For the second time since the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to bring down Northwest flight 253 with liquid explosives, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at comments from an Obama administration official. The first time was when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stupidly claimed "the system worked" in the aftermath of the bombing attempt, leaving me to wonder if Napolitano was imbibing LSD along with her morning coffee. Now comes this from John Brennan, President Obama's assistant for counterterrorism and homeland security, who is reviewing the intelligence lapses that allowed the underwear bomber to get on a plane bound for Detroit with explosives and a valid U.S. visa:
"There is no smoking gun," Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday." "There was no single piece of intelligence that said, 'this guy is going to get on a plane."'
Hmmm. Let's see. I'd say when Abdulmutallab bought an airline ticket, that pretty much signaled his intent to get on a plane, but maybe that's just me. There were also several other "smoking guns" known to intelligence officials that should have tipped them that the underwear bomber might be boarding with bad intentions. Among them:
1. The underwear bomber's own father warned the U.S. embassy of his son's increasing Islamic radicalization.
2. The underwear bomber was on a terrorist watch list.
3. The underwear bomber was banned from the United Kingdom.
4. The underwear bomber trained with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
5. John Brennan himself was briefed on Al Qaeda underwear bombing by Saudi officials in october. The Saudis specified that those bombers were being trained IN YEMEN, where Abdulmutallab trained.
If there wasn't a smoking gun here, there were an awful lot of bullets in the chamber, surely enough to PROFILE Abdulmutallab, revoke his visa, and prevent him from entering the United States. That is certainly preferable to the new TSA security procedures, which are something like 'keep your tray tables in the locked and upright position and don't go to the bathroom during the last hour of an eight hour flight' (btw, NONE of the new TSA procedures would have stopped Abdulmutallab).
John Brennan went on to say the following:
"What we need to do as an intelligence community, as a government, is be able to bring those disparate bits and pieces of information together so we prevent Mr. Abdulmutallab from getting on the plane."
Yes, excellent idea, Mr. Brennan. If only we had some sort of government agency that could oversee all our disparate bits and pieces of intelligence and gather them together.....hey, wait a minute. We DO have that government agency. It's called the Department Of Homeland Security, which was created after 9/11 in order to accomplish the very task Mr. Brennan describes. Yet, eight years after 9/11, we're having the same lapses we had prior to 9/11.
Brennan wasn't done yet. He went further:
[Brennan] said there "were no turf battles" between agencies.
"There were lapses. There were human errors. The system didn't work the way it should have ... but there wasn't an effort to try to conceal information."
Whew. That's a relief. It's sure good news that our intelligence agencies aren't actively working AGAINST each other by concealing information. It's just that they are, you know, incompetent.
It turns out that the Brits knew about Abdulmutallab's radical ways three years ago. It appears we not only don't share information among our own intelligence agencies, but we don't share information with our number one allies in the world either. Sigh. I just can't believe it.
Former 9/11 Commission co-chair Tom Kean sums it up:
“It’s exactly the language we heard when we were making recommendations for the 9/11 report. That was five years ago. We made our recommendations based on the fact that agencies didn’t share information and it seems to be the case that, once again, they didn’t share information. It’s very discouraging.”
Very discouraging, to say the least. When it comes to the ever-evolving terrorist threat, you'd think we'd at least err on the side of caution and keep someone like Abdulmutallab, with his host of red flags, out of our country. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
But nobody can accuse us of being politically incorrect. There's that bit of cold comfort.
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