WASHINGTON -- Last week, this column described a deadly suicide attack by the Haqqani network on a secure compound outside Kabul, Afghanistan, and the failure of NATO officials to heed human intelligence that might have saved lives. I wrote, "The intel provided included information on how to precisely locate the terrorists. When I asked why the attack wasn't prevented, I was told: 'It was HUMINT. Nobody pays attention to HUMINT.'"
Shortly after the column appeared, a senior U.S. intelligence officer -- and a friend -- admonished me, "It's not just HUMINT." He described the problem as "institutional arrogance" and a failure to give credence "to information from outside the system."
"The system." Those two words describe a risk-averse, inertia-driven, leak-prone and politically correct bureaucracy now committed to "responsibly end" -- not win -- the war in Afghanistan. "The system" tells us that "the war on terror is over." But the institutional arrogance in "the system" goes well beyond simply ignoring information from "outside." It also creates complacency about vulnerabilities, jeopardizes our troops on the battlefield and exacerbates threats to American civilians anywhere on earth.
This week, before the so-called mainstream media plunged into a frenzy over President Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage, Saudi Arabia's intelligence service retrieved a new "underwear bomb," which was intended to be worn and detonated by a suicide terrorist aboard a U.S.-bound airliner. According to published reports, the device -- designed in Yemen by al-Qaida's master bomb builder, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri -- is much-improved over the version carried aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
Though the new aircraft bomb is being analyzed by FBI explosives experts, the operation to obtain the device from Yemen was run by the Saudis. Nonetheless, the Obama administration immediately claimed credit, and in a now familiar pattern, details about the bomb and the Saudi double agent who penetrated al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, were leaked to the press. Aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president is "pleased with the success of our intelligence and counterterrorism officials in foiling the attempt by al-Qaida to use this explosive device." He went on to insist, "At no time were Americans in danger as a result of this, and as you know, we were able to foil the attempt to use this device."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.