Improving intelligence is critical priority

Are U.S. intelligence agencies any better at “connecting the dots” regarding Islamic terrorists than they were before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America? Let us hope so.

Investigations after the 9/11 assault revealed the intelligence community missed a substantial number of indications the attacks were in the offing. Improving our ability to spot such clues and forestall terrorists was said to be a national priority.

But it appears the massacre in Paris caught both U.S. and French officials by surprise. Asked if American spy agencies had any warning, President Barack Obama responded, “I’m not aware of anything that was specific.”

More needs to be known about how the Paris attacks were planned, coordinated and carried out, of course. Initial indications are there was involvement by Islamic State leaders in Syria, however.

If so, questions arise: First, was there actionable intelligence that could have prevented the attacks and if so, why was nothing done?

Second, have Islamic terrorists refined their operations to the point conventional intelligence operations are not effective against them? If that is so, changes in how our own spy agencies operate are imperative.

Paris was the target Friday. Beyond any reasonable doubt, however, the IS, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are planning new assaults.

They are eager to strike Americans in the United States. That makes improved ability to identify and destroy terrorist threats a critical priority.