Richard A. Best Jr.
Specialist in National Defense
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established in 2004 to ensure that information from any source about potential terrorist acts against the U.S. could be made available to analysts and that appropriate responses could be planned. Investigations of the 9/11 attacks had demonstrated that information possessed by different agencies had not been shared and thus that disparate indications of the looming threat had not been connected and warning had not been provided. As a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NCTC is composed of analysts with backgrounds in many government agencies and has access to various agency databases. It prepares studies ranging from strategic assessment of the future terrorist threats to daily briefings and situation reports. It is also responsible, directly to the President, for planning (but not directing) counterterrorism efforts. The NCTC received a statutory charter in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458); it currently operates with a staff of some 600 analysts from a headquarters in northern Virginia. The Senate must consent to the appointment of the NCTC Director.
Two recent incidents—the assassination by an Army Major of some 13 individuals at Fort Hood Army Base on November 5, 2009 and the failed attempt to trigger a bomb on an airliner approaching Detroit on December 25, 2009—led to increased concern about counterterrorism capabilities domestically and internationally. An Executive Branch assessment of the December bombing attempt concluded that, whereas information sharing had been adequate, analysts had failed to "connect the dots" and achieve an understanding of an ongoing plot. Attention has focused on the NCTC which is responsible for ensuring both the sharing of information and for all-source analysis of terrorist issues.
Congressional hearings have been scheduled to review what was known in advance about the individuals involved in these two incidents. Congress may choose to go further to review the statutory responsibilities of NCTC as well as the record of the Center since it was established in 2004. This Report will be updated as more information becomes available.
Date of Report: January 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41022
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Richard A. Best Jr.