Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Brennan

Flotsam and Jetsam

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.'”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.'”

Seen the latest ad for Hugo Chavez’s oil company? Lots of happy old people given free oil by the dictator, and then: “In swoops Joe Kennedy II with Citizens Energy and the kind people of Venezuela to lend a hand (or two?) and heating oil enough for everyone. Kennedy’s all smiles but they forgot the part where Hugo Chavez shuts down the media and arrests his political opponents. I guess that would have made the ad too long.” Good thing he didn’t talk about how great families and babies are.

Oh, puhleez. Michael Steele plays the race card: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

Just a year ago Republicans were declared dead in New England. Now New Hampshire looks awfully Red. Actually, it looks Red all over. Rasmussen shows the GOP with an eight-point lead in the generic congressional poll. And John Kasich has a solid lead in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

The boys sure are obsessed with her: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs poked fun at Sarah Palin today, pretending to look to notes on his hand for a reminder during his daily briefing. The gesture was a not-so-subtle shot at Palin, whom reporters spotted using a crib sheet on her hand during a speech this weekend at the National Tea Party convention.” At least Gibbs didn’t talk about her breasts.

Rep. Peter King blasts away at “egomaniac” John Brennan for claiming that Obama’s critics are serving the “goals of al-Qaeda”: “It is ‘the most mindless, self-serving, and irresponsible statement that a homeland-security adviser can make,’ King says. … ‘Brennan is trying to be cute by saying that on Christmas Day he briefed Republicans and Democrats. Leave aside the fact that he didn’t brief me, but he didn’t tell anybody anything that day other than the bare facts that were pretty much known to the public. He said that [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] was in FBI custody. Now he’s claiming that that means he told people that [Abdulmutallab] was receiving Miranda rights and no one objected. If that’s what Brennan considers being honest and forthright, then we know that John Brennan is not being honest and forthright.'”

The billboard says “Miss Me Yet?” Why, yes, Mr. President.

Paul Begala or Karl Rove? “Incrementalists, stunned by what they see as overly broad and rapid change, are looking for the brakes. Radicals, depressed about the snail’s pace of progress, are looking for the exits.”

Jeffrey Goldberg spots the Muslim Student Union of the University of California at Irvine condemning the appearance of Israel Ambassador Michael Oren because — but of course! — Israel has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council. “To the Muslim Student Union, the fact that the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined means that Israel is worse than all the other countries of the world combined. To more rational, less prejudiced people, this fact means that the UN Human Rights Council is not a serious organization, but one under the control of dictators and despots.” Remind me why the Obami thought it necessary to rejoin that body?

Oren was heckled, which is no surprise. But it is nice to find a college political-science professor willing to call out the thuggery: “Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, ‘This is beyond embarrassing. … This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.'”

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Did John Brennan Lie?

Marc Thiessen dismantles John Brennan’s anti-terrorism spin on Meet The Press. Brennan claimed that Republicans were informed of the handling of the Christmas Day bomber and, specifically, his Mirandizing. Thiessen explains:

Republicans were assured by the Obama administration that the decision on reading Miranda rights to captured terrorists would be made a on “case-by-case” basis.

So if Brennan is wondering why the Republicans he spoke with did not just assume Abdumutallab would be automatically Mirandized, it is because the Obama administration told them so.

Of course, the HIG was not interrogating Abdulmutallab because — despite all the fanfare with its announcement — it had not yet been stood up. But how were Republicans to know that? Especially since Obama’s own director of national intelligence didn’t know that either?

Needless to say, all the Republicans briefed on the Christmas Day bombing deny they were told Abdulmutallab had been read Miranda warnings:

“Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber — if he had I would told him the Administration was making a mistake,” Sen. Bond said in a statement. “The truth is that the administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs, as DNI Blair [Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair] testified, so it’s absurd to try to blame Congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five week head start to cover their tracks.” . . .

The other lawmakers said through aides on Sunday that they had received brief, non-secure courtesy calls from Mr. Brennan that imparted little substantive information. They also said Mr. Brennan was trying to deflect blame away from the administration.

Mr. Hoekstra’s statement said Mr. Brennan “only informed him that Abdulmutallab had severe burns and was being treated. Contrary to what he attempts to imply, he at no time informed Hoekstra that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized nor did he seek Hoekstra’s consultation or provide any sort of meaningful briefing. The faulty decision to Mirandize Abdulmuttalab was the Obama administration’s, and its decision alone.”

