Security lapses will astound Americans, says Obama
US President Barack Obama, who has complained about a disastrous intelligence "screw-up", was set to make a fresh statement late yesterday, as his administration fights claims it botched the initial response to the attempted suicide bombing.
National security adviser James Jones prepared public opinion by warning that Americans would feel a "certain shock" when they read about systemic failures in intelligence operations designed to keep them safe.
Noting the failed bid to destroy the jet, and the shooting rampage that killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in November by a Muslim army psychiatrist, Jones said clues about extremist attacks had now been missed twice.
On Tuesday, Obama said the review showed US intelligence agencies missed a series of red flags related to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who is accused of trying to destroy the jet with explosives sewn into his underwear.
New details meanwhile began to emerge of the planning of the airliner plot, blamed by the US on al-Qaeda in Yemen.
The review the White House released on Thursday acknowledges that the government was awash in clues — about a plot by an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen to attack the United States and about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man trained in Yemen who is accused of trying to blow a hole in the side of Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253. The report is filled with shocking details on how the government failed to act.
To recap what happened, quickly:
In May, Britain refused to renew Mr. Abdulmutallab’s visa, and it put him on a watch list. In August, the National Security Agency overheard leaders of the Al Qaeda branch in Yemen discussing a plot involving a Nigerian man. In November, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father, a respected banker in Nigeria, warned the American Embassy in Abuja that his son was being radicalized and had disappeared in Yemen. The father even met with an official of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The son was put on the least-restrictive American watch list — one that still allowed him to board a plane to Detroit without luggage and with a ticket that was paid for with cash.
The report implicitly acknowledges all of this, saying that the system failed “to identify, correlate, and fuse into a coherent story all of the discrete pieces of intelligence held by the U.S. government” about both the Al Qaeda group and Mr. Abdulmuttalab. It also makes clear that this was not a single failure by one agency but was a cascade of failures across agencies and departments and the bureaucracies that are supposed to coordinate them.
It says that once the government learned of a possible plot in Yemen, the intelligence community failed to devote more analytic resources, and it failed to put one agency or official in charge. John Brennan, the senior official responsible for figuring out what went wrong, said on Thursday that only after the failed plot did the intelligence community recognize that the group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, actually posed a direct threat to the United States.
Kinda hard to feel safe living next to a "superpower" whose "security" services are this incompetent.