(When academics take over homeland security, the last thing they consider is…the security. A presidential administration laden with Ph.Ds is showing us the way.
“Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus,” University of Chicago graduate David Brooks pointed out in his New York Times column when the new president took office. “Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists.” Fast forward to 2010-ed.)
Even though the U.S. government had sufficient information to uncover and potentially disrupt the foiled Christmas Day terrorist attack, analysts in the counter-terrorism community failed to “connect the dots,” a review by the White House said.
A White House review of the events leading to the attempted attack said intelligence analysts failed to identify Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national who attempted to explode a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, as a likely al-Quaida operative and did not increase analytic resources working on the al-Quaida threat.
“The overlapping layers of protection within the counter-terrorism community failed to track this threat in a manner sufficient to ensure all leads were followed and acted upon to conclusion,” the review said.
While all intelligence analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center had access to information about Abdulmutallab and al Quaida and its plans and information, the dots were never connected, it said.
On Nov. 18 Abdulmutallab’s father even met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to discuss concerns that his son was connected with extremists and planned to travel to Yemen.
Although that information itself could not predict Abdulmutallab’s eventual involvement in the Christmas Day attack, it provided substantial opportunity for the intelligence community to link information about Abdulmutallab with earlier intelligence reports, the review said.
The review also stressed the watchlist system “needs to be strengthened and improved,” which is evident by the failure to add Abdulmutallab to the No Fly watchlist.
Because the intelligence community did not search all available databases and uncover the additional derogatory information on Abdulmutallab, there was not enough intelligence available to meet the minimum standards to the watchlist.
“Watchlisting would have required all of the available information to be fused so that the derogatory information would have been sufficient to support nomination to be watchlisted in the Terrorist Screening Database,” the White House review said.
“Watchlist personnel had access to additional derogatory information in databases that could have been connected to Abdulmutallab, but that access did not result in them uncovering the biographic information that would have been necessary for placement on the watchlist,” the review added.
Ultimately, placing Abdulmutallab on the No Fly List was the only way to keep him off the flight bound for the U.S.
The White House review said significant shortcomings leading to the attempted terrorist attack were “the failure of intelligence analysts … to identify, correlate and fuse” all the pieces of intelligence into a coherent story.”
The counter-terrorism community also failed “to assign responsibility and accountability for follow-up of high priority threat streams, run-down leads and track them through completion,” it added.