Sen. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said Mr. Brennan “is clearly trying to shift the focus away from the fact that their bad decisions gave terrorists in Yemen a weeks-long head start.”

“The bottom line is this: on Christmas day, a known terrorist, with the help of al Qaeda in Yemen , attempted to kill Americans by blowing up an airplane,” Mr. Stewart said. “Rather than having highly trained terror investigators spend time with this terrorist, the administration decided to treat him as a common criminal who had a right to a government-funded lawyer and advised of his right to remain silent.”

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, echoed that sentiment, adding: “Instead of attempting to dodge responsibility, John Brennan and this administration should focus on fixing the near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown that failed to prevent this attack.”

Perhaps Brennan should be called back to testify under oath and confront the Republicans whom he claimed to brief. The Obama administration has assumed that any spin it puts out will not be rebutted. But the spin has been, rather forcefully. Now the ball is in the administration’s court, and its credibility is on the line.

Marc Thiessen dismantles John Brennan’s anti-terrorism spin on Meet The Press. Brennan claimed that Republicans were informed of the handling of the Christmas Day bomber and, specifically, his Mirandizing. Thiessen explains:

Republicans were assured by the Obama administration that the decision on reading Miranda rights to captured terrorists would be made a on “case-by-case” basis.

So if Brennan is wondering why the Republicans he spoke with did not just assume Abdumutallab would be automatically Mirandized, it is because the Obama administration told them so.

Of course, the HIG was not interrogating Abdulmutallab because — despite all the fanfare with its announcement — it had not yet been stood up. But how were Republicans to know that? Especially since Obama’s own director of national intelligence didn’t know that either?

Needless to say, all the Republicans briefed on the Christmas Day bombing deny they were told Abdulmutallab had been read Miranda warnings:

“Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber — if he had I would told him the Administration was making a mistake,” Sen. Bond said in a statement. “The truth is that the administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs, as DNI Blair [Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair] testified, so it’s absurd to try to blame Congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five week head start to cover their tracks.” . . .

The other lawmakers said through aides on Sunday that they had received brief, non-secure courtesy calls from Mr. Brennan that imparted little substantive information. They also said Mr. Brennan was trying to deflect blame away from the administration.

Mr. Hoekstra’s statement said Mr. Brennan “only informed him that Abdulmutallab had severe burns and was being treated. Contrary to what he attempts to imply, he at no time informed Hoekstra that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized nor did he seek Hoekstra’s consultation or provide any sort of meaningful briefing. The faulty decision to Mirandize Abdulmuttalab was the Obama administration’s, and its decision alone.”

Sen. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said Mr. Brennan “is clearly trying to shift the focus away from the fact that their bad decisions gave terrorists in Yemen a weeks-long head start.”

“The bottom line is this: on Christmas day, a known terrorist, with the help of al Qaeda in Yemen , attempted to kill Americans by blowing up an airplane,” Mr. Stewart said. “Rather than having highly trained terror investigators spend time with this terrorist, the administration decided to treat him as a common criminal who had a right to a government-funded lawyer and advised of his right to remain silent.”

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, echoed that sentiment, adding: “Instead of attempting to dodge responsibility, John Brennan and this administration should focus on fixing the near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown that failed to prevent this attack.”

Perhaps Brennan should be called back to testify under oath and confront the Republicans whom he claimed to brief. The Obama administration has assumed that any spin it puts out will not be rebutted. But the spin has been, rather forcefully. Now the ball is in the administration’s court, and its credibility is on the line.

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Undoing the Damage — We Hope

As Stephen Hayes details, the Christmas Day bomber is now talking and the Obami have changed their tune. For days and weeks we heard from Obama’s flacks and from leaks in mainstream news outlets that in Abdulmutallab’s 50-minute interview, FBI agents got out all that we needed. And then we were told that he stopped talking even before the Miranda warnings were given. The spin-athon was on to convince us that “nothing was lost” by allowing him to lawyer up and sit mutely for five weeks. Now he’s talking and we are hearing that intelligence officials are (finally) extracting valuable data. Well, the information we are eliciting might have been even more valuable five weeks ago. Hayes sums up the Keystone Kops display that we have witnessed:

Four top U.S. counterterrorism officials — including Mueller, Blair, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter — were not consulted about whether to handle Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant or a criminal. Leiter went on vacation the day after the attack.  John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser, told him he could go. Three days after the attack, despite copious evidence that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was involved, President Obama declared the attempted bombing the work of “an isolated extremist.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, said that she was surprised by AQAP’s “determination” to attack the U.S. homeland and shocked to learn that they would send an individual, not a group, to carry out the deed. DNI Blair told Congress that an elite interrogation team should have questioned Abdulmutallab — only to amend his remarks hours later to acknowledge that the new unit does not exist.

