*** For God's sake people - get your act together: do you really want to be responsible for an attack all because of who gets to pee on the tree first? MS ***
WASHINGTON — The nation’s main counterterrorism center, created in response to the intelligence failures in the years before Sept. 11, is struggling because of flawed staffing and internal cultural clashes, according to a new study financed by Congress.
The result, the study concludes, is a lack of coordination and communication among the agencies that are supposed to take the lead in planning the fight against terrorism, including the C.I.A. and the State Department. The findings come just weeks after the National Counterterrorism Center was criticized for missing clear warning signs that a 23-year-old Nigerian man was said to be plotting to blow up a Detroit-bound commercial airliner on Dec. 25.
The counterterrorism center’s mission is to gather information from across the government, pull it all together and assess terrorist threats facing the United States, then develop a plan for the government to combat them. But the new report found that the center’s planning arm did not have enough authority to do its main job of coordinating the White House’s counterterrorism priorities.
The center’s planning operation is supposed to be staffed by representatives of various agencies, but not all of them send their best and brightest, the report said. It also cited examples in which the C.I.A. and the State Department did not even participate in some plans developed by the center that were later criticized for lacking important insights those agencies could offer.
As a result, the center’s planning arm “has been forced to develop national plans without the expertise of some of the most important players,” the report determined.
The counterterrorism center was part of the overhaul of the government after Sept. 11, including the creation of the director of national intelligence. Now, years after the attacks, the entire reorganization is coming under scrutiny, raising fundamental questions about who is in charge of the nation’s counterterrorism policy and its execution.
“The fluid nature of modern terrorism necessitates an agile and integrated response,” the report concluded. “Yet our national security system is organized along functional lines (diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, etc.) with weak and cumbersome integrating mechanisms across these functions.”
The 196-page report is the result of an eight-month study by the Project on National Security Reform, a nonpartisan research and policy organization in Washington. It was financed by Congress and draws on more than 60 interviews with current and former government and Congressional officials, including nearly a dozen officials at the counterterrorism center. The study is scheduled to be made public this week. The authors provided a copy to The New York Times.
The center noted in a statement on Monday that the study found the center had “made progress” in linking national policy with operations, adding that the report’s recommendations “provide an extremely thoughtful and useful critique of how counterterrorism actions are or are not fully synchronized across the U.S. government.”
The report found that the center’s planning arm struggled with “systemic impediments” like overlapping statutes, culture clashes with different agencies and tensions with two formidable players: the State Department’s counterterrorism office and the C.I.A.
Under President Obama, the report determined, counterterrorism issues have become more decentralized within the National Security Council’s different directorates, leaving the counterterrorism center’s planning arm to collect and catalog policies and operations going on at the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the Departments of State and Homeland Security, rather than help shape overall government strategy.
The planning arm has not yet figured out good ways to measure the effectiveness of the steps the government is taking against extremists. “The basic but fundamental question remains unanswered: How is the United States doing in its attempt to counter terrorism?” the report concluded. And the study is critical of Congress for failing to create committees that cut across national security issues. The planning arm “lacks a champion in either chamber of Congress,” the report found.
Since the counterterrorism center was created in 2004, its planning arm has been largely focused on a comprehensive review to assign counterterrorism roles and responsibilities to each federal agency, producing then revising a document called the National Implementation Plan. But pointedly, the counterterrorism center does not direct any specific operations.
Since the completion of that longer-term project, the study’s authors found that the center’s 100-person planning arm had become more involved in immediate counterterrorism issues: working on various classified projects involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and threats to the United States at home.
The study called on Mr. Obama to issue an executive order to define the nation’s counterterrorism architecture in order to address some of the problems and improve coordination. It also recommended giving the center’s director, currently Michael E. Leiter, a say in the choice of counterterrorism officials at other federal agencies, a step the 9/11 Commission had recommended but was not adopted.
The report was directed by Robert S. Kravinsky, a Pentagon planner on assignment to the group, and James R. Locher III, a former Pentagon official and senior Congressional aide who is the group’s president.
Until they joined the administration, Gen. James L. Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, were members of the group’s board of advisers, which now includes Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
COUNTERTERRORISM CENTRE CLASHING AND CRASHING
Labels: policing, intelligence, counter terrorism CIA State Dept. Pentagon, National counterterrorism center United States culture clash, National Security Adviser Obama administration, terrorist threat analysis USA