Docstoc

Back On the Radar

Document Sample
Back On the Radar Powered By Docstoc
					                                        CQ A N N UA L R E P ORT

                                    Vote Studies for 2009
                                                  P. 1 1 1




JANUARY 11, 2010 | www.cq.com               CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY’S MAGAZINE ON GOVERNMENT, COMMERCE AND POLITICS




       Back
       On the
       Radar
        The Christmas bombing
        attempt has triggered new
        scrutiny of Congress’ post-9/11
        intelligence overhauls, including
        the ‘dot connecting’ National
        Counterterrorism Center. P. 102
c ov e r sto ry




B y T i m S Ta r kS



T
            he lesson of the attempted
             Christmas Day bombing of an air-
             liner approaching Detroit, it turns
             out, is that not only was airport
security lax, but also intelligence analysts failed
to interpret and pursue the signals that warned
of a potential terrorist disaster.
    That conclusion of President Obama’s
rapid-fire investigation over the past two
weeks was somewhat unexpected, but it was
predictable if you stopped to think about
it. Ever since Congress overhauled the intel-
ligence community five years ago in response
to the 2001 terrorist attacks, all terrorist in-
formation has been flowing into the Nation-
al Counterterrorism Center, which was set
up to serve as a clearinghouse and analytical
forum for such information. It is estimated
that the NCTC receives some 12,000 pieces
of information a day, each of which must be




                                                                       Making T
assessed and then fit into the larger patterns
of various terrorist threats.
    A significant percentage of the people serv-
ing in the intelligence community arrived in
their jobs after the 2001 attacks, are relatively
inexperienced in terrorism analysis, and lack
proficiency in relevant foreign languages
such as Arabic, Pashtu and Urdu.
    To top it off, the director of national intel-
ligence has never held strict authority over
                                                                   The nation’s intelligence apparatus
all intelligence agencies because he doesn’t
completely control their budgets. As a re-
                                                                  the people who get the information
sult, the agencies still enjoy a large degree of
autonomy.                                                 sengers and crew members on the plane — it        distribution of intelligence reports and the
    “After billions of dollars spent, after a to-         is not a problem he inherited from the Bush       development of teams devoted to following
tally reorganized intelligence community,                 administration. The inability of the intel-       leads on terrorists. Intelligence officials, or at
we still don’t have ability to connect data,”             ligence community to uncover the matrix of        least those in the White House, have publicly
Michael Swetnam, a former CIA official and                a foreign threat is also a challenge that dates   apologized for their latest lapse.
naval intelligence officer, said in remarks that          back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and every             “I told the president today I let him down,”
summed up sentiments across the capital.                  president since has experienced the embar-        John O. Brennan, the White House’s top
    Solving such shortcomings, if indeed they             rassment of a major intelligence failure.         counterterrorism and homeland security
can be solved, is now a major challenge for                  A grim-faced Obama told a national tele-       adviser, said last week. “And I told him that
Obama. Thanks to the Christmas Day attack                 vision audience last week that he has or-         I will do better and we will do better as a
— thwarted by a faulty bomb and alert pas-                dered a series of steps, including the wider      team.”

102     CQ weeKlY   |   JanuarY 11, 2010   | www.cq.com
                                                                                                                                         the nerve center: President Obama meets
                                                                                                                                         with his intelligence chiefs and senior analysts
                                                                                                                                         in the secure video teleconference room at the
                                                                                                                                         National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va.,
                                                                                                                                         outside Washington, D.C. The center, responsible
                                                                                                                                         for integrating and analyzing intelligence on
                                                                                                                                         terrorist threats from the nation’s spy agencies,
                                                                                                                                         is overwhelmed with information.




                                                                                                                                         passed in late 2004, the DNI lacks the author-
                                                                                                                                         ity to compel the agencies to do anything
                                                                                                                                         they don’t want to do.
                                                                                                                                            These experts also recommend the use of
                                                                                                                                         enhanced technology that could coordinate
                                                                                                                                         sharing among the spy community’s various
                                                                                                                                         computer systems and pinpoint potential red
                                                                                                                                         flags. And they suggest more basic changes,
                                                                                                                                         such as improved training for analysts and a
                                                                                                                                         stronger focus on changing the community’s
                                                                                                                                         culture of fragmentation.
                                                                                                                                            Congress may have more ideas about what
                                                                                                                                         went wrong and how to fix it once it com-
                                                                                                                                         pletes its own series of investigations.
                                                                                                                                            Even so, all those measures still might not
                                                                                                                                         be enough to prevent another terrorist attack
                                                                                                                                         inside the United States. If Brennan sticks
                                                                                                                                         around long enough in his post, there is a
                                                                                                                                         good chance he will let down his president
                                                                                                                                         again. Such is the nasty business of espionage
                                                                                                                                         and terrorism. Even if everything is just right,