The Obama team is straining to maintain credibility, to convince the public that their criminal-justice model really does make sense, and to assure us that they have not blundered by throwing overboard Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. But let’s get real here: the problem, as well as the spin, started when Abdulmutallab, with no input from intelligence officials, was treated like a common criminal and then clammed up. The last five weeks have been spent by the Obami trying to undue that damage. Let’s hope nothing was lost in the interim. Let’s hope the leads we get (if we get any) have not gone cold. And let’s hope we didn’t give Abdulmutallab a “deal” in order to get him to resume talking.

As Stephen Hayes details, the Christmas Day bomber is now talking and the Obami have changed their tune. For days and weeks we heard from Obama’s flacks and from leaks in mainstream news outlets that in Abdulmutallab’s 50-minute interview, FBI agents got out all that we needed. And then we were told that he stopped talking even before the Miranda warnings were given. The spin-athon was on to convince us that “nothing was lost” by allowing him to lawyer up and sit mutely for five weeks. Now he’s talking and we are hearing that intelligence officials are (finally) extracting valuable data. Well, the information we are eliciting might have been even more valuable five weeks ago. Hayes sums up the Keystone Kops display that we have witnessed:

Four top U.S. counterterrorism officials — including Mueller, Blair, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter — were not consulted about whether to handle Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant or a criminal. Leiter went on vacation the day after the attack.  John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser, told him he could go. Three days after the attack, despite copious evidence that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was involved, President Obama declared the attempted bombing the work of “an isolated extremist.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, said that she was surprised by AQAP’s “determination” to attack the U.S. homeland and shocked to learn that they would send an individual, not a group, to carry out the deed. DNI Blair told Congress that an elite interrogation team should have questioned Abdulmutallab — only to amend his remarks hours later to acknowledge that the new unit does not exist.

The Obama team is straining to maintain credibility, to convince the public that their criminal-justice model really does make sense, and to assure us that they have not blundered by throwing overboard Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. But let’s get real here: the problem, as well as the spin, started when Abdulmutallab, with no input from intelligence officials, was treated like a common criminal and then clammed up. The last five weeks have been spent by the Obami trying to undue that damage. Let’s hope nothing was lost in the interim. Let’s hope the leads we get (if we get any) have not gone cold. And let’s hope we didn’t give Abdulmutallab a “deal” in order to get him to resume talking.

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It’s Not Too Late to Fix a Grievous Error

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have written a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging them to designate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” so he can be “questioned and charged accordingly.” The senators note that Obama himself has declared that “we are at war with al-Qaeda.” However, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and, as others have reported, provided only 50 minutes of conversation to FBI agents who lacked the needed detail to elicit all the helpful material he might possess. The senators note that last week, Dennis Blair and other officials conceded in congressional testimony that the Justice Department “did not consult with leadership in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense for their input on whether or not to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal and read him his Miranda rights.” Senators also learned that the “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which the Department of Justice announced last August — more than four months ago — is not yet operational.”

The senators conclude that the president’s repeated admonitions that we are at war do not appear to “be reflected in the actions of some in the Executive branch.” But they note that the president can “reverse this error” and transfer the Christmas Day bomber to the Department of Defense.

This is a superb suggestion, which many conservative commentators have urged. There really isn’t reason not to do so — unless of course the criminalization of our national intelligence system and the self-imposed limits on our anti-terrorism efforts are in keeping with what the president wants. In that case, the actions of the executive branch have been in tune with Obama’s wishes, and we are all in a great deal of trouble. Let’s hope not.

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have written a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging them to designate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” so he can be “questioned and charged accordingly.” The senators note that Obama himself has declared that “we are at war with al-Qaeda.” However, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and, as others have reported, provided only 50 minutes of conversation to FBI agents who lacked the needed detail to elicit all the helpful material he might possess. The senators note that last week, Dennis Blair and other officials conceded in congressional testimony that the Justice Department “did not consult with leadership in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense for their input on whether or not to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal and read him his Miranda rights.” Senators also learned that the “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which the Department of Justice announced last August — more than four months ago — is not yet operational.”

