Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lost In Translation?

As of August 31, 2006, the FBI had a total of 30,626 employees, including 12,617 special agents. How many of those agents speak fluent Arabic five years after 9/11? Take a guess, then read this for the answer.


Anonymous Small Axe said...

I guessed twice as many as there are in fact, which would still be pathetic. This is an outrage, and many people should lose their jobs over this. It also further illustrates just how "unserious" the Republican administration and Congress have been in fighting terrorism.

12/05/2006 6:22 AM  
Anonymous The said...

Well, I only guess five times more than reality.

Leaving aside, however, the knee-jerk party-political posturing above, the obvious question is to ask where in the recruitment process they are going wrong.

12/05/2006 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FBI is still deeply tied to its G-man special agent culture cultivated by J. Edgar Hoover. They have a disdain for people who are book smart or analytical. It's basically a place for and run by special agents. Everybody else is a second class citizen. The word has been out for a long time that you don't want to work for the FBI if you are interested in foreign cultures or issues.

12/05/2006 7:44 AM  
Blogger Dualarity said...

It's been five years. The military can at least claim that nobody expected that Iraq would run this long (admittedly, a feeble excuse) but what's the FBI's story? If there are serious misgivings with recruiting already-fluent native speakers of Arabic, then why can't they develop their own agents' skills? The military operates a superb language school - surely the FBI could work out a deal with them for, say, a dozen agents at a time?

Yes, Arabic is hard. (I know, I studied it for years.) But it is not qualitatively more difficult than many of the other skills we expect an organization like the FBI - or the Pentagon - to deploy. We churned out Japanese speakers and readers in World War II, which had ENDED in well under five years. Clearly, this is a matter of near-total indifference for the government, which forces me to conclude that they don't really see international terrorism as a mortal threat. So what IS all the fuss about?

12/05/2006 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guessed 10 which wasn't a bad guess even if it was 4 too many.

I am not sure I am all that surprised that there are few agents that speak arabic and that this guy was marginalized. This is the FBI that was created by Hoover. They like toothpaste-ad agents. I am sure that things have gotten better for women and various minorities, the FBI culture is still a white old-boy network that wants the plodding agents. Women, minorities, and mavericks seem to still have a harder row to hoe. I guess I am a little surprised this guy got as far up the food chain as he did. I guess the FBI of past 9/11 has returned to it's nativist tendencies with new energy.

12/05/2006 9:06 AM  
Anonymous DrGail said...

I actually guessed 27; I think I need to get a tune-up for my cynicism!

It seems to me I've read stories before about how the FBI, despite being told right after 9/11 that fighting terrorism was their top priority, has been ponderously slow to change and -- at various times -- has actively resisted the necessary change.

It can be very difficult to change an organization's culture (believe me, I know; this is my profession), but it's absolutely impossible to do if the top executives aren't totally on board. This is, I think, what has happened in this case.


12/05/2006 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Why not hire some of the Arabic-speaking linguists who were booted out of the military over the past 5 years thanks to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

12/05/2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is amazing to me. So many possible solutions to this!

12/05/2006 10:37 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

I don't understand what the fuss is about. There is no terrorist threat. A small group of Sauidis attacked us...mainly because we soiled the holy land with our precence during the first Gulf War. Osama contacted the royal family and wanted to fight Sadam like the Soviets. He insisted on not allowing christians on the holy land. The Saudi Royal family picked the US military. We stationed in Saudi Arabia and never left...and made Osama our enemy. That is why our military left Saudi Arabia after 9/11. We wanted to take some of Osama's propaganda away from him. As far as fighting terrorism goes...why on earth would the government care? What is a few thousand dead Americans to them? Now we have a Pentagon, an Iraqi reconstruction, and a Department of homeland security all with a blank check. They can spend whatever they want and anybody who opposes it it called a terrorist sympathizer or an isolationist. All this proves only one thing. Only when it comes to government does complete failure equal success. We pay the pentagon 300 billon dollars a year to keep us safe (at least that is what they tell us). The pentagon completly fails (9/11). Americans now spend at least 600 billion dollars a year. Wow! I am working in the wrong industry. I understand how it works so I should get in on this scam. Screw doing productive work...in the government I can completely fail and just tell the American people I failed because I didn't have enough money and power. They then will mindless comply with my wishes. Can we go back to a monarchy?

