Intel Agencies Slammed over Christmas Plot

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 07:58 AM

By Eli Lake

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A scathing new Senate report is blaming nearly every facet of the U.S. intelligence community for failing to connect the dots on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national who attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

The unclassified summary released late Tuesday found 14 specific faults in the intelligence community's actions prior to the Christmas Day failed bombing that saw an agent of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula nearly detonate a military-grade explosive sewn into his underwear.

The report for example faults the State Department for failing to revoke Mr. Abdulmutallab's visa; the CIA for failing to disseminate intelligence on him to other relevant agencies; the National Security Agency for failing to put Mr. Abdulmutallab on a "watch list"; and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) for failing to connect reporting on the Christmas Day bomber and to conduct additional research on him.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures."

Mrs. Feinstein's Republican counterpart on the committee, Senator Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, offered an equally harsh assessment.

"Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt that major intelligence failures allowed the Christmas Day bomber to almost turn our airplanes into deadly weapons once again," the Missouri lawmaker said in a statement. "We cannot depend on dumb luck, incompetent terrorists and alert citizens to keep our families safe. It is critical we make changes to prevent these types of intelligence failures in the future."

The Obama White House initially did not issue a high-profile response in the first days after the Christmas Day plot. But in the subsequent days and weeks, the president ordered an all-hands review of the incident and promised reform of basic processes to encourage more intelligence-sharing and better management of the watch lists that border agents, airlines and others use to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

CIA spokesman George Little said the agency has already begun to reform some of its practices in the aftermath of the incident.

"Less than two weeks after the Christmas Day incident, [CIA Director Leon E.] Panetta put in place measures to speed dissemination of threat information and to sharpen even further CIA's counterterrorism focus and its ability to uncover and frustrate extremist plots," he said.

Those steps include a policy of disseminating information on suspected terrorists within 48 hours, expanding name searches on possible extremists and expanding the number of analysts working on Yemen and Africa, where Mr. Abdulmutallab was living.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC

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