Obama faults intelligence analysts for security breakdown
President Barack Obama called the intelligence failure associated with the attempted bombing of a U.S. civilian airplane one of analysis and not collection, according to Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service. The president spoke late yesterday afternoon following a meeting with his national security team at the White House. The team included CIA Director Leon Panetta, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies.
Only quick actions by passengers stopped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian with suspected ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, stated Garamone.
Abdulmutallab was captured by fellow passengers when he attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight with about 300 people aboard as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day.
President Obama said there have been intelligence victories against al-Qaeda, "but when a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way."
"It's my responsibility to find out why and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future," said Obama.
The president reiterated that the U.S. intelligence community knew that Abdulmutallab had traveled to Yemen and joined extremists there. "It now turns out that our intelligence community knew of other red flags: that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sought to strike not only American targets in Yemen but the United States itself," he said.
"The bottom line is this: The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the no-fly list," Obama said. "In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had."
American intelligence analysts had the information but did not fully analyze or leverage that knowledge, the president said. "That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it," he said.
Obama gave the intelligence agencies a deadline to complete their initial reviews this week. "I want specific recommendations for corrective actions to fix what went wrong," he said. "I want those reforms implemented immediately, so that this doesn't happen again and so we can prevent future attacks."
Obama said every member of the team understands the gravity of the situation and the urgency of getting it right. "I appreciate that each of them took responsibility for the shortfalls within their own agencies," he said.
However, he failed to mention some of the statements made following the Christmas Day terror attempt such as Secretary Napolitano saying on national television that "the system worked."
Obama also announced that further detainee transfers to Yemen will be suspended for the time being. This will not affect his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he said.
The president said that intelligence agencies and homeland security officials must be nimble to stay ahead of al-Qaeda.
"Just as al-Qaeda and its allies are constantly evolving and adapting their efforts to strike us, we have to constantly adapt and evolve to defeat them because, as we saw on Christmas, the margin for error is slim, and the consequences of failure can be catastrophic," he said.
The United States will stay on the offensive against the extremist group. "We intend to target al-Qaeda wherever they take root, forging new partnerships to deny them sanctuary, as we are doing currently with the government in Yemen," he said.
The United States also will strengthen defenses against terrorists and improve screening, stated Garamone.
Obama claims that he sees American intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement systems working together seamlessly. He wants the professionals in these areas to collect, share, integrate, analyze and act on intelligence "as quickly and effectively as possible to save innocent lives, not just most of the time, but all of the time," he said. "That's what the American people deserve. As president, that's exactly what I will demand."
But not everyone believe the president is serious about homeland security. Some security experts believe that it wasn't the intelligence people that failed but the leadership.
"You have a Homeland Security Secretary who believes returning war veterans are extremists and an Attorney General who's biting at the bit to prosecute intelligence agents," said former NYPD detective and US Marine intelligence officer Mike Snopes.
"And when they get caught with their pants down, right away they blame the people -- the intelligence community -- whom they denigrate with their usual vitriol," he added.
In addition, absent from Obama's press briefing was any mention of why he allowed the terrorist Abdulmutallab to be "processed" in the criminal justice system instead of having to face military justice.
"The moment he was given Miranda [warnings], the guy lawyered-up. Which means investigators will have to negotiate with him and possibly trade intelligence for a lighter prison sentence or other break," said political strategist Mike Baker.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc.
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