9/11 Commission: Unity of Effort Outline National Counter Terrorism Center (nctc)



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9/11 Commission: Unity of Effort – Outline
National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC)

  • 9/11 Commission Recommendations

    • Center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence

    • Staffed by personnel of various agencies

    • Head of NCTC should have authority to evaluate performance of people assigned

    • Joint intelligence built on existing TTIC; develop net assessments (compare enemy’s capabilities against US defenses) and provide warning

    • Joint planning would assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies, but should not direct execution; track implementation

    • Head of NCTC appointed by President, reports to DNI; confirmed by the Senate

    • Right to concur in choices for leads of other counter-terrorism organizations

  • Actual implementation

    • Office of strategic planning – compromise to prevent conflict with CIA, FBI and Pentagon; draws up plans and “recommends” actions for other agencies (Day at NCTC)

    • NCTC Director appointed by president with advice and consent of Senate; reports to DNI for analyzing and integrating information pertaining to terrorism (except domestic terrorism), for NCTC budgets and programs; reports to President for planning and progress of joint counterterrorism operations (works through NSC) (CRS – NCTC)

    • Strategic operational planning – includes mission, objectives, assignment of roles and responsibilities; but may not direct execution; direct report to President, may recommend actions opposed by DNI (his other boss) (CRS-NCTC)

    • Extent of planning responsibilities are unclear (CRS-NCTC)

    • Maintains TIDE database of terrorist identities (CRS-NCTC)

    • Bifurcated reporting relationships, ill-defined distinctions between joint counterterrorism intelligence operations and joint counterterrorism operations (other than intelligence), authority of NCTC to define operational success  all areas where unclear authority could lead to inefficient business practices (CRS – NCTC Implementation)

    • Olsen – 4 missions: Intel analysis, watch-listing (TIDE), sharing info with state and local law enforcement, strategic operational planning

  • Successes/Failures of NCTC

    • Success: Tracking OBL – creating COP

    • Failure: Underwear Bomber – failed to “connect the dots” (CRS – NCTC)

      • Information was available to NCTC

      • Did not search all databases to uncover additional derogatory information

      • Delayed dissemination of intelligence report

      • Incomplete/faulty database queries

      • No process for tracking reports and actions taken in response

      • Greater concern with threat in Yemen than on attacks on US from AQAP

    • Failure: NCTC inadequately organized and resourced for its missions; intelligence analysts focused more on threats to US interests in Yemen than on domestic threats (CRS-NCTC)

    • Failure: in focusing on consolidating info from other agencies, NCTC was unwilling to take a bold implementation approach and preferred to avoid bureaucratic conflict (CRS-NCTC)

    • Failure: concern that NCTC might rely on foreign intelligence authorities that do not encompass restrictions on domestic intelligence gathering and law enforcement operations (CRS-NCTC)

    • Response to failure: creation of “pursuit group” focused on discovering threats, major improvements to TIDE, training program for watchlisting and screening, enhanced IT infrastructure to enable searches across various databases (Leiter testimony)

    • Failure: NCTC did not see itself as responsible for tracking and identifying all terrorist threats, standards for watchlist too rigid and complicated, did not conduct additional analysis on intel related to watchlisting (Christmas Day Bomber)

  • Recommendations

    • Hayden – NCTC is an unqualified success; mixing of foreign, domestic, intel, law enforcement data couldn’t happen if it reported to DCIA

Director of National Intelligence (DNI)



  • 9/11 Commission Recommendations

    • Replace DCI with DNI with responsibility to oversee national intelligence centers and manage the national intelligence program

    • Principal advisor to president

    • Submit unified budget for national intelligence; apportions funds to appropriate agencies

    • Approve and submit nominations for individuals leading intelligence agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.)

