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EDITORIAL: Security agencies must connect dots

We can't keep making the same mistake in the fight against terrorists.

One lesson that should have been seared into our governmental DNA after 9/11 was that intelligence agencies must do a better job "connecting the dots," to disrupt terror plots. It was an urgent message from the 9/11 Commission. Instead, developments each day since the botched attempt to bomb an airliner on Christmas show that officials again failed to connect bits of information, as counterterrorism requires.

Tomorrow President Barack Obama plans to review a preliminary report on how intelligence officials failed to put together incriminating information about would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Some knew that al-Qaida leaders in Yemen were discussing a plot involving a Nigerian man. Others knew that Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, traveled to Yemen and had been radicalized by extremists.

Seemingly the agencies didn't appreciate the value of the information or how to communicate it, despite post-9/11 government reorganization. The Department of Homeland Security, a new national intelligence director and the National Counterterrorism Center were all created to make sure that agencies would share what they know. And still, they didn't.

Knowing what's critical to share from a deluge of information isn't easy. It just seems that way in hindsight. But that's the job, and Obama has to find a way to get it done. hN