hem Talk
                                                                                                                                         as first-rate spy services such as those in Israel
                                                                                                                                         have learned, a resourceful and determined
                                                                                                                                         enemy can still breach your defenses and
                                                                                                                                         score a devastating success.
                                                                                                                                            The National Counterterrorism Center,
                                                                                                                                         which was created after the 2001 attacks to
                                                                                                                                         synthesize disparate spy agency data and is a
                                                                                                                                         focal point of what went wrong on Christmas
won’t work, experts say, unless                                                                                                          Day, could yet again miss vital clues hidden
                                                                                                                                         in the mountains of information that the
all see it, share it and synthesize it                                                                                                   center processes daily.
                                                                                                                                            “You could triple the size of the NCTC
                                                                                                                                         and still have the same problem,” said Mark
                                            But many intelligence experts say that if   steps, such as giving more authority to the      Lowenthal, who served as vice chairman of
                                         Brennan is to do better, he may have to go     director of national intelligence to bring to-   the National Intelligence Council from 2002
                                         beyond the steps Obama has ordered. These      gether the intelligence community in the way     to 2005. “We’re in a war. I don’t want to
 white house photo / samantha appleton




                                         experts point out that the spy community’s     that the independent Sept. 11 commission         sound cold about this, but casualties occur in
                                         failure to prevent the attempted bombing       once envisioned — a move that would require      wars. The idea that you can fight a campaign
                                         include some factors that Obama did not        Congress to pass new legislation. According      and never suffer consequences is delusory.”
                                         mention, among them the overwhelming           to the way the job is currently configured,
                                         volume of information that the nation’s spy    the intelligence director is supposed to coor-   C heap S hotS
                                         masters must process each day and their woe-   dinate intelligence collection and integrate        “Connecting the dots” is one of those
                                         ful shortage of analytical expertise.          the findings of the spy community’s various      tropes that make counterterrorism sound
                                            So they are strongly urging additional      branches. Yet under the law that Congress        deceptively simple. But in the murky world

