State Department Smarts

STATE DEPARTMENT SMARTS….The New York Times reports today that a newly declassified document shows that the State Department had a sharp understanding of what it meant when Osama bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996:

The State Department assessment, written July 18, 1996, after Mr. bin Laden had been expelled from Sudan and was thought to be relocating to Afghanistan, said Afghanistan would make an “ideal haven” for Mr. bin Laden to run his financial networks and attract support from radicalized Muslims. Moreover, his wealth, his personal plane and many passports “allow him considerable freedom to travel with little fear of being intercepted or tracked,” and his public statements suggested an “emboldened” man capable of “increased terrorism,” the assessment said.

….Michael F. Scheuer, who from 1996 to 1999 led the Central Intelligence Agency unit that tracked Mr. bin Laden, said the State Department documents reflected a keen awareness of the danger posed by Mr. bin Laden’s relocation.

“The analytical side of the State Department had it exactly right ? that’s genius analysis,” he said in an interview when told of the declassified documents.

As near as I can tell, we could probably save a lot of money by shutting down about half our intelligence analysis apparatus and just letting the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research do the job. As Justin Rood reported in the Washington Monthly earlier this year, they have both the smallest budget and the best record of accuracy of any intelligence agency around. If we really want better results, maybe we ought to spend less time on gigantic bureaucratic reorganizations and more time figuring out INR’s secret.