Washington, DC –The Senate Intelligence Committee found 14 intelligence failures leading up to the attempted Christmas Day attack aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit, according to an unclassified report released today.
The report – announced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the committee, and Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Vice Chairman – lists conclusions and recommendations designed to strengthen counterterrorism efforts going forward.
“The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that reforms be made quickly to prevent future attacks by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. The Christmas Day attempt and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square show that we are targets, and we must stay one step ahead of the terrorists.”
“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,” said Senator Bond. “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 document released today is an unclassified Executive Summary of a 55-page classified report previously approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee. In some cases, the Intelligence Community has begun taking action to correct failures identified in the report.
The Executive Summary includes:
· Problems with Terrorist Watchlisting – Abdulmutallab was not placed in the “Terrorist Screening Database,” on the “Selectee List,” or on the “No-Fly List.” The National Security Agency did not nominate Abdulmutallab for placement on a watch list or on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) based on information that provided a partial identification. Additionally, although the Watchlisting Office at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) had created a basic terrorist record for Abdulmutallab in TIDE, NCTC did not conduct additional research to find more derogatory information to place Abdulmutallab on watch lists such as the Selectee List or the No-Fly List.
· Failure to Revoke Visa – The State Department should have, but did not, revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa. State Department consular officials in Abuja, Nigeria, were told that Abdulmutallab was involved with extremists in Yemen. However, when they checked whether he had a U.S. visa, they misspelled his name and therefore failed to find and revoke the visa. Had the State Department consular official searched thoroughly, Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa would likely have been located in the Department’s database.
· Failure to Disseminate Intelligence – Intelligence reports on Abdulmutallab were not distributed appropriately within the CIA. Separately, the CIA did not disseminate other key reporting on Abdulmutallab until after the attempted Christmas attack.
· Failure to Connect Intelligence – A CIA Counterterrorism Center (CTC) Office did a limited name search that failed to uncover key intelligence reports on Abdulmutallab. Separately, CTC analysts, the NCTC’s Directorate of Intelligence, and other analysts failed to connect the intelligence reporting on Abdulmutallab.
· Failure to Identify Intelligence – A CIA regional division at CIA headquarters did not search databases containing reports related to Abdulmutallab. Additionally, an improperly configured FBI computer profile prevented an FBI counterterrorism analyst from accessing all relevant intelligence reports on Abdulmutallab.
· Analytical Failures – Analysts across the Intelligence Community were primarily focused on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), rather than on potential AQAP threats to the U.S. Homeland.
· Simplify and Strengthen Terrorist Watchlisting – The Administration, in consultation with Congress, should simplify, strengthen, and add flexibility to watchlisting practices. Intelligence officers responsible for watchlisting terrorist suspects should have the flexibility to give added weight to significant information, such as recommendations from Chiefs of Station or other experienced intelligence professionals, in determining whether to place an individual on a watchlist. NCTC should change its practices to allow for nominations to TIDE, based on partially identifying or other incomplete information, to assist in enhancing terrorist identity records. Other agencies should change their policies accordingly.
· Strengthen the Visa Revocation System – The State Department must use its independent judgment and authority to revoke visas for anyone suspected of being involved with terrorism or terrorist groups, and must be able to do so in real time in coordination with the Intelligence Community. The Director of NCTC should make recommendations to deny or revoke a U.S. visa based on terrorism-related intelligence. In addition to exercising its independent authority to revoke visas, the State Department should accept the Director of NCTC’s recommendations. The State Department should also develop a system for electronically notifying all airlines of individuals whose visas have been revoked.
· Improve Intelligence Dissemination – The CIA should set standards to ensure that all intelligence reports are disseminated promptly– within two days for counterterrorism and all other high-priority issues. The CIA should provide broader access to operational traffic for all analysts with a need to know, whether those analysts are employed by the CIA or other agencies.
· Expand Intelligence Connections – The Director of the CIA should report to the congressional intelligence committees within 30 days on the increased access to its all-source counterterrorism database. The Directors of the CIA and NCTC should ensure that their workforces understand their responsibility to connect and disseminate all possible threat reporting, particularly reports that might help identify threats to the Homeland. The Director of the NCTC should ensure that NCTC is organized and resourced to fulfill its responsibility to track, analyze, and report on all terrorist threats to the United States emanating from terrorist groups overseas.
· Enhance the Ability to Identify Intelligence – The CIA should expand access to certain counterterrorism information. The DNI should develop a comprehensive plan to implement advanced information technology systems that can draw connections among related intelligence reports and assist in the prioritization of terrorist threat streams.
· Strengthening Intelligence Analysis – The DNI should examine whether adequate intelligence resources are directed against threats to the Homeland. The DNI should review the roles and responsibilities of counterterrorism analysts throughout the Intelligence Community to ensure that all agencies understand their counterterrorism roles and their roles in identifying and analyzing threats to the Homeland. The DNI should also ensure that counterterrorism analysts actively collaborate across the Intelligence Community to identify such threats. The DNI’s review should also investigate how to expand access to counterterrorism intelligence throughout the Intelligence Community, including whether counterterrorism analysts within each IC component should be provided access to all counterterrorism intelligence.