                                                                                                                                             www.cq.com | JanuarY 11, 2010 | CQ weeKlY   103
   Dennis c. Blair
   Director of National Intelligence
   the retired navy admiral also                                                                            cies and hassles for innocent citizens, among
   served a stint at the Cia before be-                                                                     other things.
   coming president obama’s choice                                                                             Many experts on terrorism, intelligence and
   to be the third director of national                                                                     the Middle East note that it is a uniquely Amer-
   intelligence, a post Congress cre-                                                                       ican trait to see a problem such as terrorism
   ated in 2004. his job is to lead the
                                                                                                            and expect it to be fixed. In the real world, these
   16 agencies scattered throughout
                                                                                                            experts says, such fixes are rarely possible.
   the federal government. Folded into
   his office are the national Counter-                                                                        “Whatever you think about the current
   terrorism Center and several other                                                                       system, it’s probably about as good as it’s
   organizations.                                                                                           going to get,” said Steven Simon, a member
                                                                                                            of President Bill Clinton’s National Security
                                                                                                            Council and now a Middle East expert at the
of intelligence gathering, the ability to detect         the problem that his intelligence community        Council on Foreign Relations.
a real terrorist threat to the United States             has,” said Lowenthal. “That’s the standard
within the thousands of fragments of infor-              politicians and some in the media have put         a h iStory of M iSSing S ignalS
mation that flow into the nation’s intelligence          forward.”                                             The failures that came to light after the
agencies each day is extraordinarily difficult.             Lowenthal, now president of the Intelli-        foiled bombing attempt are shortcomings that
    California Democrat Dianne Feinstein,                gence & Security Academy, continued: “He           the intelligence community has struggled with
who chairs the Senate Select Intelligence                has created a standard where the next time         ever since the earliest days of World War II.
Committee, has pulled no punches in criti-               something like this happens, he’s going to            Before the creation of the Office of Strate-
cizing the intelligence community’s failures             overreact again.”                                  gic Services, the precursor to the CIA, the U.S.
to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from                   Any U.S. overreaction to an attempted ter-      military in 1941 had obtained fragments of
boarding the Detroit-bound flight. But unlike            rorist attack ultimately helps al Qaeda achieve    intelligence about how Japan might attack.
other lawmakers with less knowledge about                its aims of disrupting normal life inside the      But even then, bureaucratic rivalries prevented
intelligence matters, she also gives the nation’s        United States, experts say. Swetnam, who           anyone from getting all the information when
spy services a lot of credit for foiling a number        now heads the centrist Potomac Institute for       it was needed, and there was difficulty glean-
of terrorist plots in 2009.                              Public Policy, notes that despite the failure of   ing the most important information from
    Intelligence failures “have to be balanced           Abdulmutallab’s bomb to explode, al Qaeda          what was available. The result was a Japanese
against the intelligence success; the successes          may yet emerge as the victor from the Christ-      surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that many
are forgotten,” she said. “The long knives are           mas bombing attempt if the result is expen-        believed could have been prevented.
out, and that bothers me.”                               sive and clunky new security enhancements             Never has the United States succeeded in
    Before overreacting to the shortcomings              at U.S. airports. Something similar happened       fully unifying all of its intelligence efforts, the
of the intelligence agencies, one might con-             after Richard Reid tried to detonate a bomb        goal of the post-Sept. 11 overhaul. The CIA’s
sider what Walid Phares, a Lebanese-born                 concealed in his shoe in 2001, leading to the      director prior to 2004 carried the joint title of
Middle East expert at the Foundation for the             requirement that air travelers remove their        director of central intelligence, meaning he
Defense of Democracies, has to say about                 shoes before being screened.                       coordinated all intelligence from the nation’s
the difficulties involved in blunting terrorist             Meanwhile, some lawmakers such as Ver-          disparate spy agencies. But many of the spy
threats. Phares cautions that in the war the             mont Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, chairman           shops were housed under the Pentagon, where
United States is now fighting, terrorist groups          of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have con-       the Defense secretary was effectively the “boss”
have the upper hand. As U.S. officials try to            cerns that the administration’s intention to       at those agencies.
