Identify and describe an instance in which information sharing was used to successfully prevent a terrorist act?

The Fort Dix Plot was a terrorist attempt that was foiled when the FBI was tipped off by an informant Mahmoud Omar. The informant, Mahmoud Omar, provided the FBI with mountains of circumstantial evidence such as the watching jihadist and other videos pertaining to terrorism. The interesting part of this story is that the question of whether the accused were actually planning an attack came into question.  The case hinged on circumstantial evidence such as the accused watching videos of terrorist propaganda and even the formation of the group itself (Us v. duka, 671 f. 3d 329)  The informant was also called into question because from the beginning of Omar’s involvement in the group due to claims that Omar was exaggerating the situations and conversations and making the situation appear more sinister in nature. The controversy concerning his conspiracy centered on the fact that the defendants only spoke of illegal activities and engaged in suspect behavior after the informants had infiltrated their friendship.

This is one of the issues with HUMINT and taking preemptive action to stop terrorists, as they can argue that they were not doing anything wrong or that the context of the situation was taken wrong. Whether this is true or not, there were definitely discussions of attacking the base and killing people. As well, large amount of propaganda material was present in the group.  If this was a situation of “talk” being taken wrong I am not sure how it would be proven.  To me, this incident represents a victory in intelligence because the suspect behaviors were identified and dealt with.

Us v. duka, 671 f. 3d 329 – court of appeals, 3rd circuit 2011. (2011). Retrieved from

Participation

This is a great example of a success in information sharing. Muhammad had spoken to many different people and many of these individuals try to dissuade him and reported him. The intelligence was acted on and the FBI become involved.  I think the issue with information sharing is that it appears to be a very black and white issue. For instance, Muhammad is a success because he was stopped prior to committing a terrorist attack. In contrast, 9/11 was a disaster and this was considered a failure. This view of intelligence sharing may be correct but it lacks critical thought. The process of intelligence gathering and sharing is a complex process that has many layers that determine its function and ability to be accurate.  For example of this issue can be seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The surprise that occurred with the sudden learning of missile silos in Cuba is often seen as an intelligence success because it was discovered prior to the missiles be implemented (Zegart, 2012). However, being surprised hardly amounts to a success and the success of the situation is really based on the fact that there was no nuclear confrontation.

Prior to the crisis, reports and analysis of the data clearly show that there were credible intelligence that the situation was changing on the ground in Cuba.  This is a problem throughout intelligence because intelligence gathering and sharing is viewed in relation to an outcome which is not the same as the process itself. Models for intelligence sharing have been designed to alleviate this problem but it persists for a variety of reasons such as politics and bias in the agencies themselves. The real question may not be “was the Muhammad case a success?” but “to what degree was the information sharing effective and successful?”