Washington: A US panel tasked with reviewing the FBI has said that one of the main lessons learnt from the 2008 Mumbai terror attack case was that “relevant intelligence may fall by the wayside” in the absence of an intelligence effort to understand the connections among cases.
A Congressionally mandated panel charged with reviewing the FBI’s implementation of recommendations contained in the 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 issued its findings on Wednesday and cited the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as one of five “significant terrorism events”.
It said that the Pakistani-American Mumbai terror attack convict David Headley was an “even more elusive target” than Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American who was arrested in September, 2009 as part of the US Al Qaeda group accused of planning suicide bombings on the New York City Subway system.
“Headley conducted his activities with all the skills of a trained intelligence operative — able to travel to and from the United States, Pakistan, and India with relative ease and eluding authorities,” the report noted.
“Headley had previously come to the attention of US law enforcement authorities, but FBI officials repeatedly concluded that Headley did not pose a threat at the time,” said the 120-page ‘Report of the Congressionally-directed 9/11 Review Commission’ released on Wednesday.
“One of the main lessons from the Headley case is that absent an intelligence effort across the USIC to understand the connections among cases and complaints across field offices, relevant intelligence may fall by the wayside,” said the report that also suggested where the FBI can improve.
News outlets have reported, prior to his terrorist activities, Headley had worked as a DEA informant in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, following two heroin trafficking arrests.
“A single complaint may be more easily dismissed as a poison pen motive, but several unrelated complaints should not be dismissed as readily as the work of a malcontent,” the report said.
It went on to add: “The Headley case raises the important question faced by all intelligence agencies –– certainly important to the FBI –– of how to scan and assess voluminous amounts of collected information strategically and identifying valuable intelligence leads.
“Still, more than a decade after 9/11, the FBI must prioritise empowering and equipping its analytic cadre to make these connections with cutting edge technology, to minimise the risk of the FBI missing important intelligence information.”
Lashkar-e-Taiba militants launched a massive attack on India’s commercial hub Mumbai in November, 2008 and killed 166 people, including six Americans.