find ways to prevent a recurrence of the last            expand terrorist watch lists could mean a             Today, as a result of the 2004 intelligence
attack, he notes, groups such as al Qaeda are            return to the days when too many names             overhaul prompted by the Sept. 11 commis-
constantly probing for new weaknesses.                   were added haphazardly, leading to inaccura-       sion’s recommendations, the newly created
    “They control the timing of their operations
against U.S. national security and the type of                                                                                                                    top: CQ File photo / rYan KellY; Bottom: GettY imaGes/aFp / saul loeB

weapon they wish to use,” Phares said. “In                                                                     Michael e. Leiter
classical warfare against states but also against                                                              Director of the National
                                                                                                               Counterterrorism Center
guerrillas, our defense can somewhat project
                                                                                                               the nCtC draws its workforce from
the forthcoming moves. In the case of war with
                                                                                                               the various components of the intel-
jihadi terror organizations such as al Qaeda,                                                                  ligence community to share leads,
this capacity of projection is reduced.”                                                                       analyze terrorist threats and manage
    Lowenthal also blames Obama for playing                                                                    watch lists. one of the most promi-
down the difficulties that intelligence agencies                                                               nent Bush administration holdovers,
face and for overreacting by suggesting that                                                                   leiter’s résumé includes stints at the
absolute safety is attainable with the imple-                                                                  Justice Department and on the staff of
mentation of addition measures.                                                                                an independent commission on intel-
    “For the president to be as harsh as he was                                                                ligence failings before the iraq war.
is either unfair or shows no understanding of

104    CQ weeKlY   |   JanuarY 11, 2010   | www.cq.com
                                                                                                                                                                                                            c o v e r s to r y


                                                  the Many faces of intelligence
                                                  the intelligence community
                                                  encompasses 16 different                                               THE PRESIDENT
                                                                                                                                                                Deputy national security adviser for
                                                  agencies, all led by the director                                                                             homeland security and counterterrorism
                                                  of national intelligence (Dni).                               SECRETARY        DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL
                                                  But because the Cia is the only                               OF DEFENSE       INTELLIGENCE
                                                                                                                                                                           National Counterterrorism Center
                                                  agency that doesn’t report to                                                  Heads the intelligence                    Integrates and analyzes all intelligence pertaining to
                                                  a Cabinet department, it can                    Undersecretary of              community and advises the                 counterterrorism
                                                  sometimes be difficult to corral                defense for intelligence       president, National Security
                                                                                                  Advises the secretary of       Council and Homeland                      National Counterproliferation Center
                                                  them all into behaving like a                                                                                            Assesses proliferation threats and identifies holes in
                                                                                                  Defense on all intelligence,   Security Council on national
                                                  unified whole. and even when                                                   security intelligence                     intelligence on weapons of mass destruction
                                                                                                  counterintelligence and
                                                  they do cooperate, it creates new               security matters. Also                                                   Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive
                                                  problems — like an overwhelm-                   serves as the director                                                   Leads the national counterintelligence effort against
                                                  ing volume of data to process for               of defense intelligence,                                                 foreign intelligence threats
                                                  terror leads.                                   reporting to the DNI

