New Terrorist Threat Center: Educated Guesswork?

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0304300374apr30,1,6108542.story?coll=chi%2Dnews%2Dhed

A national Terrorist Threat Integration Center opens this week, the Chicago Tribune reports. It is designed to allow intelligence analysts throughout the government better access to all the pieces of a mosaic of raw data on terrorist threats around the world. But they still must make sense of the picture to prevent future attacks.

Intelligence analysis, is not an exact discipline, especially when it comes to terrorism, the Trtibune says. It is more art than science, educated guesswork of the highest order versus hard calculus. And those guesses often are stretched beyond their limits when it comes to analyzing terrorist threats.

Because time is so crucial, terrorism analysts often must draw conclusions in hours–instead of the weeks necessary to evaluate often-dubious sources, according to counterterrorism officials and ex-CIA analysts.

One stark reminder of its pitfalls came around Christmas last year, when the U.S. received intelligence from Pakistan, where several leaders of Al Qaeda had found refuge following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, that 19 operatives were seeking to enter the United States. It turned out that the story was concocted, but it took many anxious days to determine that.

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