Yesterday, it was the closure of tunnels beneath Baltimore harbor, shutting town the major East Coast artery Interstate 95. Two weeks ago, it was the New York subway. In both cases, says the Baltimore Sun, the question for local officials was the same: Should they act on information of a potential terrorist plot in their city? In both cases, the federal government did a lousy job of helping them find answers, said Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel. Harman said the director of national intelligence should have a common interpretation of what a threat means and provide that to local governments. Instead, she said, what happened in Baltimore yesterday and in New York earlier was that local officials were given information that they acted on while officials in Washington continued to question whether the information was reliable and valid.
A law enforcement official confirmed that an informant in the Baltimore investigation had a “questionable” performance in a polygraph test. The threat information that locked down the New York subway system two weeks ago came from a Defense Intelligence Agency source in Iraq and was then evaluated by the FBI and CIA, which later decided the threat was not credible. “In both of these cases we have a situation where it looks like the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.” Harman said. “There was a federal meltdown.” Harman is dismayed that Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte “didn’t play a role in either case.” Negroponte “should have been all over this,” she said.