One of the jobs of intelligence services is to “connect the dots” and paint a picture with them of looming threats.
Does anyone remember what one of the supposed lessons of 9/11 was? That intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the services all need to talk and share what they know. It was the compartmentalization of intelligence which some blame the tragedy of 9/11 on. The dots were there, but each agency and service was holding them close to their chest and not sharing. As it turned out, what each had wasn’t enough for that agency or service to positively identify the threat, but when put together, after the fact, painted a pretty clear picture that they should have seen.
Almost 9 years later, if what we’re hearing about Ft. Hood is true, the same problem, at least to some degree, still exists:
Pentagon officials said Tuesday that no one in the U.S. intelligence or law-enforcement community, despite all the new ways information is shared, warned them that accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic cleric living in Yemen who had known three of the 9/11 hijackers. The officials said that information was provided to them only after Thursday’s shooting spree.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was tipped about Maj. Hasan based on his communications with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was probably in the best position to flag officials at the Army or the Pentagon. But the FBI says communications between the men were innocuous and didn’t warrant more than the basic assessment it performed. Without directly pointing any fingers, the bureau also says members of the military served on two separate FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that reviewed the contacts between Mr. Awlaki and Maj. Hasan.
The content of the pair’s communications didn’t raise red flags because terrorism task-force members checked with the military and found that Maj. Hasan was an Army psychiatrist who conducted research and was working on a master’s degree, FBI officials said.
So assumptions were made by the FBI that apparently made them decide this wasn’t information which needed to be shared with the organization with whom Hasan worked. However, had that information been added to the already growing information the Army was acquiring about Hasan internally, would it have made a difference?
I, nor anyone else, can answer that question. However, the fact remains, given the existence of this information, that the Army’s information about Hasan was incomplete. And, it can be suggested, had it been provided, the Army may have taken a much more critical look at Hasan than it apparently did.
That’s not to say Hasan would have been removed, forced out of the Army or anything else by the disclosure of this information. He may have been. But it does give you an idea of what an intelligence failure – in this case the failure to share information that we now know may have connected the dots the Army already had, or prompted them into a more thorough investigation – can cost lives.
There are many, many more things to discuss about this massacre, but that’s one that shouldn’t be among them. This was supposedly solved by all those commissions and a intelligence czar and regulations and laws which required everyone share intel. Now we have a prima facia case where we find out that isn’t the case. And the results were deadly.
This also points to what may be a wider problem and one that could be – again – just as deadly, if not more so, in the future. This needs to be fixed once and for all, and if heads need to figuratively roll to reinforce the point and make it happen, then get to choppin’.