Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member of a House Intelligence subcommittee, said Tuesday the Obama Administration has made changes in intelligence-gathering that makes the U.S. more susceptible to a domestic terror attack.
Intelligence changes made in the past 14 months have “opened the door for more terrorist attacks like the Christmas Day attempt on the plane in Detroit, and Saturday’s near-car bomb explosion in NYC’s Times Square, ” Rogers, who heads the Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and Human Intelligence, said in a statement.
“There are collection activities that we used to conduct two years ago – as a matter of fact, one was suspended about six months ago — that we can no longer do,” said Rogers . “Every time you suspend one of those ways to do business … you put us on a less secure footing.” Rogers made it clear in an interview that he was not referring to the Obama Adminstration’s suspension of harsh enhanced-interrogation techniques.
Rogers, a former FBI Special Agent, said that since certain methods of collecting information from individuals have been suspended, the U.S. has seen an increase in the number of homegrown attacks “that we had to respond to, not prevent.” He said the U.S. needs to be more aggressive at preventing terror attacks.
“By the time that car got to Times Square loaded full of bombs — intelligence failure,” Rogers said. “Law enforcement kicked in, thankfully, and had a huge success. But it has to be more than that. We can’t completely rely on our very last line of defense before a bomb goes off.”
Intelligence becomes all the more important as terrorists are changing their operational tactics. The mass scale of the 9/11 attacks are being replaced by smaller attempts, though still deadly: the shootings at Fort Hood, the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing, and now the Times Square bombing attempt.
Al Martinez Fonts, former assistant secretary for the Private Sector Office at the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, believes the terrorists are shifting their focus away from dramatic attacks.
“I think what’s going on is somewhat of a change of tactics on the part of the terrorists,” said Fonts. “They had always wanted to do things that were spectacular, that were really game changers – obviously, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the examples. I think we always feared, or were always extremely concerned about the fact that would they try to do something like what we’ve seen in Times Square – movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. They wouldn’t be as dramatic.”
Rogers said the changes in intelligence gathering stem from another shift away from the Bush Administration approach: The Obama Administration sees law enforcement, as opposed to counter-terrorism, as the key to responding to domestic threats, a view Rogers said Atty. Gen. Eric Holder expressed in his news conference Tuesday.
“That is a dangerously naïve approach to how terrorists work around the world,” Rogers said. “That is a major transformation in the way we use to pursue and prevent terrorism in the United States.”
Fonts said he doesn’t think the change in tactics has come as a result of an Obama Administration letting down its guard.
“I think the terrorists have been thwarted at their very big type of dramatic, game-changer types of things,” Fonts said. “I don’t think the alert level or the concern by the government or the U.S. government’s stance has changed that dramatically that the terrorists now feel like they can go ahead and take advantage of us.”