The sad, scary case of the National Counterterrorism Center

Russell Travers, the former acting director of the NCTC, disclosed in an interview with me this week that he filed a “whistleblower” complaint about his agency’s plight with Congress in June 2020. Paraphrasing the complaint, he said it warned that lack of funds and personnel was “steadily, almost imperceptibly undermining the center and increasing the risk” of another attack like that on Sept. 11, 2001, which the NCTC was created to prevent.

Travers revealed new details of the infighting that took place this year under acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, who served from February to May, when he was replaced by John Ratcliffe. Travers’s complaint, as he outlined it, portrays an intelligence community foundering under mismanagement and political backbiting.

One chilling example: Travers described an NCTC so weakened by budget and personnel shortages that it couldn’t adequately collate information into what’s known as its Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, leaving the country potentially vulnerable to undetected attackers. Travers and other experts said this data analytics problem could be handled by private companies with adequate resources that are lacking at the NCTC.