The former president Bill Clinton left the National Security Agency in a vulnerable state back in 2001. This error had its consequences since this was just around the time that al Qaeda was planning the 911 attacks on NYC and the Pentagon.
According to Michael V. Hayden, who was the NSA director at the time, the NSA’s outdated computer system crashed causing a few days of chaos in January 2000.
But, the old technology of the nation’s largest spy machine, was just part of the bigger problem. “Antiquated computers were a problem. But the reality was actually worse. NSA was in desperate need of reinvention,” said Hayden in his book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.
As the intelligence organization’s equipment was falling behind, Islamic terrorists were just waiting on the sidelines to take advantage.
But, how did the NSA get to this feeble point? “NSA had experienced years of declining budgets, a shrinking workforce, an aging infrastructure and little new hiring,” said Hayden. “Running hard just to keep up, we had let the network become so tangled that no one really seemed to know how it worked. There was no real wiring diagram anyone could consult.”
With a crippled system, primed for spying, who knows how many enemies were able to access sensitive information.
Although Hayden, who later become the CIA director under President George Bush, never directly blamed Clinton’s administration for not appropriately addressing the NSA challenge, there is another CIA official who has.
George J. Tenet, Clinton’s CIA director during the 911 attacks, states in his memoir that in the 1990s the White House would not aid the NSA’s escalating problem. “You can’t toss spies at al Qaeda when you don’t have them, especially when you lack the recruiting and training infrastructure to get them and grow them,” Tenet wrote in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm. “The fact is that by the mid- to late 1990s American intelligence was in Chapter 11, and neither Congress nor the executive branch did much about it.”