In our last issue, we complained about the failure of the FBI and CIA to have enlisted enough Arabic speakers after 9/11 made the need obvious. Now comes Lieutenant General Keith D. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, to reveal, according to Washington Times reporters Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, that the NSA has a "backlog of untranslated electronic intelligence leads on terrorists that has grown since 2001." "Grown" is the scary word. We knew that we were way behind in 2001. Now they tell us that we're even worse off.
Alexander adds, "[T]oday's backlog is no longer confined to Arabic and its multiple dialects, but also includes a variety of other less commonly taught languages." He concludes that "the translation backlog can prevent the timely distribution of key information to the NSA's customers." This is not comforting news. These "customers" are the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House.