Thursday, December 31, 2009

It Just Keeps Getting Better

This tidbit at the end of a CNN World report

A U.S. government official said that between August and October, extremists in Yemen were discussing operations and mentioned a person called "the Nigerian." The source said that U.S. intelligence officials also had a partial name for the person: Umar Farouk.


To clarify, here are the pieces that the intel community had, but was unable to put together.

In August and October, extremists in Yemen were discussing operations and mentioned a person called "the Nigerian;
a partial name for the person: Umar Farouk;
November, a Nigerian man reports that his son, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, had "become radicalized," and had gone to Yemen to participate in "some kind of jihad."

It should have been easy.
Yemen shop calls the Nigeria shop and says, "Hey, I keep getting hits on a Nigerian involved in an upcoming op. Partial name is Umar Farouk. Got anything on him?"
Nigeria shop says, "No, but I'll let you know if something comes up."

Apparently that didn't happen. Neither did this:

Nigeria shop calls the Yemen shop and says, "Hey, I've got a tip that a Nigerian named Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab has travelled to Yemen to join the jihad. Got anything on him?"
Yemen shop says, "ZUJ1, let me check."

Someone still inside the community might say that with all the databases, classified wiki pages and so on, that's not the way it we do it anymore. Maybe it should be. The Soviets were no less challenging and we had em.

I would bet that with enough time, the connections might have been made. But that illustrates another problem - there is probably not a high pressure, do it now, urgent, where-the-fuck-is-this-guy-going mentality to the analysis going on. If so, we are not making our own luck. It will run out.

UPDATE: Touche'. I just came across this CBS News report wherein a senior intelligence official commented on "no sense of urgency" within the intelligence community. The article then gets a quote from Joseph Cuellar, a former CIA and military intelligence officer, "You know they had information that an analyst could have quickly put together and said 'something's wrong here' and it didn't get done."

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