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Obama: The Buck Stops With Me (Except When it Doesn’t)

Morgen on January 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Politico reports (emphasis mine):

“As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility,” Obama said.

Obama said an intelligence review found that the U.S. government had the information needed to thwart the plot but failed to do so because of a series of compounding shortcomings, including that intelligence analysts didn’t focus heavily enough on information warning that al-Qaida in Yemen wanted to strike the United States…

Obama’s buck-stops-here message marks a change in tone from earlier statements in which Obama and other officials repeatedly noted that the watch-listing system that failed to flag the suspect, Umar AbdulMatallab, was put in place under the Bush administration.

You know I’d like to be able to commend the President for doing what his Administration should have done right out of the gate in accepting responsibility for this blatant security failure. But the cynical side of me suspects that this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that the TSA and DHS under Janet Napolitano conducted a comprehensive review of the terrorist watch list system in 2009, and adamantly defended the status quo.

So far this has only been reported here on VS (with a link from Ed at Hot Air), but the Administration would have to know that sooner or later this story would leak into the broader media if they continued in their ridiculous attempt to blame the Bush Administration for the multiple failures leading up to 12/25.

Key Senators, including Democrat Dianne Feinstein continue to call for the No-Fly list to be expanded to all known terrorist suspects. And don’t forget that this was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The Administration appears to remain opposed to this idea, so it will be interesting to see the debate over this issue unfold at the Senate hearings later this month. I will keep you posted.

Update: The White House released a summary document this afternoon of their review of the failures leading up to the events of 12/25. It’s only a few pages long and worth a read. The report confirms that the Administration has no intention of overhauling the passenger screening system to match up names against the comprehensive terrorist database. I also found the last paragraph to be very interesting in light of the earlier DHS/TSA review (emphasis mine):

Finally, we must review and determine the ongoing suitability of legacy standards and protocols in effect across the [counter-terrorism] community, including criteria for watch lists, protocols for secondary screening, visa suspension and revocation criteria, and business processes across the government.

It should be noted again that all of the “legacy standards and protocols” related to passenger screening and the terrorist watch lists were already subject to review in the evaluation completed by the Inspector General of the DHS in July 2009. This report was distributed amongst the leadership of every executive branch agency dealing with national security. Given that they all appeared to have no problem with the continuation of the status quo, referring to them as “legacy standards” is a bit of a stretch I think. Especially for an Administration which has condemned any more finger-pointing.

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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