Obama Briefed on Homeland Terror Threats
The president and his key national security advisors were warned about a possible terrorist attack just three days before the failed Detroit plot, Mark Hosenball reports for Newsweek.
President Barack Obama received a high-level briefing only three days before Christmas about possible holiday-period terrorist threats against the US, Newsweek has learned. The briefing was centered on a written report, produced by US intelligence agencies, entitled “Key Homeland Threats”, a senior US official said.
The senior Administration official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that nowhere in this document was there any mention of Yemen, whose Al-Qaeda affiliate is now believed to have been behind the unsuccessful Christmas Day attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bring down a transatlantic airliner with a bomb hidden in his underpants. However, the official declined to disclose any other information about the substance of the briefing, including what kind of specific warnings, if any, the President was given about possibly holiday attacks and whether Yemen came up during oral discussions.
This naturally brings to mind the report President Bush got a few days before the 9/11 attacks warning that al Qaeda was hoping to strike the U.S. As with that briefing, the fact that the president failed to stop the attack from occurring looks bad. After all, he had warning! But it’s not at all clear what, precisely, either man should or could have done differently. These briefings, while seemingly detailed in hindsight, are incredibly vague.
Beyond that, even if Obama had been told that they’re received information that an al Qaeda operative was flying into the country from overseas during the holidays with a bomb in his under drawers — which, again, is massively more information than we had available — it’s not obvious what he could have done about it. We’re already complaining about the new security procedures that got put into place post-attempt — rightly so, since they wouldn’t have helped. It would have been difficult to justify them beforehand.
There’s room to criticize the administration’s response to the crisis, most notably DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s idiotic insistence that “the system worked.” But the idea that the president was somehow supposed to stop the underwear bomber based on vague intelligence of an increased terrorism risk over the holidays is unreasonable.