The senators conclude that the president’s repeated admonitions that we are at war do not appear to “be reflected in the actions of some in the Executive branch.” But they note that the president can “reverse this error” and transfer the Christmas Day bomber to the Department of Defense.

This is a superb suggestion, which many conservative commentators have urged. There really isn’t reason not to do so — unless of course the criminalization of our national intelligence system and the self-imposed limits on our anti-terrorism efforts are in keeping with what the president wants. In that case, the actions of the executive branch have been in tune with Obama’s wishes, and we are all in a great deal of trouble. Let’s hope not.

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When Everything Is Bleak, Attack Fox News

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

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One of Theirs Doesn’t Pan Out

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

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Downplay Danger and Willful Ignorance

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

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Is Obama Really Shaken?

David Broder, like many pundits more conservative in outlook who have hoped for an Obama “Ah ha!” moment, seems to think that Obama will have an epiphany in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. He contends:

The near-miss by a passenger plotting to blow up an American airliner as it flew into Detroit seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.

Really? It’s hard to discern. Obama has not ordered a review and reconsideration of his fundamental policy decisions. He has not declared that classifying terrorists as criminal defendants may require a second look. He’s still bent on closing Guantanamo. Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers still reign supreme at the Justice Department, and KSM is headed for trial. And so far, not a single Obama official has been fired for what the president concedes was an abominable screwup. We have no new declaration of U.S. policy. How shocked could he be?

Broder divines that the “Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year.” But how can we tell? This seems, frankly, to be a bit of wishful thinking, just as observers listening to the Nobel Peace Prize speech saw glimmers of a tougher Iran policy or a more robust assertion of American exceptionalism. Certainly we’ve come a long way since the Hawaii performance, when the president proclaimed the Christmas Day bombing plot the work of an “isolated extremist,” but the reaction has been a flurry of incremental, bureaucratic adjustments. Former 9/11 commission member John Lehman let it rip, deriding the Obama response:

President Obama just doesn’t get it. … I don’t think he has a clue. It’s all pure spin. He’s ignoring key issues and taking respectable professionals like John Brennan and turning them into hacks and shills. It’s beyond contempt. The president has ignored the 9/11 Commission’s report. … This whole idea that we can fix things by jumping higher and faster is ridiculous. The fact is that the system worked just like we said it would work if the president failed to give the Director of National Intelligence the tools he needs: it’s bloated, bureaucratic, layered, and stultified.

President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue.

Obama and his political gurus have figured out that the president’s national-security stance — downplaying the war against Islamic fundamentalists, hyper-legalistic rhetoric, a refusal to recognize jihadist attacks as part of a concerted war on the West, etc. — is a political loser. The public, Congress, and the media recoiled in horror when they saw the president’s ho-hum reaction to an attempt to incinerate nearly 300 people. But understanding the political peril does not signify a commitment to rethink policy assumptions. That would require a fundamental reorientation away from the “not Bush” policies, including the decision to classify terrorists captured in the U.S. as criminal defendants and to try them in civilian courts. Even the Washington Post editors sense that the response is somehow not commensurate with the gravity of the intelligence failure:

Mr. Obama’s solutions have the air of the small bore: a “training course” for the National Security Agency; a “dedicated capability responsible for enhancing record information on possible terrorists … for watchlisting purposes.” Perhaps a series of individual tweaks will do the job. But the administration report suggests that the problem is less tractable than Mr. Obama has acknowledged. His depiction Thursday of the shortcomings was admirably honest and more frightening than previously portrayed. His proposed fixes did not entirely reassure.

The fixes do not reassure because they do not begin to address the most basic errors of the Obama administration and its odd predilection, made odder by mismatched rhetoric, to see the war against Islamic fundamentalists as peripheral to its agenda. We will know that Obama has really been “shaken” when the war on Islamic terrorists is identified as such, when that becomes the core mission of the administration and when the president’s policies and not just his rhetoric changes.

David Broder, like many pundits more conservative in outlook who have hoped for an Obama “Ah ha!” moment, seems to think that Obama will have an epiphany in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. He contends:

The near-miss by a passenger plotting to blow up an American airliner as it flew into Detroit seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.