                                                                                                                           INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY

                                                 CIA                 DEFENSE                                        ENERGY                JUSTICE               HOMELAND                 STATE                   TREASURY
                                                                                                                                                                SECURITY
                                                 Central             Defense Intelligence Agency                    Office of             Federal Bureau of                              Bureau of               Office of
                                                 Intelligence        Produces military intelligence                 Intelligence and      Investigation         Office of                Intelligence and        Intelligence
                                                 Agency                                                             Counterintelligence   Pursues counter-      Intelligence &           Research                and Analysis
                                                                     National Reconnaissance Office                 Serves as an          terrorism, counter-   Analysis                 Produces                Produces
                                                 Analyzes over-      Gathers intelligence with reconnaissance       intelligence          intelligence and      Assesses threats to      intelligence on         intelligence on
                                                 seas develop-       satellites                                     resource on           cybercrime            border security          foreign policy          terrorist financing
                                                 ments to inform                                                    nuclear issues,                             and from                 issues                  and insurgency
                                                                     National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency                              Office of
                                                 national security                                                  energy                                      extremists within                                financing
                                                                     Produces imagery and map-based                                       National Security
                                                 and defense                                                        security and                                the homeland
                                                                     intelligence                                                         Intelligence, Drug
                                                 decision-making                                                    science technology
                                                                     National Security Agency                                             Enforcement           Intelligence and
                                                                     Produces signals intelligence and                                    Administration        Criminal
                                                                     protects information systems                                         Reports on global     Investigations
                                                                                                                                          law enforcement       Program
                                                                     Army Military Intelligence                                           and drug intel-       Provides
                                                                     Provides intelligence to the Army                                    ligence               intelligence to the
                                                                     Office of Naval Intelligence                                                               Coast Guard
                                                                     Produces intelligence on foreign naval
                                                                     capabilities and civil maritime activity
                                                                     Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
                                                                     Provides intelligence to the Marine Corps
                                                                     Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and
                                                                     Reconnaissance Agency
                                                                     Provides intelligence to the Air Force

                                                director of national intelligence is the official                authority is limited to persuasion, to a co-             — coordinator and integrator — rather than
                                                leader of the intelligence community, but the                    ordinator, an integrator of programs and a               director with directive authority.”
                                                Pentagon still controls approximately 80 per-                    director. “I currently have the title of director,”         There are also questions of budget author-
                                                cent of the spy agency budgets. Then-Defense                     McConnell testified, “but the authorities cre-           ity. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, the West
                                                Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his allies                      ated in statute and executive order put me               Virginia Democrat who chaired the Senate
                                                in Congress succeeded in watering down the                       more in the middle of that range of options              Intelligence Committee at the time, said the
                                                DNI’s powers when the legislative overhaul
                                                made its way through Congress.
                                                   A February 2008 Senate Intelligence Com-                                                                                       Leon e. Panetta
                                                mittee hearing on the authorities of the DNI                                                                                      Central Intelligence Agency Director
                                                revealed some of the limitations of the office’s                                                                                  the Cia remains the primary source
                                                powers. Those limitations may not have had                                                                                        of human spying for foreign intel-
                                                                                                                                                                                  ligence, although its seat at the
CQ GraphiC ; CQ File photo / sCott J. Ferrell




                                                a direct role in the failures that enabled the
                                                                                                                                                                                  head of the spy masters’ table was
                                                Christmas bombing attempt, but broadly,
                                                                                                                                                                                  removed by the 2004 intelligence
                                                they mean there is no one short of the presi-                                                                                     overhaul. panetta, who gained a
                                                dent who can compel the intelligence com-                                                                                         reputation as a savvy political op-
                                                munity to act as an integrated whole.                                                                                             erative as a California congressman
                                                   Then-DNI Michael McConnell described                                                                                           and Clinton white house chief of
                                                where his authority and duties fell on a scale                                                                                    staff, recently fended off an effort by
                                                of increasing power, starting with an over-                                                                                       the Dni to appoint station chiefs.
                                                seer, such as a presidential “czar,” whose