    • Three deputies: foreign, defense, and homeland intelligence – man, train, and equip, execute ops planned by national intelligence centers

    • Set personnel policies to establish stds for education and training

    • Set information sharing and IT policies to maximize data sharing and maintain information security

    • Participate in NSC executive committee

    • In Executive Office of President, confirmed by Senate

    • Lead responsibility for conducting clandestine and covert paramilitary operations should lie with DOD’s SOCOM

    • Overall budget for national intelligence should not be kept secret

  • Actual implementation

    • DNIs authorities are stronger than that held by DCI (CRS-DNI authorities)

    • Whether DNI has sufficient management authority will depend on determination to assert new powers, extent to which he receives presidential and congressional support, and ability to establish a transparent budget process (CRS-DNI authorities)

    • DNI will provide intelligence to president and will head intelligence community, but will not oversee CIA (CRS-DNI auth)

    • IRTPA gives DNI additional powers in personnel, tasking, and acquisition; increases control over IC budgets (CRS-DNI auth)

    • DNI got more power than DCI had, since he has budgetary authority and concurs in selecting heads of other intel agencies, but budget is still secret and chopped up (Fessenden)

  • Successes/Failures of DNI

    • Gentry – IRTPA was victory for DoD and hurt CIA effectiveness

    • Hayden – IRTPA was result of misdiagnosis that there was insufficient unity of effort (there was)

    • Treverton – law gives DNI broad responsibilities but only ambiguous authorities



  • Recommendations

    • Saxby Chambliss – argues for a joint military command (INTCOM) to help DNI coordinate US military orgs

    • Hayden – current system will work if president supports DNI, DNI and DCIA are friends, and DNI must be great at his job and agile

    • McConnell – IRTPA was insufficient; need a more collaborative approach to intel modeled on Goldwater-Nichols; proposals – clarify and coordinate DNI’s responsibilities and powers, transform the collection and analysis of intel, accelerate info sharing, change institutional cultures, build high-tech capabilities, boost the acquisition of new technologies

    • Treverton – need to change the nature of the intel structure, with ability to collect more domestic intel in exchange for greater transparency; intel analysts must first do work at a level that can be shared (UNCLAS)

Other Information Sharing Findings



  • NCTC products available to 75 government agencies and facilitates info sharing with state, local and tribal partners (CRS-NCTC)

  • Federal, state, and local governments have yet to establish adequate information-sharing systems and processes (CSIS – HLS 3.0)

  • Saxby Chambliss – eliminate the notion of “data ownership” among intelligence agencies

  • No one database that unites 26 separate intel networks; also issue with ORCON controls (Fessenden)

  • Roll Call – unclass intel for first responders from NCTC, See Something, Say Something program, Fusion centers (Olsen – INSA CSIS)

Information sharing



  • 9/11 Commission Recommendations

    • Incentives for sharing, to restore a better balance between security and shared knowledge

    • To allow to the maximum number of recipients access to the meaningful information the report should begin with the information in its most shareable.

    • Access to more information is granted or denied according to the rules set for the network

    • Information needs to be shared horizontally, across new networks that transcend individual agencies

    • Agencies have their own database that can be searchable across agency lines

    • “Information rights management” approach

    • President should should coordinate the resolution of the legal, policy, and technical issues across agencies to create the framework for “trusted information network”.

  • Actual Implementation

    • National Counterterrorism Center.

    • 105 Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout the nation, and 72 Fusion Centers in which federal, state, local, and tribal authorities investigate terrorism leads and share information

  • Success/Faillure

    • Underwear Bomber- Lack of sharing information between the NSA, CIA, the FBI and the National Security Council.

    • Fort Hood Shooting.

    • The FBI accumulated intelligence on al-Qaeda that it hoped to use in a criminal case against Osama bin Laden; therefore, most of this intelligence never left the compartmented areas of FBI headquarters.

    • Publication of sensitive documentation by WikiLeaks

Congressional oversight of Intelligence and Homeland Security



  • 9/11 Commission Recommendations

    • Congressshould create a joint committee for intelligence, using the Joint Atomic Energy Committee as its model, or

    • Create House and Senate committees (seven or nine members in each house) with combined authorizing and appropriations powers.

    • Committee or committees should conduct continuing studies of the activities of the intelligence agencies and report problems relating to the development and use of intelligence to all members of the House and Senate.

    • Total level of the funding needs to be public.

    • Intelligence committee creates a subcommittee specifically dedicated to oversight, freed from the consuming responsibility of working on the budget

    • New intelligence committee structure should grant subpoena authority to the committee or committees.

    • Four of the members appointed to this committee or committees should be a member who also serves on each of the following addition committees: Armed Services, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee.

    • Members should serve indefinitely on the intelligence committees, without set terms, thereby letting them accumulate expertise.

    • The Congress should make sure funding is available to accelerate the expansion of secure facilities in FBI field offices.



  • Actual Implementation

    • Congress did not adopt any of the recommendations: a Joint Committee for intelligence or create House and Senate committees with combined authorizing and appropriating powers were not formed.