Really? It’s hard to discern. Obama has not ordered a review and reconsideration of his fundamental policy decisions. He has not declared that classifying terrorists as criminal defendants may require a second look. He’s still bent on closing Guantanamo. Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers still reign supreme at the Justice Department, and KSM is headed for trial. And so far, not a single Obama official has been fired for what the president concedes was an abominable screwup. We have no new declaration of U.S. policy. How shocked could he be?

Broder divines that the “Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year.” But how can we tell? This seems, frankly, to be a bit of wishful thinking, just as observers listening to the Nobel Peace Prize speech saw glimmers of a tougher Iran policy or a more robust assertion of American exceptionalism. Certainly we’ve come a long way since the Hawaii performance, when the president proclaimed the Christmas Day bombing plot the work of an “isolated extremist,” but the reaction has been a flurry of incremental, bureaucratic adjustments. Former 9/11 commission member John Lehman let it rip, deriding the Obama response:

President Obama just doesn’t get it. … I don’t think he has a clue. It’s all pure spin. He’s ignoring key issues and taking respectable professionals like John Brennan and turning them into hacks and shills. It’s beyond contempt. The president has ignored the 9/11 Commission’s report. … This whole idea that we can fix things by jumping higher and faster is ridiculous. The fact is that the system worked just like we said it would work if the president failed to give the Director of National Intelligence the tools he needs: it’s bloated, bureaucratic, layered, and stultified.

President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue.

Obama and his political gurus have figured out that the president’s national-security stance — downplaying the war against Islamic fundamentalists, hyper-legalistic rhetoric, a refusal to recognize jihadist attacks as part of a concerted war on the West, etc. — is a political loser. The public, Congress, and the media recoiled in horror when they saw the president’s ho-hum reaction to an attempt to incinerate nearly 300 people. But understanding the political peril does not signify a commitment to rethink policy assumptions. That would require a fundamental reorientation away from the “not Bush” policies, including the decision to classify terrorists captured in the U.S. as criminal defendants and to try them in civilian courts. Even the Washington Post editors sense that the response is somehow not commensurate with the gravity of the intelligence failure:

Mr. Obama’s solutions have the air of the small bore: a “training course” for the National Security Agency; a “dedicated capability responsible for enhancing record information on possible terrorists … for watchlisting purposes.” Perhaps a series of individual tweaks will do the job. But the administration report suggests that the problem is less tractable than Mr. Obama has acknowledged. His depiction Thursday of the shortcomings was admirably honest and more frightening than previously portrayed. His proposed fixes did not entirely reassure.

The fixes do not reassure because they do not begin to address the most basic errors of the Obama administration and its odd predilection, made odder by mismatched rhetoric, to see the war against Islamic fundamentalists as peripheral to its agenda. We will know that Obama has really been “shaken” when the war on Islamic terrorists is identified as such, when that becomes the core mission of the administration and when the president’s policies and not just his rhetoric changes.

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Mukasey vs. Obama

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey takes the Obama team to task for its lackadaisical handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He surveys the Obami’s embarrassingly uninformed statements, the cringe-inducing sight of a disengaged president, the contention by John Brennan that there was “no smoking gun” to pinpoint the terrorist, and the ill-conceived policy of releasing detainees to Yemen. But it is the treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect that gets his full wrath:

Had Abdulmutallab been turned over immediately to interrogators intent on gathering intelligence, valuable facts could have been gathered and perhaps acted upon. Indeed, a White House spokesman has confirmed that Abdulmutallab did disclose some actionable intelligence before he fell silent on advice of counsel. Nor is it any comfort to be told, as we were, by the senior intelligence adviser referred to above—he of the “no smoking gun”—that we can learn facts from Abdulmutallab as part of a plea bargaining process in connection with his prosecution.

Whatever that official thinks he knows about the plea bargaining process, he certainly should know that the kind of facts that Abdulmutallab might be expected to know have a shelf life that is a lot shorter than the plea bargaining process, assuming such a process ever gets started.

All of this has been done by rote — because early in the administration the Obama team tossed to the side the Bush policies on the war against Islamic fascists and adopted a new model for treating terrorists not as enemy combatants but rather as criminals. Then along comes an actual plot with a real-life terrorist and no thought is given to whether the “not Bush” approach makes any sense. As Mukasey observes, “No consideration whatsoever appears to have been given to where Abdulmutallab fits in the foreign contingency operation (formerly known as the global war on terror) in which we are engaged.” There is a bizarre quality to the flurry of reviews and reports underway, as administration advisors scurry to figure out how to connect dots and not miss the next bomber. Might they start by getting the maximum information out of the terrorist that chatted for a bit to the FBI and then (with lawyer in hand) decided that discretion was the better course?