                                                                                                                                                                                 www.cq.com | JanuarY 11, 2010 | CQ weeKlY          105
c o v e r s to r y




 Many Top Security                                                             also a factor. Obama is only the second president, and the first Dem-
                                                                               ocrat, who’s had the opportunity to populate the upper echelons of
                                                                               the department. Many of its top jobs were created when DHS was

 Spots Still Empty                                                             formed in 2003, while the responsibilities for people in other senior
                                                                               posts were significantly changed from what they’d been in the 22
                                                                               agencies that were combined to create the department. And, people
 The Christmas Day bombing attempt spotlighted the emp- familiar with the situation say, the White House has been having a
 ty seat at the helm of the Transportation Security Administration, difficult time finding qualified candidates with Democratic pedi-
 the agency primarily responsible for keeping terrorists off airplanes. grees who can justifiably claim competence in the very specific job
 But a closer look at the administration’s security leadership reveals requirements of the top DHS posts.
 that the TSA director’s position is only one of a number of top-tier             Once a nomination is forwarded to the Senate, the multitude of
 posts that remain empty nearly a year                                                                      committees claiming jurisdiction over
 after Barack Obama became president.
    In the finger-pointing aftermath of
                                                         some vacant seats                                  Homeland Security matters add to the
                                                                                                            time required for the confirmation pro-
 the botched airliner bombing, Demo-             these are some of the top-tier national                    cess. Southers faced confirmation hear-
                                                 security positions in the government that
 crats blame partisan politics for TSA’s                                                                    ings and votes by the Homeland Secu-
                                                 require senate confirmation and have not
 rudderless state, pointing to the deci-                                                                    rity and Governmental Affairs panel and
                                                 yet been filled under president obama:
 sion by South Carolina Republican Jim                                                                      the Commerce, Science and Technol-
 DeMint to invoke a senatorial prerogative       DeParTMeNT Of hOMeLaND SeCuriTy                            ogy panels. Bersin still awaits approval
 and block a Senate confirmation debate          Alan Bersin, commissioner for Customs and                  by both the Homeland Security and
 on Erroll Southers to lead the agency.          Border Protection. (Nominated Sept. 29; awaiting           Finance committees.
                                                 approval by the Finance Committee and confirmation
 DeMint placed his hold last fall out of                                                                        While no one argues that having a
                                                 by the full Senate.)
 concern that Southers, a former FBI                                                                        transportation security or customs chief
                                                 rafael Borras, undersecretary for management.
 agent and top cop at Los Angeles Interna-                                                                  in place could have prevented Umar
                                                 (Nominated July 6; awaiting approval by the Homeland
 tional Airport, would support efforts by                                                                   Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding
                                                 Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and
 TSA employees to unionize, which many           confirmation.)
                                                                                                            the Detroit-bound jet Dec. 25, security
 Republicans see as a threat to homeland                                                                    experts say the lack of a leader constrains
                                                 erroll G. southers, administrator of the
 security. Meanwhile, Republicans blame          Transportation Security Administration. (Nominated
                                                                                                            an agency’s ability to adapt to changing
 Obama for not forwarding his nomina-            Sept. 17; approved by the Commerce, Science and            security threats.
 tion of Southers until he’d been president      Transportation Committee on Oct. 27 and by the Home-           The career staff at the department is
 for eight months.                               land Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on        talented and capable, says Stewart Bak-
    The Republican argument in that situ-        Nov. 19; awaiting confirmation.)                           er, an assistant secretary for policy under
 ation is buttressed by the reasons for the      caryn A. Wagner, undersecretary for                        President George W. Bush. But they
 vacancies in several other top security         intelligence and analysis. (Nominated Oct. 26;             don’t have the authority to make the
 jobs at the Department of Homeland              approved by the Select Intelligence Committee on           kinds of changes that could be expected
 Security. For example, Obama waited             Dec. 10; awaiting confirmation.)                           from a chief who has been handpicked
 even later into the fall than he did on the     STaTe DeParTMeNT                                           by the president. “I think you get less
 TSA vacancy to unveil his choices of Alan       Philip s. Goldberg, assistant secretary for                imagination in thinking of alternatives
 Bersin to head Customs and Border Pro-          intelligence and research. (Nominated Oct. 26;             to existing procedure and less confident
 tection and of Caryn A. Wagner to be un-        approved by the Select Intelligence Committee on           leadership,” Baker said.
 dersecretary of intelligence. Neither was       Dec. 10; and awaiting confirmation.)                           Some experts note that the security
 confirmed before the Senate adjourned           no nominees announced for assistant secretary for          vacancies in the Obama administration
 in late December.                               international security and nonproliferation or principal   are particularly worrisome since they
    Security experts say there are several       deputy assistant secretary for international security      echo the same situation Bush faced
 factors behind the White House’s slow           and nonproliferation.                                      in the immediate aftermath of the
 pace on security nominations. First, they       JuSTiCe DeParTMeNT                                         al Qaeda hijacker attacks of 2001.
 note, there is the notoriously slow vet-        no nominees announced for director of the Bureau               “When 9/11 came about nine months
 ting process, especially at the start of an     of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.              after the administration had started,
 administration, which requires extensive                                                                   a lot of the national security positions
 security background checks for people being considered for the most still hadn’t been filled,” said Baker. “We all agreed at the time that
 sensitive positions. Then there is the question of the president’s we’ve got to do a better job of filling those positions and making the
 priorities. With issues such as economic recovery and the health care nomination process run more smoothly.”
 overhaul initiative dominating Obama’s first-year agenda, finding                Yet Baker points out that under the Obama administration, the
 people for some national security posts has unavoidably slipped in process of naming and confirming nominees for important security
 importance, says Daniel J. Kaniewski, deputy director of the George slots is running even more slowly than it did during the Bush years.
 Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute.                     “We need to hold people who are holding up those positions ac-
    The relative newness of the Department of Homeland Security is countable for the delay,” he said.                             — C aiTlin W eBBer



