Via (really!) Maureen Dowd, Newsweek has a short piece about still-lingering problems in the intelligence community. The National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), suggested by the 9/11 Commission and recently created by executive order, was supposed to be the hallmark of the “reformed” intelligence community: analysts from different agencies would come look at terrorism intelligence gathered from all corners, analyze, and then make policy recommendations. Sadly:
Far from a model of collegiality and collaboration, TTIC (which has since been renamed the National Counter-Terrorism Center), was more like a Tower of Babel. Though they sat side by side, agents and analysts from the different agencies were still playing by the old rules: trust your own, and be wary of the other guy.
The commissioners found that there were no less than nine levels of classified information stored in the center’s computers. Analysts from different agencies had different clearances, making it difficult for them to talk to one another. The agent from Homeland Security was especially irritated by the arrangement. When sensitive information came in to the office, he complained to the commissioners, the CIA and FBI agents sitting next to him would go off into a private, secure room and look at the material on separate computers. The Homeland Security man was frozen out. (A Homeland official says there have been major improvements.)
In part, this was what the 9/11 Commission feared when it recommended the creation of a strong National Intelligence Director with budget authority over the different agencies—someone who could force these analysts to work with each other within the NCTC. It’s not clear, though, if the position that was eventually created by Congress is actually powerful enough to enforce that coordination. The new WMD Commission report, released yesterday, notes that there’s still a potential “conflict” in authority between the NID and the director of the NCTC. Still, the report doesn’t make any suggestions as to how this might be remedied. More on this after I read through the report (pdf).