Friday, January 08, 2010

Does the CIA Know What is the Capital of Nigeria? Or Yemen?

Chris Matthews made a good point last night on Hardball, about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the terrorist who attempted to bomb a Delta Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25. Matthews noted that well prior to the attempted plane bombing, the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had met with the CIA station chief in Lagos, Nigeria, to report that his son was involved with Islamic extremists in Yemen and posed a terrorist risk. Moreover, also prior to the attempted terrorist attack, the CIA station in Sana, Yemen had received reports that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had recruited someone known as "the Nigerian" for a terrorist strike against the West.

Forget about failure to share information across security and law enforcement agency lines. How about the failure to share information within the CIA? Didn't the CIA station chief in Lagos, Nigeria think that a phone call to his Sana, Yemen counterpart might be warranted, to pass on the tip from Abdulmutallab's father, since the information was that Abdulmutallab had established his ties to Al Qaeda while studying in Sana? Didn't it occur to the CIA station chief in Sana, Yemen that a report of a terrorist suspect known within Al Qaeda as "the Nigerian" might merit a call to his counterpart in Lagos, Nigeria, to see if that information matched any intelligence that the Lagos station had received? Or failing cross-station phone communications, wasn't there some common CIA analyst to whom such tips were to be passed, who might connect the dots?

Veterans of U.S. Army Intelligence have been heard to joke that "Army Intelligence" is an oxymoron. Unfortunately, it appears that "Central Intelligence Agency" may be both an oxymoron and a misnomer; in this incident, the agency's officers displayed little intelligence and any notion of centrality and coordination was utterly lacking.


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