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PSC 306: Public Organizations

Public Organizations: Notes on documentary videos

by Dr. Jeremy Lewis Revised 2 Apr. 2013

PBS NOVA, "The Spy Factory: National Security Agency"
notes by Bill Butler, Spring 2011

Headquarters: Ft. Meade, Maryland
20,000+ staff comprised of mathematicians, computer technicians, cryptographers, linguists, analysts, and personnel.
"On the outside, the NSA supposedly stood for 'No Such Agency'. On the inside, it stood for never say anything."

2 major functions:
1) to monitor and search communication lines for information.
2) to protect the Federal government from cyberterrorism.

James Bamford wrote in depth about the NSA
Largest, most secret, most-technologically advanced intelligence agency in the world.
Video examines the NSA, and tracks the events leading up to 9/11

Originally charged with monitoring the feared Soviet Union. After the fall of the USSR, the NSA had to combat the new threat: terrorism. Terrorism was a different challenge because of the difficulty in finding the different organizations.
Echelon system was designed to monitor the way terrorist groups operate.
Part of what's called signals intelligence.

Why wasn't the NSA able to stop the Attacks of 9/11?
-NSA's refusal to share information with other law-enforcement agencies.
-strict chain of command + convoluted inter-agency jurisdiction setup. (international vs. national protection)
-Different actual capacities of the various agencies.
    Ex. Intelligence gathering vs. law enforcement vs. Immigration

NSA takes a wait-and-see approach, and when it's finally time to act, lacks the ability to do so quickly enough.

Top of page

Peter J. Boyer, PBS Frontline, Waco: The Inside Story, documentary video

The hostage situation

Branch Davidians base at Waco, TX was investigated for child abuse and illegal weapons ownership
BATF assault lost the element of surprise and were badly shot up; those inside the house had cleared fields of fire and held heavy 50 cal machine guns.
FBI command unified under Jeff Lamar, field SAC
FBI manages to obtain audio from bugs hidden in milk bottles sent in for the kids, then limited video from sending in a camera for Koresh to use
Organizational issues
Tension between the HRT (SWAT team) and the negotiators who seek the release of children.
FBI Director William Sessions was under pressure of allegations of impropriety
AG Janet Reno had little confidence in him
Apparent progress
Local sheriff is able to speak to David Koresh, out of a Bradley APC and with audio bugs. However, HRT not allowed to capture Koresh because would breach trust.
Psywar, battle of the bands, but Koresh's speakers are louder than FBIs.
A group of 7 Davidians are released
Negotiator Byron Sage is not confident of the bona fides of David Koresh, who is telling his flock that if they leave, they lose salvation; by challenging his beliefs, Sage establishes Koresh is not a delusional Messiah.
Action to end seige
After 20 days, with 25 kids still inside, AG Reno a child advocate rejects plan to use tanks to instill tear gas.  FBI and military provided info to encourage her to accept slightly reduced plan.
Dispute over Reno being told kids were being abused, even though FBI knew it was not true.
FBI negotiator (Clint Van Sandt) fears a mass suicide, even though Koresh has denied.
31 mph winds blowing gas out of building, and surveillance hears people still talking, therefore without gas masks.
Davidians set the building on fire, but FBI is horrified to see no one leave the building.
Only 9 Davidians escaped alive.
Fire department is not called for first 6 minutes, and arrive despite fears of being shot. They and HRT insert to underground bus, but find no kids -- who had been kept in the central bunker under the tower.  Davidians shown by audiotapes to have set fires in multiple locations.
Suicide or other casues of deaths? 20 consistent with suicides by gunshot, but 27 women and children by smoke inhalation (3 kids by shot or stabbing).
Criticism of FBI
They let Koresh write final act,
Further notes at pbs.org