The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday released an unclassified summary of its report on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, condemning US intelligence agencies for failure to flag the bombing suspect before he boarded the flight.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, attempted to blow up the US-bound flight from Amsterdam with pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). Passengers and crew onboard subdued him when the explosive did not work properly. Authorities then arrested him when the flight landed in Detroit, Mich.
"Based on the information provided, the Committee concludes that the Intelligence Community [IC] failed to connect and appropriately analyze the information in its possession prior to Dec. 25, 2009, that would have identified Abdulmutallab as a possible terrorist threat to the United States. The committee believes the IC, and other parts of the US government, should have taken steps to prevent Abdulmutallab from boarding Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, Mich., on Christmas Day," said the Intelligence Committee Report on the Attempted Terrorist Attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
On Dec. 31, 2009, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) initiated the investigation that led to the delivery of the classified report to the Intelligence Community March 16, making recommendations to the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
The report identified 14 specific points of failure, any one of which could have prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding a flight bound for the United States:
1. State Department did not revoke Abdulmutallab’s US visa;
2. Abdulmutallab was not placed in the Terrorist Screening Database, the Selectee List, or the No-Fly List;
3. Reporting was not distributed to all appropriate CIA elements;
4. A CIA regional division at CIA headquarters did not search databases;
5. CIA did not disseminate key reporting until after the attempted attack;
6. A CIA Counterterrorism Center office’s limited name search failed to uncover key reports on Abdulmutallab;
7. CIA Counterterrorism Center analysts failed to connect the reporting on Abdulmutallab;
8. FBI counter-terrorism analysts could not access all relevant reports;
9. NCTC’s Directorate of Intelligence failed to connect the reporting on Abdulmutallab;
10. NCTC’s Watchlisting Office did not conduct additional research to find additional derogatory information to place Adbulmutallab on a watchlist;
11. NSA did not purse potential collection opportunities that could have provided information on Abdulmutallab;
12. Analysts did not pursue potential collection opportunities that could have provided information on Abdulmutallab;
13. NSA did not nominate Abdulmutallab for watchlisting or the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment based on information partly identifying him; and
14. Intelligence analysts were primarily focused on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threats to US interests in Yemen rather than on potential threats to US homeland.
Although the report made specific recommendations to many key intelligence agencies and the national intelligence director, it singled out the NCTC for specific criticism. Congress created the NCTC to serve as the entity for analyzing and integrating all intelligence on terrorism and counterterrorism matters, the report noted.
"The committee found there were systemic failures across the Intelligence Community, which contributed to the failure to identify the threat posed by Abdulmutallab. Specifically, the NCTC was not organized adequately to fulfill its missions," the report stated.
It added: "In practice, however, the Committee found that no one agency saw itself as being responsible for tracking and identifying all terrorism threats. In addition, technology across the IC is not adequate to provide search enhancing tools for analysts, which contributed to the failure of the IC to identify Abdulmutallab as a potential threat."
The committee largely recommended that agencies share information electronically within short time frames and to widely disseminate threat reports on suspected terrorists quickly.