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Leiter Clarifies Watchlisting Policy Standards

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to know more about the watchlisting standards that Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said were crucial to the failure to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Northwest Flight 253.

It “really does come down to what the analytic judgment was at the time,” Leiter replied, about whether Abdulmutallab should be put on the selectee list for questioning or the more-restrictive no-fly list. Had an analyst put together the fragmentary data from signals intelligence and Abdulmutallab’s father, would the analyst have said “We have a potential AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] operative” or an operative with a bomb aiming at a specific plane at a specific time? If it’s the former judgment, Abdulmutallab would be on the selectee list; if it’s the latter, he would have been on the no-fly.

Going forward, Leiter said, We shouldn’t try to parse it so closely in the first instance.” Echoing his boss, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Leiter wants a “greater degree of flexibility…Certain associations” with terrorists or with “any sort of operation… should [place someone] on the no-fly.”

But that can’t be *everyone *with some form of terrorist connection. ”We have a not insignificant number, roughly 100000 individuals, who have some association with terrorist groups, family members” and the like, Leiter continued. “That standard is simply lower than what was adopted in August 2008… so it was simply a matter of the data that was associated with him not meeting that higher standard” in not putting Abdulmutallab on either the selectee or the no-fly list. Who toldja?

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