WASHINGTON TIMES — President Clinton left the National Security Agency, the nation’s electronic eavesdropper, in shambles at the very moment al Qaeda was in the final planning stages of carrying out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the NSA director at the time, describes the decline in a memoir, writing an insider’s view of an agency that the government at one time refused to acknowledge even existed.
One day in January 2000, the NSA’s clunky, aging computer network became so overburdened that it crashed. The NSA, he says, was “brain dead.”
The “coma” crisis lasted for several days as new computer hardware was flown into Fort Meade, Maryland, and techies shut down every node in order to reboot the nation’s largest spy machine.
But it was a symptom of something far more serious at the NSA, and for the country.
“The outside world had passed it by in many areas,” Mr. Hayden says in “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.” “It was going deaf.”