12/05/2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Just goes to show that the War on Terror was just for political posturing to ensure a neo-con stranglehold on power in this country.

12/05/2006 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The FBI didn't/isn't likely to change. They managed to get John O'Neill (who died in the Towers on 9/11) out and he knew a whole lot about bin Laden then and I am not sure the bother to recruit/retain the right people now.

12/05/2006 3:07 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Just close your eyes and tell yourself "fighting them over there so..."

12/05/2006 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Small Axe said...

"...the knee-jerk party-political posturing above..."

So, Congress has no oversight responsibility? The administration has no responsibility in setting priorities for federal agencies? The fact that the FBI has six Arabic speakers didn't 'just happen' nor is it entirely a result of FBI culture. There is simply no excuse for the nation's law-enforcement agency to have such a dearth of expertise given the nature of the conflict in which the Administration says we are engaged. The fact is that the Bush administration has specialized in denigrating and dismissing expertise, including foreign-area and language expertise; they chose ideological conformity over expertise at every turn, which explains in part the disaster in Iraq. They did not want input from those with regional expertise who could call bullshit on their fantasy-based policies. The treatment of Bassem Youssef by FBI management may be a reflection of their disdain for book smarts, but the fact that the FBI doesn't have have Arabic speakers reflects the administration attitude toward expertise. The lack of FBI Arabic speakers indicates that the Republicans, who have controlled the executive and legislative branch for the past six years and hyped the threat of Islamist terrorism, are poor stewards of our national security.

12/05/2006 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12/05/2006 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12/05/2006 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Enlightenment said...

Speaking of 9/11, let’s take a few moments and look at some of the details of that horrible event that precipitated the "war on terror" and around which America’s foreign policy has been inextricably wrapped ever since.

One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying "We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]". Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I've ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran on a barstool at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four "pilots" among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake "pilot" of the bunch, with someone who was there when he was attempting to fly a small airplane saying that Hanjour was so clumsy that he was unsure if he had driven a car before. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports after Mohammed Atta supposedly leaves two rental cars at two impossibly far-removed locations. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn't work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn't work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won't let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you "aren't supposed to think about". Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name ("Hi mom, this is Mark Bingham"), more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn't respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn't happen, not even close. Somehow these "hijackers" must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn't have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were "supposed to see". Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these "hijackers" wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces most no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn't even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying "We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down" attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers' magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be "Muslim hijackers" the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don't laugh) one of their passports was "found" a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously "surviving" the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also "survived" the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be "indestructable" like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn't bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Further making themselves look guilty, the Bush administration steadfastly refused for over a year to allow a commission to investigate 9/11 to even be formed, only agreeing to it on the conditions that they get to dictate its scope, meaning it was based on the false pretense of the "official story" being true with no other alternatives allowed to be considered, handpicked all its members making sure the ones picked had vested interests in the truth remaining buried, and with Bush and Cheney only "testifying" together, only for an hour, behind closed doors, with their attorneys present and with their "testimonies" not being recorded by tape or even written down in notes. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastic far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the "nineteen hijackers" is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

Debunking Popular Mechanics lies:
someone else debunking Popular Mechanics crap:
still more debunking Poopular Mechanics:
and still more debunking of Popular Mechanics:

Poopular Mechanics staff replaced just before laughable “debunking” article written:
another neo-con 9/11 hit piece explodes, is retracted:
Professor Steven Jones debunks the N.I.S.T. “report” as well as the F.E.M.A. one and the 9/11 commission "report":
N.I.S.T. scientist interviewed:
F.B.I. says no hard evidence linking Osama bin Laden to 9/11 which is why his wanted poster says nothing about 9/11:
Fire Engineering magazine says important questions about the Twin Tower “collapses” still need to be addressed:http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=OnlineArticles&SubSection=Display&PUBLICATION_ID=25&ARTICLE_ID

