DNI Clapper Needs to Know
4:28 PM, Dec 29, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The list of terrorists either directly connected to, or inspired by, Anwar al Awlaki is extensive. Therefore, any intelligence connecting Awlaki to terror plotters – such as the UK men – has to be a top priority for the intelligence bureaucracy, no matter what else is going on. This is true even if authorities do not believe Awlaki was in direct contact with the aspiring jihadists. Awlaki is that much of a threat.
None of this is intended to be overly critical of Clapper. Yes, the UK arrests received extensive coverage on televised news shows the same day Clapper gave his interview on ABC. And, yes, he probably should have seen some of that footage or at least heard about it. There is no good reason for Diane Sawyer to know about a significant counterterrorism action in the UK before the DNI.
But the problems here run deeper. The intelligence bureaucracy has repeatedly failed to properly assimilate, share, analyze, and report on vital intelligence concerning the terrorists’ designs. These failures were a problem during the Bush years (9/11 attacks) and have continued to be a problem during the Obama administration (e.g. Fort Hood Shooting, Christmas Day 2009 plot), despite an extensive restructuring of the intelligence community.
Why didn’t the intelligence bureaucracy keep Clapper abreast of this situation before ABC News or the rest of the media ever heard about it? That’s the real question journalists and elected officials should be asking. After all these years, the intelligence community is still not sharing information in a timely fashion – even when it involves threats against American interests.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.