Terror pursuit teams formed to aggregate leads
The nation’s main counterterrorism center is creating new teams of specialists to pursue clues of emerging terrorist plots as part of a rapid buildup that will sharply increase its analyst corps, perhaps by hundreds of people over the next year, intelligence officials said Friday.It is progress, but what they really need is an automated system that aggregates leads on specific individuals or schemes. These data crunchers would then print out and "exception report" when certain parameters are met. This would trigger the need for attention by the pursuit team. These teams also need an internal Google search capability so they can dig for data on those kicked out by the exception report.
The action by the National Counterterrorism Center is one of the furthest reaching by the government so far to address the failings of several federal agencies in allowing a 23-year-old Nigerian man to board a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with high explosives sewn into his underwear.
A White House review this month found that no one in the government’s vast intelligence system had sole responsibility for detecting and piecing together disparate threat information, telltale signs that could have prevented the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, from boarding the plane.
In response, the counterterrorism center in the past several days has picked more than three dozen of its most capable analysts from across its ranks to form what it calls pursuit teams to focus on threats from Yemen and other Al Qaeda offshoots that could imperil the United States, officials said.
“We have dedicated teams that don’t have any responsibility for producing intelligence, but simply for following up on these small leads,” Michael E. Leiter, the center’s director, told the House Homeland Security Committee this week in the latest of several recent appearances on Capitol Hill.
“We’ve been very good at chasing down those threats that come out of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr. Leiter told the Senate Homeland Security Committee last week. “We’re going to be better now at chasing down those small bits of information that come out of Yemen or North Africa or East Africa.”
The pursuit teams are just the beginning of an ambitious effort that intelligence officials say could potentially add several hundred additional analysts to the more than 200 specialists who work on terrorism and watch list duties now, officials said. Congress would need to approve financing for the additional hires.