Whether the Intelligence officer of a battlefield battalion, or a high level operative in the National Intelligence community, the hardest part of doing your job is knowing that when you do it right, nothing happens.
An officer in a battalion might get knowledge of an enemy attack just hours before it begins. He will inform the commander, who will get the staff working to exploit the information. Troop dispositions might be altered, equipment moved, and assets repositioned to respond to the enemy attack. The commander might decide to couter-attack with artillery or armor assets while the enemy is on the move, or he might try to funnel the enemy into prepared positions so that he can be destroyed in detail. Regardless, when the attack goes off, the poor staff lieutenant is already working on other problems, and his spot in the limelight is taken by the company officers and soldiers who fire the bullets and commit the carnage.
At the highest levels of intelligence, an attack might be foiled and the American public goes on with their daily lives, blissfully unaware that their lives, property, or loved ones were threatened. News of the attack never makes the papers because the enemy has intelligence operatives too, and we don't want to give away our secrets. Nothing happens, and very few people know that something was planned.
This morning, President Bush gave a speech where he talked about attacks that didn't happen. At least two attacks, one on our East coast, one on our West coast, were foiled when intelligence operatives did their jobs. They are forever in the shadows, looking out for us, and they deserve our thanks.
It is a shame that these hardworking Americans are unknown, unappreciated by the general public. They deserve a ticker-tape parade.