Congress and the public may want to know why we are not revisiting the criminal justice model. Well, Mukasey thinks that wouldn’t mesh with the Obami’s priorities:

What the gaffes, the almost comically strained avoidance of such direct terms as “war” and “Islamist terrorism,” and the failure to think of Abdulmutallab as a potential source of intelligence rather than simply as a criminal defendant seem to reflect is that some in the executive branch are focused more on not sounding like their predecessors than they are on finding and neutralizing people who believe it is their religious duty to kill us.

If Mukasey is right, and I think he is, don’t expect the administration to revisit its own flawed decision making. If a shift in the disposition of terrorists is going to happen (at least so long as Obama occupies the Oval Office) it will likely need to come at the behest of Congress, which can, of course, pass legislation, deny or grant funding, and assert its authority to control the jurisdiction of the federal courts. If Obama won’t do his job, it is time then for lawmakers to do theirs.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey takes the Obama team to task for its lackadaisical handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He surveys the Obami’s embarrassingly uninformed statements, the cringe-inducing sight of a disengaged president, the contention by John Brennan that there was “no smoking gun” to pinpoint the terrorist, and the ill-conceived policy of releasing detainees to Yemen. But it is the treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect that gets his full wrath:

Had Abdulmutallab been turned over immediately to interrogators intent on gathering intelligence, valuable facts could have been gathered and perhaps acted upon. Indeed, a White House spokesman has confirmed that Abdulmutallab did disclose some actionable intelligence before he fell silent on advice of counsel. Nor is it any comfort to be told, as we were, by the senior intelligence adviser referred to above—he of the “no smoking gun”—that we can learn facts from Abdulmutallab as part of a plea bargaining process in connection with his prosecution.

Whatever that official thinks he knows about the plea bargaining process, he certainly should know that the kind of facts that Abdulmutallab might be expected to know have a shelf life that is a lot shorter than the plea bargaining process, assuming such a process ever gets started.

All of this has been done by rote — because early in the administration the Obama team tossed to the side the Bush policies on the war against Islamic fascists and adopted a new model for treating terrorists not as enemy combatants but rather as criminals. Then along comes an actual plot with a real-life terrorist and no thought is given to whether the “not Bush” approach makes any sense. As Mukasey observes, “No consideration whatsoever appears to have been given to where Abdulmutallab fits in the foreign contingency operation (formerly known as the global war on terror) in which we are engaged.” There is a bizarre quality to the flurry of reviews and reports underway, as administration advisors scurry to figure out how to connect dots and not miss the next bomber. Might they start by getting the maximum information out of the terrorist that chatted for a bit to the FBI and then (with lawyer in hand) decided that discretion was the better course?

Congress and the public may want to know why we are not revisiting the criminal justice model. Well, Mukasey thinks that wouldn’t mesh with the Obami’s priorities:

What the gaffes, the almost comically strained avoidance of such direct terms as “war” and “Islamist terrorism,” and the failure to think of Abdulmutallab as a potential source of intelligence rather than simply as a criminal defendant seem to reflect is that some in the executive branch are focused more on not sounding like their predecessors than they are on finding and neutralizing people who believe it is their religious duty to kill us.

If Mukasey is right, and I think he is, don’t expect the administration to revisit its own flawed decision making. If a shift in the disposition of terrorists is going to happen (at least so long as Obama occupies the Oval Office) it will likely need to come at the behest of Congress, which can, of course, pass legislation, deny or grant funding, and assert its authority to control the jurisdiction of the federal courts. If Obama won’t do his job, it is time then for lawmakers to do theirs.

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The Price of Lawyering Up

Bill Burck picks up on John Brennan’s comments on Sunday, indicating that we are prepared to “deal” — that is, make a deal and not get tough with the Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab. He explains:

Had Abdulmutallab been designated as an enemy combatant from the start, we would not have had to offer him anything at all in exchange for the information he possesses. He could have been interrogated immediately by professionals without Miranda warnings, without a lawyer, and against his will. Given that he appears to have been willing to talk for awhile before he demanded a lawyer, it is a fair assumption that he would have continued talking if he didn’t have the option of lawyering up. . . . So, here are the perverse incentives for terrorists who come to this country to kill us — assuming you don’t succeed in blowing yourself up and are captured, you will have a right to a lawyer, a right to remain silent, a right to trial by a jury of your “peers,” and the possibility of early release if you cooperate with authorities.

