Hey! Randy

Its Bureaucrats versus the Terrorists

Posted by heyrandy on October 30, 2010

Operation Dark Heart, Anthony Shaffer, St. Martin’s Press, 2010.

This book is the account of Lt. Colonel Shaffer’s experiences in Afghanistan as a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) member. Shaffer’s ostensible role was to develop intelligence to use in the Afghan war. His actual role was to fight the bureaucrats that are hindering the war effort. Some success was achieved against the bureaucrats in spite of the bureaucrats best efforts. The real battle, Shaffer says, is to get the different agencies to cooperate.

To see how the agencies fight, just look at the history of the book. The manuscript was cleared for publication by the Army. After printing and just prior to being sold, the DIA bought all the copies and insisted on another round of redactions. The book bears the evidence of the redactions in the black lines that are on most of its pages. Some of the redactions are a little odd. On page 114 the first sentence has a redaction of what looks like one letter in a word. Other places have names blacked out that seem to appear a few sentences latter.

The various intelligence agencies that make up the US intelligence apparatus are very jealous of their information and sources. It is always a turf war. Shaffer managed to break through this while in Afghanistan, but a lot of people in his agency did not like it. They did not forget it, either.

The bureaucrats have a long reach. Shaffer was persecuted because he spoke to the official 9/11 commission about how the project he was working on before the attacks, Able Danger, had identified two of the three terrorist cells as well as the lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta. Shaffer told the commission that the information was passed up to his superiors so they could pass it along to the FBI. The FBI never got it. This action could have embarrassed the DIA. In bureaucratic terms, this was the unpardonable sin. The DIA started to comb though all of Shaffer’s past looking for dirt. They found $300 worth. Shaffer had his security clearance suspended over three petty matters that even if they were true the would not have been pursued if he was still attached to the Army. But the DIA need its pound of flesh.

The book also details some of Shaffer’s personal life, such as his divorce and his almost second marriage (they broke it up on the morning  of the wedding day). But the book deals mostly with his experiences in the wars against the terrorists and the idiots. One thing that I found most troubling about his personal life was his relationship with a woman he call Kate. She was a non-commissioned officer and he was a major. This fraternization is a major offense in the military. If the DIA wants Shaffer, he put his head on the block with this admission.

While Shaffer has some good things to say about the general staff, he regards most of them as bureaucrats in uniform too averse to risk to do any good. Most of these guys are so afraid that something bad will happen on their watch that they play it safe. This allows the Taliban to make great gains. Careerism is the enemy’s best weapon.

Shaffer also says that refusal to adapt to the changing tactics of the Taliban is hindering the battle. The military is hide bound by its established procedures. Success on the battle field is defined as following defined military doctrine. This has resulted in a military force that is cumbersome, slow, and ineffective. We don’t think like the Taliban, Shaffer says, we think the Taliban think like us. Until this changes, we are doomed to an endless battle.

Shaffer concludes his book with a list of things to change to achieve success in Afghanistan. I disagree that victory is possible. The Afghanis have defeated every empire that was foolish enough to try to take their land. They will defeat the Americans too. Without men like Shaffer, it will be a lot easier.




One Response to “Its Bureaucrats versus the Terrorists”

  1. robert said


    excelent post, keep it coming…

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