WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday announced the witness list for the first in a series of hearings the Committee will hold to discuss the impact of the 2004 reforms on the intelligence community, how they might have played out against the December 25 attempted terrorist attack, and whether changes may be needed.
The Committee will hear from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter on January 20 on the intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission in its final report on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“We are grateful to Secretary Napolitano, Director Blair and Director Leiter for agreeing to testify before our Committee to discuss the reforms made after 9/11 relevant to the Christmas Day attack, including changes in areas such as intelligence analysis, information sharing, watch-listing, border security and aviation security,” Senator Lieberman said. “We are especially interested in the progress of the intelligence reforms that were made in 2004 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, including the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.
“As the President noted, while enforcement and intelligence communities have worked successfully together to disrupt several plots against our country, the intelligence to discover and disrupt the plot, masterminded by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was available to our government. But it was not pieced together. We will ask Admiral Blair and Director Leiter why the intelligence community was unable to bring together pieces of intelligence held by various agencies to detect this plot and whether the DNI and NCTC have the authority to integrate the intelligence community into a single, integrated enterprise.
“From Secretary Napolitano, we will want to know how – even after reforms designed to prevent it – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to exploit passenger pre-screening systems and the international aviation security system to board a plane bound for the United States with an explosive device.”
Collins said: “Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, much has been done to improve the performance of our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies. Bureaucratic stovepipes that precluded information sharing have been dismantled, and collaboration has increased. As a direct result of these reforms, terrorist plots, both at home and abroad, have been thwarted.
“But human error, poor judgments, outmoded systems, and the sheer volume of data can still cause failures in the government’s ability to detect and detect terrorist plots as the recent attacks at Fort Hood and on Christmas Day demonstrate.
“As terrorist tactics evolve, our efforts to detect and disrupt attacks must be more nimble. We must continue to build on the reforms we put in place. Despite improvements in information sharing, our intelligence community continues to rely on systems that are relics from the days before reform. Effective information sharing requires that intelligence get into the hands of those who can take action to prevent an attack before it occurs, and our systems and protocols must support this objective.
“Our risk-based security structure depends on effective collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence, and officials must be empowered to take actions to help keep us safe. Our hearings will examine the failures in the current system as well as the improvements that must be made to improve the safety of this nation.”
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee played a central role in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and authored the 2004 legislation that implemented the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations to reform the intelligence community to dismantle information stovepipes and require cross-government intelligence sharing.