people are terrorists who are also taking advantages of the vulnerable people. Do anyone remember the terrorist giving bomb to a disable boy in Isral. Terrorists are evil people we should never put them near our intellligent men for comparising,

  107. 121 Frank Whittle
    January 7, 2010 at 11:07

    This is ultimately a pathetic question.

    The ‘War on Terror’ is an absolute failure so obviously the intelligence services cannot be considered intelligent or at the very least effective in any sort of context.

    The terrorists cannot inherently be intelligent, as their sole purpose in life is to destroy.

    This sort of question is put out by the panic-loving media companies who really do nothing but give the terrorists a platform and let the war-mongering bloodthirsty Americans an outlet for their hatred.

    At least this all has one positive effect: the world is finally waking up to how ignorant the terrorists, the intelligence services, and the media companies really are, and how much better off we’d all be without them.

  108. 122 A R Shams
    January 7, 2010 at 17:12

    The Intelligence etc. are known as having positive intelligence, while the terrorists have extreme negative one.

  109. 123 Ronald in Canada
    January 7, 2010 at 17:16

    The West knows how to defeat the terrorists in the long term: Change US and UK foreign policy. But the US and UK governments refuse to change the policies that support terrorist recruitment. The intelligences services do not understand that the conflict is based perceptions of injustice and that their focus on destruction is futile. The more destruction they cause, the more support develops for the terrorist cause. To me this means the terrorists are showing more intelligence.

  110. 124 JanB
    January 7, 2010 at 18:01

    “The West knows how to defeat the terrorists in the long term: Change US and UK foreign policy.”

    That’s like saying a child wouldn’t be harassed by bullies if he just stayed in his room all day (and locked the door.) You don’t get bullied because you did something wrong, you get bullied because bullies like to bully and they’ll make up excuses to justify it.

    Terrorists aren’t fighting to “free Palestine” (the slaves of Allah don’t even believe in individual freedoms) or oppose the evil “American Empire”. They are fighting to defeat everyone (US, Thailand, Philippines, UK, Russia, India, Israel) who does not think exactly like them and then give them the option to convert or die. Palestine is only one of many excuses they use to justify this.
    If they ever conquer Palestine they won’t hesitate to slaughter anyone who listens to music, doesn’t grow a beard/wear a burqa or anyone who sends his daughters to school.

    • 125 Ronald in Canada
      January 7, 2010 at 18:44

      JanB I think you have things reversed. The bullies are the US and its close allies. The terrorists are those who refuse to stay cooped-up in their rooms. Of course there are those who want to conquer the world, but there are many more who would be content if the West would just get out of their backyard.

  111. 126 JanB
    January 7, 2010 at 20:32


    Right, yeah, they wouldn’t want anyone interfering in “their” backyard, which they just get to claim as their backyard (because Shiites, Kurds, Jews, Christians, Africans and even progressive Muslims don’t count as people to them.)

    I seem to recall most of the terrorists are from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen, Pakistan, the UAE and Western countries. None of these countries have been messed with by the West for decades, except Pakistan which was forced by the Americans to hold elections to replace Musharraf’s junta.

    The Middle East doesn’t belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and its many violent offshoots. They’re just one group of people who cannot claim that they speak for the people (they couldn’t even get people to rally against the Danish cartoons until they started paying people for it and had their imams spread fake cartoons and they cannot even get young uneducated boys to fight until they tell them Jews use Palestinian blood in their cooking.)

  112. 127 Ronald in Canada
    January 7, 2010 at 23:24


    The West continues to support and influence those dictatorships in the Middle East that cater to the “interests” of the US and its allies. Egyptians, Saudis , Iranians, Iraqis, and now the Pakistanis won’t be supporting your claims. These peoples will be better able to manage the terrorist problem once the West stops acting to encourage terrorism.

    PS. You forgot to add the US to your list of countries where terrorists come from….that is if you are accepting the universal definition of terrorism.

  113. 128 Barry
    January 8, 2010 at 03:17

    Well said, JanB. We might look like a bully to some, but those are the same people who either don’t have a dog in this fight, or are on the same side as those who try to kill us.

    I believe the intelligence services are in a very tough situation, as being on the defensive is always tougher than the offensive side. Planning for attacks and anticipating what the murderous terrorists are going to attempt next is a very difficult thing to do.

  114. 129 Insan Mukmin
    January 9, 2010 at 20:09

    Question – How many terrorists feel they are justified in what they do? Answer – All of them. How many US soldiers and CIA agents feel they are justified in doing what they do? Probably only some. Maybe Al-Qaeda is just better at brainwashing people.

  115. January 10, 2010 at 16:19

    I think that any country which goes into another country aiming to make it a better place must have to use the American phrase the “smarts and savvy” to do the job.Most countries prefer to learn in their own way and at their own pace and if they do need help to invite another country to attend. That is also how a country acquires intelligence the friendly way. Any other way is bound to create problems. Unfortunately, too many countries going uninvited into other countries are slow learners.

  116. January 11, 2010 at 00:38

    Myself, of-course,

    Not for the first-time, nutter wore ‘device’ in his clothes; simply strip-naked for intimate body-search [prostetics hiding under-skin, scars hiding internal…], travel in ‘hospital’ paper-panties, cloth-gowns & slippers. Collect clothes having landed at destination.

    Okay; kids as-young-as-12 recruited as suicide-bombers, so EVERY kid subjected to OTT ‘paranoia’.

    Database-technology long-established; politicians have-a-problem with compliance; much-easier to ‘grin’ & spout platitudes 😦

  117. January 13, 2010 at 15:09

    Why not discuss the motivations for our terror problem like former CIA Bin Laden unit head Michael Scheuer did on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal recently?:


    Additional at http://TINYURL.COM/MICHAELSCHEUER… See More



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