106    CQ weeKlY   |   JanuarY 11, 2010   | www.cq.com
                                                                                                                                                                     c o v e r s to r y
                                       Janet napolitano
                                       Secretary of Homeland Security
                                       the department was put together from all                                                            DNI’s authority, although Feinstein says she
                                       or parts of 22 existing federal agencies in                                                         will examine the question.
                                       2003 and has under its purview not only                                                                Meanwhile, Texas Republican William M.
                                       Customs and Border protection, but also                                                             “Mac” Thornberry, a senior member of the
                                       the transportation security agency. that                                                            House Armed Services and Intelligence pan-
                                       puts the nation’s third Dhs secretary in
                                                                                                                                           els, says the president can expand or contract
                                       charge of the nation’s last line of defense.
                                                                                                                                           the DNI’s authority. For example, in a recent
                                       napolitano brings plenty of experience in
                                       border security from her time as governor
                                                                                                                                           DNI/CIA feud over station chiefs abroad, the
                                       of arizona and as the state’s top federal                                                           administration sided with the CIA’s right to
                                       prosecutor.                                                                                         appoint those officials — a move widely seen
                                                                                                                                           as a blow to the DNI’s standing. Thornberry
                                                                                                                                           said Congress, soon after passage of the in-
                                    law gives the director “significant power to      Policy Institute. “We’re not at the point where      telligence overhaul law, conducted hearings
                                    move resources from one intelligence agency       we were during the Cold War, where he had          to make sure the reorganization was effec-
                                    to another, but if bureaucratic roadblocks        numerous seasoned veterans with scar tissue        tive. Since then, however, lawmakers have dis-
                                    cause every transfer to take six months, then     and who spoke Russian fluently.”                   solved into partisan feuding over intelligence
                                    maybe we haven’t done that at all, and at least                                                      matters.
                                    we need to discuss about that.”                   n o S hortage of r eMedieS                             Another potential solution might involve
                                       Brennan, the top White House counter-             It may take months for the executive branch     better sharing and analysis of information
                                    terrorism official, has said the information-     and Congress to work out what to do about all      through the use of technology. Swetnam
                                    hoarding and turf wars that afflicted the in-     of the intelligence community’s shortcomings       suggests requirements that all intelligence
                                    telligence community before Sept. 11 were         that have surfaced since the Christmas Day         community information be placed online
                                    not to blame in the Christmas Day incident.       bombing attempt. But ideas are percolating.        internally.
                                    Nonetheless, a shadow skirmish has played            The most dramatic would be to revisit the           “There is software that runs through all of
                                    out in the media, with some intelligence of-      2004 intelligence overhaul law. Members and        this data regularly to combine all these facts
                                    ficials blaming the NCTC for not processing       staff of the Sept. 11 commission have high-        and can pump out an alert that there is some-
                                    the information given to it by other intel-       lighted how lack of budgetary control contrib-     thing to be concerned about,” said Washing-
                                    ligence agencies and others blaming agencies      utes to a less-well-coordinated community.         ton Democrat Adam Smith, another member
                                    such as the CIA for not passing along some of        “It is elemental that the DNI — and NCTC        of the Intelligence and Armed Services panels.
                                    the information they possessed.                   — is less capable of integrating intelligence      He says such technology is worth exploring.
                                       Swetnam says intelligence agencies are         than it would be if other agencies depended            Some intelligence experts believe that when
                                    still reluctant to release information to the     on it for funding,” said John Farmer, the for-     it comes to new technology, the relative youth
                                    broader community for fear of losing credit       mer senior counsel to the commission.              of the intelligence community’s workforce is
                                    for their accomplishments as the data mingles        Andy Johnson, a former staff director of        an advantage. Lowenthal says the upside to a
                                    with other bits of information.                   the Senate Intelligence Committee who now          young workforce is that its members are more
                                       But few consider what transpired on Christ-    heads the national security program at Third       likely to embrace information sharing, having
                                    mas Day as a failure to collect enough infor-     Way, a left-leaning think tank, says there is no   grown up in an era in which social networking
                                    mation. In fact, the opposite might be true:      mandatory requirement in statute that the          tools such as Facebook and Twitter are part
                                    Spy agencies are collecting mountains of data,    intelligence agencies share information with       of their daily lives. That gives an institutional
                                    creating confusion about how to distinguish       the NCTC.                                          focus on information sharing a better chance
                                    important details from unimportant ones.             Feinstein and Texas Democrat Silvestre          of developing as more and more young em-
                                       “If you’re doing one jigsaw puzzle and miss    Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence          ployees join the workforce.
                                    a piece, that’s a problem,” said Lowenthal.       Committee, say they see no need to bolster the         Still, Johnson notes, Congress should be
                                    “What if you’re doing 10 jigsaw puzzles at
                                    once, or 50 jigsaw puzzles at once? We are
                                    spread out across this very large enterprise,                                                           hillary rodham clinton
                                    with lots of different things in motion.”                                                               Secretary of State
                                       Making matters worse, the current work-                                                              the state Department spends most of
                                    force of intelligence analysts suffers from a                                                           its energies on international diplomacy.
                                    distinct shortage of expertise in sorting out                                                           But it does have a role in preventing
                                    all that information. A major percentage of                                                             suspicious characters from entering the
                                                                                                                                            country — by approving all visas and
                                    the intelligence community joined after 2001,
CQ File photos / sCott J. Ferrell




