- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
There isn’t a whole lot of news in the just-released White House Security Review on the Christmas bombing attempt. (Not sure what James Jones was so "shocked" by.) As President Obama basically said two days ago, the U.S.government "had sufficient information" to disrupt the plot, primarily by placing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on a the no-fly list, but the intelligence community failed to "connect the dots." The report recommends a number of reforms and reviews to improve communications and strengthen the watchlist, but also finds that major fixes aren’t needed:
A reorganization of the intelligence or broader counterterrorism community is not required to address problems that surfaced in the review, a fact made clear by countless other successful efforts to thwart ongoing plots.
That should please the editors of the Financial Times who argued in a smart editorial today against undertaking major bureaucratic reorganizations:
In one way the US is the victim of its own increased efforts. After 9/11 the US created new agencies, and agencies within agencies. Proliferating bureaucracies gather more data, but connecting the silos and empowering somebody to act gets harder.
In addition, as information increases, background noise goes up too. One of the US watch-lists includes half a million names. That number, which will probably now rise, is already too high to be much use. The no-fly and selective-screening lists, on the other hand, are too small, since Mr Abdulmutallab was not on them.
I do worry that making the watchlisting system more aggressive will open up a can of worms (Just ask Nelson Mandela.) but from this review, the administration seems to be proceeding with caution.