    • Fractured and overlapping committee jurisdictions on both sides of the hill have left Congressional oversight in an unsatisfactory state- conflicting and contradictory tasks and mandates for DHS [Department of Homeland Security].;

    • Chairman of the HPSCI announced a decision to include three Members of the House Appropriations Committee to participate House Intelligence Committee hearings and briefings.

    • No a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security was created.

    • The homeland security committees in the House and Senate do not have sufficient jurisdiction over important agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.

    • There are proposals to slash the National Nuclear Security Administration‘s budget for nonproliferation by 22 percent.



The Future Role FBI

  • 9/11 Recommendations

    • Leave counterterrorism intelligence collection in the US with FBI

    • A specialized and integrated national security workforce should be established (agents, analysts, linguists, and surveillance specialists)

    • The president, by executive order or directive, should direct the FBI to develop this intelligence cadre.

    • Recognizing that cross-fertilization between the criminal justice and national security disciplines is vital to the success of both missions.

    • The FBI should institute the integration of analysts, agents, linguists,and surveillance personnel in the field.

    • Each field office should have an official at the field office’s deputy level for national security matters.

    • The FBI should align its budget structure according to its four main programs—intelligence, counterterrorism and counterintelligence, criminal, and criminal justice services.

    • The FBI should report regularly to Congress in its semiannual program reviews

    • The FBI should report regularly to Congress in detail on the qualifications, status, and roles of analysts in the field and at headquarters.




  • Actual Implementation

    • The FBI has shifted considerable resources and personnel from traditional criminal investigations to international counterterrorism and intelligence gathering.

    • New framework: a threat-based, intelligence-led approach

    • Progress in developing new function and capacities significant but uneven

    • Since 2001, the FBI has nearly tripled the number of intelligence analysts to 3,118, increased the supervisory intelligence analyst cadre to 285, and increased the number of GS-15 level analysts to 80.

    • Role of analysts within the FBI still unclear.

    • The FBI has increased the number of JITFs (The Joint Terrorism Task Forces) from 35 in 2001 to 104 today—one in each of the 56 field offices and 48 of the resident agencies across the country. 

    • New infrastructure:  establishing an intelligence office at Headquarters; creating a Field Intelligence Group (FIG) for each field office across the country; augmenting counterterrorism resources at Headquarters; 

    • The mission of the FIGs is to identify the threats in their respective territories and develop “domain awareness” through collecting, exploiting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence.

    • Poor communication among FBI Field Offices and between Field Offices and relevant offices within FBI headquarters.

    • Creation of the National Security Branch (NSB) in 2005, which combined the missions, capabilities, and resources of all of the national security components of the Bureau—counterterrorism, counterintelligence, intelligence, and weapons of mass destruction.

    • The executive assistant director for NSB (EAD/NSB) serves as the Bureau’s lead intelligence official and representative to the intelligence community.

    • The NSB has administrative responsibility for two interagency groups: the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) (formally chartered in 2010) and the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) (formally chartered in 2003).

    • Developing—the Strategy Management System (SMS)—a tool to measure the execution of FBI strategy and transformation.

    • Formed Strategic Execution Team (SET) to examine intelligence activities in all 56 Field Offices.

    • Management at Headquarters began conducting Strategy Performance Sessions (SPS) with field offices to review the field offices’ intelligence and operational performance.

    • Restrictions on access to certain, sensitive FBI databases hinders officials on important details.

    • Efforts to transfer FBI into an organization with an important focus on gathering and analyzing intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks affects its ability to vigorously enforce the criminal law and to investigate complex crimes.

    • FBI has increased the number of unarmed surveillance teams by 127 percent since 2001.

    • Improved Forensics.



  • Success/Failures

    • Significant cultural change to an agency overwhelmingly focused on law enforcement to one that prioritizes preventing terrorism.

    • Significant Privacy concerns by overuse of civil surveillance.

    •  Unified efforts of FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the New York and Denver police departments worked together in 2009 to stop an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the New York subway system.

    • 39 Terror plots foiled since 9/11.

    • Poor communication among FBI Field Offices and between Field Offices and relevant offices within FBI headquarters one of the reasons of the Fort Hood tragedy was not prevented.

    • Shift of tasks affects FBI ability to enforce criminal law and investigate complex crimes.


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