The U.S. intercepts international communications to help anticipate security threats, but thousands of hours of potentially important information can go untranslated.
As the 9/11 Commission documented, the National Security Agency intercepted information on Sept. 10, 2001, implying an attack would begin “tomorrow” — but it was not translated until days later.
Increased attention and funding after the 2001 attacks did not solve the problem, either, because of chronic personnel shortages.
Even years after Sept. 11, more than 120,000 hours of intelligence recordings were neglected because there were too few Arabic translators in the U.S. government, according to an internal FBI investigation.
Delaying the translation, analysis and sorting of such material could obscure a clue to preventing the next attack — a situation that is like a ticking time bomb.
In 2001, only half of the Army’s authorized Arabic translator positions were filled. Today, stretched thin across the board, the entire U.S. military continues to turn away qualified translators and intelligence officers who might help prevent a future attack.
Why? What could possibly embolden any policymaker to reject qualified personnel who would protect our national security?
The personnel are gay.