The antiterror education of President Obama continued yesterday, with his release of a White House report blaming the “counterterrorism community” as a whole for “a failure to connect the dots of intelligence” that would have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane to Detroit on Christmas Day.
Mr. Obama blamed no one in particular for the failure, not even George W. Bush. In one sense this is refreshing. The President said the buck stops with him, not his underlings, and he ordered the usual agencies to review their usual procedures and institute changes to make sure information is shared more quickly and analyzed more comprehensively. This all seems worthwhile as far as it goes, and it may well do some good by shaking up settled behavior patterns, at least for a while.
On the other hand, it’s impossible to read even the six-page unclassified summary of the White House review without a rising sense of frustration, even anger. This was above all a failure of bureaucracy. Consider (or rather, bear with) this mouthful of an explanation from the White House review:
“Notwithstanding [the National Counterterrorism Center’s] central role in producing terrorism analysis, CIA maintains the responsibility and resource capability to ‘correlate and evaluate intelligence related to national security and provide appropriate dissemination of such intelligence.’ CIA’s responsibility for conducting all-source analysis in the area of counterterrorism is focused on supporting its operations overseas, as well as informing its leadership of terrorist threats and terrorist targets overseas. Therefore, both agencies—NCTC and CIA—have a role to play in conducting (and a responsibility to carry out) all-source analysis to identify operatives and uncover specific plots like the attempted December 25 attack. . . .