Obama open about U.S. Intelligence ‘screw-up’

On December 25, 2009, a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was allowed to board Delta flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, even though he had explosives, which he planned to detonate en route to Detroit, sewn into his underwear. No one caught the security risk.

President Obama labeled the narrowly avoided terrorist attack an intelligence and security “screw up,” berating his spy chiefs for not putting together the pieces until after the Nigerian was on board. Officials did identify him for extra questioning in Detroit, but had his explosives operated according to plan, neither he nor the other 289 people on board would have been around to hear – let along answer – any extra questions.

Obama intends to release the report that explains what went wrong on the inside – that is, which pieces of data were not analyzed properly. Apparently the connection between the various strands of intelligence is pretty evident, and the public will be surprised that it slid by the country’s top intelligence professionals. Given the information the U.S. had on Abdulmutallab, he should have been on a no-fly list and should never have been allowed to board flight 253.

One of these pieces of information is that Abdulmutallab’s father recently paid a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, warning them that his son was becoming a radical. Abdulmutallab was allegedly recruited by Al Qaeda in London.

Obama is likely choosing to be so candid about the mistake to save himself trouble later on. A congressional committee investigation is expected to follow, so the truth would have come out sooner or later. Republicans already depict Obama as soft on national security, and this example is just what they need to back up the statement.

Although Obama believes the intelligence community should be held accountable for the error, it doesn’t look like anyone’s about to resign or get the boot due to the oversight. No re-orgs needed either…we’re told it wasn’t so much a case of poor infrastructure and lack of info-sharing (like 9/11), but rather a case of not pulling the right data together to get the big picture – data mismanagement, so to speak.

Abdulmutallab was indicted on December 26, 2009 and now faces trial for bringing a destructive device onto an airplane, attempting to blow up an airplane, the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and the attempted murder of 289 people.


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