                                                                                                                                            alerting the rest of the government to
                                    driven in large measure by the need to beef up
                                                                                                                                            terrorist threats via its Visa Viper pro-
                                    personnel after the Sept. 11 attacks.                                                                   cess. when she ran for the Democratic
                                       “To some extent, you’ve got a very young                                                             presidential nomination in 2008, Clinton
                                    analytical corps in the intelligence commu-                                                             boasted that she had much stronger na-
                                    nity,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of George                                                          tional security credentials than obama.
                                    Washington University’s Homeland Security

                                                                                                                                             www.cq.com | JanuarY 11, 2010 | CQ weeKlY   107
  Keith B. Alexander
  Director of the National Security Agency
  and Chief of the Central Security Service                                                                  Last year’s top cases
  the army lieutenant general has been                                                                       the attempted Christmas Day bombing
                                                                                                             of an international flight with 289 people
  in charge at the nsa since 2005. once
                                                                                                             aboard put the threat of terrorism back
  nicknamed “no such agency,” the
                                                                                                             on the national consciousness. But it
  highly secretive agency conducts
                                                                                                             was far from the only case of alleged
  electronic surveillance and has a
                                                                                                             terrorism in the united states in the
  massive intercepts operation that is sup-
                                                                                                             past year. some of the more prominent
  posed to monitor the communications
                                                                                                             are listed here. (Federal officials say the
  of terrorists and others. measured by
                                                                                                             september incidents are not connected.)
  dollars in the budget, it is the biggest of
  the intelligence agencies.                                                                                 JAn. 28 Bryant neal Vinas, an ameri-
                                                                                                             can citizen from long island who plot-
                                                                                                             ted with representatives of al Qaeda to
                                                                                                             blow up a train in new York City’s penn
asking whether counterterrorism personnel                   The list goes on, touching on everything
                                                                                                             station, pleads guilty to all charges.
need additional training to recognize indica-            from whether to expand the use of whole-
                                                                                                             June 1 abdulhakim mujahid muham-
tors that ought to raise red flags and prompt            body scanning technology to how to pros-
                                                                                                             mad, 23, allegedly opens fire on an
action, such as the fact that Abdulmutallab              ecute terrorism suspects.
                                                                                                             army recruiting station in little rock,
purchased a one-way ticket in cash and didn’t               In almost every case, each proposal that         ark., killing one private and wounding
check any luggage. Feinstein also says the               Congress or the administration addresses            another.
concerns that Abdulmutallab’s father raised              will be one it has already confronted before        sePt. 24 Denver airport shuttle driver
about his son with U.S. officials should have            in some way. As such, they are likely to run        najibullah Zazi, an afghan-born im-
triggered more suspicions on the part of intel-          into all the usual hurdles they have run into       migrant who allegedly received
ligence analysts. She notes that the activities          in the past: turf battles, fragmented efforts,      explosives training from al Qaeda in
of several terrorists recently were brought              partisan fighting and more.                         pakistan, is charged with conspiracy to
to light with the aid of information from                   And that means it could take White House         use weapons of mass destruction.
relatives, which should have elevated the im-            leadership to get anything done, said James         sePt. 24 Jordanian teenager hosam
portance of what Abdulmutallab’s father said             A. Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for         maher husein smadi allegedly places
about his son.                                           Strategic and International Studies.                what he thought was a bomb in a
                                                                                                             Dallas skyscraper. the device was
   But fixing the intelligence community’s                  “The ball is mainly in the administration’s
                                                                                                             provided by an undercover FBi agent.
gaps in information sharing and data analysis            court,” he said. “It’s going to be really hard to
                                                                                                             sePt. 24 michael Finton, who had con-
can’t be the only option on the plate, intel-            get any legislation passed. It’s a question of if
                                                                                                             verted to islam in an illinois prison, is
ligence experts and lawmakers say. There is              the administration can go to the Congress
                                                                                                             arrested for allegedly plotting to blow
a need still to boost airport security, said Cil-        with a package of changes that Congress will        up the federal building in springfield.
luffo: “It’s not an either/or proposition.”              want to pass.” n
                                                                                                             nov. 5 maj. nidal malik hasan, an
   Republicans raise another intelligence                                                                    american-born army psychiatrist,
problem, which they say has grown out of the             for further reADinG: Fiscal 2010                    is arrested after allegedly killing 13
Obama administration’s decision to investi-              Defense appropriations (PL 111-118), CQ             people and wounding 28 in a shooting
gate CIA interrogators who may have violated             Weekly, p. 24; Panetta nomination, 2009             rampage at Fort hood in texas.
laws against torture. That investigation, says           CQ Weekly, p. 1196; intelligence in Afghanistan,    Dec. 25 a 23-year-old nigerian affili-
Thornberry, has had a chilling effect on col-            p. 826; problems after intelligence overhaul,       ated with al Qaeda, abdul Farouk ab-
lection efforts by discouraging the willingness          2008 CQ Weekly, p. 1166 ; intelligence overhaul     dulmutallab, is arrested in Detroit after
of intelligence agents in the field to take risks        (PL 108-458), 2004 Almanac, p. 11-3 ;               allegedly attempting to ignite an
that could net better information.                       Homeland Security Department’s creation             explosive aboard northwest airlines
                                                                                                             Flight 253 from amsterdam.
   Republicans have also questioned whether              (PL 107-296), 2002 Almanac, p. 7-3.
a kind of “political correctness” led to the
failure to share information within the federal
government about Army Maj. Nidal Malik                      John o. Brennan
Hasan, a Muslim accused of killing 13 and                   Deputy National Security Adviser for
wounding 30 at the Fort Hood Army base in                   Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Texas on Nov. 5.                                            stationed at the white house, Brennan
   Meanwhile, Middle East experts such as                   serves as the counterterrorism and
Phares are urging broader approaches to                     homeland security adviser who is
                                                                                                                                                           photos: GettY imaGes/aFp / Jim watson




                                                            physically closest to president obama.
counter the terrorist threat, such as stronger
                                                            a nCtC director and top Cia staffer in
efforts to counter radicalization. Feinstein
                                                            the previous administration, Brennan
says the administration needs to re-examine                 got his current post after critics on the
its visa and watch list procedures in light of              left derailed his nomination to lead the
Abdulmutallab’s ability to board a U.S.-bound               Cia because they believed he was too
aircraft in Amsterdam despite all the warning               closely involved with Bush-era policies.
signals.

108    CQ weeKlY   |   JanuarY 11, 2010   | www.cq.com

				
DOCUMENT INFO