Doug Bedell — June 3, 2010, 2:22 pm

Terrorism’s Teamwork Challenge

The complexity of getting counterterrorism and security information where it needs to be in a timely manner – in short, sharing stuff on threats – is indicated in this Washington Post story, “Setting impossible standards on intelligence.”

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was created in 2004 “to serve as the primary organization in the U.S. Government for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the U.S. Government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism.”

There’s merit in having a central strategic repository like NCTC. Yet Retired Admiral Dennis C. Blair is being replaced, The Post reports, for “failure to prevent the 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, from boarding a Detroit-bound plane in the Netherlands with a bomb in hs underpants.”

The CIA, FBI and the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury and Homeland Security all have counterterrorism analytic units, and all the data they develop is supposed to be passed on to NCTC, whose director, the law says, “may not direct the execution of counterterrorism operations.”

But not all relevant information gets to NCTC. The State Department initially failed to notify the center that Abdulmutallab had an outstanding U.S. visa, even though his father had reported him missing in November and suspected he was involved with “Yemeni-based extremists.”

So, teamwork may be the ultimate challenge in anti-terrorism. Agencies with relevant, or possibly relevant information on terrorism, should remember NCTC’s critical role and pick up the phone to the center. Then, any blame for failure to connect dots could be fairly bestowed – or, better, might not have to assigned in the first place.

It can get complicated, but information needs to be passed along. Stay with it.

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