WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Thursday praised the intelligence community for its role in locating Osama bin Laden but questioned whether the cooperation exhibited in that case is illustrative of the level of integration across the community envisioned by intelligence reform legislation they helped co-author.
At the second in a series of hearings the Committee is holding to examine implementation of national security reforms in the wake of 9-11 and where improvement is needed, the answer was mixed.
“The success in locating and killing bin Laden required intense and focused cooperation among key intelligence agencies,” Lieberman said. “But when the target is not at this high level, the evidence about improved functioning of the Intelligence Community is mixed.
“We need to ensure that the shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation we saw in the hunt for bin Laden is being applied to all those lurking in the shadows planning fresh attacks, because the death of bin Laden does not mean the death of al Qaeda or Islamist terrorism. And the threat of homegrown, lone wolf terrorists–like Hasan–is growing. Our revamped intelligence community must take on these challenges and more.”
Collins said: “Last week’s welcome news that Osama bin Laden was killed demonstrates the kind of successful collaboration of intelligence and operations that we envisioned in reforming our capabilities and intelligence community in the wake of the attacks of 9-11-01. This successful operation against bin Laden demonstrates the importance of sharing intelligence information across the agency silos — the opposite of the disjointed pre-September 11 experience. This is a great victory for our intelligence efforts and a great blow to al Qaeda. But al Qaeda is not going away. That is why it is time for Congress to examine and build on the successes that emanated from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, identify any shortcomings, and work to correct them.”
The 9-11 Commission famously reported that no one was in charge of the intelligence community, contributing to al Qaeda’s successful attacks. In response, HSGAC drafted and Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the most sweeping intelligence reform since the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.
That legislation created a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to harness the federal government’s 16 intelligence agencies under unified leadership. The 2004 Act also created the National Counterterrorism Center to ensure that there was a single place in the government to assess terrorism threats using the full resources and knowledge of the government.
There have been impressive intelligence successes such as the 2009 arrest of Najibullah Zazi, who received training from al Qaeda and was planning an attack in New York City. There have also been intelligence failures, such as the attacks by Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, and Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad. The Committee’s report on the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, by a “lone wolf” also found that clues to the perpetrator’s Islamist radicalization and the potential danger he posed were hiding in plain sight.
Witnesses were former California Rep. Jane Harman, who served as ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and later chaired the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment; General Michael V. Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, former director of the National Security Agency, and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence; and John Gannon, former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production and one of our nation’s premier experts on intelligence analysis.