Twin Towers’ construction certifiers say they should have easily withstood it:
USA Today interview with the last man out of the South Tower, pursued by a fireball:
Janitor who heard explosions and escaped has testimony ignored by 9/11 whitewash commission:
Janitor starts speaking out about it and his apartment is burglarized, laptop stolen:
Firefighters tell of multiple explosions:
Eyewitnesses tell of explosions:
Interview with another firefighter telling of explosions:
Firefighter saw “sparkles” (strobe lights on detonators?) before “collapse”:
Other eyewitnesses talk of seeing/hearing explosions:
Surviving eyewitnesses talk of multiple explosions there:
Cutter charge explosions clearly visible:
The pyroclastic cloud (that dust cloud that a second before was concrete) and how it wouldn’t be possible without explosives:
Detailed description of the demolition of the Twin Towers:
Freefall rate of “collapses” math:
More about their freefall rate “collapses”:
Video footage of the controlled demolition of the Twin Towers:
Video footage of the controlled demolition of WTC # 7 building:
More of WTC # 7 controlled demolition:
Naudet brothers' video footage of the North Tower crash:
Photos of the Pentagon’s lawn (look at these and see if you can tell me with a straight face that a jumbo jet crashed there):
More photos of this amazing lawn at the Pentagon:
Very unconvincing fake “Osama” “confession” tape:
More about the fake “Osama” tape:
Fake “Mohammed Atta” “suicide” letter:
Commercial pilots disagree with “official” 9/11 myth:
More commercial jet pilots say “official” myth is impossible:
Impossibility of cell phone calls from United 93:
More about the impossible cell phone calls:
Experiment proves cell phone calls were NOT possible from anywhere near the altitude the “official” myth has them at:
Fake Barbara Olson phone call:
Where the hell was the Air Force?
More about the Air Force impotence question:
Sept. 10th 2001, Pentagon announces it is “missing” $2.3 trillion (now why do you think they picked THAT day to announce it? So it could be buried the next day by 9/11 news):
Unocal pipeline-through-Afghanistan plan:
Unocal pipeline-through-Afghanistan plan mentioned:
More on Unocal Afghan pipeline:
The attack on Afghanistan was planned in the summer of 2001, months before 9/11:
Pentagon deliberately misled 9/11 Commission:
Evidence destruction by authorities and cover-up:
9/11 whitewash Commission and NORAD day:
The incredible fish tales of the 9/11 Commission examined:
Jeb Bush declares state of emergency 4 days before 9/11 for Florida, saying it will help respond to terrorism:
Steel debris removal from Ground Zero, destruction of evidence:
Over two hundred incriminating bits of 9/11 evidence shown in the mainstream media:
Tracking the “hijackers”:
“Hijacker” patsies:
“Hijackers” receiving flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station:
Several accused "hijackers" still alive and well, wondering why they are accused:
Yet the F.B.I. insists that the people it claims were the "hijackers" really were the "hijackers":
No Arabs on Flight 77:
Thirty experts say “official” 9/11 myth impossible:
“Al Qaeda” website tracks back to Maryland:
Al Qaeda videos uploaded from U.S. government website:
Operation: Northwoods, a plan for a false-flag “terror” attack to be blamed on Castro to use it as a pretext for America to invade Cuba, thankfully not approved by Kennedy back in 1962 but was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and sent to his desk:

12/06/2006 12:09 AM  
Blogger Dave S. said...

I guessed five thinking/hoping it would be way under.

During the Cold War the government threw tons of money at the problem of Russian language expertise and built up a pretty good capability (regional study centers based at universities, etc.). Of course, "this is like no war ever fought before" so no past lessons apply to it.

12/06/2006 12:54 PM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

elightenment dude...lay off the coffee!

12/06/2006 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

I think enlightenment poses some key questions.

It's being said that the Bush administration is 'failed'

One wonders if it isn't the Bush 'coup d'etat' that's failed?

Subpoenas anyone?

12/07/2006 4:50 AM  
Anonymous American said...

I guess one worry of recruiting Arabs would be that they may side with their own race secretly. But then, they could recruit non-arabs and have them learn Arabic...

12/07/2006 12:10 PM  
Blogger Svenyboy said...

I know more Arabic speakers than the FBI employs (I guessed a laughably optimistic sixty). Perhaps I should start my own criminal investigations organisations. I couldn't do any worse, surely?

12/07/2006 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...guess when a power thinks gets to a point in its history when it feels it is the only power that makes/causes/shapes things that happen on the planet, that its policymakers imagine that there is no need to figure out what others are thinking...brits and germans way ahead of the us here...

12/08/2006 10:50 AM  
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