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Posted by on Dec 31, 2009 in At TMV | 3 comments

When Would Osama Have Made the No-Fly List?

From the blame scramble over the aborted Christmas bombing comes a CIA defense of the failure to ground Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The New York Times quotes an anonymous official: “You had a young man who was becoming increasingly pious and was turning his back on his family’s wealthy lifestyle. That alone makes him neither St. Francis nor a dead-eyed killer.

“Every piece of data, of course, looks different when you know the answer, as everyone does now.”

By this smug reasoning, Osama bin Laden might not have made the no-fly list for “turning his back on his family’s lifestyle” until after 9/11, even if his father, like Adbulmutallab’s, had warned the CIA about his son’s radicalization, citing online posts about his “dilemma between liberalism and extremism” over several years.

“American officials,” says the Times, “contend that they took the father’s account seriously, but that he never signaled that his son might carry out a terrorist attack.” Absent details of an actual plot, they put his name on a large list but failed to alert other intelligence agencies.

This kind of lackadaisical response confirms the near-impossibility of preventing terror by bureaucracy alone.

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  • After reading the online posts you linked to, I cannot really agree that the approach was lackadaisical. There is nothing there even remotely threatening or violent-sounding. Which specific item do you believe should have triggered a closer look? I’ll bet you I can find many rants on Facebook by students, not to mention comments here at TMV that raise stronger red flags. Of course we haven’t seen the texts that worried his father, nor will we in all likelihood. We can’t connect the dots because we can’t see all of them. We also can’t know if the dots could have been connected by those who have seen them all. I’m all for a no-holds-barred investigation of this and any other intelligence failures, including all those of the decade just ended. I’ll bet no Republicans will join me in that call, unless it forbids looking back further than jan 20 2009.

    Let’s face it. Anyone who keeps a reasonably cool head in public, and in public discourse, and is polite and respectful as the 9/11 hijackers were reported to be, will be very hard to target as a ‘terrorist’.

    • ProfElwood

      I’m all for a no-holds-barred investigation of this and any other intelligence failures, including all those of the decade just ended.

      I’m game. Public accountability seems to be a dying concept. Maybe then we can toss in some judicial oversight. Some of these old ideas are still good because they were meant to temper people’s behavior. Technology has changed — people haven’t.

  • StockBoySF

    We just need thought police.

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