Eight years later, the system still doesn’t work.
“It’s discouragingly familiar,” said Tom Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission. “It’s exactly the language we heard when we were making recommendations for the 9/11 report. That was five years ago. We made our recommendations based on the fact that agencies didn’t share information and it seems to be the case that, once again, they didn’t share information. It’s very discouraging.”
“We thought that had been remedied,” the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kit Bond (R-Mo.), told POLITICO. “If they’re not talking with each other, that’s a problem that we’ve been tearing our hair out over for a long time, demanding that they talk to each other. … I’m very upset.”
“This is textbook Al Qaeda 2001,” says an intel expert, aghast, to the Times. “They tried to hit the hardest target we have, the one on which the most money and attention has been spent since 2001. And yet we didn’t prevent it.” Why not? Follow the link and read the Times piece. Looks like it was the National Counterterrorism Center — created after 9/11 for the explicit purpose of connecting the dots on terror data collected by different agencies — that failed to connect the dots. Another NYT story out this morning runs through the timeline of when the dots appeared, but that info should already be familiar to HA readers: They heard jihadis in Yemen talking about a plot involving a Nigerian, they were told by a Nigerian father that his radical son had gone missing in Yemen, and they heard chatter about a Christmas attack around the time Abdulmutallab bought an airline ticket for, um, Christmas Day. And still — no connection. It actually reached this point of bureaucratic absurdity:
The TIDE issue has become a “he said, she said” among various government agencies. My colleague Marc Ambinder reported that, according to one of his sources, the State Department thought NCTC was checking visas against the TIDE list, and NCTC thought that State was doing the checking.
“You’d be shocked how many times we still come up with this, ‘Gee I thought you were doing it,'” my source added. “Initially, our reports were that he was on no-fly list. Obviously that was wrong. This is clearly a failure of the system.”
For instance, he asks rhetorically, “Why – if he was denied British visa – why wasn’t that shared with us? I don’t know.”
They better clean up quick because, as a third Times piece argues, the plotting against mainland America from big jihadist outfits is no longer confined to the Pakistani tribal areas. As for unconnected dots, I’ll leave you with two further thoughts. First, here’s a clip of the boss from this morning’s “Fox & Friends” wondering why we had to connect any dots at all to deny a visa to someone fitting Abdulmutallab’s profile. And second, read this post at the Jawa Report on Abdulmutallab’s exposure to radical Islamic propaganda — including the sermons of Anwar al-Aulaqi — right here in the United States. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you the connection to … the National Counterterrorism Center.