James Fallows has been blogging from the ‘jing about the security preparations in the capital.
His blog seems to be down and I was only able to retrieve stuff via Google’s cache. I’ll paraphrase and quote extensively from his post.
Fallows received an email from a person that he seems to suggest is ethnically Chinese and now a citizen of a Western country, and has some familiarity with defense matters. The main point of this person is that the central government is taking extreme security measures because they have limited intelligence on the real threats that might be there, so they can’t afford to take chances.
Here’s the email (heavily paraphrased by me to avoid duplicate content detection, in case some patriots shut down the original site):
I don’t want to an apologist for what the government has done to itself. But the reality is that their system is not prepared to deal with the range of threats that they might face when the opening date arrives.
The country does not yet have the kind of early-warning methods that are in place like those like the leading countries in the West. These Western countries have real-time monitoring abilities, can analyze traffic patterns, etc. Therefore, they get an early-warning when a storm is on the horizon.
Despite all this talk of all the human “James Bonds” who are working for them abroad, they just don’t have the same capabilities of the Western system. An example is the riots related to T1b-t. There was not good intel, preparation, or any way to really spin-control the situation after it happened.
Bottom line: less than 4 weeks until opening date. Recommendation: create a PR and security SWAT team to handle collateral damage like press visas being denied. However, this team would really need to understand the West. There doesn’t seem to be any awareness from the central government or city government that “they are over their heads”.
Not sure I agree with the assessment. Its possible that internal bureaucratic infighting and CYA behavior may be creating a dynamic where the most conservative people are winning and the most “cosmopolitan” people who understand the collateral PR damage are being silenced or forced to go along for the ride.
I think examples of that can also be found in the US handling of Homeland Security during this post-9/11 era. And we have the benefit of the best intelligence gathering apparatus in the World by far. That doesn’t preclude bureaucratic agencies outside of the No-Such-Agency to overreact or to react in a much less nuanced way that the intelligence agency could presumably equip them to act.
There is also the need to mask the precision of the intelligence. Enemies can detect intelligence capabilities by observing the resulting response to their actions. This action-response feedback loop can allow enemies to develop a sense of intelligence capabilities and then try to find ways to avoid detection. So a “blunt” vs. “fine-grained” approach may also have the benefit of preventing the enemy from seeing what intelligence capabilities there actually is.
I tend to think the easiest explanation is the bureaucratic effect of everyone playing CYA. So there may be large numbers of human analysts and even intelligence gathering systems that are gathering information, and “defanged” because of bureaucratic power in other powerful agencies. However, intelligence is also probably very closely held and not shared broadly with all other agencies, so therefore the information being shared between agencies may be pretty “blunt” and thus resulting in pretty “blunt” directives.
This could then result in enemies underestimating the true intelligence capabilities.