Government report says that counterterrorism agencies are not doing, and are not capable of doing, their job

The conventional view, at least among conservatives, of the terrorism report released by the administration on Thursday was that the version actually released, unlike the version that the national security advisor had said earlier in the day would be “shocking,” was not shocking at all but only repeated what was already known. I had accepted that view, without reading the report myself.

The New York Daily News, not normally thought of as a source of unconventional or particulately insightful thinking, disagrees. The editors do something that is virtually never done by today’s mainstream news media: they contemplate what the report actually says, in its own words, not in a summation or paraphrase, And they are shocked by what it says. There is someone with a brain on the Daily News editorial board.

Terrible on terror: Airline bombing revealed total dysfunction of U.S. intelligence

Friday, January 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

In advance of yesterday’s report on the failed Christmas Day terror attack, the White House national security chief warned that the revelations would generate “a certain shock” among Americans.

That was an understatement of epic and outrageous proportions.

The administration’s summary of how Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula slipped its operative through America’s vast intelligence network revealed screwups and incompetence of the most fundamental nature.

To wit, and quoting from the heart of the matter as outlined on the very last page of the document:

“There was not a comprehensive or functioning process for tracking terrorist threat reporting and actions taken such that departments and agencies are held accountable for running down all leads associated with high visibility and high priority plotting efforts undertaken by Al Qaeda and its allies, in particular against the Homeland.”

Let’s parse that more particularly. More than eight years after 9/11, the U.S. did not have a counterterrorism desk that was:

a) comprehensive or

b) functioning

c) in dealing with high visibility and

d) high priority

e) Al Qaeda plots

f) particularly against Homeland.

That damning, wholesale admission of gross and inexcusable incompetence is accompanied by failures regarding would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that are astonishing for being all the more mundane.

To wit, and again quoting from the last page:

  • “NCTC and CIA personnel who are responsible for watchlisting did not search all available databases to uncover additional derogatory information that could have been correlated with Mr. Abdulmutallab.”

  • “A series of human errors occurred—delayed dissemination of a finished intelligence report and what appears to be incomplete/faulty database searches on Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name and identifying information.”

  • “Information technology within the [counterterrorism] community did not sufficiently enable the correlation of data that would have enabled analysts to highlight the relevant threat information.”

Again parsing more particularly, the staffs of the National Counterterrorism Center and CIA did not thoroughly and competently search U.S. computer files—and their computers stank.

At this level of buffoonery, it was almost foreordained that Islamist radicals would manage to get explosives onto a jetliner.

Even though, as Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan conceded, the NCTC was well aware Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was seeking foot soldiers to attack the U.S.

Even though the NCTC had gotten screamingly clear warnings that Abdulmutallab was likely one of those recruits.

President Obama announced remedial action, including ordering his intel crew to accountably pursue terror tips. How basic is that?

Obama’s performance was his strongest to date in struggling to get command of an administration that was clueless as to the seriousness of the attack and its own bumbling. So clueless, NCTC boss Michael Leiter took to the ski slopes after the bombing attempt. So clueless, Brennan fessed up to having given Leiter the okay to go.

While accepting responsibility and promising accountability, Obama blamed the system and took no action against anyone, not even Leiter, who after three years at the top of NCTC produced an operation that was neither “comprehensive or functioning.” That doesn’t come close to accountability. That’s bunker-mode insanity.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 09, 2010 10:34 AM | Send

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