Someone on NPR was saying this morning that our intelligence problems aren't structural; they're cultural. Probably they're founded on the shifting sands of the Peter Principle: that everyone rises to his level of incompetence. Although it's a general principle that applies to all administrations, the Bush administration seems to have brought it to a shiny new state of perfection, a Platonic ideal of the Peter Principle, the ne plus ultra of pious incompetence, with examples as far as the eye can see of an insular Dilbert-like universe rewritten as tragedy: Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Cheney, and, of course, the lifelong exemplar of the Peter Principle, George W. Bush.
There was plenty to dislike about O'Neill. Like Clarke, he's accused of "arrogance," the standard code word used by the incompetent against anyone who makes them look bad. What the street-smart (even in Yemen!) O'Neill managed never to be, as opposed to Bodine or Pickard or any of Bush's cronies, was inert or leisure-oriented or obsessively focused on politics over actual threats.
O'Neill had investigated Al Qaeda to the point where two of the Flight 77 hijackers' names were on his desk when he was forced out of Yemen by Barbara Bodine in 2000 and out of the FBI by acting weasel Tom Pickard in August 2001.
Pickard, Ashcroft, and Rice were all responsible for national security in August 2001. The fact that they live in a frenzy of bureaucratic cowardice, pointing fingers at anyone else in their testimony to the 9-11 Commission, while O'Neill died in the World Trade Center is the purest demonstration that they do not deserve their positions.
If John O'Neill were alive to go before the 9-11 Commission, no one would be holding his hand. In that, he is more of a man than the cowardly president of the United States, who will cling behind closed doors to his security blanket Dick Cheney.
A clarification: This is not about State vs. Defense, or FBI vs. CIA, or Democrat vs. Republican. National security is like engineering: either the building stands or it doesn't. The World Trade Center fell.