On a day when the Republican party and a key GOPer who criticized the administration about the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines plane before the facts were even known — a day when President Barack Obama spoke from Hawaii calling the incident symptomatic of a “systemic failure” as he came under fire for not personally speaking out sooner — a new CNN report contends that the CIA had a report based on a chat the terrorist wannabe’s worried father had about his son with someone from the CIA.
And, so, as the political pot boils, the heat will be turned up even more. CNN reports:
The father of terrorism suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab talked about his son’s extremist views with someone from the CIA and a report was prepared, but the report was not circulated outside the agency, a reliable source told CNN’s Jeanne Meserve on Tuesday.
Had that information been shared, the 23-year-old Nigerian who is alleged to have bungled an attempt to blow up a jetliner as it was landing in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day might have been denied passage on the Northwest Airlines flight, the source said.
The information on AbdulMutallab had been sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but sat there for five weeks and was not disseminated, the source said.
The source’s comments came shortly after President Obama blamed “a mix of human and systemic failures” for the incident and directed that preliminary findings into the matter be delivered to the White House by Thursday.
An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the federal government had information that should have been assessed and meshed with other information “that would have allowed us to disrupt the attempted terrorist attack” before the suspect boarded the jet.
Although in this age of 24/7 political partisanship this will be — and is — fodder for politicians plus new and old media pundits, the bigger issue is therefore this: haven’t agencies LEARNED about how vital it is to share and disseminate potentially vital information in light of 911, which experts who aren’t carrying water for either political party have noted was due to failures on the part of administrations of both parties and warring agencies?
Keeping your cards close to your vest is OK — unless the vest explodes.
Which could have happened here.
But today was a big day on the terrorism issue front, with Obama’s speech, a big GOP push to turn the failed airline bombing into a political issue, worried Democrats keeping largerly mum, and a Republican leader issuing a lightning-fast-issued fundraiser letter exploiting the issue that easily earns him the Cravenly Partisan Politico of 2009 Award on the terrorism issue.
Obama’s remarks today came as he faced a spreading mini-firestorm of criticism for not coming out sooner and personally making a statement. Various political stories outlined how Obama was using a different managerial approach to terrorism — but the bottom line is that in American political culture a President is better off speaking, reassuring and outlining any proposed action in the face of a natural (or unnatural) disaster or threat. There now seems to be a pattern with Obama: for all the hype during the campaign, he, his White House advisors and political advisors seem to have a tin political ear. Some of his image problems and controversies are of their own making. Haven’t they studied past political history?
Increasingly, Obama seems to be to political genius what Karl Rove is to a silver wedding anniversary.
But today Obama finally spoke, in a firm statement. Part of it could have been made sooner after the attack and in politics it is not necessarily “better late than never.” The New York Times:
President Obama on Tuesday blamed a “systemic failure” in the nation’s security apparatus for the attempted bombing of a passenger jet on Christmas Day and vowed to identify the problems and “deal with them immediately.”
Making his second public statement on the matter in as many days, Mr. Obama said a preliminary assessment already has made clear that there was a breakdown in the intelligence review system that did not properly identify the suspect as a dangerous extremist who should have been prevented from flying to the United States.
“A systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable,” Mr. Obama told reporters here in Hawaii, where is in the middle of a 10-day holiday vacation. The president said he has ordered government agencies to report back to him on Thursday about what happened and said he would “insist on accountability at every level,” although he did not elaborate.
The president’s blunt words came just two days after his secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, drew criticism for saying that “the system worked” after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite explosive chemicals aboard a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit. Ms. Napolitano quickly recalibrated her statement to make clear she meant that the system worked in its response to the incident after it occurred. But Mr. Obama’s sharp assessment Tuesday sent a signal that he was not satisfied by the government’s performance.
Mr. Obama took no questions but referred obliquely to Ms. Napolitano’s statement by saying she was right that “once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253, after his attempt, it’s clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions.”
He went on to praise the professionalism of the nation’s intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security and law enforcement officials. But he spared little in his withering judgment of what he called a “mix of human and systemic failures” that did not catch Mr. Abdulmutallab in the first place.
The president suggested that he would overhaul the nation’s watch-list system…
There’s more, so read the whole article.
Here’s a video of Obama’s remarks:
How badly did Obama’s delay shoot himself in political foot? So badly that skittish Democrats aren’t defending Obama on national security, Greg Sargent notes. This is BAD NEWS for Democrats: in 2008 one of the top press and political talking heads narratives was about how the Democratic party had made enormous inroad into neutralizing the national security issue which seemed to do the party in during past elections.
This event could help de-neutralize it.
So Republicans have pounced on the issue –trying to link it up with several other incidents, the Politico reports:
Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity.
The strategy — coming as the Republican leadership seeks to exploit Democratic weaknesses heading into the 2010 midterms — is in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise.
