Responding To The Underpants Bomber: The White House Fails The Test

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 8, 2010


The New York Times does a good job in detailing the White House’s overview of the details of an unclassified memorandum, discussing the various national security failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the opportunity to try to blow up Northwest Flight 253. The findings of the memorandum are scary and chilling:

The report concluded that the government’s counterterrorism operations had been caught off guard by the sophistication and strength of a Qaeda cell in Yemen, where officials say the plot against the United States originated.

“We didn’t know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here,” said John O. Brennan, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, in a briefing to reporters.

From the memo itself, this is scary as well:

In this context, the preliminary review suggests that the overlapping layers of protection within the CT community failed to track this threat in a manner sufficient to ensure all leads were followed and acted upon to conclusion. In addition, the White House and the National Security Staff failed to identify this gap ahead of time. No single component of the CT community assumed responsibility for the threat reporting and followed it through by ensuring that all necessary steps were taken to disrupt the threat. This argues that a process is needed to track terrorist threat reporting to ensure that departments and agencies are held accountable for running down all leads associated with high visibility and high priority plotting efforts, in particular against the U.S. Homeland.

Politico’s Arena, asked for reactions. Here is mine.

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