The Obami, their lefty lawyers at the Justice Department, and their media cheerleaders think this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. We show our values by extending Constitutional protections to those who did not enjoy such protections in previous wars. They ignore or indifferent to the fact that we thereby limit out intelligence gathering.

Even if we make a “deal,” valuable time is still lost, leads may evaporate, and information becomes stale. And if he chooses not to “make a deal,” (because, after all, he’s heading for a trial, many appeals and a journey through the ACLU-guided American legal system) we get no information at all. He might well conclude this is the smarter course. You see, after the trial, legal battles for privileges in prison ensue and perhaps a sympathetic judge will spring him at some point in the proceedings. If that’s what he and his lawyers can figure out, he would keep quiet now and we would get zilch. After all, making a deal isn’t a necessity when you can play the American system with a court-appointed lawyer.

What “smoking gun” are we missing by allowing this to unfold? What plots will go undetected? We don’t know. But the Obami think we get brownie points with someone for doing this. And those who are on the plane targeted by the next terrorist plot that might have been uncovered had Abdulmutallab been interrogated as an enemy combatant — what about them? Not much thought is given to them by Eric Holder and his crew.

The gap between the Obami and the rest of the country on this issue is vast, I would suggest. The average American must think this is insanity. We risk American lives so that terrorists will feel better about our justice system? That’s what the president thinks. That’s what his fellow Democrats think as they enable this policy by funding the Obami’s efforts to relocate and try terrorists in the U.S. – as well as by the appalling lack of Congressional oversight to date.

There is however a “solution” to this divergence between popular and leftist elite opinion: the 2010 elections. This should be a hot topic of debate. And soon enough we’ll find out whether Obama is defending “our” values or rather some misbegotten experiment in radical lawyering.

Bill Burck picks up on John Brennan’s comments on Sunday, indicating that we are prepared to “deal” — that is, make a deal and not get tough with the Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab. He explains:

Had Abdulmutallab been designated as an enemy combatant from the start, we would not have had to offer him anything at all in exchange for the information he possesses. He could have been interrogated immediately by professionals without Miranda warnings, without a lawyer, and against his will. Given that he appears to have been willing to talk for awhile before he demanded a lawyer, it is a fair assumption that he would have continued talking if he didn’t have the option of lawyering up. . . . So, here are the perverse incentives for terrorists who come to this country to kill us — assuming you don’t succeed in blowing yourself up and are captured, you will have a right to a lawyer, a right to remain silent, a right to trial by a jury of your “peers,” and the possibility of early release if you cooperate with authorities.

The Obami, their lefty lawyers at the Justice Department, and their media cheerleaders think this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. We show our values by extending Constitutional protections to those who did not enjoy such protections in previous wars. They ignore or indifferent to the fact that we thereby limit out intelligence gathering.

Even if we make a “deal,” valuable time is still lost, leads may evaporate, and information becomes stale. And if he chooses not to “make a deal,” (because, after all, he’s heading for a trial, many appeals and a journey through the ACLU-guided American legal system) we get no information at all. He might well conclude this is the smarter course. You see, after the trial, legal battles for privileges in prison ensue and perhaps a sympathetic judge will spring him at some point in the proceedings. If that’s what he and his lawyers can figure out, he would keep quiet now and we would get zilch. After all, making a deal isn’t a necessity when you can play the American system with a court-appointed lawyer.

What “smoking gun” are we missing by allowing this to unfold? What plots will go undetected? We don’t know. But the Obami think we get brownie points with someone for doing this. And those who are on the plane targeted by the next terrorist plot that might have been uncovered had Abdulmutallab been interrogated as an enemy combatant — what about them? Not much thought is given to them by Eric Holder and his crew.

The gap between the Obami and the rest of the country on this issue is vast, I would suggest. The average American must think this is insanity. We risk American lives so that terrorists will feel better about our justice system? That’s what the president thinks. That’s what his fellow Democrats think as they enable this policy by funding the Obami’s efforts to relocate and try terrorists in the U.S. – as well as by the appalling lack of Congressional oversight to date.

