In 2004, Congress established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to integrate and analyze all intelligence possessed or acquired by the federal government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism (except for intelligence specific to domestic terrorism and domestic counterterrorism). It was specifically established to bring together all available information on terrorism, analyze the information, and provide warning of potential attacks on the United States.
- Directorate of Intelligence
- Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning
- Directorate of Terrorist Identities
- Directorate of Operations Support
- Office of National Intelligence Management
NCTC is directed by statute to function as the primary USG organization for "analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the [USG] pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism, excepting intelligence pertaining exclusively to domestic terrorists and domestic counterterrorism."
As a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NCTC is composed of analysts with backgrounds in many government agencies and has access to various agency databases. It prepares studies ranging from strategic assessment of the future terrorist threats to daily briefings and situation reports. It is also responsible, directly to the President, for planning (but not directing) counterterrorism efforts. The NCTC received a statutory charter in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
NCTC is required by statute to conduct strategic operational planning for CT activities, integrating all related diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement activities. NCTC views planning as "ensuring unity of effort" across the whole of federal government. It further supports this mission by directing operational planning, assigning roles and responsibilities, and leading interagency terrorism task forces. Note that while NCTC may assign related roles and responsibilities to other federal agencies, NCTC is not statutorily authorized to direct the execution of any resulting operations.
Consistent with applicable law and the direction from the President, the NCTC may receive intelligence pertaining exclusively to domestic counterterrorism from any Federal or SLT government, or other source necessary to fulfill its responsibilities and retain and disseminate such intelligence.
NCTC is directed by statute to "ensure that agencies ... have access to and receive all-source intelligence support needed to execute their CT plans or perform independent, alternative analysis"" and to ensure that such agencies "have access to and receive intelligence needed to accomplish their assigned activities."
In support of this mission, NCTC shares CT-related intelligence with Intelligence Community (IC) agencies and responds to requests for information and assistance. NCTC liaises with regional IC agencies and CT officials at the federal, state, and local levels through its Domestic Representative Program. It hosts the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team, an interagency partnership that produces CT intelligence products for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies and the private sector.
NCTC also contributes to the President's Daily Brief and the Department of Homeland Security's National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, which communicates terrorist threat information to the public.
NCTC serves as the central and shared knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups; ensures agencies, as appropriate, have access to and receive all-source intelligence support needed to execute their counterterrorism plans or perform independent, alternative analysis; and ensures that such agencies have access to and receive intelligence needed to accomplish their assigned activities. Any agency authorized to conduct counterterrorism activities may request information from the Center to assist it in its activities, consistent with applicable law and guidelines provided for the provision of and access to intelligence. NCTC enables the sharing of a wide spectrum of terrorism intelligence and related information among thousands of users in the federal counterterrorism community through its secure website, National Counterterrorism Center Online (NOL), that operates in separate security domains.
Title 50 U.S.C §3056(d)(6) establishes that NCTC must "serve as the central and shared knowledge bank" for the U.S. government (USG) on "known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups, as well as their goals, strategies, capabilities, and networks of contacts and support." In support of this mission, NCTC maintains the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which is the USG's central repository of information on international persons and groups with known or suspected links to terrorist activities. TIDE incorporates information derived from credible intelligence developed by USG agencies to support terrorist screening systems across the USG, such as the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database. TIDE is used, for example, to construct TSA's "no-fly list," and to vet visa applicants and recipients of U.S. training and assistance.
At the direction of President Bush, the NCTC produced the National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror (NIP) to further delineate Federal Department and Agency tasks to implement National Security Presidential Directive-46 (NSPD-46)/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-15 (HSPD-15). At the same time, the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DoD), and State (DOS) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) have enhanced their field operations and technical capabilities and strengthened their working relationships with SLT, the private sector, and foreign partners.
- National Security Act of 1947, as amended (50 U.S.C. §402 et seq.).
- Id. §119(e)(1).
- IRTPA §1021.
- National Intelligence: A Consumer's Guide-2009, at 24.
- Congressional Research Service, In Focus, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) (July 11, 2018) (full-text).