[4 Nov 1999] When the Killing Stopped
[5 Nov 1999] Worst Crimes of the Millennium
[8 Nov 1999] Four Gates to the City
[9 Nov 1999] Conviction of E. German Chief Upheld
[10 Nov 1999] Prisoner's Dilemma
[11 Nov 1999] The Mechanical Demon
[12 Nov 1999] Psalm 23
[19 Nov 1999] Translator's Note
[22 Nov 1999] Future Shocks
[24 Nov 1999] Worlds Enough, and Time
[26 Nov 1999] Everybody Knows
[29 Nov 1999] The German Atomic Bomb
[30 Nov 1999] The Endless Frontier
[1 Dec 1999] The Scarlet Pimpernel
[2 Dec 1999] Was the Great War Necessary?
[3 Dec 1999] Bullet Proof Soul
[6 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World I
[7 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World II
[8 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World III

From the New Yorker.

December 6, 1999

The Intelligence Gap


"We told them that unless you totally change your intelligence collection systems you will go deaf," one involved official told me. "You've got ten years."

The advisory group put much of the blame for the agency's problems on the stagnation and rigidity of the senior civilian management. "The N.S.A.'s party line to Congress is 'We're fine. We don't need to change.'" the official told me. "It's like a real Communist organization. Free thought is not encouraged" among the managers. Referring to the senior bureaucracy, the official said that the agency would "have to fire almost everyone." This official and others singled out Barbara A. McNamara, the current N.S.A. deputy director, as someone especially resistant to change. "She's leading a cohort of thirty-year veterans who go back to radio"--a reference to high-frequency radio transmissions--"and think nothing is needed," the official said. In secret testimony this fall before Congress, he added, McNamara talked about "how good the N.S.A. is--how it caught this and that drug guy. They got a whole bunch of horseshit from Barbara."

In subsequent interviews, many former N.S.A. managers endorsed the advisory group's findings. One former official described the civilian leadership as "a self-licking ice cream cone," with little tolerance for dissent or information it did not wish to hear. "If you didn't support their position, you weren't considered a team player," this person told me. "You couldn't go into a meeting, put your best ideas on the table, have it out, get the best idea, and then go have a beer." McNamara's authority stems from her longevity: the admirals and generals who serve the agency director remain on the job for an average of three years before retiring or going on to other military assignments. The agency's top civilians have worked together, in many cases, for nearly thirty years, and inevitably share the same insular points of view. Another recently retired official told me that the N.S.A. has become a dynastic bureaucracy, in which the fathers have made room for their sons, with the wives and mothers of favored employees hired as mid-level staff in the human-resources office. "The place is full of warlords and fiefdoms," the former offical said. "Now we're getting to the grandchildren."