There is however a “solution” to this divergence between popular and leftist elite opinion: the 2010 elections. This should be a hot topic of debate. And soon enough we’ll find out whether Obama is defending “our” values or rather some misbegotten experiment in radical lawyering.

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Sunday Spin on Christmas Day Bombing

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

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But Isn’t There a Downside?

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

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Got Your Seat Assignment?

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

Read Less

Punt!

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Read Less

When Did He Know?

When did the president learn that the Christmas Day plot was not an “isolated extremist?” On Monday, he told us that it was. Now we hear the excuse that the president only learned Monday night of “some linkage” between the bomber and al-Qaeda. The Washington Post gets this report on background (you wouldn’t want your name used either):

The official said the president and his top advisers are “increasingly confident” that Al Qaeda was involved in the attempted attacker’s plans.

Obama, in his remarks to reporters earlier in the day, said that if intelligence about the suspect had been handled differently he would have been blocked from boarding a plane for the United States. Senior officials said that was among the new details that the president learned in a conference call with top national security officials – National Security Adviser Jim Jones, his top counterterrorism expert John Brennan, and deputy National Security adviser Tom Donilon – on Tuesday morning.

So we are supposed to believe that the president went in front of the nation, that he declared something that the public (after paying attention to a plethora of news reports) was beginning to believe was not true (i.e. this was a lone wolf), and that he only learned of the al-Qaeda connection four days after the incident? I’m not sure which is worse — the possibility that the president was misinformed or uninformed for a number of  days, or that he knew better and for reasons not entirely clear decided to play down the al-Qaeda connection until it could no longer be ignored. This is, of course, a second scandal — the primary one being that we did not act on “information that was in possession of the government… that spoke to both where the suspect had been, what some of his thinking and plans were, what some of the plans of Al Qaeda were.”

As the Washington Post editors fume: “Now we want to shine a light on the stunning breakdown in communication among the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the British government that allowed Mr. Abdulmutallab to buy a ticket in the first place.” And then we can find out why the president went before the public with incomplete and inaccurate information on Monday.

We seem to have an intelligence apparatus that cannot communicate effectively before a terror attack, and an administration that cannot communicate forthrightly and accurately with the public after one. Unlike those who coped with 9/11, the Obama administration had the experience of a massive domestic terror attack to guide and inform it. And yet this is the best that the Obama administration can do.

When did the president learn that the Christmas Day plot was not an “isolated extremist?” On Monday, he told us that it was. Now we hear the excuse that the president only learned Monday night of “some linkage” between the bomber and al-Qaeda. The Washington Post gets this report on background (you wouldn’t want your name used either):

The official said the president and his top advisers are “increasingly confident” that Al Qaeda was involved in the attempted attacker’s plans.

Obama, in his remarks to reporters earlier in the day, said that if intelligence about the suspect had been handled differently he would have been blocked from boarding a plane for the United States. Senior officials said that was among the new details that the president learned in a conference call with top national security officials – National Security Adviser Jim Jones, his top counterterrorism expert John Brennan, and deputy National Security adviser Tom Donilon – on Tuesday morning.

So we are supposed to believe that the president went in front of the nation, that he declared something that the public (after paying attention to a plethora of news reports) was beginning to believe was not true (i.e. this was a lone wolf), and that he only learned of the al-Qaeda connection four days after the incident? I’m not sure which is worse — the possibility that the president was misinformed or uninformed for a number of  days, or that he knew better and for reasons not entirely clear decided to play down the al-Qaeda connection until it could no longer be ignored. This is, of course, a second scandal — the primary one being that we did not act on “information that was in possession of the government… that spoke to both where the suspect had been, what some of his thinking and plans were, what some of the plans of Al Qaeda were.”

As the Washington Post editors fume: “Now we want to shine a light on the stunning breakdown in communication among the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the British government that allowed Mr. Abdulmutallab to buy a ticket in the first place.” And then we can find out why the president went before the public with incomplete and inaccurate information on Monday.

We seem to have an intelligence apparatus that cannot communicate effectively before a terror attack, and an administration that cannot communicate forthrightly and accurately with the public after one. Unlike those who coped with 9/11, the Obama administration had the experience of a massive domestic terror attack to guide and inform it. And yet this is the best that the Obama administration can do.

Read Less




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