The Director of National Intelligence was summoned to the White House on Thursday afternoon and sacked.
Somewhat belatedly, the CIA, FBI and DIA have established the first domestic High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG) intended to question terrorist suspects while their knowledge still has a shelf-life and relevance. Although HIGs were intended to come into become operational in 2009, they had not been organized by the time the Detroit underwear bomber, Umar Frouk Abdulmtallab had been taken into custody on Christmas Day.
This and a highly critical Senate report led to the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, being summoned to the White House on Thursday afternoon and being sacked by President Barack Obama after just sixteen turbulent months in office. He leaves next week, on 28 May.
The newly-formed HIG has gone to work on Faisal Shahzad, and forensic scrutiny of his money-trail and cellphone use has already led to three other arrests. One, a Pakistani now held on immigration charges, is Aftab Khan, a twenty-seven year-old gas station attendant whose cellphone was fund to have been in contact with Shahzad’s.
The Shahzad investigation appears to be a textbook example of how to trace a suspect’s previous contacts and assess the threat of a future atrocity. The problem for analysts is that Shahzad claims to have been trained by the Pakistani Taliban and, if true, this development is ominous because it means that the Taliban has adopted the principles of international jihad.
Hitherto it has been assumed that, unique al-Qaida which espouses an international khalifate, the Taliban’s ambitions were purely domestic, seeking to reurn provinces under their control to the 14th Century, but this evidence suggests that the Taliban may have learned one lesson from the experience of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland: Atrocities in Ulster went unnoticed by politicians until they were committed on the mainland of Britain.