President Obama’s GOP critics have been emboldened during the past 48 hours by the stumbling initial response of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who spent Monday retracting her Sunday claim that “the system worked” in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab’s near takedown of a jet ferrying nearly 300 people from Amsterdam to Detroit.
“In the past six weeks, you’ve had the Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit … and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Actually, the GOP response underscores how the crucial, vital issue of terrorism — an issue upon which Americans should all be united in a serious desire to seek quality control, mindful of how administration of BOTH PARTIES screwed up over the years in a way that led to 911 — has become a political football that fits in perfectly with the prevailing 21st century talk radio political culture which puts a premium on sound bites, exaggeration, demonization and cherry picked talking points. More Hoekstra:
“I think Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack,” Hoekstra told POLITICO. “And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen.”
Hoekstra also believes in wasting no time to leap on an issue. He lept on the issue so quickly that he almost seemed to be a member of the Bolshoi Ballet (or some word that sounds like “Bolshoi”). Re-read THIS POST from TMV immediately after the failed airplane attack: Hoekstra was blasting the administration for not connecting the dots before he even had any information about the dots that needed to be connected.
Today he issued a fund-raising letter that is a quintessential prototype of rank partisanship and demonization. A letter such as this will likely gain him big bucks in his upcoming election campaign, but it strips him of credibility as someone who is a thoughtful problem solver willing to step back, analyze the national security situation and offer serious solutions. Here is part of his letter:
Shockingly, yesterday morning, Barack Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary went on TV and said “the system worked”!
They just don’t get it. The system didn’t “work” here. Far from it! It is insulting that The Obama administration would make such a claim, but then again, these are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan!
My promise to you, as your governor, my first duty and most solemn responsibility is to keep Michigan safe!
For almost a decade I have been a leader on National Security and at the forefront of the war on terror. I understand the real and continuing threat radical jihadists pose to our great state of Michigan and our great Nation.
I have pledged that I will do “everything possible” to prevent these terrorists from coming to Michigan.
But I need your help.
If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.
So: Obama and Pelosi are working tirelessly to weaken our national security. (Do they have a Things To Do List? Do they have Day Planners divided into days, weeks and months about the steps they need to take to weaken national security? Investigative journalists need to look into this: Pelosi and Obama actually view as a key task the weakening of national security. If the economy gets worse and there’s no money to pay the President and House Speaker will they be seen in DC on the streets carrying signs that say “WILL WEAKEN NATIONAL SECURITY FOR FOOD”?) MORE:
Unfortunately, as the Democrat party [EDITOR’s NOTE: the phrase “Democrat” party the phrase mega-GOP partisans use because Democrats don’t like them to use it, sort of like a pre-schooler calling another a name like “Big Nose” or worse] drifts further and further to the left, their leaders are making decisions that should frighten us all.
Since President Obama took office, he and his left-wing cronies have taken steps to undermine the work of our brave men and women who work tirelessly to keep us safe.
…Barack Obama’s policies may impress the “Blame America First” crowd at home and his thousands of fans overseas, but they sure don’t do anything to protect our families in Michigan or the rest of America.
And while the Obama/Pelosi agenda may be popular in the mainstream media, we should not be governed by the editorial pages of the New York Times.
I will be a governor who fights, every day, to keep Michigan safe.
Won’t you join me?
Ripe political fundraisers from politicos and activists on both sides are not new. However, Hoekstra’s comments immediately after the attempted bombing and this fundraising letter, coupled with his powerful position in Congress underscore how difficult it can be to find thoughtful people who seek serious solutions as the managers and custodians of a vulnerable nation rather than seek to whip up partisan emotions on the terrorism issue. Serious and thoughtful problem solving and throwing partisans red meat to motivate them to donate to campaigns don’t always go together.
Not surprisingly, the DNC responded to the letter, with it’s own partisan take — although in the case of Hoekstra he was a must respond target. Here’s a small taste of that:
“It was shameful that Republicans like Mr. Hoekstra would attempt to play politics with our national security at all, but raising money off it is beyond the pale,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said in a statement. “Republicans are playing politics with issues of national security and terrorism, and that they would use this incident as an opportunity to fan partisan flames and raise money for political campaigns tells you all you need to know about how far the Republican party has fallen and how out of step with the American people they have become.”
Earlier in the day, Hoekstra, a Republican running for governor in Michigan, sent a fundraising letter denouncing the “weak-kneed liberals[‘s]” response to the botched terrorism attempt.
“The system didn’t ‘work’ here. Far from it! It is insulting that The Obama administration would make such a claim, but then again, these are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan!” the letter, first reported by the Grand Rapids Press, reads. “My promise to you, as your governor, my first duty and most solemn responsibility is to keep Michigan safe!”
Perhaps in 2010 politicos from both parties will decide to put their hands in their pockets so there won’t be any finger pointing.
But putting their hands in their pockets probably wouldn’t work.
Their pointing fingers would just rip their pockets.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.